JACK KIRBY (written over JACOB KURTZBERG) – the small god of SUPERHEROES

[image description: An intense square-jawed fellow with a steely gaze and brushy grey hair wears a checked jacket and a turtleneck. Dots of energy crackle around him – half halo, half golden laurels. The edges of the piece are distressed and torn, but hanging in there. Text reads, “Issue 211, JACK KIRBY (written over JACOB KURTZBERG), the small god of SUPERHEROES”]

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Yeah, they existed before he did.  Gilgamesh?  Hercules?  Merlin?  Superheroes, all of ‘em, all the way back to the beginning of storytelling.  It’s just FUN to tell stories about people who can break the laws the rest of us have to follow, the ones who are too strong or swift or smart or just plane super to be bound by ordinary rules.  So yeah, they’ve been around all the way back to the beginning, and they’re gonna be around long after the name “Jack Kirby” has faded into memory and whispered, nonsensical prayer.

But that time’s not now, and for the superheroes who snap into your mind’s eye when I say the word, he’s the man, he’s the god, he’s the guru good guy hand behind the pen, mind behind the motion.  He’s the one we thank and reference and remember, even when we don’t know it.

The superheroes we have today, they stand on a foundation of circus strongmen and masked vigilantes, of acrobats and sideshow performers, and Kirby did that.  He drew the lines, he chose the colors, he set the standard, and without him, we wouldn’t be here.

Oh, yeah, there were other hands at work, writers and idea-men, but at the end of the day, it’s the images that catch like a hook in our mind, colors that catch and keep the eye, symbolism that makes it all work.  A picture is worth a thousand words, and Kirby drew so many pictures that he outwrote Shakespeare by a solid country mile.  All those superheroes?  All those men of steel and women of shining glory?  He drew those for you, as a gift, and he set them into the world as a promise, and they watch over it still, for him, as a pledge.

He’s doing his best.  He can’t do everything, but when he ascended to the pantheon, he just picked up his pen and kept on going, and he’s doing his best.

He always will be.

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Join Lee Moyer (Icon) and Seanan McGuire (Story) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a guide to the many small deities who manage our modern world:

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