It was extremely tempting to change my title format and call this one “Jack Kirby, Nazi Smasher.” If there was one underlying theme in Kirby’s work, it was a hatred of fascism. Which, you know, more power to him. He was perfectly willing to not merely show Captain America punching Hitler on a cover but to punch a Nazi or two on his own. He’s the anti-fascist hero of our time. He’s the obvious answer to all those people who complain about how Marvel has “gotten” political, as though openly opposing Hitler in March 1941 in the US wasn’t an overtly political move.
In fact, Kirby seems to have gotten in some trouble for possibly being a Communist because of the ridiculous phrase “premature anti-fascist,” the term used during the Red Scare to mean people who opposed Hitler before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Never mind that the man nearly had his legs amputated after receiving severe frostbite during World War II—and apparently had the dangerous job of reconnaissance because he was capable of drawing what he’d seen. One thing you can definitely say of Jack Kirby was that he was brave.
Also that he was an artistic genius. He’s a Disney Legend, and it’s literally the least they could do for him. His creations are making the studio literally billions of dollars. The Marvel characters he created number in the dozens if not the hundreds, including some of the publisher’s most popular figures. Captain America, of course, but also everyone from Groot to Black Panther. He helped develop Wakanda. Arguably, with his work on the Fantastic Four, he helped create superheroes as we know them today.
Of course, when I say that making him an official Disney Legend was the least they could do, I mean it. Because his creations were considered work-for-hire, meaning he didn’t have rights to the characters. It’s an ongoing problem in comics. You can hire Kurt Russell to play Ego, the Living Planet, but the fact remains that you’re not paying the creator of the character residuals the way you’d have to if he owned the rights to his own creation. It’s an ongoing problem, so acknowledging Kirby’s work is a bare minimum situation.
Apparently there’s a claim that Kirby changed his name to hide his Jewish heritage. The man born Jacob Kurtzberg used a pen name mostly, from what I can tell, because that was just what you did in comics. It was just what you did. Kirby was never ashamed. Ben Grimm is apparently the character most strongly based on Kirby, and he once sent out cards depicting Grimm, as The Thing, wearing a prayer shawl and yarmulke. Grimm’s own explicit Judaism is a reference to Kirby’s, and it’s probably the most explicit reference to the Jewish origin of many comic figures you’ll get.
No one’s going to name me any kind of legend, but you can help me out by supporting my Patreon or Ko-fi!