Keep Living, Steve Allen

By Al Tudor

As originally published in Word On The Street, West Street Stories #0
It’s really strange, when you stop and think about it. Each Day we discuss the lives of people we have never met. We refer to them as if they lived next door. We offer our opinions, as if they might be considered pertinent, to lives we never really touch and can never really know. We live the truth of Marshall McLuhan’s “Global Village” each day. It’s so much a part of us that we hardly notice when we feel more interest or concern for an O.J. or a Princess Di than we do for our actual neighbors.

I became acutely aware of my membership in the “Village” in 1973 when Pablo Picasso died. (Yes, I also remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot. However, I was too young at the time to feel much personal loss in the passing of a national leader. I was more concerned that it made my mother cry.)

As a struggling art student, I deeply admired Picasso’s accomplishments, even though I disagreed with his aesthetic. For selfish reasons, I’ll admit, I was saddened by his passing-- diminished by his irrevocable absence from the planet. I was struck with the realization that, now and forever, I would not have the opportunity to meet him. That really upset me-- then and now.

There have been other times when life in the “Village” seemed all too real. When John Lennon was murdered, I screamed shock and disbelief before tears doused both. Brandon Lee’s death depresses me still.

But Jack Kirby’s passing was the passing of one of my oldest friends and teachers-- yet, I never met the man. I realize it’s been some time since he succumbed to cancer, but I hope it is many, many years before people neglect to pay tribute to “The King.”

I love a great story, at least in part, because of Jack. My imagination still swells with excitement at new ideas and strange worlds because of him. Many of my concepts of nobility, justice, honor and right come from Jack Kirby.

Most of all, Jack demonstrated the ways and meaning of true success. Jack was not a great artist or illustrator in the way of a Frank Frazetta or Hal Foster. But with consistent effort he molded an industry-- and maybe a couple of generations of readers-- around his vision. He achieved greatness for himself and-- with the help of that hyping word-hound, Stan Lee-- brought an unprecedented degree of recognition to his profession.

He was the greatest comic book artist and storyteller who ever lived-- and maybe ever will.

I miss Jack Kirby, even though I never met him. Is it selfish to wish he was alive just so I could meet him and thank him? Maybe.

I only know I’m glad I was able to meet William M. Gaines (once ever so briefly) and tell him that I really liked Mad Magazine. My life, at least, is more fulfilled for it.

I’m glad I met Frank Frazetta, if for no other reason than to assure myself that his hands do not glow as if touched by God. I hope to do so again since he’s still very much alive and, as his latest works show, as artistically vital as ever.

There are others still to be met: George Lucas, Sid Ceasar, Paul Simon, Steve Allen, Ken Watterson, Peter David. My life is better while they live. It would be better still if I could look them in the eye and thank them for being.

It is better because Jack Kirby touched it as well. I wish I could have thanked him. I owed him that much. I knew him so well, just as I know all those others-- better than I know my neighbors.

It would be nice if it could be real, just once.

Thanks, Jack. (Don’t die, Steve Allen.)

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by Al Tudor
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