If Jack Kirby was alive and in his prime today, would his books sell and/or would he be relevant in the comic book world? Before we go in depth on my thoughts on this matter, I feel is extremely important to give everyone a brief history on who was Jack Kirby and why he's consider by everyone in the comic book field as the "king" of comics.
Jack Kirby (August 28, 1917 – February 6, 1994), born Jacob Kurtzberg, was an American 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. Growing up poor in New York City, Kurtzberg entered the nascent comics industry in the 1930s. He 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, 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.
Recently, there have been conversations in a forum I frequent on a daily basis about the impact Jack Kirbywould have, if any, if he was alive and in his prime in today's comics. Some comic book fans think that his books wouldn't sell and basically he wouldn't be relevant in any real way; to which I say thee nay! :) Now, if you look at Kirby's art for the first time it would be kind of jarring and off quilter, but to say that the books wouldn't sell or that the art in comics has gotten better... than Kirby's art, again... I SAY THEE NAY!!!
Let's look at the facts, Jack Kirby was, and still is to this day, the most creative person in the comic book world, and quite possibly any media. Look at the hundreds, if not thousands of characters, concepts and stories that he came up with, the amount of work he produced, the quality or his work, any way you look at it; he's known as the king for a reason. Another important fact that we cannot overlook is the amount of creators who've been directly influenced by Kirby. You can literally see and feel Kirby's influence in some of these creators' art style and they're some of the most respected professionals in the comics field today; to think that they're relevant, on top of their game and moving the comics world forward and think that Kirby wouldn't be relevant in today's comics is plain stupid.
Let's look at some of the creators who've been so heavily influenced by Jack Kirby shall we?
With just these three names alone should be understood that Kirby is, and always will be the most important and influential creator in comics, but the list doesn't end there, there are hundreds of creators who specifically point to Jack Kirby for their inspiration and view him as a teacher of the medium, and to say that a book drawn by Kirby wouldn't sell in this day and age is not only ridiculous, but also incredibly disrespectful. Another ridiculous statement is that art has gotten better with the years, to which I say not really. The art in comics specifically has gotten flashier and more colorful, but not necessarily better.
If you claim that the art has gotten better, how can you explain that some of the most coveted artwork, and most impressive I might add, is none other than George Perez's work from the 80's and early 90's. His art hasn't changed much in the last 30 years, but is it not at the top of the game still to this day? It absolutely is! Same goes with artists like Phil Jimenez, Howard Chaykin, Walt Simmonson or even Neal Adams. The same rule applies to Jack Kirby's work. In this day and age, inkers and colorists are much more talented and have more freedom to take the artwork and make it much better than what it originally was, and if Kirby would've had an inker like, oh let's say Danny Miki (Spawn, Batman) or Jonathan Glapion (Batman), or a colorist like Brian Haberlin (Spawn) or Nathan Eyring (Earth 2) and you'll see somthing you've never seen before, you'll see Kirby's pencils in a whole new light because they'll have that little "extra" push to it that will bring it to the current era of comics. But, this is all and educated guess knowing what I know about art and how comic book artwork gets done, others that might not have the knowledge or the art education might see Kirby's work as "old" or "dated" but all I see when I flip through a comic drawn by Jack Kirby is... a genius!