It’s accurate enough to refer to Jack Kirby as an American original, but it’s hard to know where to place the emphasis — on American or original. Renowned as one of the handful of true artistic giants in the history of comic books, it’s difficult to come up with encomiums that have not become commonplace. KIRBY: My father worked in a factory like everybody else’s father. And his mother said, “No son of mine will become an artist. KIRBY: Very strict social conventions, and you adhered to it, and I think it gave you a lot of character. The kid gangs that were running around: did they have their own turf? KIRBY: They ran in gangs because they lived in certain places. Although I had known Jack for some time and spoken to him not infrequently prior to conducting this “formal” interview, it was not until I read over the transcript that I understood just how thoroughly Jack is a child of his time and place. It still is, and Norfolk Street next to it still is. You’ll sit around with berets in Greenwich Village and talk to loose women.” Of course, mothers were very conventional, everything was very conventional. Everybody who lived on Suffolk Street would be the Suffolk Street Gang. KIRBY: It stays inside you, somehow, and it always has its uses. ” And I told him I know a gangster when I see one, see?
KIRBY: A climb-out fight is where you climb a building.
When I visited New York, somebody thought it would give me a big thrill if he took me down there where I grew up, and I’d be thrilled by the sight of my humble origins, and I hated the place.
And the place for all immigrants was the factories. You know, the punches were real, and the anger was real, and we’d chase each other up and down fire escapes, over rooftops, and we’d climb across clotheslines, and there were real injuries. Bad things would come out of it because some guys are in a hurry, but that doesn’t mean they’re evil or anything, it just means they fall into bad grace somehow. A friend of mine was going to go out to get a job because his mother told him to get a job, so he said, I’ll go out and draw pictures and they’ll pay me for them. GROTH: Can you describe the social context a little more? There were a lot of ethnic slurs, there had to be, and I think in that respect that through the fighting, through the adversity, we began to know each other.
All families love their children, and we were good boys. And of course, if the fellows caught me reading it or doing anything academic outside of school..., of course, it was astonishing to see this beautiful illustration in the newspaper, and it was so different from the ordinary comic. I didn’t think I was going to create any great masterpieces like Rembrandt or Gauguin. GROTH: What artists did you admire in your teen years? I admired anybody who could make a buck with his drawing.
KIRBY: I was a good student in the subjects that I wanted to be good in. So I pick up this pulp magazine, and it’s and it’s got a rocket-ship on the cover, and I’d never seen a rocket-ship. ” I took it home and hid it under the pillow so nobody should know I was reading it. KIRBY: I taught myself how to draw, and I soon found out it was what I really wanted to do. Some artists may take it from other illustrations or duplicate what you’ve drawn, but it will never have that gut reality that’s instinctive in the artist.