Jack Kirby was the man. Do you understand this? Stan Lee gets all the credit these days for being the face of Marvel Comics and it has more to do with his flamboyant personality than his ability to craft interesting character and stories. Without Jack Kirby, Stan Lee’s ideas were common comic book dreck. I’m often dismissive of comic book artists because I’m a writer and I can get over bad art in a comic if the writing is good. My opinion is that most comic artists are interchangable whores and that anyone could have drawn Sandman or Watchmen and the overall effect of the end product would have been the same. This is, of course, extremely prejudicial and short sighted. The art of Matt Wagner, Mike Mignola and James O’Barr are as instrumental to their comics’ success as their stories. It’s part of their signature, but when you came up in the age of Rob Liefeld’s inexplicable success or the rise of Image Comics, can you blame me? For years, the work coming out of Image, which was a signature of 90’s comics, was dumb, poorly considered bullshit.
But I digress. Rant off. Jack Kirby was awesome, ya herd?
Kirby split from the comic book world in the 70’s after his work-for-hire status with Marvel and DC left him high and dry while the parent companies forged marketing empires based on his hard work and ideas. He would create these awesome characters and teams who would evolve into Saturday morning dynamos, with comics, TV shows and cartoons, toys, bedsheets, etc. – Whatever you could put The Thing’s face on, they did and Kirby didn’t see a dime of it. He wound up in the offices of Ruby Spears, an animation house in the 70’s that split from Hanna-Barbera. In the 80’s, Ruby Spears was behind some of the most asinine cartoons you can think of like the one with the anthropomorphic Rubik’s Cube and Turbo Teen, about a kid who turns into a car when he’s hot. They also did that stupid Rambo cartoon. You know, the cartoon based on the movie about the guy who tears people’s throats out with his bare hands. Yeah. That one. Rambo and Santa Claus are tight, according to the world of Ruby Spears. I’ll cut them some slack, though. By 1985, the Saturday morning well had pretty much run dry and everyone in the creative department was probably coked up into orbit anyway. Here’s the thing, Kirby’s most comfortble, prolific period was spent in the offices of Ruby Spears. There he churned out, according to The New York Times, 600 production boards of stuff that was mostly left on the drawing boards and then summarily packed away in boxes. No one knew what to do with the stuff but Ruby Spears liked what he did and treated him fairly, something that Marvel and DC couldn’t be bothered with. After all, Kirby leaving didn’t mean much to them, they still had Jim Steranko and Steve Ditko to buttfuck all the way to the bank. King Kirby has been in the headlines a lot, lately, too. After a precedent set by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster winning back the ownership of Superman after decades and following Disney’s acquisition of Marvel, the family Kirby ambushed the fuck out of the comic industry and demanded their birthright, contesting the ownership of Kirby characters that both DC and Marvel have licenses for. Now there’s this. Here’s hoping the legacy of the man who made modern comics what they are today, as well as being the model illustrator for comic artists everywhere, gets his due and comes back to the fore.
Ruby Spears has finally pulled the lid off these unused properties and in this age of rampant comic book marketing has plans to develop as many of these unused designs and concepts into whatever they can make them into. Aided by the mighty Sid and Marty Kroft of, well, just about every wacked out Saturday morning show to feature anyone in a crazy-ass foam rubber costume (and by that I mean H.R. Pufnstuff, Sigmund The Seamonster, etc. – Check Tank Riot’s awesome Krofts episode) they hope to find the next big superhero property somewhere in there. With the many hundreds of concept to choose from, there must be something they can use. Check out the gallery below for an idea of some of the things that Ruby Spears has unearthed. I would totally watch Warriors of Illusion.