Historically, many great men have borne the distinction of being considered the “Father” of their respective fields. Henry Ford has often been referred to as the father of the Modern assembly line. Constantin Stanislavski is believed by many to be the father of Modern acting. However, for those of us who have chosen the field of Modern comics to pursue (either studiously or artistically)… we don’t recognize a “Father”.
We recognize a “King”.
Jack Kirby ( born Jacob Kurtzberg on the Lower East Side of New York ) was not just a comic book artist. He was the one who practically created its visual vocabulary. Expression…not in words… but rather pictures. There is not a piece of art contained in the panels of a single issue of Marvel and DC comics, today, that doesn’t have its origins in panels drawn by Kirby. For artists who have come after and labored hard on perfecting their craft, Kirby is their primary reference. And for Rand Hoppe (of the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center)… a primary reverence.
And for this weekend, Mr. Hoppe has brought the King home to the place of his birth in the form of a gallery showing in a storefront located at 178 Delancey Street.
The show is part of a project funded through a Kickstarter set up by the Made in Lower East Side or “miLES” initiative. The project’s aim is to take unused store space and host pop up events that range in themes. Although the space that was allotted the show was by no means on par with the Museum of Modern Art, I was nonetheless impressed by what Mr. Hoppe was able to achieve with it. Many of the pieces on display were high quality photocopies of Kirby’s “rough” work , where the editor’s notes, paste-ups, and corrections could be seen on the pencilled and ink pages. I’ve noticed that there is a great demand in the market for these “director’s cuts” of comic art (either original or photocopied pages).
What makes this show truly special is the emphasis it places on Kirby’s history in the Lower East Side. The Kurtzbergs once resided at 172 Delancey, not more than three doors down from the storefront at 178 (a fact which graces the show with a certain poignancy). My favorite piece in the show was on display in the storefront window. It is a copy of a pencil rendering depicting immigrant life in the early 20th century. I don’t think a photo of that time period (and plenty adorn the shops along Orchard and Ludlow Streets, as well as Little Italy) could convey the vibrance of life back in that time period.