JACK KIRBY

Ai­den Dalby speaks to Mark Evanier about his award-win­ning bi­og­ra­phy, Kirby: King Of Comics

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Mark Evanier, writer, his­to­rian and for­mer as­sis­tant to Jack Kirby has tweaked his bi­og­ra­phy of the leg­endary artist. Orig­i­nally pub­lished by Abrams Books in 2008, Mark has amended parts of the text, adding a new chap­ter and fore­word, as well as newly found art.

Kirby: King Of Comics is part cof­fee-ta­ble art book and part bi­og­ra­phy. What made you de­cide to go with this for­mat?

I had a lot of Kirby art­work that I thought should be pre­served. The ma­te­rial dic­tated the form; Jack was a guy who span an in­cred­i­ble se­ries of decades do­ing great art­work and it was fas­ci­nat­ing to a lot of peo­ple to see it chron­i­cled that way. You could see the evo­lu­tion of his style – even late in his ca­reer he was still in­no­vat­ing and do­ing in­cred­i­ble work. That was one of the main mes­sages that I wanted peo­ple to get out of the book – not ‘hey this guy did some great comic books’ but ‘hey, this guy drew some great comics in the ’40s, and he drew them in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.’

I hope one of the things peo­ple take away from any­thing I or any­one else writes about Jack is what a hard worker he was. When you get to be pro­fi­cient in comics there’s a great temp­ta­tion to coast and re­use stock poses and plots and keep draw­ing the same fig­ures over and over again to have one set of ac­tion poses and dress the char­ac­ter in what­ever cos­tume. Jack didn’t do that.

You men­tion in the book that Jack asked you to doc­u­ment his work for a bi­og­ra­phy.

When I first met Jack he was im­pressed that I knew a lot about comic book his­tory. I was 17 at the time and this was 1969, there wasn’t a lot writ­ten about the his­tory of comics. What’s in­ter­est­ing is he never said to me, “This is what I want you to write.” He never tried to shape the truth, noth­ing was off lim­its. Jack al­ways be­lieved that he would do very well if he just told the truth, so I kept notes on a lot of things and wrote a lot of ar­ti­cles over the years. It never seemed to be the right time to write a large book about him be­cause he was still vi­tal and on­go­ing that I didn’t have the whole story.

Jack was very much of the present and also the fu­ture; one of the most in­ter­est­ing things about him was what he was go­ing to do next. Af­ter he died, Roz, his won­der­ful wife, said to me, “I want you to write a big book about him some day.” She didn’t say to­mor­row, didn’t say next week, and she said I could have ac­cess to any­thing I wanted, all the files and pa­pers, and she would an­swer all my ques­tions, so I be­gan to do that.

What could the artists of to­day learn from study­ing Jack Kirby?

I tell peo­ple that if I had emerged from my as­so­ci­a­tion with Jack able to draw just like him he would have con­sid­ered me a fail­ure be­cause he didn’t want peo­ple im­i­tat­ing his stylis­tic works and have their draw­ings mis­taken for Kirby’s. He wanted peo­ple to un­der­stand the en­ergy be­hind the work, the thought be­hind it and the pas­sion be­hind his work, and take all of that and do work that’s unique to them. He loved the new tal­ented peo­ple that emerged in his life­span who were do­ing Kirby with­out do­ing Kirby. Kirby: King of Comics (An­niver­sary Edi­tion) by Mark Evanier and in­tro­duc­tion by Neil Gaiman (Abrams ComicArts, out 1Au­gust for £17.99)

When you get to be pro­fi­cient in comics there’s a temp­ta­tion to coast. Jack didn’t do that

Leah Moore is a writer of comics, prose and jour­nal­ism, as well as the co-founder of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary Elec­tri­comics. She has writ­ten for Al­bion, Wild Girls,

Tom Strong and more. Fol­low her on Twit­ter at @leah­moore.

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