Kirby’s involvement with the company dated back to his co-creation of Captain America in 1941. Along with Stan Lee, Kirby is widely considered one of the most important figures in comic book history, with his works including the The Fantastic Four, Thor, Black Panther, and Silver Surfers.
Kirby had left Marvel at the end of the '60s, tired of labouring in the shadow of Stan Lee. He was attracted by rival DC with promises of being able to create his own projects, but those arrangements didn’t work.
He returned to Marvel in 1976, however times had changed, and his new work on his signature creations like Captain America and the Black Panther didn’t receive the expected success.
The Eternals was Kirby’s chance to start afresh on a completely original property with no legacy and no creative baggage. He took some inspiration from Erich von Däniken, whose bestseller Chariots of the Gods speculated that ancient human civilizations were influenced by extraterrestrial visitors. The idea of ancient races of cosmic beings was nothing new to Kirby: he’d been playing with this for decades and created omnipotent and ageless deities like Galactus and Darkseid.
Kirby passed away in 1994
Kirby passed away in 1994, but The Eternals comic has continued.
Kirby is widely viewed as one of the Kings of Comics, however, while his frequent partner Stan Lee was a Marvel employee, Kirby was a pen for hire and had no rights to Captain America, The Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the original X-Men and the plethora of other characters he played a pivotal part in bringing to life.
In 2009, his children, Lisa, Neal, Susan and Barbara Kirby, laid claim to copyrights for work he had created from 1958 to 1963, when he was a freelance artist and drew many of his most popular characters. Disney bought Marvel that same year for $4 billion.
In September 2014, Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby amicably resolved their legal disputes and and announced they were, "Looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history."
The terms of their agreement weren’t made public.
To go further
A tribute to Jack Kirby by artist-writer Tom Scioli.
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