Podcast Review: King Kirby
If there were a Mt. Rushmore of comic books, fans could sit there and debate all day as who belonged on it. Despite this there is one person who everyone would agree unanimously deserved the honor, artist Jack “King” Kirby. Without a doubt one of the most influential creative forces in the medium, Kirby played a massive role in the creation of countless iconic characters from Captain America to Iron Man to Doctor Doom to the X-Men to Darkseid to Mister Miracle and if I continued listing them all we would be here all day. Not only was he a force in creating and developing these heroes and villains but his action packed and epic style as an artist was nothing short of groundbreaking and continues to inspire comic illustrators even all these decades later. Sadly despite his life’s work now recognized as foundational pieces of American culture with the superheroes he created now firmly in mainstream entertainment, few outside of comicdom recognize the name Jack Kirby. This year the Broadway Podcast Network sought to raise the profile of the King of Comics the best way they could. Enlisting those behind the acclaimed stage play about the life of Kirby and adapting it into the audio drama podcast King Kirby.
The mood is established from the start as they act out an art auction where the smug auctioneer displays an ignorance of the likes of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers as she tries to stir up bidders to drop money on the original artwork. From there Jack Kirby comes in to serve as our narrator to look back at his illustrious life. The voicework from Steven Rattazzi in the lead is impeccable as he perfectly captured the no-nonsense tough guy from Brooklyn that fans revere while also bringing a grounded sense of humanity to his performance. Through 5 episodes he serves as our guide taking us from King Kirby’s early days through his time working at Marvel. The benefit of producing this as an audio drama is that it truly hits listeners with the emotional impact of it all. Instead of someone talking about his contentious relationship with Stan Lee, we actually have two skilled performers acting out the interactions between the workhorse artist and the showboating PR-minded writer/editor. At the core of this series is Jack Kirby’s relationship with Roz Kirby, the absolute love of his life. Bringing Rosie to life actress Amy Lee Pearsall does an incredible job and the chemistry she has with her co-star comes across perfectly. She is a no-nonsense woman who completely understands the creative brilliance of her husband, even when he does not see it himself. Through his start in comics to his time in the war to the heyday of his career, the love story between these two is the core of the entire narrative.
For decades the fame and respect Jack Kirby deserves has eluded him, but the creative team of Crystal Skillman, Fred Van Lente, Bobby Cronin and the rest of the team behind King Kirby pay an incredible tribute to the King of Comics. Not only saluting the awe-inspiring body of work he left behind, but also exploring the triumphs and tragedies of his extraordinary life.