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February 6: The Comic Book King

February 6, 2011

Jack-KirbyComic book artist Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg), co-creator (with Joe Simon) of Captain America in the 1940s and (with Stan Lee) of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk in the 1960s, died on this date in 1994. A self-taught artist from the Lower East Side (his parents were immigrants from Austria), Kirby worked for a while in the Fleischer studios on Popeye cartoons, as a salaried artist at Fox Feature Syndicates, and then at Timely Comics (the predecessor to Marvel Comics), where in 1940 he launched Captain America. The patriotic hero was so popular in an America at the brink of war that the second issue sold close to a million copies. Kirby and Simon also created a romance series, Young Romance and Young Love, which combined to sell more than two million copies of each issue and launched several other spin-offs and imitators. Kirby’s most enduring impact, however, was with Marvel during the “Silver Age of Comics,” 1958-70, where he also lent his creative and supervisory hand to Thor, Iron Man, the Silver Surfer, Galactus, Magneto, and numerous other muscular, fantastic, psychologically complex characters. He was one of three inaugural inductees into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1987.

“I want to acknowledge the deep debt I owe in this and everything else I’ve ever written to the work of the late Jack Kirby, the King of Comics.” —Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay