Jack Kirby’s Son Shares Fond Memories of the Father he Loved
Countless comic fans have had their childhoods — and even adulthoods — shaped by the imagination and creations of Jack Kirby, the man behind such characters as Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, Darkseid, Devil Dinosaur and dozens of others (Many co-created with Stan Lee and others, of course). But what must it have been like to be raised by the legendary creator himself? Neal Kirby, the creator’s only son, has shared some warm memories about growing up with one of comics’ greatest talents for a father.Kirby’s recollections, written for the LA Times’ Hero Complex blog, are genuinely touching because they focus less on “Jack Kirby The Comic Legend” and shine light more on Jack Kirby the man. Neal writes about watching television with his father (Groucho Marx and Edward R. Murrow were two favorites of the two, apparently) and talking about science and history with his dad with as much love and affection as his father’s work, although he does that, too:
I wonder if Michelangelo had a kid watching him paint? Was there a little Luigi watching the ceiling from a quiet corner of the Sistine Chapel? Extreme example, maybe, but the emotion would have been the same that I experienced watching my father at the drawing board. I had to stand on his left, looking over his shoulder. Starting with a clean piece of Bristol board, he would first draw his panel lines with an old wood and plastic T-square. Then the page would start to come alive. He told me that once he had the story framed in his mind, he would start drawing at the middle, then go back to the beginning, and then finish it up. Everything seemed to come naturally; he didn’t even needed a compass to draw a perfect circle. He worked fast but smooth, too, no wasted movement or hesitation.
Neal also reveals his previously-unrecognized contribution to the Marvel Universe:
Everything in Dad’s mind, heart and soul went into those paneled pages – but my contributions to the Marvel Universe were limited to one flying car. Nick Fury had been a WWII soldier but the 1960s took him into a post-war career with S.H.I.E.L.D (It stood for “Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division” and was more than a little influenced by “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”) and Dad needed a James Bond-type car and came to me (At that point in my life I was more interested in cars than girls). With just a little bit of research into my stack of Road and Track magazines, I found the perfect car, a Porsche 904D racer. We knew we needed to go a step beyond machine guns hidden in headlights so we stuck some missiles in the fender wells and, of course, wheels that flip and whisk the car through the air.
Given the Kirby family’s increasingly awkward relationship with Marvel Comics (Is it really only six years ago that things between the two had apparently gotten so good that the publisher put out a creator-owned Kirby book?), this is a surprisingly even-keeled, charming look back at a time in two men’s lives that shaped their strong relationship. If you didn’t already have a lot of affection for Jack Kirby because of his amazing creative output during six decades in the industry before reading what Neal has to say, you’ll have a whole new level of admiration for the creator as a person once you’ve finished.