His style was completely original. His characters flew across the page with fierce purpose and yet total abandon, fighting their hearts out against a backdrop of crazy machinery and abstract depictions of elemental energy. Though lacking in finesse, the drawings possessed a brute force that made the reader feel a pulse-pounding urgency that other cartoonists could not elicit. Every panel propelled the story forward at warp speed. Other cartoonists' work hit you with a water pistol; Kirby's slammed you with a fire hose.
Kirby's most creatively fertile decade (the 1960s) saw an output of about 800 pages of artwork per year, from The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men to The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Nick Fury. Later decades saw Kirby singled out for onerous contractual restrictions, and his heirs denied any share of Marvel's $4 billion sale to Disney in 2009:
What makes this situation especially hard to stomach is that Marvel's media empire was built on the backs of characters whose defining trait as superheroes is the willingness to fight for what is right. It takes a lot of corporate moxie to put Thor and Captain America on the big screen and have them battle for honor and justice when behind the scenes the parent company acts like a cold-blooded supervillain.
Hero Complex introduces some memories of Jack Kirby's son Neal this way:
"The Avengers," which unites the title characters from four film franchises -- Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and the Hulk - to save Earth from a cosmic threat. The only person who had a hand in creating all of those characters was the late Jack Kirby, a titan figure in comics, but his heirs weren't invited to the premiere; their presence would be awkward considering their legal quest to reclaim the rights to hundreds of his Marvel creations.
Neal writes, "I think about Dad a lot lately, especially when I see Thor, Captain America, Magneto, or the Hulk on a movie poster:"
My father drew comics in six different decades and filled the skies of our collective imagination with heroes, gods, monsters, robots and aliens; most of the truly iconic ones are out of the first half of the 1960s, when he delivered masterpieces on a monthly basis. I treasure the fact that I had a front-row seat for that cosmic event.
[Avengers #4 cover by Jack Kirby (1964), featuring the return of Captain America, a character he co-created in 1941]
Back to the movie, Comics Alliance speculates "it's not unlikely that The Avengers will earn a hundred million dollars on its opening day alone" and notes that "This represents a pretty big payday to a lot of people:"
...shamefully, the people who aren't making a big profit from these movies are the people (and the families of the people) who did the essential work of creating them in the first place. It's not just Jack Kirby, either, or (Black Widow and Hawkeye co-creator) Don Heck, but also Steve Engelhart, Peter David, Herb Trimpe, Jim Steranko, Roy Thomas and dozens more - the artists and writers who refined and defined the characters appearing in this movie, who fleshed out the original creations and molded them into the figures we cheer for when we see them on the screen.
Some very sensible people are calling for a boycott of this film on those grounds, but I think it's fairly obvious that a boycott of idealistic comic fans isn't going to accomplish much.
CA suggests instead that "as a thank you to the creators who brought you these characters in the first place, who gave you something to enjoy so much -- you match your ticket price as a donation to The Hero Initiative?"
THI is a charity which provides essential financial assistance to comic book professionals who have fallen on hard times. For decades, the comic industry provided no financial safety net to its employees, most of whom it regarded only as freelancers and journeymen, meaning they were offered no health insurance, no unemployment insurance, no retirement plans -- none of the financial support most of us enjoy from our jobs and careers. A small donation will help this agency provide a valuable safety net in times of need to these beloved entertainers.