Two weeks ago we ran a blog post here at CO2 Comics titled The King and The Man that compared excerpts of interviews with Stan Lee and the late Jack Kirby who recollected their dramatically opposing perspectives of the creation of the FANTASTIC FOUR and much of the Marvel Universe.
The post sparked an animated debate throughout the internet in forums and discussion boards on comic related sites, highlighted for us at CO2 Comics by a brief and pleasant correspondence with the son of a legend, Neal Kirby who politely defended the validity of his father’s position.
This week as, we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, Neal Kirby has delighted us again by offering CO2 Comics the opportunity to post a very touching Father’s Day letter that he has written as a tribute to his dad.
Those who follow our posts regularly know that Tuesday is our feature blog day and that this would be our last blog before Father’s Day. By coincidence, today is Flag Day. What better day to honor the man that gave us the original star spangled superhero, CAPTAIN AMERICA?
We are proud and humbled to be able to present to you this letter from Neil Kirby to his father and the father of superhero comics as we have known them, Jack “King” Kirby:
Happy Father’s Day; Glad You’re Not Here
I’ve just turned 63 and my fathers’ been gone over 18 years, but I still cry when I think of him, especially when I see one of those overly realistic WW II shows, and I see him as a young man trudging through northern France dodging machine guns, mortars, and those dreaded ‘88’s, until his feet froze inside his boots. I cry when I think of all the nights I spent in his little 10X10 studio in the basement of our Long Island home (“the Dungeon”) watching a Brooklyn Dodger game or Victory at Sea on a little black and white TV in a wooden cabinet. Most of all I miss watching him create and draw. He would sit there, hours on end, pipe or cigar in mouth, right hand flying over the page, sometimes simultaneously writing story notes or script in the margins for the mythology that became the Marvel Universe. And always surrounded by bookcases full of his beloved books: history, mythology, Science fiction – especially the pulps!
For those of you familiar with the world of comic books, the name Jack Kirby is instantly synonymous with being the greatest comic book artist – ever. Captain America, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Thor, and the Silver Surfer; just to name a few out of hundreds. Those with also a modicum of knowledge of comic book history are also aware that my father was either the creator or co-creator of almost all the Marvel characters he had a hand in bringing to the public.
If your unfamiliar with the comics industry, and just enjoy super-hero movies, you will notice my fathers’ name on some screen credits, usually buried at the end of the movie; sometimes, as in the recent “Thor” release, coming third after someone who had no hand in the characters’ creation other than being the editor-in-chief’s brother. Unfortunately, for the past several years, some in the comics industry who have had the benefit of longevity have used the opportunity to claim to be the sole creator of all of Marvels’ characters. Must be great to be the last man standing. It would seem that being backed by the public relations department of a large corporation buys access into the 24/7 news cycle.
My father, to the contrary, was the most humble person I ever knew, probably to his detriment. If you were to ask anybody who ever knew him they would tell you that was his most endearing trait. Taking credit for someone else’s work was just not in his make-up. His super heroes did not consider themselves to be super or heroes. There was no ego involved. His goal through his characters was to be the defender of the little guy; the just and noble whose role, whether chosen or thrust upon them, was to protect those who through no fault of there own could not defend themselves.
Maybe it’s now time for those still in the industry and comic book/super-hero fans, the “little guys,” to speak out. Demand fairness not just for my father, but also for all those who have unjustly had their creative credit stolen from them. As my father would say, “Show a little moxie!”
So Dad, I love you and miss you, but I’m glad you’re not here; not here to see others take credit for the characters you selflessly created over the years for the enjoyment of millions of children and adults. But God, I sure wish you were the last man standing.
Neal Kirby 2011