Jack Kirby Collector Edited by John Morrow Jack Kirby Collector celebrates the life and career of the "King" of comics through interviews with Kirby and his contemporaries, feature articles, and rare & unseen Kirby artwork. Now in tabloid format, the magazine showcases Kirby's art at even larger size.

The Kid From Left Field

Jack & Roz's youngest daughter Lisa interviewed by John Morrow

From Jack Kirby Collector #20

(Lisa Kirby, whom Jack dubbed "The Kid From Left Field" in the Jimmy Olsen #133 text page, was born September 7, 1960 in Brooklyn, NY. As the youngest of Jack and Roz's four children, she grew up during her father's most prolific creative period in comics. She now serves as Co-Executor - with cousin Robert Katz - of her parent's estate, overseeing usage of Jack's creations. This interview was conducted by phone on April 6, 1998.)

THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR: What do you remember about living in New York? Did fans stop by the house at all?
LISA KIRBY: I was so little... I'm sure they did. My dad always had people in and out. I remember more from when we moved to California; when we lived in Thousand Oaks, I always remember people being there. It was kind of a constant thing; it was the norm for me.

TJKC: The story we've all heard was that you had asthma problems, and that's why the family moved out to California. Is that correct?
LISA: Right. It was really bad; I was a really sickly kid, actually. I was in the hospital a lot, I missed a lot of school. My mother had asthma too. They thought it would be better to move to a warmer climate.

TJKC: I don't know if you realize it, but indirectly, you're responsible for the San Diego Comic Convention! (laughter) Fans should be grateful to you for getting your dad out there where they could meet him.
LISA: I never thought of it that way. (laughter)

TJKC: How old were you when you moved to California?
LISA: I was about eight.

TJKC: Did the kids at school know who your dad was, and what he did?
LISA: Yeah, it was really neat. I have fond memories of it. He always came to my classroom. When we had parties, he'd draw. He'd take the letter of a child's first name, and turn it into a super-hero. (laughter) Everybody was enthralled; it made me a very popular kid, (laughter) which was great because I was sick all the time, and I was really shy. I never uttered a word to anybody. I don't know what happened to me; now I can't shut up. But in the early years, it really helped me, because otherwise I probably wouldn't have had any friends! (laughter) It made me really popular.

He always did that, even as I got older. I was a preschool teacher for awhile, and he came to my classroom, and did the same thing. So there's some parents out there with very valuable momentos! (laughter) I wonder if they know they have them.

He was always really good about giving back, y'know?

TJKC: Did your classmates pester you, wanting to know, "What's your dad going to draw next issue?"
LISA: Everybody would always ask me, and what's so funny is I never really knew that much. I lived with it, but I never knew that much about what he was doing, I guess because it was just something Dad did; it was his job, and I thought of it that way. Everybody was like, "Were you in your dad's studio? What is he doing?" (laughter) To me it was like, "Who cares? (laughter) Daddy's working." I had a different view, I guess.

We just did everyday kid things. I didn't think anything of it. I saw my father, and I knew that was his job, that's what he does. I knew it was definitely different than someone else's father, (laughter) but I just had the attitude of "That's what he did." Then I got older and went, "Wow, look at this stuff!" Even today, I'm going through all this work, inventorying everything, and I'm just in awe. I'm almost ashamed of myself; I can't believe what I missed and did not pay attention to.

TJKC: I take it you weren't a comic book reader.
LISA: No, I wasn't at all. In fact, I didn't really get into it until I was older, and noticed, "Wow, this is really good stuff!" When I was younger, it just really didn't appeal to me that much.

TJKC: Would it be a fair assessment to say your dad was always working?
LISA: Oh, yes. He worked all the time. He wasn't the kind of dad who took us camping or things like that. He was a workaholic. As I was growing up, I was involved with horses; I went to horse shows, and he always came to all my horse shows. He was always really supportive of what I did. But his schedule was: He woke up late, and I'd see him for a little bit in the morning, and then the afternoon hit, and he was working. He was in "the room." (laughter)

TJKC: So he was home all the time, but you didn't see a whole lot of him?
LISA: No, unless I went in to see what he was doing. He'd come out every so often, but he worked quite a bit. He worked all night long; he'd work till 2:00 in the morning most of the time, then sleep, then start work again at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon.

TJKC: Did he work on holidays as well?
LISA: No, we always had pretty good family gatherings. I'm sure he probably worked part of the time, but we usually had company and relatives. He was a pretty social guy, so he definitely participated during that time.

TJKC: Did all the relatives gather at your place on holidays, or did you take trips?
LISA: Once in a while we'd take trips upstate when we lived in New York. When we moved to California, we didn't have that many relatives in California at the time. Everybody kind of took turns.

TJKC: Was it really tough being the youngest child?
LISA: Not really, because I was a spoiled brat. (laughter) I think I was "Daddy's Girl" to tell you the truth. I hate to admit it. He was very overprotective. I was the baby.

TJKC: Which of you four kids was the most into what your dad was doing?
LISA: Probably my brother [Neal]. My sister Susan was a singer, and she was always involved in music, and traveled around a lot. But my brother was home a lot, and he probably read more comic books than any of us. I think he was more into reading them, and got into the whole thing more than the rest of us.

TJKC: Roz talked about how often you had people over.
LISA: (laughter) We always had people over. She forgot me at school once because there were people over. (laughter) They were just really good that way; they'd open their doors to everybody.

TJKC: Didn't that get really annoying for you as a kid, to constantly have strangers over?
LISA: I guess I was just content. It was something that was always there and that I was used to. It didn't really matter to me; I was always out riding my horse, and had a lot of friends I hung out with. I just got used to people coming in: "Oh, who's here today?" (laughter) Then my friends would come over and disappear into "the room" and I'd never see them again, either.

TJKC: Was anybody ever friends with you just to meet your dad?
LISA: I don't know. It could've been that way, but if it was I didn't really notice. I think they thought it was really cool. They'd come over and say, "Wow, this is what your dad does? Can I see the studio? Can I meet your dad?" We'd go in there, and of course my dad would go into his stories-you know how he is. They'd go into, like, some kind of hypnotic state. (laughter) They'd hang out in there for a while, and it was neat; then they'd come out. But as I got older, my boyfriends started to venture in there, and I'd never see them again-then I got a little resentful! (laughter)

TJKC: What did your dad think of your boyfriends?
LISA: In the era I grew up and started dating in-the late '70s-most of them had long hair and were kind of hippie-ish. He made the comment: Why couldn't I meet someone that had shorter hair? (laughter) I heard that a few times. They were really good about my friends. Sure, they got scrutinized, and before I went out, they had to know where I was going, and what time I'd be home, and this and that, like any other parent.

TJKC: Was your mom more strict with that kind of stuff than your dad?
LISA: No, I think my dad was. He'd say, "Roz, make sure you know where she's going," and that type of thing.

TJKC: Your dad drew a lot of hippies in the early 1970s. (Lisa laughs) How hip or unhip was your dad? Did he really understand the hippie culture, or was he just picking up on stuff he saw on the news?
LISA: I think a little of both. He definitely watched the news all the time. He was very much into current events and world affairs, and he read quite a bit. I think he was hip, but he was also brought up a certain way. I'm sure they were all a little bit more clean-cut back in those days. (laughter) What I liked about him was he wasn't prejudiced against any particular culture-what people wore or what they did. He was just so open-minded, and he really accepted people for who they were. I thought that was really special.

TJKC: What about politics? Did he rant and rave about any political figures?
LISA: I never really heard him talk about politics all that much. I know he was a Democrat, and he probably did say a few things about Nixon. (laughter) I think he was pretty liberal, as far as that goes. He never really talked politics with me that much.

TJKC: Do you think he had a really old-fashioned view of women? Did he think the wife should stay at home, and the man should be the breadwinner?
LISA: He was definitely old-fashioned in some respects. I think he was old-fashioned in his etiquette toward women, with the door-opening, and like that. He'd never let any of us take out the trash, because that was a man's job. (laughter) There were just certain things that men were supposed to do; but I don't think he thought women had to be homemakers, and that type of thing. If a woman wanted to go out and have a career, he'd be all for it. Even though my mother was a homemaker-she stayed home-she still pretty much ran the household, and he needed her to do that.

TJKC: Was he as likely to encourage you and your sisters' careers as he was Neal's?
LISA: Oh, yeah, definitely. They were always supportive of us. They may have thought some of my ideas were a little nutty at the time, (laughter) but they tried not to come right out and say that-not that we were going to go out and do something crazy.

My sister Susan at an early age was a musician and a singer, and went to Europe and traveled around back in the 1960s. That was something women didn't really do that much of back then. They definitely encouraged creativity, and doing your own thing.

TJKC: I've heard stories about what an awful driver your dad was. Who gave you your first driving lesson-your mom or your dad?
LISA: Definitely her. (laughter) I've never been with him when he drove, actually. He quit driving way before me. I may have been in the car with him once when I was really young. He couldn't think; I want to say he was always in fantasyland, thinking of work. At least he knew he was a lousy driver. (laughter) Most people don't know, and they keep driving around. (laughter) He just couldn't keep his mind on basic stuff like that.

TJKC: I'd like to get your perspective as a woman; can you relate at all to what you dad was doing with all this testosterone-laden work, with all the punching and leaping and all that?
LISA: What I like was that his characters were actually pretty wholesome. I think the women characters were very strong; gosh, they were like Amazons! (laughter) He had very strong women characters; I feel he made them the equal of any of the male super-heroes. I don't really have a favorite, as far as the female characters, but I think he was pretty fair. He made some really strong female characters.

TJKC: Why do you think his comics appealed more to guys than girls?
LISA: I don't know. I think young girls are more interested in reading romance stories or that type of thing.

TJKC: Have you ever read any of your dad's 1950s romance comics?
LISA: I have; I went through them. I thought they were really corny. (laughter) It's funny; I'm reading more of his work now than I did when I was younger. It's so different for me now; I have such a different point of view on the whole thing.

TJKC: Did you ever offer any story or character suggestions?
LISA: No, I never did. I did like to write myself; when I was younger I used to write songs and poems. He'd always read them and say, "Wow, this is so good! You should keep doing this." He was always encouraging me.

TJKC: As a kid, did you get any good bedtime stories from your dad?
LISA: (laughter) I think he was working when I went to sleep. But we used to hear all his stories; all the war stories...! (laughter)

TJKC: Do you remember any of them, or did you just tune them out after a while?

LISA: Oh, my gosh! (laughter) Even my mom; he'd start in, and she'd go, "Jack, we've heard that story so many times!" (laughter) We'd roll our eyes at him, and he'd go, "Oh, you girls!" (laughter) We heard so many, it's hard to even pinpoint one. But the War definitely had a traumatic effect on him. He made some of his stories humorous, and that somewhat took the edge off them-and then he had some that were actually very tragic.

TJKC: Do you have memories of any particular family trip or event?
LISA: When we were really young, we used to take long road trips up to the Catskills of Liberty, NY and visit my cousins and aunt and uncle. They used to stuff us in the car and drive us up there. When we moved to California, I remember them taking me to Disneyland; we did all the basic family amusement park things.

TJKC: Did you prefer California to New York?
LISA: I did, but I don't remember too much of New York. When we moved up to Thousand Oaks, it was great; we lived up in the hills, and I had my horse. I went hiking and enjoyed the outdoors. I think it was nice for him, considering where he grew up on the Lower East Side. He just loved it; he was getting to be a cowboy and living out a fantasy of his. (laughter) My dad didn't really like to travel that much; he wasn't into going on planes, so we did a lot of things at home.

They always were entertaining; we always had parties. We had these pool parties, and tons of people would come. It was a little bit of everybody; fans, friends, other artists. They always had their house open to people, and I think they really enjoyed entertaining.

TJKC: We know he enjoyed movies; do you remember seeing any with him?
LISA: I don't remember seeing movies with him that much. I know he loved Charles Bronson. (laughter) That was his favorite; he'd sit there and watch these action films. He liked Clint Eastwood too. (laughter) I don't remember much about going to movies with him; he worked a lot! (laughter)

TJKC: Where did you go to college?
LISA: I went to Moorpark Community College for two years here in southern California, and I became a preschool teacher for a little over ten years. Now I'm a massage therapist; I have a private practice. I've been doing that for the past five years; I work on a lot of athletes, and go to a lot of sporting events. I like it; I was ready for a career change, and I'm very sports-oriented, and it's something I really enjoy and believe in.

I'm kind of a beach bum, and I definitely like to surf; that's kind of my thing. My mother would say, "Oh, my daughter's a surfer...!" (laughter) I love the Silver Surfer, of course! (laughter)

TJKC: Is that your favorite Kirby character?
LISA: I like Thor a lot too, but the Silver Surfer's probably up there.

TJKC: Which one of the Kirby kids has the best understanding of what your dad did, and the importance of preserving his art?
LISA: Well, I think we're all concerned, but probably myself, and my niece Tracy. Also, my cousin Robert Katz has been a great help to me, and Mike Thibodeaux has been just wonderful. Now I take a really big interest in trying to preserve it as much as we can; you know, just keeping things going, and keeping his name out there, and making sure people can enjoy his characters for as long as possible.

TJKC: Is that your primary responsibility as Co-Executor of the estate?
LISA: Yeah, trying to control that end is part of it. Robert Katz and I collaborate a lot on it.
TJKC: What's the weirdest experience you remember with a fan?
LISA: The UFO People. (laughter) They looked like very conservative, clean-cut all-Americans. Of course, they invited them in and showed them around. What these people did was sell their homes and give away their belongings, and they were going to the desert because the Mother Ship was coming to pick them up! (laughter) And my dad's like, "Oh, okay, come on in, have a cup of coffee!" (laughter) I used to tease them that if Charlie Manson came to the door, they'd invite him in.

TJKC: Were you closer to your mom or your dad?
LISA: I had pretty different relationships with both of them. With my dad, the time I did get to spend with him was really special, because I didn't have that much time to spend with him. You think when you have a father that works at home, you'd get to spend a lot of time with him, but that really wasn't the case.

TJKC: Do you have a fondest memory of your mom or your dad?
LISA: This may seem off the wall, but my dad did a really neat thing for me. I had a horse, and one of the stipulations for them buying me a horse and having it at home was that I was to take care of it, and do all the cleaning and raking manure, and all that. (laughter) And every day, my dad would get out there with a shovel and clean that corral, and throw that stuff over the fence into the canyon. I was twelve years old, and I'm like, "Dad, I thought I was supposed to do that." And he goes, "Girls are not supposed to do this kind of work." (laughter) So he'd shoo me out of there, after this whole thing about how I was supposed to take care of my horse, and I think he actually enjoyed it! I think it was therapeutic for him to shovel manure over the fence! (laughter) It was like his little break from work, to go out there and clean my corral.

He was just such a super guy. I miss him a lot, mainly because he was so humble, and good to people. He didn't have any airs about him; he was just very down-to-Earth. That's what I loved about him; he was so accepting of people. That's why he opened his home to everyone.

My fondest memory of my mom... there's a lot of memories. We had a real good mother/daughter relationship. My mother and I argued more than my dad and I did! (laughter)

In high school, a friend of ours, Gary Sherman, found out Paul McCartney was a fan of my father. My father drew a caricature of the Paul McCartney & Wings band; he made them all into super-heroes. They invited him to a concert, and we went backstage and presented him with the drawing. At first we didn't think we were going to get to meet him; we met Linda McCartney. She was a wonderful lady, very nice. Then I turned around, and out comes Paul McCartney-and I just stood there...! (laughter) I was probably about fifteen, and I just stood there and stared. My mom used to tease me about it: "You _didn't even say one word to him! You just stood there with your mouth hanging open in disbelief!"

They gave us tickets, and the Forum in LA was packed. We're all sitting there, and all of a sudden my mom goes, "Lisa, what's that smell?" (laughter) The guy next to me had lit up a joint, and my mom says to me, "Is he smoking marijuana?! Oh my God!" So she took a kleenex out of her purse, and she held it over her face for the entire show! (laughter) And I'm sinking in my seat out of embarrassment.

But the most exciting part was when Paul McCartney got up to sing "Magneto & Titanium Man" and he dedicated it to Jack Kirby. That was just outrageous; it was really exciting!

Also during the '70s, when KISS was popular, we got tickets to a concert and dad went down and talked to Gene Simmons while he went offstage to fix his makeup. (laughter) I was going to these rock concerts with my parents; it was kinda neat.

TJKC: Just in our short talk here, I sense a lot of similarities between you and your mother, in your mannerisms, and the way you talk.
LISA: A lot of people say that. I spent a lot of time with her. My mother was a very strong woman; very strong-willed. She ran the show. She was a tough cookie, and I think I have a lot of those traits. I can also be really stubborn, and she and I would bump heads once in a while. (laughter) But I think those are good qualities to have, to an extent.

A fond memory with my mother alone was a big party I had for her 75th birthday. A lot of people came up to the house, and that was probably the last big party we had before she became ill. She was really shining during that time; she was so appreciative of everybody being there. She was the queen of the moment. (laughter) It was nice to see her happy.

A fond memory of them together would probably be their 50th Anniversary. It was kind of sad, because my father at the time was in remission from his cancer, and he didn't look well. But they got up there and renewed their vows, and they danced. It was just a really great moment.

They both had a lot of perseverance, even during my father's illness. He didn't want people to know that he felt bad, and they were both like that. They tried to have very good attitudes, even when they didn't feel well.

TJKC: Last question: What's the best advice your dad ever gave you?
LISA: Hmmm. I guess to do the best you can. Whatever you choose to do, do it well, to the best of your ability, and go after your dreams.

He was very pro-education; he thought having a good educational background was a real positive thing for people to do. I know he always encouraged young people to stay in school. I kind of wish I had! (laughter) I enjoy what I do, and I'm happy with what I do, and I do go to school-but I wish I'd taken more of his advice about staying in college and getting my degree. Later in life, when you have more responsibilities, it's harder to do that.

(Lisa would like to extend her deep appreciation and special thanks to the fans and industry professionals who sent their condolences on the passing of her parents. Your warm cards and letters have been a great comfort.)

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