There are just ten days left before the comic book world celebrates the 98th birthday of the legendary Jack Kirby, arguably the most influential creator in the history of comic books. In honor of his birthday on August 28, his youngest grandchild, Jillian Kirby, founded the Kirby4Heroes Campaign in 2012. For the last three years she has spearheaded an admirable effort to celebrate his accomplishments and to raise funds and awareness for the Hero Initiative, a noble organization that helps comic creators who are in desperate financial or healthcare situations.
We at CO2 Comics, urge all comic fans and professionals to make the most of the opportunity to celebrate what would have been Jack Kirby’s 98th birthday on Friday, August 28, 2015 by participating in the events, shopping at a comic shop that is supporting the Kirby4Heroes Campaign or simply by making a donation to the Heroes Initiative through links provided on the Kirby4Heroes website, Facebook page or twitter account.
If you would like a first-hand, up-to-date history of Jillian Kirby’s Kirby4Heroes Campaign, she has taken the time to thoroughly recount it in a detailed letter that she has recently sent to the many fine folks that have supported her in previous years.
We share it here in hope that it will inspire more to help this good cause in the great name of Jack Kirby!
I am so excited to be once again collaborating with both the Hero Complex and Nerdist to promote my 2015 Kirby4Heroes charity campaign! In previous years, the gracious support of the LA Times Hero Complex, which included Geoff Boucher, Gina McIntyre, and Noelene Clark, and former Head of Production at Nerdist, Seth Laderman, has been instrumental in spreading awareness of Kirby4Heroes!
As you may recall, I founded the Kirby4Heroes campaign when I was 16 years old in June 2012, as a way of honoring the legacy of my grandfather, comic book artist and creator Jack Kirby, who unfortunately died the year before I was born. My campaign supports the Hero Initiative, the only federally registered non-profit organization that helps those in the comic book industry who have fallen upon times that require the addition of medical and financial assistance. Hero Initiative is spearheaded by James McLauchlin.
My grandfather Jack’s generosity was legendary in the comic book industry. He always gave encouragement to budding comic book artists asking for advice. He never turned away a fan! His Thousand Oaks home was famous as a haven for comic book lovers, fans, and those just seeking one of my grandma Roz’s famous bologna sandwiches! Growing up impoverished on the Lower East Side of New York, my grandfather went on to create or co-create such iconic superheroes as Captain America, Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, the Avengers and Ant-Man, just to name a few. Many of his personal life experiences served as inspiration for his creations. From gang fights on the Lower East Side, to combat in WWII, and even his mother’s mysterious tales of Eastern Europe, all can be seen in my grandfather’s art and stories. A young Jacob Kurtzberg, so passionate about his craft, almost got his family kicked out of their tenement by using the walls of the building as his canvas. He would eventually find a new space to work, a 10′ x 10′ basement room, referred to as “The Dungeon,” of his Long Island home. A lover of movies, he envisioned his comic book panels akin to storyboards, and now, 50 years after their creation, grandpa Jack’s characters are leaping off the silver screen.
Since my campaign’s inception in June 2012, the support given to me by the Hero Complex and the Nerdist Channel has been instrumental in relaying my message to the comic book reading public, major comic book websites, and mainstream media outlets. This has greatly increased my fundraising outreach.
My 2012 Kirby4Heroes campaign included comic book retailers throughout the state of California, as well as the first Wake Up And Draw event (WUAD), sponsored by Hero Initiative. This event recruited comic book artists from across the country to create works of art on my grandfather¹s birthday. These pieces were later auctioned off, with the proceeds going to Hero Initiative. In that first year, the Kirby4Heroes campaign raised $5000 for the Hero Initiative. In 2013, my Kirby4Heroes campaign grew with the addition of a Kirby4Heroes public Facebook page. Because of the generous donation of time, effort and support from Bill Cucinotta and Gerry Giovinco of CO2 Comics, a Kirby4Heroes website was created. Comic book retailers across the country were recruited, and WUAD, with Jim McLauchlin’s persistence, was expanded through the voluntary participation of many more talented artists. This increased my fundraising efforts, raising $10,000 for the Hero Initiative! Last year in 2014, in addition to all of the events mentioned, artist Phil Hester came up with his own idea! On August 28th, 2014, what would have been my grandfather’s 97th birthday, Phil created 97 different pieces of Kirby-themed art to auction off, raising over $3000! He pulled a marathon of an all-nighter working on these creations, live tweeting with lighthearted humor throughout the night, which truly increased individual participation and enthusiasm for the event! And there’s more! Yet another event spearheaded by the upstate New York team of Ron Marz, comic book writer, and Paul Harding, comic book artist, with participation of comic book retailers, threw a party in commemoration of my grandfather’s birthday at a local venue and raised over $2000 for the Hero Initiative. The event, celebrating the legacy of my grandfather Jack, was featured on National Public Radio! NPR characterized August 28th as a movement that is spreading throughout the country to become “National Jack Kirby Day”! My grandfather would have been astounded! In addition, across the country, a group of major comic book artists made appearances at comic book stores to participate in Wake Up and Draw. A sentimental favorite, the beloved inker of many of my grandfather’s works, Joe Sinnott, created a work of art as a heartfelt tribute to my grandfather to be auctioned off for the Hero Initiative. Also, global outreach for the campaign increased, with events at the Moebius Liceo Gallery in Buenos Aires, an appearance by comic book artist Joe Prado at a comic book retailer in San Paolo, Brazil, a major fan Facebook page in France dedicated solely to the works of my grandfather, and comic book artists in France and Italy that created Kirby-inspired works for auction. An artist in Italy even created a birthday cake in the image of The Thing! It was amazing! In total, the Kirby4Heroes campaign raised almost $15,000 in 2014!
Currently, as a 19 year-old entering my junior year of college as a biomedical engineering major, my 2015 campaign is off and running! I am again working with major comic book retailers, not only in California, but also across the country. Many will be donating a percentage of their sales or profits on my grandfather Jack Kirby¹s 98th birthday, August 28th, to the Hero Initiative, publicizing my campaign on their websites and Facebook pages, and using in-store posters and collection jar labels that I have provided. Some will be hosting “birthday parties,” enlisting known comic book artists to draw in their stores with the work to be auctioned off either in their stores or as part of WUAD on eBay. Others will be holding raffles with the proceeds donated to the Hero Initiative. Phil Hester will once again participate with his crazy nonstop drawing, this time creating 98 pieces for my grandfather’s 98th birthday! Midtown Comics in New York City will host a podcast featuring comic book artist Guy Dorian discussing my grandfather, his legacy, and the good deeds of the Hero Initiative. I am so excited that my 2015 Kirby4Heroes campaign will also have the official endorsement of ComicsPRO, the only professional trade organization for comic book retailers in the United States. Marco Davanzo, the Executive Director of ComicsPRO (and owner of Alakazam Comics in Irvine, CA), was instrumental in facilitating this arrangement. With over 130 members representing over 200 stores nationwide, I expect ComicsPRO to be a great resource and support. Within hours of Marco publicizing the campaign to ComicsPRO members, I began receiving requests by comic book retailers to be involved in my Kirby4Heroes campaign. It’s thrilling that my Kirby4Heroes campaign is receiving such enthusiastic support by members of the comic book community. Wouldn’t it be great to also get the support of those involved in the Hollywood movies inspired by my grandfather’s creations!
One of the most satisfying surprises from my 2014 campaign was the amount of personal donations in the name of Kirby4Heroes sent in to the Hero Initiative either by mail or on the Hero Initiative website. The addition of my public Kirby4Heroes Facebook page in 2013 and its growth in 2014 greatly helped my fundraising efforts. This Facebook page is meant to serve as a type of personal Jack Kirby art museum. I try to keep my grandfather Jack¹s legacy thriving through daily postings of his artwork. Comments made by the page¹s followers are often both entertaining and educational. They keep my grandfather¹s spirit alive. The Facebook page allows followers to personally message me, which has become another avenue for outreach.
Innovative fundraising ideas contributed by many Jack Kirby fans continually assist the Kirby4Heroes campaign to expand and blossom! Watching this event spread from state to state, with the possibility of becoming a national or international event is my greatest dream leading up to my grandfather’s 100th birthday in 2017. I look forward to the culmination of a fantastic show of support on August 28th! Over the past three years the Kirby4Heroes campaign has been fortunate enough to raiseover $30,000 for the Hero Initiative. This year, I’ve upped the ante to a fundraising goal of $20,000!
Looking ahead to the future, I’m zeroing in on August 28th, 2017, my grandfather¹s 100th birthday. Upon reaching my 2015 goal of $20,000 for the Hero Initiative, I will have brought in a total of $50,000 since my campaign’s inception in 2012. My target is to raise an additional $50,000 over the next two years. Upon my grandpa Jack’s 100th birthday celebration in 2017, I will hopefully have been able to provide the Hero Initiative with $100,000 for their charitable works. It would also be wonderful to have fundraising events for Kirby4Heroes occurring in all fifty states to benefit the Hero Initiative by 2017. To spread awareness of my grandfather’s influence as one of the most preeminent American pop culture artists of the 20th century, seeing his artwork displayed in several major art museums would be another amazing goal, enabling my grandfather and his legacy to be celebrated in the mainstream. Axel Alonso, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, declared “if there was a Mount Rushmore of comic book artists, Jack Kirby would sit front and center.” I wholeheartedly agree with this, and truly believe that my grandfather deserves a place in the pantheon of great American masters.
If there is any additional information you would like to know about my campaign or any questions you have, please let me know! Here are the links to the Hero Complex articles/videos about my campaign in previous years, so you have them as a reference:
I’ve also included 3 Wake Up and Draw pieces from 2013 that I especially enjoyed: Joe Sinnott’s drawing of my grandfather with the Thing, the character he personally identified with at the top of this blog, Walt Simonson’s drawing of Thor, and Paolo Rivera’s take on Captain America. Thank you so much again for your time, effort and support and I am so grateful to be collaborating with the Hero Complex and Nerdist again this year! I’m looking forward to working with you all this summer!