By Harrison Heller, Membership Coordinator

It has been ten years since the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which puts together the world’s mightiest superheroes. It all began with the introduction of Iron Man and now has culminated with the largest collection of superheroes on the big screen.  It was definitely worth the wait.

One of the founders of Marvel Comics, Jack Kirby, is considered to be “The King of Comics,” and he created a lot of the characters that fans have come to admire. However, most people do not know about Kirby’s Jewish military past:

Kirby was born Jacob Kurtzberg in 1917 to Austrian Jewish immigrants.  Growing up during the Great Depression on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Kirby’s life was rough to say the least.  Street fights were common, but he found relief in reading the colorful pages of comic books.  He was also a gifted storyteller by all accounts, which is probably something he got from listening to his parent’s stories growing up.  He had all the makings of a great comic book creator.

After a few stints drawing comic strips for newspapers, Kirby finally landed a big-time job at Timely Comics, which would eventually turn into the Marvel Comics we have all come to love.  At Timely, Kirby was already rolling up his sleeves and fighting with American Nazis that came to the building looking for Jews to beat up.  This fighting spirit of his carried over to his work.  On the first cover of Captain America, “Cap” is punching Hitler right in the face.  Throughout the early issues of Captain America, you can see Cap fighting time and time again with Hitler as the central villain.

On June 7, 1943, Jack Kirby was called away from the drawing board and drafted into the Army to fight Hitler off the page.  After doing his time in basic training, Kirby was sent to Europe on the front lines.  On arriving there, Kirby’s Lieutenant learned who he was, and he asked Kirby if he was the creator of Captain America.  Kirby enthusiastically responded “Yes sir. I drew Captain America,” and he made Kirby a Scout on the spot, telling him “You go into these towns that we don’t have and see if there is anybody there. Draw maps and pictures of what you see and come back and tell us if you find anything.”

His time overseas deeply affected him.  Being a scout, Kirby saw the worst humanity had to offer.  The time that affected him the most was his experience liberating a concentration camp.  Kirby recalled, “There were mostly women and some men; they looked like they hadn’t eaten for I don’t know how long. They were scrawny. Their clothes were all tattered and dirty. The Germans didn’t give a s*** for anything. They just left the place; just like leaving a dog behind to starve. I was standing there for a long time just watching thinking to myself, ‘What do I do?’ Just thinking about it makes my stomach turn. All I could say was, ‘Oh, God.’”

There are various rumors on whether this was the actual occasion that Kirby finally punched a Nazi in the face.  What is known is that you can see the themes fascism and the Holocaust throughout his works.  One great example of this influence is in the X-Men character Magneto.  Magneto’s origins as a Holocaust survivor as well as the civil rights issues his character presents throughout the series clearly came from Kirby’s experiences during World War II.  Most of his villains embody some sort of fascism and are hell-bent on “perfecting” this world at whatever cost, which brings us back to Infinity War.

Avengers: Infinity War was released April 27, 2018 to huge fanfare. The film tells the story of Thanos and his quest for the Infinity Stones, six stones that date back to the creation of the universe. The stones include the Space Stone, Time Stone, Soul Stone, Power Stone, Mind Stone, and Reality Stone. If Thanos collects all six stones, he has the power to eliminate half of the life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. He believes that this plan will lead to a higher quality of life for those who survived.

The movie starts off with the members of the Avengers divided, due to the events of the film Captain America: Civil War (currently available on Netflix). When the Black Order arrives and attempts to collect the Mind Stone from Vision and the Time Stone from Dr. Strange, the Avengers unite to take on Thanos and his army. The film concludes with the Battle of Wakanda where Thanos collects the sixth and final Infinity Stone, the Mind Stone. Thanos escapes and snaps his fingers. As people are dying, they turn to ash.  Keeping in mind that most the characters featured were created by Jack Kirby, this is just another example of how the themes of the Holocaust and fascism were written into his work.

The film does a phenomenal job of pairing the characters where their personalities work well with one another. You have Captain America, The Winter Soldier, Hulk/Bruce Banner, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Black Widow in Wakanda, a fictionalized African country. Rocket Racoon and Groot, of The Guardians of the Galaxy, with Thor getting Stormbreaker, Thor’s new hammer. Star Lord, Mantis, and Drax, of The Guardians of the Galaxy, with Iron Man/Tony Stark, Spiderman, and Dr. Strange on Titan preparing for the first encounter with Thanos.

Avengers Infinity War is a must see and is the epitome of a summer blockbuster. When the movie starts, it steps on the gas and never lets up. In honor of the late Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, I give this movie 2 thumbs way up.  Nevertheless, we at the Jewish War Veterans know this movie would have not been possible without Kirby’s Jewish military experiences, and to that, we tip our hat to you Mr. Kirby.

Volume 72. Number 2. Summer 2018

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