Yesterday was Jack Kirby’s 98th birthday. Though he left us in 1994, his impact on the comic-book genre continues, and so last night a birthday celebration was held in his honor. It was conceived and executed by Russ “Karaoke Fanboy” Kazmierczak, with help from Cynthia Black, proprietress of C-MOD, our venue, with big help from Russ’s brother Kyle, who handled the sound and video. The guest of honor was Steve “The Rude Dude” Rude, the fantastically talented, multi-award-winning co-creator of the awesome and popular (Awesome and Popular do not always go together, folks) series NEXUS. Mr. Rude brought with him a wonderful assortment of Jack Kirby ORIGINAL COMIC PAGES, most inked by others but one in its untouched, all-pencil glory.
I had taken the day off from work, partly because there wasn’t much work and they asked for volunteers, and partly because it would give me extra time to prepare for the event. I’d already done all but the finishing touches of the artwork Russ asked for, which looks like this:
But now that I had more time on my hands, I thought Hey,, why not do a birthday card for Jack, done entirely on his birthday, I could acrosticize him while I was at it, too.
It took a couple of hours that felt like about 15 minutes–I’m sure I’d been cooking it up subconsciously since Russ asked me to participate in the event. The photo source of my portraiture is the Jack Kirby Museum, found here: http://kirbymuseum.org/
When I gave my not-great, not-bad presentation at the microphone, I invited the audience to sign the card, speculating that I might offer it to the Kirby Museum in time for Jack’s 100th Birthday. Many of the audience took me up, in heart-warming beyond-all-expectations fashion. Here is the inside of the card:
Steve Rude did Jack Kirby proud in his presentation at the end. He talked about visits to the Kirby residence, the famous making of the Captain America Album Issue in three days, thanks to Jack’s lightning drawing speed, and necessary because “Jimmy Steranko was late on his deadline.” Earlier, before the official start of the event, I’d asked Mr. Rude if Kirby had met more deadlines than any other comics artist. He thought it over for a full minute, reviewing, I’m sure, extensive comics history in his head, and then replied, “Yes, I think so.”
The Rude Dude also talked about how Jack’s drawing approach was different from any other, and demonstrated as he talked. Most of us, he explained, go by the rule book of figure drawing: Draw the head with center guidelines, add a torso, add the limbs. (Meanwhile he was drawing Captain America, running toward the “camera,” shield on left arm, fisted right arm in foreshortening.) “For the drawing Jack made, he started with the belt buckle.” The audience, several of them comics artists themselves, gasped. Who does that?
But Steve Rude saved the best for last, speaking of how Jack’s best friend (name escaping Mr. Rude) was walking back to his car through the hospital parking lot after Jack was declared dead. The friend heard Jack’s warm laughter (in his head? out loud? Unknown.) and the friend said, “Jack, is that you?”
“Yes, it’s me.”
“Jack–where ARE you?! and where are you going?”
“I don’t know,” the voice of Jack Kirby replied to his best friend, “But I’m excited to find out.”
I sure hope Jack was there last night.