Thursday, November 29, 2007

The "Definitive" Jack Kirby...?

A new discussion thread poked it’s head out the sand on the Kirby-L internet discussion forum, and it has to do with the Jack Kirby book that came out a few years back entitled “Tales to Astonish” and written by the infamous Ronin Ro.

I’ll leave my comments on the Ro book until later in this thread, but the Kirby-L discussion has got me wondering if there will ever be a “definitive” Jack Kirby biography. I’m as anxious as the next Kirby fan to see Mark Evanier’s much anticipated Jack Kirby biography -- if and when it ever gets published, and speaking of which I’m not really sure how to classify the Kirby tribute book that Mark has coming out in February ’08. The Kirby bio and the tribute book are two different entities.

In the meantime though, it dawned on me that the closest thing we fans have to the “Jack Kirby Story” can be found within the pages of John Morrow’s always-entertaining Jack Kirby Collector. I consider the JKC to be an on-going look at the life and times of the King. Granted, a lot of times JKC has a bit of redundancy to it. It seems like no matter how many interviews Jack gave he rarely shed some light on anything “new” and Jack’s early years have been played out dozens of times in any number of articles. Still, I’m grateful for the JKC because the magazine has provided many of us with a sort of bedrock in the life of Jack Kirby. Which kind of allows me to segue into a bit of commentary for Ronin Ro’s Tales to Astonish.

There was very little that I recall in Tales to Astonish that was original. I mean -- I wouldn’t exactly call the effort a product of deep research. It seemed like Ro culled most of his information from other interviews and articles and even pulled some discussions from Kirby-l and then he mixed it all together and called it a “book.” Furthermore, I don’t recall TtA presenting Jack in an especially positive light, nor do I recall walking away feeling like I learned anything. There was a passage or two at the end that dealt with Jack’s untimely passing that was more than I expected but otherwise I was glad I read it in an afternoon --for free -- at the local library.

Which is what I recommend you do as well. Tales to Astonish can probably be picked up cheap on eBay or any number of other discount book sellers. (I just did a quick search on and found used copies for about $2.50 here).

It’s not for me to say what the exact merits are concerning Tales to Astonish. I just feel that if you really want to learn about Jack Kirby you can do so by turning the pages of the Jack Kirby Collector.

That is at least until Mark Evanier’s book comes out. I hope.