16/05/2008 11:25Loading “The Independent - Print Article”Page 2 of 3http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/film-and-tv/features/jack-kirby--the-real-comic-book-hero-829087.html?service=Print
Surfer was an intergalactic traveller with cosmic powers bestowed on him by Galactus, the terrifyingconsumer of worlds. Storylines that took his characters to other worlds, or brought alien beings toEarth, were Kirby's stock in trade.He also had a passion for mythology. Another Kirby-Lee favourite was Thor, the Norse god of Thunderwhom the pair made a superhero. Kirby turned Hercules into a comic book character, toyed with theidea of using Egyptian gods like Horus in his work, and even produced his own pantheon of deities forThe New Gods, a title he created for DC Comics in 1971. Ross's favourite Kirby creation is The Demon,featuring Etrigan, a character fashioned by Kirby from Arthurian legend.Evanier was present at Etrigan's birth. "In 1972, DC decided that the new trend in comics would bedemons, monsters and other ghastly creatures," he recalls. "Jack got a call from DC around four in theafternoon, and that evening I went to dinner with the family at a Howard Johnson's restaurant. Weordered, and then Jack sat quietly thinking while the rest of us talked around him. By the time theybrought him his hot turkey sandwich he said: 'I've got it!' and he started telling us the story of theDemon. He'd figured it all out in about half an hour and plotted the whole first issue in his head."Despite his boundless imagination, many of the themes that run through Kirby's work were shaped byhis own very earthly life experiences. He created many physically unappealing characters, like theIncredible Hulk, or the Thing (a member of the Fantastic Four), who were redeemed by the love of agood woman. Evanier believes those characters were autobiographical. "The Thing is how Jack thoughtpeople saw him. Jack was short but physically very strong and powerful. His incredible energy andoutput had a lot to do with his physical strength as a human being. And I think he draws like a strongperson, too – his characters have mass and bulk. He had a wonderful wife, Roz, who was utterlydevoted to him. In 52 years they were apart for about four days. And Jack was fierce about protectingher."
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The self-made man who had struggled into the working world at the end of the Great Depression was agreat believer in taking responsibility for others. Many of his characters are motivated by a simple wishto make the world a better place. Like those superheroes, Kirby was a modest man with anunremarkable exterior, beneath which was hidden an extraordinary talent.Ross is just one of many who felt an affinity with Kirby's characters. "As a young boy I had all theissues that young boys have," he says. "Feeling sidelined, lacking in power, lacking in physicalpresence, nervous about the world. Jack's comic books tapped into that; they bristled with remarkableenergy, with an aggressive, muscular power that leaps right out of the page."