Father’s Day Tribute To Jack Kirby From His Son

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

Jack Kirby and son Neal, Photo © Neal Kirby

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!

Young Jack Kirby, Photo © Neal Kirby

Captain America 1

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.

First appearances of Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, The Hulk, X-Men and Thor

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.

Marvel movies based on Kirby creations

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.

Kirby Family 1961, Neal, Roz, Susan, Jack and Barbara up front, Photo © Neal Kirby

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


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41 Responses to “Father’s Day Tribute To Jack Kirby From His Son”

  1. [...] Creators | In a piece titled “Happy Father’s Day; Glad You’re Not Here,” Neal Kirby pays tribute to his father, the late Jack Kirby, in the process exposing some of the bitterness over the way the comics legend has been credited in recent movie adaptations: “If [you're] 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.” [CO2 Comics Blog] [...]

  2. Joe Williams says:

    Great post and some terrific pictures! More, please!

  3. Darrell says:

    This was a great article. I read his biography recently and was deeply moved by it. Jack did wonders for the comic book industry and it’s people like him who live and breath this stuff that make the magic happen. Not these “villains,” these corporate fat cats, that stack their names on top of the talent. If this keeps up you can kiss it all good by, cause at the end of the day, that’s what villains do, they ruin everything. The talent will run and the “villains” will have nothing to feed on, except themselves.

    I have experienced this first hand in this business and let me tell you, we need heroes, heroes like Jack. With out them, this business is nothing.

  4. This is so awesome and so sad at the same time: http://fb.me/K7SGNGE5

  5. BTW, in case it's not obvious, the "glad you're not here" article by Neal Kirby refers to dad not getting enough credit: http://t.co/aBzs4bu

  6. I agree with this piece, except that I wish Kirby could've seen how beloved he is by the world of 2011 http://t.co/BqKrIDO

  7. Michael Cho says:

    rt @tomscioli I agree with this piece, except that I wish Kirby could've seen how beloved he is by the world of 2011 http://t.co/BqKrIDO

  8. I agree with this piece, except that I wish Kirby could've seen how beloved he is by the world of 2011 http://t.co/BqKrIDO

  9. Kirk Manley says:

    rt @tomscioli I agree with this piece, except that I wish Kirby could've seen how beloved he is by the world of 2011 http://t.co/BqKrIDO

  10. Rick Todd says:

    Father's Day Tribute To Jack Kirby From His Son « CO2 COMICS BLOG: If your unfamiliar with the comics industry, … http://bit.ly/mioZ15

  11. Phil Yeh says:

    Nice piece. Jack would be proud of his son. I wish that the comics world had a better memory.

  12. toonboy says:

    RT @co2comics: Father’s Day Tribute To Jack Kirby From His Son http://t.co/1kyB9sx

  13. theduck says:

    While there’s no debate the Mr. Kirby was the best at what he did, it’s important to remember that he was always at his best when he worked with a partner. His imagination was without equal, and he deserves all the accolades he gets, but if you look at some of his later stuff, it’s clear that he needed someone to work with. His dialog was stiff and stilted, and sometimes, someone should have told him “no” (remember King Solomon’s frog in the Black Panther?)

    And is it just me, or is it a tad hypocritical in the context of this article to call Mr. Kirby “the man who gave us… Captain America” without mentioning Joe Simon?

  14. Father's day tribute to Jack Kirby from his son: read it and weep; literally. http://t.co/5zM0NhL

  15. @ theduck: Ouch! Thanks for pointing out that glaring faux pas! in fact in a letter of correspondece to Neal Kirby I had personally stated, “Let’s hope they get the credits right on Captain America (the film) and ‘Created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon’ is big and bold on that screen this summer, anything else would be a crime.”

  16. patrick ford says:

    I agree with Neal completely. I would hate to think Jack Kirby would be alive today to see the utter contempt and scorn with which he is viewed by the majority of Marvel comic book fans. The mountain of insults heaped on him by people who often say the are among his biggest fans is sickening.

  17. Kenn Thomas says:

    Wow. This is an incredibly moving tribite. I think it sums up what a lot of us “offspring” of Kirby feel. In the long run, however, he will be the last man standing. His art is more powerful than the empty boasts of the pretenders to his greatness. It will last far longer in history.

  18. Bill Hall says:

    Have you ever considered writing an article for Jon Morrow’s TJKC about exactly which books you rememeber being around the house? Did your dad read to you as child? What was it that he read?
    Your father’s creativity was a unique blend of dramatic personal experiences and never-ending childlike curiousity.

  19. Jeff Albertson says:

    “Demand fairness not just for my father, but also for all those who have unjustly had their creative credit stolen from them. ” Here is hoping that Jack Kirby does get the credit he so rightfully deserves, but let’s not use the understandable frustration felt about his situation to slam folks like Larry Lieber. It’s belittling to refer to him only as “the editor-in-chief’s brother” when he did script the first Thor story.

    Recognition of Jack Kirby’s fantastic achievements does not have to come at the expense of others’ achievements.

  20. Michael Machlan says:

    Neal, Your father was a hero to me. It’s always been with great regret that he has never gotten the credit he is due. If there was some way to shake Marvel’s cage so that he can be acknowledged for his brilliance and creativity I would love to do it. But just know that your father meant quite a bit to a lot of people and he won’t be forgotten.

  21. Claude Parish says:

    I’ll take Kirby comics over Hollywood adaptations any time!

  22. Keith D. Lee says:

    All:
    What a great tribute to a very nice man. I only met Mr. Kirby twice; but in both times, he was the nicest and sweetest guy you could ever meet. Roz was there once and she was very nice as well. I am so glad that I met my hero and his wife; and, that they were both so darn sweet and nice. It made my day! :-)

    Keith

  23. I had the great pleasure of meeting both Jack and Roz at their home in Thousand Oaks in 1988 and 1991. I wrote a piece about my visits and it was published in John Morrows ‘Jack Kirby Collector Collected’ volume 2. Jack and Roz were two lovely people who changed the world. Well, my world at least. I say both, because without Roz I don’t think Jack would have been the same. (I gave Jack a present – a cartoon I did of him and Roz. Jack was creating his version of Spider-man while Roz was drawing the version we see now. The tag line was: “Behind every great man…”. I hope the Kirby family still has this drawing). Jack had a tremendous influence on my own artwork and said to me, “You draw like I do. You see what I see.” How’s that for an accolade!
    We miss you Jack – and always will.

  24. What a great tribute! I love Jack Kirby and always wills! I know who created all of those characters! Jack Kirby created them!

  25. Samuel Davis says:

    Father's Day Tribute to Jack #TheKing Kirby from his son http://bit.ly/jdeL9Z

  26. Frank Fosco says:

    For all these co-creators and partners, thank you for your contribution–but when the man Jack Kirby parted ways with these people he kept creating– they didn’t seem to do as good without him. Thank you Jack.

  27. Britt Wisenbaker says:

    Neal-
    Thanks for sharing. I had the good fortune to meet your dad several times in the ’80s, and he was the epitome of class and grace. Jack Kirby is probably the single most important comics creator in the history of the buisiness and artform; certainly the most prolific. He is a hero and a creator in a class by himself. Marvel and owners Disney should be ashamed at the indifference they display towards his estate, building on the unkept promises of Martin Goodman. But most fans and industry pros know the truth and respect his body of work greatly.

  28. RT @co2comics: Father’s Day Tribute To Jack Kirby From His Son http://t.co/bCMM05i

  29. RT @co2comics: Father’s Day Tribute To Jack Kirby From His Son http://t.co/ONtm1kx

  30. theduck says:

    @Gerry Giovinco: No problem. Glad to see it was just an oversight (not surprised, just glad to see it).

    And concerning “Let’s hope they get the credits right on Captain America…”, you’re absolutely right. Not some little mention during the end roll that no one pays attention to, but during the opening credits. Anything less is absolutely wrong!

  31. Fred Ganczar says:

    Jack Kirby was and always be The King. Just ask his peers. He managed to give us a view of the universe distilled to the pages of the humble comic book.
    To denigrate his contribution to comics is tantamount to McCartney trying to remove Lennon from the songwriting credits.

  32. Gloria Magid says:

    I didn’t always like the way Jack Kirby illustrated comics, but on the Silver Surfer, he was absolutely the king. How he managed to capture the majesty of galaxies in those little comic illustrations is beyond me, but capture them he did. No one since has ever been able to open that vision of the universe up in just that way.

    The tribute was touching – thanks for publishing it.

  33. Dragon Sundancer says:

    I felt sad when I read Neal’s Father’s Day piece, sad that this disrespect is still going on, nearly a half-century after Fantastic Four # 1 all but leaped off the comics rack into my hands when I was 10 years old. There was Magic in it, and in everything that followed. I could write volumes about that, and about the almost impossible to put into words influence that The King’s work had on me and, as I later discovered,on the development of world culture.I know it’s a pretty grandiose thing to say about a little 10 cent comic book, but there it is.
    Imagination. It’s what Jack Kirby’s fellow genius, Alfred Einstein, asserted is the most important quality we humans possess, and Jack Kirby’s legendary imagination was a fountainhead for us all in those pivotal times; there is no understating that fact, or its implications. I remember reading in an issue of the Jack Kirby Collector a statement by Roy Thomas that in his opinion Kirby was the only genius the comics medium had ever produced, and I can’t help but agree. Maybe because it is now so market driven, the medium stifles genius; maybe because Kirby was such a creative Titan and gave such life to his characters, his creations themselves stand in the way of nurturing imagination. Whatever, the injustices toward Mr. Kirby are monumental, and Jack Kirby and his family have my deepest sympathy, empathy and support.
    I am saddened, too, about the terrible imbalance that is at the root of the debate over who created what. The parallels between the Lennon-McCartney and the Kirby-Lee creative teams are inevitable, and again deserving of a great deal of study, and I agree that it is fair to say that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts, and I also want to point out that it was the wave of evolution that began in and moved through the sixties that made Kirby and Lee and Lennon and McCartney not only magically successful, but necessary.However, also in fairness, I must point out that it is certainly obvious that, in regard to the team of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, if we were talking about imagination and creativity alone, there wouldn’t be much to fuel the debate. Again, I refer to a piece in the JK Collector, in which someone, I forget who, noted that after Jack Kirby left Marvel, Stan Lee created Ms. Marvel. And Jack Kirby created…. well, I don’t have the time or energy to go into that long, long list just now. How terribly tragic that Jack Kirby’s family, so dear to him,has yet to see any reward for this great Artist’s work, and must suffer the unfairness of seeing the lion’s share of the credit going to Stan Lee, who arguably deserves some of the credit, but it’s all so horribly out of balance! Add to that the money, and the original artwork, and it’s just beyond belief.
    On a positive note, I imagine a future, in fact I truly believe that it will come to pass,and I surely hope that it comes to pass in my lifetime, because I so want to see it, when Jack Kirby will be widely acknowledged as one of the most important artists of the 20th Century, a man who, like his contemporary in the field of politics, Robert Kennedy, inspired us to seek a newer world.

  34. Frank Harper says:

    Kirby will always be the last man standing. When it comes down to it, everyone still looks for his stories and seeks him out. Artists and creators still study and admire him, and will do so for centuries to come. But most importantly, those of us who read his books will fight with the same spirit to keep the fat cats from taking advantage of the disadvantaged. Peace, joy, and mercy be with you.

  35. Bernard Fauntleroy says:

    Jack Kirby’s work brought a lot of joy and wonder to my life. I’m a 59 year old African American that like many from my generation of all Americans grew up at a time when our imaginations were part of the best gifts God gave us. It helped us deal with the hard times by providing a way to find solutions to change the world for the better in many ways. Some used the imagination to create good, and others not so good. It’s clear to me that Jack Kirby was one of the good guys. I never had the honor of meeting Mr. Kirby, but I feel like it would have been a great experience. The power of his work was second to none, because of his creative gifts that touch the lives of so many. Yes, Jack Kirby worked with many in the industry over the years, but there is no dought that his God given talent shined through in all of his work as he inspired those he collaborated with just as much as his readers. I have seen almost every movie base on the Marvel hero’s, and I can honestly say not one of them measured up to the release of the original comic books that Jack Kirby along with Stan Lee published for Marvel. Mr. Kirby’s genius was a consant in his stories when he teamed with Joe Simon, Stan Lee, or anyone else who comes to mind. A man with his unlimited creative force can change an entire industry, and that is exactly what this man did. I have been seeing Jack Kirby’s blueprint in the work of many of the modern day movies since he decided to blow our minds on the pages of the comic book, and not only in superhero stories. Just like in many industries there are always those who will step up to take most of the credit, usually with the backing of big business. It is very disappointing mainly because it is not necessary. One thing I know is that every month during Marvel’s golden age countless fans rushed to their local stores looking for the latest edition of comic books published on the rock solid foundation laid down by a great American creative Artist, and storyteller we all know named Jack Kirby. You are very much missed .

  36. Ignacio Tonarely says:

    I will be turning forty-nine in a few months so I grew up in Jack Kirby’s universe. I know that he didn’t build that amazing reality all by himself but until just recently I hadn’t realized how much of a role he had played in it. Comic fans come and go as do so many of the talents that shape this industry but Jack Kirby was a singular star in this universe. And so, when I’m walking along and some ten year old boy walks by wearing a t-shirt with Captain America leaping out of it in a pose that only the King could have drawn, I take a moment to let him know who drew that shirt. The King is not forgotten, and neither are his “children”, no matter the claims of others. His talent still shines today.

  37. DJ Coffman says:

    Just read this. It’s sad but so awesome that his son is putting out a reminder to the world. I can’t help but wonder… who are the “little guys” now. Would anyone within Marvel/Disney actually push or suggest Jack be given credit and fairness, or do they keep their mouths shut for fear of losing their own jobs.

    You know, they give NEWER creators royalty sharing, even on the stupidest things like an illustration for a HULK toothbrush. but not a DIME goes to the Kirby estate. Not even a TOOTHBRUSH! Let alone a big smash hit movie like Thor or Captain America….. this isn’t right. It’s not how he should be treated. So many people should be ashamed of themselves, but they just kick the can and point fingers at somone else.

    Who will stand up for Jack? For Joe? For Steve?

    Jack Kirby is MY hero. And I hate to see how his estate and legacy is mistreated. I wish I could do more than just talk about this.

  38. Bob Grenier says:

    Anyone who knows anything about comic book history would HAVE to acknowledge that Jack Kirby was THE best – BAR NONE! His hand in the creation of all the characters mentioned in this blog is NOT lost among those who truly understand. I will always love Jack and I have proudly passed on my appreciation of him and his work to my sons

  39. Robert Lloyd says:

    Jack Kirby was Marvel Comics, Period. Without his great imagination, Marvel would be nothing but a foot note in comics history. I have to laugh at how Stan takes all the credit ( in a visual medium) and never ever mentions the guy who put him there. If all the Marvel characters were written by Stan Lee in a regular novel, we would not be sitting here watching movies about them in the year 2012. It was Jack that created the visual tapestry and worlds they inhabit. He created the costumes the attitudes and the look of the Marvel Uninverse.

  40. Kirbyfan says:

    Jack Kirby is the freaking man, the king and there will never ever be anyone better at drawing comics, no one!

    Jack Kirby is the reason I became a cartoonist, his Fourth World books are the absolute highpoint of comics, and the man doesn’t get the real true credit and respect he deserves!

    Why hasn’t anyone made an animated movie totally dedicated to the Fourth World characters, or a live action movie for that matter?

    They keep putting these lame and weak characters in the Superman live action movies, when it’s clear that the franchise needs a villian that can give Superman a real challenge, and that villian is none other than Darkseid!

    The Fourth World books are the absolute highpoint of Kirby’s entire career!

  41. Ryanovision says:

    KIRBY IS KING!!!

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