The end of August hailed Jack Kirby's birthday, and for years I've read of other cities celebrating the day with galleries, socials, and general to-dos. While I know Phoenix comics shops have hosted events to honor Kirby in the past, I wanted to do something worthy of those nationally promoted celebrations, something to put Phoenix on the map. The product was an evening that featured local artists and their Kirby-inspired work, an open mic of local poets and performers, and a drawing demonstration by none other than Steve Rude, whose tutelage and friendship with Jack Kirby gave our event the integrity and intimacy it deserved. I was happy to discuss the evening on Good Morning, Arizona, following the hilarious in-studio of antics of comedian Tom Green, and you can still watch me draw Captain America live right here. Highlights of the Jack Kirby Birthday Celebration included:
- The gallery of local artists, including Derk Harron (top left), Bryan Bg Graham (top right), Steve Failla (bottom left), and Eric Mengel (bottom right).
- Host Jesse James Criscione's recount of his day with Jack Kirby, which, without exaggeration, completely changed his life.
- Gary Bowers' Jack Kirby birthday card, which he hopes to submit to the Kirby Museum by 2017 for Jack's 100th birthday.
- Bob Leeper's discussion of Kirby's oft-overlooked influence over the romance comics genre.
- Ashley Naftule's discovery of Kirby's storied "cigar box," and the diary entries therein.
- JRC's kinesthetic recreation of the Kirby process, complete with virtual Kirby crackle and boom tubes.
- Ernesto Moncada's sharing of finding Kirby through poorly reprinted, and usually out of order, Mexican comic books.
- Tommy Cannon's charming greeting to Steve Rude, and his awesome Kirby-influenced poem.
- Kevin Patterson's recount of discovering, and fearing, the real Yancy Street from Fantastic Four lore.
- Eric Mengel's personal connection to the date of Kirby's birthday, and how the day celebrates his personal and artistic passions.
Final kudos go to Brick Cave Media, for their kind donation of a sound system, to my brother Kyle for setting up said sound system, and to Cynthia Black, proprietor of C-MOD, the venue that hosted us and sponsors many other great Phoenix events. Needless to say, I'll always remember that night . . . until next year's event tops it!
The busyness continues into September, with a few more amazing events just under my belt and still on the horizon. On Saturday, September 5, I was honored to join the pre-show carnival as the caricature artist at Okilly Dokilly's historic first concert. You may have heard of Okilly Dokilly: they're the Phoenix-based metal band inspired by the words, and fashion-sense, of The Simpsons' Ned Flanders. My favorite song on their setlist is "They Warned Me," a haunted refrain that turns a throwaway punchline into a haunting spiritual regret. I Simpsonized many fans (some of whom are pictured above), sold many comics, and enjoyed the festivities immensely, as it was a true example of how diverse and fun Phoenix culture is.
Finally, I'm extremely excited to join Steve Benson next Saturday, September 12, at the opening of the Arizona Capital Museum's "Show Me Arizona: Illustrations of History" opening gala. Benson is a Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist, whose work appears in The Arizona Republic. I'm the creator of Amazing Arizona Comics, which hasn't won any awards. Still, he and I are speaking on the topics of politics, cartooning, and Arizona, starting that morning at 11 a.m., and if you're in the area please come watch me hold back tears of joy at the opportunity.
While making Amazing Arizona Comics has given me an outlet to tell the stories buzzing about my head, it's also opened these doors of connectivity to my fellow creative types, from local artists and peers, to artistic heroes like Steve Rude and Steve Benson. I would call this, more than any sales of my books, a tremendous success, and I can't wait to see what happens next.