It Came From the NYPL
King: King of Comics
Written by Mark Evanier
Published by Abrams
Jack Kirby is, of course, the most important and influential artist in comic book history. He, along with a few contemporaries, created the visual language of the comic book page; the sheer volume of his pages boggles any imagination; and he’s created, co-created, or radically reimagined about two-thirds of the commercially viable characters (even Superman’s carried the influence of those Jimmy Olsen stories for a long, long while) to appear in superhero comics over the past forty years.
So clearly, the world really needs a proper biography of the life of a man who did more for comic books than anybody else. Fortunately, Mark Evanier is available for the job. Kirby: King of Comics, which I recently borrowed from the New York Public Library, does a wonderful job introducing readers to Jack Kirby, the man. We’ve known his work, but most of us have never had the opportunity to meet the person.
Evanier’s biography is a loving effort, with the author’s affection for Jack apparent on every single page. Insight into Kirby’s work ethic, motivated by his need to provide for his family, comes through clearly, as does Kirby’s enthusiasm for telling stories and the comic book medium. When it comes to Kirby’s battles for recognition – monetary and public – Evanier takes the high road, avoiding most blame. Martin Goodman, Jack Schiff and the money people are the clear villains of Kirby’s life. Many of the industry-based anecdotes have been heard before, but the book is largely about Jack as a man, how he struggles on, always bringing home that paycheck for his family.
An oversized hardcover, King: King of Comics provides readers with hundreds of pages of artwork and illustrations. The book’s dimensions showcase the drawings beautifully, allowing the detail and power to really come across. It’s a very attractive book, complementing Evanier’s affectionate tribute.
Kirby: King of Comics isn’t quite essential – it’s too reverent, but it’s a loving tribute to the most important creator in comics history. Mark Evanier’s done a fine job illuminating the man behind the creations, providing readers with a book well worth owning, or at least worth a visit to your local library.