The Long Lost Art of Jack Kirby

Dave Itzkoff at the New York Times has a scoop: several hundred never-before-seen illustrations by the late, great Jack Kirby have been unearthed. They date from his time working for Ruby-Spears Productions in the '80s.

Wait, brief digression- you knew that the King did animation work, right? Remember Thundarr the Barbarian? With Ookla the Mok and that awesome cracked moon? Kirby did design work for it. Other comics greats like Steve Gerber, Alex Toth, Roy Thomas, Mark Evanier, and Gerry Conway also worked on the show. Check out this edition of Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed at Comics Should Be Good! to get the low down.

So, Jack Kirby, animation, 1980s. Kirby was notoriously prolific in comics, and it looks like the same held true in animation. From the NYT piece:

“Many times, he didn’t have enough to do, or there weren’t enough assignments,” Mr. Spears said. “He was such a prolific guy that he would, on his own, just start sketching out some thoughts.”

Among the far-flung, unrealized projects that Mr. Kirby helped create or contributed to were “Roxie’s Raiders,” an Indiana Jones-style serial about a female adventurer and her allies; “Golden Shield,” about an ancient Mayan hero seeking to save earth in the apocalyptic year 2012; and “The Gargoids,” about scientists who gain superpowers after being infected by an alien virus.

The plan, according to the article, is to produce new shows, video games, comics, and whatever other products entertainment media supports out of Kirby's ideas. I'm a little skeptical, since what made Kirby's ideas work was Jack Kirby, rather than the sheer power of the ideas themselves. If they can get talent behind these ideas (Walt Simonson does great work in the Kirby style without being pastiche or homage, for example), I'm all for it. The article is light on details as far as plans go, and sticks to simply announcing that they found some dope Kirby art. I don't blame them, really. I could talk about Kirby for hours (or hundreds of words).

There's a slideshow of eleven pieces of art on the NYT site, too. That's very cool, save for one thing: most of them aren't by Jack Kirby. Some have very Kirby stylings, and a few have actual Kirby art, but to my somewhat untrained eye… it's not the King. Anybody concur? Any art experts out there want to weigh in?


  1. Wow! Thanks for the article, David.

  2. Wow Kirby did desgn work or Thundarrthe Barbarian. That just made my day, awesome.

  3. So THIS is why @iFanboy didn’t respond to my twitter… you sly bastards! 😀

  4. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Several hundred new images? Damn. 

  5. Some new images? Understandable

    Dozen? Okay

    HUNDREDS!? Jesus…..Did this guy ever sleep in his life? Can’t wait to see all of the images and see what could have been. 

  6. I love how the guy was drawing three quarters of the marvel U and even THAT wasn’t enough to keep him busy. I swear the guy’s imagination and creativity is some of the best in the history of mankind, and that’s a bold statement

  7. I saw these the other day at… some other site (sorry). While I’m not a lover of Kirby’s later work, I can certainly appreciate the craft and skill involved. These pieces, however… look incredible. When (or if) this stuff ever gets done, someone please keep that Kirby look.

  8. Kirby was of another realm. It’s the only thing that explains his work output and style. Nothing else quite like it.

  9. Unknown Jack Kirby art is the new unpublished J.R.R. Tolkien manuscript(is the new undiscovered fragment of the True Cross).


    This is pretty awesome though.  Is this related to the recent Sid & Marty Krofft Kirby plans? 

  10. Thanks for the article. Great stuff. Love the King!

  11. I remember enjoying those Kirby-derived Topps Comics from the early 1990s, with ideas from the posthumous Kirby sketchbook. I wonder what happened to those?

  12. To me it looks like only two of the eleven are Kirby’s.   Maybe they were finished by other artists?

  13. I believe that the last two pieces of art are by Gil Kane, you can see it in the way he drew hands.

    As for the rest, remember Jack Kirby could actually draw quite well in a variety of different styles. The style that we know best was developed for speed.