It’s impossible to provide an introduction for a man who doesn't need one.
Jack Kirby is one such man. Where do you even start in listing all the ways he influenced comics and pop culture at large? Even simply trying to count the characters he had a hand in creating — Captain America, Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Hulk, the New Gods, etc. — proves a fool’s errand. SYFY WIRE recently even tried packing his lengthy career into one 2-minute video.
Kirby was dubbed "the King" for a reason, and today we mark 100 years of his reign. He may not be with us anymore, but his influence is felt every day in nearly every comic book on the stands. To honor the King, we've compiled this list of some of our favorite Kirby covers, ranging from the iconic to the oddball. Of course, there are way more covers than just these that are worth talking about, so let us know your favorite Kirby masterpieces in the comments at the bottom of the page.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #1
There's no other place to start than with this cover. It's powerful but playful, political but fun, and has a message we can all get behind: punching Hitler.
FANTASTIC FOUR #49
This was one of the issues that made up the famous "Galactus Trilogy," and its cover really gives you everything you need to know about the otherworldly threat all in one image. I has a great composition and the color choices are striking ... but I could look at Kirby Galactus drawings all day, so maybe I’m biased.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY #6
Oddly enough, at one point, Kirby did a comic book version of the landmark science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. True to Kirby form, he packed it full of his own ideas and even came out of it with a permanent addition to the Marvel Universe with Machine Man. This cover is easily the most eerie of the bunch, with the alien face too-perfectly symmetrical in the middle of the image.
The cover that boldly declared the return of Kirby's most famous creation, Avengers #4 is also one of the most homaged covers ever. Its strange tilted layout and the way the characters are charging out of the cover at the reader made it a particularly dynamic layout.
MISTER MIRACLE #6
Pretty much every cover to this recently revived title followed the "Mister Miracle in the midst of escaping a trap" motif, but this one is particularly well-known thanks to its explosive sense of movement. Not only is Scott blasting off in the rocket-chair, but you also have pieces flying off the breaking harness and Oberon perilously posed in the back. No one is safe in this cover, and Kirby wants you to know it.
YOUNG ROMANCE #1
While most remember Kirby for his superhero work, he dabbled in nearly every genre. One of his most successful titles was Young Romance, created with Captain America co-creator Joe Simon, which found an audience at a time when very few superheroes were.
This is another Avengers cover that gets homaged and parodied a lot and was one of the earliest of the "show all the potential recruits on the cover" cover trope. This was also the issue that marked a seismic shift in the Avengers lineup and would establish the team's tradition of a constantly in-flux roster.
NEW GODS, VOL. 2 #1
Kirby’s biggest title at DC had a few iconic covers, but any with Darkseid at the fore are sure to be classics. This one captures the villain's otherworldliness and subtle but immense power, but not in a way that's loud; that's just not Darkseid's style. He inspires awe simply with a glance.
Kirby was a patriot who celebrated American soldiers and was one himself for a time during World War II. He dedicated a part of his significant output to war comics, and this cover to Charlton Comics' Foxhole is a prime example of how he viewed them. This is all about the silent nobility of the soldier as the three depicted here worldlessly and efficiently hold their position against an unseen enemy.
This cover is a really odd layout, and you rarely see anything like it. It's very text-heavy, full of bragging about the comic you're about to read, and has extra panels that are used to rather strange effect. This isn't necessarily the best cover Kirby did, but it's one of the most unique, and shows that the King never stopped trying to do new things.
There are a few pretty great Eternals covers, but this one is hard to beat, with four very different-looking characters against a backdrop of Kirby's famous crackle. It's a cover that grabs you and makes you want to know what's going on inside, like all good covers do.
KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH #1
Kirby's post-apocalyptic boy hero was and is something of a cult hit at DC. It followed the titular teen through a ruinous landscape full of intelligent animal tribes, and Kirby insisted he'd not seen Planet of the Apes before creating the book, despite the similarity in imagery.
FANTASTIC FOUR #51
For all his ideas of cosmic powers and new pantheons of space gods, Kirby's work always remained full of soul and humanity, and no other character exemplifies the dichotomy of power and vulnerability better than the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing. Thing's anguish in this image is palpable (even without seeing his eyes), somehow filling a rock monster with humanity and pathos. The Thing was one of Kirby's most personal creations, so it seems fitting to end with him and his most well-known cover.