The House that Jack Built
Who is Jack Kirby? You may not know his name, but few people have never heard of the fantasy icons which he co-created, from Captain America, Thor and The Hulk to The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer and The X-Men. You may never have read any of his thousands of pages of comics, but you have probably experienced his imagination adapted into movies, television shows, animated cartoons or computer games. No other single creator has had such a powerful and long-term impact on 20th century American comic books as Jack Kirby. For almost fifty years, he innovated and reinvigorated entire genres and, individually and during two great partnerships with Joe Simon and Stan Lee, created a lasting legacy of characters for the two biggest American comic book publishers. Marvel became known as the “House of Ideas” and stands today as one “House That Jack Built.” In many respects the other “House That Jack Built” is DC Comics, where his creations live on and underpin much of the company’s modern mythos.
Panel after panel of dynamic, enthralling visual and verbal narratives flew off his drawing board, almost all of it in detailed pencilled form, for other artists known as inkers to complete for reproduction. Kirby worked hard and he did much more than draw. He was as much a writer, storyteller, world-builder, universe-creator, in all a complete visionary, who created more than 21,000 pages for comic books. For a time at the start of his career and during later attempts at syndication Kirby worked in the field of newspaper strips, succeeding with Sky Masters of the Space Force from 1958 to 1961. He was also employed early on by animation studios and returned to them briefly in his latter years in 1979-1980. The majority of his output, however, was for the comic book industry, mainly in New York – the exhibition’s primary focus.
This is the most extensive exhibition of Kirby’s original artwork ever staged, over 150 pieces spanning from 1942 to 1985. It is especially important to show a number of key complete stories and issues, because Kirby always conceived his comics as multi-page compositions and whole narrative experiences. The rooms on the three floors of the Am-Rhyn-Haus allow you to follow Kirby‘s extraordinary life and career from decade to decade. On the ground floor, you can discover his early years and the growing success of Kirby’s collaborations with Joe Simon in the 1940s and 1950s at Marvel, DC and several other outfits. After Kirby splits with Simon, he eventually finds a vital new collaborator, writer Stan Lee. On the first floor, we swing into the 1960s and Lee and Kirby’s unprecedented outpouring of the Marvel Age of Comics. Then Kirby’s five-year solo revolution at DC takes us into the 1970s and up to the second and final floor. The journey winds down here with his short comebacks, first to Marvel and then DC, and his latter-day, creator-owned projects in the 1980s. Though this overview can present only a fraction of Kirby’s total oeuvre, it will hopefully help you discover the wonders that can be created in one lifetime by one man with a pencil and a passionate imagination for storytelling in words and pictures.