Tuesday 28 August 2012

Street Code by Jack Kirby

Today would have been the 95th birthday of the late, great Jack Kirby. As anyone who follows this blog will know I'm a huge fan of the King and his work - from his explosive war-time tales of Captain America and other patriotic scrappers, through his visionary "Kreations" that heralded the Marvel Age Of Comics, on through the early '70s renaissance of the Fourth World, and, yes, even up to late-period lunacy like Destroyer Duck.

In previous years on this day, I've posted pictures of Kirby's great super hero and fantasy creations, but this time I've gone with something a bit different. "Street Code" was Kirby's semi-autobiographical look back at his tough upbringing on the violent, Depression-hit streets of New York's Lower East Side. I'm sorry to say I've never read the whole story but I've come across a few images on t'internet and the one above is a beauty, capturing the vibrant, overcrowded, multicultural milieu of Kirby's tenement roots. Kirby took his experiences of poverty, small time crooks and street gangs and channelled them into his heroes and villains, imbuing them with a real, earthy humanity which grounded their more fantastic qualities.

In his short graphic novel depicting the early years of the comic book industry, The Dreamer, Kirby's contemporary ( and former boss ) Will Eisner included a thinly-veiled fictional version of Kirby, called Jack King. A tough, diminutive, cigar-chomping cartoonist, Jack King stands up to local mobsters who attempt to muscle in on the new comic book studio of the story's Eisner-surrogate. I'll have to paraphrase because I haven't got the GN to hand but, after King boots the mobsters out, Eisner's main character says something like "In the comic book business there are good guys and bad guys...and that's why there's Jack King..."


Kid said...

I've got Street Code in a couple of different publications, but, to be honest, I feel that Jack was (sadly) past his best by then - due mainly to age and illness. It was a brave attempt 'though, and some of that ol' Jack magic still shone through.

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Anonymous said...

Amazing drawing.

I remember Eisner telling that story about Jack King on Prisoners of Gravity.

Simon B said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. It's always a pleasure to share some of Jack's work and to remember what a uniquely talented artist he was.


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