Kirby, a Manhattan native who died in 1994, co-created "Captain America" with Joe Simon in 1940 when he was 23 years old. Though the series was launched before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kirby and Simon, both the children of Jewish immigrants, had drawn a bead on the pre-Word War II zeitgeist, conceiving an image of "Cap" greeting Adolph Hitler with a right hook.
Two decades later, he came up with Iron Man, the X-Men, Thor, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Nick Fury and many other Marvel Comics characters and stories in collaboration with Mr. Lee.
Alas, Kirby's financial fortunes did not keep pace with his creative growth. The artist's dealings with Marvel and DC were fractious enough to incline him to never settle down with either company, and his posthumous stake in his Marvel co-creations has been disputed. A court ruling last year halted an effort by the artist's heirs to deny Marvel character copyrights and to collect additional royalties.
With characters of his co-conception and his original art breaking records on the screen and in auction houses, the epitaph for a man name-checked by such baby-boomer literati as Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem remains bittersweet. Said Mr. Gold, "Kirby's life was both a triumph of creativity and a tragedy of sharing in the spoils of it."