Here’s a bit of trivia for you: when he was coming up with an idea for a new comic, art Jack Kirby witnessed a woman lift a car to get her child out from under it. The moment helped inspire one of his most famous creations: the Incredible Hulk.
The interview, between Kirby and Gary Groth, was originally published in the Comic Journal in 2011. In it, Groth has an extensive conversation with the artist, covering a range of topics: his career, ownership of his comics, working with Stan Lee and Joe Simon and others, and of course, the origin story of the Hulk.
The Hulk’s origin story is a really interesting one:he was inspired less by the the person’s physical characteristics, and more of what a person was capable of when forced into action: in this case, lifting a car to remove a small child from under it. I’ve heard stories of soldiers in combat doing similar feats to save fellow soldiers, either lifting heavy weights or gripping dangerously hot metal.
Here’s a couple highlights from the interview:
GROTH: The next character, if I remember correctly, was The Hulk. If I remember correctly you drew a six-issue run of that, then it was cancelled for a little while, then Steve Ditko started it in an anthology book called Tales to Astonish. Can you talk a little bit about how you were involved in creating The Hulk?
KIRBY: The Hulk I created when I saw a woman lift a car. Her baby was caught under the running board of this car. The little child was playing in the gutter and he was crawling from the gutter onto the sidewalk under the running board of this car — he was playing in the gutter. His mother was horrified. She looked from the rear window of the car, and this woman in desperation lifted the rear end of the car. It suddenly came to me that in desperation we can all do that — we can knock down walls, we can go berserk, which we do. You know what happens when we’re in a rage — you can tear a house down. I created a character who did all that and called him the Hulk. I inserted him in a lot of the stories I was doing. Whatever the Hulk was at the beginning I got from that incident. A character to me can’t be contrived. I don’t like to contrive characters. They have to have an element of truth. This woman proved to me that the ordinary person in desperate circumstances can transcend himself and do things that he wouldn’t ordinarily do. I’ve done it myself. I’ve bent steel.
GROTH: Can I ask what your involvement in Spider-Man was?
KIRBY: I created Spider-Man. We decided to give it to Steve Ditko. I drew the first Spider-Man cover. I created the character. I created the costume. I created all those books, but I couldn’t do them all. We decided to give the book to Steve Ditko who was the right man for the job. He did a wonderful job on that.
GROTH: Did you know Ditko?
KIRBY: I knew Ditko as well as any man could. Ditko is a withdrawn, silent type.
GROTH: Did you guys get along well?
KIRBY: I got along with him. I can only speak for myself. I liked Steve very much.
Read the entire interview here.