Monthly Archives: September 2011

Jack & Pipe

I’ve been going through the K-files and pulling out some images where I don’t know the actual source or date. Here’s a great photo of Jack probably giving advice to someone. If anyone knows where this photo was published or has a larger scan, please send it here.

FF # 44 Scan

Fairly poor scan, but a nice glimpse of early Kirby/Sinnott FF. This from Fantastic Four # 44. On the Dragon Man’s scales in particular you can see Joe made certain to get every detail absolutely perfect. Early example of the famous Kirby/Sinnott rocks on the fist of the Thing in panel 1 — Joe’s technique of giving each rock it’s own shadow would influence every artist who has ever illustrated that character.

Fantasy Masterpieces # 5

Fantasy Masterpieces # 5 Cover.

That new Cap Kirby/Giacoia drawing at the left of the image above may have been something Marvel used for many other Captain America promotional materials over the years. I think I had a sticker of that image back when I was 10 years old in the 70s.

Below are the first three pages of the first story packaged in this reprint book — originally published in Captain America Comics # 5 (Aug 1941). The Kirby Checklist credits this art to Kirby and Avison. As you can see, the stats used to make the images weren’t very good, but at about 60 pages for twenty-five cents, I suppose many readers were satisfied with the bang they got for their quarter-of-a-buck.

Jack would revisit the Ringmaster character years later. From Incredible Hulk # 3 (Sep 1962).

Kirby Portfolio by: Stan Taylor

Here’s another short segment from the Kirby biography Stan Taylor is writing. Thanks, Stan.

By Stan Taylor:

Just after Kirby started the Fourth World series, his son Neal graduated from Syracuse with a Business Degree.  He moved back to California and brought with him his young wife.  Neal and Steve and Mark hit it off immediately.  After the debacle at Marvelmania had ended, they were still excited about the possibility of marketing items relating to Jack’s art.  Over the dinner table they decided on putting together a portfolio of Jack’s art through the years, plus add in a simple biography.  The result was Kirby Unleashed.  It featured many examples of Jack’s early art, most of which had never been seen by the public before.  Plus it had rejected pages, and production pages from recent series, and a preview of Jack’s new New Gods books.  With a biography by Mark Evanier, and the graphic work by Steve Sherman.

Neal did the marketing under the business name Communicators Unlimited.  It was a well packaged product that did well at first, and eventually made a little money.  It wasn’t perfect, there are mistakes in the bio, and the art choices are questionable at times, but it is and was a great introductory item to the world of Jack Kirby.  They followed this up with another portfolio called Jack Kirby’s Gods, which represented the Norse Gods in a different way than the Marvel versions. These were inked by Don Heck and colored by Jack.

With the two portfolios in hand plus other small items they had made up, they attended a Comic Convention in New York.  The convention gave them a private room and they opened for business.  Neal said they were amazed, the stuff was flying off the shelves.  They thought they had struck it rich.  Despite the flush of success at the Comic Con, the portfolios only made a small profit. Other jobs soon took them away from self-marketing.  These portfolios remain as perhaps the purest Jack Kirby  merchandise ever done, and a wonderful memorial to Kirby’s majesty.

The Silver Surfer Art Mystery

Here’s a very interesting email I recieved recently. My thanks to John for researching this and sharing what he found with us here.

Hi Rob-

I read your blog, and I read the piece you wrote about the Kirby “Surfer/Doom” pencil.

I am the lucky owner.

First, I thank you for shedding light on this, I found out a few things about the piece that I would never had know if it hadn’t been called out. In my opinion, and the opinion of a few very well known Kirby collectors and a few close acquaintances of Jack’s who were there at the time, the criticism is both right and wrong. I’ve spoken to everyone from Mike Thibodeaux and Greg Theakston, to three prominent Kirby collectors, and one dealer who appraises artwork professionally. Here is what I now know.

First, it is not a “fraud.” It has good provenance. It came from the Kirby estate, and both Thibodeaux and Theakston confirmed that it hung at Jack’s home. I also had a private collector, David Schwartz confirm that he remembers seeing the piece “up at the Kirby’s home in the late 80s/early 90s.” Thibodeaux said that although he couldn’t specifically tell me much about the piece, he remembered it, and said that it was originally bought from Jack and Roz by Graham Nash, along with a number of other pieces, and then it sold a few years later in a Sotheby’s auction.

In the 1992 Sotheby’s auction catalogue, which was curated by Jerry Weist, there is a picture of this piece. It was sold again later in the decade, late 90s, again by Sotheby’s. Then after residing in a private collection for many years, it went to Heritage a year or so ago, where I purchased it.

If it were a fraud, why was it hanging in Jack’s home? And then why would Jack sell it to Nash? In 1992, when the piece was auctioned, there were quite a few Kirby pieces consigned to that same auction by the Kirbys themselves. Why wouldn’t he have shut it down if it were a fake?

So a fraudulent piece is the wrong designation.

All that said, Larsen’s comments made me look carefully at the piece. I have other pencils by Jack, that I know are by Jack, and I compared them. I agree with some of what he said. Kirby drew with the side of his pencil, and it was almost like he was chipping something out of granite, not drawing it in graphite. He spit that crackle out of his pencil…This piece doesn’t look like that in places, clearly. It’s meticulous in places. Energetic in others.

So, here is the part where Larsen’s argument holds some water, potentially.

Theakston told me at the end of his life, Jack was hampered by the strokes, and the harsh reality of old age. He had people helping him, assistants who would do some of the work with him. Theakston tells me what I have is most probably Jack, as well as one of those later collaborations. He says he can see Jack in there in places, but admitted that he sees another hand as well. Is it 80% Kirby? Is it 40% Kirby? Who knows, really? Sadly, the Kirby’s aren’t around to tell us.

But I know there was enough Kirby in there for Jack to sell it to Graham Nash as a Kirby, and for Jack to not shut down that auction in 1992. Jack may have been a lot of things, but I don’t think fraud or bullshit artists accurately describe either Jack or Roz from what I have read, although I never met them personally.

So, I have some sort of collaboration on my hands. That is my best guess, with the help of the aforementioned. I personally think that if Jack had it hanging in his home, he must have felt like it was worth looking at. And I feel he probably had something more to do with it than not. You must remember this was late in his life, so it’s anyone’s guess what his abilities were. Certainly, you can’t compare something he did in the 70s to something he did in the late 80s or early 90s, which is what I think the argument from your blog seems to be mostly based on.

I did send Larsen an email through his Facebook account, and he stands by his story. He’s entitled to his opinion, but it’s based on that, not the facts, which I’ve outlined here. I didn’t tell him all that I had unearthed these past few weeks, because I hadn’t connected with Theakston before our email exchange. I figured I would just respond directly to you.

Here a scan from the Sotheby’s catalogue for your records.

That’s what I know, Rob.

Thanks again for bringing this to light. Feel free to give me a call if you want. I offered the same to Larsen.

Best Regards,

John Butler

By the way, the second piece that was called out on your blog was done in 1969, and the scan you showed is from the early Kirby book, “The Art of Jack Kirby.” That book was published in 1992, ironically the same year that my Surfer piece was sold. Jack was alive at the time. Do you think Jack would allow a piece he didn’t do get published in a book on his life’s art? That just makes no sense to me.

Again, I want to thank John for sharing his research with us. This gives us an amazing glimpse into a very complex topic which certainly raises a lot of questions.

I’m not an expert on this stuff, but I’ll make a few comments. First of all, some of this confusion may be the result of the piece at the top of the post being listed as “circa 1970.” It definitely looks more like something Jack might have done in the 1980s. Erik Larsen and Frank Fosco’s case is really compelling because of that Doom figure probably being swiped from an early FF book, but could it have been that Jack pulled that out of his files for reference?

There is certainly rock-solid provenance here, so I have to think Jack had some part in this piece. If it hung on his wall, maybe this is one of the last Silver Surfer pieces Jack did so it had sentimental value to him? Jack’s style was changing at the end of his life, so that also could be why this doesn’t look like typical 70s Silver Surfer art. I always suspected it was a commission piece where the buyer gave Jack specific instructions, so that explained why you see the Dr. Doom swipe and the Surfer figure being similar to the example Erik and Frank provided, but that was a pure guess. I suppose there’s always the possibility there was an assistant involved as well, but I honestly had never even heard Jack used assistants on pencils before, so this is new territory for me and I’m sure for many of the readers here as well. 

As for the second piece you mentioned from Ray Wyman’s The Art of Jack Kirby (1992):

I can’t imagine this was from 1969. Maybe it was from the 1980s and the wrong date is attributed to it?

John made this comment when we discussed this via email:

I only say 1969, by the way, because the Art of Jack Kirby credits that as the date. I agree with you, it does look much later to me. 
I don’t know if this is by Jack and his style has changed significantly, or if we are looking at an assistant, or a different artist altogether. It certainly is a mystery. Thanks again for sending this in, John, very thought-provoking material that introduces a lot of questions. And if anyone else out there has any more information on either piece, please send it in.

Jack Kirby: Auteur? Part 2

TJKC Cover featuring Marvelmania art penciled and inked by Kirby

I got a couple emails on the “Kirby: Auteur?” post, so I thought I’d add a few things:

Film auteur theory suggests that a film director is the auteur (author) of a movie despite working from a script written by someone else, and despite other variables such as contributions from all members of the production team, budget constraints, technological constraints, and a hundred other obstacles that must be overcome in production. The filmmaker is considered a cinematic auteur if in the final product, the director’s personal vision shines through and transcends the process. The filmmaker uses lighting, music, camera movement, stage design, and focuses on certain themes that become stylistic trademarks of the finished work and make the finished film distinctive.

Film auteur theory comes from the work of several cinema experts who wrote for Cahiers du Cinéma (founded in 1951 by André Bazin, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and Joseph-Marie Lo Duca), most famously François Truffaut. They argued that films should reflect a director’s personal vision. They championed filmmakers such as Howard Hawks, Hitchcock, and Jean Renoir as “absolute auteurs” of their films. Truffaut and the members of the Cahiers encouraged film directors to use the film medium as a writer would use a pen, and through mise en scène (a French term, meaning “placing on stage” — an expression used to describe the design aspects of a theatre or film production), imprint their own personal vision on the final film.

Spielberg is someone we are all familiar with. He usually works from a script written by someone else, he has a massive staff of collaborators including the cinematographer, the editor, the special effects team, musicians, sound editors, actors, etc., but he makes the final film uniquely his own. Although many don’t consider him a cinematic “artist” like a Jean-Luc Godard, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, or an Ingmar Bergman because his work is so commercially successful, for the purposes of our discussion, you could easily argue Spielberg is the auteur of his oeuvre.

One thing we have to remember though, is that film is totally different than comics. In a film, a director can work with time, sound, and motion. A comic cannot. There is no movement, or music.

But… I’ve always talked about how much potential comics have because of this. With a comic you have the ability to be what I call a “pure auteur.” You don’t need $100,000,000.00 and a cast and crew — with a pencil and a bottle of India ink you can create an epic 100% alone. You are the unquestionable pure auteur of that work. That’s simply not possible in film because you must work with other collaborators who help shape the final product (unless you do an animated piece alone or some other unconventional project like a YouTube clip).

In comics I think there are two very clear categories of “Auteurs.”

(1) Pure Auteur
(2) Visual Auteur

Will Eisner is probably a good example of a comics Pure Auteur. He did it all himself. His work is 100% his vision.

On the other hand many artists work from a script. For example, in the 70s, if I understand correctly, Roy Thomas started working at Marvel and he did not work “Marvel Method.” He gave the artists like Barry Smith or John Buscema a script. Stylistically, Barry Smith’s version of Conan was different than John Buscema’s Conan. You could argue that Smith and Buscema were the Visual Auteurs of their Conan stories, in the sense that there are unique visual elements that they brought to the finished product, making their versions of Thomas’ script distinct and unique.

I don’t feel Smith and Buscema are “Pure Auteurs” like Will Eisner because Roy Thomas’ script plays such a pivotal role in the process; I would argue that you are looking at a 50/50 collaboration between Thomas/Smith and Thomas/Buscema although certainly you could adjust those numbers somewhat in one direction or the other depending on how important you think each man was to the process.

So I suggest this means men like Smith and Buscema could be called the “Visual Auteur” of their Conan stories if a comics analyst wants to point out specific unique visual elements they brought to the finished piece; but I think many might argue with this suggestion because in comics, the script can be much more important than it can be in a film, where a director may change it significantly during production. The fact that Thomas adapted many Robert E. Howard stories further muddies the waters.

With Kirby, we are talking about a different division of labor than the ones mentioned above. As I mentioned before, Jack would write and draw an entire book alone, in many cases with no plot input whatsoever from Stan Lee. The story and all the main characters originated on Jack’s drawing board. Every month, Jack turned in about three 20-page stories with new characters, new costumes, new concepts, and new characterization, including notes in the borders clearly telling Stan Lee what is taking place in the story. It would take Kirby about 2 weeks to write and draw a single story in this fashion. In a few hours, Lee would add captions.

So the question for me isn’t whether or not Kirby was a comics auteur — you could argue that all comics artists are auteurs to a degree — the question for me is what type of comics auteur is Jack? Is he a Pure Auteur or a Visual Auteur?

My answer is that when Stan Lee opened that package of Kirby art on his desk, and Stan looked at a 20-page story that Jack wrote totally on his own with visuals and margin notes, Jack is the Pure Auteur of that story. It’s a Kirby silent movie written and directed by Jack Kirby, with text in the margins. What a joy it must have been for Lee to see those stories for the first time. Surely Lee had to have been one of Jack’s biggest fans.

But that is a moment in time.

Stan then starts adding dialogue whether via a typewritten script or in blue line on the page. Most of Stan’s dialogue on Jack’s books is self-explanatory. Stan is filling in space Jack left at the top of the page. Sometimes Lee adds something new to the text, but for the most part he follows Jack’s directions in the margins and tries not to interfere with Jack’s visuals. Sometimes Lee asks for a face to be changed or a costume change, and it appears Lee did reject some Kirby pages, but the number is low maybe 100 – 200 out of 10,00 pages produced by Jack in the 1960s.

Mainly Lee stays out of the way — aside from injecting his own brand of humor into the word balloons and plenty of self-promotion in the caption boxes calling attention to himself as the editor “Smilin’ Stan” — but Stan’s contributions are important. I’ve met many people who love Lee’s text. You can’t deny his impact on the final published product.

Finally, after Lee makes minor edits, the book is lettered then inked. I think the inker plays a key role in the process. Compare Colletta-inked FF to Sinnott-inked FF. Night and day in my opinion. Then the book is colored and printed. So is Jack the Pure Auteur of that published FF comic you can hold in your hand?

I think the answer is yes. I think that if you look only at the visuals — the style of the art, the dynamics, the compositions, and ignore the text and the quality of the inks and the colors — you are seeing Jack Kirby as the Pure Auteur of his 1960s stories. In your mind, you can travel back to the moment where Kirby stuffed his story into an envelope and mailed it to NYC, and you can glimpse his personal vision — Jack Kirby: Pure Auteur.

But, there is no denying the published book is much more of a collaboration. You can’t dismiss Lee and the other personnel’s contributions to the finished product, so in that sense, I suggest you have to think of Jack as what I’ll call the “Principal Auteur” of the published book: Jack wasn’t working from a full script like most comics artists in a traditional writer/artist relationship, in reality, Jack Kirby conceived of and wrote the original story with visuals and liner notes. Jack is the principal storyteller. The process of telling the story started with him.

So in my opinion, if you are looking at the published books — I suggest there are three types of auteurs in comics, Kirby being the best example of category # 2 in the 1960s:

(1) Pure Auteur – Artist controls all aspects of storytelling
(2) Principal Auteur – Artist controls all aspects of storytelling, but changes and additions are made later in the process.
(3) Visual Auteur – Artist works from a full script and adds elements to the final product

Basically I’m giving Jack his own category because I don’t know of any other artists who worked the way Jack did. Lee gave all the other Marvel artists much more input when they worked “Marvel Method.”

One final thing: the Kirby/Lee 1960s working method was incredibly unique in my opinion, so I think if the topic is the “1960s Kirby/Lee authorship debate,” we should be careful when championing all comics artists as auteurs if we want to suggest Jack was the auteur of his 1960s comics. I think it’s two different questions. You could argue endlessly about whether all comics artists working from a full script should be considered auteurs, but I think using the term Principal Auteur to describe Jack’s working relationship with Stan Lee in the 1960s is an accurate one.

Kirby self-portrait inked by Mike Royer

The Auteur Theory of Comics

Here’s a great article I just got from Arlen Schumer. Here’s a link to Arlen’s terrific website:

The Auteur Theory of Comics
August 1, 2011

By: Arlen Schumer

In the same way French cinemaphiles in the 1950s—first Francois Truffaut in the journal Cahiers du Cinema, and then American counterparts like The Village Voice’s film critic Andrew Harris—postulated their Auteur Theory of Film, that a film’s director, and not the screenwriter, as was previously thought, was a film’s true author (auteur in French), the Auteur Theory can be applied to the “Marvel Method” of comic book authorship, innovated by the writer (Stan Lee), who gave his artists (prominently Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) anything from a typed synopsis of a story to a verbal springboard of an idea—the equivalent of the screenplay in film—and the artists drew out/plotted/staged/paced the story visually to fill the page count given, using two-dimensional versions of the same tools and devices a movie director uses to craft a film: casting, editing, lighting, sound, choreography—after which Lee would add the dialogue and captions to the artist’s work.

Ergo it was the artists who were the actual storytellers, not “just” the artists, with Lee, of Marvel Comics, like the directors of films have been considered the true authors of their films for over 50 years now, entitled to the benefits of credit and copyright protection of their films.

Yet the recent court loss for the Jack Kirby estate in its battle with Disney, Marvel’s corporate owner, over copyright/ownership of the Marvel characters, revealed Lee’s testimony as being the usual lynchpin in deciding the case in his, and Marvel’s, favor, that testimony essentially promulgating the same misconception that he, not Kirby (or Ditko), was the true author of the Marvel Universe by dint of his salaried role as Editor and Writer, and Kirby’s professional status as a work-for-hire employee.

This misconception—ignoring the actual role artists like Kirby and Ditko played in the actual creation of those seminal comic books, as the auteurs of their stories—has proved disastrous for the Kirby estate, and obviously for Ditko and any other Marvel artists who would dare come forth in the future to claim authorship of their comic book stories (and the fruits of those stories spun off into other mediums) from the courts. A terrible precedent has thus been set—and must therefore be undone.

Think of this Auteur Theory of Comics being the testimony that should have/could have followed Lee’s entirely self-serving testimony, enlightening the judge and the media covering the trial to the truth of the “Marvel Method” in actual practice, asserting an artist of the magnitude of Jack “King” Kirby his morally and ethically rightful place as the auteur of the Marvel Comics Universe. This is not to deny Lee’s co-authorship and creatorship of Marvel Comics—he deserves exactly 50% of the credit, for his absolutely crucial contributions as editor/writer/art director/salesman and spokesman—but not a percent more or percent less.

The sad fact of the matter is that Lee has successfully campaigned throughout his post-working relationships with Kirby and Ditko to create the perception—and therefore the “reality”— that he was the 100%, primary, sole creator of the Marvel Universe, relegating Kirby, specifically, to the historically demeaning role of the artist as merely a “pair of hands,” a “wrist” who robotically drew up Lee’s scripts. This wrong must be righted here and now.

Jack Kirby: Comics Auteur?

John Ford on the set.

I just noticed this announcement on the Kirby Museum site:

“THE AUTEUR THEORY OF COMICS—Comic book historian Arlen Schumer (The Silver Age of Comic Book Art, and Randolph Hoppe (Director of The Jack Kirby Museum, present their theory that, just like a film’s director, not its screenwriter, is considered its true author (auteur in French), so should a comic book artist be considered the auteur of any comic book work done in collaboration with a writer (or a script in any verbal form), and is therefore a de facto co-creator and co-author, with the credited writer, of that work. Joining them on the panel discussion that follows will be editor/publisher John Morrow (TwoMorrows Publications), publisher J. David Spurlock (Vanguard Productions), Michael Bonesteel (The School of The Art Institute of Chicago) and others to be announced.”

Sounds interesting. Here’s my take on this: I’ve been saying for years that Jack was the uncredited author (or ghostwriter) of the 1960s Marvel stories he worked on with editor Stan Lee. Granted, Lee might have been involved more in the plotting process early on (1959 – early 1964), but  once Jack starts writing extensive liner-notes in the margins of his artwork (1964 – 1970), I feel Kirby certainly deserves to be recognized as the principal writer, or at least a “co-writer” on those stories. Why wasn’t he? Mainly I think Stan Lee wanted to get the entire writer paycheck, and I also suspect Lee liked the publicity he got having his name listed as the writer for Jack’s truly brilliant 1960s stories.

Many people have argued with me about the authorship of Jack’s 1960s Marvel stories over the years on an old internet chat forum called the Kirby-l. Many comics fans claimed that since Lee wrote the text, Lee was the “writer,” but to me, Jack was more like director John Ford. Ford told you a story so clearly with his visuals that no editor could ruin it. Legend has it that in order to avoid editor interference, sometimes John Ford would hold his hand in front of the camera lens where he wanted a cut, so some meddling editor in Hollywood wouldn’t be able to screw up his vision.

Director John Ford.

Kirby’s 1960s Marvel visual-stories were equally idiot-proof. Tiny edits made almost no difference in his actual story, so what we see in the 1960s Marvel stories is pure Kirby, diluted a little bit by Stan’s minor edits and hipster dialogue.

In terms of a comics artist auteur theory, I have to say that I think Jack’s case is unique in comics. I’ve said many times Jack Kirby is unquestionably the unknown auteur behind just about all of his 1960s Marvel stories (except some of the early monster stories written by Lee and his brother Larry), but… I don’t think most comics artists who work from a full script should be considered an auteur.

I think when a writer hands an artist a complete and detailed script, we are talking about a collaboration where both individuals can be considered co-authors or co-auteurs of the material — the vision of both the writer and artist shines through. I suppose you could make the distinction “visual auteur” and call most comics artists the visual auteur of a book they illustrate, but I think it’s important to separate the way Kirby/Lee worked (“Marvel Method”) from the more collaborative way (full script/then art) conventional comics writers/artists use to divide the labor process.

The working method which Lee called “The Marvel Method” is very, very unconventional. I don’t know if a writer could even legally get away with something like that nowadays, unless an artist legally agreed to be an uncredited ghostwriter. In Stan’s Marvel Method (what I call the “Kirby Marvel Method”) Jack would write and draw an entire book — in many cases with no plot input whatsoever from Lee. The story and all the main characters originated on Jack’s drawing board. Every month, Jack turned in about three 20-page stories with new characters, new costumes, new concepts, and new characterization, including notes in the borders clearly directing to Stan Lee what is taking place in the story. It would take Kirby about 2 weeks to write and draw a story in this fashion. In a few hours, Lee would add captions.

One of the best analogies I can think of is to compare Jack to a film auteur. In my opinion, using film terminology, Jack is the director — Kirby is the auteur of his 1960s Marvel stories and obviously he is the pure auteur of his 70s material where he also added dialogue.

Another interesting thing about Jack — even in the 1970s when he wrote his own text, according to Mark Evanier, Jack would draw the story first, then when it was done, Jack would spend the better part of a day adding text. This is a method Jack perfected in the 1960s working with Lee — the story starts with the visuals. Are their any artists today who pencil a 20 page story, then go back and add text?

I think we must be careful not to suggest that all comics artists are auteurs when discussing Kirby because I think that muddies the waters — Jack’s case is different. The so-called “Marvel Method” is really unprecedented and unique. If you want to apply auteur theory to any comic artist that’s fine — you can discuss how their vision shines through despite script constraints, editorial constraints, production constraints, and technological constraints — but aside from what I call a comics “pure auteur” (a comics artist who writes/draws their own story 100% by themselves), I think you have to say Jack Kirby in the 1960s comes closest to being in the pure comics auteur category than pretty much any collaborative artist that’s ever worked in comics, because it appears to me Jack was the uncredited, principal writer/artist/autuer and visionary behind his 1960s Marvel stories.

Jack Kirby: Comics Auteur

Kirby Documentary Film?

Rand Hoppe announced the Kirby Museum is going to work to create a brick and mortar Museum for Jack. This sounds like a very interesting idea to me — it would be great to have a spot where people can go to look at Jack’s art. If you want to contribute to the project, there is a Paypal link on the Museum homepage: Brick and Mortar Fund.

I have a feeling Rand and everyone associated with the project knows the obstacles such a project will face, so I probably don’t need to list them here. I wish the project success, but if the Museum plans to raise money from Jack’s fans in order to promote Jack, here’s my suggestion:

Why give someone $30,000 to pay for rent for 3 months? When the 3 months is over, the money is gone and you have nothing tangible to show for it. If you can raise $30,000, why not open the Museum for a month only, or do a high profile weekend or week-long showing somewhere else, then use some of that money to do a low-budget Jack Kirby documentary film? “Low-budget” doesn’t mean it has to look tacky, there is plenty of editing technology out there that would enable a amateur filmmaker to make a simple Kirby documentary fairly cheaply. In fact, if you ask for fan funds for this project, put each contributor’s name in the final film credits. People love seeing their name on the big screen. Perfect way to encourage donations to the project.

Call it “Jack Kirby: The World’s Greatest Comics Artist” or something like that.

The key would be getting permission from companies like Marvel and DC to use Jack’s art. If they said no, then the project is dead. I feel the Museum project and TwoMorrows may be able to get that permission.

Here’s how you do the project. Get someone like Mark Evanier, Greg Theakston, John Morrow, Stan Taylor, or any number of other Kirby experts to put together a 120-page, double-spaced biography of Jack’s life. I bet any one of those guys could crank something like that out in no time. Heck, use Evanier’s bio from the Museum site as an outline. The challenge would be packing Jack’s whole life in that short 2-hour space of a film. Several people could work on the script. I’ll help if anyone wants my help. But I suspect the Kirby family and the more notable Kirby historians should work on the script and would want to.

Make it a straightforward narrative. No interviews: just dates, names of stories, characters, and art. A chronological piece. No need to be creative, you can always do that later — this should be a no-nonsense introduction to Jack’s life and work. Think of this as a 2-hour lecture by a Kirby expert with visuals — step one –an introductory project that might inspire another filmmaker to do a more creative big budget Kirby film in the future.

Use some of the money you collect from Jack’s fans to have someone like Evanier — or anyone who wants to read the script– go to a professional recording studio and read the 2-hour presentation.

Then decide what images you want to go with each segment of audio. I can help with that, I have tons of Kirby scans. You just go through the audio second by second and make a list of where each image goes and where each cut is located.

You can use your funds to have a professional editor sync the images to sound and make you a nice HQ digital copy of the piece. Maybe a Kirby fan out there would add some music. I don’t know how much it would cost now, but you could make a 16mm or 35 mm film print of the piece, then you’ve got something you could enter at Cannes, or show at a convention. You could easily burn the film onto DVDs and sell them at the Museum convention booth.

You could even do a bonus DVD. Set up a camera at one of the conventions in a quiet room and invite comics pros to come in and say a few words about Jack and his work. You would get tons of great footage that could be used for that project or other projects down the line.

We live in a YouTube world! I wish the Pop Art Museum much luck, but in my opinion, if you really want to take the first step towards truly getting Jack’s story out there, you need to make a documentary film about Jack.