Sketch a Day (Cartoonist week): Jack Kirby

Two sketches today. Bear with me…


Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg, USA, 1917-1994)

Comics Will Break Your Heart
(pencil & watercolour on 300gsm paper)
A5 (148 x 210mm, 5.7 x 8.3 inches)

US $ 50 (+$5 postage)

This sketch tells the story behind the quote that opens Hicksville. It was told to me by James Romberger, an artist and cartoonist whose amazing graphic novel Seven Miles a Second (written by activist and artist David Wojnarowicz) has just been reissued by Fantagraphics.

In the 1980s, Romberger met Kirby at a convention in New York. Kirby kindly looked at Romberger’s work and then gave him a piece of advice: “Kid, you’re one of the best. But put your work in galleries. Don’t do comics. Comics will break your heart.”

Romberger followed Kirby’s advice for years, mostly exhibiting in galleries, while drawing comics for alternative and literary magazines – and occasionally for commercial publishers – on the side. When the first edition of Seven Miles a Second was published by Vertigo in 1996, Romberger mentioned in his artist’s bio that he’d once been told by Jack Kirby “comics will break your heart.” As soon as I read that, I knew I would have to use it in Hicksville. I’m grateful to Romberger for later sharing the full story with me and I urge you all to buy his & Wojnarowicz’s extraordinary book.

Anyway, after drawing this sketch, I felt so sad I had to draw Kirby again – but this time the young Kirby, on the eve of World War Two, when American comic books were new and he was one of the people carving its mythology out of nothing, at the beginning of his extraordinary career. So here he is…


Young Kirby
(pencil & watercolour on 300gsm paper)
A5 (148 x 210mm, 5.7 x 8.3 inches)

US $ 50 (+$5 postage)

There you have it. Having done two today, I’ll probably take a break over the weekend and return with more sketches next week (and, hopefully, some new Magic Pen pages too).

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8 Responses to “Sketch a Day (Cartoonist week): Jack Kirby”

  1. Eric Knisley says:

    Outstanding! You really bring some character and story-telling to these sketches. Love ’em–wish I could afford one. Maybe I’ll just do my own….

  2. James says:

    Huh, surprised to see this story out there like this, and with a drawing done as if it was through my eyes. He didn’t look so sad and slumpy when he told me that though. He was more matter-of-fact and pretty cheerful, like the old but still vigorous Jack from the early 80s. The next time I saw him several years later, he seemed to have shrunk a bit. That time, I didn’t really get to talk to him, he was more interested in telling my wife Marguerite his war stories and a crowd formed around him….I got sort of pushed to the periphery and couldn’t hear what he was saying in his gravelly voice any more and so I went over and talked to Roz instead.

  3. Hi James, thanks so much for sharing that story – and for clarifying it here. Everyone: go buy James’ books!

  4. hectorvadair says:

    Hi Dylan !
    “Yes, it does” (comics break my heart) 🙂

    Thank you for theses sketches, and the whole site. Have to read all the work in it.

  5. Marko says:

    Big fan of Romberger’s work, great artist…. It’s just that I do not enjoy my comics as much as I did before, I should take a vacation or something :/

  6. Jane says:

    Always loved Herriman, great inspiration 🙂 Love the blog btw, best wishes from Croatia!

  7. Larry Trivieri says:

    I met up with James at the convention where he met Kirby. “I met Kirby,” he told me, in a state of awe, then told me what Jack had told him. Years later, I met Jack at Golden Apple Comics in LA. He regaled a few us fans, including Billy Mumy and Mel Ferrer, with a bunch of wonderful stories, including some war stories. He also spoke about his approach to art, saying, “Always draw with a confident line. My lines are always confident.” Truer words were never spoken. After everything broke up, I got to speak with him for a bit, and told him about James now having his work in art galleries. Jack was very glad to hear that, really glad. Then we shook hands. His grip was firm as could be. He was in very good spirits the entire time. His last words to me were, “Be happy and healthy.” A few months later I went back to GA for my weekly comic book purchases. When I got there, the guys behind the counter had tears in their eyes. I asked what happened. They told me they’d just received word that Jack had passed earlier that day. I started crying too.

  8. Dylan Horrocks says:

    Thanks, Larry – beautiful.

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