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If ever anyone deserved a dope slap, it’s Ken Spears, for suggesting that his company “just take this stuff and give it away,” where the “it” in question was 600 boxes of unused Jack Kirby drawings that were taking up valuable storage space.
Fortunately, his partner, Joe Ruby, had more sense than that. The two are the founders of Ruby-Spears Productions, an animation studio that hired Kirby in 1980 to work on its Saturday morning cartoons and has just signed a deal with Sid and Marty Krofft to develop his unused characters into new properties.
Apparently Kirby was a prolific artist who kept on working even when he didn’t have a specific assignment.
“Many times, he didn’t have enough to do, or there weren’t enough assignments,” Mr. Spears said. “He was such a prolific guy that he would, on his own, just start sketching out some thoughts.”
Among the far-flung, unrealized projects that Mr. Kirby helped create or contributed to were “Roxie’s Raiders,” an Indiana Jones-style serial about a female adventurer and her allies; “Golden Shield,” about an ancient Mayan hero seeking to save earth in the apocalyptic year 2012; and “The Gargoids,” about scientists who gain superpowers after being infected by an alien virus.
And while Kirby’s heirs have sued Marvel and new parent company Disney over the rights to his comics work, the rights to the Ruby-Spears properties are clear-cut: They were done as work for hire. The Kroffts are talking about movies, television, video games and yes, even comics.