Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Future Part 3

solar_panel_mono.348144428I could continue this series on the future for several weeks, giving you my theories about where I think we’re headed, and I could weave some of the concepts Kirby put into his work as part of the mix, but I think I’ll wrap this interlude up with one final simple concept. Solar power.

First, the future is not looking good. It looks like a significant number of people on this planet are going to suffer horribly in the future because our generation is destroying irreplaceable natural resources at a shocking pace. In a thousand years there will be no more oil left. Now I know, yeah, there will be a pocket of oil here and a pocket there, but by around the year 2200 there will not be enough oil left to power the entire planet. Eventually this once seemingly endless natural resource will virtually cease to exist on the Earth. Sort of like the American Buffalo.

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So the next important step in human history is going to have to be the invention of a new affordable energy technology. I know experiments are being done to harness air and water and other substances to create energy (and I think all of those approaches will bear fruit, and they can all supplement solar power) but there’s nothing in our general vicinity more powerful than the sun, so if civilization is going to continue after the oil is gone we’re going to have to learn how to cheaply and effectively use the energy of the sun to power our planet.

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If we don’t, humanity will fall into a dark age that will probably never end. We can’t have another industrial revolution to pull us out of the next great depression: there won’t be any more oil to fuel it. Oil is the single thing that has allowed our population to explode to around 6 billion. Without it, the planet can only reasonable sustain about 1 billion people. Maybe not even that.

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And if the oil is gone and we start burning our forests and homes to keep us warm, where will that lead? Probably full circle to a planet with only a few million people living here, raising their own crops and hunting and gathering. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I just feel sorry for the billions of people who are going to have to suffer needlessly in the transition because of our greed and over-consumption.

Surely today we can use all this technology we’ve created to solve one of our most basic puzzles — can you create energy out of thin air? Solar power obviously is the solution. And we have made great strides. But we’re not there yet. I think we’d have to cover every square inch in the entire state of California with solar panels if we wanted to power the United States — so clearly we have a very long way to go. And let’s face it, we may never really crack the code. We may never come up with a solar cell that is as efficient and inexpensive as oil. Which means we better get started on it now.

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This was a once in a lifetime event. We took a substance that took nature millions of years to create and in a period of about 200 years, we burned it all up. All of it. So if we even want to pretend we care about future generations (which clearly we do not) I think we have an obligation to at the very least pool our resources and work with other countries to design a solar panel that works. Now. We need to put a tremendous amount of our financial and human resources into the project this minute while we still have some oil left to run the light bulbs over heads. Unfortunately this country is incredibly divided. We can’t even agree on letting two women sign a marriage contract. It’s embarrassing. Most experts agree it’s going to be tremendously difficult (if not impossible) to put our remaining national resources behind an organized effort to invent a new solar technology and transition to that technology unless there is some horrible, major disaster that brings us together.

But as the Second World War showed us, if there is a global catastrophe Americans can put their differences aside and come together to work for a common cause. I hope it doesn’t take something as cataclysmic as a war to start the process, but there is no question that we as a planet are going to have to work together to build an affordable solar panel ASAP or we are seriously screwing over every human being who ever walks on this planet after us. I’m an optimist so I think we can pull it off. But I’m ashamed of us as a species if we’re going to wait to seriously transition to solar power only after we’ve used up all of the Earth’s oil. By then it may be too late.

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The Future Part 2 – The Mother Box

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We’re moving away from the days where a worker sits at a drawing board, pencils a page of art, and it goes through the hands of a production staff, then the publishing and distribution process (where literally hundreds of individuals involved in that step-by-step process make a living doing their part), to an era where one individual using computers, animation, and other forms of technology can communicate virtually any idea instantly (but very few people will make a living doing that except a few executives at Microsoft and Google who are the gatekeepers).

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Of course there will always be people who continue to draw with a pencil and publish paper comics for fun, like folk art, but the remarkable thing about this new phase in our history? The device you are reading this post on (a digital monitor on either a PC or handheld device) will probably be the predominate form of communication and information exchange for conceivably thousands of years to come, if not for tens of thousands of years or millions. This will be the way billions and billions of people communicate with each other as long as digital networks exist unless we learn ESP, or the human race eventually reverts back to the stone age. So what we just witnessed in the 20th century may have been a phase that will never be repeated again in the history of this planet — we may have reached the top of the pyramid — we’re witnessing the end of the industrial revolution, and we are transitioning into a digital revolution that may last for centuries.

The device below may represent the apex of a remarkable era in human history, the pinnacle of a period where the world was driven by an insatiable and almost insane quest to invent, develop, market, and sell new technologies. The result? The digital tablet or as most call it… the “smart phone.”

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The holy grail of technology. You could call it any number of other things as well: like a “Smart Box,” a “Magic Tablet,” or even a “Mother Box.”

Who's Who The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #12 - 1986 - Jack Kirby - Mother Box - Arkham Comics 7 rue Broca 75005 Paris

That simple, streamlined new invention is the penultimate result of all the strum and drang of the last 5 centuries. Beginning in the 1500s when the Europeans sailed on their journeys of exploration and conquest, America transitioned into one large factory — for 500 years pumping smoke into the skies, creating junk peddled to the masses around the world, most of which ended up in landfills. On top of that massive pile of debris of all the outdated technologies that litter the landscape, the Smart Phone device stands supreme.

Remind you of something else?

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The handheld Mother Box, the miniature monolith may represent the highest technological achievement we are capable of. That’s not to say you might not see a new solar cell, or some kind of eye-activated app in the future that does unimaginable things, or virtual reality porn, or whatever — history has shown we humans can invent lots of great stuff that makes our lives easier; but can that continue forever?  Won’t we inevitably hit a technological ceiling? Maybe we just did.

Chances are there may never be another  significant new technology in the future that will rival the digital tablet. We may not be able to fly through wormholes to repopulate far off planets. We may not develop hovercrafts or brain implants that allow us to levitate objects. This may be it. This simple flat box the size of a novella may become the indispensable piece of machinery that every single human who follows us will have to access if he/she wants to participate in the global community. We’ve come full circle.

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It all started with an ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablet. Then with our weapons and our wars we drove the process inexorably forward over the last several centuries — we were all complicit in the process, we helped oil the world machine with our dollars — resulting in another form of communication that requires a tablet. Except this one has headphones.

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Nobody really envisioned the Smart Phone exactly as it evolved (and I’m sure it will continue to be updated and improved), unless a writer had it in a science fiction pulp or it appeared in a Philip K. Dick novel. It’s a combination of all the gadgets they used in Star Trek: a tricorder, a communicator, Spock’s computer, the captain’s chair, and the big front screen on the Enterprise, all in one tiny package. The only thing it doesn’t do is shoot laser beams, but I can almost guarantee one day it will have a Taser app, or a stun gun (if they already don’t make them like that).

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The Mother Box evolved almost on it’s own combining an endless array of diverse technologies: everything from an Edison phonograph, a Royal typewriter, a Sony Walkman, an HP computer, and a printing press is in your new iPad (or whatever hip name Madison Avenue is marketing the Super Tablet as today). If the Wonder Box represents the highest form of technology we are capable of creating, then once the curve begins to slope downward, and we can’t keep basing the foundation of our economy on inventing new technologies, people all around the world are going to have to embrace a “new normal” where civilization is not focused completely on manufacturing and creating new disposable non-essential products; there will have to be a major psychological shift on this planet — we will have to transition from a culture focused on production and consumption to one based on conservation and education.

When this inevitable transition takes place away from an industrial society where virtually the entire population was (and still is) focused on manufacturing, I would not be at all surprised if the visionaries, and inventors and “geniuses” of the 20th century are looked upon as gods by future generations. Aside from derivative future pop stars, there simply may never be another era in the history of this planet where there are so many genuine “originals” truly breaking new unexplored ground in the arts and sciences. You may never see an era again where so many human beings could conceive, create, build, market, ship, and sell the types of revolutionary new inventions and ideas we have seen leading up to the 21st century. Not saying there won’t be new inventions in the future, just wondering how many times can you reinvent the wheel? So how lucky were we to live during this period in time? It may be said of us by future citizens of this planet that we literally walked amongst the gods.

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I should end this Kirby Dynamics post here, but this all does lead to a question: how do we transition into the inevitable next act in human history? How do we do it without riots, the trampling of human rights, and for many starvation and tremendous suffering? Most predict the world will become a ghetto, filled with crime and destruction, full of polluted over-loaded cities… and that could last for centuries. In many parts of the world it’s already is like that. For some of you if you take a wrong turn in your own community that’s the kind of place you’ll end up in right now.

If we can either bypass or survive what seems to be an inevitable post-industrial dystopian future, my suggestion is that we try and envision a future where America is no longer a metaphorical gigantic factory surrounded by slums and garbage dumps. Future generations can work to rebuild an America that is more like a metaphorical university surrounded by a national park. The Mother Box can be the medium that can link people together and help them achieve that goal. The university as we know it will become a thing of the past, in the future education can be offered completely online, for free. That way every American can get a college education.

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The New American university can be a state of mind: an ideal that if you have a safe, clean, healthy place to live; food, family and friends; and a Smart Box to help you connect with the rest of the world, learn, and create — you can have a fairly high quality of life. Instead of spending every waking hour scrambling around trying to invent, buy and sell new gadgets, we can focus on our families and our communities. The Smart Box makes that possible. It symbolizes the end of the industrial age, the beginning of the digital age, and it literally provides us with a window in which to visualize and work to create our future.

Sure, that’s all a naively Utopian vision, humans are notoriously barbaric and I’m sure we will continue to @#$% up the world.

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But consciously transforming our culture from one focused on consumption and production to one focused on conservation and education is a goal we need to embrace. We’re going to have to anyway because the current way we are living are lives is not sustainable. Instead of deluding ourselves that we can keep our economy going for centuries by producing an endless supply of new gizmos, we need to accept that the industrial revolution is ending, and take action. Despite all the destruction and suffering it caused, we need to at least appreciate the amazing new digital technology that came from the industrial revolution — the Mother Box, or Smart Phone — and we need to use that technology to collaborate with one another in order to clean up the mess we made, and refocus our energy on learning to rebuild a healthier and safer planet.

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The Future, Part 1 – Comments, Part 2

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As you can see, the short animation clip I made of the cover for Cap # 197 took me off on a bit of a tangent where I talked about the future of the Kirby Museum, which led into a conversation about digital communication as a whole. Trying to stay on-topic, I also talked about the future of comics. Since Jack was someone very interested in predicting the future as a writer of fiction (and I’m sure he was as concerned about the future as most people) I’m going to discuss the topic for a few more days, then I’ll get back to 70s Cap. Here was a comment from the Kirby Museum Facebook page I thought I’d address:

James Romberger: Not all comics will be digital; just the superhero stuff… the interesting stuff will still be in book form.

I don’t have so much interest in reading comics digitally…..but there is no reason to do comics the traditional way if they are meant to be read on a screen. In fact they don’t work the same… you can’t do double page spreads for digital, for instance, they can’t be apprehended properly as a whole. Actually digital page construction can be a different beast altogether, the backlighting can be used and other stuff can be imbedded. But I do find it tiresome to hear people crowing about the death of the book.

I hate to disagree with James because I have a lot of respect for him — I’ve had a lot of fun discussing a wide range of topics with him over the years, I’m glad to hear from him, and I’m honored he reads this weblog. If you read this, I hope you are doing well James. In my reply below, I’m not picking on James, but I do want to use his comments as a springboard to talk a little more about the whole “print books vs digital books” debate.

Right now in 2013 it may be true that there are still millions of people out there who enjoy reading a paper book. I know I buy books all the time —  but I do that because everything is not online yet. I even have collected some of the comics I’ve made over the last few years into some books and I’ve sold some copies. That’s one of the only ways you can actually make any money on your work. So I’m just as guilty of using trees to make a buck as the next man.

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But if we are looking at the long term future of the planet, we have to move away from communicating using paper no matter how profitable it is and no matter how much a certain segment of the population enjoys printed books.

Before I tell you why, let me add this obvious caveat: it is very possible civilization as we know it will disintegrate and our digital networks will fail and people will have to go back to chopping down trees, making paper from those trees, and they will have to use a printing press to communicate.

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In all likelihood this will happen; for us to assume we can keep our digital networks running for millions of years is unrealistic.

And I also appreciate a beautifully printed piece of paper — I love old Japanese woodcuts for example; you can’t capture their beauty digitally. They are masterpieces of art and the technology of printing. If you hang one on your wall it can become a sacred object in your home where for generations you and your family can be inspired and enlightened by the piece. Here’s a handful.

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But, if we are able to keep a digital network up and running, then using paper to communicate is simply unnecessary. I hate to say this (and again I’m not picking on James — as I said, I’ve sold printed books of my own comics recently), but to use the few remaining trees we have on this planet to make comic books is nothing short of absurd.

As we all learned in science class back in elementary school, we need to have lots of trees on this planet to produce oxygen or we’ll all die. We should literally stop chopping down all of our trees worldwide now. But we can’t. Many computer models predict by the year 2075 we will go from about 300 million people in America to about 900 million. That means we have to house 600 million more people! What will we use to do that? We’ll have to use some trees to build 600 million more homes. Plus our infrastructure is crumbling. We’ve got millions of homes that were built after the second world war that need repairs. We need to use trees to do that. We need to use trees to do a lot of things. So although I also like reading a paper book, we have to accept that print publications are vanity items.

So yeah, I can see print copies of graphic novels being relevant for a few more years maybe even decades if people will purchase them (and that’s great for the artists so they can make some well-deserved money for their hard work) but ultimately we have to phase out of this period where we use paper to make books… all that stuff can be accessed digitally now. The only thing that is preventing that from happening today is a tiny handful of corporations and publishers are trying to make as much money on their intellectual properties before the floodgates burst open and everything is available for free online (or at least it will be pay-per-view in a digital archive).

So I respect people who enjoy print books (and who make print books) but people like me discussing the transition from print to digital books isn’t just us “crowing about the death of the book” – I’m reporting on what is happening and what is going to have to happen as we move into the year 3000, 4000, and beyond. We may see a time where our few remaining trees are so valuable, that harvesting a tree to make paper may be illegal, like harvesting the tusk of an elephant has become illegal.

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In our lifetime, which is a mere dust speck in the history of this planet, I’m sure there will always be people printing books if they can make a buck off of it, and I suspect you may have a healthy POD industry in the future that will cater to people who do like to have paper books on their bookshelves. But looking long term, using what few remaining trees we have to make comic books is simply not going to be a priority. In fact, once we run out of oil, and if we haven’t developed a legitimate alternative energy resources to replace oil, and our power plants go dead, chances are you’ll be going over to your neighbor’s house with a shotgun and you’ll be stealing anything they have that you can burn in your fireplace to keep you and your family alive for one more night on a cold dark winter’s evening. One man’s graphic novel is another man’s way of building a fire to cook dinner.

Mainly I think we were lucky to live during this period in history. We witnessed tremendous advancements in technology and art, and the comic book was a fun result of that synthesis. Today if you are able to go out, buy a graphic novel, and you can sit in an easy chair under a bright light in a warm room with your loyal puppy snuggled under your feet and appreciate an artist’s vision printed on paper — that’s great. I say take a moment and try and appreciate the experience because in the distant future, I think having the ability to actually hold a paper book in your hands is going to be a luxury only a few very, very wealthy elite can afford. If we even have any trees left to make paper books.

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Worlds Within Worlds – The Future Part 1, Comments

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Thanks to John for this comment on the Museum Facebook page.

John Sagness: Good column, Rob. But I don’t think it’s just the future of comics SCHOLARSHIP that’s going to become more interactive and online; I think it’s also the future of comics THEMSELVES — as print comics gradually fade and webcomics eventually take over. If the medium is going to survive and even flourish once again, it needs more creative freedom than it’s had over the last thirty years and better distribution than just the ever-shrinking network of comic shops that it currently uses. The internet can solve both of those problems, of course, and one of the possibilities for a website like the Kirby Museum (which I’m kind of surprised they haven’t capitalized on yet) would be to run ENTIRE STORIES by Kirby which are in the public domain, just as the Kirby Collector currently does. After all, “the play’s the thing,” as Shakespeare would say, so why not give people more opportunity to see what all the fuss is about?

BTW, the cover for Cap 197 was inked by Verpoorten, not Giacoia.

Thanks for the correction, John. I hope I’m not like Stan Lee putting out false information. 🙂 I also wondered who inked that cover; I didn’t think it looked like Giacoia, but it didn’t look like Verpoorten to me either, so I just went with the Kirby Checklist — but I think you are probably right. That’s the great thing about the net, people correct mistakes and then debate those corrections. Kirby is a subject people will probably be arguing about for a long time.

As far as the future of comics, I agree it will have to be online. The fact that anyone on the planet in 2013 is spending $ 4.99 or $5.99 plus tax for a paper comic book is mind-boggling to me. I literally can’t believe that is happening; I need to see video of someone actually buying a paper comic book or I don’t believe it’s taking place — it’s that unfathomable. All that stuff is online for free. Or if you want to support the comics company with your dollars, buy a digital copy you can look at it on your giant screen HDTV. Granted, I understand a fan giving their money directly to an artist to support that artist making paper comics, but that’s a huge investment for a lot of people, not to mention, aren’t most of those rags still packed with advertising? If that’s the case the comics companies should be paying you to read them and flip through all those ads.

I knew some guy in the 2000s who sold a 2 DVD set that had every single comic book and graphic novel published each month for like $19.99. I bought a couple out of curiosity (and my apologies to the artists for taking money out of their pockets by doing that). I was intrigued by some of the art in the graphic novels, but none of the superhero material resonated with me. It all seemed like the newest reboot, of the last reboot, of the former reboot, of a hundred reboots. It was like watching a Beatles cover band doing an imitation of a Beatles cover band. Most of the superhero art looked the same to me; you can see there is a generic “style” many artists now embrace, and the complex computer coloring tended to totally overwhelm the illustrations to my eye. And everybody is all bloody and angry in the comics. I mean, I respect the artists a lot — most of them are genuinely talented craftsmen and craftswomen — really I just personally lost interest in comics in the 80s so if I have a free moment I’d rather watch YouTube clips of kittens doing kung fu. And I barely have the attention span to make it through a 2 minute clip like this nowadays. Here’s one with some fun slow motion shots:

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I love that footage at the 1.11 mark. Why buy a 6 dollar comic book when there is an infinite amount of wacky stuff like this for free online?

Here’s a comic: I bet this battle blows away any fight scene in any of the new comics. Hi-yah! It’s amazing how that kitten on the left is able to jump backwards, but he is still on the offensive. Just like a battle in the Matrix.

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It shocks me that someone would pay money for a paper copy of X-Men vs Avengers Secret Civil War XVIII or whatever is going on at Marvel now. You can actually get the TPs from the local library for free if you are patient enough. But there will always be comics, and I would think animation, sound, and music will be a big part of the next generation of comics. My guess is eventually they’ll have an inexpensive, easy-to-use comic program where you can use 3D figures and anyone with a PC will be able to make their own comics very easily. You could see a revolution where millions of kids are making their own animated comics. Legitimate talent could rise to the surface. You’d hope a new Kirby would emerge, or someone genuinely gifted, but in this ever-increasing American Idol culture we live in, chances are some Stan Lee clones will be doing the judging and we can expect more vacuous, generic corporate junk shoved down our throats.

I do think in the future, long after we are gone, someone will keep the Kirby Museum running, and I think eventually Marvel and DC will allow such a Museum to archive all of Jack’s material. I just don’t see how that would hurt them. All the material is floating around on the internet anyway; Marvel could promote their inevitable digital archive and get some free publicity, plus that would be good PR. At some point they have to pay some respect to Jack, but we’ll probably all be dead by then. At least Jack’s Great, Great, Great Grandkids will be there to see it. That’s when regular people who aren’t experts can really dive in and see all the material for themselves and comment. A blog like Kirby Dynamics has been outdated and obsolete from day one: I’m just posting bits and pieces of Jack’s work — the real substantive conversation will take place whern you have The Complete Jack Kirby online, an archive of everything he ever did, and a discourse where everyone can cite issue and page numbers and everybody can see what you are talking about.

Chances are a future Kirby Museum, let’s call it Kirby Museum 3000, will be for the most part automated, and it will have some fun things for people to do and some interactive forums for people to discuss and study Jack’s work. Here is a fun site where the guy running it is using an automated system to flag new articles that mention Kirby, then he edits it to pick the best ones. This is the type of thing I could see on a Kirby Museum of the future as well, collecting the online Kirby conversation in one place.

http://www.scoop.it/t/jack-kirby

You can see there are several bloggers and writers/artists out there posting images of Jack’s work and their own brand of homage every day. Here’s a recent image from the site:

kirby-helmet-700x890At some point every single thing Jack has ever done will be online whether it’s officially archived or not, and I’m sure you’ll have an automated system that will flag all of that material, and organize it. Google, Microsoft and every tech geek with a laptop is working on the next generation of search engines that will look at an image as a fingerprint, which will enable you to, for example pull up every image of George Clooney that’s ever been published in history (if you wanted to). Right now the net is still a hodge-podge with corporations all trying to figure out if they can keep making money on their intellectual property, and you could see a time where you have to pay for a service that allows you to upload every image of George Clooney from all time, but there’s no doubt that technology will exist at some point. It pretty much already does, but Google and the various search engines are filtering content to try and direct you to advertisers.

So The Complete Jack Kirby will exist at some point — for now it’s really just a handful of fans throwing scans out there. And lets not kid ourselves, very few people may care about Jack Kirby in the year 3000, they may be far more focused more on trying to get a bottle of fresh water and a loaf of bread to keep their kids and themselves from starving to death. But for me, it sure has been fun to discuss Jack’s work during this century, and I do think that people are going to always have some leisure time — in those moments they will want to express themselves and create their own art,  so as long as that is the case, Kirby will be one person they may want to look to for inspiration.

I’ve always contended that you can get a really good look at the macrocosm by taking a close look at the microcosm. And that’s one of the reasons I do this blog on Jack Kirby. Looking at Jack’s life and work gives us a great window into the 20th century and how the art and ideas of that century built the world we live today. There are worlds within worlds…

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The Future Part 1

Here’s an animated clip of Jack’s pencils morphing into the original art and the published cover for Captain America # 197 (1976). Be sure to set the video player at 1080 and fill up your whole screen with the page so you can see it clearly.

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Ideally, in the future, I’d like to see a place like the Kirby Museum have all of Jack’s pencil scans archived along with an archive of the published art and an archive of the original art (if available). Then a reader can visit the Museum, open up a video screen and cross-reference all the images — dissolving Kirby pencil/inked/published images into one another at a speed they prefer, or zoom in. I’m positive in the near future that kind of technology will be something easy to install at the Museum site and use. It could be 10 or 20 years, but that’s not a very long time in the grand scheme of things. The future of comics scholarship is going to become more and more interactive and online — drifting away from print publications — becoming something where people can take comics images and enlarge them or manipulate them on their computers however they choose. It would be terrific to see new and old fans alike having a chance to make their own little live animations (like the Cap  # 197 YouTube clip above) and watch how Jack’s pencils went through the editing, inking, and publishing process.

In the future, you also might also see a Kirby Museum app where someone can take a smart phone and use a digital pen to ink one of Jack’s pencil pages. Or an app where a Museum visitor could add their own text or sound effects to Jack’s art, or any other number of things. That’s the future of websites like the Kirby Museum — they will become a place where Jack’s work can be studied by genuine historians, but also a place where a little kid can come and play and have fun doing something like coloring a black and white Kirby page, using very simple and easy to use coloring software. Sure, purists might barf at the idea of a bunch of fans coloring Jack’s art, but their kids might love it and creating an experience like that keeps Kirby’s art alive… literally. Not saying millions will line up to do something like that, but if the Kirby Museum is going to be an exciting and vital place, those are some things you will (hopefully) see in years to come. And of course, there is much that can be learned from a close comparison of Jack’s pencils with the published pages if some future Kirby historians come along and want to examine the material from a scholarly standpoint… but there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun too.

Unfortunately, for now, Kirby Dynamics is a ghetto operation — we have to go gangsta’, so hopefully this little YouTube clip at least scratches the surface of how I think comics historians (and fans) will examine Jack’s work in the decades to come. I’ll try and do some more of these videos if time allows. Looking at this one, I’d probably show the images a bit longer if I re-edited it — they fly by pretty fast. It’s amazing how the red color really pops out of the image once the art is colored. As most of you probably learned in elementary school art class, red gives the illusion that it’s closer to the eye than other colors, so it’s use always makes a pretty big impact on an image.

Taking all of the black and white images Marvel has published in those Essentials books, and synching them up to the colored published images would be another great interactive video app I could see at the Kirby Museum in the future if Marvel ever decides to cooperate. Dissolving the black and white pages into color would be a fun little game future visitors to the Museum might enjoy playing around with, even if it’s only one time for a few hours.

On the Cap # 197 cover, great contrast in that penciled piece, but I think coloring all the machinery dark blue really obscured the detail in Jack’s pencils. Jack’s penciled linework gives the image amazing energy. This cover is another example where I think you see Jack experimenting. For example, look at the way two of those bullets are flying through that debris under Cap’s legs, creating that geometrical burst of speed lines. I’m not sure if I’ve seen Jack use that specific effect before. The guy was always trying new things for his entire career — that’s one of the reasons I enjoy his work so much, and I think it says a lot about Jack as an artist. I think he was always trying to push the envelope to get better as a comics storyteller (because he had tremendous creativity and genuine artistic integrity); and I think he just plain and simple wanted to keep making a living and he knew making his work different (distinctive) and better (more dynamic and explosive) than his peers was the only way that was going to happen. And of course, as we are seeing as we examine Jack’s 70s Cap run, he would have been absolutely right to fear the possibility of losing his job, because that was in fact exactly what was happening as he illustrated this cover — forces were in motion at Marvel where he was being pushed out for good.

And have you ever seen a composition like that in a comic before or since? Literally about 5 bullets flying right underneath the protagonists cajones. Think about trying to pull that off in a film at that angle with the bullets flying right at the viewer. Definitely a fun 70s Kirby cover.

Captain America # 197 – Pencil Scan

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Hopefully I’m not about to give you all 70s Captain America overload for the next month, but I was looking through my files and I found a bunch of pencil scans from that period that used to be posted on the Museum site; it looks like they aren’t there any longer. The quality isn’t very good in terms of the resolution, but I’m going to start adding those to the mix as we explore that period.

Above is the pencil scan to Captain America # 197. As you can see Jack’s caption is still a bit silly. It says, “This way for action! I’ve found an underground army of desperate killers!” But it’s nowhere nearly as ridiculous as the captions the Marvel editor/staffer added to Jack’s artwork where Cap is yelling to someone that he is alone. I guess you could argue in both cases Jack is breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader, and I do think his original caption is cheesy, but the new caption is considered a classic of absurdity.

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So now we know it for a fact: not only were the Marvel staffers incredibly critical of Jack’s writing, in this case someone in the bullpen (a staffer or editor) completely changed Jack’s dialogue resulting in what many to consider one of the (if not the) dumbest capti0ns in the history of comics.

I know a lot of you think I’m being way too hard on the staffers/editors at Marvel in the 70s, but this is a perfect example of what Jack was dealing with. Not only did they have zero respect for his writing skills, but when they made major revisions to his work like this their skills were so embarrassingly lacking — the results are genuinely laughable. Imagine if some “staffer” made a stupid change like that to your artwork without consulting you. Didn’t they have telephones back in the 1970s? If you think Jack’s cover caption sucks, call him and figure out a new one.

Imagine if Jack had someone on the Marvel staff in the 70s who cared about his work, who  instead of feeling contempt for his writing maybe would have put some care into these types of revisions. And who knows, changes like this by some staffer/editor may have contributed to the fact many fans were turning away from Jack’s work. So you’ve got Marvel staffers slamming Jack’s work in public, stacking the letters columns with negative letters complaining about his writing, and they themselves are literally rewriting Jack’s work — in this case the results were idiotic.

70s Kirby Cap Letters Column – Comments

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Thanks to a reader for sending in this scan. I don’t see notes in the margins, so it may have been an editor or staffer who added that “I’ve got to stop them alone!” dialogue. Yes, Jack may have written that and it’s been covered up or erased, but how ironic would it be if one of the Marvel staffers (who were so brutally critical of Jack’s writing) was responsible for what is considered to be one of the most absurd examples of comics captions of all time.

Here are a couple emails from the Kirby Museum Facebook page on the Cap # 200 letters column post:

William Paul Dickenson: Nice to see my letter reprinted here. I bought a lot of copies of #200 because my letter was in it and over the years since then I have given them all away to friends and family. I still have my personal copy in my collection.

That was a great letter. It was exactly what you would expect to see in a Marvel comic. It was gracious and friendly. In fact, I would say William was ahead of the curve on this — when there were fans out there who hated Jack and were slamming Jack, William had the foresight to see that Jack was doing something special.

Letters like his create a positive environment. A friendly atmosphere. And publishing letters like that is great for business — you celebrate your creators and your coworkers. You promote them and accentuate the positive. You encourage fans to support the product and buy the next issue because the people producing it are doing good work together, and the fans enjoy it. If I wrote this letter, I’d be proud of it. If Jack read it, I bet it made him smile.

Jim Ritchey: I’ve heard how terrible some of the Bullpen were, but I don’t think they would have to overpopulate the letters columns with negative feedback. I was around 16 when Jack came back to Marvel, and I stayed disappointed in his work. Steve ‘Engleheart (sic)’ was excellent on Cap–likely still the best writer Cap ever had. He wrote him like a real person, and the current movie depiction owes much to Englehart’s version.

I thought the Captain America movie borrowed a lot of concepts from Jack’s 60s Marvel run. It seemed like Kirby homage to me, literally every single 60s Kirby concept seemed to be in that film (but I guess there are those who will still say all those ideas came from Stan Lee). I never read Engleheart’s comics, so I don’t know if he’s the best writer ever to work on the character or not, or if his interpretation did have an impact on the movie. What I do know is that writers are different, so even if some 70s comics fans preferred Engleheart’s style, I still say it makes no sense to pepper the Kirby Captain America letters columns with readers complaining about Jack’s work unless the people editing the letters column had an agenda.

While Jack brought back with him a feeling of separation from the Marvel universe–a complete disconnect from everything anyone else was doing, like he started over in a separate reality. The writing was simplistic and purely plot-driven–not nearly as good as his DC writing from only a couple years before, and a MILE from FF. It was like he was making it up as he went along, with no clear plan, and no interest in referencing how his character had grown. I still liked his art, but I dropped Cap pretty quick, ’cause I honestly dislike his plotting and writing on it–same with Black Panther. Eternals stayed interesting for the most part, because he was actually interested in it…

It could also be that you were growing up. I know I stopped buying comics altogether when I turned 18. People change and artists change. Here’s an analogy, I was a huge REM fan in the 80s. Saw them live a bunch of times. Listened to their albums over and over. Played their music when I would DJ parties even if the crowd was demanding dance music. I loved their sound, specifically Perter Buck’s simple melodies played on his Rickenbacher.

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But in the mid-90s I lost interest in them; I didn’t like most of their new material. In fact I hated a lot of it. I like guitar-driven music; when they started experimenting with keyboards I bailed. Was it because they suddenly sucked? Maybe. But in reality I think we both changed — they were trying new things, and I was interested in new things. I got into Bob Marley at that time.

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I think that’s why some readers drifted away from Jack in the 70s. Not because Jack was suddenly turning in half-assed work, but readers were changing and Jack was changing. Jack was no longer Stan Lee’s “penciler.” And Jack’s style started to morph a bit — it became a bit more “cartoony.” I think this probably was a conscious decision on his part because that was his pattern. He was always trying subtle new things. Look at his Fantastic Four art in 1960 compared to 1969. An amazing evolution of style. Why wouldn’t he continue to experiment in the 70s? Maybe readers just didn’t like his new look. Giacoia’s rushed inks didn’t help. Berry’s inks were a little too mechanical for me. Many people never got used to Royer’s remarkably faithful delineation of Jack’s pencils. I know I yearned for Sinnott in the 70s.

Yes, maybe his material was a little rushed because Jack was cranking out a ton of product — 3 monthly books plus treasury editions, annuals and covers. Remember, Jack only had a few hours to dialogue his books, and he didn’t have a trusted confidante who he could count on to edit his material. Jack had other things on his plate: he had a family to support; his health may have been on the decline; he may have felt tremendous stress because his art was being stolen and showing up at conventions; he had no real retirement money stashed away; I don’t think he had health care; he was a child of the depression, so he isn’t going to write stories like a 20-year-old hippie. The double-splashes cut down on the room he had to introduce subplots; the books were literally shorter in terms of the page count as compared to the 60s; he had to focus a lot of time on Falcon since he is one of the main characters. Fans yearned for the “Written by Stan Lee” credit in Jack’s books. Plus Stan was claiming he created all of Jack’s characters. Jack was getting zero royalties on merchandising from Marvel and had to face facts: he never would. And to add insult to injury? In his own books, some anonymous “staffers” are filling the letters columns with “constructive criticism,” and encouraging readers to send in more “to set things right.” All of these things and more may have weighed on Jack and affected his work, and a hundred other things we may never know about. All of these factors may have played a role in Jack’s books becoming less popular.

As I’ve said before, I thought Jack’s stuff was weird when I was 10-years-old, so I was actually a part of the movement away from artists like Jack where we drifted towards artists like John Byrne who ironically is probably Jack’s most successful clone.

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But 30 yeas later, I realize I was wrong… what Jack was doing was terrific, it was special — I was just too immature and clueless to appreciate it. I loved Byrnes’s stuff as a teenager; I find it boring now. I found Jack’s stuff bizarre as a kid; now it gives me tremendous joy and inspiration.

Here’s another analogy: I was not a fan of the Beatles when I was a kid. I thought they were overrated. I liked Disco!

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But in my 30s I started to listen to the Beatles music and I fell in love with it. Same thing with Kirby. Some things you don’t like as a kid, you learn to appreciate and respect as an adult. Certain things are transcendent. Certain things stand the test of time.

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So I think you have to look at Jack’s 70s Marvel comics in context to appreciate it. And to repeat my main point so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle: although I understand kids gravitating away from Kirby in the 70s — that did happen, that is a fact — I just think it was wrong for the Marvel staffers to encourage that exodus in the letters columns of Jack’s books.

I love Jack. I met him twice. He’s a hero, an influence. but he didn’t need a conspiracy for me to notice he wasn’t doing his best when I was a 16 year old, so hopefully folks can use a little objectivity when making up their minds. I KNOW Marvel is evil, but it doesn’t mean Jack was doing his best…

And “conspiracy” really isn’t the right word, it’s a term that’s so loaded and misunderstood. Really what I think happened was this: some Marvel staffers didn’t like Jack’s writing and they expressed this feeling in the choices they made in terms of editing and responding to the letters in the Captain America letters column. There was no secret cabal, it was just some kids who wanted Jack out of the picture and since they didn’t have a real voice in fandom, they used the letters columns as their megaphone. And I think it worked: I think the letters columns did play a role in causing readers to turn away from Jack’s books. I can tell you for a fact that if I had read those negative letters, I would not have bought any more Captain America books. Peer pressure can have a tremendous impact on  a kid especially when you only have a dollar or two to spend on comics each month.

…so hopefully folks can use a little objectivity when making up their minds. I KNOW Marvel is evil, but it doesn’t mean Jack was doing his best.

Two things. I personally don’t fall into the “Marvel is evil” camp. I honestly don’t know anyone at Marvel, so I don’t know what they are up to. I do wish they would give Jack’s family a settlement of some sort, but that may never happen. I do think Jack was treated pretty poorly by a lot of his associates at Marvel, but whether they are evil or not is unknown to me. I’m personally not a Marvel fan, I don’t buy their junk (although I do watch the movies when they come on cable), but I have a lot of friends with kids who love Marvel, and if Marvel does settle with Jack’s family at some point, I would praise that move.

As far as Jack concievabley not “dong his best” in the 70s at Marvel: this was a subject that was much debated on the old Kirby-l yahoo forum where you had a lot of comics experts gathered. Why is Jack’s artwork in the 70s a little different than his 60s work? Was he getting lazy? Was he rushing? Was he changing his style? Or was he simply not engaged or interested? Did Jack need Stan Lee? All I can tell you is this: if you look at Jack’s uninked pencils from the 70s, they are terrific. They are full of detail. I personally think Jack was still doing his best. Ultimately, I think Kirby was changing and comics readers were changing in the mid-70s, and that’s the real reason you definitely saw a lot of readers buying other types of comics, specifically books like Heavy Metal.

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To give you one more analogy, like most people I stopped listening to disco in the 80s. Remember a lot of people really turned on the disco artists in the same way a lot of fans turned on Kirby. The Bee Gees were ridiculed for decades.

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Like a lot of kids I got into rock music, for example AC/DC. That was the first band I ever saw live. I still rock out to them once in awhile. Saw them live again on their last tour.

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This is the same type of shift that took place in the late 70s in comics. People were moving away from impressionistic work Like Kirby’s towards more “photorealistic” art like Neal Adams. As comics moved into the 80s, fans moved away from old-school Kirby to new-school guys like Frank Miller and Walt Simonson. Ironically both of them and Byrne (and really everybody in “superhero” comics) were heavily influenced by Jack. It’s interesting to note: one of the main major shifts that took place in comics was from 60s Kirby, to 80’s Kirby homage! So I do think Jack was still giving his best in the 70s, it’s just that a lot of readers were changing. And the times they were changing.

Patrick Ford: You know what I “love” about the Marvel LOCs? It’s how the MMMS pepper their letters with their loyalty oaths. Things like “Make Mine Marvel.” Ever hear of “projection?” You know how Lee’s Lunatics think it’s perfectly appropriate to demean Kirby and his fans. How their favorite ploy is to call anyone who thinks Kirby was producing his best work in the ’70s a “Kirby Kultist?” Well there is a cult. It just isn’t a Kirby cult.

Patrick Ford Jim wrote: “While Jack brought back with him a feeling of separation from the Marvel universe–a complete disconnect from everything anyone else was doing, like he started over in a separate reality. ” Yup. That’s why I like it and think every single other comic book Marvel published at the time was awful or worse.

I liked some of the other stuff Marvel put out back them. I enjoyed Sal Buscema’s simple style. I loved Perez/Sinnott on FF. I enjoyed the Byrne/Austin X-Men books. And there was a lot of forgettable stuff that was disappointing as well — like all of those lame “team-up” books. But one thing is for sure, if you are looking at the history of comics, and you are looking at the big picture, Jack’s books will be the ones people are talking about 100s of years from now. He clearly towers over all of the writers and artists who followed him, most of whom were simply reinterpreting his creations. I hope one day more people consider that Kirby’s 70s books are the conclusion to a grand epic that spanned almost the entire 20th century.

Jack was a pioneer in comics for 50 years, and his 70s work represents his last stand in the industry (in addition to his work in the 80s); the other artists who came after him were simply following the trail he blazed. That’s not to say comics history will forget them (if anyone even cares about comics in the future, which they probably will not), it’s just that there’s no way you can even begin to stress how important Jack Kirby was to that Marvel company. All you have to do is look at the garbage Goodman and Lee were publishing before Jack came onboard, and compare that to what they have been publishing since the Kirby Revolution.

70s Kirby – Captain America # 200 Letters Page

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I used to be a member of an old yahoo forum called Kirby-l, and it was kind of like a bar room brawl when I joined.

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After someone slammed a metaphorical chair over my head, I used to enjoy posting the occasional rant, because it would really get those geezers riled up, especially the hardcore Marvel  fanboys and of course Stan Lee’s adoring fans. I don’t usually do that here, because I want to mainly focus on Jack’s art, but after years on that old Kirby-l listening to those pompous comic “experts” telling me that Jack was paranoid… there was no “conspiracy” to get Jack pushed aside in the 70s by a handful of Marvel “staffers.” No one was trying to sabotage Jack.

Well, you know what? Now that I’m reading the letters myself? It’s time for an old fashioned rant! You’ve been warned…

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First of all, I never intended to examine each letter in Jack’s 70s Cap run in detail. I only figured there would be one or two negative letters in 2 or 3 books. Jim Shooter said at some point he caught wind of what was going on and he put a stop to it, so I was hoping that would have happened by now. But maybe Jim hadn’t entered the picture yet so unfortunately, for I think the fourth month straight, whoever this Marvel intern/”staffer” is… he is continuing to post letters slamming Jack, and as you will see — HE’S EVEN ENCOURAGING READERS TO SEND IN LETTERS SLAMMING JACK  because that will be the “best way to set things right!”

Secondly, I think this period in Kirby history (and quite frankly comics history) is one that is rarely discussed… but it should be. You need to try and put yourselves in Jack’s shoes for a moment: these “staffers” are messing with his livelihood. They’re screwing with his ability to put food on the table and feed his kids. There is not doubt in my mind that these jealous, ambitions jerks didn’t like what Jack was doing, and they wanted him OUT! So take that scenario a step further: if you bring back “The Fearless Leader” (or let some Lee clone write the stories) that means Jack Kirby is going to lose his writer and his editor paycheck for at least three monthly comic books! And the credit! And it means he’s going to be publicly humiliated. He’s going to have to go back to being somebody’s “penciler.” That’s what these staffers are trying to pull off. This is a mutiny. They want themselves (or anyone else besides Jack)  to write a book like Captain America. They were trying to give Jack a major demotion and put his salary in somebody else’s pocket — preferably their own. And these “staffers” are cowards! Do you think they would have done something like this to Jack if was sitting right beside them in the bullpen? Of course not — they did it because Jack was in California and he had no control over what these spineless worms were up to. Jack may not have even noticed for many months.

Thirdly: a lot of kids reading these moronic letters pages probably still thought Stan Lee was editing and writing them! As we saw in an early letter, the staffer literately spoke in Lee’s “Aunt Petunia, ’nuff said, Effendi” gibberish. Plus Lee’s name is plastered on the front page of all the books; he’s doing those soapboxes; and his Origins book; etc., etc., etc. I thought Lee was writing the letters pages. After all, Lee did EVERYTHING, according to Lee. Some fans may have thought their hero, their God, Stan Lee was not only peppering Jack’s Captain America with negative letters, but additionally their Leader was also ENCOURAGING THEM TO SEND IN LETTERS SLAMMING JACK  because that will be the “best way to set things right!”

While I’m at it, how about a fourth point: if Stan Lee tells the truth and makes it crystal clear that Jack Kirby played a pivotal role in the creation of all the major 60s Marvel characters, and Lee makes it crystal clear Jack did the lions share of the actual principal writing of every single story he gave to Stan — maybe these “staffers” would have been a little more inclined to treat Jack with a tiny grain of respect. And maybe fandom at this time might have appreciated Jack a bit more.

One final thing to add. This is life. This is what will probably happen to every single one of us if we live to be a certain age. This was a generational shift. The ambitions “staffers” weren’t necessarily bastards (although by all accounts they were creeps), frequently young people stab seniors in the back hoping they can take their jobs. They’ve got ambitions and bills to pay too. So this isn’t me weeping, “Oh po’ po’ Jack Kirby. Oh, boo hoo. He got screwed by those bad, bad creepy Marvel staffers.” This is me saying: look at this period in comics history  and learn from it — see it as a cautionary tale, because if this can happen to the greatest artist to ever work in the comics industry? It sure as hell can happen to you in whatever field you are working in. And it probably will.

Here are a few quick observations about the letters and the intern/staffer’s comments in the Cap # 200 letters column:

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Notice in the second letter, the writer is “almost convinced” he can embrace Kirby’s Cap. I guess this could be looked upon as a positive letter?

In the third letter,  how funny is this yearning for the “subplot-filled days of Steve Engleheart.” No offense to Steve Engleheart (who unfortunately I don’t even remember) but Jack Kirby created Captain America. I’d much rather see Jack putting his own creation through the paces in a straightforward way without a bunch of loose plot-strings hanging about. As I mentioned yesterday, many kids like me couldn’t find every book, so we didn’t want pseudo-complexity. Just give us a simple story.

Was Engleheart the guy that did that whole Nomad story? Or was that somebody else? I bought a copy of one of those Nomad stories (I got it at a flea market) and I remember thinking, “Where the hell is Captain America? I just paid a nickle for this comic, and there’s some dumb new character in here.” I guess Nomad symbolized man’s duality and the struggle between the id, ego, and superego or some other such nonsense? When I was buying comics, I just wanted a comic where Cap punches dudes in the face with lots of debris flying around. If I wanted politics or convoluted  characterizations, I could’a gone to the library and checked out War and Peace. But I guess you had a group of pseudo-intellectual college-age kids at that time who wanted more “literary” stories? They wanted their funny books to tackle “real” issues, so they yearned for the old Nomad days?

Real issues?

How’s this for a “real issue?” Newsflash: One of Jack’s most famous comic covers featured the very character in this comic —  punching Hitler in the @#$%ing face!

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So no offense to whoever created Nomad, or the goobers clamoring for Nomad, or the literati wanting lots of lame supplots, or whatever… when I was 10 years old? Give me Captain America by the creator of Captain America! I’d rather see Jack explore  whatever real issues he wants to tackle during the bicentennial. I for one think he earned the right to do so.

And remember, when Jack did the cover for Captain America # 1 (Mar 1941) , he faced very real dangers from Nazi organizations in NYC. And here’s something else that isn’t discussed enough: when he was in Europe during the second World War, what do you think would have happened to Jack if the Nazi’s had captured him, thrown him into a prisoner of war camp, and they found out he created Captain America and illustrated that legendary cover of Cap kicking Der Fuehrer’s arse? You think that ever crossed Jack’s mind when he was a scout crawling around on the battlefields over in France with Nazi bullets flying over his head? The guy was a genuine American hero, plus by all accounts he was an incredibly humble, kindhearted and gracious guy. That’s why I find the behavior of these Marvel staffers contemptible. They were a bunch of spoiled, talentless, utterly forgettable ingrates who won the lottery. Stan bailed out for California, and whoever was lucky enough to show up at the Marvel offices scavenging for autographs ended up being turned into a “staffer.”

Here is the specific comment the staffer made: Jack is “just folks like anybody else,” and “…if you don’t agree with the way Jack is handling Cap… fine! Jack wants to hear about it ’cause good, constructive criticism is the best way to set things right!”

Is this even true? Did Jack tell this Marvel nitwit editing his letters page he wanted constructive criticism, “’cause that’s the best way to set things right?” Or is this a lie. Is this Marvel imbecile who is supposedly giving readers some journalistic fair and balanced sampling of letters actually a total phony and a hypocrite? Jack truthfully wants readers to send in criticism? If some reader says, “Jack, you suck! Your squiggles suck! Your crackle sucks! I miss subplots, and Nomad! And bring back Forbush Man, Excelsior!” or some other stupidity, you really think Jack wants to read that or do that? And who decided things weren’t “right?” This Marvel staffer?

Shame on whoever fell asleep at the wheel and allowed some punks in the 70s Marvel bullpen to slam Jack like this in his own books month, after month, after month, after month. With all of the negativity flooding the letters column, I’m surprised anyone was buying the Captain America book at this point. And remember, this is just a small example of how Jack was treated by his Marvel coworkers during what I consider to be a shameful period in comics history. I didn’t even mention the thousands of pages of his original art being stolen. Jack Kirby deserved a hell of a lot better.

Oh, but don’t worry, there’s still a silver lining.

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On the old Kirby-l, a former Marvel Editor (who is now some kind of Vice-President at Marvel) told us that Marvel has indeed made an effort to make up for the shabby way they treated Jack. How does Marvel do this you may ask? The Marvel editor told us this: Marvel honors Jack… by “keeping his work in print.”

How nice of them…

70s Kirby – Captain America # 200

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I remember as a 10-year-old really wanting to find this issue so I could see what happened after issue # 199, but I never saw it at the local 7-11.

I stopped buying comics in  about 1985 so I didn’t get a chance to see this issue until  I went to the local Orlando Comics convention in 2002 and dropped about $800.00 buying just about every comic Jack did in the 1970s, plus a lot of his books from the 60s. As someone who just rediscovered Kirby, that was some treasure hunt. I got incredible deals. The most expensive books were the 4W comics and late 60s FF. The Marvel 70s stuff was dirt cheap and I had my little TwoMorrows checklist with me so I remember at one point checking everything off at a table while talking to some strippers dressed up as superheroes. I think I got every book Jack did for Marvel in the 70s that day, plus I met some hot call girls. Gotta love Comics Conventions.

I brought home this huge long-box stuffed with 100s of pages of Kirby art I’d never seen before. I remember my friggin’ cat had fleas and they were hopping all over my carpet (I had been working a lot of overtime so hadn’t been able to get over to the vet and buy some Advantage, which is an incredible product by the way). So I sat up on a high stool with my legs crossed to avoid the flea onslaught and I devoured Kirby. In one marathon session that lasted a week or two, when I got back from work I tore through hundreds of Kirby books, almost all of them for the first time. Definitely a lot of fun. It was a Kirby Kaleidoscope.

Cap # 200 isn’t the bombshell it could have been — I’m surprised they didn’t make it a double-sized issue — and it looks like Jack did pack a lot into this story so maybe that was the original idea. But it’s still classic Kirby storytelling and kind of an historic book if you ask me — having the man who created Captain America (with Joe Simon) writing, editing and drawing the book during the Bicentennial of the United States was pretty damn special when you think back on it, and worth mentioning when the history of the comics medium is discussed. America up to that point had tremendous longevity… and so did Kirby.

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Terrific action in panel 3. As a whole the page is another fantastic Kirby action page that can stand alongside of any of his Captain America work in the 40s or 60 in terms of it’s dynamism.captainamerica_200_05

Beautiful image of the Falcon flying over a Kirby cityscape. Jack’s mastery of perspective and attention to detail is what made images like this so powerful. Re-reading this run in 2002, I thought Jack handled the Falcon character really well. Falcon isn’t just some token sidekick in Jack’s 70s Captain America, even though Jack inherited the character. He’s not morbidly complex and overwrought, just a regular blue collar superhero who is friends with Captain America. What more do you need? captainamerica_200_06I’ve discussed in the past in other forums and here that I wasn’t a big fan of 70s Kirby Captain America when I was 10-years-old because obviously I only had 3 or 4 of the books so no complete story, and it just seemed bizarre compared to conservative DC comics and stuff like Romita Spider-man. And I’ve met many people who tell me they don’t like this material at all. Some hate it. Here is my advice. Buy yourself a stack of Jack’s 70s Cap run, sit back in a comfy chair, and dive into it. Cut Jack some slack –think of it like this: you’re lucky enough to be able to sit there and enjoy an entire 70s Kirby Captain America epic, written and drawn by the guy who helped create him. Don’t pick Jack’s prose apart, just enjoy the ride. Appreciate the fact that Jack could crank out a whole book like this in a week. I had a blast reading this whole series in one sitting. You might too.

As a Kirby fan I have grown to really appreciate the 70s material. We were lucky to see one last hurrah from Jack before he moved onto animation. Here’s one last page from the book, an example of what I call Kirby cinematics where you feel like you’re watching the images in a film flipping past. Jack didn’t use this effect that often, but when he did, it’s very effective. And take a moment to read the text on this page. Despite what Marvel “staffers” like Scott Edelman and his buddies at Marvel thought about it in the 70s, Jack’s text is fine. It’s the King telling you a story with his words and his images. And I for one enjoyed the experience. It’s still fun looking at this today.captainamerica_200_14.

70s Kirby – Captain America # 199 Letters Page

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I never read these letter’s pages before, so I figure I’ll zoom in and see what the True Believers were saying about Jack in the 70s, and what whoever the Marvel intern (one of them preferred I use the term “staffer”) who was editing the letters page had to say in return.

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The first letter is what I would expect in a comic book. Promote the comic book. Celebrate the comic book. This is not the New York Times. This is how you sell product. Question: anybody out there ever bought a paperback book… and on the book jacket you have a bunch of reviews talking about how the author sucks? You ever see a movie trailer where they show a bunch of reviews that say the artists doing it suck?

The second letter is the kind of geek-nonsense I would have written as a 10-year-old. “Deer Stan, I saw a miztake in a comic book, can I have a no-prize!?” One good thing: I’m glad to see the intern/staffer answering the letters has started to drop that awful fake Stan Lee persona we saw in the last letters column. That was truly disturbing.

Then there is the third letter where the Kirby-bashing begins. You had to know it was coming.

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Newsflash for that guy who wrote the letter — Jack created Captain America with Joe Simon, I think he should have the freedom to explore the character however he wants to. And I want to repeat, I wasn’t a fan of Jack’s 70s stuff when I was 10-years-old either, so I get it. I just don’t see the point of putting this sort of thing in the letters columns month after month unless certain Marvel interns/”staffers” wanted Jack out, and this was one of the ways they worked to achieve that goal. This was how the ambitions, disrespectful interns/staffers were able to make their voices heard in “Marveldom Assembled” (or whatever idiotic term Lee used to describe his readers in the 60s). The people putting these letters columns together used them as a forum to slam Jack Kirby.

Also, notice that 3rd letter writer addressed his letter and complaints to Jack. Many of these letters are addresed directly to Jack. Some of the kids even think Stan Lee is reading them. If this Marvel intern/staffer is so interested in producing a letters page that is historically accurate, why doesn’t the Marvel intern/”staffer” make it clear that Stan Lee isn’t reading these letters and specifically… Jack Kirby isn’t the one reading these letters! It’s some anonymous kid in NYC trying to make his mark in the Marvel empire. Explain to the True Believers that Jolly Jackson didn’t cut the fan letter, the intern/staffer editing the letters page did. Tell them, “Jack is in California and has no control over the letters column. While the cat’s away the mice will play…”

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These letters pages are a joke. The gags from the Marvel Staffer are awful and the pseudo-Lee propaganda is creepy. Just a truly, truly amazing and remarkable contrast to the masterpieces of comics art contained in the same issue.