Thursday, February 6, 2014

How I Met the King. by John Garcia


Twenty years ago, to this day, the world lost one of its greatest visionary artists, Jack “The King” Kirby.  The iconic images you know, recognize, (and complain if there is any deviation from) of the many of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, the X-Men, and the New Gods, to name a few, were products of Kirby’s artwork and vision. 
At the time, I found out in the most unusual manner, and a month late, I’m embarrassed to say.  In 1994, there was no Internet in a small not-yet-a-city of Marikina, Philippines, but it had comics.  I was reading the letters section of Green Lantern #49, part two of “Emerald Twilight,” hoping for a clue of who this guy making a wish on a star was (it was Kyle Rayner).  To my dismay and surprise, all or a lot of the letters were about the death of Jack “The King” Kirby.  I was not an expert on artists at the time.  I was 11, and realizing for the first time that these characters weren’t made by "Mr. DC Comics" or "Mr. Marvel Comics." But I suppose they were, weren't they? Kirby was Mr. Marvel Comics.  
That name looked familiar, so I used the only database available to me at the time, Volume IV of the Encyclopedia, the second “C” Volume and looked at “Comics.”  There was a beautiful tall artwork of The Thing and the Hulk carrying a comically tall dog pile of characters on their combined backs; Captain America just above Hulk, Iron Man hanging off the left side, The Invisible Woman phasing out, the Human Torch half flamed on, Reed Richards stretched body parts on different parts of the dog pile, Thor near the top with his hammer held high, and the original X-Men clumped together in the middle.  
Later, Hulk and Thing were less friendly. (-Ed)
Right next to the caption, where the photo credit would be it says, “Art by Jack Kirby.” Then, on the caption, after the row by row identification of the heroes on the dog pile, is an impressive litany and testament of why they call him “The King.”  It was the acknowledgements: “Captain America created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, The incredible Hulk created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Iron Man created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, The Mighty Thor created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, The Fantastic Four created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, The X-Men created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. 
After that, I read about my new hero.  I emigrated to Southern California two years later, and I always see his home city of Thousand Oaks, CA  on the local news.  I thought to myself, “He lived THAT CLOSE! I could have met him,” but then I just see his work and realize that I have met him.  I have known him all my life through his work.  He helped shape my childhood and captured my imagination with his work.  Now, more than ever, the iconic images he created is capturing the imagination of so many more.   Long live the one and only King of Comics!       

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