Jack Kirby is well deserving of the title “The King”. To say Kirby drew comic books is like saying that Michelangelo could paint a bit. Jack Kirby is the creator and co-creator of Marvel and DC characters that are now everywhere.
Like Michelangelo, Kirby depicted God. The Sistine Chapel was a commission by the Catholic Church. As with all commissioned work you are painting for the patron not for yourself. Less well known are Kirby’s images of God which are very much his own.
Jack Kirby like so many other comic book creators was of Jewish origin. Which can be very problematic. Not so problematic if you are secular. If you are of orthodox Jewish tradition just drawing is a problem.
Chaim Potok’s character Jewish/American artist Asher Lev shows the difficulty of being an artist and Hasidic. Graven images are a big problem. Let alone conceiving an image of the deity.
Some traditions like Eastern Orthodox have Ikons which tread a fine line. A line many dare not to cross. My own Brethren origins did not look kindly on images in worship. Though certain Bible tales were allowed, for kids.
The fact is Kirby drew. He and Joe Simon came up with Captain America. With Stan Lee even more. Alone Kirby created a whole new mythos for DC that is core to the recent Justice League movies.
Origins of Captain America have been connected to the Golem myth. A very Jewish tale about a clay man given life through words. Like Captain America, the Golem was created to serve and protect the weak.
Links to apocryphal texts have been made to Kirby’s work. If you read from the Dead Sea Scrolls it sounds a lot like Kirby’s narration in his Fourth World Saga. Light versus Darkness, etc. But this is not the reason for this article.
Google Jack Kirby Drew God
When you google ‘Jack Kirby Drew God’ you will be confronted with three very distinct images. These three images are original Kirby art and are totally unconnected with any comic. Kirby’s characters are always larger than life. His portrayal of God is even larger.
Kirby knows glory, grandeur, power, majesty. Kirby understands this innately. It is no surprise that when Kirby draws God the proportions are universal. Yet there is a distance to this universal focus of God in these images.
God is distant, removed. In one his back is turned to a planet as the beings rage and cry at the bearded sky father. In another the sky father peeks out from his magnificence observing a world of war, chaos and carnage.
Is this the imaging of a clockwork god who set things in motion and then sits back to watch? Is the sky father no longer interested in the world he created? Unable or unwilling to appease or listen to the people.
Kirby’s Rough World
Kirby grew up in a very rough and violent world. Tales about Kirby abound. It is said that he used to get off the subway randomly in New York and fight the local gangs. Kirby’s art skills were used in WWII. He was sent behind enemy lines to record and map the opposing forces defences.
Badass. That is a word that gets used describing Jack Kirby. I heard one tale where white nationalists called into the offices threatening Kirby. Kirby replied he was coming down to deal with them. They were not there when he arrived at the entrance.
Kirby was also treated horribly. Jack was never truly reimbursed for the millions that Marvel made off his creations. His reply came through his craft. Read Mister Miracle as Kirby, Funky Flashman as Stan Lee and Darksied as the managers and businessmen who took from him.
We have all thought of God as distant. When we look at the world and that which opposes us and challenges us it can get bad. I cannot say this is Kirby drawing negatively. We cannot ask the artist though Kirby would probably not answer with a yes or no.
These images are there and they challenge us. Here is the work of a great artist. One of the best ever. A story teller of high action and adventure. One who was treated horribly. Yet he was loved by family and fans. A loving father who provided for his family as best he could.
Isolate the art from the artist at your peril. See a clockwork God in these images and you are only looking at the surface. Add a caring God. One that is working on a cosmic scale for a creation that is wondrous and magnificent.
None of these three images are easy to translate. I am awestruck of them as a fan and a student of theology. I see the God of Noah watching the evil of the world. I see the God who waits for the precise moment as the people frustratedly rage. I see the galactic spanning deity setting the stars in the sky while the angelic host proclaim the glory.
Visit Comic Alliance for another view of these images from David Wolkin
Visit John Morrow’s article on the Jewish connections in Kirby’s work from Jack Kirby Collector #26
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.