Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Today marks the 98th anniversary of the birth of Jack Kirby, King of Comics. And all corners of the comics internet are celebrating the contributions of the most legendary artist in the history of the medium (see CBR’s gathering of 98 mind-blowing Kirby images or Comics Should Be Good’s artist tribute for starters).
But the birth of Kirby also marks another strange anniversary for comics historians as 28 years ago today, the artist and his longtime Marve collaborator Stan Lee had one of their very few public arguments about what went in to the creation of the Marvel Universe.
In 1987, Kirby celebrated his 70th birthday with an interview on “Earthwatch” — a cultural program on New York City public radio station WBAI. During the broadcast, hosts Robert Knight, Warren Reece and Max Schmid asked Kirby about a range of fan topics from the origins of the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube to comics perceived readership in the Golden Age and beyond. But the journalists pulled a somewhat stunning “Gotcha” move on their guest by asking him about the legend of the Marvel Bullpen before inviting Lee on as a caller.
Just four days before what would’ve been Jack Kirby’s 98th birthday, an exhibition opens today at California State University, Northridge that celebrates the artist’s legendary career.
Titled “Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby,” the exhibit focuses largely on his later superhero and sci-fi work, from about 1965 on. “We call the show ‘Comic Book Apocalypse’ because when you’re dealing with Kirby, nothing less than the end of everything is at stake,” said curator Charles Hatfield, an English professor at CSUN and author of “Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby.”
Graphic novels | A number of incoming freshmen at Duke University have refused to read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, chosen as the summer reading selection for the class of 2019. Brian Grasso started the conversation by posting on the class Facebook page that he wouldn’t read the graphic novel because of its depictions of sexuality, saying, “I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” That opened up a discussion in which some students defended the book and said that reading it would broaden their horizons, while others shied away from the visual depictions of sexual acts. And Grasso felt that the choice was insensitive, commenting: “Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.” [Duke Chronicle]
With Jack Kirby’s birthday just 11 days away, his granddaughter Jillian has kicked off the fourth annual Kirby4Heroes campaign to help creators in need. Watch the launch video below.
In celebration of what would’ve been the comics legend’s 98th birthday, on Aug. 28 retailers across the country will throw “birthday parties,” and donate a portion of that day’s proceeds to The Hero Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a financial assistance to creators. Many artists also participate in Wake Up and Draw, in which they create illustrations in tribute to Kirby and then auction them later on eBay, with the money going to the nonprofit.
Libraries | Digital media distributor Midwest Tape has announced a new e-book and comics service for libraries, which will be accessed via its hoopla platform. Unlike the widely used Overdrive, the service will allow multiple checkouts for a single book, rather than limiting checkouts to one user at a time. [Publishers Weekly]
Legal | The trial began Tuesday for Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani on charges of spreading propaganda and insulting members of parliament, stemming from a cartoon she posted on Facebook depicting politicians as monkeys and other animals. Farghadani has been an activist in other ways as well, meeting with the families of people killed during the 2009 presidential elections. She was arrested last August and sent to prison, released, and then arrested again after posting a video online describing beatings by prison guards. She has been in solitary confinement since January and suffered a heart attack in February, after being on a hunger strike for three weeks. [The Washington Post]
“Over the years, when he heard somebody liked other artists more than his work, he was really non-competitive. The thing, though, that I think a lot of people never got about Jack was that Jack wasn’t really competitive with most other comic book artists, because in his mind, they had a different job description. When John Buscema sat down to draw an issue of Fantastic Four — and, actually, nothing I’m about to say is knocking John Buscema in any way, or any of the artists I’m going to mention here — his goal was to do an issue of the Fantastic Four. When Jack sat down to do an issue of Fantastic Four, in his mind his job description was to create a new universe, three spinoffs and take comics to another level.”
Note: The original version of this post misattributed the comment. It’s been edited to correct that, and to provide a fuller quote.
Conventions | Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, gazes into his crystal ball and predicts some new wrinkles to the convention scene this year, including more sophisticated use of technology: “New innovations such as beacons and near-field communications now enable real-time integration between digital content and the event itself in real time. In English, this means attendees can get instant notifications of nearby items that fit their specific interests, which could help navigate confusing and noisy exhibit halls.” And they could be used for real-time gaming as well. [ICv2]
Awards | Roz Chast has won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Best Autobiography for her graphic novel Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Chast’s tale of taking care of her parents in their declining years seems to be one of those books that crosses the usual boundaries, winning recognition not only in comics circles but in general book awards such as the Kirkus Awards and the National Book Awards. [Comic Riffs]
Retailing | ICv2 continues its focus on manga with a profile of Boston’s Comicopia, where they stock a lot of manga (4,000 volumes) and the staff really understands it. Most of the manga is simply shelved by title, reflecting the fact that readers often cross the target demographics (i.e. a lot of girls read Shonen Jump), but Comicopia also has sections for yaoi, all-ages manga, and “Manga for People that Don’t Like Manga.” [ICv2]
Legal | Illustrator Greg Theakston tells The Comics Journal that during his Christmas vacation, he plans to file a police complaint against the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center, alleging it stole about 3,000 photocopies of Kirby’s pencil work. Theakston gave the photocopies to the museum, but he contends it was intended to be a loan, while the museum says it was an outright donation. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Theakston has been threatening legal action since August. [The Comics Journal]
Creators | Paul Tumey posts a charming series of letters from Pogo creator Walt Kelly to a young pen pal (who had a pet alligator named Albert), along with plenty of backstory. [The Comics Journal]
If you were to make a list of the greatest gadgets dreamed up by Jack Kirby, the Mother Box would undoubtedly rank somewhere near the top. It’s the Ginsu knife of (sentient) comic book tech: it can open and close boom tubes, absorb and project energy blasts, communicate telepathically, control non-sentient machines … It probably even slices and dices.
And soon, you can get one of your very own. All right, DC Collectibles’ Mother Box Prop Replica won’t open any boom tubes, but all the noise and lights will make you think it can. Just check out the video promoting its July release, below.
[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]
Jack Kirby’s work from the early 1960s on is so indelible and influential that the enormous amount of work he did with Joe Simon in the years prior often seems to take a back seat to his more recent work. As a result, it often appears as though several chapters in our appreciation of one Kirby’s work and career are missing.
Thankfully, effort has been made lately to rectify that perception. Publishers like Titan Books and Fantagraphics have made an attempt to get some of these pre-code comics under readers’ noses.
Now Abrams has jumped into the ring with The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio, a lavish, oversize compendium of stories and art (scanned from the original pages) offered in stores in time for the holiday rush.
By the way, the emphasis in that title should firmly be on the word studio. For while Simon and Kirby’s art is well-represented here, editor Mark Evanier takes considerable care in highlighting stories by other artists who worked for the studio, most notably one Bill Draut, a clean-lined Milton Caniff-styled cartoonist whose work I was heretofore unaware of (other featured artists include Angelo Torres, George Tuska and Mort Meskin).
IDW Publishing will follow Jack Kirby New Gods: Artist’s Edition with a 192-page collection of the legendary creator’s work on Mister Miracle.
Part of the early-1970s “Fourth World” saga that also spanned DC Comics’ Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, The Forever People and New Gods, Mister Miracle introduced not only escape artist Scott Free and the warrior Big Barda, but also the likes of Oberon, Granny Goodness and the Female Furies, who lived well beyond the series’ 18 issues.
All-New X-Men #33, Fantastic Four #12, Inhuman #7 and Wolverine and the X-Men #11 include the phrase “Created By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby,” while Death of Wolverine: Deadpool & Captain America #1 states, “Captain America Created By Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.” The credits pages can be found below.
Added with no fanfare, the credits follow a settlement agreement announced last month, ending the five-year-old fight between Marvel and Kirby’s children over the copyrights to 45 characters created or co-created by their father — among them, the Avengers, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.
Neither side has commented publicly on their agreement beyond the joint statement, issued even as the U.S. Supreme Court was expected to decide whether it would consider an appeal by the Kirby heirs: “Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes, and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.”
Conventions | Ahead of New York Comic Con, George Gene Gustines shares producer Michael Uslan’s program from a 1964 comics gathering in New York City; it actually was released after the show, and includes some thoughts on how things could be improved, mainly by shifting the focus from buying and selling comics to bringing in creators so the fans could meet them personally. Nonetheless, Steve Ditko was there, and the list of registered participants included George R.R. Martin. [The New York Times]
Creators | Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa talks about taking Sabrina the Teenage Witch to the dark side in her new series, a Riverdale horror story in the same vein as Afterlife With Archie. In this case, rather than zombies, Aguirre-Sacasa is drawing inspiration from the 1960s film Rosemary’s Baby. [Hero Complex]
Nearly one month after what would’ve been Jack Kirby’s 97th birthday, the announcement was made: Concluding a five-year copyright battle, and decades of contention about credit and compensation, Marvel and the Kirby family revealed Friday that they had reached a settlement, just ahead of a conference to decide whether the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the case.
“Marvel and the family of Jack Kirby have amicably resolved their legal disputes,” they said in a joint statement, “and are looking forward to advancing their shared goal of honoring Mr. Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history.”
This is, without question, excellent news, and cause for celebration.
As is typical with settlements, the terms of their agreement aren’t made public, and the one-sentence statement gives no indication of how Kirby’s significant role in Marvel’s history will be honored.
Those close to Kirby’s family have been reserved with details. In some instances, they don’t appear to know any more than we do.