I adore Jack Kirby.The one, single time I got the chance to meet him and talk with him (and his wife, Roz), all I could do was stand off about thirty feet away and stare. I couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't have made me sound like a little kid.And now I'm ashamed that I didn't make a kid of myself.
It's funny, but usually when you get a chance to meet an idol like that, it's an uncomfortable and unpleasant situation. Jack Kirby was the exact opposite of this. I got a chance to meet him briefly years ago at the San Diego Con, and he was exceedingly friendly. Jack put us at ease and graciously made time to pose for a snapshot and talk. A very nice man.My favorite Kirby story from the same convention; before the big Saturday night awards dinner, everyone was in a long line, waiting to get seated. I noticed numerous "bigshots" ignoring the line, and cutting in, an alt cartoonist with a newspaper strip gig, an grade-C unknown actor/heavy from a current comic book film, folks like that.And right behind me in line was Mr. Kirby and his family, waiting patiently. Here was the man who essentially created this industries success, certainly the biggest bigshot of 'em all, and he didn't take advantage. Unlike the others he had too much class!
I love stories like that. He was the greatest superhero comic book creator of all time.
"Here was the man who essentially created this industries success"I think he really made a mark in the medium, particularly on superhero comics, but the success of superhero comics has so dominated the industry that it's crippled it's potential, particularly its potential to become a truly popular form. Because of the dominance of superhero comics most other genres can barely come up for air, and the current trend of catering almost exclusively towards the same dedicated but shrinking superhero fan base has turned comic books, at least in magazine form, into a pursuit for a minority of hobbiests. This isn't Kirby's fault or failure, which is why crediting him with "creating the industry's success" doesn't make any kind of sense to me.And yes, he worked in other genres, and he and Simon pioneered romance comics among other things that I'm not sure if we should necessarily be grateful for, but his biggest and most enduring impact has been on superhero comics. So much impact, in fact, that the Lee/Kirby method of storytelling is for the most part, still followed today. Also not something I think we should necessarily be grateful for.Kirby had an amazing imagination and he was incredibly inventive, but try to put his actual accomplishments in real perspective. I think you could even fairly claim that he was the most influential artist of the superhero genre, but I don't know how much further you can take it than that. Remember: Eisner was a contemporary of Kirby. Tezuka was a contemporary of Kirby. And that's just for starters.And if not for the sucess of Kirby's favorite genre, humor comics and funny animal comics might still be holding on, and Mark Martin would be busy drawing comics instead of designing web pages. Nuff Said.
Oh, come on. "the man who essentially created this industries success"? I couldn't let that go. Besides, I thought you were "baffled" by Kirby's appeal, Mark? And what's wrong with wishing the market could sustain you doing comics full time?Or is this just a general resistance to (or fatigue of) controversy.Well tough titty.
I love controversy! Yapping about Jack Kirby is like taking about the weather. He was a huge talent, but Good Lord, what can possibly be said that has not been said? Find out how many socks were in his drawer when he died, something NEW!I kinda agree with some of what you said, kinda disagree with some... (Jan Brady voice) "Kirby Kirby Kirby!!!" I'm glad you wish I could do comics fulltime. Thanks for the happy thoughts!
"Oh, come on. "the man who essentially created this industries success"? I couldn't let that go. "Hrrrm- easy does it there big fella, and be a little less all encompassing in parsing out my comment-What I meant was this, the fact that there was a good size convention center filled with people, the fact that ideas created 20 to 30 years ago were still being expanded upon (or being stripmined, your call here) with varying degrees of effectiveness, the fact that movies (some of which were actually half decent) based on comics related stuff were starting to come out, all points to some degree of "success" (for lack of a better term) compared to the state of the industry in the early 1960's. Bottom line, everyone at that convention who was having fun, making money, or any combination of the two, arguably wouldn't have been there if Kirby hadn't wielded that damn amazing imagination of his.And the fact that comics have indeed devolved into exclusively 4th generation superhero material at the expense of other things seems a separate argument, it would be like me trying to make the case Kurtzman sucked 'cause he couldn't do good superhero comics, or complaining that Kurtzman's success had crippled the future of simple, fun and stupid Batman comics. We can certainly argue about what defines "success", but Kirby's impact on industry seems undeniable to me.Ultimately, in his niche, Kirby was extremely influential and much of his work greatly expanded the industry in many ways. God knows he made Stan Lee rich...Even if Kirby, and superhero comics in general, had never existed, there's no guarantee we'd be living in a happier world where Mark (and you and I as well Jed!) could regularly work in comics. I believe you've got to judge Jack by how well he succeeded in what he was trying to do, and by that standard I'm still comfortable calling his career and legacy a success.Of course, this is just my impression, but I AM always right and you're all wrong, NYAHHH!BTW, remind me tomorrow to never reply to these things after I've been drinking wine with dinner...Love always-Mark
Oy. You misread my comments.And I took your statement for face value.Lets stick to comic books here. Movies and merchandizing are not at issue. Those are seperate industrys. I don't feel that the comic book industry is at any great height of success. I said this is neither Kirbys fault or failure, and I don't hold him responsible for it one way or another. Neither did I say anything of the sort. I said "lets try to put his actual accomplishments into perspective." meaning, he did some mighty fine superhero comics. I said that he was probably the most influential guy in that genre, but he is not responsible for the success or failure of the comic book industry. He IS largely responsible for the popularity of superheroes, which presently and for the most part means movies, cartoons, and merchandizing, and not comics. Again, not his fault.Since I thought we were talking about comicbooks, the dominance of superhero comics does seem at issue. Since we're talking about the success of the comicbook industry, I would say that the success of superhero comics has been crippling to that industry. But why give Kirby credit or blame for this one way or another? What I mean is: what success are we talking about here? The ticket sales for the new Fantastic Four movie? that's a very popular movie, and yes, Kirby can be credited in part with it's sucess, but what's that have to do with comic books?It's true, there's certainly no guarantee that if superhero comics did not dominate the industry, that that industry would accomodate popular tastes any more successfully. Still, I think there would have, arguably, been more potential for that kind of accessability and popularity. Japan is a good model for this kind of success of comics, or at least manga, as a popular medium. I believe this success is a direct result of the mediums diversity and accessability in that country. The majority of the stuff is pretty purile, but that's pretty comparable to most popular media.The failure of the industry in this country is a result of the popularity of a single genre which can be in part linked to censorship in the 50s, and the whole mess was topped off in the 80s by the direct market, the collectors market, and conservative marketting strategies in general that targetted a very conservative comic book fan base.None of which has anything to do with Kirby, and none of which has anything to do with success. The decline in sales of comic books was already starting when Kirby was doing Marvel superheroes. Simon and Kirby's Boy Commandos in the 40s probably outsold anything Marvel ever published.This is why I don't associate the success of superheroes as a genre with the success of comicbooks as a medium.That's why calling Kirby, "The man who essentially created this industries success" makes absolutely no sense to me, and I certainly wasn't arguing that Kirby himself wasn't a success, and wasn't successful in what he set out to do. How you took my disagreement with your statement about the success of the industy as a reflection upon Kirby's personal success is something I can't really fathom.Keep in mind you're also talking to a big Kirby fan, especially of his early 70s stuff. I have almost a complete set of Kamandi and The Demon. In fact I just got that great Boys Ranch Hardback, which has got to be some of his best work of that era. And I love everything he did for Marvel, even 2001 and Machine Man, so I'm the last person you'd need to argue with about the merits of Kirby. I just don't like it when people make overarching statements about his impact on the ups and downs of an industry that he had no control over.
Good points Jed, I think it comes down to our definitions of what constitutes a successful industry.By some measurement, comics have succeeded mightily since the early sixties. I'm sorry, you can't leave out things like movies, merchandising, etc, these are part of the whole package.But you are right, by many other measurements, the industry has indeed gone to sh*t.Like you I'm a Kirby fan (big surprise!), and what I was trying to point out in my anecdote was how classy and un "diva-like" Jack acted despite arguably being one of the top creators in the field, a man whose imagination had considerably lined the pockets of the business. So, is it that off base to call him "The man who essentially created this industries success"? Not if your talking about the typical superhero dominated part of the industry, which I was. And frankly, that's pretty muchly the WHOLE industry, the rest of us are like fleas on a large, peculiarly inbred dog.Whether it'd nicer to have a different dog than the one who currently exists is fair material for debate, certainly it's a sore spot for some of us...I'll try to watch my "overarching" in the future!
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