By Kiel Phegley
97 years ago, a cosmic force in comics was born.
That’s because today marks 97 years since the birth of Jack “King” Kirby, one of the greatest artists of all time and a driving force countless Marvel heroes and villains. During his unbeatable run with Marvel in the 1960’s, Kirby helped define characters ranging from the Avengers to the X-Men to the Fantastic Four and beyond. But aside from his titanic run during that first major “Marvel Age,” Kirby also made his Marvelous mark during the Golden Age of Captain America and later on in the 1970’s as well.
To celebrate the everlasting impact “The King” had on the Marvel Universe, enjoy 10 can’t miss Kirby-drawn comic books you can read right now as part of the Marvel Unlimited digital comics platform!
CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1
Start where the legend began! Kirby’s first work for Marvel saw the groundbreaking introduction of Captain America and Bucky in this patriotic powerhouse of the Golden Age. Created alongside legendary writer/artist/editor Joe Simon, Kirby’s smashing work on the first Cap comic had all the rough-and-tumble, Nazi-smashing earmarks of the legend that Steve Rogers would become.
TALES TO ASTONISH #13
Before he declared himself a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the alien plant known as Groot made his debut in this Kirby-drawn monster comic from Marvel’s fabulous Atlas Era. See how great the artist could be exploring the anxiety of the atomic age as his unforgettable design of Groot stomps over the earth on its way to Marvel immortality.
FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #5
One of the very best early issues of Kirby and Stan “The Man” Lee’s epic run with Marvel’s First Family, this story serves up some can’t miss Kirby moments. Not only does it mark the very first appearance of arch villain Doctor Doom in all his metallic Latverian glory, it also features the FF traveling through time as The Thing dresses the part of Blackbeard the pirate. These stunning Kirby pages—ably inked by the great Joe Sinnott—offer a terrific glimpse at what would come across the next 100 issues from the FF’s creative fathers.
FANTASTIC FOUR (1961) #67
For a more mind-bending taste of what FANTASTIC FOUR evolved into, readers can take a walk on the wild side with this later Lee/Kirby tale. When the FF gets whisked away to the Citadel of Science in search of Alicia Masters, the team encounters the “Is he a savior…or a destroyer?” anti-hero known as HIM. Later, the character would take his place in the Marvel pantheon as Adam Warlock. Aside from showing off his cosmic muscles, Kirby’s work here proves that even his strangest designs could form the building blocks of Marvel’s biggest hits.
THOR: TALES OF ASGARD
The mythological origins of Thor’s world never looked better than when Kirby rendered the early days of the Thunder God and his Norse pantheon. For years, this tale could only be found as a back-up to Thor’s main adventures. But with the recent collected edition, the full might of Kirby’s lavish designs and intensive battle illustrations got the spotlight they deserved. Read the first three issues of this re-mastered Marvel gem now.
AVENGERS (1963) #8
During his Marvel tenure, Kirby left his mark on almost every hero in the company’s stable including Iron Man, Hulk and more. But few things helped define the Marvel Universe better than the way Kirby could place all of the big guns on one stage in the pages of AVENGERS. Here you can witness the birth of one of the team’s greatest foes—Kang the Conqueror—in a time-bending tale bursting with the personality and power of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes at their best.
UNCANNY X-MEN (1963) #17
And don’t miss the stranger side of classic Kirby as the master turned up both the teen angst and the social commentary in the earliest X-Men stories. Here, Kirby gives his farewell to the First Class of Marvel mutants with a story featuring the hateful, hunting Sentinels and the master of magnetism Magneto, all under a cover that can chill to the bone even decades later.
BLACK PANTHER (1976) #5
Kirby helped introduce the landmark Marvel icon known as the Black Panther during his FANTASTIC FOUR days, but the story of T’Challa really came into its own during this solo run in the 70’s. Kirby’s signature science fiction stylings clash with old school monster action as the Wakandan King takes on a yeti in a tale not to be missed.
ETERNALS (1976) #1
Kirby continued to innovate in his later years at Marvel by introducing waves of wild new heroes such as the hidden royalty known as the Eternals. Continue his birthday celebration with the start of one of his last full epics as “The King” introduces the likes of Ikaris, Makkari and Sersi and their strange Celestial overlords.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #193
Everything comes full circle with Kirby’s 1970’s return to CAPTAIN AMERICA. Here you can read a fast-paced adventure bristling with the energy and dynamism of the King’s best work as Cap and his partner Falcon fight against the force of the Mad Bomb. Cap’s greatest villain, the Red Skill, lurks just on the edges of this story which helped celebrate America’s Bicentennial as only Kirby could!