Tracy Kirby Interview
Conducted by John Morrow
Kirby Collector #28
(Tracy Kirby, daughter of Jack and Roz's son Neal, was born May 12,
1972. Like her brother Jeremy, she is actively working to keep the Kirby name
alive, making the most of her close proximity to Hollywood by developing some
of her grandfather's properties for film and animation. She recently achieved
success when Dark Horse Entertainment optioned the rights to her grandfather's
Satan's Six series, with Tracy maintaining a producing role on any features
that come from it. Our thanks to Tracy for participating in this interview,
which was conducted by phone on February 23, 2000.)
Jack with young Tracy, in the mid-1970s.
THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR: As a child, did you remember your dad Neal
talking a lot about your grandfather?
TRACY KIRBY: Yes and no. I grew up being with my grandparents all the
time. I was born and raised in Thousand Oaks, and that's where they lived.
Basically, since I was born—except maybe for the one year my parents moved
to New York, and then moved right back to California— I was always with
my grandparents. He wouldn't really talk about him per se as if we were
far away, and tell stories about him. If I heard stories about my grandfather,
it was from his own mouth—all firsthand, and from my grandmother, too.
TJKC: Do any particular memories really stand out? What's the earliest
thing you remember about your grandparents?
TRACY: Gosh, a little bit of everything. Most of my birthday parties
since I was three or four years old were at my grandparents' house. They
had the pool, the great backyard; it was the ultimate party backyard! (laughter)
I remember as a little kid, my grandparents were so involved in all the little
events in my life, particularly birthdays.
I remember one time for Halloween at my parent's house in Thousand Oaks,
my grandparents came over. I think it was the year I was dressed like Tinkerbell,
and my brother was a pirate. (laughter) My grandfather tried to scare us when
we were coming back with all our candy. It didn't work on me, but it worked
on Jeremy; he threw his candy up everywhere! (laughter) [Grandpa] felt guilty
afterwards, but I was laughing.
TJKC: Jeremy didn't tell us about this story in his interview.
TRACY: C'mon! (laughter) He was very little. I don't think
he'd remember that—but from birthdays, to any time I was involved
in something at school, they were always there. School plays, softball, Girl
Scouts; they were involved in everything.
TJKC: Did they ever get too involved, to the point where you were embarrassed
in front of your friends?
TRACY: Not really. They were pretty much "it" for me, and I
loved being with them all the time. I really can't look back and remember
a time when I thought, "Oh no, there they are again." I loved them
being a part of my life, that's for sure.
TJKC: Jeremy mentioned that Jack and Roz were the de facto baby-sitters,
being so close to where you lived. Did you go to their house, or did they come
TRACY: We would usually go to their house. I loved his studio, because
there were a lot of cool things to play with and look at. Usually he would let
Jeremy and me draw at one of the tables; unfortunately, we didn't get the
same drawing ability, (laughter) but he wouldn't say anything. Usually
most of our time, if we weren't watching TV or a movie, we would be inside
his studio, drawing along with him. He would give us pointers on stuff. (Unfortunately
it didn't rub off, cause I still can't even draw stick figures well.)
He had tons of books in his studio; everything from Little Nemo to Popeye to
some really cool Japanese comic books that I used to read as a kid. I spent
a lot of time in that studio.
TJKC: So you actually got exposed to lots of comics stuff as a kid.
Little Nemo is a pretty refined taste for someone who isn't a comics fanatic.
TRACY: Oh yeah. I had my favorites; I read a few and loved looking at
the pictures. I vividly remember Little Nemo.
He had a box of these old watercolor paints, and that's one of the momentos
from the studio I have. There were all these little bottles in this really old
TJKC: Are they Dr. Martin's dyes?
TRACY: Yeah! I used to play with those so much, and he used to let me
use all of his paints. I thought it was the coolest thing. That's one of
my momentos I'll always keep.
TJKC: You should hang onto those. There are plenty of comics artists
who'd love to get their hands on Jack Kirby's set of Dr. Martin's
dyes. (laughter) You let us run the book report art he
did for you; did he do a lot of drawings for you when you were little?
TRACY: Not really. That UFO report was probably the only thing he ever
did for one of my school projects, but that was probably my own doing. I always
liked to do everything on my own. I always liked cutting things out of magazines,
and stuff like that when I was a kid. So I didn't ask him for a lot of
artwork on papers—but drawing-wise, I've found a couple of little
pictures. He drew a cat, he drew a picture of a horse for me, and stuff like
that which I've kept in a momento box. I guess I never really asked for
his drawing expertise. I never really thought of him as an artist, just good
ol' Grandpa—but the book report was a given: Jack Kirby, UFOs—"Grandpa,
draw me an alien!" (laughter) There was no doubt on that one.
As a kid I always wanted to be a marine biologist, so I did reports on dolphins
and whales, and the ocean itself. I just used National Geographic pictures for
TJKC: I know Jeremy appeared in one of your grandfather's Captain
Victory comics. Did he base any characters on you?
TRACY: In Silver Star, the little girl playing the guitar. The song she
was singing might've been something from Susan, because she wrote a lot
TJKC: The first time I was up at Roz's house, she showed me a photo
of you dressed as Little Orphan Annie in a play, and proceeded to dote on how
smart and beautiful and talented you were. Is it safe to assume she did that
with everyone who came to the house?
TRACY: Yes. (laughter) Both of them were so proud of me when I played
Annie. Another great memory is seeing Grandpa watch me sign autographs to little
kids after the play—another Kirby in the spotlight. (laughter)
TJKC: I think Roz mentioned you were going to be a marine biologist.
Is that what you went to school for?
TRACY: No, I never actually emphasized in marine biology. As a kid, that
was an interest of mine, and when I first went to college I took two microbiology
classes, and I thought, "Whoa! I don't want to do this!" (laughter)
TJKC: She said you were going on dives at the time.
TRACY: Oh yeah. I've always been diving; I've been scuba-diving
for almost ten years now. I finished my G.E.s in college in Florida, and one
of my friends was a scuba-diver, so I learned how to dive and have been diving
ever since. I've gotten to be more professional at it, where I've
learned how to teach scuba-diving, so I can do that for my own personal interest.
California has great diving, so I'm happy.
TJKC: So Lisa's a surfer, and you're a scuba-diver.
TRACY: She's above the water, and I'm below—and we both
have no desire to do the other. (laughter) Underwater's very different;
maybe it's a claustrophobia situation. It's very scary; it took me
about two years to really enjoy it. Your imagination does go a little crazy
down there, especially when you're on shipwrecks, and you're thinking,
"When's that big sea monster going to pop out?" (laughter)
Part of Kirby's original presentation art for Satan's Six,
done in the 1970s. Inks by Royer. Satan's Six
™ & © Jack Kirby.
TJKC: What's the most exciting dive you've been on?
TRACY: I have quite a few good ones. I would say diving off of Catalina
Island, when we did a night dive. I had a friend who had a private boat, and
we went out there in-between an El Niño year. The water was exceptionally
warm, so it caused all the water around Catalina Island to glow with bioluminescence,
which is the plankton that emits light. When they get disturbed, their defensive
mechanism makes them emit a chemical that produces light. When the water's
warm, there's millions of them, so when you jump in the water, you cause
sparkles everywhere. The water lights up like fireworks; it's really, really
cool. The water was so clear, that we dove down about 100 feet, and you could
look up and see the moon, and there was bioluminescence everywhere. We were
just floating in mid-water, taking turns swirling around, causing all these
lights; it was really cool.
TJKC: Other than diving, what else are you into?
TRACY: Well, I'm writing. I've written one screenplay with
a friend, and I've written several treatment ideas for other stories. I've
even started writing a children's story. That's a hobby I'd love
to develop further. Being out here in Hollywood is actually giving me the opportunity
to take the time to start writing down the ideas that are always in my head,
and start putting things on paper. Down the road, that's something I'd
really like to pursue. Once I get my grandfather's stuff produced for film
and animation, I can actually see if anybody would like my own crazy material,
and carry on the Kirby name that way. I can only try.
TJKC: Would you say Roz was a big influence on you? Because you have
some of her feistiness. (laughter) I mean that in a good way.
TRACY: She was definitely always in control, and I looked up to her as
a very strong person, very dependable. Both of them were the most honest, forgiving
people you'd ever meet, and the nicest people to boot. I'd hope people
would look at me the same way. I think the reason I've been able to do
a lot, and see a lot of the world is because they were so supportive of everything
I ever did. Just verbally, always giving me encouragement, and my grandfather
giving me other ideas, and helping me expand on my own ideas. They were both
very influential in that way.
TJKC: The last couple of years in San Diego, I've seen how at home
you are around all the—and I mean this delicately—"comic book
geeks," (laughter) of which I'm one. You seem to have a real grasp
of who's who, who the publishers are, and who the characters are, especially
for someone who didn't grow up reading comics. Did Jack and Roz take you
to conventions as a kid?
TRACY: No, not really. I did go to a couple of San Diego cons when I
was eight or nine. David Folkman used to take me around to all the artists;
there was one year David walked around with me and Grandpa and got all these
artists to draw little pictures for me. I think they're all dated 1976,
so I must've been four years old. I have about thirty pictures from all
these artists; Mel Lazarus, Carl Barks, and Bob Clampett drew one for me.
The last couple of years, I've made quite a few friends out here who know
everybody. I've just taken it upon myself to keep his name out there. Jeremy's
been doing a great job too, with his comic book and web site.
Let's face it; I get a little angry when I see "Stan Lee Presents"
at the big Marvel booth there. I know people know Jack's name and who he
is, but I definitely want to carry his name as far as possible, and hopefully
take it to new heights. The last couple of years, I've had a blast going
to the Con. I love those people; they're so much fun. They're definitely
TJKC: Let's talk about some of the projects you're working
on now. The most high-profile thing is probably Satan's Six. Tell us how
that came about.
TRACY: That's finally been cleared. Dark Horse has optioned the
property for use as a possible feature, live action or animation. I'm attached
with Dark Horse to co-produce the project if and when it gets set up as a picture.
An option means Dark Horse has a certain amount of time to sell the project.
Right now I'm working with Mike Richardson [Dark Horse's president]
and the VP of Entertainment there, deciding on a writer. After we get the screenwriter,
we hopefully get Universal to go for it. It's slow going, but Mike Richardson
is very excited about it.
TJKC: Who initially approached whom on this project?
TRACY: I approached Mike. It's been about two years; I first brought
it up to him at the San Diego Con in 1998. He wanted to do it, and it took up
until San Diego 1999 for paperwork and Hollywood lawyer stuff to go through.
In 1999 we just clarified everything, and the contract was finalized, and back
in October it was cleared. It's amazing how long it takes. Satan's
Six was the first project from the Kirby Estate to get set up.
TJKC: It sounds as if the Estate as a unit has all these Kirby properties,
and you took it upon yourself to promote Satan's Six. Is that accurate?
TJKC: So different family members can promote their own pet projects?
TRACY: Exactly. Because of Satan's Six, to make it easier for the
Estate to set up other projects, we got an agency called Endeavor in Hollywood
who's going to help package other Jack Kirby properties. It's a pretty
big agency, so we're happy about it. They represent a lot of big writers
who've written most of the top ten movies the last couple of years. They
represent the WWF. (laughter) So I'm pretty excited. Right now, with the
help of the agency, the Estate is putting together a presentation package of
properties that we're going to give the agents. They're going to help
set it up, so we don't have to do everything on our own anymore. The agents
will do what I did on Satan's Six to make it easier— I hope! (laughter)
Pencils from Satan's Six #1 with Jack's original dialogue.
Satan's Six ™ & © Jack Kirby.
TJKC: You're also working on a movie treatment for Challengers
of the Unknown.
TRACY: I'm doing that on my own, with a friend of mine. We've
already got people at Warner Brothers interested, and we're in the process
of meeting people at some production companies to set up Challengers.
TJKC: Obviously that's a DC-copyrighted character.
TRACY: Oh yeah. We'd have to go through Warner Bros. I've gone
to Paul Levitz and he's supportive of it. I love Challengers; the whole
idea, the whole premise of it would be just fantastic for a movie. It's
one of those projects that's screaming to be made into a feature. It's
a classic action/adventure.
TJKC: What other projects are your working on?
TRACY: Just the presentation packet. Basically, we're focusing on
the Secret City Saga, Captain Victory, and Silver Star. Those are the main three.
Because it takes so long in Hollywood to get something set up, most people
work on twenty projects at the same time. You wind up getting close on eighteen
projects, but you never get one made, because you didn't focus on just
a few. I'm trying to just stick with getting one of these properties made
into a movie, and then you go from there.
I'm also working as an assistant on a marine research vessel that does
education programs for kids all over the Channel Islands. I'm acting as
one of the dive lecturers; I'm in charge of dive safety for all the kids
when they go snorkeling and diving. That's paying the bills right now until
one of these projects comes through. It's great; they're charters,
so you work two weeks, and you're off two weeks, so I have time to focus
on my Hollywood projects. It works out really well; I like it.
There are so many possibilities that I'm really excited about. I hoping
we'll be able to keep the road going.
TJKC: Last question: What is the most important thing your grandfather
TRACY: Believe in your dreams that show you who you really are, and never
stop believing in how far you can really go—and "Don't take crap
from anybody!" (laughter) He was a tough cookie; I liked his attitude.
He was the nicest man, but you knew there was a tough shell in there. You can
still be honest, and nice to people, but you've got to have that strong
inner self to be completely secure with your own self-worth. I try to stick
to my guns with that.
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