Category Archives: General

A note from Jack Kirby

What follows is a transcription of the undated note written by Jack Kirby that was used as evidence in the — thankfully now settled — legal action between Disney/Marvel and the Kirby heirs. Mark Evanier says the note was prepared in the early 1980s at the request of the Kirbys’ legal team, with Jack speaking and Roz writing (Thanks, Pat).  Scans below! – Rand

Captain America

Formulated in 1939 by myself + Joe Simon in Joe’s apartment _ submitted to “Atlas”
Published in 1941

Fantastic Four – Hulk – Spiderman – Thor – Sgt. Fury

When I arrived at Marvel in 1959, it was closing shop that very afternoon, according to what was related to me by “Stan Lee”.

The comic book dept. was another victim of the Dr. Wertham negative cycle + definitely was following in the wake of EC Comics, “The Gaines Publishing House”.

In order to keep working I suggested to Stan Lee that to initiate a new line of Super Heroes, he submit my ideas to Martin Goodman the publisher of Marvel.

The line that I came up with was

“Fantastic Four” a team of Super Heroes

“The Hulk” – which was a spin off of a single story I did for Marvel

“Spiderman” grew from a different script called “The Silver Spider” which was written by Joe Simon’s brother-in-law, Jack Oleck, who is now deceased.

Joe was out of the field at that time + I utilized the “Silver Spider” script to create a single new character. This was given for development to Steve Ditko after I drew the first cover with the original costume.

Thor quickly followed + was fleshed out with the character of the original legend.

Sgt. Fury a mixture of the “Dirty Dozen”, James Bond + my own war experiences became another successful book.

I created many costumes for new “Super Heroes” such as Iron Man, Ant Man + created all related characters such as “Silver Surfer” Galactus – The Inhumans + many more which are included in the enclosed list.

To insure sales, I also did the writing which I not credited for as Stan Lee wrote the credits for all of the books which I did not contest because of his relationship with the publisher Martin Goodman.

This was later changed to “Produced by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby” in some of the books.
Although I was not allowed to write the “balloon” dialogue, the stories, the characters + the additional planning for the scripts progress was strictly due to my own foresight + literary workmanship.

There were no scripts. I created the characters + wrote the stories in my own home + merely brought them into the office each month.

FF published 1961
The Hulk 1962
Thor 1962
Spider Man 1962
Sgt. Fury 1963

– Jack Kirby

Key 1960s Moments

This timeline was first published in TwoMorrows Publishing’s Winter 2013 The Jack Kirby Collector 60. Many thanks to John Morrow for allowing us to publish it here. Suggestions or corrections are welcome, please use the comments section below. –  Rand

There were many key moments at Marvel in the 1960s, but the first one that really sent shockwaves through fandom (and Marvel) was the 1966 departure of Steve Ditko from the company. Don’t you suppose that got Stan to thinking, “Gee, what if I lose Jack Kirby, too?” Shortly thereafter, in an odd twist, Stan began occasionally letting Jack script a few stories here and there in the latter 1960s. Was that an effort on Stan’s part to keep him happy at the company?

To clarify the chronology of events in my mind, I decided to prepare this timeline of key moments that affected Marvel, and Lee and Kirby’s relationship in the 1960s. Of invaluable help were Rand Hoppe, past research by Mark Evanier and Pat Ford online, as well as online excerpts from Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (I plan to read the full book soon).

This isn’t a complete list of every important date in Marvel’s 1960s history, but hopefully hits most of the key ones. I’m sure I’ve left some out, and more will come to light in the future, so please send us additions and corrections. I plan to update it, and continue the timeline into the 1970s and beyond.

My rule of thumb: Cover dates were generally two-three months later than the date the book appeared on the stands, and six months ahead of when Kirby was working on the stories, so I’ve assembled the timeline according to those adjusted dates—not the cover dates—to set it more closely to real-time.


  • This year: Marvel sells 18,700,000 copies of its comics.
  • February 25: Final Sky Masters daily strip sees print.
  • April-May: Fantastic Four #1 conceived by Lee and Kirby, and drawn by Kirby.
  • August 8 (November cover date): FF #1 goes on sale.


  • This year: Marvel sells 19,740,000 copies of its comics. 1158 Kirby pages are published (most in a single year).
  • June (August cover date): Amazing Fantasy #15 published, featuring Ditko’s Spider-Man, after Kirby’s original version was rejected.
  • November (January 1963 cover date): FF #10 features the first appearance of Lee and Kirby in a comic. On the letters page, Stan tells readers to drop the formal “Dear Editor” salutation in letters, and to instead address them to “Dear Stan and Jack.”


  • This year: Marvel sells 22,530,000 copies of its comics.


  • This year: Marvel sells 27,709,000 copies of its comics, with an expectation of 32,000,000 for 1965, showing a nearly 50% increase in 3 years. 102 Kirby covers are published (most in a single year).
  • Also this year: Martin Goodman becomes worried about Stan’s popularity and the control he has over the Marvel line, and pressures him to have other writers handle some of the stories. Stan develops “writer’s test” using four Kirby pages from FF Annual #2, with the balloons whited-out.
  • May (July/Summer cover dates): FF Annual #2, FF #28, and Avengers #6 are published. Original art for these issues are the earliest pages to show Kirby’s handwriting in the margin notes, but all these issues also feature Chic Stone as the inker for the first time, so it’s unclear if Kirby included notes prior to these, and other inkers simply erased Jack’s notes when they erased the pencil art after inking.
  • September: Addams Family and Munsters television series debut (influences Kirby’s creation of the Inhumans later).
  • October (December cover date): Stan hypes Wallace Wood on the cover of Daredevil #5.
  • December (February cover date): FF #35 published, with first ad for MMMS fan club, using Kirby art to sell $1 memberships and, later, promotional products. Flo Steinberg has said, “Nobody expected the fan-club to be so big. There were thousands of letters and dollar bills flying around all over the place. We were throwing them at each other.”


  • Early this year: Marvel’s reacts to news of an impending Batman TV series, and of new publishers jumping on the super-hero bandwagon due to their success, as Martin Goodman tells Stan to add more books, to keep Marvel from getting crowded off newsstands. Soon thereafter, Lee and Kirby develop the Inhumans and Black Panther (originally named Coal Tiger)—both of which feature a character visually similar to Batman—but DC controlled Marvel’s distribution, and wouldn’t allow the new books to be added to Marvel’s output (they were eventually included in the FF).
  • January (March cover date): Tales of Suspense #63 published, the first of several reworks of 1940s S&K Cap stories (with no mention of Simon).
  • This year and next: Kirby assigned to do layouts for Hulk series in Tales to Astonish, Captain America in Tales of Suspense, Nick Fury in Strange Tales, for Don Heck on Avengers, and for Werner Roth on X-Men. He came to view this as doing the majority of the storytelling, for only a fraction of the pay.
  • March (May cover date): Charlton’s Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #46 published, featuring Son of Vulcan (influenced by Marvel’s Thor).
  • April (June cover date): Charlton begins reprinting Captain Atom adventures in Strange Suspense Stories #75, and renames the title Captain Atom with #78 in October (December 1965 cover date), the first of its Action Hero line.
  • June (August cover date): Spider-Man T-shirt first offered for sale in Spider-Man #27.
  • Summer: FF Annual #3 published, with Stan and Jack appearing in the story together at Reed and Sue’s wedding.
  • July (September cover date): Stan hypes Wallace Wood’s inking of “Don’s drawings” on the cover of Avengers #20.
  • August (October cover date): Daredevil #10 is published, wherein Wallace Wood fought for and received the writing credit from Stan Lee.
  • September (November cover date): Jack introduces the Inhumans in FF #44.
  • September (November cover date): Tower Comics’ T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (featuring art by Wallace Wood), and Archie’s Mighty Crusaders #1, are published. Wallace Wood had just left Marvel over creative differences with Stan Lee. Kirby and Wood were contemporaries who were known to speak to each other fairly regularly.
  • October (December cover date): Modeling with Millie #44 is published, featuring Roy Thomas’ first Marvel writing work.
  • November (January 1966 cover date): Daredevil #12 published, with Kirby assigned to do layouts for John Romita, and to design the villain The Plunderer.
  • December 1965: Interview with Nat Freedland for New York Herald Tribune article takes place, where Stan is giving art direction to Sol Brodsky about a page from FF #50, page 8, which was apparently in production at that time.


  • This year: Joe Simon sues Marvel in state court, and then in 1967 in federal court, claiming that Captain America was his creation and that he was entitled to the renewal on the copyright registration. Carl Burgos does likewise over his creation The Human Torch.
  • January 9: NY Herald Tribune article appears, which greatly offends Kirby, and possibly Ditko. In it, Stan also says,

    “I don’t plot Spider-Man any more. Steve Ditko, the artist, has been doing the stories. I guess I’ll leave him alone until sales start to slip. Since Spidey got so popular, Ditko thinks he’s the genius of the world. We were arguing so much over plot lines I told him to start making up his own stories. He won’t let anybody else ink his drawings either. He just drops off the finished pages with notes at the margins and I fill in the dialogue. I never know what he’ll come up with next, but it’s interesting to work that way.”

    FF #48 (March cover date) goes on sale the same month, with first appearance of Galactus and the Silver Surfer (a character Stan has said he knew nothing about until Kirby turned in the pages with him on them).

  • January 12: Batman TV series debuts as a mid-season replacement.
  • January to February: After months of not directly communicating with Stan, Ditko turns in Spider-man #38 and resigns. He asks Kirby to join him on a walkout to pressure Marvel into better terms, and Kirby initially agrees, but backs out due to concerns over supporting his family. (This comes per Robert Beerbohm’s conversations with Jack)
  • February (April cover date): Myron Fass’ Captain Marvel #1 is published (the character who splits apart into pieces) and co-opts both the famous 1940s character’s name, and the name of Martin Goodman’s company in an attempt to cause market confusion. It’s drawn by Carl Burgos, creator of the Human Torch for Goodman in the 1940s.
  • April (June cover date): Fantasy Masterpieces #3 published, featuring the first of a series of Simon & Kirby 1940s Captain America Comics reprints, with Joe Simon’s credit line removed.
  • May (July cover date): Tales to Astonish #81 published, featuring Kirby’s documented design for the villain Boomerang. Also, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #6 is published by Tower Comics, featuring art by both Wallace Wood and Steve Ditko.
  • May (July cover date): FF #52 published, with the Black Panther’s debut, and includes an announcement that Ditko is leaving Marvel. The real-life Black Panther organization wouldn’t officially be formed until October 1966, but shortly before this issue went into production, news article were published (as early as January) about a Black Panther logo being used by an organization in Alabama.
  • This year: Kirby stops doing most layouts for other artists. This is the point his work begins to reach its 1960s peak, as he has more time to devote to his own stories. Also, Kirby draws the first of his Fourth World concept drawings, but doesn’t show them to Marvel.
  • Mid-1966: Lancer paperbacks are released, reprinting Kirby Fantastic Four, Thor, and Hulk stories. (The Fantastic Four book quotes the 1966 New York Herald-Tribune article.) Also, Donruss’ Marvel Super-Heroes set of 66 trading cards released, using Kirby art (both presumably unpaid).
  • June: Stan takes a train trip to Florida on his first-ever vacation, and lets Jack script the S.H.I.E.L.D. story in Strange Tales #148 (September 1966) after plotting the story together. Stan noted in an interview, “I [did] a little editing later, but it was [Jack’s] story.” Stan also assigned Roy Thomas to script the Tales To Astonish #82 (August 1966) Iron Man/Sub-Mariner fight, but Roy gives Jack all the credit for the plot.
  • Summer: Fantastic Four Special #4 is released, featuring the original Human Torch battling the FF’s Torch. Carl Burgos’ daughter sees her father destroy all his old Timely Comics, as a reaction to the FF Special story, and/or losing his bid to reclaim the copyright on the Human Torch.
  • July 12: Goodman convinces Kirby to sign a deposition against Joe Simon in the Captain America copyright case, siding with Marvel, with the promise of receiving whatever Simon gets in any settlement.
  • July: Martin Goodman offers Myron Fass $6000 for the copyright on his Captain Marvel; Fass refuses.
  • August (October cover date): Joe Simon releases Fighting American #1 and The Spirit #1 at Harvey Comics, featuring reprints and new material. Simon also oversees the first of the Harvey Thriller line of new super-hero comics for Harvey.
  • August (October cover date): Thor #133 published, which at Jack’s insistence, is the first to include the joint credit “A Stan Lee—Jack Kirby Production” (in the “Tales of Asgard” story) instead of separate credits for Stan as “Writer” and Jack as “Artist.” Future Thor issues would continue this. This issue also features the debut of a balding, bearded “Ego, the Living Planet”; perhaps a subtle shot at Stan? FF #55 is also published with Marvel t-shirt and poster ads, using Kirby art to sell merchandise (presumably unpaid).
  • September 1: Marvel Super-Heroes cartoon debuts, with no payment to Kirby for reuse of art. Robert Lawrence of Gantray-Lawrence accompanies Stan Lee on a wildly popular college lecture circuit tour to promote it. A September Esquire article mentions Stan speaking at Princeton, Bard and NYU, and that Marvel had sold 50,000 t-shirts and 30,000 sweat-shirts.
  • September (November cover date): FF #56 published, with “Produced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby” credit instead of separate listings for Writer and Artist.
  • October (December cover date): FF #57 published, with back cover ad for the Marvel Aurora model kits, featuring Kirby art of Hulk and Captain America (presumably unpaid).
  • December (February 1967 cover date): Strange Tales #153 published, with Kirby’s final layouts for another artist (in this case, Steranko).


  • February (April cover date): Strange Tales #155 is published, with Steranko’s first writing credit.
  • July (September cover date): Thor #144 published, without its original Kirby cover, which was rejected by Stan. This issue’s “Tales of Asgard” back-up is entitled “The Beginning of the End”. Stan has often said that Kirby was mostly responsible for these stories, as he knew the Norse legends better than Stan.
  • August (October cover date): FF #67 published, with last part of “Him” story, and heavy characterization changes to Kirby’s characters by Stan. (This was the last issue drawn on large-size art.) Also, the final “Tales of Asgard” back-up in Thor #145 is published, titled “The End,” possibly alluding to discontent on Jack’s part.
  • September 9: First of 20 Fantastic Four cartoons airs, using Lee/Kirby FF issues as the basis for each story (presumably unpaid). Also, America’s Best TV Comics is published in conjunction with ABC-TV, with Kirby story reprint (presumably unpaid).
  • September (November cover date): Stan includes the note “Jack, you’re still the greatest” on a pin-up in FF Special #5 pin-up, which was published shortly after the “Him” story in FF #66-67 that upset Jack. Stan apparently tosses Jack a bone by letting him write the 3-page “This is a plot?” throwaway story in the issue, and had Jack draw a solo Silver Surfer/Quasimodo story as well—perhaps as a peace offering, since Jack wasn’t happy with the way the Surfer was being handled. Inhumans backups  also begin in Thor #146, likely made from previously created Inhumans stories that weren’t published.
  • October (December cover date): Marvel Super-Heroes #12 is published, with the debut of Marvel’s Captain Marvel (Mar-vell). Kirby felt this idea came from an offhand conversation he’d had in the offices, for which he wasn’t credited.
  • This year: New ads were printed that announced a “Nifty New Membership Kit” for the MMMS, including new merchandise for sale with Kirby artwork.


  • Early this year: Kirby begins, unsuccessfully, trying to negotiate better terms with Martin Goodman.
  • March-June (May-August cover dates): FF #74-77 published, with Jack leading to a climax and jumping-off point on the Silver Surfer storyline, possibly preparing to work on his own Silver Surfer book.
  • April (June cover date): Beware the Creeper #1 by Steve Ditko is published by DC Comics.
  • May 22: Kirby takes a $2000 loan from Martin Goodman to finance his family’s upcoming move to California, to live in a better climate for his daughter’s asthma. Around this time, Bill Everett also takes a “loan” from Goodman, which was an off the record agreement that Everett wouldn’t sue over Sub-Mariner copyrights, so as not to hurt the sale of Marvel to Perfect Film.
  • June (August cover date): Silver Surfer #1 published the same month as FF #77: John Buscema is assigned to draw the solo title, apparently without Jack’s knowledge. Kirby feels his character has been taken away from him.
  • July: Sale of Marvel Comics to Perfect Film is finalized. Perfect Film is “over running the company” by September 1968, even though Martin Goodman is retained as publisher.
  • August 31: Kirby repays half of the loan from Goodman.
  • This year: Stan Lee interview is published in Castle of Frankenstein #12, wherein Stan says of Jack, “Some artists, such as Jack Kirby, need no plot at all. I mean I’ll just say to Jack, ‘Let’s let the next villain be Dr. Doom’… or I may not even say that. He may tell me. And then he goes home and does it. He’s so good at plots, I’m sure he’s a thousand times better than I. He just about makes up the plots for these stories. All I do is a little editing… I may tell him that he’s gone too far in one direction or another. Of course, occasionally I’ll give him a plot, but we’re practically both the writers on the things.”


  • January: Kirby family moves from New York to California, further distancing Jack from the Marvel offices.
  • This year: Marvelmania fan club established, selling merchandise with Kirby artwork on it. However, Kirby was paid to produce new material, although he reportedly didn’t receive full payment for it before Marvelmania went bankrupt.
  • This year: Joe Simon signs a Settlement Agreement with Marvel over Captain America for a payment of $3750. Less than $1000 was paid directly to Simon, with the rest secretly being funneled to him through his attorney, per Marvel’s wishes. Marvel does this so they can pay Kirby only the smaller amount that Simon got directly.
  • March (May cover date): Stan apologizes in his Soapbox that the Inhumans title he said was coming out, isn’t.
  • July-September (September-November cover date): Thor #168-170 published, with altered Galactus origin story and other editorial changes. Issue #169, released in August, has an inordinate amount of unused pages, suggesting almost an entire issue was rejected by Stan.
  • This year: Kirby withholds full-page splashes from Thor, replacing them with supposedly lesser pages, presumably at wife Roz’s urging (“They’re too good for them…”).
  • November (January 1970 cover date): Kirby withholds original design of Agatha Harkness for FF #94, as too good for them, as well.
  • December: Jack goes to New York to try to negotiate a new deal with Marvel/Perfect Film, unsuccessfully. He agrees to write and draw two full-length Inhumans issues, and to draw the first issue of a new Ka-Zar book, and goes home and completes them.
  • Late 1969-early 1970: Kirby meets with Carmine Infantino to show New Gods presentation pieces, and discuss the possibility of coming to DC Comics.


  • This year: Kirby’s Hulk and Spider-Man posters for Marvelmania are replaced with versions by Herb Trimpe and John Romita, respectively, so all the Marvelmania materials won’t be dependent on Kirby’s signature style.
  • January: Kirby receives an “onerous” contract from Perfect Film to continue working at Marvel, telling him “take it or leave it.”
  • Late January: Kirby is told to split his two Inhumans and one Ka-Zar story into 10-pagers, which are eventually used in Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales split-books.
  • February: Kirby draws Silver Surfer #18, in an attempt to save the book from cancellation with a new direction. Kirby also draws the “Janus” story intended for FF #102, but Stan rejects the entire story—it was eventually published in FF #108, after Jack had moved to DC Comics. Also this month, Chamber of Darkness #4 is published, with “The Monster” scripted by Kirby. It originally features Kirby and Lee in cameos, but Stan makes major editorial changes that require extensive redrawing by Kirby.
  • Early March: Kirby draws the published version of FF #102, his final story for Marvel. After mailing in the pages, he phones Stan and resigns.
  • March 12: Don and Maggie Thompson publish an unprecedented “Extra” edition of their fanzine Newfangles announcing Kirby is leaving Marvel.
  • April (June cover date): Chamber of Darkness #5 published, with the story “And Fear Shall Follow” scripted by Kirby.
  • June (August cover date): Amazing Adventures #1 is published from Jack’s split apart solo books, with Kirby drawing and scripting The Inhumans, and featuring Black Bolt out of character with a thought balloon for one panel. Also, Astonishing Tales #1 is published from Kirby’s split apart solo book, featuring Ka-Zar, with script by Stan Lee and art by Kirby. It also features a second Dr. Doom solo story, by Wallace Wood, returning to Marvel Comics.
  • July (September cover date): Silver Surfer #18 is published, with Inhumans guest-starring. With Kirby gone, Marvel cancels the book after this issue. Also, FF #102 is published, Jack’s last issue.
  • July (September cover date): Amazing Adventures #2 published, with Kirby drawing and scripting The Inhumans, includes “Stan’s Soapbox” announcing Jack’s resignation from Marvel.
  • August (October cover date): Jimmy Olsen #133 published with Kirby’s first work for DC Comics.
  • August (October cover date): Astonishing Tales #2 published, featuring Ka-Zar, script by Roy Thomas (other than Iron Man/Subby battle in Tales To Astonish #82, this may be the first non-Stan Marvel scripting for Kirby). Includes some major non-Kirby redraws on Ka-Zar figures.
  • September (November cover date): Amazing Adventures #3 published, with Kirby’s Inhumans.
  • November (January 1971 cover date): Kirby stories in Amazing Adventures #4 and Tower of Shadows #4 published by Marvel, the same month as Jimmy Olsen #135 at DC Comics.
  • December (February 1971 cover date): Forever People #1 and New Gods #1 published at DC Comics.


  • January (March cover date): FF #108 published from Jack’s original rejected FF #102 story, the same month that DC Comics publishes Mister Miracle #1 and Jimmy Olsen #136.


  • June: After Martin Goodman calls in the rest of his loan, Kirby “under duress” signs a copyright agreement with Marvel.

The Deceptions of Argo

For the 2013 Best Picture Oscar-winner Argo, Jack Kirby’s Lord of Light artwork was omitted and his crucial role in the CIA’s rescue plot was downplayed and distorted, but that is only a part of the problem with the film.

…History cannot be swept clean like a blackboard, clean so that “we” might inscribe our own future there and impose our own form of life for these lesser people to follow.
—Edward Said

“ARGO – The Rescue of the Canadian Six” (artist unattributed)---CIA’s Intelligence Art Gallery

“ARGO – The Rescue of the Canadian Six” (artist unattributed)—CIA’s Intelligence Art Gallery

Ben Affleck’s film Argo embodies the racism that Western governments display towards the peoples and governments of the East that Edward Said described in his groundbreaking study, Orientalism. Argo re-envisions for dramatic effect a covert escapade that occurred at the same time as the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979: a joint USA/Canadian operation in which CIA operatives disguised six American diplomats as a movie crew to rescue them from where they were hiding in Iran in the homes of Canadian diplomats. For this successful mission, the CIA implemented an elaborate deception that appropriated a proposed film adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s Hugo award-winning novel Lord of Light, which featured a spectacular series of set designs drawn by famed comic book artist Jack Kirby and inked by that artist’s most faithful and accomplished finisher, Michael Royer.

Due to the inherently covert nature of the operations of the Central Intelligence Agency, the events surrounding the rescue are still enmeshed in a web of misinformation, apart from what the agency released in 1997 when it declassified the mission. The film Argo furthers confusion through the imposition of familiar devices of suspenseful storytelling. Argo is constructed as an entertaining adventure narrative, but the production condescends to depict a generic Middle Eastern world. The film achieves a degree of tension, but along the way, it alters many details and adds major narrative elements in order to amplify the drama, most of which also either demonize, infantilize or otherwise provide a derogatory impression of the Iranian people. It valorizes an American ideology, minimizes the crucial Canadian contribution to the saving of American lives and changes key points about the original film proposal for “Lord of Light.”

Dissemination is celebrated throughout Argo. The covert deceptions of the CIA are presented as appropriately linked to the fictions of Hollywood. The second half resembles an “Indiana Jones” epic as it deviates from actual events to show how the clever, resourceful and decent Westerners outwit the primitive and gullible heathen Easterners. Even the depiction of the hero is a predictable example of Hollywood racism: the film’s Caucasian director, Ben Affleck, dies his hair and wears a beard to portray Antonio Mendez, the ingenious Hispanic CIA agent who accomplished the operation.


Oddly, Argo begins well. The faux-documentary introduction gives an accurate if abbreviated account of the suffering of the Iranian people under the corrupt excesses of Shah Mohammad Rezā Pahlavī. In 1953, England’s MI6 and the CIA deposed Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, who had nationalized the country’s oil, removing it from British control. Subsequently the Shah of Iran was placed in power and became known for his conspicuously extravagant lifestyle, while his people starved. The violent methods of control of his regime, including the torture and murder of his opponents, resulted in his overthrow in January of 1979 by Islamic fundamentalists, led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. When the Shah travelled to America to seek cancer treatment, Iranians demanded his extradition. On November 4 1979, Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans as hostages, a violation of international diplomatic law. The students accused the embassy staff of being CIA operatives and justifiably so: Mendez confirmed that at least one of the hostages held in the US embassy was a CIA agent I .

However, in the film the straightforward account of the reasons behind the Islamic Revolution is directly followed by clichéd views of mobs of enraged and insensible rioters, images that align with the Orientalist view of Eastern society which Said details, that is “…always shown in large numbers,” and represents “…mass rage and misery, or irrational (hence hopelessly eccentric) gestures. Lurking behind all of these images is the menace of jihad” (287).

There are many scenes throughout the film that depict crowds, in the airport and on the street, as masses of alien “others,” either suspicious, fearful or enraged. The images of roiling crowds imply threats to America that are presented as an illogical, irrational mob. The depictions suggest that any and all members of Middle Eastern culture will react with a surfeit of emotion. The threat to the West is therefore amplified because it does not operate within systems of American logic. It is counter to the rational aims of governing Christian principles.

The violations of diplomatic immunity in the Iran Hostage Crisis were labeled by the United States as “terrorism” and used to justify whatever actions Western powers subsequently took against Iran, including the imposition of crippling sanctions. “Diplomatic immunity” refers to reciprocal policies that are customarily held between governments, to ensure that at all times, including times of conflict, diplomatic personnel can be free of prosecution under the host country’s laws and that they may travel freely between countries in their pursuit of diplomacy.

Subsequently to the embassy takeover, thirteen of the African American and/or female hostages were released, but the remaining 52 hostages were held for 444 days. Not included in the film, but certainly part of the political climate at the time were several failed attempts at resolving the protracted crisis, including the disastrous “Operation Eagle Claw,” in which eight servicemen and several aircraft were lost, that were believed to have caused President Jimmy Carter’s loss of the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. It is also documented that Republicans prolonged the hostage negotiations in order to affect the outcome of the election, a subterfuge called the “October Surprise.” The hostages were finally released through an accord brokered by Algeria on January 20 1981, the day after Reagan was sworn into office.

On the same day that the hostages were seized, November 4 1979, six diplomats escaped from the U.S. embassy through the back door and were hidden in the residences of two Canadians, ambassador Ken Taylor and diplomat John Sheardown. Over the following months, Canadian and American officials considered various means of delivering the six “houseguests” safely from danger. Finally, on January 28 1980, the six fugitives were spirited out of Iran in the guise of a film crew visiting the country scouting for locations, accompanied by CIA operative Mendez and his colleague “Julio.” The film Argo supposedly dramatizes this basic narrative.

The movie proposal that the CIA appropriated to be the subject of their bogus production was Lord of Light, an ambitious project that allegedly fell into stasis after it hit some legal snags. Mendez has stated that the Lord of Light was a “defunct production” when John Chambers gave the CIA the script, but actually its problems began at the same time that the CIA made their use of the materials. The promotion for Lord of Light appeared in the trade papers The Hollywood Reporter and Variety in November of 1979, as the Iran Hostage Crisis began. A month later in December of 1979, the same Hollywood periodicals showed ads and articles about the CIA’s proposed production, renamed “Argo,” and their front company “Studio Six.” After the CIA’s mission began, Lord of Light foundered.

According to producer Barry Geller, he began work on the Lord of Light project in 1977 to capitalize on Hollywood’s new-found interest in science fiction epics, due to the recent success of Star Wars. On his website, the self-described “time traveler” says that his purpose was “to bring attention to our extraordinary mental powers just as Star Wars brought recognition of life in the galaxy.” Geller wrote the screenplay as an adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s Hugo award-winning novel and he hired comic book innovator Jack Kirby to do conceptual drawings for the film’s set, the structures of which would also perform double duty as a science fiction-themed amusement park. Geller claims he gathered a brain trust for the massive and complex undertaking that included architects R. Buckminster Fuller and Paolo Soleri, video game pioneer Gary Gygax, author Ray Bradbury and Oscar-winning film makeup artist John Chambers. It is known that Chambers occasionally used his skills to aid the CIA.

In a scene that was widely shown and celebrated in the promotional push for Affleck’s movie, Geller is portrayed as a sleazy Hollywood huckster, Max Klein (played by Richard Kind) who is coldly swindled out of the rights to his manuscript by the slick and condescending producer Lester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin), under the auspices of Mendez and the CIA. In contrast to the depiction, Geller says there was no interchange between himself and anyone connected with the CIA, other than Chambers, and that at the time, he was unaware of the makeup artist’s intelligence connections. Geller says that Chambers simply provided his script and graphics to the CIA for their purposes, without permission.

Geller’s project has problems with credibility, too. It seems unlikely that a film production could afford the resources to build any sets to the safety specifications and requirements necessary for a family theme park. Movie sets are typically built to be facades, properly viewed only from the vantage of the camera and meant to last for only as long as needed for the film production. For this reason the amusement park is implausible. Geller claims it would have featured not only user-friendly versions of the huge and elaborate buildings and vehicles designed by Kirby, but also massive revolving holographic projections (technology that scarcely existed at the time II ) and a floating half-mile-high geodesic dome.

A scene in Argo that deviates significantly from actual events is the one that depicts a promotional press event in Hollywood arranged by the CIA where actors in costume do a reading of the script for “Argo.” a scene dramatically cross-cut with shots of the hostages taken in the U.S. embassy tortured by being forced to face a bogus firing squad. This misrepresents the actual press event that was held by Geller in Aurora, Colorado in November 1979 announcing a funding drive for the “Science Fiction Land” amusement park, with football player/actor Rosey Grier, Geller’s second in command Jerry Schafer, Chambers and Kirby in attendance. The land deals for the site of the park in Colorado and the legal proceedings that accompanied them landed Schafer and some Colorado politicians in prison. Some journalists who reported on the Science Fiction Land debacle for the local Colorado press continue to depict Schafer and Geller both equally as con-men III. But by literally every other account, Geller was cleared of charges and he denies knowledge of the CIA’s use of his proposal before he heard of the declassified mission when a PBS television show First Person aired a segment about Mendez in 2001.

Geller’s explanation for the failure of his initial proposal for Lord of Light and the theme park raises some flags:

We got to the point where someone put down the first $10 million, which was in the bank, and I’d optioned 1,000 acres of land in Colorado for the park. That’s when the government stopped everything. I was in the process of talking to directors and scientists, and the money was there. It was something that….it had the attention of many, many people and it was just unfortunate (Morrow, 25).

It would seem that “the government” had ample reasons to derail Geller’s plans. Whatever the feasablity of his proposal, the enmeshing of his project in a legal morass cleared the way for the CIA’s usage of his promotional materials. The idea that Lord of Light was undermined by a deliberate subterfuge on the part of the intelligence agency is supported by the documented involvement of John Chambers in both of the concurrent uses of the materials by Geller and the CIA and by the proximity of the promotional timeframes.


The importance of the artwork in the planning and execution of the CIA’s rescue mission cannot be overstated. Kirby’s original drawings were so impressive that they gave the operatives and the escapees confidence that the plan was plausible. Everyone involved believed Kirby’s art would convince the Iranians of the project’s legitimacy and further, it was drawn within stringent Islamic cultural rules of what may be depicted according to religious law. All of these considerations were set aside when the needs of the Argo filmmakers to satisfy an American audience were at odds with the appearance of the actual drawings. Further, how much involvement and knowledge that Kirby actually had of the CIA’s plan, at the time or at any rate, before it was declassified, is unclear.

According to Geller, in 1978 he hired Kirby, a famous and prolific comic book artist noted for his incredibly inventive imagination as well as for his speed, to do a series of conceptual architecture drawings that would serve as the basis for both the film sets and the design of the theme park. In a career that spanned a half-century, Kirby created many comics characters that in recent years have been featured in films that have grossed more than $7 billion. Although Kirby has often been credited as a creator of these properties in the films, his heirs receive no compensation. Corporations own the characters Kirby initiated as a freelancer. His Marvel heroes such as The Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Thor, SHIELD, etc. are owned by Disney and his DC Comics 4th World/New Gods are owned by Time/Warner, the parent corporation of Warner Brothers, the producers of Argo. For this reason, one would have thought that it was in Time/Warner’s interest to promote the brilliant WWII veteran Kirby as a significant contributor to this patriotic mission. But, no.

At first, Affleck’s Argo production did seek  to use Kirby’s actual drawings in the film. Randolph Hoppe, curator of the Jack Kirby Museum explains:

The Kirby Museum was originally contacted late in June 2011 by Warner Brothers’ Permissions & Clearances staff, who were urgently asking for permission for the Lord of Light images. I pointed them to Barry Geller’s email address. A week and a half later, I was contacted by a producer of the movie who told me the Lord of Light images weren’t going to be used as they “didn’t read well on screen.”

Kirby’s actual large signature images are not shown in Affleck’s film. Instead, the film shows banal storyboards drawn by other artists. Kirby’s drawings, though, have other factors that made them essential to the plot: they seem calculated to appeal to an Islamic sensibility. They are ornate and linear without modeling, the human figurative presence in the art is minimized and flattened and most of the drawings are done from the vantage point of an overhead “minaret view,” in a manner remarkably similar to ancient Islamic tapestries IV ). According to Geller, he rejected only one of Kirby’s pieces: a watercolor entitled “The Streets of Heaven,” which depicts a majestically ascending Godlike figure, shown from a ground level vantage. Otherwise, Kirby’s drawings are much more appropriate viewing for Muslims such as the Iranian airport security guards seen at the end of the film than the more figurative storyboards used in the movie, which are instead calculated to signify to American audiences who are familiar with Star Wars.

Kirby’s images are indeed complex and appropriate for the Iranian audience, but since his art might have needed explanation of the nature of its intended impact on Islamic viewers, rather than tax the short attention spans of the American audience, the producers say they opted for simpler, more easily identifiable visuals. The drawings used on screen do not resemble Kirby’s work in any way; rather they are spare, crudely rendered sketches. Still, the art figures so prominently in the film that its impact on the characters seems to be in inverse proportion to its quality. In Mendez’s account and as depicted in the film, his idea of using a fake movie production crew to extract the hiding diplomats didn’t seem feasible until the agents hit on the Lord of Light promotion package. Kirby’s work is impressively well done and suits the purposes of the CIA exactly. It is clear that the artwork added greatly to the credibility of the film proposal, for Geller’s purposes and for the CIA administrators who approved the rescue mission, the personnel charged with accomplishing it and the diplomats who had to participate in their own rescue, whether or not the Iranians saw it.

It is not clear why Affleck’s production completely diverges from the historical record to show the CIA hiring Kirby, and further, it shows the artist being coached by an operative to make the backgrounds of his drawings more exotic. It is alleged that footage was shot of “Kirby” adding minarets and domes to his “storyboards” so they would be more convincing to the Islamic security forces, a scene that was left on the cutting-room floor. Actor “Christian Christian” said that he was cast as a “hand double” for Michael Parks, the actor hired to play “Kirby” onscreen. Christian claims that wrinkles and age spots were applied to his hands several times and he was filmed drawing additions to the “storyboards” (Richards (in a comment below the online article)). Such scenes display ignorance of Kirby’s working process, since he would not have amended his drawings in such a way, but would probably have had to re-pencil the relevant portions and then pass the amendments along to inker Mike Royer to complete and incorporate into the final images.

Hoppe says that he was again contacted by Argo’s set decorating department in August 2011:

…they said they’d arranged with the Kirby estate to use Kirby’s name and work, and were looking for items to use on the set of the Kirby home. I showed them some work via the web and never heard from them again. Kirby’s home was not used, the IMDB listing of the actress who’d been cast as Jack’s wife Roz Kirby was changed to “Office Manager.”

These reversals may have come about because the rights to Kirby’s drawings are owned by Barry Geller, rather than the Kirby family and an agreement with Geller was not made. The alteration in the circumstances of Kirby’s employment may be a liberty on the part of Affleck’s production; on the other hand, it might not. The multitalented Kirby worked for U.S. military intelligence in World War II; he functioned as a reconnaissance artist used to sketch out the positions of Axis forces on the front lines in France. Other cartoonists of Kirby’s generation who were in the services, such as Alexander Toth and Will Eisner, kept contacts in military circles and later made their talents available to the government when needed V ). Kirby passed away in 1994 without clarifying his role in the Lord of Light/Argo events and evidence that he knew of Mendez’s plan remains anecdotal. Kirby’s friend and biographer Ray Wyman claimed to the author that several years before the death of Kirby’s wife Rosalind in 1998, Geller told her about the CIA’s plot. Wyman said, “John Chamber’s name had been bandied about…How would Barry have known that the CIA was involved, since the thing wasn’t revealed until 1997?” (Romberger & Van Cook, 17). Wyman also reported that he saw the “Argo” poster made by the CIA at the Kirby home in a closet, and said that Kirby told him of other incidents that indicated that he had fans in the CIA.

If Barry Geller’s account is true, he was a hapless victim of circumstance, or even of a fraudulent persecution by the government so they could appropriate his proposal—but any which way, the closeness in time of the two usages of the materials is troubling. It might be considered that to date we must rely on only Geller’s account of the initiation of the Lord of Light/Science Fiction Land projects and for the timeline of when the drawings were actually completed. It could be speculated that the art may have been done closer to the time of the Iran crisis—-and that if, as the movie depicts, Kirby was actually hired by the CIA, or even by Geller acting as some sort of a CIA proxy, it could have been because of not only the quality of his imagination, but also his speed. Kirby certainly was able to produce drawings of such complexity to order very rapidly and his inker Mike Royer was likewise quick and prolific. As well, Kirby oddly worded his statement in the promotional package that Geller assembled to secure funding: “I believe that this film and the way we are conceiving it could contribute to saving the world” (Morrow, 27). This is a heady claim for a sci-fi film, connected theme park or not. But in the end, perhaps it is better for Kirby’s reputation that his work was left out of Argo, because the movie is so tainted by racism.


Some of the changes made to the account of the rescue by Affleck’s production seem done for the purposes of storytelling expediency, such as that the fact that the “houseguests” were actually split into two groups that hid in several Canadian diplomats’ residences was altered to being only one group hiding with Taylor. Argo also eliminates the second CIA operative, “Julio” and adds the contrived character of producer Lester Siegel, one supposes for reasons of streamlining, or to move the story along. However, other alterations are more disturbing.

Most of the representations of the events in Iran shown in the second half of the movie are fictitious. There is a long and extremely fraught sequence where officials from the Iranian department of film development call Mendez and demand that the fake production crew meet with them in a public marketplace for the purposes of witnessing their scouting for locations. What follows are is a tense series of scenes where Mendez’s van filled with the six vulnerable masqueraders encounters a fundamentalist street demonstration. When he is unable to back up because there is another mob coalescing behind them, Mendez drives the van through the center of the angry group of shouting demonstrators, who shake the vehicle and hammer on the windows. They miraculously pass through, shaken but unharmed. They go on to meet with the Iranian officials  and then they are shown to be terribly fearful as they walk through the marketplace. When one of the party, in trying to stay in character, inadvertently takes polaroids of an older man without his permission, the group are threatened with violence by a crowd. How they escape is not explained. However, the point is moot because these scenes are created for theatrical effect. The film’s fictional status is frequently at odds with its pseudo-documentary staging. Both the advertising and the promotional materials surrounding the film give the strong implication of truth, of the unmediated narration of historical events and the valorization of American actions in the execution of the operation.

The climactic scenes of Argo are comprised of more tension-building sequences that have little or nothing to do with actual events. In fact, there was no reversal of the go-ahead to proceed with the mission at the 11th hour, which the stoic Mendez had to hide from the group; there was no incommunicado Presidential press secretary and no withholding of ticket authorization by the president until the last possible minute. According to Mendez’s declassified report, other than that he overslept by a half an hour on the day they were to leave Iran, there was no holdup at all: reservations were secured and tickets had been purchased well in advance. Nor was the L.A. “Studio Six” office foolishly and prematurely closed by the CIA before the mission was accomplished. These incidents were invented to pile on dramatic suspense.

Further and importantly, the immigration officers did not check to make sure that the exiting “film crew” had matching white and yellow forms and the security forces did not pull the band of escapees into a side room to check their cover story. In Mendez’s account on the CIA’s website, he says that no one looked at Kirby’s artwork: “the Iranian official at the checkpoint could not have cared less.” No soldiers had to have the narrative of the “Argo” proposal explained to them and nobody called the “Studio Six” offices to confirm Mendez’s claims. Nor did Iranian soldiers attack Swedish Air hostesses or throw other female passerbys around the terminal, raid the airport traffic controller’s tower or drive their jeeps and police cars at breakneck speed after the departing aircraft. These scenes, which depict frightening Iranian/Arab security forces and the abuse of women, are intended to alienate the American audience from the demonized enemy. Within the logic of the Hollywood movie there must be bad guys and good guys, there are no shades of grey. The characters must be easily identifiable. The problem with this theatrical logic when applied to the dramatization of historical events is that ideological positions become polarized into moral oppositions. These in turn seamlessly validate the audience desire to be on the side of the righteous.

The urban landscape of Iran is shown to be barbaric and forbidding, a land where vehicles burn on the streets and men are lynched from construction cranes in intersections. The film imbeds overt indicators of racism, as when Mendez says at the beginning, “If these people can read or add…pretty soon they will figure out they are six short of a full deck.” Later, the official at the Iranian “office of communication” asks Mendez if he is seeking to represent “the exotic orient—snake charmers.” As well, he responds amenably to Mendez’s mistaken exit salutation of “salaam” which is the Eastern equivalent of “hello.” Affleck plays the urbane Mendez as if he is sophisticated enough to be aware of local etiquette, but does not care enough to respect his adversary. He does not care to learn their language, despite his engagement with their culture. The movie Mendez views Iran (which prior to its Islamic Revolution was an ultramodern society) to be as Said describes the American view of the East: “backward, degenerate, uncivilized and retarded…analyzed not as citizens, or even people, but as problems to be solved or confined or—as colonial powers openly coveted their territory—taken over” (207). The cumulative effect of the repetition of negative stereotypes and representations of the citizenry as unruly mobs of less intelligent people seems to justify the need for them to be treated as “problems to be solved.” In Argo, the real life drama can also be unraveled by the superior wits and courage of the American forces. For the audience who experience this onscreen conundrum, since the stakes are never any higher than the cinematic depiction of the past, the outcome confirms their self-belief in their intellectual superiority as members of the victorious team, as if by right.

According to Mendez’s account, when he first met “the six,” they had managed to keep their spirits high and were excited to be part of his scenario. He briefly mentions that one of them had some initial reservations, but hastens to say that any discomfort was rapidly dispelled by his manner and various means he had at his disposal to put them at their ease. In the film, the balker is revealed to be “houseguest” Joe Stafford, but his fearfulness is exaggerated so that he is shown to have protracted reservations throughout the process. He doubts Mendez’s commitment and honesty; he holds back on learning his cover identity until the last minute; he refuses to join them on the outing to the market. To placate Stafford, Mendez reveals his real name and relates a few personal details, after which Stafford relents and climbs into the van. Thereafter, he is no longer negative about the plan, but in the end he violates the restrictions Mendez made on their cover story and endangers them all by speaking Farsi to the suspicious security forces at the airport, to enact the narrative of the storyboard to them. This action, however, ends up saving the day. And then finally, in the plane as they realize that they succeeded in escaping, Stafford comes to Mendez to offer a belated handshake—but, these scenes too are all fabricated.

It is these final, false scenes which comprise the most racist aspects of Affleck’s film. The head of airport security is shown as stereotypically rude and chauvinistic Mid-Easterner; a swarthy, popeyed and aggressive man who makes a guttural interrogation of Mendez’s band. This character, designated in the credits as “Azizi Checkpoint #3” and portrayed by Farshad Farahat, exemplifies the Orientalist view described by Said and seen in the media as:

associated either with lechery or bloodthirsty dishonesty. He appears as an oversized degenerate, capable, it is true, of cleverly devious intrigues, but essentially sadistic, treacherous, low…The Arab leader…can often be seen snarling at the captured Western hero and the blond girl….“my men are going to kill you, but—they like to amuse themselves before.” He leers suggestively as he speaks (286-287).

Said’s comments are made explicit in the way Argo depicts how “Azizi Checkpoint #3” inquires if the woman depicted in a skintight outfit in the painted “Argo” ad in the issue of Variety proffered by the group (no such painted ad ever was created) is escaping “houseguest” Cora Lijek. Even when told that she is not, he persists in a lewd and suggestive manner.

By the demands of their cover story as Canadians, none of the escapees are supposed to be able to understand anything but English or French, but in order to placate the security officer, the multilingual Stafford uses pidgeon Farsi to tell him a narrative for the proposed film in a patronizing manner. In reality, Kirby’s artwork would not have sustained the narrative that Stafford describes, which was invented for this version of “Argo.” However, in the film, Stafford pulls out the storyboards and boils the plot of the ostensible film down into simplistic terms that he thinks the security officer will understand, which the English-speaking viewer reads in subtitles:

Alien villains have taken over the hero’s planet. They fight for their families and take back the city. The villains know he is the chosen one, so they kidnap his son in the spice market. So he and his wife storm the castle…the people are inspired to join him. They are farmers but they learn to fight. And the king of the aliens is destroyed when the people find their courage.

Stafford’s ploy seems to be working and the enactment degenerates further as he gestures with his hands in swooping movements, while verbally making childlike sounds of swooshing rockets, zapping raygun beams and explosions that evoke the universally-recognized soundtrack of Star Wars. After this display, “Azizi Checkpoint #3” turns out to speak and understand English after all, but presumably because he and his fellows warm to the reference to “farmers,” he allows the group to proceed. By hiding that he is multilingual, he reflects the “cleverly devious” image of the Easterner cited by Said. Then, Mendez gifts the younger members of the security detail with a few of the storyboards, who proceed to make childlike noises of a space battle, in imitation of Stafford’s infantilizing but successful presentation. None too soon, the group boards the plane, but Affleck amps the suspense with a superfluous chase scene that is reminiscent of the climax of a cheap B-movie set in a banana republic.

Edward Said’s assessment of the overall agenda of the American mission in the Middle Eastern world, as indicated in the quote used above as an epigraph, remains valid. The deceptions of Argo ensure that the American audience can relate to the film, but they have a greater resonance than just that of a stimulating entertainment. Widely viewed and praised mainstream films such as Argo affect public opinion, they influence public acceptance of the foreign policy decisions of whatever U.S. administration is in charge at any given time. The awarding of high honors, an anointment at the Oscars that was introduced by no less of a personage than the First Lady, to a film that displays so many instances of misinformation about a culture that we do not appreciate or understand, does not contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflict. As Argo was made and released and as it won its Oscars, the United States was engaged in a dangerous exchange with Iran about its nuclear capabilities. Affleck’s film, even though about a situation decades in the past, has been promoted, disseminated and honored in such a way that it has influenced the American public’s perception of Iran and the rest of the Middle East and so, it has beyond a doubt continued to promote negative attitudes towards our current engagement with that region of the world.


Thanks to Marguerite Van Cook and Professor Giancarlo Lombardi of CUNY Graduate Center.



I. Mendez wrote in his account of the escape on the CIA site: “The Iranians, moreover, had embarrassed the US by finding a pair of OTS-produced foreign passports in the US Embassy that had been issued to two CIA officers posted in Tehran. One of these officers was among the hostages being held in the Embassy.”

II. The most advanced technology for displaying holograms at the time is described thus:

In 1976 Victor Komar and his colleagues at the All-Union Cinema and Photographic Research Institute (NIFKI), U.S.S.R., developed a prototype for a projected holographic movie. Images were recorded with a pulsed holographic camera at about 20 frames per second. The developed film was projected onto a holographic screen that focused the dimensional image out to several points in the audience. Two or three people could see a 47 second movie in full dimension without glasses. Kormar’s plan to scale up the process for a 20 to 30 minute film for an audience of 200 – 300 people never materialized.


This does not account for a huge exterior display at the top of a building that would be visible from all points around it, such as the one above the “Brahma’s Supremacy” structure that Geller describes in the interview I conducted with him.

III. A 2012 article on Denver Westword entitled “Science Fiction Land could have been Aurora’s biggest tourist trap, if its backers weren’t crooks” by Melanie Asmar ignores the fact of Geller’s exoneration to claim that:

Schafer and Geller’s lies soon caught up with them. On December 14, 1979, the Rocky reported that Schafer had been arrested for securities fraud. Local authorities claimed that he and Geller had “convinced an immigrant who speaks only broken English to give them his life savings — $50,000 — to help finance the park,” the Rocky reported. An arrest warrant had been issued for Geller too, but he’d “left the country.”


IV. A good part of my limited understanding of the permissible imagery parameters of Islamic art is gleaned from Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name Is Red (Trans. Erdag M. Goknar. New York: Vintage International, 1989), where he explains that in ancient Islamic illuminations, a linear quality and flattened perspective are used to satisfy a religiously ordained requirement of flatness, a two-dimensionality imposed so art would not presume to God’s view, seen as sacrilegious in the full-perspective and chiaroscuro realism of European art. This is further elaborated upon in Aniconism and Figural Representation in Islamic Art by Terry Allen:

The traditional Muslim theological objection to images, which may have been observed more in the breach than in ordinary life, was eventually codified in a quite rigid form and extended to the depiction of all animate beings. It is captured in the prediction that “on the Day of Judgement the punishment of hell will be meted out to the painter, and he will be called upon to breathe life into the forms that he has fashioned; but he cannot breathe life into anything…. In fashioning the form of a being that has life, the painter is usurping the creative function” of God.


Most of Kirby’s Lord of Light drawings simulate the elevated “minaret view” that is standard in Islamic illuminations, described in the Wikipedia page on Islamic art as:

…a birds-eye view where a very carefully depicted background of hilly landscape or palace buildings rises up to leave only a small area of sky. The figures are arranged in different planes on the background, with recession (distance from the viewer) indicated by placing more distant figures higher up in the space, but at essentially the same size.


V. For information about Toth’s post-service work for the Armed Forces in the 1970s, see Genius Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth. Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell. San Diego: IDW Publishing, 2012, pages 192-196. Eisner’s decades of work for the U.S. Army are documented in PS Magazine: The Best of The Preventive Maintenance Monthly. Will Eisner. New York: Abrams Comic Arts, 2011.



Argo. Dir. Ben Affleck. Perf. Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin. Warner Brothers, 2012. DVD.

Geller, Barry Ira. “The CIA, the Lord of Light Project and Science Fiction Land.” Lord of Light. Web. 22 May 2013.

Hoppe, Randolph. “Argo/Lord of Light.” Message to the author. 22 May 2013. E-mail.

Mendez, Antonio J. “A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood.” Central Intelligence Agency, 14 April 2007. Web. 18 May 2013.

Morrow, John. “Seeking the Lord of Light: Interview with Barry Ira Geller.” The Jack Kirby Collector #11. July 1996. Print.

Richards, Ron. “Jack Kirby, ARGO & Jim Lee: A Hollywood Legend.”  iFanboy: 23 October 2012. Web. 22 May 2013.

Romberger, James and Marguerite Van Cook. “Kirby, the CIA and the Lord of Light: Interview With Barry Ira Geller” & “Eyewash: About Argo.” Comic Art Forum #2, Winter 2003. //

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vantage Books, 1979. Print.

The Myth of the Jolly King

In a recent article in TIME magazine, author Graeme McMillan noted, “At his peak, Kirby created popular culture as we know it today. So many of the ideas and characters that fill today have been shaped in some basic, important way by Kirby’s work… Decades earlier than they happened, Jack Kirby drew the 21st century.” 1

While articles such as this bring to light to the general audience the outstanding accomplishments of Jack Kirby, there continues to be a plethora of misinformation regarding his achievements. Here are a few of the myths that get repeated again and again.

1. Stan Lee made Jack Kirby famous by listing “Jolly Jack” in the credits in the 1960s.

Like so many generations before and since, my own aging baby boomers believe the world begins and ends with them. The reality is Kirby was one half of the best-paid, best-known team in comic books beginning the 1940s. And they consistently received a splash page credit throughout the 40s and 50s. According to comic book historian Jon B. Cooke, “The “Simon & Kirby” brand was the most recognizable art credit amongst avid readers during the 1940s, perhaps second only to “Walt Disney,” and certainly rivaled the Superman Stamp of “Siegel & Shuster.” 2

Fortunately for us, publishers such as Titan, Fantagraphics and Yoe Books are correcting this misconception by reprinting the earlier Simon and Kirby Studio work.

2. Kirby was primarily a penciller.

In fact Kirby was a storyteller who wrote his own scripts from the beginning of his career. As noted by writer and cartoonist Michael Neno, “The proof is in the pudding. All anyone who’s familiar with Jack’s ’70s work has to do is read a lot of the comics Jack drew in the ’40s and ’50s. Those attributes of his ’70s writing were always a part of his writing, though a bit more latent. Just as Jack’s stylistic artistic tics and methods became more pronounced as the decades went on, so with Jack’s writing. He didn’t lose a writing ability, but his writing style did change over a long span of time. From his “Your Health Comes First” newspaper strip in 1938 (using home remedies and tips Jack had learned from his mother) to the potently emotional and hard-edged “Captain Victory” in 1981, Jack wrote, to one extent or another, most of what crossed his desk and much of the dialogue in his Simon and Kirby days is his dialogue.”

Indeed, witnesses to those early days concur. Simon and Kirby writers Kim Aamodt and Walter Geier, in respective interviews with Jim Amash in Alter Ego both stated as much.

Aamodt: “I really sweated out plots, unlike Jack Kirby. Jack just ignited and came out with ideas, and Joe’d just kind of nod his head in agreement. Jack’s face looked so energized when he was plotting that it seemed as if sparks were flying off him. Joe was on the ground, and Jack was on cloud nine. Jack was more of the artist type; he had great instincts.”

Geier: “Jack Kirby was great about that; he always came up with the plots. Jack had a fertile mind. …Jack was the idea man. Joe didn’t talk much. He could come up with decent plots, but it was usually very sketchy stuff. A lot of times Joe would say, “Awww…you figure out the ending.” Jack would give me the ending, because he was good at figuring out stories. It was not hard to work with Jack. They were Jack’s plots. I just supplied the dialogue.” 3

Likewise Gil Kane so noted, in an interview with Gary Groth in The Comics Journal.

Kane: “Simon was business-like. He did all the handling, all the talking, he did all the standing. Jack was always sitting and working. Jack would take the scripts and he’d either write them or re-write them. Jack was simply a workhorse who never sweated. It just came to him. Simon was a nice guy who was much more realistically attuned to the world.

Joe was involved in the creative process and he was the one who made all the deals. He didn’t writeit was Jack who wrote. Jack would either write a script or get one and adjust it as he saw.” 4

This tradition continued at Marvel in the 1960s. According to Archie artist and Marvel colorist Stan Goldberg, “Jack would sit there at lunch, and tell us these great ideas about what he was going to do next. It was like the ideas were bursting from every pore of his body. It was very interesting because he was a fountain of ideas.” 5

Kirby biographer and former assistant Mark Evanier further elaborates, “He didn’t care if people said “ooh, what neat pictures!” That held no joy for him. He wanted them to say “What a great story!” 6

3. Lee and Kirby were the Lennon and McCartney of comics.

While this analogy is used ad nauseam, nothing could be further from the truth. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were teenage friends and band mates who grew up together in Liverpool. Over they years they collaborated on hundreds of songs, sitting side by side, as is typical of songwriting teams.

Jack Kirby was a freelancer who worked at home during the Marvel years. The recent court ruling notwithstanding (which hopefully will be overturned), Kirby was an independent contractor. The myth of the Marvel Bullpen, propagated by Lee in his “Stan’s Soapbox” on the letters page, simply did not exist. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Lee worked on his own in the Marvel offices, and was later joined by Sol Brodsky as production manager. All other artists, writers, inkers, letterers worked freelance elsewhere, until later that decade. Kirby never joined them.

According to Kirby himself, “There were no scripts. I created the characters and wrote the stories in my own home and merely brought them into the office each month.” 7

As evidenced by the research of comics historian Mike Gartland in his ingoing series “A Failure to Communicate” in The Jack Kirby Collector (Twomorrows Publishing) and here on the Kirby Museum site, the work Kirby and Lee did was often at odds with one another, a far cry from Lennon/McCartney.

4. Jack Kirby inked very little of his own work.

For years the assumption was that Joe Simon inked Kirby in the 1940’s and 50’s at S&K. Through the rediscovery of that work a different story emerges. Kirby inked much of his own work over those decades, and continued to do so at DC in the mid-50s. This changed in the 1960s due to the extremely high demand for Kirby to supply plots and pencils at Marvel.

In an interview with Amash, S&K artist Jack Katz describes the inking instruction he received from Kirby. “He showed me how to apply all of that to figures and objects. He said, “You have to make it three-dimensional. What you do is, make sure you have black areas behind a line, always a dark behind a line. It could be feathered. If you bring the light in on the right hand side, you have to make sure the opposite side is carefully outlined. If you want to show real drama, you have a light source from the top, so the eyes and mouth are in shadow, If you want to make a real ghoul…and he turned the page over, and drew a face, he showed me how the light from underneath highlights the bone structure. He showed me how to vary textures, he’d say “curtains should look delicate.” He showed me how to do that with a brush.” 8

Special thanks to Patrick Ford, Michael Neno and Rand Hoppe.


1. Jack Kirby Is The Most Important Artist You Might Not Have Heard Of: The artist who created so many of Marvel’s superheroes cast a big shadow on the world we live in today, By Graeme McMillan. Time Magazine, August 15, 2013.

2. Comic Book Creator #1, spring 2013, Kirby’s Kingdom: The Commerce of Dreams by Jon. B. Cooke.

3. Alter Ego #30, November 2003, interviews by Jim Amash with Kim Aamodt and Walter Geier.

4. The Comics Journal #38, February 1978, interview by Gary Groth.

5. Alter Ego #18, October 2002, interview by Jim Amash.

6. Jack Kirby “The King”, DVD extra on “De Superman à Spider-man – L’Aventure des Super Héros” by Michel Viotte.

7. Handwritten letter by Jack Kirby entered into evidence in the Disney Vs. Kirby Heirs court case, Marvel Characters, Inc. v. Kirby, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 11-3333.

8. Alter Ego #92, March 2010, interview by Jim Amash.

Discovery at Snake River!

Posted in General.

In late September 2012, Luca Dolcini sent the Kirby Museum an e-mail00c query regarding a 25-page Kirby western story he found in an Italian comicbook called “La Legge Del West.” Luca and his fellows on the Blue-Area of the Moon Marvel Continuity Resource could not find an original American printing. Sending along some snapshots of the pages, “Partitia Finale A Snake River!” looked like Kirby’s work, but the job number O-253 in the first panel, while matching the style of Goodman/Lee/Atlas’ numbering,  was unknown to both Greg Gatlin’s and the Grand Comics Database’s GCD lists O-254 on a story with a publication date of August 1958. Luca mentioned that the main character was the “Silver Kid”, but none of the Silver Kid comics on provided any obvious linkage to this story. Was it an unused “Black Rider” story?


Responding to my query on the Timely-Atlas discussion group, Michael Vassallo identified George Klein as the inker since the telltale Klein corona is evident in some backgrounds. Michael also pointed out that according to its US publication history, the Goodman/Lee office did not publish any stories 25 pages long until 1961’s Fantastic Four #1 (which some index as two stories of 13 and 12 pages). It’s interesting that Klein is attached to both of these stories.

Showdown at Snake River - Front Cover

After a while, Luca found an Australian version of the non-Kirby cover with the title “Showdown At Snake River!” in James Zanotto’s database. Kevin Patrick of the blog Comics Down Under, responded to a query that, as luck would have it, the Rare  Books Collection at Monash University Library in Melbourne, Australia, where he studies, had a copy of Horwitz Publications’ “Showdown At Snake River!” and sent scans.

The story, a perfectly good one, doesn’t contain any splash pages. The title is only in the top third tier of the first page, and there aren’t any chapters. Could “Showdown…” have been produced for the foreign market? Considering the relatively recent discovery of Kirby’s ghost work on the Davy Crockett, Frontiersman daily strip being printed in comic book form in the UK and France, the story’s lack of splashes and—other than the title tier—all pages having only six panels, could it be a re-worked comic strip? Kirby Collector editor/publisher (and Kirby Museum Trustee) John Morrow pointed out that some of the panel sizes are irregular—which is not something that Kirby would do in that era—so perhaps some cutting and pasting was done.

Australian pages

In his last e-mail, Luca wrote that “La Legge Del West” was published in July 1959. He also found the story printed in strip form, with two panels per page, published in 1962 in Collana della Prateria #6—Pericolo!. There was a second “La Legge Del West” comicbook with the same cover artwork, only this time including the signature of John Severin, published in the early 1970s, but it did not contain “Partita…” If anyone can date the Horwitz “Showdown…”, or find the origin of the Severin cover art, or have any other information to share regarding this fascinating discovery, please post here, or contact me at the Kirby Museum.


Early 1970s “Le Legge Del West” does not contain “Partita Finale A Snake River!”

The Genius of Jack Kirby

“I went to Pratt a week.  I wasn’t the kind of student that Pratt was looking for. They wanted patient people who would work on something forever. I didn’t want to work on any project forever. I intended to get things done. I did the best drawing I could, and it was very adequate — it had viability, it had flexibility. The people in the art class kind of sympathized with me, and yet they couldn’t abandon their own outlook toward art.”—Jack Kirby1

What Kirby is describing of his early experience here is a clear example of divergent thinking, one of the hallmarks of the creative genius personality (but more on that in a bit). Brent Staples, in an article titled “Jack Kirby, a Comic Book Genius, Is Finally Remembered” published in The New York Times on August 26, 2007 wrote “Mr. Kirby did a lot more than just draw. As the critic Gary Groth so ably put it in The Comics Journal Library, “He barreled like a freight train through the first 50 years of comic books like he owned the place.” He mastered and transformed all the genres, including romance, Westerns, science fiction and supernatural comics, before he landed at Marvel.

He created a new grammar of storytelling and a cinematic style of motion. Once-wooden characters cascaded from one frame to another — or even from page to page — threatening to fall right out of the book into the reader’s lap. The force of punches thrown was visibly and explosively evident. Even at rest, a Kirby character pulsed with tension and energy in a way that makes movie versions of the same characters seem static by comparison.

For the record I believe ‘genius’ is one of the most overused and therefore devalued words in the English language. Just Google “The Genius of…” and add any name that comes to mind and you’ll see what I mean. Kim Kardashian? The Situation? (life & style; and comedy; respectively). Perhaps this has the makings of a new parlor game.

While most agree that Albert Einstein fits the general conception of genius, when it comes to the creative arts there is no clear delineation. In the end it comes down to the definition of the word, which itself isn’t clear. One would think anyone with an IQ of over 160 would qualify for something other than Mensa membership, but that isn’t necessarily so. In fact, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary definition doesn’t even mention a specific IQ score.

Definition of GENIUS

  1. a plural genii : an attendant spirit of a person or place
    b plural usually genii : a person who influences another for good or bad
  2. a strong leaning or inclination : penchant
  3. a : a peculiar, distinctive, or identifying character or spirit
    b : the associations and traditions of a place
    c : a personification or embodiment especially of a quality or condition
  4. plural usually genii : spirit, jinni
  5. plural usually geniuses
    a : a single strongly marked capacity or aptitude <had a genius for getting along with   boys — Mary Ross>
    b : extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity
    c : a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority; especially : a person with a very high IQ.

And from the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia:

Genius: Person of extraordinary intellectual power. The genius displays originality, creativity, and the ability to think and work in areas not previously explored. Though geniuses have usually left their unique mark in a particular field, studies have shown that the general intelligence of geniuses is also exceptionally high. Genius appears to be a function of both hereditary and environmental factors. See also gifted child.”

Our contemporary concept of genius comes mainly from the writings of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in his The Critique of Judgment (1790) during the Age of Enlightenment. Genius, Kant wrote, is “the exemplary originality of the natural endowments of an individual in the free employment of his cognitive faculties.”2

Still, the problem is, even the definition of “creative” is hard to quantify. It is that very individuality that helps us define genius, for it can thereafter be imitated.

“Before creativity, the psychoanalyst must lay down his arms.”— Sigmund Freud

During the mid- 20th century, psychologists began studying creativity for the first time.3 And not surprisingly, this research yielded little concrete evidence of a strict definition of what it means to be creative or how creative personalities are formed. To be a creative person you had either a strict or liberal upbringing, did well or poorly in school, had lots of friends or none.

However, some major personality traits were established for what defines a creative type.4 The key idea in the psychologist’s conception of creativity has been divergent thinking. By standard measures intelligent people are thought of as convergers, people who given a puzzle can figure it out. In contrast, creative people come up with many different associations, some of which are idiosyncratic and possibly unique.5

A representative study conducted by the Berkeley Institute of Personality Assessment did yield some conclusions: “Creative architects” as distinguished from their less creative peers, exhibited a greater incidence of such personality traits as independence, self-confidence, unconventionality, alertness, ready access to unconscious processes, ambition, and commitment to work.

This willingness to experiment arises from a temperament that’s seeks arousal, from sheer pleasure in working with the medium, from a confidence in one’s own emerging powers, and from the relationship between the ease in own artistic medium and difficulties with standard scholastic practices. If one cannot succeed where they are supposed to, one may combat personal frustrations by blazing a trail in one’s area of strength.

Another study6 has shown that creative solutions to problems occur more often when individuals engage in an activity for its sheer pleasure than when they do so for possible external rewards. Indeed, knowledge that one will be judged on some criterion of “creativity” or “originality” tends to narrow the scope of what one can produce (leading to end products that are conventional). In contrast, the absence of an evaluation seemed to liberate creativity. In other words, you can excel where you have the freedom to.7

It has also been suggested that the most highly esteemed creators not only are more productive in general, but that they produce more “bad” works that have been long ignored as well as more “good” works that are esteemed by posterity.8

The quality of the early years is crucial. If, in early life, children have the opportunity to discover much about their world and to do so in a comfortable, exploring way, they will accumulate invaluable capital of creativity on which they can draw in later life. If, on the other hand, children are restrained from such discovering activities, pushed in only one direction, or burdened with the view that there is only one direction, or one correct answer or correct answers that must be meted out only by those in authority, then the chances that they will ever become creative adults are significantly reduced.

For every one child who decomposes music there are dozens who simply play as they are taught. Young musical performers, for example, often reveal their gift for composing by a constant effort to “rewrite a piece.” Often this adventurousness is interpreted as insubordination. There are individuals who overcome the intervention of authority to go on to become creative in spite of restrictions.

“Hell, there are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something.”
—Thomas Edison

However, if one combines the definition of creative as a “divergent” thinking, someone who comes up with “idiosyncratic” solutions and combine that with the definition of genius, “a single strongly marked capacity or aptitude” and “displays originality, creativity, and the ability to think and work in areas not previously explored” I think one has a conclusion as to what comprises a “creative genius.”

According to The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979):

“Genius: The highest level of manifestation of man’s creative forces. The term “genius” is used both to indicate a man’s creative ability and to evaluate the results of his activities. Assuming an innate capability to productive endeavors in some field, genius, as opposed to talent, not only represents the highest degree of giftedness but also is connected with the creation of qualitatively new works and with the discovery of previously unknown creative methods. The activities of genius are achieved in a definite historical context of life in human society, on which genius draws for its creativity.”

I think key here is the notion that creative genius us beyond mere talent, or hard work. They go on to say, “Historical concepts of the nature of genius and its evaluation are related to a general understanding of the creative process. The ancients (Plato and, later, Neoplatonists) viewed genius as a type of irrational, “divine inspiration.” With the Renaissance (Leonardo da Vinci, G. Vasari, J. Scaliger) came the cult of genius as creative individuality, which reached its apogee in the romantic period, as exemplified by the preromantic Sturm und Drang in Germany, romanticism, and the theories, evolved from romanticism and characterized by the opposition of genius and the masses, of T. Carlyle and F. Nietzsche. The concept of genius in the contemporary meaning of the word developed in the 18th century. It became a fundamental aesthetic concept in A. Shaftesbury’s system: genius creates in a like manner to the forces of nature; its creations are original, in contrast to imitative artists. I. Kant also emphasized the originality and naturalness of creative genius: genius is the “natural endowment of the soul …. through which nature gives order to art” (Soch., vol. 5, Moscow, 1966, p. 323). F. Schiller described the nature of genius through the concept of naïveté as the instinctive following of artless nature and the ability to grasp the world spontaneously.”

Therefore, if one were to define genius as someone who diverged from a known path and transformed his or her field of expertise in the 20th century, my list would include, in no particular order:

  1. Pablo Picasso (art)
  2. Martha Graham (dance)
  3. Louis Armstrong (jazz)
  4. Lucien Bernhard (graphic design)
  5. Woody Guthrie (folk music)
  6. Orson Welles (film)
  7. James Joyce (writing)
  8. Bob Dylan (popular song)
  9. Albert Einstein (science)
  10. Jack Kirby (comics)

If a chart would be created of what came before and after, each would qualify. While we have no way of knowing how Jack Kirby would have scored on an IQ test, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is he transformed his field from the moment he entered it, and unlike many other accepted geniuses, continued to do so for the next 35 years. Consider that Einstein’s breakthroughs occurred when he was still in his 20s.

What I am submitting is that Kirby was a creative genius, one that changed the way comic storytelling was approached going forward.

The closest comparison I can draw is that of Louis Armstrong. While Armstrong did not create jazz, he was there as it emerged. Whilst he recorded in tandem with others throughout his career (King Oliver, Ella Fitzgerald, Jack Teagarden, et al) his singularity always shown, and he managed to influence jazz and popular music for every decade from the ’20s till the ’60s.

Likewise Kirby influenced comics from the moment he hit the ground running and continued to do so for the next four decades. Beginning in early 1941 with Captain America, less than three short years after Superman landed on earth from Krypton, Cap wasn’t the first patriotic costumed hero (that honor belonged to The Shield), nor the first to rely less on superpowers than physical prowess (that would be Batman). Rather it was the dynamism of his advanced storytelling and page design that changed the way comic book stories were told. To continue the Louis Armstrong analogy, Captain America was Kirby’s “Hot Five” and “Hot Seven.”

As Gerard Jones describes in Men of Tomorrow, “What Kirby brought to comics was an opera of line and mass. The stories didn’t matter, so much drama did his anger bring to the figures bursting out of the panels, the bodies hurtling through space as fists and feet drove into them, the faces contort in passion, the camera angles swinging wildly and the panels stretched and bent by the needs of action. His hero’s anatomy made no sense. Kirby had never been able to afford life-drawing lessons; he was making it up.  But Captain America came to such life and moved so forcefully through a time and space that existed only because Kirby said they did that he became more real than the carefully drawn heroes of the art school graduates. Kirby celebrated the body, the male body, male sweat and muscles, not with the fetishism of bodybuilding but with savage joy. And countless boys at the brink of puberty loved him for it. Within two issues Captain America was selling a million copies a month. Suddenly every young artist was drawing action like Jack Kirby.”9

However, Kirby’s growing confidence went far beyond his drawing abilities, and in fact the stories did matter. His main interest was in telling stories, and he frequently wrote and plotted the tales he drew.  Ever the divergent thinker, even when given a script, according to former assistant and biographer Mark Evanier, Kirby (and partner Joe Simon) would make paper airplanes out of them. “They tried for a while to control us, but we knew how to do comics. Finally they let us do whatever we wanted,” recalled Kirby.10

Soon after Kirby and Simon introduced the kid gang to comics, early in 1942, with The Boy Commandos and The Newsboy Legion, brought over from such popular films such as “Dead End” and Kirby’s own rough and tumble experience growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, leading the way for Charles Biro and others to follow. The kid gang would cross genres at Kirby’s hand in the early 50s with the Western Boys’ Ranch. Western comics are a comic category Kirby did not create, along with the Crime comic (that credit goes to Biro), still his influence was felt on such titles as Bulls EyeBlack RiderGunsmoke WesternTwo-Gun KidRawhide Kid and Justice Traps the GuiltyHeadline and Police Trap, respectively. Indeed, Kirby often cited his favorite story as “Mother Delilah,” in issue number 3 of Boys’ Ranch. Remarkably it manages to cross no less than three genres, the Western and kid gang with the raw emotion and pathos of a Romance comic.

According to Simon and Kirby Studio historian Harry Mendryk, Kirby’s greatest output between 1947 and 1959 was in Romance comics, another genre the team created.

In his Eisner winning 2011 book, Hand of Fire: The Comic Art of Jack Kirby, Charles Hatfield states that Romance comics “…shaped the celebrated superhero narratives that followed, with their emphasis on love, loss and anguish. Kirby never abandoned a genre, but rather reworked earlier genre conventions in new forms, splicing and adapting.”11

This dramatic breakthrough would become an intrinsic ingredient at Marvel in the early ’60s. According to Hatfield,  “It was under Kirby, though, that Marvel decisively latched onto the idea of unresolved, never-ending conflict between superpowered opposites, and revealingly, Kirby’s subsequent work often explores this kind of dualistic premise in distilled or exaggerated form. This sort of mirroring obviously appealed to him, as both a storyteller and a designer of characters.

The X-Men series, launched in 1963, is the keystone example. It introduced the germ of the idea that was to emerge full blown in may of Kirby’s later creations: that of superhuman heroes and villains springing from a common origin, vying with each other like rival gods in some epically dysfunctional family. Humankind, of course, was caught in the middle.”12 As Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon noted, “I don’t think it’s any accident that… the entire Marvel universe and the entire DC universe are all pinned or rooted on Kirby’s concepts.”

It was not Kirby who introduced mythological or cosmic elements to comics, rather it was the grand scale and sweep of these elements that resonated throughout the industry, beginning at Marvel and exploding the following decade in his Fourth World magnum opus.

Once at DC, on titles such as The New GodsThe Forever PeopleMr. MiracleThe DemonThe Losers and others, Kirby brought a synchronicity to the art and storytelling that few in the industry have achieved, while still working in a highly commercial venue. Artist James Romberger observes, “I do tend to value Kirby’s picture-making skills the highest on the genius scale, I guess….that he is able to do those huge spreads with multiple figures in deep space, all with astounding weight and presence and even more, of tremendous impact, of movement within that space. No other cartoonist has this level of skill and vision. Then I rate his writing and art in tandem from the best of his 4th World books at his peak and there simply is no parallel for how deep and humane and resonant these works are…”

One example of divergent thinking is Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth. Reportedly suggested by publisher Carmine Infantino as a Planet of the Apes knockoff, Kirby riffed on the theme in such inventive ways as to render the source immaterial, as far a field as Charlie Parker’s bebop “Ornithology” is from the jazz standard  “How High the Moon,” over which it is written. Kamandi lasted over 40 issues, Kirby’s second longest running title. He returned to Marvel in the mid-seventies and to earlier characters such as Captain America and Black Panther but also explored grander schemes once again in The Eternals and 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on Stanley Kubrick’s seminal film, used as a launching pad for an exploration of the human spirit and follies throughout history and into the future.

In the ‘80s his comic tales took a more personal turn, with Captain Victory and “Street Code”, and while his influence over the comics filed began to wane, Silver Star stands as a coda to an illustrious career, a dark inversion, colored by his World War II experience when compared to that other creative genius’ last hurrah, Satchmo’s “What A Wonderful World.”

Kirby left us in 1994. In the 21st century, with the advent of CGI, his creations have exploded onto the silver screen. Moviegoers who most likely would not recognize his name have spent billions worldwide to watch them in wide screen 3D.

Kirby fits all the definitions of “creative genius:” someone who’s “creations are original,” who had “ability to grasp the world spontaneously,” who “represents the highest degree of giftedness but also is connected with the creation of qualitatively new works and with the discovery of previously unknown creative methods,” someone who’s “originality, creativity, and the ability to think and work in areas not previously explored” and finally as someone who left his unique mark in his particular field, and our culture as well.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”—Albert Einstein

Special thanks to Norris Burroughs, Randolph Hoppe, and James Romberger for their help and guidance.


  1. Comics Journal Interview #134, with Gary Groth,  February 1990.
  2. The Critique of Judgment by Immanuel Kant, page 181.
  3. J. P. Guilford, Study of Human Intelligence, According to Guilford’s Structure of Intellect (SI) theory, an individual’s performance on intelligence tests can be traced back to the underlying mental abilities or factors of intelligence. SI theory comprises up to 150 different intellectual abilities organized along three dimensions—Operations, Content, and Products.
  4. Carl Jung, Psychological Types , 1921.
  5. Joy Paul Guilford, Study of Human Intelligence.
  6. American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology, Considering Creativity, Dean Keith Simonton, University of California, Davis, Volume 34, No. 10 November 2003.
  7. Dr. Teresa Amabile, Professor of Business Administration in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School. Her 30 year research has studied how the work environment can influence creativity and motivation has yielded a theory of creativity and innovation.
  8. Creating Minds: An Anatomy Of Creativity As Seen Through The Lives Of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, And Gandhi by Howard Gardner, Basic Books, 1994.
  9. Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book by Gerard Jones,  pages 200-201.
  10. Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier, page 60.
  11. Hand of Fire by Charles Hatfield, page 22.
  12. Hand of Fire, page 130.


Alter Ego, Roy Thomas, editor, Bill Shelly and Jim Amash, co-editors, et al, TwoMorrows, Raleigh, NC.

American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology, Considering Creativity, Volume 34, No. 10 November 2003.

Berkeley Institute of Personality Assessment,

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia,

Evanier, Mark, Kirby: King of Comics, Abrams, New York, NY, 2008.

Gagne, Michel, Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby’s Romance Comics, Fantagraphics,  Seattle, WA, 2012.

Gardner, Howard, Creating Minds: An Anatomy Of Creativity As Seen Through The Lives Of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, And Gandhi; Basic Books, New York, 1994.

Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Macmillan, Inc., New York, NY, 1979.

Hatfield, Charles, Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby, University Press of Mississippi, 2011.

Jack Kirby Quarterly, Chrissie Harper, editor, Quality Communications, London, UK.

Jones, Gerard, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, Basic Books, New York, 2004.

Jung, Carl, Psychological Types, Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.6, Princeton University Press; Princeton, NJ, 1976

Kant, Immanuel, The Critique of Judgment, Germany, 1790

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus

Mendryk, Harry, Simon and Kirby (blog), //

Theakston Greg, Comic Strip KirbyThe Complete Jack Kirby, volume 1–5; Jack Kirby Reader, volume 1–2, Pure Imagination, New York.

The Comics Journal, Gary Groth, editor, Kim Thompson, Eric Reynolds, co-editors, et al, Seattle, WA.

The Jack Kirby Collector, John Morrow, editor, TwoMorrows, Raleigh, NC.

Thorpe, Scott, How to Think Like Einstein: Simple Ways to Break the Rules and Discover Your Hidden Genius; Sourcebooks, Inc, Naperville, IL, 2000.

Wyman, Ray, The Art of Jack Kirby, The Blue Rose Press, Orange, CA 1994.

Steven Brower is an award-winning former Creative Director for Print, a former art director at The New York Times and The Nation, co-author and designer of Woody Guthrie Artworks (Rizzoli, 2005), author of Satchmo: The Wonderful Art and World of Louis Armstrong (Abrams, 2009), and author of two books on Kirby associate Mort Meskin for Fantagraphics. He is on the faculty of Marywood University in Scranton, PA, and The School of Visual Arts in New York City. What an appropriate entry on what would have been Kirby’s 95th birthday! Thanks, Steven. — Rand.

Follow Up to Mike Gartland’s “The Best Laid (Out) Plans”

Inspired by Patrick Ford’s comment on today’s “A Failure To Communicate” entry from Mike Gartland, here are three pages with Kirby’s story layouts and notes side-by-side with the printed version. From “If This Be Treason!” (Tales Of Suspense 70, October 1965, Marvel Comics)  – Rand

Printed credits:
“Story by Stan Lee
Layouts by Jack Kirby
Lettering by S. Rosen
Reintroducing the match-
less artistry of one of
the giants of  the great
golden age of comics…
Art by George Tuska”

A 1950s Kirby comic strip unearthed!

A two week run on the “Davy Crockett, Frontiersman” daily strip was recently discovered in a French digest.

by Jean Depelley, with Bernard Joubert

As strange as it seems, our discovery was not made in the USA, but in France! And the info arose from two Kirby-related investigations.

First, Strange comic magazine, which I hope readers are familiar with as Strange has published many Kirby-related subjects and rarities, was gathering a French Kirby checklist. This checklist isn’t as huge as the American one, but it is quite big nonetheless! So, with publisher Reed Man and a couple of contributors (including Jean-Michel Ferragatti, François Soulodre and Dominik Vallet), we had been searching for Kirby art in the enormous number of comic magazines that had come out in France since the end of World War Two. Quite a task! But we expected that even if we made interesting finds, none would surprise the American Kirby followers.

The second event leading to the discovery was the release of the documentary film, “Marvel 14: Superheroes Vs. Censorship”, which Philippe Roure and I directed, explaining why Marvel comics were banned by Communists and Catholics in France in the early 1970s.The film features Kirby by analysing Marvel’s successful style. Philippe and I were attending L’Etrange Festival, a famous movie festival where the film had been scheduled to be screened. The producers of the festival also invited the people interviewed for the documentary, so our friend Bernard Joubert, a noted comics historian and editor, was present at the show.

Panel with Columbia Features, Inc. copyright notice

After the screening (which went over well with the audience, thanks!), Bernard, Reed and I had a moment to chat, and, naturally, we discussed Kirby and the checklist. Bernard told us he remembered an obscure Kirby Western that came out in the late 1960s. As we weren’t familiar with it, two days later Bernard sent me the exact references of the French digest “Zoom” #15 (October 1968, published by Jeunesse et Vacances), and its content. The Kirby piece in it was a Davy Crockett story. Naturally, I associated it with the comic book series published in Harvey’s Western Tales #31 and #32 (October 1955 and March 1956). But Joubert was not convinced: “No, I really think it was a daily strip. It reads like one… Kirby just took over someone else’s strip for a while… There is a copyright to a syndicate and some dated credit boxes.”

McArdle & Herron dated credit box

Harvey’s Western Tales featuring Davy Crockett, 1955 & 1956

Original art for page one of “The Legend of Davy Crockett and the Missing Bullet Hole” Western Tales 31, October 1955. Scan from the Kirby Museum’s Original Art Digital Archive, courtesy of Vince Oliva.

Next Bernard emailed me some scans of the aforementioned story and wrote: “Here are the 14 pages of Kirby art as well as pages before and after Jack’s run. They are all copyright Columbia Features Inc. You’ll notice the change of artists in the middle of the story and the dated credit boxes which clearly identify it as a daily strip. It seems unlikely the French publisher put a comic book story right in the middle of a continuing strip. This is certainly the US “Davy Crockett, Frontiersman” daily strip by McArdle.”

Zoom #15, October 1968 and Zoom Album #4,
which contained #15,
published by Jeunesse et Vacances.

Finding a copy of  Zoom #15 was no easy task. However, after reading it and comparing it with the Harvey Western Tales stories, I had to admit Bernard was right, of course. After a new search, here are the conclusions on this new entry to be added to the American checklist:

House ad announcing McArdle & Herron’s “Davy Crockett, Frontiersman”, from the Spokane Daily Chronicle, courtesy of Rodrigo Baeza’s blog entry.

“Davy Crockett, Frontiersman” by Jim McArdle was syndicated by Columbia Features Inc., with writing by France “Ed” Herron. “Davy Crockett, Frontiersman” started as a daily strip in early 1955, right in the middle of the Davy Crockett craze. In fact, it premiered the same time as Harvey’s Western Tales. Presumably it was cancelled in 1959, even though it is said to have been available from Columbia up to 1972.

Ed Herron and Kirby were friends since their 1939 tenure at Fox. Herron, who Kirby credited as a co-creator of the Red Skull, was writing for National (DC) as well as the “Crockett” strip in 1957. Kirby started working at National again right after the 1957 Atlas Implosion. Perhaps Herron and Kirby reacquainted themselves at National around then, which fostered Kirby getting the “Davy Crockett” strip assignment.

Kirby was a trained artist in the genre, having already produced several westerns (“Wilton of the West”, “Lone Rider”, “Western Love”, “Boys’ Ranch”, “Bullseye”), not to mention his recent work on “Davy Crockett” in Harvey’s Western Tales comic book. Jack had also already worked for syndicates (Lincoln, Associated Features Syndicate, Fox) and knew how to handle daily strips.

To sum up, starting in January 1957, Jack Kirby “ghosted” the “Davy Crockett, Frontiersman” daily strip for less than three weeks. He started on a single strip on Thursday, 10 January—probably as a try-out—and went back to it for a 18 day tenure, from Monday, 14 January up to Saturday, 2 February. No evidence points to Kirby working on the larger Sunday strips. He inked the whole run, except the last three strips, which seem to be delineated by Roz. The strips Kirby worked on were not signed by Kirby, nor Herron, nor McArdle.

When Jack left the assignment early February, the art was taken over by Jim Christiansen on the Monday, 4 February strip, who eventually signed it with Herron. A few months later, Herron and Christiansen dropped the Davy Crockett strip for another Columbia Features Inc. property: the detective Nero Wolfe, whose daily strips and Sunday pages they produced between fall 1957 – early 1958. Kirby and Herron would later work together on The Challengers Of the Unknown for National.

So here are some previously unknown Kirby pieces from the late Fifties. Even though it has been terribly mistreated by touch ups for the French magazine, it is still pure Kirby, inked by himself. Now it is up to American collectors to track down unaltered strips, so that we can rediscover them in all their glory!

Editor’s note: The above is a re-worked translation of the article Jean posted on this past March. I first became aware of this Kirby Davy Crockett work through collector and scholar Tom Morehouse almost a year ago (August 2011), when I scanned the Crockett pages and the cover of Tom’s copy of Marvelman 230 (L Miller, 1958) for future reference. Tom and I thought, as Jean originally did, that it was unpublished work for Harvey’s Western Tales.

In July, there was  further discussion of this work by a number of people on’s GCD-Chat discussion group, where it was pointed out that in 2002 Matthew Gore discovered and posted Kirby Davy Crockett work from Marvelman 231. Rodrigo Baeza posted about it on his blog in July.

Jean and Bernard really cracked the case by sourcing it back to the daily “Davy Crockett, Frontiersman” strip syndicated by Columbia Features. As Jean ends his article above, let’s hope that unaltered US strips can be found.

– Rand

“For an Animal”: Kamandi and Focalization

Thanks to ICS’ Peter Coogan, Craig Fischer sat on The Auteur Theory of Comics panel in San Diego last month. Craig is an Associate Professor of Film and Cultural Studies at Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA. – Rand Hoppe

I’m late to appreciate Kamandi. In the 1970s, when I was a kid buying comics on spinner racks in drug stores and supermarkets, I sampled a couple of issues and wasn’t impressed. I was a Planet of the Apes fan, and I felt (not without reason) that Kamandi ripped off Apes’ premise; also, the issues I read, inked by D. Bruce Berry, looked less electric and kinetic than the Kirby art in Marvel’s Greatest Comics. So I let Kamandi drift onto my list of unread funnybooks.

This summer, however, at Heroes Con in Charlotte, I bought a bargain-basement copy of the first volume of DC’s Kamandi Archives, which reprints the first ten issues. This time, I like Kamandi much better, particularly “Flower!”, originally presented in Kamandi 6 (June 1973), a story which strikes me as both touching and innovative. To explain why “Flower!” is so exceptional, I need to define a concept from literary and film studies–focalization–and apply the concept to Kirby’s narrative techniques in “Flower!”

Adjusted scan of a photocopy of Kirby’s pencil work for the first page of “Flower!” – from the Kirby Museum’s Pencil Art Photocopy Digital Archive, with thanks to the Kirby family.

Focalization is the term used by narratologists—those scholars who study how stories work—to identify how stories are often filtered through a character who chooses what facts and details to emphasize and omit. As Manfred Jahn defines the term:

Focalization is the submission of (potentially limitless) narrative information to a perspectival filter. Contrary to the standard courtroom injunction to tell “the whole truth,” no-one can in fact tell all. Practical reasons require speakers and writers to restrict information to the “right amount”—not too little, not too much, and if possible only what’s relevant. (The Cambridge Companion to Narrative, 94)

Of course, “relevant” is an ambiguous term here. Relevant narrative information can refer to scenes that advance a character towards a goal, or to details that enrich a feeling that an author wants to convey to his/her audience. Focalization reminds us that storytelling is by definition incomplete, slanted, subjective: the Beowulf poet sings the praises of the Grendel-killer, but when John Gardner focalizes the same story through Grendel’s own perspective, the changes are profound.

When discussing visual media like comics and film, we should not equate focalization with the first-person point of view, with actual vision through a character’s eyes. In the film The Son (Le fils, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2003), our anchor of focalization is Olivier (Olivier Gourmet), a carpentry teacher at a reform school who mentors Francis (Morgan Marinne), a delinquent who (it is gradually revealed) murdered Olivier’s infant son. The Dardennes avoid Olivier’s literal point-of-view, opting instead for a prowling hand-held camera that struggles to keep up with Olivier as he instructs his students and watches Francis carefully, uncertain if he should take revenge. Here’s a shot from The Son:

This shot is a third-person portrait of Olivier as he stares at Francis, but we still feel Olivier’s anger and confusion. On a basic level, Olivier is in virtually every shot of The Son, a continual presence that elicits our attention. Narratively, Olivier is the agent through which we gradually figure out the story; we find out about the dead child through Olivier’s actions and conversations. Focalization is about the flow of story information through the perceptions of a particular character, but that doesn’t mean that readers and spectators have to be imbedded in that character’s literal vision.

What surprises me about focalization is how easily and quickly our interest can slide from one character to another. Another example from the movies: the shower scene and its aftermath in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). During Mother Bates’ attack, we feel the terror of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), but after Marion’s death, our focus switches to Norman (Anthony Perkins), the milquetoast charged with cleaning up his mama’s mess. We watch as Norman slowly and carefully mops the floor, wraps Marion’s body in the shower curtain, and deposits the bundle in the trunk of Marion’s car. He then drives the car into a nearby swamp, and when the car briefly refuses to sink, I (and other spectators) have a strange reaction: I feel for Norman, I worry that he won’t be able to hide the murder evidence. Hitchcock successfully swings Psycho’s focalization from Marion to Norman, prompting our sympathy for (spoiler alert, 50 years after the fact!) a homicidal psychopath.

How does focalization work in comics—and, more specifically, in Kirby’s comics? How does Kirby use character presence and action to establish focalization, and does he shift among characters like Hitchcock does? In order to answer these questions, however tentatively, I’ll now look closely at “Flower!” If you have a copy of that story, get it and read along with me.

“Flower!” begins with a six-page “Chapter One.” The story opens with Kamandi and Flower driving a “dune-wagon” across a desert landscape, until (in a typically kinetic Kirby splash on pages two and three) a squad of masked figures on motorcycles erupts in their path. The ensuing collision and confusion of vehicles prompts Kamandi to fire a rifle and shoot out one of the cyclists’ tires, after which another of the masked riders throws a “toss-truncheon” at Kamandi, knocking him unconscious. The final page of Chapter One reveals that the motorcyclists are tigers, zookeepers charged with protecting animals from poachers while guarding a wildlife sanctuary.

In this first chapter, Kirby shows an effortless ability to shift our focus away from one group of characters to another. On the first page, Kamandi and Flower are clearly center stage, presented as they are in tableau-style medium close-up, and the tiger-cyclists have yet to appear in-panel (though both Kamandi and Flower hear the roar of their motors). On the next page, however, the riders suddenly explode into our attention. Kirby draws them bounding through the air, one rider in a particularly extreme close-up at the bottom of page three. In this composition, Kamandi and Flower are presented as more distant figures—we now see them from above, and we’re further away from them—as they swerve their vehicle to avoid hitting the cyclists.

A scan of the original art of Kirby’s and ink artist/letterer Mike Royer’s page 2 and 3 spread for “Flower!” – from the Kirby Museum’s Original Art Digital Archive, with thanks to Albert Moy.

Throughout the rest of Chapter One, Kirby continues this process, minimizing his focalization on Kamandi and Flower while maximizing his (and our) attention on the cycle-tigers. Kirby does this partially through word balloons. As readers, we naturally gravitate to word balloons, and the tails of the balloons literally point us to the figures “speaking” in a specific panel. On page four of “Flower!”, there is a panel that returns us to a close-up on Kamandi and Flower, and Kamandi yells while firing his gun:

“Flower!” page 4 detail. Jack Kirby, story, pencil art, dialogue. Mike Royer, ink art & lettering. Jerry Serpe, color guide. Scan from Kamandi Archives, Volume 1, 2005.

This is the last time Kamandi speaks in Chapter One. The last three pages of the chapter are a tiger gab-fest, with the zookeepers talking about Kamandi’s cleverness as an “animal” and their plans to take Kamandi and Flower to the wildlife preserve. All these word balloons are arrows pointing us to the tigers both as characters and as visual presences on the page. By the end of page five, we’ve shifted our interest to the tigers so decisively that we’ve almost forgotten about Kamandi, even when his dune-wagon crashes into rocks.

“Flower!” page 5 detail. Ibid.

Even though the caption describes the accident as “violent,” Kirby’s drawing treats it as an unimportant event—so unimportant that it is mostly obscured by the body of one of the cyclists, who is now in the literal and figurative center of our attention. Our interest on the tigers solidifies on the final page of the chapter, where the action slows down and the riders’ dialogue defines them as likeable and sympathetic. In the space of six pages, Kirby shifts his focalization from Kamandi—the protagonist we should be focusing on, after all, since it’s his comic book—to anonymous cyclists who blossom as characters when their true occupations and natures are revealed.

During the next fourteen pages, the focalization decisively returns to Kamandi and Flower. The tigers deposit Kamandi and Flower in the wildlife preserve and vanish. Kirby’s story alternates between scenes of relative peace (Kamandi and Flower gently wake up in their vehicle, and later inhabit a comfortable house) and eruptive violence, as when Kamandi fights to establish himself as the leader of the “animal” herd, and protects himself and Flower from the pumas’ initial kidnapping (or “poaching”) attempt. Kamandi’s mood in this middle section of the story is cautious optimism. Though he knows that he’s been deposited in a zoo, he also realizes that the zoo provides him with the most security he’s had since he hid in his grandfather’s bunker.

“Flower!” page 14 detail. Ibid.

He’s begun to make plans for the future too. He’s thinking about staying in the house “indefinitely,” and earlier he seizes on Flower’s suggestion that he should teach the herd to speak and behave like human beings. (Kamandi’s dialogue on page 14, panel 2: “Man’s road back has to start somewhere! Why not here? I—I’ll give the teaching ‘thing’ a whirl!”) Kamandi is also overjoyed to have Flower in his life. When he meets her in the previous story, “The One-Armed Bandit!” (Kamandi 5, May 1973), Kamandi is astonished that she can talk, and their brief relationship is one full of affection and protection; note the encouraging way Flower strokes Kamandi’s forearm when he’s assuming the leadership of the herd (and mulling over the teaching idea) in the first panel on page 14 of “Flower!”. Before tragedy strikes, Kamandi has a home, a purpose, and potentially a mate.

At the end of “Flower!”, the pumas attack again, and Flower is killed before the tiger-rangers can arrive to arrest the poachers. As the tigers pour into Kamandi’s house, they also pour into the story’s panels, vying for our attention. Meanwhile, Kamandi says nothing as he carries Flower’s body over to the same sofa where, a few minutes before, Flower covered herself with a blanket and whispered “Flower feel warm and safe. Kamandi near—Kamandi brave.” We do, however, see Kamandi in close-up, wordlessly weeping over Flower’s dead body. During the last two pages, Kirby returns somewhat to the storytelling approach of Chapter One, as he chooses to again displace Kamandi as our central focus in favor of the tigers, a choice that gives “Flower!” elegant narrative bookends.

The effect of this second shift in focalization, however, is very different from the first. In Chapter One, we connect with the tigers when we realize that they intend to act kindly towards Kamandi and Flower. The end of “Flower!”, however, exposes a callous speciesism among the tigers, and creates an ironic contrast between Kamandi’s sorrow and the condescending tiger comments that end the story.

A photocopy of Kirby’s pencil work, Kirby’s and ink artist/letterer Mike Royer’s original art and DC’s Kamandi Archive 1 with color guides by Jerry Serpe.
Note that “thing” and “…for an animal!” were not on the photocopy of the pencil work, but were added as corrections to the lettering on the original art.

This conclusion is devastating. All the optimism of Kamandi’s stay at the zoo drains away. By now, I’ve read virtually all of Kirby’s Kamandis, and the conclusion of “Flower!” most forcefully conveys to me Kamandi’s plight as a disposable animal in the post-Great Disaster world. It’s Kirby’s ability to reintroduce a technique from earlier in the story (the focalization shift) and use it to reveal a new perspective on the characters and events (the tigers’ discrimination) that makes this moment so powerful.

I realize that my argument here is incomplete and a little slippery; for instance, I should’ve defined the difference between focalization and “identification,” and talked about why I mistrust the latter term. (In my home discipline of film studies, identification is freighted with other schools of thought—particularly psychoanalysis—that I consider seriously flawed.) I haven’t discussed the moments in the center section of “Flower!” where the reader is privy to information that Kamandi and Flower don’t know, such as the fact that they’re being secretly watched by both the pumas and tigers. And I should’ve examined more Kamandis to see if ironic focalization shifts as in “Flower!” are common in Kirby’s work. Still, writing this post has led me to value Kamandi more than ever.