From 1993 to 1994, Topps Comics’ Kirbyverse was a line of titles and a comic book universe based on previously unpublished character designs and story concepts by comics grandmaster Jack Kirby. Of course, by this time, Kirby’s place in comics history had been secured by his prodigious output and well-documented imagination over five decades in the industry, but the team at Topps thought there was life in some of his previously unpublished concepts.

Talent enlisted to bring the King’s latter-day myths to life included writers Roy Thomas, Kurt Busiek, Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Tony Isabella, and artists Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko, Keith Giffen, Don Heck, John Severin, Walter Simonson, and Kirby himself, among others.

The Kirbyverse began with the giveaway comic Jack Kirby’s Secret City Saga #0, written by Thomas and illustrated by Simonson. The story then continued in a trilogy of character-centric one-shots, Captain Glory, Bombast, and Nightglider, all of which featured covers by Kirby and interior art by Steve Ditko, Dick Ayers and John Severin, and Don Heck, respectively.

The Secret City Saga, developed and written by Thomas, involved a race of humankind called “the Ninth Men,” The enlightened and technologically advanced Ninth Men ruled over the world in fabulous cities like Gazra.

The heroes of the tale and a handful of others survived a cycle of doom that happens every 150 centuries. The same devastation had felled the eight prior races of humankind. The remaining Ninth Men had to defeat the villainous General Ortiz and Dr. Roag, save then-President Bill Clinton (Secret City Saga #3 came bagged with a sax-playing Clinton trading card), and at the same time stop the cyclical apocalypse from destroying modern man, by their standards the “Tenth Men.”

Secret City Saga #1-4 featured interior art by Ditko, who seemed very well suited to the material.

The additional Kirbyverse series included Satan’s Six, The TeenAgents, Silver Star, and Victory (Captain Victory), the last two of which had previously appeared in Kirby’s creator-owned series at Pacific Comics. Satan’s Six had a follow-on series, Hellspawn.

Published in June of 1994, Victory was written by Busiek, illustrated by Keith Giffen and Jimmy Palmiotti, this series was to have everyone in it – from Secret City Saga’s Ninth Men (all in redesigned costumes courtesy of Giffen), to the TeenAgents, to a never-revealed new Kirby hero that might have launched into a new series of his/her own. It instead became the comic book line’s swansong and the genesis of Kirbyverse’s role as a “Lost Universe.”

Given Topps’ main business, it’s not surprising that each of the one-shots came polybagged with a “Kirbychrome” chromium card that combined to form a small set.

In his editorial in Victory #1, then-Assistant Editor Charles Novinskie called Kirby “a drawing/thinking machine.” He wrote, “Few people can imagine the scope of [Kirby’s] genius without seeing the number of characters he has created that have yet to see the light of day.”

“I was lucky enough to interview Jack for PREVIEWS in advance of the launch of these Topps Comics titles – and he was a real sweetheart,” said Diamond Comic Distributors editor Marty Grosser. “His wife, Roz, was on the line listening in, and helping out when needed. Jack was 76 years old at the time, so he was not a young man obviously, but he was still enthusiastic about the line and the people he was working with to bring his personal creations to life.”

The Kirbyverse characters were revisited in Dynamite’s Kirby Genesis series.