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.

Tracy Kirby Interview

Conducted by John Morrow

From Jack 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. (laughter)
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.

Tracy today.

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 to yours?
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 case.

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 those.

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 of songs.

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 interesting! (laughter)

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 taught you?
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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