Jack Kirby


We’ve seen a lot of Kickstarter projects in the last couple years for some of the geeky greats. Larry Elmore was just the most recent (and successful) in a string of classic artists and game designers who are now getting another well deserved 15 minutes of fame.

I think it’s great. In many ways crowdfunding is a way for a creator to cash in on their popularity; i’d much prefer their fans give them money directly rather than see them get 10% of the take because their manager/distributor/promoter/etc all got their cut.

What happens though, when even this laudable trend goes wrong?

Today a project was launched to put Jack Kirby in the spotlight. Comicdom owes Kirby a debt that it can never really repay. Looking at some of the iconic shots he penned decades ago shows you how and why superhero comics became what they are today. Not only did he create the Fantastic Four in 1961, but he created the cosmic weirdness that penetrates the company to this day.

He deserves more recognition, but I’m not sure that the new project launched today is the way to go about it.

Jack kirby’s grandson launched a project today to “The Life and Times of Jack Kirby. This book will feature personal photographs, artwork and a never-before-seen play written by Jack.” Now maybe this is a touching tribute to the comic genius through the eyes of his family. Maybe it’s meant to explore the side of an artist we would never otherwise see.

Maybe I’m just a jerk.

Because what I see is someone selling photocopies and scans from the family photo album to make a quick buck. Now, none of my grand parents are famous, but I very much doubt that my parents would appreciate me putting their details up on ebay. This feels forced. It feels disrespectful. After 1 day, great-grand-Kirby is already a third of the way to his $7500 goal; I fear for whatever stretch goals he comes up with.

Maybe Jeremy is just a guy that wants to share his grandfather with the world, one mark … err, fan at a time. After all, he’s only charging $50 for a book and $100 for a shirt. What’s the harm? For a moment, just a moment I thought that way, then I found the creator’s website. He already has a storefront to shill his forebearers wears – its been up a whole five months!

This is the part of these articles where I rant angrily about how this isn’t what Kickstarter should be used for. This one just makes me sad; feel free to add your own angry rants to the comments section in my stead.

Protip: Want an overpriced Kirby T-shirt, but can’t afford the $100 the project is charging you to get one? You can get the same shirt from the website/storefront for only $20+shipping. Now that’s a deal!

This entry was posted by David Winchester.

14 thoughts on “Jack Kirby

  1. I don’t know, I’m torn on this. I mean, $50 is too much to spend for a book and a print I don’t want (though the Sky Masters one is nice), but I don’t get quite the creepy estate sale vibe you do. I mean, yes, he’s definitely selling the legacy, but a pictorial memoir IS something that some people would want. And yes, the t-shirts are overpriced if you’re backing for the t-shirt, but backer levels are for supporting the project. The extras are just a bonus. In that respect, this is EXACTLY what Kickstarter is for.

    I don’t blame the families of comics greats for trying to get a little of their own back, given how shitty those creators were treated in their day. I don’t find this any worse than Christopher Tolkien publishing his father’s work, or Brian Herbert writing “Dune” books. (Note that I’m obviously not talking about the quality of the writing in the latter case.)

    • That’s a fair stance to have. Im hardly indignant with righteous fury – I just think he could have done a much better job. Discussions with family members, anecdotes, etc would have made it feel more like a memoir and less like a hack job for instance.

  2. I am a HUGE Jack Kirby fan with many of the books that came out after his death (Jack Kirby Collector, etc.) and feel that he was the single inspiration that led me to eventually create Cosmothea. Yes, he had some whacky and brilliant stuff going on and not everyone likes his stuff, but his impact on comics and culture was also huge. Even so, I have little interest in what’s being offered in that Kickstarter.

    While I think it would be cool to have a pic of Jack Kirby and while I am a playwright myself, I still don’t feel like those things express the deeper emotion I have toward his work – it’s all about the art to me, regardless, I do think his rewards are not very good deals. It just costs too much for some of that stuff and I’d much rather buy the t-shirt off of the website, which I assume also goes toward the grandson.

    I hesitate to come out and say anything bad about that Kickstarter due to my love for all things Kirby, but I wholly agree that “Discussions with family members, anecdotes, etc.,” would be a far better way of serving his Grandfather’s memory and would show a bit more passion on Jeremy’s part than simply scanning in stuff.

    Oh, and at this point, the backers have blown past the funding request so clearly some do want exactly what Jeremy’s offering. I just think he could have offered something even more special and it doesn’t look like he really needs Kickstarter since he’s already got a store (and if the fans paid over $9,000 so fast, surely his store is already doing pretty good). Just my two cents. Cheers!

    • I would have bet that you were a big Kirby fan, based on some of the cosmic themes you enjoy exploring.

      Look on the bright side, maybe if this guy gets enough money, stretch goals could turn the book into something worthwhile.

      • Yeah, I guess I’ve never been able to get the cosmic out of my system ever since Kirby – definitely influenced my work. I have to admit I still get a bit misty-eyed when I see an old Kirby comic or picture, despite any faults he might have had with anatomy or with his eyesight problems as he got older – the epic feel of his stories sticks with me to this day. He was such a grand master of epic stories and layouts.

        Hopefully the book will turn out as a really good thing for many of his fans, regardless of external factors surrounding its creation.

  3. First, let me say I appreciate your blog. I’ve been reading around, and Jamey and Stonemaier linked you on his Kickstarter advice guide that I’ve been reading through, and that’s how I found you. So A+ to both of you.

    As for this new Kickstarter, well it’s at 200% in 2 days. Honestly I kinda feel like you do. “You need $7500 to ‘scan lots of images’?” I mean, that’s what his Risks and Challenges section said. Shrug.

    Further, if you need $7500… to fund your grandpa’s memoirs… then stop the campaign at $7500… right?
    But I’m sure the boy is trying to make an honest living. At least it’s not ACTUALLY ebay. Technically his highest pledge amount isn’t even kickstarter legal. The boy didn’t create that piece of artwork.

    But lets be honest. …Would you stop early, sell short, or hold back if you could sell photocopied pictures of your grandpa for $100 each? : P

    Thanks again and Blessings!

  4. As a sucker for cosmic themes in general, I would love to own this book…but if it were me doing the same thing, I can’t say I’d feel honorable or that it was all purely out of respect to Kirby’s artistic integrity and influence. I’m with Winchester on this one.

    That’s not to say I won’t buy the book someday…if it’s on a shelf somewhere or on Amazon.

  5. So what if this had been put out by someone NOT related to Jack Kirby? Then it would have been an interesting retrospective on one of comicdom’s most revered figures, without the stigma of “selling out”, right?

    Me, I just wonder how Jack would’ve felt about it. The man sold his art for a living, to put food on the table. Maybe he would’ve regarded some of this as too private or too intimate for public consumption, but maybe.. just maybe… he’d be glad that he was able to still be providing for his family.

    • An interesting thought. My main issue is that it seems so half hearted. Sell an interesting book about the man behind the art and I’ll buy a copy, but sell a book filled with scanned pieces of his work that could be scrounged together and it reeks of opportunism.

      That’s where I draw the line, family member or stranger.

      Someday Steven King will die and his family members will sell all kinds of work he never got around to publishing I’m sure. Didn’t something like that happen with Michael Crichton?

      • To be fair, when Steven King dies his son Joe Hill won’t have to sell any of his father’s works because Hill’s already proven he is a pretty darn good writer himself. Must be a genetic thing.

    • I Love your thoughts.

      I don’t think anyone’s really hating on the kid. I mean, he’s got a billion dollars raised already. We just don’t know his motivations. I know if someone posted a pic of me in my shorts and no shirt drawing art in my 70’s I would have asked that pic be saved for the book. : P

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