King Kirby Review

King Kirby is a great first play to try if you’ve never been to the theatre. It is fast, funny, and touching, with a quick breather in the middle. The life of Jack Kirby, the iconic creator responsible for some of the biggest characters in comics, is a story for dreamers or anyone who has had to choose between chasing their dreams and eating their next meal.

Derek Mah Sage Theatre Jack Kirby King Play Review
The ghost of Jack Kirby hovering over Sage Theatre’s stage.

Jack Kirby’s creative spark is presented in a rapid fire series of vignettes that are poignant, comedic, and—from our vantage point—tragically absurd, there are neither heroes nor villains in this story.

As a child in the opening scene, King scratches out his fantasies in sidewalk chalk, attempting to tune out the local violence and oppressive poverty. Early romance, career peaks, combat service under General Patton, and the landmark work with Marvel and DC are presented as real life events you can experience rather than merely read about.

These are wonderfully presented, and you are sure to have several favourites—the revelation of Roz’s significant contribution to her husband’s legendary work, Stan Lee’s transformation from a gawky publishing newb to a captain of industry. Through it all we see Kirby as we have always known him, as the dreamer, musing upon the grandeur of it all, and carving his fantasies into infinity.

A visceral moment occurred in the minute after the final lights dimmed. A Sage Theatre season ticket holder, someone who’d evidently been unfamiliar with Kirby’s story prior to this night, turned to me as if I might know, demanding, “do you know what happened to his kids?” I shrugged. “What happened to the kids,” she asked again, and exited to the lobby to pore through the Kirby information on display.

That is the measure of a great story. It’s not about who wins or loses, or even what happens, but that you care about the people. We did. If you are a dreamer, you will, too.

Highly recommended.

PS – thanks James Davidge for the last-minute ticket!