ITEM! No matter how many times Yours Truly rhapsodizes about the magic of Jolly Jack Kirby, some folks just don’t seem to feel that Jack gets enough creator credit around these parts. Well, today we’ll try and fix that li’l problem. Wouldja believe me if I said that in my own humble opinion Jack’s influence as a creator can be seen as far and as wide as in the just-released trailer for The Watchmen movie? No? Then follow along, pilgrim!
Let’s start all the way back in 1959, when Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created The Fly for an Arch rival of ours. As especially studious ones already know, The Fly was based on an earlier Simon creation called The Silver Spider (and in a still earlier draft “Spiderman” with no hyphen). In 1963, when Yours Truly was casting about for another colorful character to add to our rollicking roster at Marvel, Jack dusted off the old Spiderman concept and drew around eight pages on the project before I pulled it and gave it to Sturdy Steve Ditko to do over. Jack’s original Spider-Man design can be seen here and below in a mock-up of Amazing Fantasy #15 by John Bryne and a spot drawing done from memory by Steve Ditko himself! Everyone knows that Steve then redesigned the character using little-if-any of Jack’s desgn and the rest was history, right? Don’t you bet on it, sunshine!
After Steve jumped ship to Charlton in ’66, he was asked to come up with a new version of their Golden Age superhero the Blue Beetle (see illo below, click to enlarge). Notice anything familiar about Ditko’s Blue Beetle revamp? That’s right — it bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack’s original Spider-Man design, all the way down to the Sandman & Sandy hooded cowl, goggle lenses and holstered pistol! Coincidence? Me thinks not.
Turn the clock forward to 1986, when Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons released their seminal serialized sensation, Watchmen, on an unsuspecting reading public. As most of us know, The Watchmen were loosely based on the Charlton Comics stable of heroes, with the Nite-Owl being mostly modeled on Ditko’s Blue Beetle, down to the goggles, belt full of scientific gadgetry and flying fortress airship. In 2008, all of this has been translated into fantastic filmic fun by Watchmen director Zack Snyder and crew. Hopefully you’ve seen the amazing Watchmen trailer by this time. For a Brand Ecch movie, it's not too shabby. If not, go here and check it out now in all its High-Definition glory. We’'ll wait for yah right here.
Notice anything about the movie’s version of Nite-Owl? Looks pretty Kirbyesque doesn’t he? Just for kicks compare the movie’s version of Nite-Owl with the King’s version of what a Marvelized Batman would look like in a sketch he did in 1982. It’s okay... take a minute, then you can say it with me. Just do your best George Takei voice and say, “Oh my...” Here's how the whole peerless progression goes (click on the individual pieces of artwork to see larger views):
So what’s the lesson here, pilgrims? The lesson is that Jack Kirby was an elemental force of creative nature, and he was always out there ahead of us mere mortals and probably will be for years to come. It’s almost as if all things begin and end with Jack Kirby. How’s THAT for a creator credit? Thus endeth the lesson, Faithful Ones!