Here’s an article a reader passed along to me last year, but I never got a chance to post it:
“Shame on you, Captain America!”
By Scott Edelman
I don’t know Scott Edelman at all, if I have spoken to him in the past I don’t recall, so I hope my comments to his post don’t seem unnecessarily rude. I’m just giving my opinion here, which is: this article should be called: “Shame on you Scott Edelman!”
Before I start, let me say a few quick things: I wasn’t a fan of Jack’s work in the 1970s either. I was 10-years-old and it was too weird for me. I loved Sinnott on Kirby in the 70s reprints. Now 30 years later, I love the 70s stuff. So I totally understand hating Kirby’s work as a kid — I did too. I also have zero problem with someone hating Jack’s prose. I dealt with Jack’s critics all the time on the old Kirby-l so I’ve heard it all before. For example, the guy who invented the term “Kirby Kultist” said many times that he felt Jack’s text was “klunky” and “stilted and awkward” or something like that. I’ve even criticized certain aspects of Jack’s text. So if you say Jack’s text makes you “wince?” I don’t care. No problem. That’s your personal taste. Some people don’t like spinach, I do. You are entitled to your opinion.
What I do have a problem with is the disrespectful way Jack was treated by certain Marvel staffers — what I have called the “Stan Lee wanna-be’s” — in the 1970s who wanted to kick Jack out the door so they could write the comic book captions for books like Captain America. Now, I understand that’s the way the world works — the “ungrateful punks” as Edelman calls them always try and force out the old folks and take over their jobs. That’s life. It’s gonna happen to every one of us. But I’ve heard the things these “ungrateful punks” said about Jack in the 70s got back to him and their bitter remarks hurt him deeply. So I think that period was a shameful one in Marvel history, and comics history, and I’m surprised Edelman didn’t express any kind of remorse for the way he and his fellow “ungrateful punks” treated Jack and his work during that period.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
I was on staff at Marvel Comics in the mid-’70s when the King returned and tried to pick up where he’d left off. At the time, as I sat there in the Bullpen with my blue pencil and proofread the original art for some of his initial issues of titles such as Captain America, which he not only drew, but wrote and edited, I was horrified. The art could still be the stuff of dreams at times, but the words that came out of his characters’ mouths seemed more like a nightmare.
The buzz from us kids in the office wasn’t kind. I’ll admit it. Kirby was a god to us for what he did during the ’60s, but what he was doing at Marvel in the ’70s made us wince, and we didn’t have the tact or maturity to say it appropriately. So we acted like ungrateful punks. But now that the years have passed, as I read some of those issues of Captain America over again, I’m wincing still.
I appreciate Scott’s honesty, but what a cruel way to treat Jack in the 1970s. It’s too bad Marvel couldn’t have found another intern to draw blue lines on Jack’s art who didn’t find Jack’s material “horrifying” or a “nightmare” to look through. It must have been heartbreaking when these kind of comments got back to Jack and his wife.
I don’t think being an “ungrateful punk” is an excuse for the way those wanna-be Stan Lees in the bullpen treated Jack. Clearly they were all ambitious kids who wanted to take Jack’s place. They wanted to write comics and pointing out what they considered flaws in Jack’s work was a step in that direction. Push Jack aside and move in. Hey, maybe if I had been a Marvel intern in 1970 I would have done the same thing — so I’m not taking the moral high ground. But I tell you one thing — if I treated Jack the way the “ungrateful punks” treated Jack in the 1970s? In 2011, instead of complaining about one of Jack’s 70s word balloons making me wince… if I was one of the “ungrateful punks,” my behavior towards Jack Kirby in the 70s is what would make me wince. And I sure as hell hope I wouldn’t still be making excuses for myself 40 years after the fact.