Kirby: King of Comics, by Mark Evanier, published by Abrams, 226 pages, $45.00.
It’s a rare thrill when a book about a comic creator’s career actually does justice to said career. And, in the case of Jack Kirby, the wise author begins the task knowing it will be a monumental challenge. But, Mark Evanier did so, to the joy of fans and pop culture history buffs alike, with his 2008 offering, Kirby: King of Comics.
Giving every stage of his career proper coverage, Evanier presents a well-balanced and fulfilling relation of “The King’s” phenomenal four-color foray. Additionally, he brings a unique insight which few others could match, due to time spent as Kirby’s assistant, confidant and friend. As a result, the production is more than an academic retelling of a man’s time spent drawing funny books; it is a project born of love, respect and admiration. And it shows.
With plenty of art and photos, as well as a Kirby gem from 1983 called “Street Code”, first published in Richard Kyle’s Argosy, the book is worth the price tag from a strictly visual standpoint, alone. Combined with Evanier’s intimate knowledge of his former mentor, and his knack for making this type of project almost as engaging as the subject matter itself, you have something in which diehard fans may immerse themselves…., and then feel a slight pang of regret upon finishing the last page. Sorry, but Kirby: King of Comics is that good.
A word about “Street Code”: Based on Jack’s experiences as a boy, this ten-page story deals with the street gangs of that time. Published right from Jack’s pencils, fans that have not seen this work have missed some of the purest craft of his career. It is bold, powerful, visceral and unspeakably Kirby.
Kirby: King of Comics is recommended for fans of Jack Kirby, natch, as well as comic book history enthusiasts. Find it at your local comics shop, bookstores, and online auctions and retailers. But, try your local comics shop first.
Review by Mark Allen