Happy birthday, Jack!

“I think that the human being is very important.” – Jack Kirby, 28 August 1987

Jack Kirby’s 94th birthday. Another day to celebrate one of the Twentieth Century’s greatest, yet secret, creative forces.

Jack Kirby created compelling, dynamic and imaginative comic book stories and characters from the start of his comic book career in 1939 to his retirement in 1987. Kirby loved movies, was a fan of science fiction, and, due to his outrageous experiences in New York City’s worst ghetto and the European Theater of World War Two, had a unique take on the human experience. He worked extremely hard to make exciting comic book stories that would sell, to keep his family financially secure. It’s a shame that someone has to clear a long-hovering cloud of hyperbole and look past the silence of Martin Goodman’s corporate heirs to learn about one of the creative powerhouses behind the Marvel works. Why is Jack Kirby a secret?

It’s been 17 years since he passed away, and he and his work still exert a deep influence on our cultural landscape. Right as two high-profile movies are released based on his work – usually something to celebrate, in a way – Judge Colleen McMahon determined that Kirby’s work for Martin Goodman between 1958 and 1963 was owned by Martin Goodman at the moment Kirby drew it.

I started writing a criticism of McMahon’s “Memorandum opinion,” but what’s important is that the Kirby heirs have filed an appeal, and obviously, the Museum supports them with their efforts.

Considering the recent, and forthcoming, high-profile movies as well as the maddening court decisions, I’m thankful there are a number of people out there supporting Jack Kirby:

Did you know Steve Bissette is boycotting Marvel product until Marvel pays the Kirby family, and acknowledges Kirby as the co-creator of all of the properties he co-created? Frank Santoro is doing so. I am doing so, as well.

Jason Garrattley’s Kirby-Vision blog is hosting a Kirby Tribute gallery today. Jason’s had a number of great pieces on Kirby-Vision recently.

And, of course, the Kirby Museum has a number of projects in the works:

In October, we’re manning a small-press booth in the Javits Center at New York Comic Con. To coincide with NYCC, we’re also mounting, with help from Karl Heitmueller, a Kirby Tribute art show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey, which is only a short ferry ride away from the Javits Center. I’m excited that folks like Tom Scioli, Frank Espinosa, Mark Badger, Jason Atomic, Norris Burroughs, Andrei Molotiu, and Mark Frauenfelder are interested in participating, as well as some of the best local Hoboken cartoonists. More artists are being invited and added to the roster every day. The art show will have an opening event, but the date hasn’t yet been nailed down. There’s also going to be a musical Kirby tribute on Saturday night – we’ll announce the acts shortly!

At NYCC, I’ll be presenting a panel with pop culture historian Arlen Schumer that draws a line in the sand regarding the comic book cartoonist/storyteller, with Jack Kirby being main subject. Also participating will be TwoMorrows Publisher/Museum Trustee John Morrow, as well as other luminaries. More to come.

We will, of course, be scanning Kirby art for our digital archive project, so please bring your Kirby art to NYCC!

In early December, the Museum plans to man a table at the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival.

AND

We’re also working on an amazing, incredible project for November/December, that we hope to make a big announcement about real soon now, with which we will need all your support and help. It’ll be an awesome tribute to Jack Kirby, if it all comes together. Jack Kirby must not remain a secret! Stay Tuned!

Please support the Museum by joining, and helping. Your support is what keeps the Jack Kirby Museum going.

AND FINALLY,

Here’s a recording from 28 August 1987, Jack’s 70th birthday, when Jack was a guest on Robert Knight’s Earthwatch radio show on WBAI in New York City. Knight’s special co-host that night was Warren Reece. Max Schmid of Old Time Radio was on board, as well. Unfortunately the recording starts with the show already in progress. Near the end of the show, Stan Lee calls in. Enjoy!

I shrunk the YouTube player down, well, because it’s audio only. Here’s a link to the YouTube page.

(Many, Many Thanks to J.J. Barney for sending the Museum this recording for our archives. If you or anyone you know has a recording of the complete show, please let me know!)

4 thoughts on “Happy birthday, Jack!

  1. Mike Cagle

    It was painful to listen to this. What ridiculous questions! “What can you say about these changes to paste-ups made in the 1940s?” — “I’m sure you’re aware of developments in massive parallel computing, right?” Sheesh! It’s like they didn’t know anything about Kirby — or have any common sense or tact. Were they just showing off their arcane knowledge? And then to ambush him with Stan Lee! How rude!! Ouch! You can tell that Jack is trying to be polite, but is very annoyed and even distressed. I bet he kicked the wall when he got off the phone. Way to ruin his birthday. Still, always interesting to listen to Jack.
    As for the Stan/Jack dispute, it’s clear that Stan thinks “writer” means “the one who writes the actual published words themselves,” while Jack thinks “making up what happens in the story” also counts as writing. Stan’s definition is kind of simpleminded, I think (and I think Jack’s point of view makes more sense) — but as he (Stan) says, they are both right, by their own definitions. Of course, Stan’s “writing” also sometimes includes “selecting from among words suggested by Kirby, and altering them a little.”
    And as for the court decision … it’s very sad, but I think the judge probably decided correctly, as a matter of law. As she notes at the beginning of the decision, it’s not about what’s “fair” in a moral or ethical sense, it’s just about whether that kind of work, done at that time, was “work for hire.” I think it’s pretty clear (though sad and unfair) that comics artists (and publishers) in the early 1960s assumed that the companies owned the work. And in any case, the agreement Jack signed in the late 70s in order to get his art back seems to pretty clearly torpedo the case. Now, if an appeal results in a different decision, I’ll be really happy for the Kirby kids and read it with great interest. But sadly, what’s legally correct isn’t always congruent with what’s “right” in a larger sense.

    Reply
  2. Bryce

    I would have never imagined something like this existed- Stan and Jack discussing who did what together on the radio in 1987. On Jack’s freaking 70th birthday. Drama worthy of a Kirby tale. And horrible pseudo-intellectual hosts.

    Thanks so much for linking to this. Jack exhibits real grace considering the circumstances. It is the best bad interview I have ever heard.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>