Kirby was the most prolific American comic book creator of the 20th century. He produced Captain America and countless other iconic heroes in the “Golden Age of Comics” in the 1940s and 1950s and with his partner Joe Simon, initiated romance comics; he generated the concepts and characters of Marvel Comics for editor/copywriter Stan Lee in the 1960s; and he was the auteur of his masterpiece, the multi-title “4th World” New Gods series for DC Comics in the 1970s. In the 1980s he initiated comics’ “direct market” system with his independent title Captain Victory. The top-grossing blockbuster films of today are largely inspired by his efforts. But he is also known for making personal statements in the latter part of his long career, making comics that reflect his experiences growing up in the impoverished Lower East Side of NYC and as a foot soldier in WW2.
“The Oven” is a fictionalized amalgam of two little-discussed and largely undocumented parts of Kirby’s life, a harrowing encounter with Nazis and his treatment for cancer; but this is not meant to only appeal to Kirby’s fans; rather, it resonates with many areas of current and relevant interest to readers, critics and scholars of the comics art form. The accompanying essay clarifies aspects of the story and contextualizes them with the reality of Kirby’s experiences.