As you've probably learned by now, the co-creator of CAPTAIN AMERICA, Jack Kirby, has passed away. You'll be reading a lot about what a phenomenal fountain of ideas the man was, what an incredible visual storyteller he was, and what a heck of a nice guy he was in person. I'd like to throw my two cents on the last of these aspects.

There's always a danger in meeting one of your idols; the danger that the guy whose work you find so compelling fails in some way to live up to your expectations in person. In July 1972, I attended my first comic convention and for the first time I had a chance to meet many of the names I had only known from reading the comics' credit boxes.

Of everyone I met, the one who impressed me the most by far was Jack Kirby. Sitting at his table, mobbed by admirers, signing autographs, Jack looked at every single fan who thrust something in front of him to sign right in the eye, smiled, asked him his name, answered his questions, and made him feel like he really mattered. And in those hippie days, some of us must have looked pretty freaky to a 55-year old like Jack. It didn't matter. Jack was totally non-judgemental. What seemed to matter to Jack was that you and he were meeting on common ground out on the frontier of the imagination. And out there, it didn't matter what you looked like. All that mattered was a free, open, inquisitive mind an an appreciation for its honest work. For the few minutes you had an audience with Jack, he made you feel like the most important person in the world.

After that first encounter (I happily was able to talk with him twice since), I resolved that if I ever made it into comics, I wanted to be like Jack. I may never be able to draw as well as he did, or create as many characters as he did, or be as influential as he was, but darn it, I would at least try to be as NICE as Jack was, to let my fans know how important they were to me. What goes around comes around. Rest in peace, Jack.

-- Mark Gruenwald


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