Thursday, October 4, 2012

Who's the Best... Jack Kirby Creation?


Doug:  Talk about a universe (shoot -- universes) of possibilities on this one...



23 comments:

Comicsfan said...

Nope. Not touching it. Even Brainiac would short-circuit on this one. :)

Chuck Wells said...

Kirby creations ruled throughout various comic "ages", but one trumps them all. Captain America was one of the rare characters to debut in his very own self-titled series, and despite being beaten to the patriotic punch by MLJ's The Shield, Cap pretty quickly became the model for red, white and blue warriors in the four-color arena, placing him a step ahead of any of the Kings innovative Marvel heroes of the 1960s.

humanbelly said...

Ooh-- but the question is "best", yes? As opposed to "greatest", say? If it were the latter, I'd totally go w/ Chuck's view, no question. Cap is still amazingly relevant and visible 70 years down the road, even if he's not a ubiquitous franchise-face at this point.

But if we're talking "best"-- then I'd certainly add the Silver Surfer to the discussion, as Kirby created him from whole cloth himself (According to Mark Evanier's Kirby biography, Stan had no idea who this character was when the pages were delivered for him to script. . . ). That's a character that, by all rights, should have been ridiculous-- and he simply wasn't. Rather he was a complex, conflicted, driven character that Stan himself quickly fell in love with and took to greater heights.

"Guilty Pleasure" character?
*sigh*
Kamandi. Can't help it. Sorry. . . sorry. . .

HB

William said...

If absolutely had to come up with answer, I'd have to go with the Thing, followed by Captain America.

There is a lot of debate on how much Stan Lee contributed to the creation of the Fantastic Four, but everyone can agree that Kirby came up with the designs, and the Thing is definitely the coolest looking member of the team. In fact Ben Grimm is one of the greatest comic book characters ever created period. Never has a big lumpy, orange rock monster been imbued with so much humanity, heroism and personality. I think that Jack was mostly responsible for not only the Thing's unique image, but also a lot of his personality. I think Stan even once said that he himself was most like Reed Richards and Jack was most like the Thing.

Captain America is probably the King's most famous and enduring creation however. That said, as iconic as he is, Cap was modeled on the super hero formula of the time, and was pretty much created partly as a WWII propaganda figure. It's a testament to his timeless design that such a character has remained popular for more than 70 years.

J.A. Morris said...

Okay, I'll get "controversial" here:

The ones Kirby created?
Or the ones he co-created?

I love Kirby's work, but his track record on his own is a mixed bag. He was a brilliant artist but his skills as a writer are a bit over the top, even by comic book standards. Yes, comics are ultimately a visual medium, but good stories count for something.

So I have to give some credit to Joe Simon & Stan Lee (or the Wood brothers, for that matter, who worked on 'Challenges of the Unknown') in creating Cap, FF, Thor, Hulk, etc.
Think about it. Kirby and Simon created the Red Skull. Kirby(working by himself as writer,penciler & editor) created the Swine. Who's the better Cap villain?

If I had to pick one character that Kirby created on his own, it would be Darkseid. One of the greatest villains in any media.
I like some of his other 70s creations (especially Devil Dinosaur!)but they can't touch his earlier work done with collaborators.

Edo Bosnar said...

I'm with J.A. on this one (and I'm glad he broached the topic): with no intent to start a flamewar, it has to be said that some of the most enduring Kirby creations actually came about as collaborations. Calling Captain America a Kirby creation without mentioning Joe Simon is a particular slight.
I think the best specifically Kirby creation is the New Gods in general, and Darkseid in particular (again, good call J.A.). A personal favorite of mine - and I know I'm in a minority here - is Captain Victory. I really enjoyed the first half-dozen issues of that series.

Doug said...

It's interesting to try to separate the visual from the personality of these characters. In some cases, like Ben Grimm, Kirby brought both elements. But the Surfer we think of -- all Stan Lee. I don't think we'd have liked a Terrax-like Surfer as well.

Doug

dbutler16 said...

What Comicsfan said.

vancouver mark said...

I have to say Ben Grimm, with the Surfer, Scott and Barda, Darkseid, Kamandi and Lightray all right behind.
Thor would also be on the list, but Stan Lee was a crucial contributor to that character (whereas Ben WAS Kirby, to me at least).

david_b said...

I'm not read up enough to separate who exactly created who in the pages of FF (and occasionally still argued today..), but certainly the creation of Big G and the Watcher took the 'wild imagination' of lesser books and greatly expanded the cerebral scope of Silver Age comics. It ratched up the sophistication from the tales of 'outer-space Batman' in the early '60s before DC reimaged him successfully (and the TV series).

So both broad in heady concepts, coupled with special touches like Ben Grimm's self-pity and gruff demeanor helped 'shape' the Marvel Universe beyond speculation.

Imagine if the FF were never created.., and we only had the likes of Spiderman and perhaps Avengers..? Still extraordinary and perhaps Stan would have created some team of space explorers later on, but obviously markedly different that how the MU would have grown to during the Bronze Age and beyond.

Dougie said...

My first facetious response was Paranex the Fighting Fetus.

But the best answers are probably the enduring Thing and Darkseid.

My own personal choice echoes Vancouver Mark: it's Mr. Miracle. Kirby took the stock stage magician character of the Golden Age and folded him into cosmic conflict. Who else could design a gaudy showman with connotations of both fetish wear and Egyptian funerary art?

Inkstained Wretch said...

This is obviously a tough call. I understand and agree with the love shown here for Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew, but my vote would go for the Thunderer.

Thor was such a great vehicle for Kirby's talents and approach to comics. Kirby's Thor art is his best of all time, I think, and the stories are great too. I love how the mythological Norse god was not limited to fantasy/magical stories but put into straight-up superhero tales and grand cosmic sci-fi adventures too. Nothing was too outrageous and Kirby made them all fit.

Thor was essentially a variation on Superman only this time instead of the superhero having god-like powers and the writers trying to obscure that so he was relate-able for readers, the hero was an actual god and the creators just ran with the idea. That's genius.

Fred W. Hill said...

Taking into account the collaborative nature of most of Kirby's greatest creations, at least up until he went solo in 1970, I'll go with the Thing as I think he seems to best represent Kirby's spirit of perseverance against all odds. Of course, Captain America is also an embodiment of that trait, but more of Kirby's personality, even if filtered through Lee's scripting, came out through Benjamin J. Grimm. Cap represented an ideal while Ben was more the real "thing", albeit with rocky plating and stupendous strenghth.

Unknown said...

I have to agree with J.A. as well. As much as I like Capt. America and the Thing, they are co-creations at best. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Consider how some of Paul McCartney's best songs were improved by additional lyrics or bridges by Lennon in the 60's. Even the Silver Surfer, who was a Kirby creation initially, had enough of his personality shaped by Stan Lee prior to publication to end up designated as a co-creation. One thing that is proven without a doubt is that Kirby was an inspired co-conspirator. He worked well collaboratively. He may not have enjoyed it (no one does 100%), and he actually did most of his work alone. But the work he created with Lee and Simon stands the test of time.

That being established, I think it's probably safe to say that the Fourth World saga was as close to being his creation alone as anything (barring the Jimmy Olsen elements, which weren't really intrinsic to the core concepts). It was viewed as a complete failure by the mid-70's. But it worked creatively, and ended up supplying so much raw material for the DC universe in the decades to come.

The most compelling character for me in the Fourth World saga is Darkseid. So, I nominate Darkseid as the best Kirby creation. Second runner-up is Metron's chair (it has a cup-holder, right?).

Re: Kamandi. A guilty pleasure indeed, Humanbelly. No classic, but they actually read better than a lot of DC's output in the 70's. I got a kick out of seeing Kamandi on The Brave & The Bold cartoon. Maybe we'll see him on Young Justice.

p.s. I've read from a few sources that Capt. America was primarily a Joe Simon creation, and that Kirby merely did the first sketch from Simon's instructions. Whether or not that's true, you still can't deny the sheer dynamism of Kirby's art on the early Capt. America.

James Chatterton

William Preston said...

I thought Leiber drew the first Thor comic.

Also, did you notice the title on that New Gods comic, "O'Deadly Darkseid"? He's Irish?

Anonymous said...

No contest here - Captain America! Joe Simon gets a special tip of the shield too.

Even though King Kirby had many other notable characters like Kamandi, Mister Miracle, etc. the good Captain is easily his greatest (co)- creation!

- Mike 'Major Disaster' from Trinidad & Tobago

Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

I'd have to say "New Gods". I am purchasing the paperbacks that reprint the entire saga from the start. Also on my list are Kamandi and the Demon. I only wish Stan had worked out something with him to have him stay. Kirby was just as much a creator of the Marvel Universe as Stan. If only Stan went to bat for Kirby and fought along side him to get what he deserved financially from Marvel. I think Stan tossed Kirby aside because he wanted the spotlight for himself. Stan may be "the man" but Jack Kirby was "The King" and should have been a millionare like Stan.

vancouver mark said...


Leiber did draw the first Thor, but as I understand it he was based somewhat on a pre-existing Kirby character and the King was at least involved in the design. Certainly when he took it over Kirby made the character his own, and his greatest achievement there was likely the Tales of Asgard stories which he essentially wrote, even according to Lee. Kirby created some stunning characters and concepts in Thor, most notably (to me) Ego the Living Planet, created first as a Kirby collage. The outstanding visuals of Pluto's Netherworld are my favorite Kirby pieces of all time (there you go, Mr. Inkstained W.), alongside the three key New Gods issues.
But Stan's sparkling Shakespearean dialogue ultimately defined Thor as much as Kirby's visuals. It featured some of Lee's most wonderful characterizations (especially Thor w/Hercules, the Warriors Three, and the Recorder), as Stan followed Jack's stunning storylines.
Lee's and Kirby's camps may argue forever about FF and the other creations, but Thor to me was Lee/Kirby/Kirby/Lee's "A Day in the Life," a rapturous union of two incredible talents. A beautiful cultural moment, nuff said.

And Dougie, to me the joy of Scott and Barda has always been how they both overcame brutality and escaped, with hearts and souls somehow still intact, from the most awful of realities to find a true and wonderous love.
Big Barda's probably my favorite comics babe of all time, I ended up marrying a woman quite like her, save that my wife is 5'2" instead of 6'4", thanks be to God.

And hey, I often marvel at Kirby's amazingly prescient creation, the Mother Box. Everyday now, forty years later, I see a whole lot of distracted drivers and street-crossing pedestrians dangerously focussed on their little Mother Boxes.
If they ever come out with Orion's app that would remove the crags of my monster face I'm buying one.

And oh yeah Kirby's Klik Klak from Kamandi is my favorite komics kritter ever, this side of We3.

Rip Jagger said...

The Orion and Darkseid connection is Kirby's richest and most vibrant creation.

His Ben Grimm is vibrant. His Steve Rogers is iconic. His Kamandi is compelling. But Orion and is dark father are the whole shebang!

Rip Off

Inkstained Wretch said...

Regarding Thor, the sources I have say that it was indeed Kirby who penciled his first Journey Into Mystery story. Lieber scripted it, based on a Stan Lee plot.

See here: http://marvel.wikia.com/Journey_into_Mystery_Vol_1_83

Also, Marvel Genesis: http://www.marvelgenesis.com/2010/01/10-journey-into-mystery-83.html

vancouver mark said...

You're right, Wretch. I just dug out my Origins of Marvel Comics and the first Thor was drawn by Jack and scripted by Leiber.
Stan comments that Kirby did his usual sensational job on character design, and notes his bravery in giving Thor long hair in 1962.
How'd I forget all this?

But I know some of the early issues didn't have Kirby art, and the series didn't really become readable until Stan Lee took over the scripting.

Inkstained Wretch said...

You are correct VM. Don Heck drew some of the original stories as did one or two others besides Kirby in the first year or so. BUT Kirby did draw him first so I am claiming him in the name of the King.

NINE9INCHE STUD said...

I don't what one was the best,but the dummest two were Omac and Galactic Ranger one.Buddy Bank.Guys in a thumble.Christ.And of all the Sliver Age Marvel characters-Thor has most silliest secret idenity.Don Blake-surgeon-a name freely ripped off from the 1950's movie Monster on the Campus.Wouldn't Thors otherself,be more likely a truck driver or construction work.OH,He's a skinny guy,with lamb leg-boo hoo.Who cares.Shouldn't Doc Strange be a part time doctor ?

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