1917 to 2017: 100 years of Kirby.
Join us this month to celebrate Jack “King” Kirby’s 100th birthday by learning about the characters and stories he created that changed comics forever. To commemorate Jack’s centennial, we’ve sat down with the modern-day creators he influenced—and the decades of work he gifted us all.
SECRET WARRIORS, KINGPIN, ROCKET RACCOON, and upcoming PUNISHER writer Matthew Rosenberg understands one key element about Jack Kirby’s influence on the Marvel Universe: it’s everywhere. He’s worked with characters that “The King” actually had a hand in creating along with plenty of others who came along after, but, to him, remain part of the same whole.
We talked with Rosenberg about working off of Kirby’s original blueprints, adding to the mythos he helped start, and how he liked Jack’s work before he ever met “The King.”
Marvel.com: How did you come to Kirby’s stuff? Was it always there for you or something you discovered the more you got into comics?
Matthew Rosenberg: I learned to read by stealing my brother’s [UNCANNY X-MEN] and FANTASTIC FOUR comics. I remember not quite knowing what was going on and loving every second of it. Some of that was the work of [X-MEN writer Chris] Claremont, [artist Dave] Cockrum, [artist John] Byrne, and others, but I think what attracted me to it at such a young age was the foundations laid by Jack Kirby. And when I got old enough to buy my own books, the ones I wanted were always the Marvel Masterworks of those early Jack Kirby books. It took me a few years to realize that was Jack Kirby that I was being drawn to, but part of my young brain knew it even if I wasn’t processing it.
Marvel.com: Do you remember what it was about his work that struck you at that time?
Matthew Rosenberg: There is just something so alien and yet so accessible about his work. It draws you in because you’ve never seen anything like it before, and yet it feels like it’s something you’ve always wanted. The human aspect: the family, the outsiders, the angry rebel, the lost soul—all of these archetypal characters felt familiar. You saw a piece of yourself in Johnny Storm, Jean Grey, T’Challa or even Norrin Radd, Victor Von Doom, or Harvey Elder. But then that piece of you was whisked away to worlds beyond your wildest imagination. It’s mind blowing for me now to look at Kirby’s work and try to process it. I can’t even imagine what it was like at the time.
Marvel.com: Kingpin and Rocket weren’t created by Jack, but they seem to play in the worlds he helped create. How does it feel to be adding to that lineage?
Matthew Rosenberg: Oh, everything we touch in the Marvel Universe has Jack Kirby’s DNA built into it, for sure. That sense of the impossible and fantastical; that desire to make things no one has ever seen before, make everything larger than life, it’s built into all of this. And yes, Rocket is the creation of Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, and Kingpin is the creation of Stan Lee and John Romita, but it’s hard not to see how easily they fit into the universe of Kirby. And that’s the amazing thing about all of it. It’s such a huge, crazy universe that there is room for a corrupt businessman and a talking space raccoon to meet, and it doesn’t feel weird.
Marvel.com: Jack’s characters are all over SECRET WARRIORS ranging from Karnak and Devil Dinosaur to groups like the X-Men, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Hydra. How does it feel to be playing in that sandbox with those toys?
Matthew Rosenberg: I’ve said it before but the thing I love about SECRET WARRIORS is how it feels like we are bridging gaps between all these great eras of the Marvel Universe. Karnak and S.H.I.E.L.D. were created by Jack Kirby in the 60s; Devil Dinosaur in the 70s. But then I get to throw in lots of 80s and 90s X-Men, Deadpool, and whatnot. And finally the rest of our cast—Quake, Ms. Marvel, Inferno, and Moon Girl—they’re all characters who were made by people still working at Marvel now. And that for me is an amazing thing.
The Marvel Universe is so fun because it always moves forward; new stories, new characters, new creators. But it never forgets its roots. So in SECRET WARRIORS we get to pay tribute to every generation of Marvel. We are looking toward the future but never forgetting our past.
Marvel.com: Kirby’s known for being this huge fount of creative energy. Has that inspired you your own comic-making career?
Matthew Rosenberg: Of course! I think it takes different shapes at different times. Sometimes when a story seems too tough to figure out or a character feels elusive, I will grab some old X-MEN or BLACK PANTHER comics and just disappear into that world for a little bit. It reinvigorates my imagination in a huge way. It reminds me what I’m trying to do.
But also the sheer amount of work that Jack Kirby created, not just the unbelievable quality, but the volume of it all. If that doesn’t keep younger comic creators up at night I don’t know what will. I will be lucky to come anywhere near putting out the amount of comic pages that he did. It’s something to be inspired and terrified by. At 3 AM I look up and see those books on my shelf and I know I can write for another few hours.
Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more throughout Kirby Month and beyond! And join the conversation on all of our social channels with the hashtag #Kirby100.