Born on August 28, 1917, Jack Kirby taught himself to draw when he was a young boy in New York, taking the “Flash Gordon” newspaper comic strip and other sources as his inspirations. He enrolled in the prestigious Pratt Institute but dropped out on his first day, largely due to the financial strain of tuition on his family.
Kirby’s first job as a professional illustrator was as an in-betweener at the Max Fleisher studios, where he helped with “Popeye” cartoons. After working for Lincoln Newspaper Syndicate as a cartoonist and then for Victor Fox as a comic book illustrator, Kirby began drawing for Joe Simon at Timely Comics Company in 1941.
Timely had only two stars—the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner. Simon and Kirby created a number of new characters, the most notable of which was Captain America. From there, Simon and Kirby went to work for the Detective Comics Company (known as DC), where they created “The Newsboy Legion” and “The Boy Commandos,” both of which fought the evil Axis powers in their adventures.
In the late 1950s, Kirby was doing much of his work for Marvel Comics. In 1961, with Marvel’s head writer and editor, Stan Lee, Kirby helped create the “Fantastic Four,” which inaugurated a new era of Marvel superheroes. In the years to come, Kirby helped illustrate and generate stories for “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Mighty Thor,” “The Avengers,” X-Men,” and more. Often Kirby’s role was to draw the first issue to get it off to a good start, and then let other artists at Marvel take over from there.
In 1970, Kirby resigned from Marvel and began working for National-DC comics as an artist, writer, and editor. At DC, Kirby helped generate the “Fourth World” series, spawning a whole new universe of modern mythology. Kirby returned to Marvel in 1975 but left for the last time in 1978. He passed away in 1994.