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King Kirby
by Crystal Skillman and Fred Van Lente
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Type of Show
Performance Type
Acts
Duration
Performing Groups
Dance Requirements
N/A
Tech Requirements
Minimal
License it
Overview
Marvelites unite! Peel back the comic strip and discover the true origin story of your favorite superheroes. This is the epic tale of Jack Kirby, the most famous cartoonist you never heard of.

Join Kirby as he survives the Lower East Side slums, lands in Normandy in WWII, creates CAPTAIN AMERICA, THE AVENGERS, and THE X-MEN, and then must fight for the rightful recognition he was denied. This masterful story crackles with wit and effervescent dialogue, and then sneaks in that emotional gut punch when you're least expecting.  POW! BAM! KABOOM!

"A pop-culture Death of a Salesman." 

"With this supple, informative and poignant portrait, [Crystal Skillman and Fred Van Lente] offer penetrating insight into the tirelessly prolific Kirby."
-New York Times Critics' Pick

What's that?  You'd also like to hear it as a podcast? The Broadway Podcast Network made it happen.  You're welcome for your drastically improved commute. 
Plot
Jack Kirby: the great comic book artist who created/co-created some of your favorite heroes on the page and screen--Captain America, the Avengers, Thor, Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man, Young Romance, the New Gods, Darkseid, The Demon… the list goes on and on.

From the Jewish ghetto of New York's Lower East Side to the battlefields of France to the Senate hearings of 1950s, this is a hysterical and heartbreaking story about a man who pours his quintessentially Twentieth Century life into his comics, only to make the fateful mistake. This mistake sends him into obscurity while his creations become known to every person on Earth. A real-life "Adventures of Kavalier & Klay", King Kirby asks what happens when an artist doesn't own his own legacy? Can he ever get it back?

Supplemental material available: original cinematic underscoring and sound effects package to help in your soundscape design by award-winning composer Bobby Cronin.
Casting
1 King Kirby, ensemble of 4+
Male Principals
one principal, male or female
Female Principals
one principal, male or female
Ensemble
4+
A NOTE ON CASTING
While this story is based on actual history, the authors encourage a diversity of race, ethnic background, gender, physical type, and ability in casting. No need to cast any part on a gender/ethnic/racial basis. Any actor can play any role. For instance, in a high school production, a teenage female played Kirby, and in a Seattle production of the show the female actress playing Roz doubled as Simon. Kirby is always played by one actor, but this story has a large ensemble that can double based on production needs. If using five actors, the double casting here reflects the ensemble doubling in the original NYC production. Doubling can happen as the theater sees fit, though we encourage keeping the doubling of Stan and the fan at the end of the piece. In a larger production, roles can be unpacked for any number of actors. For possible ensemble breakdowns, see the script. Conceptually, for a high school production, the role of Kirby could also be played by (or passed along to) several actors. Please contact Uproar for permission in this case. Other than Kirby himself, who is on stage for most of the show, the many other characters are played by ensemble members.
JACK KIRBY
Principal
Gruff, streetwise artist of Austrian-Jewish parents from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. An incredible combination of inner-city toughness and transcendental, cosmic dreamer. The play tracks his life literally from the age of 8 to 80.
STAN LEE aka STANLEY LEIBER
Ensemble
First Jack’s protegee, then, later, his boss, then, even later, his nemesis. Bombastic and melodramatic, born to be a media darling. Begins the play at 16, ends at 60.
JOE SIMON
Ensemble
Jack’s artistic partner through the first part of his career. Practical to a fault, he is the cynical voice-of-reason to Jack’s tendency of day-dreaming. Jack sees comics as a calling; Joe sees comics as a job. The big brother in their friendship.
ROSALINE “ROZ” KIRBY
Ensemble
Another tough Jewish Brooklynite, fiercely protective of her husband. In many ways a much bigger fighter than he is. Next to the phrase “Doesn’t suffer fools gladly” in the dictionary is Roz’s picture.
“THE BOSSES”
Ensemble
One actor plays a revolving door of business-savvy, tyrannical, and just plain bizarre owners of comic book publishers in the mid-1940s. The primary actors will likely double up in numerous smaller roles, delineated in the script breakdown, depending on company size.
THE ENSEMBLE
Ensemble
Crank callers, soldiers, secretaries, animators, spacemen, union organizers, radio announcers, and more.