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Gregg Bendian on Jack Kirby

Jack “The King” Kirby (b. 1917, d. 1994) was the dean of comic-book artists. Along with writer/editor/glory-taker Stan Lee, Kirby laid the groundwork of the Marvel Universe by co-creating the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Silver Surfer, Hulk and Captain America, and he blew minds in the ’70s with his explosive, psychedelic sci-fi Fourth World series of comics for DC: New Gods, The Forever People and Mister Miracle.

Kirby’s influence goes beyond the sometimes-insular world of comic books. It’s hard to image what Star Wars would look like without Kirby’s galactic visions, and writer Michael Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which was partially based on Kirby and Lee.

As a kid, percussionist-vibist Gregg Bendian was a fan of Kirby’s work, but it wasn’t until he re-read the collected editions of New Gods, The Forever People and Mister Miracle as an adult that Kirby’s philosophically grand plot, over-the-top verbiage, ingenious inventions and beautifully epic drawings truly hit home. Bendian has honored musicians on his past records: on Interstellar Space Revisited (Atavistic), his and guitarist Nels Cline’s John Coltrane tribute; Gregg Bendian’s Interzone’s self-titled CD for Eremite propped prog-rockers Gentle Giant. On Gregg Bendian’s Interzone’s latest Atavistic CD, Requiem for Jack Kirby, the King gets crowned with a sonically wondrous and adventurous soundtrack suited perfectly for his comics.

JazzTimes: How did you translate Kirby’s sis-boom-bah images into notation/notes?

There was some literal translation into sound. The album starts with the sonic equivalent of a Kirby energy blast, replete with the vibes and guitar issuing forth crackling sparks, flying off in every direction. The drama, the very large dramatic scope of events, the violent confrontations, the otherworldly-ness, all inspired my writing of this music. The idea of having each piece cover a different approach to jazz composition was inspired by Jack’s incredibly varied output as an artist. Ultimately, I tried to capture that exciting feeling from childhood where I’d pick up a comic book and become completely ensconced in another world of the imagination.

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