omics were considered “low” and “juvenile” at the dawn of the age of the superhero. (Actually, in America, they still are in some regards). This perception was one of the reasons that a large number of Jewish immigrants worked in the comics industry — they were unable to gain jobs elsewhere due to discrimination and anti-Semitic practices.
One Jewish comicker, Jacob Kurtzberg, would become one of the most prolific and influential comics creators in the history of the comics medium. After going through many nom-du-plumes he settled on Jack Kirby. Soon, he gained a reputation for being incredibly quick, astoundingly driven, and unfathomably creative. He earned the moniker “the King” and influenced every comics creator who came after him, co-creating pop culture icons like The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom, and The Mighty Thor.
Like many unsung geniuses in various fields he is also relatively unknown in the mainstream public sphere. Because of fate and better publicity, his long-time creative partner Stan Lee is equated with Walt Disney in the status of living icon. Conversely, Kirby is considered to be “work-for-hire.” In fact, his heirs were recently deemed unworthy of any remuneration based on his creations by a court of law.
In some ways, this decision was a catalyst for the creation of the series of paintings BLACK KIRBY, because, to many artists and writers working today, Kirby was a symbol of what was possible. He was a legend in his lifetime who invented the practices of a medium. His style is now a genre. He was a simple man; small in stature but, he taught us all how to dream.
BLACK KIRBY is a collaborative “entity” that is John Jennings and Stacey “Blackstar” Robinson. The exhibit celebrates the incredible work of Jack Kirby and his contributions to the pop culture landscape, while remixing his style, forms and ideas to explore themes like Afro-futurism, social justice, representation, and magical realism. It uses the culture of hip-hop as a methodology for creating visual communication.
The exhibit will feature 30 to 50 works of art — primarily on paper — and is due to open in September at Jackson State University’s Liberal Arts Building gallery. Here are 8 of the works from the series.