X-POSITION: Phoenix, Upstarts & More Tear Up Bowers & Sims' "X-Men '92"
Legal | Jonathon M. Wall, who pleaded guilty April 5 to a charge of impersonating a federal agent last fall in an attempt to get into the VIP room at Salt Lake Comic Con, has a new defense team — after the judge in the case threw out his plea and offered to help him find new counsel. U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish vacated Wall’s plea, saying she was concerned Wall didn’t understand the full implications of having a federal felony on his record. Wall had told her he was pleading guilty because prosecutors offered him a “slap on the wrist” if he did so. An employee at Hill Air Force Base, Wall showed his work ID convention security but claimed to be a federal agent who needed access to the VIP area because he was pursuing a fugitive. In addition to helping Wall find a new lawyer, Parrish recommended he be transferred to a newly established diversion program. [Standard Examiner]
Awards | Adding to a list of recent honors that includes a National Book Award and a MacArthur “genius grant,” author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for his acclaimed memoir Between the World and Me. Coates is collaborating with artist Brian Stelfreeze on Marvel’s new Black Panther series, which debuts in April. [The New York Times]
Creators | Comics-industry pundit Rob Salkowitz looks at the resurgence of interest in Jack Kirby, who has posthumously received credit (and pay) for the work he created over the years for Marvel Comics: “For decades, the story of how everyone made a fortune off the work of this visionary creator except for Kirby himself – who until his final days toiled to eke out financial security for his family – stood as one of the most egregious injustices in an industry distinguished by its ill-treatment of creative talent. Now, as we approach his centenary in 2017, the man that Stan Lee nicknamed ‘King of the Comics’ is finally starting to get his due in the wider world of art, culture and commerce.” [Forbes]
The iTunes’ Terms and Conditions agreement has got to be the least-read-yet-most-signed contract in human history. For pages and pages (and a nearly limitless downward digital scroll), it enumerates Apple’s latest subtle shifts in policy regarding the ways we purchase, license and “own” music and media acquired through the most influential online marketplace to date. Who reads those things? Who could even pretend to? Can one even imagine a more arduous task than going through that document, line by line, and trying to parse what exactly it is we are all signing on for?
But ah, the magic of comics. Cartoonist R. Sikoryak, whose work has appeared in Drawn and Quarterly and The New Yorker, is publishing his painstakingly thorough, unabridged graphic adaptation of the iTunes Terms and Conditions agreement on Tumblr. This version of the contract is no mere dry rendering of legalese — instead, Sikoryak has transformed the document into a showcase of styles from talent all across the history of comics, making each page an experiment in the diverse visual language of the medium’s most beloved luminaries.
Passings | Jay Scott Pike, well known for his work as a “good girl” artist, died Sept. 13 at age 91. He started out in 1949 at Hillman Comics, and then moved on to Marvel predecessor Atlas, working on action and romance comics, including Jann of the Jungle and Lorna the Jungle Girl. In the 1960s he moved to DC Comics, where he drew mostly romance comics but also created the character Dolphin, who’s resurfaced repeatedly over of the years. Historian Mark Evanier estimates that Pike drew at least 800 comics stories between 1949 and 1973. [News From ME]
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).