You can ask anyone on the street about Fantastic Four, Hulk, or the X-Men, and they'll know exactly who you're talking about. People who don't even read comics have known these Marvel characters for decades, before any of them got their own movie, through the sheer visibility of Marvel's high-profile in the licensing world. Now, ask those same people about DC Comics' The Demon, Mister Miracle, or the New Gods, and watch them stare at you blankly.
They're all creations from artist Jack Kirby, but there was some great creative alchemy at work when the man was paired with Marvel's main man, writer Stan Lee. Biographers and comic historians have painted Lee as a opportunistic glory hound, but the reality is that Kirby and Lee produced the best work of their respective careers as collaborators. Lee keeps trotting out tired hero concepts to this very day, while Kirby's solo work was often too weird for mainstream tastes (and I say this as an admirer of his books from DC.)
With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what animation studio Ruby-Spears and kiddie-show pioneers Sid and Marty Krofft plan on doing with their unused Jack Kirby concepts to replicate Marvel's early success. The prolific Kirby hammered out a pile of discarded series ideas during his time at Ruby-Spears (where he provided design work for Thundarr the Barbarian and Mister T), and the company, partnered with the Kroffts, is hoping to use those concepts for upcoming cartoons, television programs, and, of course, feature films. Better late than never?
They're obviously hoping that they're sitting on the next break-out superheroes, but Jack Kirby's brand name alone may not be enough to get audiences excited. The New York Times has pictures of Kirby's unsold Ruby-Spears pitches (see gallery above) and the images are charmingly quaint. Properties like Roxie's Raiders, Tempest, the Warriors of Illusion, and The Gargoids may not look like the next Iron Man, but who knows? Maybe Hollywood is just superhero-hungry enough to breathe new life into these dusty designs.
Which of these lost Jack Kirby creations could you see up on the big screen?