Off the top of my head here are the characters or collaborations of Jack: Captain America, Bucky, Red Skull, Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Girl, The Thing, Human Torch – Johnny Storm version), Franklin Richards, Agatha Harkness, H.E.R.B.I.E., Alicia Masters, Hulk, General “Thunderbolt” Ross, Rick Jones, Iron Man, Ant-Man, the Wasp, Giant Man, Thor, Loki, Enchantress, Balder, Executioner, Odin, Sif, Warriors Three (Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg), Hercules, Surtur, Ulik, Sharon Carter/Agent 13, Baron Zemo, Arnim Zola, Kang, Absorbing Man, High Evolutionary, Hate Monger, Fighting American, Boy Commandos, Newsboy Legion, Guardian, Doctor Doom, Puppet Master, Mole Man, Diablo, Galactus, Silver Surfer, The Watcher, Psycho Man, Skrulls, Wyatt Wingfoot, Gargoyle, Groot, The Inhumans (Black Bolt, Medusa, Karnak, Gorgon, Crystal, Maximus), Celestials, The Eternals, The Deviants, Devil Dinosaur, Moon Girl, Machine Man, Black Panther, Ego The Living Planet, Juggernaut, X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey/Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast, Professor X, Magneto, Blob, Toad), Blastaar, Morgan Edge, The New Gods (Darkseid, Orion, Desaad, Kalibak, Highfather, Lightray, Metron, Granny Goodness, Mister Miracle, Big Barda, Oberon, Steppenwolf, Forager, Black Racer), The Forever People, Kamandi, OMAC, The Sandman, The Demon, Klarion, Glorious Godfrey, Funky Flashman, Captain Victory, Silver Star, Challengers of the Unknown, Manhunter, Dingbats of Danger Street, Destroyer Duck, Dragon Man, Dum Dum Dugan, Sgt. Fury, The Howling Commandos, The Wizard, Annihulus…
And here are a few more things that he COULD have created and thus gets credit for it anyway: the cure for polio, world peace, The Beatles, happiness, Star Wars, Star Trek, Bugs Bunny, chocolate, water parks, ice cream, the Declaration of Independence, quantum mechanics, Steven Spielberg, Batman (co-created by Bill Finger), speaking in tongues, Iron Maiden (the band), NASA, Lin Manuel Miranda, the electric guitar, the re-emergence of vinyl records for music, Tupac, puppies, seven, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, blue, tabletop role playing games, the forward pass in American football, and that plastic table in all the pizza boxes.
You know how it is said that 1 in 200 men are somehow ancestors of Genghis Kahn? Jack Kirby is the Genghis Kahn of comics as most characters, concepts and even the visual language of comics have some of his artistic DNA in there somewhere.
All of this creativity isn’t really what made him great, what seals the deal on his greatness was his work ethic and his work ethic came because of his family.
Living through the Great Depression is one thing but being a part of a working class immigrant family in the Lower East Side of Manhattan meant that the good times of the roaring twenties were probably not a big part of his life anyway. People knew how to work, how to “sweat a dime” because they had to, no choice in the matter and that is how he got started, providing for his family. Then when he met and married Roz…
And started his own family he busted his ass providing for them. The long hours at his table churning out literally thousands of pages over the course of his career were always for his family. Providing for his family drove the work ethic and Jack had the imagination to feed the work ethic, it was a Zen-like balance.
The Force was strong with this one.
I often rail against modern comic book artists that can’t meet a deadline, maybe because I’m spoiled from the tsunami of art that our King produced. In all fairness it isn’t just him, lots of creators were prolific and did their work and did it well, I think most of these people were contemporaries of or were influenced by the King; George Perez, John Byrne, Walt Simonson, Neal Adams, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Gil Kane, John Romita Sr., John Romita Jr., Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Joe Kubert, Mike Sekowsky… these are people that got the job done.
What we see as the genius of Kirby, his devotion to his family, his legendary friendliness to his fans was just a man getting the job done.