The Orange County Register

TRABUCO CANYON, Calif. ? Growing up, Neal Kirby didn't know the man in the basement would be famous.

He didn't foresee the legions of fans, the hosannas heaped by comic-book cognoscenti, the $100-million movies that would make characters named Wolverine, The Incredible Hulk, and ? as of this weekend ? the Fantastic Four immortal.

To Kirby, the man opposite the artists' easel in the room downstairs was not Jack Kirby, arguably the most famous comic-book illustrator of his age.

To Neal, he was simply: "Dad."

"I don't think any of the artists of his generation thought they would become ? as they are today ? literal icons," said Neal.

Neal stops and looks fondly at a Fantastic Four poster he keeps in his house ? one of a stack of original documents and reproductions left by his famous father, who died in 1994.

"Dad didn't think, 'Oh, this is like a Leonardo ? it's going to last the ages,"' Neal said, pointing to the illustrations.

He smiled and said, "But it probably will."

Jack Kirby and his contributions to the world of whimsy and adventure created by Marvel Comics in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s will be seen by millions when his name is featured in the opening credits of a movie about his most legendary characters: the Fantastic Four. It is the first such honor for Kirby, the Fantastic Four's original illustrator, whose collaboration with writer Stan Lee is widely believed to have revolutionized the comic-book business.

The recognition, Kirby's family said, comes a day late ? and many millions of dollars short.

"Marvel and the film people act like they're doing us a favor," said Neal, 57. "I'm like, 'Well, gee, you're about 44 years too late."'

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