Monthly Archives: May 2012

Kirby Museum Facebook Stuff

Here’s a great photo that was just posted on the Museum Facebook page. It’s credited as “shared Greg Theakston’s photo” so I assume it’s from Greg’s files.

If Jack had been a movie director he could have cast himself as a gangster.

James Cagney

Also, here’s a recent Facebook comment in response to the veracity of Lee’s various interviews over the years:

Patrick Ford: Lee was questioned about his old interview comments during his recent deposition. Stan Lee: “So I tried to write these — knowing Jack would read them, I tried to write them to make it look as if he and I were just doing everything together, to make him feel good. And we were doing it together. But with something like Galactus, it was me who said, “I want to do a demigod. I want to call him Galactus.” Jack said it was a great idea, and he drew a wonderful one and he did a great job on it. But in writing the book, I wanted to make it look as if we did it together. So I said we were both thinking about it, and we came up with Galactus.”

Pretty funny that from about 1970 until now, this is probably one of the only times Lee admits he told a fib. What was his white lie? According to Lee he pretended at some point that Jack helped him come up with Galactus, while in reality Lee was just trying to make Jack look good.

That was really nice of Lee to do that for Jack. Glad he told us the truth though, we wouldn’t want anyone to think Jack had anything to do with the Galacuts Trilogy.

Fantastic Four # 50, page 10

This might be one of the quotes Lee is talking about since he uses the term “we.” I guess now he’s backtracking and saying he meant “I.” Sure glad Lee was able to set the record straight (rolling my eyes). I’ll highlight the false we’s.

Stan Lee: Galactus was simply another in a long line of super-villains whom we loved creating. Having dreamed up [many] powerful baddies … we felt the only way to top ourselves was to come up with an evil-doer who had almost godlike powers. Therefore, the natural choice was sort of demi-god, but now what would we do with him. We didn’t want to use the tired old cliche about him wanting to conquer the world. … That was when inspiration struck. Why not have him not be a really evil person? After all, a demi-god would be beyond mere good and evil. … [What] he’d require is the life force and energy from living planets!”

Lee, Stan. “Introduction” (second page, unnumbered) 1993, Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four Vol. 5 (Marvel Publishing : second edition, second printing, 2007)

The Verdict

Here’s an email from the Museum Facebook page, followed by a few of my comments:

 Mike Cagle: I’ll look forward to that interview. I’ve only seen a couple of quotes from it, including the one you mention her (which I sent to you not along ago). I think you’re preaching to the choir. Anyone who reads your blog knows that Kirby was a “writer” too, and the main source of a lot of the important Marvel ideas and many of the characters. The people you describe as lurking in their chat rooms and celebrating Lee’s genius and denigrating Kirby’s contribution – well, those people are just idiots. Don’t waste any more time worrying about them. That said, it’s quite possible that Stan was so bored and frustrated with comics that he sometimes thought of quitting, and it’s possible that his wife encouraged his daydream of doing something really different and innovative. I think it’s also possible, since Martin Goodman was aware of how successful DC’s new JLA comic was, that Lee, or Kirby, or Goodman, or all of them, thought of Challengers of the Unknown and thought it might be a good starting point for creating a new team. As for the two ideas, the non-costumes and the bickering: Yes, the FF got costumes, but they sometimes didn’t wear them, they were often shown in normal clothes, and importantly, they weren’t “different characters” when they wore different clothes – that is, they didn’t have “secret identities.” That idea came from the no-costume idea and it stuck (since it would have been hard to go back and make their identities secret). And that was something very unusual, if not totally new. And yes, in fiction, groups of friends or allies argue — but not typically in old superhero groups. Read the JLA from that time and you won’t see it — unless somebody’s mind has been taken over by a villain. So, if those two idea were Lee’s, they really are pretty important aspects of the FF. Probably Lee and Kirby discussed those things and they both thought they were good ideas. In the chaotic creative environment of early Marvel, it might have been hard to say exactly who came up with what idea – even later the same day, let alone years later. Ever worked on a project with someone (or a group) where ideas are being batted around? Even if two people are taking notes, they won’t tell exactly the same version. Both Lee and Kirby had done romance comics and “teen humor” comics, and I bet both of them felt that the superhero genre could be enlivened by a dose of those other genres. Stan was not a genius like I think Kirby was, but he was a smart guy and a competent writer – it would be surprising if he hadn’t contributed anything! Finally, about your friend — it’s probably not that he started lying about his wife. He probably started actually remembering things differently. That’s what happens. And so does Stan, to some extent, probably, actually remember things differently than he once described them. Plus, of course, I’m sure the lawyers have helped him see which version of history would be so much better for Marvel, and Disney. And that has probably colored his actual memory. Memory is a very slippery thing, and it’s influenced by self-interest. So there you go. The thing is, people reading your blog agree with you (or most of them mostly agree with you) and the people you seem to really want to talk to – the Stan Lee worshippers who think that he thought up everything all by himself – I doubt there are really many of them, and they’re ignorant just jerks (so who cares about them), and also, they aren’t reading your blog and they aren’t going to start … so maybe, stop writing for them? They’re not your audience. I know you want to grab them and shake some sense into them, but it’s not going to happen, and you know that.

Thanks for the email, Mike. It’s nice of you to share your thoughts on the subject. I’ll address a handful of your comments.

Re: Jack’s Critics

I think about 6 or 7 of some of the posts I wrote recently where I discussed the subject of Jack’s online critics have been taken off the site and are “under review.” I probably shouldn’t say more than that. All I can tell you is that… hmm… well, I guess probably better not say that either. I will say, hmm, no I better edit that out too. Haha. Uh, let’s see, uh… let’s just say if you are sick of reading about certain Kirby critics, you may get your wish and you won’t see too much of that here anymore. 😀

Which is cool with me, you all read the posts already, and nobody is going to be going through all 800 + posts in the archives here anyway, so I think it’s all much ado about nothing (although I do apologize to the director of the Kirby Museum if he has to waste a millisecond of his busy schedule dealing with complaints about this goofy weblog), and we have lots of other stuff to discuss other than Jack’s critics.

But.. I think I can maybe say one last thing about this: I have found dealing with Jack’s critics over the last 10 years, to quote Mr. Spock…

If this post disappears you’ll know something I said is under review.

Re: The Castle of Frankenstein Interview (1968)

Mike Cagle: I’ll look forward to that interview. I’ve only seen a couple of quotes from it, including the one you mention her e(which I sent to you not along ago).

Rand also has that quote on the Museum biography page. I guess Mark Evanier was the one that included it in the text. I recall reading it first on the original Kirby-l but I had never seen it myself on the printed page. I don’t think it is sourced specifically on the Museum site, so I wanted to read it for myself and provide the Museum with a hard copy to make sure the quote was accurate and the source was accurate.

Doug P. was nice enough to send it in. Kirby fans are the greatest. It’s amazing how many generous people out there take the time to send in scans of their treasures. Now the Castle of Frankenstein interview will be out there in the cyberverse so anyone talking about it can show people exactly where any quotes they pull from that article came from. One of my goals for an ideal Kirby Museum would be to see a fairly comprehensive collection of all the various Kirby and Lee interviews at a central Museum site, like this one.

Re: Preaching to the Choir

For me, when I surf the web sometimes I look for new voices discussing Jack Kirby. And I’m seeing that there are thousands of new people joining the online dialogue every day. That’s my target audience, not the choir. I’m constantly getting emails from people and seeing online comments from people who are saying, “Wow, I had no idea what really went on behind the scenes when these 60s Marvel characters were created, I thought Stan Lee created everything,” so honestly, although I love Jack’s fans to death, my target audience is the people who are new to this. I mean, I still hope Kirby historians and long-time Kirby fans share their opinions here — I’m trying to see if we can bring new voices into the conversation.

Also, I’m just reporting on what I find as I go through the process of learning about Jack. Kirby Dynamics is like my “I’m learning about Jack Kirby Diary.” I kind of came into all of this backwards. I know folks who have been fans of Jack since the 1950s; they have followed Jack’s career for over 70 years. Sadly some of these folks are no longer with us. I’ve met Kirby fans who grew up with his 60s stuff; they’ve followed Jack for 60 years. Hard to believe, right? 60 years studying Jack’s work. That’s a long time. I’ve met people who grew up with Jack’s 70s stuff; they’ve been Kirby fans for 50 years and they’ve followed Jack and his life the whole time. 50 years of knowledge on Kirby!

I haven’t met too many people who got into Jack in the 1980s. I can think of a couple. They’ve been Kirby fans for 50 years. Isn’t that hard to believe? The 80s seems like yesterday to me! Fans who got into Jack in the late-90s and beyond weren’t there at ground zero. They never talked to Jack or met Jack or were part of fandom when Jack was alive. They learn about Jack through secondary sources like blogs and chat forums. A lot of people learn about Jack in comments sections of Facebook pages like the Museum Facebook page. So you have a wide variety of folks out there who have followed Jack’s career some for as long as 70, 60, 50, 40, even 30 years.

When I was a kid in the late 1970s, I read some of the Marvel reprints, I got the 2001 mini-series from a flea market, and I had some other odds and ends of books by Kirby that I looked at from about 1977- 1985… and that was it for me and comics. The only thing I knew about Jack Kirby was what Lee wrote in his Origins (1974) book. I didn’t even look at a comic for 15 years after the mid-1980s– I was working my ass off and doing other things, mainly outdoors in Florida where looking at a comic book when I was living in paradise was incomprehensible. So I’ve only really been looking at Jack’s life and work for about 10 years (2002 – 2012). Which means I’m still learning. I’m still piecing information together.

One problem I found when I first started is that you can have two Kirby historians who have both been studying Jack for 40 years, and they both have an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject, but they vehemently disagree on certain subjects like “who created Spider-man” or “who created Fantastic Four” or “who wrote the 1960s stories.” So for me, I tried to weigh both sides of the argument and see if I could find out the answers for myself.

10 years later, I’ve made my decision. In the past I’ve been careful to label my comments on the Kirby/Lee creation debate and the Kirby/Lee authorship debate as “speculations.” Well the time has come for me to do my Judge Judy. I have to make a decision. Here it is.

I’m still willing to change my mind if anyone presents me with compelling evidence, but as of today, I’m going to go on record and say, based on hundreds of off-the-record conversations with Kirby fans, experts, and historians, and comics scholars; based on thousands of on-the-record conversations with Kirby fans, experts, and historians, and comics scholars; based on hundreds of conversations with Kirby associates; based on hundreds of conversations with Kirby art collectors; based on reading hundreds of articles, hundreds of interviews discussing Kirby and Lee; based on looking at the published books themselves; based on looking at thousands of scans of published Kirby art; based on examining patterns in the careers of both Kirby and Lee; based on examining hundreds of pieces of Jack Kirby original artwork, I’ve made my decision.

I’m no longer going to say I “suspect” Jack Kirby played a significant role in the creation of all the Marvel characters and I “suspect” Jack Kirby wrote most (if not all) of his 1960s stories with visuals and margin notes. I did that for 10 years until I could reach a conclusion. Now that I have, the word “suspect” will now be gone. Here’s my verdict:

Jack Kirby played a significant role in the creation of all the Marvel characters and Jack Kirby wrote most (if not all) of his 1960s stories with visuals and margin notes.

Now I know if this post is not “under review” and it’s still here, and you are still reading this, like Curly from the Three Stooges wacking himself in the head you are probably going, “Well, DUH! I mean we all, like, totally knew that already! What are you some kind of doofus or something?”

Well, yeah I am pretty much a moron, but mainly I wanted to try and be objective (even though I do love Jack’s art and I am a progressive pro-artist advocate which means I’m biased), and I wanted to really try and see if I could find the answer on my own, especially since so many Kirby historians argued about certain aspects of the creation and authorship debate. I’m at the point where I’m done speculating: I’m convinced Jack played a significant role in creating all of the 60s characters he worked on, and Jack was a writer on all the 60s stories he worked on.

If true, this is not news to anyone who has been following comics for 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, or 20 years, but the topic is new to many people, it was new to me in 2002, and today marks the end of this particular chapter in my search for the truth. Although, again, if someone wants to prove me wrong. Feel free.

Until then, this court is adjourned.

Stan Lee on Jack Kirby (1968): “We’re Practically Both the Writers on the Things”

There was an orgasm, a veritable volcanic eruption of interviews from Stan Lee this month for his “documentary” — he did literally hundreds of media interviews, although the only real new thing we learned is that Lee doesn’t seem to know or care if Jack gets a credit on a film like The Avengers. Plus you had thousands of online posts talking about the new Avengers movies, so I hope all of you Stan Lee fans got a nice hearty dose of your Fearless Leader this month.

Unless the Queen of England knights him, I don’t know how many more accolades this guy can possibly receive.

I’m going to wrap up Stan Lee month with a great interview from 1968. Doug Pratt was nice enough to send in the Stan Lee interview from Castle of Frankenstein # 12 (1968).

I’m going to post the whole piece tomorrow so people doing a google search for it can just read it for themselves without my commentary.

A couple observations. This interview hasn’t been widely circulated so there are a few things in it I haven’t seen discussed before.

My first reaction reading this is this: I like this version of Stan Lee! A lot! This may be the only real glimpse we will ever get into this guy. Stan is at work, he’s juggling a lot of balls, and he’s actually talking to the interviewer; he’s not mechanically regurgitating his top-20 talking points as he’s been doing from 1970 – 2012. He still has that used car salesman persona to an extent, but this version of Lee’s personality circa-1968 is a little more of a team player. He hasn’t started using his fake solo-genius shtick yet. I found this interview refreshing and I actually found Lee quite likable. So I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest we get a taste of the real Stan Lee in this 1968 interview, before he became this egomaniac shyster character who has to have all the credit for creating everything.

A brief personal aside: after reading this interview I was reminded of a good friend of mine. He was married to this really sweet girl for many years, and they had a great relationship. Then one day out of the blue they got a divorce. My friend went through a similar change in personality to the one I see between Lee here in 1968 and Lee after 1970. Like a lot of married couples my friend was incredibly happy before the divorce. He had noting but positive things to say about his wife. After the divorce, the way he talked about his wife changed immediately. He wouldn’t necessarily badmouth her, but he started to spin things his way, he would only focus on certain incidents in the relationship that painted him in a positive light, there were frequent major crimes of omission in his stories, and he always did it with a smile.

After the divorce, he started subtly revising the history. And I knew the history so I knew  he was cleverly twisting the truth — he was lying. But again he did it with such a good-natured and friendly manner it was hard for anyone who didn’t know him to imagine the positive things he was saying about himself were damaging the reputation of his wife. And I always wondered was this a calculated move on his part to badmouth his wife by twisting the truth, or do human beings just change the way they perceive the past and over time they really do believe their reinterpretations of history. Anyway my friend’s transformation reminds me a lot of what we see with Lee before/after Kirby left Marvel in 1970. And my friend is a great guy, it’s just that when he talks about his marriage he has selective-memory, and ultimately the story he is telling is not true, because I saw what happened.

In this 1968 interview Stan Lee seems like a regular guy, he doesn’t seem all that calculating, and he doesn’t carefully choose each word and spin the story in his direction. I’m sure he was still a master manipulator behind the scenes, but he seems to be willing to make an effort to give the interviewer honest answers to the questions and I think Lee comes off as an average hard-working and honest dude here. But here’s what I wanna know:

Where did this Stan Lee go?

It seems that almost immediately after Jack left Marvel, Lee suddenly started promoting himself as the prime creative force behind all the Marvel characters (as opposed to the editor and facilitator we see in this interview) and all the artists he has such high praise for in this interview all became his hired-hands, not equals writing the stories with him. And I understand this, when you change jobs as Lee did (moving to California in the early-70s to promote himself and the characters Kirby and Ditko helped him create) you are going to accentuate the positive aspects of yourself. You are going to leave elements out of your story that don’t make you look good. I don’t expert Lee to say the name “Kirby” every time someone asks him about FF, it’s just interesting to see Lee answer these type of questions in 1968 when he is not merely promoting the “Stan Lee” brand and celebrating his own Stan Lee legend.

I’ll only touch on two specific things in the interview, then you can read it for yourselves tomorrow. The first thing I want to mention is Lee’s discussion of the creation of FF. The fairy tale about him wanting to quit writing comics to write a novel and his wife inspiring him to reinvent the superhero genre with the first adult comic book is pleasantly absent from his account here. Lee does admit to being bored in 1961 and wanting to do something off-beat, but he spares us the fictional ode to his muse that he’s been giving us for the last 50 years.

The main thing Lee felt was new to the FF concept was the idea that the characters did not wear costumes. This is interesting because Lee does not mention this idea anywhere in his FF # 1 synopsis, so this would suggest either Kirby and Lee did verbally discuss FF # 1 before the FF # 1 synopsis was written, and Lee told Jack this idea verbally. Or that must have been Jack’s idea.

Note: The generic FF uniforms remind me a lot of the Challengers of the Unknown uniforms if you ask me (although you can argue the purple color could just be a coincidence).

Also Lee talks about the non-costume idea being discarded immediately because of fan reaction. So am I the only one who finds it interesting that the most important innovation Lee felt he brought to the superhero genre — the lack of costumes — was rejected by fans then ironically Kirby/Lee gave the FF costumes almost immediately? This suggests to me that maybe Lee DID want to do an innovative, unique type of superhero comic with Jack, but his first idea clearly didn’t catch on and it was rejected. The main thing Lee felt made FF “adult” in 1961 was not accepted by fans.

Lee also mentions another concept he felt separated FF from other teams and that is that the characters fought amongst themselves. First of all, I’m no expert on this, but surely in comics history some members of a super-team had a disagreement. Right? And the history of fiction is full of teams and families arguing. So is this idea really all that ground-breaking? But again, let’s give Lee the benefit of the doubt like we did with his comment about no costumes for the FF, if it was Lee’s idea to have the FF be the first comic book hero team that argued with each other, and that was his new innovation to the comics medium, is that really a reinvention of the superhero genre? Lee invented super-characters that don’t go “yes sir,” every time another character speaks?

And you have to ask: what about Jack? Maybe Jack had the characters bicker in the artwork and Lee ran with it. Maybe the fans loved it and that’s why Kirby/Lee kept that particular element of comedy relief in the story. Let’s be honest folks, this is a very, very common motif in many fictional stories — fictional characters squabble but in the end they really love each other.

So I think what we are looking at here is that in 1968 Lee remembers wanting to do a new type of hero team in 1961 without costumes and one that argues. And Jack ran with that and gave him FF. Of course the thing that made FF such a success was Jack’s stories and Jack’s art (as well as Lee’s captions), but I think clearly Lee feels his contribution of those two core concepts (no costumes, and infighting) helped make FF successful (this is ironic because Jack’s first design for the Spider-man costume was also discarded, in the same way Kirby/Lee discarded the original concept for the FF’s lack of a costume).

I think Lee’s solo-genius mythos over the last 50 years with the story about considering really quitting comics, and doing the first “adult” story for his wife, is revisionist history, and quite frankly an insult to Jack who obviously did a tremendous amount of work not just on FF # 1 but on the whole 10-year run.

Reading this 1968 interview, I think you will get an idea that there was a process going on at Marvel where people were working together. Lee wasn’t locked in a room creating superheroes alone, he was in a freewheeling group situation where people were coming in and out of his office and they were all throwing around ideas. The truth is that with something like FF # 1, some Lee ideas were used, others were not, and much of the most important decisions going forward were based on fan reaction, not Lee consciously wanting to reinvent the superhero genre in 1961 because his wife inspired him.

One also has to wonder how much Jack played a role in Lee’s attitude towards superheroes and doing a new superhero team in 1961. Jack DID have experience doing super teams (understatement). Jack did have ideas. Maybe Jack wanted to do something new — take the Challengers of the Unknown template and do a team that are transformed into heroes with powers. Maybe Jack campaigned to do superhero books and had lots of opinions on the genre and this influenced Lee. When the decision was made to do hero books, maybe Kirby was the one  who got “bored” by the idea of doing a tired Submarier & Human Torch type of superhero book and he was the one who campaigned to do a book with a dynamic family like FF. Maybe Jack was the prime mover and the architect of that intellectual property and Lee just added captions and gave Jack a little guidance. One thing we can say for sure is that in 1968 Lee hasn’t perfected his talking point that he created FF alone… yet.

One last thing: The main thing I took from the interview was this quote. Lee is discussing Kirby:

Stan Lee: “…Occasionally I’ll give him a plot, but we’re practically both the writers on the things.”

Where did this Stan Lee go?

How many times has Stan said Jack was a “writer” on all the 60s stories since this interview?

Now I already know the argument we’re going to get from Jack’s critics (although we might not see it in public since they choose to congregate in private chat rooms where they can preach to the choir uninhibited by criticism), they tortured us on Kirby-l with their philosophy for years — Kirby’s Critics will say: “In 1968 when Lee did this interview, Lee was lying. He did it to appease Kirby. He lied about Jack being a writer because he wanted to show Jack this article — he thought a lie would make Jolly Jackson happy.” I know this is hard to believe but I’ve heard that argument many times before from Jack’s critics.

I also remember a year-long debate on the old Kirby-l where we discussed a quote where Carmine Infantino said Jack Schiff “basically blacklisted Jack from DC,” and since Carmine said the word “basically,” which is a qualifier, therefore the word “basically” negated the meaning of the sentence — Jack’s critics argued the sentence actually meant Shiff DID NOT blacklist Kirby! Invariably you can bet Jack’s critics will also claim the word “practically” is a qualifier, therefore it negates the meaning of that sentence. And I’m sure Jack’s critics will find some OTHER way to say this quote actually proves Jack was NOT a writer even though Lee says he is, unless they’ve thrown in the towel.

This is what I think we see in the Castle of Frankenstein interview:

I think for one of the only times in the history of the Kirby/Lee story, this may be the only real interview with Lee where we get a genuine look into what was really going on in the Bullpen in the late 1960s, and we get a tiny glimpse into what type of a person Lee was before his divorce with Jack Kirby in 1970. And let me tell you: I wholeheartedly, 100% agree with Stan Lee (circa-1968) that every single shred of evidence I’ve seen on this subject agrees with what he said here:

Stan Lee on his writing partnership with Jack Kirby: “Occasionally I’ll give him a plot, but we’re practically both the writers on the things.”

Yes. Sometimes Lee gave Jack a plot, Jack then wrote the story with visuals (from 1964 – 1970 with visuals & margin notes), and then Lee added text in the blank spots Jack left him on the art. This is a fact: Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were both the writers of the 1960s Marvel books that Jack worked on.

It’s nice that we have an actual quote where Lee says this. Will this end the Kirby/Lee authorship debate? Of course not. But this is one more piece of evidence suggesting Kirby was indeed the uncredited and uncompensated ghostwriter of his 1960s stories for Stan Lee.

“Lee and the King” From: Kenn Thomas

This was sent in by Kenn Thomas yesterday.

Kenn Thomas:

I’ll be seeing Avengers tonight at the same theater where I caught the first Transformers, movie. I said then that the Transformers movie owed more to Kirby than whatever superhero movie was out at the time based on a Kirby character. So it’ll be cool to catch Avengers here on the same enormous screen with a similar, overcrowded (mostly black), boisterous audience.

But attached is the upshot of my others comics-related adventure today–Free Comic Book Day. Check it out: a free comic called Graphic Elvis, promoting some large Elvis Presley hardcover memorabilia project. It’s mostly just photo pages but it does contain one comics story, and guess who writes it? That’s right, Stan Lee has found another King. Not only that, but the story is drawn Kirby style–by a guy named Kang!

Hand of Fire Roundtable

Beatrice Addressing Dante (1827) by William Blake

Here’s a link to part Three of Jack Kirby: Hand of Fire Roundtable (Part 3). By: Jeet Heer

There are a lot of great comments in the series. It’s great to see Kirby discussed in a scholarly context by all of these passionate art historians and comics history experts. I hope you all read the entire series. Hatfield’s Hand of Fire book is great and I’m glad to see he’s getting some well-deserved feedback on what he put together.

Here’s one of the many quotes I enjoyed. Kirby historian Kenn Thomas has made the comparison between William Blake and Jack Kirby as well.

R. FIORE:

The interesting question here is not how Jack Kirby is like William Blake but how William Blake is like Jack Kirby. He is both a poet and a painter. More to the point, he is a printer, which in the 18th Century is to say a publisher. While it isn’t mass art, he does develop a method of producing illuminated manuscripts in multiples. Given his revolutionary principles the intent is to create art for an anonymous public rather than to seek patronage among the nobility. The signal difference here is that he makes no attempt to make his art comprehensible to a general public; they would have to come to him on his terms, and they didn’t. Robert Christgau coined the term semipopular art, meaning that which has every characteristic of popular art except popularity. William Blake might be said to be the father of semipopular art.

Imagine a William Blake born in Lambeth in 1917. During the war he’s producing graphics for the Ministry of Information. He’s known in bohemian circles as a talented fellow but a bit of a roughneck and not quite the right sort — his father was in trade, after all. After the war he picks up a couple of bob here and there drawing and writing for the comic weeklies. Eventually he lands at The Eagle and then in the 1950s it’s Hampson, Bellamy, and Blake, and Blake is the one who writes his own scripts. He gets talked to about the unorthodox religious ideas that get into his scripts. Frequently. You know he’s going to be one of the first people on Earth to take LSD. And then as ’60s start to swing, which old stager do you suppose is poised with the means and motive to blow open the doors of perception . . .

One of the participants, Glen David Gold made a comparison between a Blake painting and a piece of Jack’s work. I also think the painting below Jack’s image, called “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun” (1805), was an influence as well, probably the primary influence for Jack’s image.

William Blake (1757 - 1827)

Here’s my comment that I posted at the end of the Hand of Fire roundtable series.

Hey folks, I really enjoyed the series and the discussion.

There are a hundred things to comment on, but I’ve posted a lot of my thoughts on Jack Kirby here already, so I hope some of you will check it out:

http://kirbymuseum.net/blogs/dynamics/

I wanted to throw a few things in there. First of all, I think Charles did a terrific job on Hand of Fire. He could’ve written about any subject, but I’m glad he chose to examine the career of Jack Kirby, and because of that now we have a solid, serious quality academic analysis of Jack’s work on the bookshelves. Hand of Fire will be part of just about any serious bibliography in the future if a student wants to write a legitimate literary analysis of Jack Kirby’s work (or the whole history of comics in general).  You could argue Kirby was the Shakespeare of comics, so if comics scholarship – which I guess is a kind of hybrid form of analysis combining literary theory and film theory — is really going to flourish, there had to be a book like Hand of Fire in the libraries. For myself as a Kirby fan who would like to see Jack’s work given the respect it deserves, I personally thank Charles for the hard work he put into this project.

Charles is also a wonderful Kirby ambassador; he’s out there promoting Jack and answering questions about Jack always with grace and insight. To top it off I think his book is exceptional. It gives future Kirby historians a springboard to jump into their own theories and interpretations of Jack’s work and its impact on the culture. Will there maybe one day be a better book than Hand of Fire on Kirby’s work? Sure, probably. But as you all know that’s the point of the process — Charles’ book is a great first step (you could argue a giant leap) in Kirby scholarship, and Hand of Fire will have to be in the works cited section of pretty much any serious future dissertation on the literary merits of Kirby’s oeuvre. Let’s  not forget there are still plenty of people out there who see Kirby’s work as nothing more than disposable garbage for children, so let’s not take Charles’ work for granted just because there are inevitable criticisms of the book, such as something like complaints about the cover.

I also found the cover disappointing, but let me throw in a few of my own experiences dealing with this topic. About 10 years ago, I thought about trying to put together a fairly simple documentary film about Jack, but I discovered it would be tremendously risky to use Jack’s 60s Marvel artwork in a film because clearly they own that material, and they could derail a motion picture with Jack’s work prominently displayed in it (especially if the film was critical of Marvel Comics) with even the threat of any kind of legal action. No one is going to invest serious money in a project like that.

A few years ago, I was working on my Master’s Degree in English Education at the University of Central Florida, and I thought about doing my thesis on the visual rhetoric of Jack Kirby. UCF has an incredibly strict policy when it comes to getting permission to use every single image in a thesis for publication, so because I was not 100% certain I would be able to use every single Simon/Kirby, DC, Marvel, and Kirby Estate owned image I wanted to use in that project, I decided to focus on something else.

Recently I considered doing a book called “Kirby Dynamics” or “Kirby Storyteller” or something fun like “Kirby Rocks” that would have been a fun all-ages book that featured a single large panel of artwork from every month in Jack’s career with some text on the opposing page discussing what Jack had been doing that month. Again, the problem is that you have to have permission from all of the owners of all of that material to use it, and that’s not easy to get, especially from all the parties involved if you want to comprehensively cover Jack’s entire life.

That’s why I do Kirby Dynamics. It’s the only way I can use all of Jack’s art. The day may come where for some reason that site gets shut down. But it was a fun ride while it lasted.

The point I wanted to make is that Charles is lucky he was able to use any Kirby art at all in his book. I suspect Charles would have loved to use a Jack Kirby image for the book cover, but he couldn’t, or at least he couldn’t use one that reflected his vision for the project. So I do hope people will (I hate to use the cliché) not judge the book by the cover.

If anything, the Hand of Fire cover is a reflection of the climate Charles wrote the book in. We are in a transitional phase where what constitutes fair use is still being debated, and the work of an artist like Kirby is worth billions of dollars so the copyright to that material is going to be ferociously protected by its owners, so I have tremendous respect for Charles for forging ahead on a Jack Kirby project despite roadblocks set up by the owners of Jack’s art. People like me simply gave up on doing a Kirby book and chose other avenues.

I believe John Morrow’s Jack Kirby Collector is not-for-profit specifically so he can use a couple pages from a Kirby story under fair use; if his publication was for-profit he might face legal obstacles; the Kirby Museum is also not-for-profit. I talked to Ronin Ro about his book Tales to Astonish a few years ago, and he suggested he decided not to have images in his book because of legal issues. I heard the cover-decision for Mark Evanier’s King of Comics was also based on legal deliberations. So even if you don’t like the cover of Charles’ book, just consider that it was one of many obstacles Charles had to overcome to get this project off the ground.

The final decision in the Kirby court case may result in a legal precedent or a change in company policy at Marvel that will impact the very future of published comics’ scholarship. Who knows what images (if any) a future Kirby historian will be able to use if they want to comprehensively discuss the life and work of Jack Kirby in a published book. Because of the legal issues swirling around Kirby, and the slow demise of paper publications, in many respects, anyone who can get a book on Kirby out to the public is a pioneer.

So despite the non-Kirby cover, I think we are all pretty fortunate Charles Hatfield put together Hand of Fire, I think it’s a book we’ll be discussing for years, and it’s great to see so many eloquent experts and historians chiming in here on the subject. Great job to everybody involved in the roundtable and thanks for sharing your thoughts on Jack’s work with all of us.

Robert Steibel

http://www.robertsteibel.com/

Avengers Weekend Part 14 – Cheers

I think I’ll wrap up the live Kirby Dynamics “Avengers Weekend” and go enjoy watching the Orioles crushing the Red Sox.

I do think the way Marvel treated Jack and his family over the years is contemptible, but I have a lot of friends with little kids, and they all love these Marvel movies, and all the toys and all the Marvel junk (and I did as a kid too) so although I want to remind everybody there was a guy named Jack Kirby who did a significant amount of work creating the 1960s Marvel Avengers property — and it would be great to see Kirby get some significant credit and royalties for his work creating the Marvel Avengers — ultimately you don’t want to seethe in bitterness over things like this, so I still encourage everybody out there who loves the Marvel movies to go out and have a good time. Enjoy your Avengers weekend. And consider raising a glass to the guy who created the characters at dinner.

Kirby has yet another blockbuster movie featuring his creations, it’s remarkable, so no matter how mad Stan Lee or Marvel may make you, I say today is a great day to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of Jack Kirby. Cheers!

Avengers Weekend 13 – Avengers # 2 Original Art

Here’s something many of you may not have seen before. Not sure how often it’s been reprinted. The original art for page 24 of Avengers # 2.

And sorry to Rand if I overwhelmed the Museum site with all these posts. I should have checked with him before this little live “Avengers Weekend” experiment.

Avengers Weekend Part 12 – Movie Review

Here’s a pretty typical review of the new Avengers flick:

The Avengers Movie Review

In short, The Avengers is the best and most entertaining film to come from Marvel Studios to date. Director Joss Whedon masterfully balances a wide variety of characters and stories and weaves them together with purpose, while at the same time delivering a heavy dose of wild unmatched entertainment.

 

Avengers Weekend Part 11 – Mail Bag

Here’s a funny excerpt from a recent email on my exclusion from the new version of the Kirby-l.

Hey Steibel,

You’re like the Keith Olbermann of Kirby-l. 😀

Now that you’ve been ostracized by the mother ship, where you going to go now?

Haha! Be careful, I don’t think some of the folks on Mr X’s Kirby forum would like being compared to MSNBC or Al Gore’s network. 😀

I think I can probably find somewhere on the internet to discuss Jack other than Mister Xs private Facebook forum, but thanks for your concern. 🙂