Monthly Archives: December 2010

Tana Nile Sketch

Wonderful pencil sketch of Jack’s Tana Nile character. Notice Jack has her name as “Tanya Nil.”

John S. added these comments:

Love that sketch of Tana Nile–very sexy!  I don’t have a copy of the book, but since you didn’t mention it in your posting, I’ll assume the picture was taken from Jack Kirby’s Heroes and Villains
 
Being a fan of Kirby’s seventies work more than his sixties stuff, when I first saw the Tana Nile character, I was struck by how similar she looked to Jack’s “space princess” from the sensational sixth issue of his mind-boggling 2001: A Space Odyssey comic, even though the Thor issues obviously came out first. 
 
It just goes to show, however, how wrong all the people were who said that Kirby couldn’t draw attractive-looking women.  Not only could he draw sexy human females, he could even draw sexy alien females!

Kirby/Stone Cap Pin-Up

Original art for an early 1960s Captain Amerca pin-up. Inks by Chic Stone. It looks like it says “Avengers # 10, 1964″ at the top of the page in pencil, but I don’t have that issue so I’m not sure if it was published in that book or possibly one of the Avengers or Captain America Annuals.

Walt and El Groupo

I’m not a huge Disney guy, but there is a documentary on STARZ on-demand called Walt and El Groupo worth checking out.

Not the most exciting movie ever, but a great example of a documentary film that captures Walt and some of his artists and co-workers  in South America on behalf of the Roosevelt Administration’s “Good Neighbor Policy.” Guess this is tangentially-related to Kirby based on the Kirby vs. Disney-Marvel court proceedings, but mainly I find this film interesting because I hope someone eventually does a Kirby documentary using some of the techniques used in this movie – cutting together photos, interviews, music, period film footage, animation, and artwork.

Lego?

I haven’t been following new articles on comics history too closely over the last few years, so I just noticed that TwoMorrows has started publishing magazines about Legos. I am a huge fan of John Morrow and what he has done for comics research (and I must admit I know absolutely nothing about Legos), but I have to say: if the company that I consider to be the top comics history publisher has changed their logo to “Celebrating the Art and History of Lego and Comics,” (Lego first, comics second) this cannot possibly bode well for the future of published comics scholarship. Or maybe I just missed the Lego bandwagon and need to get on board? Here are some Fantastic Four Legos.

Jack Painting

KirbyWorkingKris Brownlow unearthed this great photo of Jack at work (kirbyprimeval.blogspot.com). Kris isn’t sure what the source is for this photo so if anyone out there has any information on this, please share. I’d also love to know more about that painting: I wonder what it was for, and I’d love to have a higher quality scan of the finished image. You can see in the photo above, Jack is working on 1/2 of the image.

In the scan below, it looks like the left side has been cut off. You can see the center line about 3/4 of the way to the right, so we’re also missing the right side of the painting. I wonder if this was published somewhere, or if anyone has the original so we can zoom in and look at the details.

Thanks to Kurt Busiek for pointing out a link to a photograph of the original artwork for this piece on comicartfans. Kurt believes it was part of a series called “Dream Machine.”

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DreamMachine11

DreamMachine4

I only wish Jack had been able to work on more spectacular illustrations like this one. Size matters in the fine-art world, and I suspect if Jack had been able to do more large paintings like this, he would have been able to easily transition into a career producing museum quality masterpieces. This would make a perfect wrap-around cover for a future book on Kirby.

Zooming into the photo, you can see how vivid the colors are on the original.

Happy Holidays

Above, a panel from Best of DC Digest #22 (1981). Below, a splash to “The Seal Men’s War on Santa Claus” also from Best of DC Digest #22 (1981). The story was originally supposed to appear in Sandman # 7, but ended up on the shelf for several years.

Here are a couple cute Kirby homage pieces from the Kirby-Vision weblog on the Kirby Museum site.

Above, a drawing by Kirby reflecting Jack’s pride for his Jewish heritage, and a great image to reflect on when contemplating the true meaning of the Christmas season — peace on earth and good will to all.

Kirby Fourth World Documentary Film?

One of my favorite Kirby characters: the Infinity Man from the last issue of The Forever People # 11 (Nov 1972). Kirby/Royer.

The main reason I started studying Jack Kirby in the early part of the century was because I felt his story would make for a great film. I’m convinced someone will put together a fairly comprehensive documentary on Kirby’s life and work at some point, but unfortunately to really give viewers even a taste of the whole epic scope of Jack’s stories and art, I suspect filmmakers would need to do something like the Beatles Anthology, the 10-Hour, 8-videotape box set was released on September 5, 1996.

I thought the Beatles Anthology was a spectacular example of a lengthy, accessible documentary presentation that examined the artists and their art within the context of the era they lived in. But would there be an audience for a Kirby Documentary of this style and length? My bet is that a 5-hour Kirby documentary project like the one I suggest would be very expensive to make, and based on multiple factors it would be difficult to get investors for the project in the first place.

So how about a 2-hour film that hit the highlights of Jack’s life? A 120-minute presentation could include comments from Jack’s surviving associates, family, current comics professionals, supplemented with audio of Jack from his various interviews. There was a short piece similar to what I propose on the second release of the second Fantastic Four DVD buried on the bonus DVD, but that barely scratched the surface of Jack’s life — so I think something a little more thorough and high-profile is needed.

The question is: how do you pull this off? How do you pack 50 years of comics, plus Jack’s experiences surviving the depression and fighting over in Europe during WW II into one film presentation? Not to mention there are other obstacles: would a company like Disney-Marvel allow the use of Jack’s 60s/70s images? My guess: what is called for is something different than a traditional film. I think what might me more viable now would be a film on one segment of Jack’s career.

Several years ago I was surfing the Jack Kirby Museum website and I noticed one of the goals of the Museum project was to sponsor a documentary film project on Jack. My suggestion was, “How about a documentary on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World?” Quickly, here are the Top-5 reasons I think a documentary film on Jack Kirby’s Fourth World is a great idea.

5. A 4W Film Would be Great Publicity for DC

Obviously DC is the key here. If they aren’t going to allow filmmakers unlimited use of Jack’s stories and artwork from that period, then the project is DOA (and I’m about to waste the next several minutes giving you the next 4 reasons) but, if a producer/filmmaker could put together a convincing case, I can’t imagine why DC would not back such a project. I don’t see what DC could possibly lose from green-lighting a 4W documentary film and conceivably partnering with the filmmakers — obviously DC could release a commemorative 4W book, or another 4W reprint package, or even use the film to springboard a new 4W comic book storyline. A 4W documentary could also create interest in a potential fictional 4W motion picture.

I can think of 100 reasons for DC to back this project and zero why they should not –  this would be the perfect way for DC to honor the legacy of the man many consider the most important comics artist of all time and promote their company and product. This could also help promote the Kirby Estate and educate people who don’t realize the tremendous impact Jack had on comics and the current entertainment industry.

4. A 4W Film is a Very Simple and Straightforward Project

It’s not too ambitious. You’re only covering a period of a few years and exploring the stories and art of Jack’s 4W. Short and sweet. I wouldn’t even worry about the anti-climactic Hunger Dogs (although this could be mentioned briefly). Just discuss the period in the 1970s where Jack was writing/drawing and editing his ground-breaking 4W series.

3. This Type of Film Would be Relatively Inexpensive to Make

75% or more (or all) of the film could be done using inexpensive digital pan-and-scan techniques. Jack’s art can be the star of the film, with voice-over narration explaining the stories and characters. If you’re talking about a 2-hour film, you could use photographs and inexpensive stock footage to do a brief introduction summing up Jack’s life up until 1970, then add a similar bookend at the finish, briefly discussing where Jack went after 4W was cancelled. The only expensive thing would be making your 16mm print to take to Cannes.

2. This Was A Pivotal Moment in Jack’s Life And In Comics History

Jon B. Cooke has a daily weblog on 4W right now on the Jack Kirby Museum site. His weblog gives you an indication of the gold mine of 4W material to be discussed. Jon also has experience working on the Will Eisner documentary so if his schedule allows, he’s someone who could play a key role in such a project.

A Kirby 4W documentary will be a great way to use the film medium to suggest the potential of exploring the history of the comics medium in an audio-visual format. Obviously there are thousands of things about Jack’s 4W that can be discussed and highlighted in a film. There is also some amount of drama: Jack quitting at Marvel, the Colletta controversy, the Superman faces, the inevitable cancellation of 4W, the potential Star Wars connection, etc. the list goes on. It’s a fruitful topic, and Jon’s daily weblog proves this.

I think this period also is a fascinating glimpse into the comics industry in the early 1970s when it was going through a major change in terms of a whole new breed of artists like Neal Adams coming onboard and of course, Jack was there at ground zero transitioning between the two top companies — soon afterwards he would be, in effect, forced out of the industry.

4W also had lots to discuss story-wise, and there are tons of spectacular visuals. It’s a visual feast and an explosion of ideas. A great example of a 50-year-old man at the top of his game proving that creating an entire universe from scratch is child’s play (for Jack).

That brings us to the # 1 reason why I think a documentary on Kirby’s 4W would be a great idea:

1. Jack Deserves It

There is a huge void on the shelves. How can it be that there is still no solid documentary film about Jack Kirby on the shelves? To me this is the time and the perfect vehicle to right this wrong. A simple no-nonsense film talking about the history of Jack’s 4W would be a nice way to give Kirby some well-deserved praise and recognition. I’m sure many comics professionals would back such a project and sit for interviews: Carmine Infantino, Mike Royer, Mark Evanier, and Steve Sherman were there — they have plenty of great anecdotes. Jack’s kids must have memories. My guess is that Jack’s surviving associates, other comics pros, and other people influenced by Jack would be more than happy to add additional commentary — Frank Miller, Bruce Timm, Mike Mignola, etc. This project could bring together the whole industry in order to pay honor to it’s greatest creative force.

To me this is a no-brainer. If DC backs the project and Jack’s Estate is behind it, I think a small team of documentary filmmakers could put together a visually dynamic, and spectacular film on Jack Kirby’s 4W, and this could lead to several things: well-deserved recognition for Jack; a greater understanding of Jack’s impact on the industry amongst non-comics fans — resulting in an inspiring story about a comics writer/artist who initially seemed to have already climbed to the top of the Mount Everest of Creativity in the 1960s, but then he somehow took it to a whole new level in the early 70s, something very few artists of any age or era could conceive of.

The final panel from The Forever People # 11 (Nov 1972)

I hope you all have a great Christmas.

The Kirby Influence

 

Thanks to Kenn Thomas for sending in some of these comments recently.

Kenn Thomas: Every television show based on DC comics these days includes Kirby characters. There’s a Darkseid arc going on in both Batman Brave and Bold and Smallville, and now there’s a new Teen Titans show called Young Justice that has Dubbilex, the Guardian and the DNA project (also with a Superman clone wearing a black t-shirt, supposedly symptomatic of S&S/Toberoff lawsuit, which gave them copyright control over Superman’s costume colors).

Kenn Thomas: I just finished reading the Newsboy Legion volume and it occurred to me that those characters suffered the same fate as Silver Surfer, with later versions being real lame distortions of what Kirby did, if not entirely different things altogether.

Kenn Thomas: The Jimmy Olsen adult versions of the Newsboys originally were the actual characters grown up but if you read Wikipedia somewhere along the line they become clones of the originals, just like the Guardian. (Recall, that in the 40s, the Guardian really was the legal guardian of Newsboys–which was a clever use of irony in the name; in Jimmy Olsen, the grown up Newsboys are guardians of the cloned Guardian, another little irony.) Then there’s another, “post-Crisis” Newsboy Legion that’s even more screwed up. I know that no one should expect much from derivatives of Kirby’s stuff, especially compared to the original, but it occurred to me that such derivatives are not only bad but some of the worst crap that ever gets produced in comics (Byrne’s Fantastic Four, for instance, or Starlin’s New Gods). If someone tried to cover a Kirby concept it’s almost a guarantee that it’ll be bereft of originality and an insult to the original.

 

Thanks a lot for the comments, Kenn. I don’t follow a lot of the new incarnations of Jack’s characters, so I really appreciate Kirby historians like you keeping us informed when Jack’s old characters are reinterpreted by new storytellers. It’s great to see how much Kirby’s dynamics have impacted popular culture and contemporary entertainment – I have a feeling Jack’s creations will continue to be an important part of our culture for many decades to come. Hopefully in the future more and more people will realize the Kirby influence is an important cornerstone many of their favorite TV shows, cartoons, movies and video games are built upon. Thanks for your support and all the great Kirby scholarship over the years Kenn, and happy holidays to you and your family.

Below a typical example of new artists interpreting Kirby characters. From 1976, I think this is Gil Kane pencils and Sinnott inks.

I just met Kurt Busiek in cyberspace over on the JackKirbyCreates Yahoo discussion forum. I’m looking forward to seeing what he and Alex Ross put together for the Kirby Genesis project. I’m happy Jack’s children are finally going to get some money for a property Jack created.

The JackKirbyCreates forum is pretty new, and like many online chat forums the Kirby dialogue has become fragmented and many people are heading over to sites like FaceSpace, TweetChirp, and MyBook, but if you enjoy discussing Kirby, you might want to join us over there. You have to sign-up to post, but it’s a public forum so you can still read the posts without being a member.

Like many people, I’m finding that I’m transitioning out of internet chat, but maybe if we create some interesting threads over there as he works on Kirby Genesis, that might help Kurt to imbue the characters in his new project with many of the Kirby-esque themes and qualities Jack explored throughout his career. Here’s Kurt’s website if you want to learn more about his work:

www.busiek.com

Here’s some promotional art by Alex Ross for the project.

1960s Marvel Bullpen

I’ve been going through my K-files and every now and then I come across something cool, but I’m not sure of the source (if anyone knows where this is from, please email me). Here is an interesting piece: photos of the 1960s Marvel Bullpen. If you’re a fan of 1960s Marvel comics, I’m sure you recognize all of these names.

Here’s a few Marvel Christmas cards from 1970, 1971, and 1978. I’m guessing the art is by Marie Severin.

Thanks to John S. and Frank F.  for both sending in this info: The photos of the Bullpen Gang were in the back of Fantastic Annual # 7 (Nov 1969). It was the 1st FF Annual that had all reprints while the previous 6 annuals had new stories.

I guess I never owned the first printing of that book (must’ve read the reprint) so I’d never seen the bullpen photos. Lot of great memories looking at all those artists’ names.

John S. also had some great additional comments on the Defenders post.

I just read your posting for tomorrow–fabulous, as usual.  Thanks so much for all the kind words.  I’m not gonna let you off easy before the holidays, though (lol)!  Take a second look at that cover to AVENGERS ANNUAL #6.  Kirby/Giacoia?  Probably not.  Kirby/Verpoorten, more likely.  As you alluded in your post on CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #3, there was a TON of uncredited Verpoorten inking on ’70s Kirby work that was ascribed solely to Giacoia (particularly on Cap)–so much so, in fact, that fans often attributed pages to Giacoia that, upon closer examination, were clearly Verpoorten’s handiwork. 
 
That F.F. 167 cover was one of MY faves, too.  Thanks for showcasing that dynamite original!  Interesting (and a good editorial decision) how the copy from the two cover blurbs got interchanged somwhere between the original art and the printed version.  But just a slight correction on this one, too (if you’ll forgive me).  Issue 167 wasn’t “one of the last Kirby/Sinnott (F.F.) covers.”  They actually collaborated on a whole slew of covers right up to and including issue number 200.

Thanks to Henry K. for pointing out that despite having all-reprints, FF Annual # 7 had a new Kirby cover. Kirby/Sinnott.

I’d never even seen that cover in color before. Not Jack’s best FF cover, but still a solid effort by Kirby. I guess Marie Severin gave Jack layouts for this one, so that’s why you have the silly image of Mole Man holding up a sign.