One of the biggest announcements to come form Marvel at this weekend’s WizardWorld Los Angeles undoubtedly was the return of Jack Kirby to the company, in the form of Galactic Bounty Hunters
, a new project debuting in July under the ICON imprint.
The series will feature original concepts and artwork created by Kirby before his death, and fully fleshed out by his daughter Lisa, as well as Rick French, Mike Thibodeaux, and Steve Robertson – who are collectively known as Genesis West.
We spoke with Kirby, Thibodeaux, and Marvel editor Tom Brevoort about the project, where it came from, what it’s about, and what it means.
“After the passing of my mother Rosalind, I had the arduous task of doing inventory of my father's artwork,” Kirby explained. “This was back in 1998. Family friend and artist/inker Michael Thibodeaux volunteered his services to help out. During this process, we came across various unpublished drawings of my father's. I happened upon a page depicting a group of characters he originally called the Wonder Warriors. They were originally created as villains for Captain Victory #7
(Oct. ‘82). Sometimes Dad would sketch out ideas, and then decide to go another route. He put these characters aside, and ended up creating a whole new group of villains called the Wonder Warriors for that particular book. The original character designs we found had notes designating them for more of a hero role, but they had an edge to them. When I first saw the page, these particular characters really jumped out at me! At this point Mike suggested that I should try my hand at writing, and develop these characters for a future project. So using some original notes my father left behind, and with the help of Mike, Richard, and Steve, we developed the concept for The Galactic Bounty Hunters.”
Originally, Kirby explained, she and the others put the Galactic Bounty Hunters
materials together to see if there was interest in an animated series or live action movie or television series. “While pitching to various producers, we decided that making a comic book series of the GBH would be great to really solidify our storyline,” Kirby said. “Also, at that time, we were coming up on the 10 year anniversary of Jack's passing, and we thought this would be a fitting tribute to commemorate him.”
Kirby first began thinking of publishing Galactic Bounty Hunters
via French, who had published Jack Kirby and Mike Thibodeaux's work previously. “As the work progressed, we decided that we should try to market the work through a major publisher, to receive the maximum exposure,” Kirby said. “I was referred to Tom Brevoort at Marvel by John Morrow, publisher of the Jack Kirby Collector
. I wrote Tom an email describing our project and asking if this was something Marvel would be interested in doing. I was pleased to receive an enthusiastic response! Since then, there have been numerous conference calls with Tom Brevoort, Joe Quesada, and Dan Buckley regarding this project. They have been very supportive, and have great ideas for our series. We were informed about Marvel's ICON Label, which is geared toward independent creators, and it seemed like a good fit for us. To me, Marvel was the place where my father helped create the most well known comic book characters in the industry. Now I feel like things are coming full circle, by having Marvel participate with me in keeping my father's legacy alive.”
In terms of the project itself, Thibodeaux broke down a little more of what art will be coming from where. “There is some original Kirby artwork spread throughout the books,” Thibodeaux said. “Some of it was drawn specifically for the Galactic Bounty Hunters
project, and some previously unpublished work that was suitable was incorporated. Some of the art was full page presentation drawing, and some was sequential. None of it was fully scripted.”
From there, Kirby, Thibodeaux, French and Robertson tackled the ideas and pages they had. “Mike provided breakdowns to transform the story to a graphic format, incorporating Jack's artwork,” Kirby said. “Over the course of the years, the concept grew, as the characters took shape, and vague ideas blossomed into fully formed worlds! Eventually, we had a completely finished series of books, color schemes and all. Marvel will be taking our finished project and putting their own spin on it, giving it a great ‘spit and polish’ from some of the industry's top talents. Marvel has a certain style they prefer and I know they will publish a great book.
“Overall, if I had to put a number on it, I'd say it's about 30% Dad's, with the rest done trying to stay to true to his spirit.”
Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort gave the view of the project from Marvel’s side. “Having produced seven or eight ‘dummy issues,’ Lisa was interested in shopping the property to potential publishers. John Morrow of the Jack Kirby Collector
suggested that I might be a good contact person at Marvel, knowing of my love for Jack's work,” Brevoort explained. “John put Lisa and myself in contact, Lisa presented the material to Marvel, and we put together a deal in which Marvel will provide assistance in bringing the series to market through the ICON creator-owned imprint.”
The ‘dummy books’ Lisa presented to Marvel were fully illustrated comic books, taken all the way up to coloring and lettering. What we're going to be doing is ‘remastering’ these materials, enlisting the aid of artists such as Karl Kesel and others to re-ink and refinish the work, as well as re-lettering and recoloring it to take full advantage of the resources available to Marvel in order to polish this up so that it can look its best.”
Of course, the inclusion of original Kirby material of a new series publishes by Marvel, in itself…historic, but what’s it about, anyway? Who are the Galactic Bounty Hunters?
“The series is about Garrett, a teenage boy who comes to realize that the science fiction stories his father writes for a living are actually based on his Dad's own real life adventures,” Kirby explained. “Garrett accidentally finds a hidden room where his father, Jack Birkey, has kept remnants of his past life as a Galactic Bounty Hunter. While Garrett looks about, pondering the implications of his discovery, Slug, one of his father's most fearsome enemies teleports into the bunker and kidnaps the boy! Garrett is whisked off to the Nocturnal Nebula, the badlands of space, and held captive. Jack Birkey must now coax his old team of Bounty Hunters out of retirement, to join him in the quest to rescue his son.
“I would describe it as a family oriented space adventure. It contains comedic relief as well as drama. As the story developed I found myself realizing that it reflected the relationship between myself and my father, with me being in the role of Garrett.”
“Plus Captain Victory is in it,” Marvel editor Tom Brevoort added.
“It's a series that definitely has a certain ‘Kirby vibe’ as exemplified by the assorted series Jack both wrote and drew during the 70s and 80s. And in that vein, there are messages to be found if one looks closely enough, but on the surface it's a cracklin' good adventure yarn.
“The story in Galactic Bounty Hunters
, while it contains star-spanning action and adventure, is really a story about family, and the lengths family members will go to in order to support and protect one another in the face of adversity. On a metaphoric level, it's a personal story that's reflective of Lisa's relationship with her father, writ large in the perennial Kirby style.”