Jack Kirby would've been 96 today (here's how to celebrate)

Jack Kirby, the legendary artist who, with Joe Simon, created the genre of romance comics before going on to co-found the Marvel Universe with the likes of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Don Heck, would have turned 96 today.

If you've enjoyed stories about Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Challengers of the Unknown, Thor, Etrigan the Demon, Nick Fury, the X-Men, Klarion the Witch Boy, Black Panther, Ant-Man, the Wasp, the Incredible Hulk, Darkseid, the Red Skull, Kamandi or Mister Miracle -- in comics, in film or on television -- you should thank Kirby, who created all of those characters (and many, many others) either in collaboration with Simon or Lee, or on his own.

But most people reading this blog already know that. What you may not know is what's being done today to celebrate Kirby's birthday -- and how you can help.

As we noted earlier this month, Kirby's youngest granddaughter Jillian has launched the second annual Kirby4Heroes campaign, which encourages fans to commemorate his birthday by making a donation to The Hero Initiative, the only industry organization that provides financial assistance to creators who have fallen on hard times. (You can donate online here; be sure to include "Kirby4Heroes" in the special instructions field.) Sixteen retailers have also pledged a percentage of their profits from sales made today, or to raise money in other ways. This year's Kirby4Heroes goal is $10,000, nearly double what was raised in 2012.

In addition, The Hero Initiative has organized "Wake Up and Draw," recruiting more than 40 artists to celebrate by drawing “birthday cards” to Kirby (search for #WakeUpAndDraw on Twitter). Their illustrations will be showcased at ComicArtFans.com and auctioned at a later date, with the proceeds going to the organization.

It's also worth your time today to browse Tumblr today for posts tagged "Jack Kirby" to see a parade of photos, artwork -- both Kirby's and those by artists he continues to inspire -- and tribute after moving tribute. In one of my passes this morning, I stumbled across this incredible portrait by David Cowles:

You might also want to visit the Kirby Museum & Research Center website and Tumblr page (and consider donating), and WhatIfKirby. Beyond all of that, what better way to celebrate the life and career of Jack Kirby than to sit back, read some of his comics, and enjoy the stories and characters he left behind?

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