Who was Jack's favorite inker?
That's a tougher question to answer than one might think. Jack had a great love for his fellow artists (with an amazingly small
number of exceptions) and when you asked him about anyone, he would praise them to the skies and mean it. Queried as to his favorite inker, he
variously mentioned Joe Simon, Dick Ayers, Wally Wood, Joe Sinnott, Frank Giacoia, Mike Royer and a few others. The honest truth is that Jack
didn't care that much about who inked him, at least throughout most of his career. When I first met him in 1969, he told me that inking didn't
matter; that no professional inker seriously harmed a well-drawn comic book.
This view was the juncture of at least two feelings he had, one being that everyone needed to make a living. Jack hated to think
he was costing a fellow professional his weekly paycheck so, even when he felt he wasn't getting the best inking on his work, he wouldn't do anything
more than ask that someone have the guy try a little harder. The other relevant view of Kirby's was that the story and how it was told was of
infinite more importance than the tidiness of the illustrations. A bad inker who inked everything that was there was not interfering that much
with the aspect of drawing a comic that mattered most to Jack. Later in his career, after hearing fans whine about bad inking, Kirby became a
little more sensitized to this issue. At the same time though, he also began to feel that Kirby art oughta look like Kirby and to favor inkers
who did not impose much of their own styles. With all that in mind, Mike Royer became his first choice for any assignment, though he certainly
meant no criticism of others.
Did Jack have a favorite story of all he'd done? Favorite character? Any least favorites?
His favorite story was probably "The Pact," which appeared in New Gods #7, though he sometimes would cite "Mother Delilah," from
Boys' Ranch #3 and was very proud of "Street Code," a short, autobiographical tale he penned, late in his career. Favorite
character? Probably those with which he felt more than the usual autobiographical connection, which would include Captain America, The Thing,
Nick Fury, Orion and Mister Miracle. As for "least favorites," Jack wasn't wild about the material he did his last year or so at Marvel in
'69. He was very unhappy then and it showed. And, of course, he was unhappy with work where he felt "the office" had meddled or when he
had no input into the stories. When he was forced to draw Sandman as a regular comic (as opposed to the one-shot written by Joe Simon),
he hated both the assignment and the final product.
On the other hand, he had a great talent for taking a lemon and making lemonade. He did not want to take over writing and drawing
"The Losers" in Our Fighting Forces because he thought it was a silly premise, a bad name and because it was the creation of Robert Kanigher,
a writer who had expressed enormous contempt for Kirby, his work and darn near everything ever published by Marvel. Still, Jack tackled the
project and, by infusing the stories with his own, rather plentiful World War II anecdotes, he produced a very personal, satisfying comic...one that
I think ranks with his best work of that decade.
What is the Anti-Life Equation?
The Anti-Life Equation, pursued relentlessly by Darkseid throughout the Fourth World series, was never fully defined by Jack.
That is, he never quite made up his mind. My then-partner Steve Sherman and I heard several scenarios from Jack as to how he would "pay off"
that MacGuffin. Some were philosophical concepts with deep religious overtones; others were more comic-bookish notions, including the
possibility that the Anti-Life Equation never really existed; that it was Darkseid's misinterpretation of the power of Faith. The thing to
remember is that Kirby was forever changing his mind about how his stories would go. It was not uncommon for him to tell Steve and me what the
next issue of, say, New Gods would be, explaining the whole story in glorious, fully-developed detail...then he'd sit down at the drawing
board and a completely-different story would emerge. What's more, he'd have no idea how he got from one plot to the other. So I don't
know what he would have done with the Anti-Life Equation...and he didn't, either. I don't think he would have known for sure until he drew that
story...and maybe not even then.
Which covers did Jack do layouts for?
Not as many as you'd think. During the Simon-Kirby days, Joe Simon did the bulk of the cover designs. (Jack regarded Joe as
the best designer of covers the industry has ever seen, though that was by no means the only talent Joe had.) At Marvel, Jack did the designs
of his early covers but eventually, Stan started having someone in the office — often John Romita or Marie Severin — generate a rough
sketch which Jack would follow, usually rather rigidly though, of course, adding little Kirbyesque touches. At DC, Carmine Infantino designed
most of the covers. Jack might generate an initial sketch but Infantino would usually amend it or come up with a sketch of his own.
None of this bothered Jack, by the way. I don't think he had as much interest in drawing covers as he did in drawing the insides
and it was a bit of a chore for him to have to draw a cover even a few days after he'd drawn the story it would depict, as that story was already
"done" in his mind and he'd closed that mental file. Also, I should mention that covers drawn by others are sometimes sold by original art
dealers as having "Kirby layouts." While Jack did do breakdowns for a lot of stories at Marvel, I have never seen a verified instance of him
designing a cover and not doing finished pencil art on it. (There were one or two cases where Jack drew a cover and then the office had someone
else redraw it and change around much of the design but that's not the same thing.)
What kind of drawing table did Jack work on? And what became of his old table?
Jack worked at a battered, old drawing table that was purchased for the Simon and Kirby studio at some point in the early
fifties. When they closed that office, he took it home and when he and Roz moved to California in 1969, they hauled it across country, along
with a straight back wooden dining room chair that Jack liked to sit in. The dining room set was left behind in the East but he drew in that
one chair the rest of his life. (After Jack passed away, the Smithsonian Institute requested the drawing table from Roz but for some reason,
the transfer has never been made. Jack's old table is in storage at present.)
Whatever happened to the "Kirby Tribute Book" that you and Frank Miller announced?
We called it off. Response from artists was incredible — everyone wanted to be in it — but it became enormously
complicated to get the necessary permissions to depict all the different characters Jack created or co-created. We kept getting conditional
okays from Marvel and then the person who gave us the okay would quit or be fired...not (I presume) because of that. The same thing, by the
way, is true of efforts to get Marvel to put creator credits on the strips Jack created or co-created. Various Marvel execs would agree to it,
then suddenly be replaced.
In the midst of all the discussions, Roz Kirby passed away. The two main reasons we were assembling the book were to please her
and to raise some cash for her old age. With those reasons removed, enthusiasm for the project abated...and all the folks who'd been involved
in the project's inception (not just Frank and me) decided the time had passed.
However, she was pleased by it. When we announced the project, we were inundated with letters and application forms filled
out by pert near everyone in comics. I took the pile out and let her rummage through it for an hour...reading all the little comments that
folks in the industry had jotted down about what Jack meant to them, both personally and professionally...and she was deeply moved by that. I
don't think the finished book could have been as important to her as were all those applications.
When will we see this authorized biography of Kirby you're writing?
Good question. After Jack passed away, his widow Roz said something to me like, "Jack always wanted you to write the definitive
book on his life after he passed away. When are you going to get started?" And I said "Now, I guess" and she gave me all his personal
papers, correspondence, legal documents, etc., and I went to work. We had three of what she called "absolute honesty" interviews before she
passed away but work goes on. I have no idea when it will be done because I'm still stumbling onto data and sources of info that are making a
significant difference in what I'm writing and how I'm writing it. Had I published it last year, it would have been minus all the essential
info I'm still coming across.
So I keep researching and the book grows larger and more detailed. In fact, it's getting so large that I'm toying with the idea
of publishing it in two versions — a medium-sized "for the general public" edition that would cover Jack's career in general detail...and then,
a limited-edition, "complete" volume for Kirby fanatics that would include all the trivia. But at the moment, the only thing that's definite is
that I'm going to keep writing until I figure my research has hit the stage of diminishing returns. This will be at least a year from whenever
you read this and could be a lot longer...but the book will come out. When it does, you'll read it and go, "Oh...so that's why it took so
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