2017 marks the centennial of US comic book artist and writer Jack Kirby‘s birth – and British comics archivist Glenn Fleming has just launched a Kickstarter to back the release of a documentary about this key creator, based on interviews he conducted some years ago.
The planned film features unique, unseen footage; a journey by one British fan to find Jack Kirby; artist and co-creator of so many iconic comic book characters.
Kirby created (or co-created) most of the iconic characters we continue to see in comics and on film today; Captain America, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Nick Fury, X-Men, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther, the Mighty Thor, New Gods, Mister Miracle, Doctor Doom and many, many more.
Regular downthetubes readers will know Glenn as and artist and writer whose credits include the British comics magazine Crikey! and non-fiction work such as The Two Faces of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Almost thirty years ago, following a chance encounter, Glenn found himself in California, sitting at the King of Comics dinner table, in total awe and almost total silence.
“Jack and his lovely wife, Roz, invited me into their home, fed me, catered to me and generally took care of me for those precious few hours,” he recalls. “I felt like family. I felt at home. They were open and warm, friendly and generous, not only with their hospitality and time, but with their answers to my many, many questions.
“Jack and Roz even allowed me to open packages of recently returned artwork, some of which had not seen the light of day for over 25 years. I held several ‘classic’ pages of New Gods and the Fantastic Four (amongst others) in my bare hands. Moments I will cherish and remember forever.
“Three years later, I returned to the Kirby home and was able to record part of that meeting,” he continues. “This film has never before been seen in its entirety and serves as an historical document, showing Jack Kirby in his own home, in his own studio, talking about his own life, in his own words.”
“This footage is unique,” he emphasises. “My only regret is that I cannot return and have further conversations with this genius, if only to record more of his stories and experiences. Still, I have my memories of those hours and I’d like to share all I can with as many people as possible through this film.
The Kickstarter seeks to bring the film to a wider audience and is a standalone offer with no rewards other than seeing the footage – which, given the content, should be reward enough, many would argue – including comic artist and publisher Tim Perkins, whose tribute to “The King” features on downthetubes.
“I have loved the work of Jack Kirby for as long as I can remember reading American comic books,” says Tim. “His work is the very reason I wanted to become a comic creator in the first place. I have always read and I have always drawn, but Jack Kirby’s incredibly epic vistas and dynamic storytelling were the original catalyst to propel me on my way to do so.
“You always hope that when you meet your heroes they hold up to your dream of them; I never got to meet Jack Kirby himself, but this film successfully shows you not just the man behind the creation of thousands of pages of comics, but indeed the man himself. It gives us a glimpse of his life, his home and his humour; away from the crowds, away from something created with comics, away from the pressures of a deadline. We see this glimpse of the private life of Jack Kirby. Through this film, I feel I have managed to get a little closer to the man that gave me the idea, through his work, to forge a career of my own in comics.
“Glenn Fleming, the man behind this film, is a very lucky man in my eyes. Glenn actually did get to meet Kirby (twice) and he is also a very generous man for sharing this event, especially this year as we celebrate Jack Kirby’s centenary.
“What better way to celebrate this epic moment than to own a little something personal about the King; not just words written about him – but words, personal words, spoken by the powerhouse of a creative man himself – Jack ‘King’ Kirby.
Photos: Glenn Fleming
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.