When many people are asked today who was the man who helped make Marvel Comics great, the answer that will be given the majority of the time is Stan Lee. And while its true that Stan did his part to make Marvel Comics great, a lot of the real credit should be going to Jack Kirby, the artistic and creative genius behind many of the fine characters that are part of the Marvel Comics line.
I write these words today, because today is Jack Kirby's 98th birthday. He passed from this world back in 1994, but he left behind a heck of a legacy. A legacy not only of characters and stories, but of artistic accomplishment, taking his self-taught methods and applying them to create panels and pages and covers of some of the most beautiful, splashy and brilliant artwork in the comics industry.
Jack drew from the world around him when creating Marvel's many fine heroes and villains. He drew from life experiences of growing up in Manhattan's Lower East Side. A prime example of this influence is the character of Ben Grimm, rocky super-strong Thing of the Fantastic Four. In fact many fans of Kirby's work often cite Ben as Jack in superhero form. Both grew up in rougher parts of New York (Ben grew up on the fictional Yancy Street, located on the Lower East Side). Both are of the Jewish faith, both are tough as nails and quick to defend friends, but both men have their soft sides as well.
Jack Kirby was always a consummate professional, and his thoughts on professionalism are well known. This quote sums up that professionalism very nicely: "I've never done anything half-heartedly; its a disservice to me and the audience if I do it half-heartedly."
In the end, much of what Marvel Comics is today is owed to Jack Kirby and his work. Half the superhero movies that are being produced by Hollywood are because of Jack working tirelessly to create these many fine characters and infuse them with life. So to whoever reads this, the next time you pick up a Marvel comic or watch a Marvel movie and you see Jack Kirby's name attached to the "created by" text, remember the man, the myth, the legend, that is Jack Kirby, the King of Comics.