Jack Kirby; August 28, 1917 – February 6, 1994, was an American comic book artist, writer, and editor, widely regarded as one of the medium’s major innovators and one of its most prolific and influential creators.
Kirby grew up in New York City, and learned to draw cartoon figures by tracing characters from comic strips and editorial cartoons. He entered the nascent comics industry in the 1930s, drawing various comics features under different pen names, including Jack Curtiss, before ultimately settling on Jack Kirby. In 1940, he and writer-editor Joe Simon created the highly successful superhero character Captain America for Timely Comics, predecessor of Marvel Comics. During the 1940s, Kirby, regularly teamed with Simon, created numerous characters for that company and for National Comics Publications, later to become DC Comics.
After serving in World War II, Kirby produced work for a number of publishers, including DC, Harvey Comics and Hillman Periodicals. At Crestwood Publications he and Simon created the genre of romance comics and later founded their own short-lived comic company, Mainline Publications. Ultimately, Kirby found himself at Timely’s 1950s iteration, Atlas Comics, which in the next decade became Marvel. There, in the 1960s, Kirby and writer-editor Stan Lee co-created many of the company’s major characters, including the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk. The Lee–Kirby titles garnered high sales and critical acclaim, but in 1970, feeling he had been treated unfairly, Kirby left the company for rival DC.
At DC, Kirby created his Fourth World saga, which spanned several comics titles. While these series proved commercially unsuccessful and were canceled, the Fourth World’s New Gods have continued as a significant part of the DC Universe. Kirby returned to Marvel briefly in the mid-to-late 1970s, then ventured into television animation and independent comics. In his later years, Kirby, who has been called “the William Blake of comics”, began receiving great recognition in the mainstream press for his career accomplishments, and in 1987 he was one of the three inaugural inductees of the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
Kirby was married to Rosalind Goldstein in 1942. They had four children, and remained married until his death from heart failure in 1994, at the age of 76. Politically, he was a liberal Democrat. The Jack Kirby Awards and Jack Kirby Hall of Fame were named in his honor.