Jack Kirby’s cultural influence has never been greater. His myriad characters already populate the silver screen, and it was recently announced his New Gods magnum opus too is making the transition to film with the director of A Wrinkle in Time, Ava DuVernay at the helm.
Kirby, who persevered in the world of comic books for half a century, was arguably the greatest creator of the form. What is lesser known was his desire to move over to the higher-paid and then more respected world of the comic strip. As early as 1936, at age 18, Jacob Kurtzberg joined the Lincoln Newspaper Syndicate, working there on newspaper comic strips and single-panel cartoons. He moved on to the Eisner & Iger studio, where again he created strips such as “Wilton of the West,” “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “Socko the Seadog” and “Abdul Jones,” under various pseudonyms: Curt Davis, Ted Grey, Teddy, Fred Sande and Lance Kirby. Of special note here is the science fiction adventure “The Diary of Dr. Hayward” (as Curt Davis). Soon he dedicated himself to comic books full time and legally changed his name to Jack Kirby.
By 1956 he was back at DC comics for a second stint, while at the same sending out comic strip proposals to various syndicates. Two years later his editor at DC, Jack Schiff, was asked by to create a “realistic” space syndicated script, on the heels of the Russian Sputnik launch that heralded in the space race. He also brought in the brothers Wood, Dave and Dick as writers. Just prior, Kirby and Dave Wood created a similar proposal, Space Busters. The strip appeared on February 9, 1959 in over 100 newspapers in the U.S. as well as select European papers. Kirby brought in Wallace (Wally) Wood (no relation) as inker, and the work was stunning. Unfortunately, this did not end well, as the Wood brothers went MIA, Kirby had to pay Wally out of his share as well as Schiff a gratuity, and he was losing rather than making income. He also felt pressured by Schiff into the inequitable deal with the threat of loss of DC work. This ended in a court ruling against Kirby. All this is covered in a beautiful, oversized new book, “Sky Masters of the Space Force: the complete Sunday Strips in color (1959-1960)” by Ferran Delgado, from publisher Amigo.
This passion project of Delgado’s reproduces the Sunday Strips full tabloid size and lovingly restored. It also features essays by Jon. B Cook, Patrick Ford, Álvaro Pons and Delgado and was created with the collaboration of the Jack Kirby Museum. Copious footnotes detail the source information and concurrent technology that the strip drew from. There are even QR codes that link to blogs and video online, as well as myriad additional art in the form of color guides, dailies, discarded panels and more, and the color restoration process is detailed at great length.
Delgado was born in and resides in Spain and has worked as a letterer for Marvel Comics and others. He is self-taught as a designer, making this book all the more impressive. The book was first published as a Spanish edition and the English edition will be available in July.