Jack Kirby was an American comic book artist who is widely regarded as one of the most influential creators in the medium. He created (or co-created) many of the super-heroes who are experiencing success on the big screen today such as Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men and so many more. In his biography of Jack Kirby in his book Kirby: King of Comics, Mark Evanier writes, “Jack Kirby didn’t invent the comic book. It just seems that way…He was, in fact, a storyteller and innovator, first and foremost. A modern-day Aesop, creating myths and fables for the generations to come. After over fifty years in the field, he never ceased creating, nor did he show any signs of running out of ideas.”
Jack Kirby left behind a great body of work and Evanier’s documentation has been essential to understanding the man behind the legend. Also, the folks at TwoMorrows Publishing have created a regular forum for examination of Kirby’s work with their publication of The Jack Kirby Collector.
The following excerpt from an interview conducted by Adam McGovern for The Jack Kirby Collector on January 24, 2007 with Grant Morrison brings up a new perspective in which to consider the work of the “King” of comics. It references characters that Kirby created called The New Gods who starred in Kirby’s Fourth World saga. Chris Sims has an extensive post on Comics Alliance about Kirby’s themes with these characters. The Ikaris character that is mentioned below is from another god-like race of beings that Kirby created called The Eternals. I’ve quoted this passage of the interview as it delves into some of the Kabbalistic influences Kirby wove into his creations.
The Jack Kirby Collector: …there’s certainly a direct line between the Hebrew Bible and The New Gods in terms of this kind of aloof, austere way that Orion deals with humans…
Grant Morrison: …But definitely, with Kirby I think there’s a lot of Kabbalah in there that no one has ever really dug out, which surprises me; someone should be studying The New Gods in terms of Kabbalah because it’s quite incredible.
TJKC: And the concept of this world split into light and dark is right of Zoroastrianism too…
Morrison: Oh yeah, the whole Manichaean kind of thing and the divide. But the idea of the Source, which I find fascinating–and no one really goes near it ’cause no one gets it–but the Source is the highest [plane], the Ain Soph Aurr, the “white room” of Kabbalism , and all the characters fit into classic Kabbalistic sefirot [aspects of God]; like Orion would be Gevurah and Metron would be Hod; a lot of them do fit in, and I think Kirby was involved in a lot of that stuff as well.
TJKC: It could be; now that I think of it, even a lot of his design could almost be a Kabbalistic or for that matter a Tantric diagram; y’know, like Ikaris’ costume, all these weird geometric forms with connecting grids.
Morrison: Yeah, that tree-of-life zigzag thing he does.
TJKC: I always thought of it as a very distant influence of the Art Deco buildings he would have seen as a kid, but I guess it goes back even farther!
Morrison: Artists tend to create huge complexes of influence; as you say, the top of the Chrysler Building could merge with a Mayan temple, could merge with the diagram of the tree of life to make a costume design.
Morrison’s belief that The New Gods are Kirby’s version of the Kabbalah is fascinating. Compare the panel below–looking specifically at Ikaris’ costume (he’s the blond guy in on the far right)–with the collage artwork at the top of this post (of the god-like Metron) to see the Tree of Life influence in Kirby’s design.
The Eternals are shown to be larger than life. Regular humans do not understand them, even though their physiognomy is basically human (except for the horned character). There is an Old Testament Biblical feel of separation between creators and the created (The Eternals are said to the be behind the evolutionary process on Earth).
Orion is always battle ready and can be quite the buzzkill with his serious no-nonsense attitude. Morrison equates him with the Sephiroth of Geburah, the sphere of might and strength. How I would love to pick Morrison’s brain and see who else he has matched up with all the Spheres of the Kabbalah. Do any of you New Gods fans see any correlations? Perhaps after I read more of this work I can return to this idea at a later date. Until then, keep collecting Kirby comics!