Celebrating what would have been Jack Kirby’s 95th birthday and his illustrative carreer as possibly the greatest and most influential comic creator ever, we at CO2 Comics are proud and honored to present our blog as a forum to his granddaughter, Jillian Kirby, to promote her exceptional campaign, Kirby4Heroes, a noble effort to raise funds in Jack Kirby’s name for the Hero Initiative.
As I sit on my bed reading one of my grandfather, Jack Kirby’s, comic books, his characters explode off the page and appear vividly lifelike. I feel like Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, and the Fantastic Four are parading in front of me! At 16 years old, it makes me so sad that I never got to meet my grandfather, who died the year before I was born, but I feel his spirit everywhere. Growing up surrounded with his art, comic books, and family stories, I felt the need to make a stronger connection with the grandfather I never knew. A 95th birthday present to honor his legacy struck me as an obvious choice, but what could I do?
The spark that ignited my Kirby4Heroes campaign occurred last spring at the dinner table, where my parents, Connie and Neal, were discussing an organization called the Hero Initiative. I learned that the Hero Initiative is the only nonprofit charity that raises money to assist comic book creators, writers and artists in medical or financial need. The mission and uniqueness of this organization immediately impressed me, as I couldn’t believe that currently they are the only nonprofit charity of this kind in the comic book industry.
Then and there, I made a personal commitment to raise money for the Hero Initiative in honor of my grandfather Jack on his 95th birthday. He was a very kind and generous man and would have been among the first to support the Hero Initiative.
One example of my grandfather Jack’s charitable nature can be seen in an anecdote my father shared with me on many occasions. It took place during the Bar Mitzvah of my grandfather’s nephew in a Lower East Side Manhattan synagogue in the early 1960’s. After the service, his nephew’s family, being of modest means, had just a simple buffet served in the large entrance foyer of the synagogue. Noticing a homeless man standing in the open doorway, just looking in at the celebration, my grandfather Jack immediately walked over to the man, took him by the arm, led him into the room, sat him down at a table, and served him a plate of food. Not a word was spoken between the two men. My grandfather, himself having grown up in poverty, knew hunger. This act of kindness, typical of my grandfather, inspired me to raise money and awareness for the Hero Initiative, because a charity that helps others in the comic book community and gives aid to those in need exemplifies the devotion my grandfather Jack always had for his fellow man.
Here was my idea. First, since I have lived in California my whole life, and my grandfather lived here for almost 30 years, I would contact over 200 comic book retailers in my home state. Second, as my grandfather Jack was born in Manhattan, I would also get in touch with the major comic retailer in that city: Midtown Comics. Third, I would contact key science and art museums in select metropolitan areas, such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It is obvious why I would contact the art museums, but science? Not so much. I decided to approach the science museums because much of my grandfather’s artwork was influenced by and reflects not only the science and technology of his day, but what he envisioned for the future.
After sending out an initial cover letter to the retailers and museums previously mentioned, I personally visited my neighborhood comic book store, Alakazam! Comics in Irvine, CA. This enabled me to get a general feel of how comic stores would react to my Kirby4Heroes campaign. At first, I was pretty nervous and stumbled over my words a bit, but by the end of the explanation of my campaign, because Will Call, the store’s manager, was very enthusiastic and supportive, I gained a great deal of confidence. Mr. Call agreed to set up a donation jar, and he and the store’s owner, Marco Davanzo, additionally pledged to donate 10% of their profits on August 28th to the Hero Initiative! As this was the first comic book retailer I approached, the positive feedback I received from them gave me the impetus to personally contact many major comic book retailers in California, such as Meltdown Comics, Earth-2 Comics, Comics N Stuff, and A-1 Comics, as well as many smaller individual stores.
My Kirby4Heroes campaign was off and running! In total, I contacted over 200 comic book stores by U.S. mail, email, telephone calls, or personal visits. I designed and provided the retailers with a flyer advertising my campaign, a collection jar label, a Kirby4Heroes remittance card and website information for online donations. As a result, many retailers included this information in newsletters, on their Facebook pages and websites in order to reach as many fans as possible. I was hesitant at first about the campaign’s large scale, but my enthusiasm escalated and my concerns disappeared thanks to the outpouring of goodwill from all.
For the next phase of my campaign, my family room was transformed into a mini video production studio. I wrote, produced, and edited a video explaining and advertising the Kirby4Heroes cause. My friend, Daniel, helped direct and set up certain shots. I later was fortunate enough to work with Seth Laderman, the Head of Production of the Nerdist Channel on YouTube, who generously donated his time to help me put some finishing touches on the Kirby4Heroes video. Working with Mr. Laderman was such an educational experience. Geoff Boucher, of the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex, wrote a fantastic article about my campaign and posted my video. Mr. Boucher’s support and encouragement have been constant throughout the duration of this campaign, and his article was instrumental in spreading the word about the Kirby4Heroes cause far beyond the comic book stores. Two days later, the video was released on YouTube via the Nerdist Channel.
I knew that my grandfather Jack was well regarded in the comic book industry, and the reception I have received confirms it. Sometimes I feel his spirit with me, especially when I’m reading comic book anthologies or biographies of my grandfather. I felt him looking over my shoulder when I visited comic book stores, because of how his home had an open door policy and he would let anyone visit, just as the comic book retailers were so welcoming to me. I have been met with such an outpouring of support, and it has truly touched my heart.
When I first started Kirby4Heroes, I was advised to think small, just start with one comic book store. Did Jack Kirby think small? Thank God, no! He let his imagination soar to heights that have entertained and enlightened us for almost 75 years! So, I went as big as I could, given the time and manpower limitations, and so far this campaign has turned out better than I could ever have imagined! I thank all of the comic book retailers, fans, Geoff Boucher and the rest of the news media, Seth Laderman at the Nerdist Channel, my other grandfather, Gene, my extended Kirby family, and finally my parents, for their guidance. My utmost gratitude is given to CO2 Comics, who provided me the opportunity to share my story. Most of all, I thank my grandfather, Jack Kirby, and all comic book creators in the industry. I’m sure countless fans do the same when they enjoy comic books, characters in movies, and other comic book driven entertainment media.
I need you to support the Kirby4Heroes campaign as well. Today is the day! Please watch my video for further details about how to donate in honor of Jack Kirby’s 95th birthday! For all the fans out there, here’s how you can be a part of the Kirby4Heroes campaign. One way is to visit your local comic book store, or you can mail a donation to the Hero Initiative at this address:
c/o The Hero Initiative
11301 Olympic Blvd., #587
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Finally, you can donate online at the Hero Initiative website via Paypal, and be sure to type “Kirby4Heroes” where it asks for special instructions.
This journey has not only been deeply satisfying for me as an emotional connection with my grandfather, but conceiving, planning and implementing the Kirby4Heroes campaign has been an invaluable learning experience. Sometimes when I gaze upon grandpa Jack’s drawing board in our small den, I can feel his presence with me. Because of founding this campaign, I know that he is smiling down on me with pride. I also know that he would want each and every one of you to reach out to the Hero Initiative just as he, long ago, reached out to that downtrodden man in the doorway of the synagogue in New York. Even a dollar can make a difference! The Kirby4Heroes campaign and I thank you so much for your support!
CO2 Comics would like to extend our support to Jillian’s Kirby4Heroes campaign by donating our entire share of all profits made from any of our printed publications sold during the week of Aug 28th-Sept 4th.
This is your opportunity to try something new and contribute to a good cause.