Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the temporary Jack Kirby Museum located at 178 Delancey St. in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The museum was open from Monday, November 4th through Sunday, November 10th and was totally free, baby! My Yiddish behind made it my mission for the weekend to pay my respects to the “king of comics.” It was beautiful to see so many fanboys and fangirls geeking out for one of comics’ greatest icons. Along with his partners, Kirby created much of the Marvel Universe including the Fantastic Four, Thor, X-Men, Hulk, Black Panther, Captain America, and The Avengers. During his time at DC he created The Demon, Darkseid, Kamandi, OMAC, Mister Miracle, the Funky Flashman and many more. While the museum was held in a very small space, it was filled wall-to-wall with Kirby’s magnificent artwork. Through his drawings, fans traveled from earth to outer-space, through galaxies and into new universes. The Lower East Side location was the perfect setting for the museum because these are the same streets Kirby grew up on. Overall, my visit was amazing, but Kirby deserves to have a permanent museum, one with more space, with loads of original artwork, stories of Kirby’s career and featured exhibits showcasing his vast influence.
A tour of America will bring you to many historic landmarks paying tribute to our most popular writers and artists. There are wonderful museums honoring the work of Eric Carle, John Steinbeck, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Norman Rockwell, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol. Jack Kirby belongs on this list.
I recently visited the Norman Rockwell Museum. It was a moving experience that motivated me as an artist. Rockwell knew how to portray the best values of American society. He held great influence using only a paint brush and a canvas, at times acting as the voice of America. There is no doubt that his work inspired and changed our society. But the entire time I was at the museum, I was thinking Kirby deserved the same recognition.
In actuality, Jack Kirby’s influence on American society is even greater than any of the authors and artists I have previously mentioned. Every single child in America is influenced by Kirby’s creations; you cannot say that for any of the other artists or writers on the list. His influence goes beyond our shores; around the world you will see his iconic images and heroes urging our youth to be the best that they can be. Kirby co-created the modern mythology that teaches our youth morals and values.
Kirby knew the power he held with his pencil. He was always conscious of the influence his characters held over their readers. During World War II, 1 in 4 magazines shipped overseas was a comic! And Captain America was a top seller. Kirby knew exactly what he was doing when he c0-created Cap. Captain America was a Golem, a man made protector, to save those dying overseas. He used his art to motivate and inspire the soldiers overseas!
I will go even further and say that Kirby defined the entire comic art form. Even after he left Marvel the first time, every artist Stan Lee worked with was told to emulate Kirby’s incredible artistic style.
No museum would better exemplify the American spirit than the Jack Kirby Museum. Comics are a truly American art form in the same way baseball is a truly American sport. And Kirby himself is the epitome of the American dream. His superhero origin is the story of many Americans who came to this country. Kirby was a second generation immigrant who used his talents and incredible work ethic to hustle his way out of the slums and find success. His story is so incredibly motivational that I have a sudden urge to look at old family photos and start a business at the same time.
One of Kirby’s most endearing qualities was that he was a normal everyday man. What you saw is what you got with Kirby; he was far from perfect. He was a pissed off dude who spoke his mind. Kirby always kept it real. Like Kirby, his artwork was a bit rough around the edges. His drawings were far from photographic, but they had so much character and energy. Kirby may never have drawn a perfect human body, but he knew how to use art to tell perfect stories.
Imagine a museum filled with his original masterpieces. Rooms would be bursting with pictures and artifacts telling the tale of Kirby’s rise to success in America. The journey would begin with his days as a member of a Lower East Side street gang, showcase his first published work, move to his work with Joe Simon, discuss his entire on again off again relationship with Stan Lee and recognize his influence on the comic giants Marvel, DC and Image. It would also feature exhibits of current artists who keep Kirby’s spirit alive.
How can we make this a reality? Donate to the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center Brick and Mortar Fund. The Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center was established in 2005 “to promote and encourage the study, understanding, preservation and appreciation of the work of Jack Kirby.” This is the organization that put together the temporary exhibit. Until last week, there has been no physical manifestation of the museum. The non-profit is currently raising funds for a longer term “pop-up” museum that would be “800-1,200-square-feet, and would feature original artwork, artifacts from Jack’s life, prominent guest speakers, educational programs and installation pieces inspired by and celebrating the unique work and life of the King of Comics.” After this next trial temporary museum, their goal is to eventually have a PERMANENT placement. So donate to the Brick & Mortar Fund by clicking here. The donation link is on the right side, and if you donate $20 or more you will get into the museum for free along with some Kirby postcards and stickers.
Photo Sources: Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center Facebook Page