Nigel Parkinson, Cartoonist

Nigel Parkinson, Cartoonist
This is him, at a recent Comic Con

Friday, 22 November 2013

Kirby and JFK

In 1964 TIME magazine wanted a new angle on the JFK assassination and approached the legend that was Jack Kirby to find it. He took the story of the man who assassinated the assassin, his near-namesake Jack Ruby, and provided words and pictures in this dramatic recounting of those few days in November. Apparently Kirby coloured these pages himself too.

In common with most people alive on November 22nd 1963, the killing of an American President had a profound effect on Jack Kirby, who as well as being the illustrator was usually co-plotter or even sometimes sole writer of his comics. The story he was working on for Marvel at the time, a Fantastic Four v Hulk rematch, took on a new intensity; there was a fallen hero, a lot of confusion and uncertainty, newsmen reporting on the events for TV, and most importantly, a sense of drama and dread that was so palpable that, for the first time, Kirby made the story continue into the next issue, something that the increasingly mature readership liked, and which would become the norm in the future. All these elements were taken directly from real-life: The events of the weekend of November 22-24 1963 unfolded on TV for the first time, and seemed to stretch on beyond endurance, no resolution was found at the end, just more drama and uncertainty. Kirby put that into Fantastic Four and found a new approach.

The influence of the assassination was undimmed in spring 1965, 18 months later, when Alan Fennell and Mike Noble made a much more direct reference to it in a Fireball XL5 story in TV Century 21 which I, and many others, were very taken with.

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