Kirby Week 2015 – Interview with Jillian Kirby

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I think we can all agree that Jack Kirby earned his nickname of “The King” over his lifetime in the comic book industry.

From the 1940s through today, Kirby’s artwork fills the comic book store shelves, dominate the motion picture screen, and inspire countless writers, artists, readers, and dreamers to think beyond their abilities. His characters and co-creations read like a who’s who of American comic book characters — Captain America, the Boy Commandos, the Challengers of the Unknown, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Avengers, Nick Fury, the Silver Surfer, the New Gods, Darkseid, and so many more.

Since his passing in 1994, the industry and creators have looked for ways to honor Kirby’s legacy. Whether it be an artist participating in the “Wake Up and Draw” campaign or fans taking part in “Read Comics in Public” day events, Jack Kirby’s birthday of August 28 has become a special event for the comic book community.

In 2012, a new initiative was launched with Kirby4Heroes:

Earlier this month, Jerry from the WCPE reached out to Jillian Kirby, founder of Kirby4Heroes and the granddaughter of Jack Kirby, for a quick interview.

WCPE: Since we happen to be focused on comic books, let’s start there. Do you read any comics? Have you read your grandfather’s work? Or do your college studies take up too much time to allow for comics? (That happened for us!)

JILLIAN: During the school year, it’s really difficult for me to get to a comic book store to buy individual issues. However, my parents occasionally send me a Kirby Anthology or Omnibus to read through. When I am home for vacations, I try to catch up on my Kirby comic reading!

WCPE: You were born after your grandfather passed away. How did you come to know Jack Kirby, either as your grandfather or as an artist?

JILLIAN: I grew up surrounded by family stories and anecdotes about my grandfather. My outreach to comic book artists, fans, and others in the comic book industry who have known my grandfather have taught me more than I have read in any biography. Also, by maintaining my Kirby4Heroes Facebook page, I have come to know his artwork and learn so much from that.

WCPE: Growing up, was any of Jack’s artwork hanging in your home?

JILLIAN: Some personal pieces, meaningful to my father, are hanging in our home. We wish we had more!12555_218697684947208_1263505926_n

WCPE: Did you ever name-drop your grandfather’s name at school or with friends? I know I would have been bragging to my friends if my grandfather had helped co-create the Fantastic Four or Captain America.

JILLIAN: Actually I really don’t name-drop, I want to do things on my own terms. But in third grade, when asked to write a report on a personal hero, I chose my grandpa Jack. I can still vividly remember giving my presentation and walking around the classroom with blown up prints of his artwork!

WCPE: How did Kirby4Heroes get started?

JILLIAN: I founded the Kirby4Heroes campaign in 2012 because I was looking for a way to connect with my grandfather in a manner that would truly honor his legacy. Organizing a campaign in his honor to raise money for a charity I knew he would champion seemed to be the best way to achieve this.

WCPE: This is the campaign’s fourth year. Do you have any ballpark ideas how much the campaign has raised in the first three years? Do you have a target goal for 2015?

JILLIAN: In the first three years of my campaign, I have raised approximately $30,000 for the Hero Initiative: $5000 in 2012, $10,000 in 2013, and $15,000 in 2014. This year, my target fundraising goal is $20,000!

WCPE: On Facebook, you like to share the penciled page and the finished page from your grandfather’s collection in a side-by-side comparison. Do you have a favorite page? Or is there just so many to choose from that you just can’t single out one over the others?

JILLIAN: It’s impossible to choose just one! I am partial, however, to double page spreads, especially ones featuring Mister Miracle or Captain America!

WCPE: Within the last year, an agreement was reached to give Jack Kirby onscreen credit for the Marvel movies and TV shows that his characters appear in. What was it like to see your grandfather’s name appear in the Avengers: Age of Ultron or Ant-Man credits? How did your family react?

JILLIAN: Seeing my grandfather’s name appear in the movie credits is so gratifying! My family and I always get choked up, cheer and clap when we see the name Jack Kirby as a co-creator in the movie credits. It is so heartwarming to see my grandfather finally recognized for his contributions to the comic book, television and movie industries.

WCPE: We have volunteered for the Hero Initiative for nearly 15 years, and we know why it is important. But what makes the Hero Initiative important to you?

JILLIAN: First of all, thank you for your volunteerism for the Hero Initiative, it’s such a great cause! My grandfather worked very long, hard hours. This enabled him to provide a living for his family in the best manner he could. Unfortunately, there are many in the comic book industry who are not so fortunate, and my grandfather would have wanted to advocate for them in some way. The Hero Initiative is a charity my grandpa Jack, if he were with us today, would have supported with all his ability.

WCPE: If the campaign continues, 2017 would be your grandfather’s 100th birthday. Have you started looking ahead to consider what you might do that year, or are you just focused on this year?

JILLIAN: Looking ahead to the future, I’m zeroing in on August 28, 2017, my grandfather’s 100th birthday. Upon reaching my 2015 goal of $20,000 for the Hero Initiative, I will have brought in a total of $50,000 since my campaign’s inception in 2012. My target is to raise an additional $50,000 over the next two years. Upon my grandpa Jack’s 100th birthday celebration in 2017, I will hopefully have been able to provide the Hero Initiative with $100,000 for their charitable works. It would also be wonderful to have fundraising events for Kirby4Heroes occurring in all fifty states to benefit the Hero Initiative by 2017.

Another one of my goals to honor my grandpa Jack’s legacy is to increase outreach to the younger generation, using school art programs to educate students about my grandfather as an important 20th century American artist. To spread awareness of my grandfather’s influence as one of the most preeminent American pop culture artists of the 20th century, seeing his artwork displayed in several major art museums would be another amazing goal, enabling my grandfather and his legacy to be celebrated in the mainstream. I would love to see PBS feature him in one of their inspirational American Masters documentaries. In addition, it would thrill me to see my grandfather given the very first posthumous Kennedy Center Honor.

WCPE: Jillian, we thank you for your time, and we wish you the best of luck with the 2015 campaign.

For more information on the Kirby4Heroes campaign, please visit their website or Facebook page.

For more information on the Hero Initiative, please visit their website.

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