Jack Kirby (1917 –1994), born Jacob Kurtzberg, was a comic book artist, writer and editor regarded by historians and fans as one of the major innovators and most influential creators in the comic book medium.
Kirby grew up poor in New York City and learned to draw cartoon figures by tracing characters from comic strips and editorial cartoons. He entered the nascent comics industry in the 1930s and drew various comics features under different pen names, including Jack Curtiss, ultimately settling on Jack Kirby. In 1940, he and writer-editor Joe Simon created the highly successful superhero character Captain America for Timely Comics, predecessor of Marvel Comics. During the 1940s, Kirby, generally teamed with Simon, created numerous characters for that company and for National Comics, the company that later became DC Comics.
After serving in World War II, Kirby returned to comics and worked in a variety of genres. He produced work for a number of publishers, including DC, Harvey Comics, Hillman Periodicals and Crestwood Publications, where he and Simon created the genre of romance comics. He and Simon also launched their own short-lived comic company, Mainline Publications. Kirby ultimately found himself at Timely's 1950s iteration, Atlas Comics, soon to become Marvel. There, in the 1960s, he and writer-editor Stan Lee co-created many of Marvel's major characters, including the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, The Avengers, Thor, and the Hulk. Despite the high sales and critical acclaim of the Lee-Kirby titles, however, Kirby felt treated unfairly, and left the company in 1970 for rival DC.
There Kirby created his Fourth World saga, which spanned several comics titles. While these series proved commercially unsuccessful and were canceled, the Fourth World's New Gods have continued as a significant part of the DC Universe. Kirby returned to Marvel briefly in the mid-to-late 1970s, then ventured into television animation and independent comics. In his later years, Kirby, who has been called "the William Blake of comics," began receiving great recognition in the mainstream press for his career accomplishments, and in 1987 he was one of the three inaugural inductees of the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
The Jack Kirby Awards and Jack Kirby Hall of Fame were named in his honor.