A Week Of Jack Kirby: Thoughts On Jack Kirby's Legacy [Op-Ed]

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Jack Kirby is probably the single most important figure in the development of American comic books. His career spanned seven decades, and though he is best-known for his work on super-hero titles, he defied simple categorization and worked in nearly every style of comic: horror, science fiction, romance, comedy, fantasy, funny animal, crime, war, western, and probably some others that I'm forgetting.

He didn't just define a single genre: he constantly defined (and re-defined) the entire comics medium, right up until his death in 1994. So in honor of his 96th birthday, we here at MTV Geek have assembled A Week Of Jack Kirby, a series of posts celebrating the life, work and inspiration of the man that Stan Lee dubbed simply 'The King'.

This has been a pretty phenomenal week of Jack Kirby-inspired postings, not just here at MTV Geek, but all across the internet. It's amazing and inspiring to realize how much impact one man had on so many people. We've discussed his art, his writing, his creative prowess, his work ethic, his personal generosity and goodness – I've read testimonials about everything from meeting the man and working with him to discovering a beat-up Kirby comic in a used bookstore and suddenly being exposed to a whole new universe of excitement. I talked to many of the greatest people in the industry, heard so many stories, looked at so many pictures. I talked to his family, his friends, and his fans. And somewhere in the midst of all that, I realized that I needed to add my voice to the masses, and offer my own small thank you to 'The King'.

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Because I think the single most inspiring thing about Jack Kirby is the way he combined hopefulness and prescience into a single, individual vision.  He believed that his work was worth every bit of effort that he could put into it, even as he developed the ability to turn out comic pages with unparalleled speed.  He believed that comic books were worthy of recognition, even when the Wertham-fueled witchhunts of the 50s reduced the industry to a few struggling publishers.  He believed in himself enough to leave Marvel Comics at their height of success in the late 60s, and instead create his own line of titles for their crosstown competition.  He ignored the detractors, and envisioned a world where the entire entertainment industry would come to San Diego and showcase their new projects at a comic book convention.  He believed in his ideas, in the power of creativity, and in the potential of an entire medium – even when everybody around him thought he was out of his mind.

And he was right.  That's what inspires me most about Jack Kirby.  He was a dreamer whose dreams came true.  It's not just that his work and creativity laid the groundwork for me and everybody who does this today...  It's that he dreamed of a world where this was possible, and then he made it happen.