As the audience takes their seats, they
see a man hunched over an easel, drawing pictures on a large sheet of paper
with feverish intensity. The man wears a
white button down shirt, red suspenders and slacks. Old timey jazz is playing. Soon the house lights fade along with the
music as a Sotheby’s auctioneer takes center stage, and the man pauses his
drawing to listen to what she has to say.
She is informing the crowd that she is pleased to have several of Jack Kirby’s
original works up for auction and that his recent death has driven up their
value. (The year is 1994). Kirby's
The show is ultimately a tale of his exploitation by American capitalism in the guise of Marvel Comics. In the end Kirby is informed by his partner, Marvel writer and editor Stan Lee
King Kirby (written by husband-and-wife team Fred Van Lente and Crystal Skillman, directed by John Hurley) is one of several shows running at The Comic Book Theater Festival Issue #2 at The Brick in Williamsburg through June 29. Fast paced and lean, King Kirby chronicles the career of comic book artist Jack Kirby (creator of Captain America, Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Thor, The Avengers, Spiderman, X-Men and more). The show is ultimately a tale of his exploitation by American capitalism in the guise of Marvel Comics. In the end Kirby is informed by his partner, Marvel writer and editor Stan Lee, that after many years of prolific output he has been no more than a craftsman for hire, and Kirby loses the rights to his work and future royalties.
Steven Rattazzi is strong and sympathetic as Kirby, and a talented ensemble cast of character actors (Amy Lee Pearsall, Joseph Mathers, Nat Cassidy, and Timothy McCown Reynolds) brilliantly portray everyone else, each actor playing multiple roles. It’s amazing how much of Kirby’s life is covered in a mere 75 minutes, without the narrative ever feeling confusing or rushed.
Even if you’re not a comic book enthusiast, you will appreciate this well packaged show and what it says about artists working within the walls of corporate America. Especially poignant is the final dialogue between Kirby and Stan Lee. Kirby says, “The work is the magic.” Stan Lee responds with, “If it was magic, it wouldn’t be work, Jack! It is so much easier to be something than it is to do something.” But Kirby stands firm in his belief, and he couldn’t be more right.