Tuesday, May 30, 2017
King Of Comics!
Finally took the time to sit and read Mark Evanier's sleek biography of Jack Kirby, famously known in these parts and beyond as "The King of Comics", a title with a rich history. The first self-titled "King of Comics" was the humorous con man Victor Fox, a raucous man portrayed by most as a self-promoter with a vastly inflated notion of his own value to the operations he cobbled together. The early days of comics are littered with hucksters looking for a quick buck and Fox was the perhaps the most famous, the early employer of budding talents like Bill Everett and Jack Kirby, who mocked their boss by slapping the nickname "King of Comics" on each other in an attempt to deflate the hilarious claim. Evanier seems to show in this narrative of the life of Kirby how that title went from a joke among talented friends to a real title for a truly humble man who lived a long and busy life to actually almost earn it, though he himself would almost certainly disagree.
Mark Evanier does a delightful job here telling a story with clarity and with kindness about a man who first and foremost wanted to supply for his family. That might be the thing which I admire most about Jack Kirby, he was just a working stiff who hit his marks every day and did what he did for those closest to him. He was a guy with responsibilities to manned up to those responsibilities. That might have forced him to make compromises he regretted and it likely caused him to choose to do things he would've have wished to avoid, but as a guy who has approached his own life that same way, I really admire the drive it takes to get up and get it done each and every day. We even get a glimpse of his childhood when Evanier sees fit to include "Streetcode", the remarkable short story that Kirby created for Argosy magazine many years ago now.
This book is no hagiography by any means. While we encounter a kind and thoughtful man, we also see a man who often can be short sighted when it comes to his career if not when it comes to how he saw the industry in which he slaved for decades. But we see a guy of uncommon bravery, a man who was no physical coward and one who was willing to put his fists where his mouth was for the sake of what he believed and for the sake of his friends.
We learn what we already knew, but it is reinforced int his tome -- Jack Kirby was a great artist, but most importantly Jack Kirby was a good man.
Special Note: This tome has just been reissued in an updated paperback format with a new chapter. I might have to get that one too eventually. I'm also very much looking forward to Evanier's long-promised more detailed biography of the "King of Comics" when it eventually drops.