Thursday, December 29, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary: Gary Friedrich Loses Claim to Ghost Rider Copyright

Sad news in New York City today as the creator of Ghost Rider Gary Friedrich lost his latest bid to reclaim the rights to the character from Marvel.

Friedrich created a character named Hell-Rider for Skywald in 1971 before taking the Ghost Rider idea to Marvel in 1972 with an assist from Roy Thomas and Mike Ploog. When the Nic Cage GR movie came out in 2007 crediting "Marvel" as the creator (how can an inhuman corporate entity "create" anything? Ask U.S. copyright law.), Friedrich sued for rights and compensation.

Friedrich is in a similar situation as the Kirby legacy since the matter revolves around a judge's interpretation of the work-for-hire law under which Friedrich was paid for the stories he wrote for Marvel comics. There is another Ghost Rider coming out in 2012 from Marvel Entertainment and it will be subject to the Marvel Boycott just like the upcoming Avengers film.

from the Associated Press story:

Comic book publisher Marvel Entertainment owns the rights to the Ghost Rider character in the fiery form that originated in the early 1970s, a federal judge ruled Wednesday as she rejected the claims of a former Marvel writer seeking to cash in on lucrative movie rights.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest tossed out 4-year-old claims brought by Gary Friedrich, who said he created the motorcycle-driving Ghost Rider with the skeletal head that sometimes had fire blazing from it. A Ghost Rider of the 1950s and '60s was a Western character who rode a horse.

The judge said Friedrich gave up all ownership rights when he signed checks containing language relinquishing all rights to the predecessor companies of Marvel Entertainment LLC.

"The law is clear that when an individual endorses a check subject to a condition, he accepts that condition," the judge wrote.

Forrest said her finding made it unnecessary to "travel down the rabbit hole" to decide whether the character was created separate and apart from Marvel, whether the company hired Friedrich to create the character and whether he had thoughts about what rights he wanted to retain from the outset.

She said he also signed an agreement with Marvel in 1978 relinquishing rights in exchange for the possibility of additional future freelance work. He had worked for Marvel prior to that year as both an employee and as a freelance writer.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary: Fantagraphics to Publish Secret History

Kind of a Hanukkah gift. Fantagraphics is publishing The Secret History of the Marvel Universe: Jack Kirby and the Moonlighting Artists at Martin Goodman's Empire in 2012. The book is written by Canada's own Blake Bell and Golden Age Marvel scholar Dr. Michael J. Vassallo. Here is the blurb from Amazon:

The untold story of the House of Ideas.

Marvel Comics is home to such legendary super-heroes as Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man, all of whom have spun box office gold in the 21st century. But Marvel Comics has a secret history hidden in the shadows of these well-known franchises.

The Secret History of Marvel Comics digs back to the 1930s when Marvel Comics wasn't just a comic-book producing company. Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman had tentacles into a publishing world that might have made that era’s conservative American parents lynch him on his front porch. Marvel was but a small part of Goodman’s publishing empire, which had begun years before he published his first comic book. Goodman mostly published lurid and sensationalistic story books (known as “pulps”) and magazines, featuring sexually-charged detective and romance short fiction, and celebrity gossip scandal sheets. And artists like Jack Kirby, who was producing Captain America for eight-year-olds, were simultaneously dipping their toes in both ponds.

The Secret History of Marvel Comics tells this parallel story of 1930s/40s Marvel Comics sharing offices with those Goodman publications not quite fit for children. The book also features a comprehensive display of the artwork produced for Goodman’s other enterprises by Marvel Comics artists such as Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, Alex Schomburg, Bill Everett, Al Jaffee, and Dan DeCarlo, plus the very best pulp artists in the field, including Norman Saunders, John Walter Scott, Hans Wesso, L.F. Bjorklund, and Marvel Comics #1 cover artist Frank R. Paul. Goodman’s magazines also featured cover stories on celebrities such as Jackie Gleason, Elizabeth Taylor, Liberace, and Sophia Loren, as well as contributions from famous literary and social figures such as Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, and L. Ron Hubbard.

These rare pieces of comic art, pulp and magazine history will open the door to Marvel Comics’ unseen history.

This is your seasonal reminder to Boycott Marvel! Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

RIP Joe Simon, 1913-2011

Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America with Jack Kirby, has died.

Simon was one of the last "Golden Age" U.S. comics creators still living.

Very few of these men nand women are still with us.

A very short list:

Joe Kubert
Carmine Infantino
Stan Lee
Marc Swayze (co-created Mary Marvel)
Steve Ditko
Al Plastino
Fred Kida
Bob Fujitani
Leonard Starr
Ramona Fradon
Shelly Moldoff
Murphy Anderson
Irwin Hasen
John Severin
Jack Davis
Al Feldstein
Jules Feiffer
Allen Bellman (Timely/Capt. America artist)
and Canada's Gerald Lazare

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary: Making a List, Checking it Twice

Door Crasher Special:

Please remember, when compiling your Christmas shopping list, Boycott Marvel!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Canadian Comics Fan Project: AGHEEEE!

Canadian Comics Fan Project

Today's example is excerpted from Conan the King (formerly King Conan) #45, March 1988.

The letter is written by Ted Huang of Weston Ontario. Ted asks the immortal question, "Why in Ymir's name does the victim of an attack always scream "Agheeee"?

Invoking the Frost Giant's name, Ted (Teddy? Theodore?) aka Ted "The Nuke" Huang, makes a good point, based on a close reading of previous Conan issues. The funny thing is, in the very same issue, we have the slightly-modified version of the same victim squeal:

And of course, as usual, the editors got it wrong. The correct response is:

Boycott Marvel! Occupy Conan!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #21: Halloween Edition

It's always scary when we delve into the world of the Marvel Boycott. Just remember, in many ways, every day was Halloween for Jack Kirby!

Item! Ever since the lay-off of several Marvel employees two weeks ago, fans around the web have been calling for a separate boycott of the company. Of course, I feel this is a perfectly valid response. And despite the laid-off folks like artist Damien Lucchese declining to encourage a boycott, I will continue to encourage one, with the reminder that a boycott is not directed at the employees of a company but at its shareholders, board of directors and CEO. Furthermore, we shouldn't think of the comic book industry, comic creators, and least of all Marvel Comics as some sort of charity case that we must support no matter what, despite bad comics and bad behaviour, because someone may or may not lose a dream job working at The House That Jack Built. Also, Marvel has a toilet problem.

Elena Brooklyn has this to say about that:

Comics Beat reports that Marvel has only 1 bathroom for men and 1 for women. For the ENTIRE staff.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires at least 2 bathrooms per gender for a staff that size. Or one bathroom with 5 stalls if it’s unisex. And with NYC’s stronger worker protections and building codes maybe even more.

Maybe Make Mine Marvel should be Make Mine Urinary Track Infection since Comics Beat reports staff having to schedule their lunch shifts to accommodate the limited toilet access. That’s some sweatshop stuff people. Completely unacceptable.

Marvel CEO Perlmutter is the 1% as we say down at Liberty Square. The writers, editors, artists, colorists, admin workers, janitors and distro staff who make Marvel run and create value for the company are part of the 99%. Time for us to stand up for Yancy street against Wall Street.

Item! Nat Gertler has come up with a unique compromise for those who may not support Marvel's position on the Jack Kirby lawsuit but don't want to participate in a boycott or just can't bring themselves to stop buying Marvel comics featuring characters tht Jack Kirby created or co-created. Gertler suggests that every time you spend money on a Kirby-related Marvel movie, send a dollar to the Jack Kirby Museum. Gertler has set up a simple website, to help direct donations and explain his position. It's worth checking out. The Kirby Museum is a very good cause and they can use all of the donations you care to send them. And it would be nice if Gertler expanded his project to include all other Kirby-derived Marvel product (ie, buy a Thor Halloween costume? Why not send some money to the Kirby Museum?). However, it is no more than a band-aid solution that, at best, indirectly helps out the pro-Kirby lawsuit forces by supporting the Museum's educational mission. It's a nice way for those who feel guilty about supporting Marvel/Disney through movie and dvd sales to soothe their consciences, but little more. Remember, the money from those films in part goes towards fighting the Kirby heirs in court. Really, should you support both sides?

Item! Speaking of lack of support, Marvel recently cancelled Alpha Flight, the comic about Canadian superheroes. Is it because, as The Beguiling's Chris Butcher suggests, Marvel has something against specific Canadians?

Item! The newest blogger to join the boycott is Matt Springer. You can read Springer's blog here.

Item! Elsewhere in Kirby-land, the scholar Charles Hatfield has announced the upcoming release of his academic study of Jack Kirby, Hand of Fire, which promises to be a fascinating look at why Jack continues to matter today.

Charles Hatfield’s Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby is a book about what Kirby did and why it matters. In particular, it focuses on Kirby’s artistic peak in the 1960s and ’70s. A critical exploration of cartooning, of superheroes, science fiction, and the technological sublime, Hand of Fire is the first academic monograph in English about Kirby’s work. In essence, it’s a book about why Kirby blew off the top of so many readers’ heads, and why he still does.

Hand of Fire is part of the University Press of Mississippi’s “Great Comics Artists” series. Look for it in January 2012.

Happy Halloween and don't forget to Boycott Marvel!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #20: Occupy Yancy Street!

Here's my contribution to the Occupy Yancy Street movement/meme.

Make your own!

Nerd notes: Yancy Street was the home neighborhood of Ben Grimm aka The Thing of Fantastic Four fame. It was also home to Ben's old working-class pals, The Yancy St. Gang, who constantly tormented him with practical jokes and poison-pen letters. Yancy Street was apparently based on Delancey Street, the original stomping grounds of Fantastic Four co-creator Jack Kirby!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #19: Vermont Event Features Steve Bissette on Kirby Legal Issues

The Center for Cartoon Studies and Vermont Law School present:

Marvel vs. Jack Kirby: Legal Rights and Ethical Might

Friday, October 21, 2:30, Nina Simon Classroom, CCS, White River Junction, VT

Jack Kirby was a defining cartoonist of his generation. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Kirby created or co-created the foundation that is the Marvel Universe: Captain America, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Thor, and the Avengers.

A billion dollar media empire is built on these superheroes.

Marvel, now owned by Disney, contends that Kirby worked under a work-for-hire agreement and his heirs have no right to the revenue his creations continue to generate for the company. A recent court ruling agreed with Marvel but appeals will surely follow.

Join The Center for Cartoon Studies’ Steve Bissette and Vermont Law School’s Oliver Goodenough as they discuss the legal, ethical, and moral issues of the Kirby decision for Marvel/Disney, the consumers of superhero stories, and the talent that creates them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #18: Happy Birthday Joe Simon!

Happy 98th Birthday Joe Simon!

Along with Jack Kirby, Joe Simon created Captain America.

To date, Marvel Comics and Disney do not acknowledge or credit Simon and Kirby for their creation. They receive no credit in comic book issues of Captain America and related titles (The Avengers, etc) and do not receive any royalties for the character or for reprints of their original stories from the 1940s. They receive no money from the Captain America movie which has grossed $362,584,292 worldwide.

About Joe Simon:

Joseph Simon was born October 11, 1913, in Rochester, New York. He worked as a newspaper artist and cartoonist before turning to the early world of comic books. In the late 1930s he met artist Jack Kirby and began collaborating with him. The pair created Captain America in 1941 and wrote and drew the first 10 issues of the Captain America comic book for Timely Comics (later Marvel).

They later moved to National/DC and created Sandman, the Newsboy Legion, the Boy Commandos, and Manhunter. Together they also invented romance comics and ran their own publishing companies (Crestwood, Mainline). In the 1960s, Simon moved into advertising, returning to comics briefly in the late-60s and reteaming with Kirby for a short period in the 1970s. As an artist and writer, and creator of several long-running characters and genres, Simon's contribution to American comic books and popular culture is immeasurable.

Please consider boycotting Marvel Comics until Joe Simon and the Jack Kirby heirs are given due credit for their work!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #17: Please Support the Jack Kirby "Pop-Up" Museum

One of the ways that we can show our support for the Marvel Boycott to strengthen Jack Kirby's legacy is to provide financial backing to projects that put the genius of Kirby front and center. So, instead of buying Marvel reprints of his comics that don't pay royalties to the Kirby family, or Marvel comics that use characters Jack created without credit, maybe consider buying comics that pay royalties and give credit, like the DC Omnibus editions of Kirby classics, the Titan Books Simon and Kirby Library, or the new Kirby Genesis series of comics based on his creations.

And now there is a new way to keep the Kirby legacy alive: Rand Hoppe, one of the principles behind the registered not-for-profit Jack Kirby Museum, recently announced plans to open a temporary Kirby museum in Jack's old New York City neighborhood. The Kirby Museum has only been a virtual, online organization so far, with scattered archives and volunteers. Hoppe wants to open a physical storefront museum on New York's Lower East Side starting next month and he is asking for donations of $20 or more to get the project realized.

An actual Kirby museum would give fans of the King a place to see his original art and learn about his life, and would be an invaluable tool for presenting Kirby to the world and educating people about his central role in the creation of Marvel and its many characters.

Our intention is to set up a temporary, or “pop-up,” brick-and-mortar location for the Jack Kirby Museum during this November, December and January. The ideal size for this purpose is between 800-1,200-square-feet, and would feature original artwork, artifacts from Jack’s life, prominent guest speakers, educational programs and installation pieces inspired by and celebrating the unique work and life of Jack Kirby.

A space like this dedicated entirely to the life and work of Jack Kirby would be equally appealing to seasoned art patrons, pop-art connoisseurs, casual fans, tourists, and families. Successful implementation of this pop-up museum will allow us to pursue the ultimate goal of a PERMANENT space for the Museum in the near future.

Again, nothing like this has ever been attempted. And, in order to make this happen, we need funding.


[...] We understand that trying to raise significant funds in such a short amount of time is ambitious. Our current estimate is that we'd need more than $30,000 to fund the real estate end of the project (rent, legal, security, insurance, etc.) for ten to twelve weeks. While this sounds like an awful lot of money (and... it is!), it's really just a question of finding 1,000 Jack Kirby fans willing to donate more than $30 each! Simplistic? Perhaps. We prefer "optimistic", though. We don't underestimate Kirby fans....


read more about donating


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #16: Notes on Morrison

Vancouver blogger A Trout in the Milk makes some interesting points and has some advice for people who were baffled or angered about Grant Morrison's recent comments about Siegel and Shuster. It's a longer article but worth reading in full. I think more an more people are coming to realize that our childhood favourites (and current boxoffice champions) are characters who have been unfairly appropriated from their creators. We still love the characters and all those great stories, but don't know what to do about the conflicted feelings we have. Can we still enjoy these comics, films, and videogames when we know the company that produces them is still actively engaged in screwing over the families of the people like Jack Kirby and Jerry Siegel who gave birth to Captain America and Superman? And what about the people who write and draw new stories today. Should their attitude towards Kirby, Siegel and Shuster have any bearing on how we read their current comics?

But here’s the problem: it isn’t right. Not unless we’re prepared to do something about it. I mean: any of it. You know what I mean?
And that doesn’t necessarily mean “boycott”. It doesn’t even necessarily mean “protest”. But it does mean “reaction”. Take me, for example: I’m not engaged in a boycott, and I’m not protesting anything. But I am having a reaction, in that I’ve just stopped buying shit — even good shit — that leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. And I’m not saying I’m any better or worse than anyone else because of it, but that’s the reaction that I’m having because I’m having one. Of course there are any number of reactions a person could have to the injustice on display in Marvel’s actions toward the Kirbys, DC’s actions toward the Siegels, if one is not actually predisposed to take the side of the companies. “Not caring” is one of these possible reactions. “Making excuses to oneself for still needing the job/wanting the comics” is another. And personally I’ve got no problem with people in the “making excuses” mode; I make excuses for things I do that don’t sit 100% right with me, just about every day. So I know that it is a reaction, a perfectly valid reaction. And you know it’s a little bit like work, too? It’s a little bit like work…
So you pay for the privilege, of making excuses. And that’s fine. But in my case, I don’t feel I have to pay that way anymore. And, in some way do I have Grant Morrison to thank for it? It was Steve Bissette calling for a boycott on Marvel that made me think of it, but maybe it was Morrison’s comments, and the reaction to Morrison’s comments, that finally made me feel like acting, made me feel like I wasn’t stuck with the situation as it was.

Read more


Boycott Marvel!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #15: Kirby Link Round-Up

The Marvel Boycott continues. Some more-or-less random links, some only tangentially related to the boycott:  

What Kirby Did: Critic and cartoonist Matt Seneca writes about a Jack Kirby action page, noting that "how much sharper Kirby’s sequencing got after his 1979-80 stint as an animation artist for Ruby-Spears. A few years roughing out stories for a medium in which the audience plays the role of passive receptor rather than active participant had subtly changed Kirby’s comics art once he returned. "
Do Boycotts Work? Lots of talk on the internets in reaction to Steve Bissette's call for a boycott of Marvel. Many people say boycotts don't work, or only harm the little guys, like retailers and the current creators of Marvel comics who are working on those Kirby characters. I feel that boycotts and petitions that threaten boycotts can be effective in shaming or scaring companies into action. The latest evidence is the campaign led by to get advertisers to pull out of Glenn Beck's show on Fox News, which ultimately resulted in Beck's termination. At its peak, the Glenn Beck boycott involved almost 300, 000 people and was costing Fox half a million dollars per week.  

Gandhi on boycotts and imperialism 1: "Economics that hurt the moral well-being of an individual or a nation are immoral and therefore sinful. Thus the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral. It is sinful to buy and use articles made by sweated labour. It is sinful to eat American wheat and let my neighbour the grain-dealer starve for want of custom." (Young India, 13-10-1921)  

Gandhi on boycotts and imperialism 2: "It is my claim that as soon as we have completed the boycott of foreign cloth we shall have evolved so far that we shall necessarily give up the present absurdities and remodel national life in keeping with the ideal of simplicity and domesticity implanted in the bosom of the masses. We will not then be dragged into an imperialism which is built upon exploitation of the weaker races of the earth, and the acceptance of a giddy materialistic civilization protected by naval and air forces that have made peaceful living almost impossible. On the contrary we shall then refine that imperialism into a commonwealth of nations which will combine, if they do, for the purpose of giving their best to the world and of protecting, not by brute force but by self -suffering, the weaker nations or races of he earth. Non-cooperation aims at nothing less than this revolution in the thought world. " (Young India, 29-6-1921)  

Joining the Boycott? The writer James Vance (Kings in Disguise) thinks that calls for a boycott are "naive" and that "reasonable appeals" to the company are probably "forlorn," but still has the gumption to state that, "From a moral standpoint, I agree that Marvel should make some kind of a good-faith financial gesture to Kirby’s heirs."
Credit for Kirby 1: Comic shop retailer Mike Sterling has pointed out that the new DC 52 title OMAC #1, based on a character created by Jack Kirby, does not credit Kirby anywhere in the book, This is an important lapse, since DC has generally been very good with these sorts of credits over the last few years and their willingness to give credit (except when a lawsuit is involved) has been an influence on the boycott. My thinking is, if DC can include a simple "created by..." blurb on the first page of every comic book, why can't Marvel? The OMAC example is also important since the book is being illustrated by Keith Giffen in a Kirby style. (Tony Isabella has some thoughts on this too.)
Credit for Kirby 2: At the Kirby museum, blogger Robert Steibel presents a trio of posts about the auteur theory of comics ( 1 2 3) and Jack Kirby's place in that theory. So, is Kirby an auteur?
"I think the answer is yes. I think that if you look only at the visuals — the style of the art, the dynamics, the compositions, and ignore the text and the quality of the inks and the colors — you are seeing Jack Kirby as the Pure Auteur of his 1960s stories. In your mind, you can travel back to the moment where Kirby stuffed his story into an envelope and mailed it to NYC, and you can glimpse his personal vision — Jack Kirby: Pure Auteur. But, there is no denying the published book is much more of a collaboration. You can’t dismiss Lee and the other personnel’s contributions to the finished product, so in that sense, I suggest you have to think of Jack as what I’ll call the “Principal Auteur” of the published book: Jack wasn’t working from a full script like most comics artists in a traditional writer/artist relationship, in reality, Jack Kirby conceived of and wrote the original story with visuals and liner notes. Jack is the principal storyteller."
Boycott Marvel!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Working-Class Heroes Project Redux

Blogger Will Shetterly has added a bit to the master-list of working-class superheroes I started a little while back (in 2005! holy smoke!) and the list now includes some more contemporary heroes I was not aware of way back when. Still, the paucity of actual poor or proletarian types who worked overtime in the long-underwear biz kind of proves my original point, that despite their origins in the sweat-shops of New York, superhero comics still had quite a bit of middle- and upper-class ideology embedded in their marrow.

I slightly updated my original list in 2006 and can't really think of any more Golden Age heroes to add besides Simon and Kirby's Vagabond Prince, aka Ned Oaks, a down-at-heels poet and writer of greeting card verses, perhaps modeled after the Gary Cooper character in Frank Capra's 1936 Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.

Of course, the real reason that we seem to have a hard time finding working-class heroes is because superhero comic books are all about rich people beating up poor people,* making the true heroes of the comics, from a class perspective, the villains. I wrote about this too, in a post about Solomon Grundy and "The Animated Corpse of the Working Class."

Maybe we could start a list of Working-Class Villains? The Wrecking Crew, Parasite, Sandman, and many of their cohorts were more prole than all the Reed Richards, Bruce Waynes and Tony Starks of the superhero-industrial complex combined.

*The other major themes of superhero comics, besides class anxiety are identity, violence, and sexuality, in case you were interested.

Unknown Canadian Cartoonists: Jay Work

Just bought a small pile of old Maclean's magazines from the 1930s and 40s, only to discover a new cartoonist I've never heard of and can find no reference to. The single gag panel appears in the February 15, 1949 issue of Maclean's and is entitled "Wilfie" by Jay Work. The name sounds like a pseudonym, but who knows? The strip appears to be a continuing feature, along the lines of James Simpkins' Jasper, an early example of which appears a few pages earlier in the same issue. Simpkins' strip ran every week in the magazine for decades, beginning in the late 1940s, and I can only assume that Wilfie followed the same formula, with the same character appearing in different situations. Wilfie looks like a Caspar Milquetoast or Crockett Johnson's "The Little Man With the Eyes-type character. Work's style is definitely sketchier than Simpkins', whose washes and versatility of line helped propel the fish-out-of-water anthropomorphics of Jasper through several incarnations. The hockey subject-matter of the panel makes me think Canadian, as well. Other highlights of this issue, besides noting that Pierre Berton is listed as copy editor on the masthead, are cartoons by anti-fascist artist Len Norris.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #14: Boycott the Thor DVD

Today Marvel is releasing the Thor movie on dvd and Blu-ray and so I thought I'd post a few notes about Jack Kirby and Thor.

As this post reminds us, although "in 2011 so far (as of September 2011), creations of Jack Kirby have accounted for $766 million dollars at the box-office, and that’s just domestic grosses, not including dvd/blu-ray sales, international sales or merchandising," Jack Kirby remains unknown to the general public. Jack Kirby, were he alive, would see no income from the sales of the Thor discs today, nor will his family. Marvel has systematically fought to have Kirby shut-out of the credit and proceeds of his creations and that is why we are urging the boycott, to right this historic wrong. Please do not buy any Marvel product until this issue is resolved.

Because Kirby's leading role in the creation of Marvel is such a secret, I am cheered whenever I see a review that even mentions Jack Kirby as the creator or co-creator of Thor, since there is so much misinformation out there, most of it the handiwork of Stan Lee, Marvel spokesman and Kirby's editor and co-writer during the 1960s. Kudos to the critic Gabriel Powers for pointing out Stan's credit hogging on the dvd special feature interview in this review and its comments section.

In fact, the historical record is pretty clear on Thor. As with many Marvel projects from the 60s, there seems to have been some sort of discussion between Kirby and Lee about the character, who first appeared in a six-page origin story in the Journey Into Mystery anthology (issue #83, August 1962). Stan's brother Larry Lieber is credited as scriptwriter on the first issue and for the initial run of the stories, with Kirby continuing on the art chores, as well as plotting, etc.

It's interesting to read Lieber's deposition from the most recent lawsuit in regards to the creation of Thor, as a counterpoint to Stan Lee's "I created Thor and his universe" line:

Q: Did you ever work on the comic Thor?
Q: What was your involvement?
LARRY LIEBER: I got the synopsis, the plot from Stan, and I wrote the first script of Thor. That was it.
Q: And when you say “the script,” that’s what we were talking about before that told panel by panel?
LARRY LIEBER: Panel by panel and description of it, yes.
Q: Did you see any artwork on Thor before you wrote the script?
LARRY LIEBER: I don’t recall seeing any. I don’t know.
Q: Do you know who, after you turned in the script, do you know who the artist was that drew Thor?
LARRY LIEBER: I believe it was Jack Kirby.
Q: Did you have any conversations or any interactions with Jack Kirby about the Thor book?
LARRY LIEBER: No, not that I recall.
Q: Did you come up with any of the names in Thor?
Q: What did you come up with?
LARRY LIEBER: The civilian name of Don Blake I made up. And I also came up with his hammer. I made that, which people know about. My Uru hammer, I created that.
Q: And where did you get the name Uru hammer?
LARRY LIEBER: I just made it up, as far as I know. I might have read it. I used to — Stan liked the way I made up names, civilian names, and I used to, from my years of doing these, what do you call it, these fantasy books, monster books, and I used to look at the back of dictionary, Miriam Webster had biographical names and geographical, so I would look in towns and if I liked the town, I might put it. And it was kind of fun and he liked what I did.

Now, I don’t know if I found “Uru” someplace or I just made it up or whatever. I know I made it short because I felt that Thor might be around a while and I was always worrying about the letterer or somebody. I was worrying about somebody else’s feeling, and I figured, well, if I make it U-R-U, there’s not that much to letter. And since nobody knows the name of it, I’ll make it a short name. So that’s why I did that.

And Don Blake I just thought sounded like a doctor and, you know, to fit the personality.

And then of course, there are Kirby's own words, from this famous interview in the Comics Journal:

KIRBY: I came in [to the Marvel offices] and they were moving out the furniture, they were taking desks out — and I needed the work! I had a family and a house and all of a sudden Marvel is coming apart. Stan Lee is sitting on a chair crying. He didn’t know what to do, he’s sitting in a chair crying —he was just still out of his adolescence. I told him to stop crying. I says. “Go in to Martin and tell him to stop moving the furniture out, and I’ll see that the books make money.” And I came up with a raft of new books and all these books began to make money. Somehow they had faith in me. I knew 1 could do it, but I had to come up with fresh characters that nobody had seen before. I came up with The Fantastic Four. I came up with Thor. Whatever it took to sell a book I came up with. Stan Lee has never been editorial minded. It wasn’t possible for a man like Stan Lee to come up with new things — or old things for that matter. Stan Lee wasn’t a guy that read or that told stories. Stan Lee was a guy that knew where the papers were or who was coming to visit that day. Stan Lee is essentially an office worker, OK? I’m essentially something else: I’m a storyteller.
GROTH: Who came up with the name “Fantastic Four”?

KIRBY: I did. All right? I came up with all those names. I came up with Thor because I’ve always been a history buff. I know all about Thor and Balder and Mjolnir, the hammer. Nobody ever bothered with that stuff except me. I loved it in high school and I loved it in my pre-high school days. It was the thing that kept my mind off the general poverty in the area. When I went to school that’s what kept me in school — it wasn’t mathematics and it wasn’t geography; it was history.

GROTH: Stan says he conceptualized virtually everything in The Fantastic Four — that he came up with all the characters. And then he said that he wrote a detailed synopsis for Jack to follow.

ROZ KIRBY: I’ve never seen anything.

KIRBY: I’ve never seen it, and of course I would say that’s an outright lie.

Regardless of the initial conception, it seems clear that Kirby deserves the credit for the visual design of the Thor universe and much of the stories of Thor's adventures in the comics. The Destroyer character in the movie is totally a Kirby creation, for instance, as are the Warriors Three sidekicks.


In other news, Rand Hoppe of the Kirby Museum has also joined the boycott and has some thoughts on Kirby's 94th birthday.

Until next time,

Boycott Marvel!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #13: Jack Kirby, Labourer

This being Labour Day, a few notes from around the web on Jack Kirby, worker, architect, genius, and work for hire.

It seems like there may be a Boycott Marvel Facebook page. Here is its blurb:

The late Jack Kirby's heirs were denied any share of the copyright to his Marvel Comics creations in federal court -- including Thor, the Fantastic Four, and the Hulk, the Avengers and the X-Men. Stephen R. Bissette has called for comics readers and filmgoers to boycott all Marvel Entertainment products based on the 1960s creations of Kirby, the man behind many of that company's most enduring icons.

I came across this 2010 Vice article from Dan Nadel on Kirby. Nadel put together a Kirby exhibit recently and his thoughts on Kirby's art, career arc and creative process are still timely.

A man with this attitude, combined with a strong sense of loyalty and a need to provide for his wife and three kids, was going to have a hard time. A tortured time. Kirby, who grew up poor and Jewish on the Lower East Side, was godlike in his abilities. He was a one-man mythos machine, and he knew it. But he was powerless in all other practical matters. So when the movie deals were announced and the animated cartoons aired and other artists began steering his characters, Kirby was angry. All he could do was leave.

In other news, the Kirby Museum's Simon and Kirby columnist Harry Mendryk writes a great article about the evolution of one of Jolly Jack's great visual devices, "Kirby Krackle."

The Kirby Krackle prototype from “The Negative Man” is very similar to that found previously in “The Man Who Collected Planets”. However while Kirby inked his own pencils in the earlier story some other artist inked “The Negative Man”. I am not positive as to who that inker was but the blunt but fluid brushwork looks very much like the work of Marvin Stein so I questionably attribute it to him. The two stories are similar enough that perhaps Stein used the earlier Kirby inked story as a reference when inking this one. Or perhaps Kirby had already begun to include how a story should be spotted in his pencils. In either case the use of the Kirby Krackle in this story should be credited to Jack Kirby.

And finally, blogger Michael Buntag has joined the boycott. Welcome aboard, Michael!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Canadian Comics Fan Project: Smallsack Mailville

I haven't done one of these installments in the Canadian Comics Fan Project for awhile but couldn't resist posting these two letters since it's rare to find more than one Canadian letter in an old comic book. Today's examples come from Superboy #137 (April 1967), part of a small non-Mystery Hoard I picked up at the recent Fan Expo in Toronto.

The letters pages in the old DC Comics had corny titles and Superboy was no exception. For some reason, the Superman lettercol was titled "Metropolis Mailbag" whereas the Boy of Steel only merited a "Smallville Mailsack" --perhaps a reflection of the more rural, less modern system of mail delivery endemic to Clark Kent's home town.

Regardless, the first letter featured in this classic issue comes from David Ball of Downsview, Ontario.

Dear Editor:

I have a dog who looks a lot like Krypto. Whenever I read an issue of Superboy, he peeks over my shoulder. When my friends and I play Superboy, I put a red cpe and collar on him and he plays, too. Once I was sitting under a tree and he ran up to me and licked a picture of Krypto on a nearby comic. Do you think you can put him up for honorary membership in the Space Canine Patrol Agency?
----David Ball, Downsview, Ont., Canada
(Sorry --but we don't consider the ability to lick covers as having a super-power.--Ed.)

Well, that counts me out!

Letter #2.

Dear Editor:
These comics like Superboy, with teen-age heroes, really crack me up! They're so ridiculous! After all, how many real teen-agers ever became heroes? None that I can think of!
--Alex Crane, Vancouver, B.C., Can.
(We can think of a good many, but to name two --David Glasgow Farragut was born in 1801, yet served with distinction as a Naval officer in the War of 1812. And Joan of Arc led an army to victory at the age of 17! --Ed.)

And what about Justin Bieber!?!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #12: "No Marvel as we know it without Jack Kirby"

News from the Boycott Marvel frontlines.

A wonderful letter from J.T. Dockery on the Captain America movie and Jack Kirby's legacy:

In all the marketing and advertising and big money deals that have put this film based on comic books on the screen for distraction of the masses and money in the pockets of Marvel/Disney, what has been much less publicized is the recent legal decision that sided with Marvel against the family of Jack Kirby (Kirby is no longer with us on this mortal coil), essentially screwing him again, even in death, out of any revenue generated by characters he had a hand in creating. Legally speaking, he may have been doing his job under a work-for-hire basis but, frankly, I’m not a lawyer and I’m not interested in legalities; I’m interested in fairness.

Elsewhere, in the wonderful land of Twitter, a light-hearted exchange stemming from the recent Grant Morrison Rolling Stone interview took place between Robin McConnell (of Inkstuds podcast fame) and cartoonist Dustin Harbin (who besides his own self-published comics does some lettering for Marvel). The exchange is worth noting because it sums up some of the issues the boycott has been raising recently. I've excerpted part of their comments below, apologies if I mixed up the order of the tweets since I had to do some cut and past stuff to make everything readable:

Inkstuds: Interview with Morrison today is a reminder of how irrelevant mainstream comics have become. if marvel and dc disappeared comics would be better for it.
Harbin: You mean comics would be better if the two biggest employers, Diamond, and most comics shops went out of business?
Inkstuds: The artistic depths of a comic by Chris Ware is beyond anything DC has done in 20 years. On that note of dc, i read Batwoman today. amazing art. story was total shite. They even include the script so you can see how much JH3 improves what he has to work with.
Harbin: I think we agree on a lot of it! But things are too complicated for "Marvel and DC just disappear." For instance, a market that can support an annual Los Bros collection wouldn't exist without "big" comics companies. For good or ill, the furnace of the comics industry runs on big dumb comics Speaking as a former store manager. The big books pay for the ability to carry smaller press books, minis, etc
Inkstuds: not getting into this debate with you kind sir. we have very different POVs on the system. the whole thing is a mess.
Harbin: Boooo Robin. Where are your nuts?
Inkstuds: hhahaha, let me get drunk first! At some place that allows for more constructive debate than can come across 140 characters. A discussion better had with a bunch of bottles and no one listening and retweeting.
The debate is not just sales, but art, treatment of artists, moral and ethical expectations.
Harbin: Sure I guess. Go ask around about page rates at the prestigious small press companies if you're worried about ethics. Sorry dude it's bedtime on the East Coast--now Twitter will only remember your simplistic offense on Chris Ware's behalf!
Inkstuds: Who said offensive?
Harbin: I was replying to you saying simplistic offense.
Inkstuds: I dont think its an offensive comment to remark on a large corporate entity.
Harbin: Oh--I meant your offense in terms of you worrying about mispeaking publicly.
Inkstuds: Ok then, we can just hug it out.
Harbin: Yes and afterwards I'll buy you a beer. I'll have to cash my Marvel Comics check first, since that's my biggest reliable income.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #11: "Jack Kirby is going to murder us all in our dreams."

All the latest news about the Marvel Boycott.

In his latest Comics Journal column, cartoonist Frank Santoro has a few more words about the Marvel Boycott, including the news that he will no longer work for Marvel Comics. It's definitely the recommended read of the week, maybe the whole month. Plus, you get a Michael DeForge comic, Frank's thoughts on popular music, and a discussion of Klaus Janson as a colourist as a bonus. I won't excerpt Frank's comments here because they're fairly short, not to mention wonderfully profane. Go read it!

Also worth reading: Last week Rich Johnson interviewed the publisher of Image Comics, Eric Stephenson, at the Bleeding Cool website. Of course, whatever Stephenson says should be taken with a grain of salt since his company is in direct competition with Marvel and would potentially benefit from a large-scale boycott, but for the record, here is part of their exchange on the subject of Jack Kirby:

"Rich: You’re not publishing Kirby these days, the case doesn’t have an impact on any of Image’s contracts, people seem aware of what they are signing at Marvel and DC these days… are you joining the Steve Bissette boycott? How do you feel about Image creators who work on Kirby characters that pay the Kirby estate nothing?

Eric: Well, we’re not actively publishing Jack’s work, but one of his creator-owned properties, Silver Star, remains in print here at Image, and Image published a project he was involved with, Phantom Force, back in the early ’90s. Jack was an inspiration to every single one of Image’s founders, and with Phantom Force, that was Image’s chance to kind of say thanks, and for all that project’s flaws, it still made an incredible amount of money for Jack and his family.

But I can’t fault Image creators for working on Kirby characters when nothing is being paid to the Kirby Estate, because I’m guilty of that myself. I can’t really say, “Hey, I worked on those characters when I was younger, but I think you’re a bad person for doing that,” now, can I? Above and beyond that, though, it’s not really my place or Image’s place to tell creators what to do or what not to do with their careers. People have enough going on in their lives without some prick browbeating them over the phone and telling them what they can and can’t write or draw for other publishers.

The Bissette thing – I commend what he’s doing, because I think there’s real value in people coming together to make a stand. I’ve read these comments online where people say he’s naive or whatever, but you know, a lot has been achieved throughout the history of the world by people joining together as one and making their voice known. That’s exactly how democracy is supposed to work, and it’s the apathetic majority, cynically folding their arms and castigating everyone else for actually having principles that prevent it from working. As far as venting his anger and frustration over a wrong that should have been righted by now goes, I totally respect what Steve is doing. Why is his position any less valid than all those people who petitioned to save Spider-Girl, or whatever? I personally think demanding some respect for Jack Kirby’s legacy is a far more worthy cause."

Read the full interview here.

And remember, no matter where you go and what you do today, please consider Boycotting Marvel!

Total Recall Film Shoot in Guelph

A crew from the upcoming Hollywood remake of Total Recall were in Guelph yesterday shooting a scene for the movie. Most of downtown was closed off while the film crew shot takes of actors walking across a street --pretty exciting, I know, but a fascinating window into the drudgery of big budget movie production. Despite several fierce rainstorms, it seemed like everyone in the city came downtown to check out the action and try to catch a glimpse of one of the stars. Although I heard from a restaurant owner who heard from someone involved that some of the leads were going to be in town (the film stars Colin Farrell, Ethan Hawke, Kate Beckinsdale, and Jessica Biel), apparently none of the mains were actually here. I certainly didn't see any celebs when I ambled down to who check out the goings-on. I did encounter a few crew members and one stunt double in my antique store late in the afternoon. Although none of them bought anything (boohoo!), the stunt double seriously considered a $2 purchase of a Guelph souvenir postcard.

I enjoyed the original Paul Verhoeven-directed Total Recall when I saw it in a theatre in 1990, despite the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger was already starting to irritate my delicate teenage sensibilities. Since then, the movie has attained a sort of cheesy cult status but is still among the best of a generally lacklustre bunch of post-Blade Runner adaptations of Philip K. Dick stories. Total Recall was adapted from Dick's "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale".

From the Guelph Mercury:

Total Recall major film shoot shakes up downtown Guelph

GUELPH — Eric Repaci and his son Brandon picked the right day to try a downtown eatery for the first time.

The pair had a front-row seat as film crews moved wrecked cars into place and set up a scene from the Hollywood blockbuster Total Recall.

“It’s a unique experience in Guelph because we don’t see this kind of thing too often,” Repaci said as he and Brandon sipped coffee on the patio at Van Gogh’s Ear. “I’m a driver for Tim Horton’s so I get detoured around these things all the time in Toronto.

“It’s neat to see it close to home.”

Alternating, and at times quite heavy, rain chased away some onlookers throughout the day.

But John Milne of Hamilton stuck it out most of the day, capturing some of the action – or lack thereof – on his cellphone camera.

Milne heard about the shooting and decided to come to Guelph to visit a friend and hang about the set for a while.

“It’s incredible the number of people and the amount of gear they need just to film a few people crossing the street,” he said.

Total Recall, set for release next summer, is an update of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic. It stars Colin Farrell as a factory worker who begins to think he’s a spy for competing nations in a post-Apocalyptic world.

To the disappointment of some onlookers, no major stars featured in the scene filmed here Sunday.

The action took place at the intersection of Macdonell and Wyndham streets, which was littered with wrecked and burned vehicles and decorated with street signs suggesting the film is set in Britain. A double-decker bus and several London taxis — painted to look like they were covered in dirt and ash — were among the props used in the filming.

Business owners near the intersection were paid to stay closed for the day, close early or simply keep their lights off.

At the nearby Apollo 11 family restaurant, co-owner Cathy Agelakos said business was down slightly because the street was closed, but added some of the film crew came in to eat in the morning.

“The workers are pretty nice,” Agelakos said. “Maybe this will bring some people downtown who wouldn’t normally come here and they will come back another time.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #10: Join the Boycott Bullpen!

The funniest and most intellectually rigorous post about the Marvel Boycott this week comes from The Mindless Ones blog. Blogger "The Doubtful Guest" (aka "Joel") has posted a wonderful political-socio essay on the nature of the 1960s-70s Marvel Bullpen, collectivity, capitalism, and something called "Thrill-Power." Guaranteed to please, or at least temporarily entrance, those who may have a more critical or academic appreciation for Judge Dredd, Herb Trimpe, Marie Severin, and Jolly Jack.

"What I mean here is the concept of the Bullpen as something that entered the comics imagination with the 1960s Marvel Age, and continues to leave its historical trace in every comics Universe. The truncated history goes that, emerging from the Eisner & Iger independent sweatshop/studio, the Fordist assembly line and the 50s post-Comics Code audience exodus, the Bullpen formation was a way for publishers to ensure greater homogeneity and editorial control over their comics lines. In terms of Marvel’s history, it seems reasonable to suggest that the invocation of the Bullpen in the comics (through Stan’s columns, and the general tone of captions and narrative) as well as the real-life office was an attempt to keep that Stan & Jack/Stan & Steve Marvel Method Magic flowing beyond its original creative flush, and, of course, beyond the departures of the two artists. In actuality, it was also a way to ensure three things: vastly unequal profit shares (through those work-for-hire contracts Bissette mentions), a usually strict division of labour, and Marvel’s good old white male hegemony."

In other Boycott news, the cartoonist Frank Santoro (Storeyville, Cold Heat) joins the boycott in his Comics Journal column and Journal editor Tim Hodler has a great link from The New York Times about the efforts of famous musicians and pop stars to regain the copyrights of their old songs in the same way that the Kirby heirs are fighting for Kirby's copyrights.

Elsewhere, Kevin de Vlaming of the Fabler Blog relays a great Scott McCloud (Zot!, Understanding Comics) quote about the Kirby case:

"But hardly any artist in that end of the business was treated fairly in those days (much like in the music industry) and Kirby in particular deserved far more compensation — and RESPECT — than he received over the years from a royal procession of lawyers, asshole execs, and two-faced colleagues.

Anyone contesting that Marvel was largely built on Kirby’s ideas just doesn’t know their comics history."

Boycott Marvel!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #9: Kirby Heirs File Appeal

Big News and New Supporters

The big news today is that the Jack Kirby family filed their appeal in the case against Marvel for the copyrights to the superhero characters Kirby created. So the court case isn't over and there is still time to get on board this protest against Marvel and Disney.

Everyday I hear from a few more people who are joining the boycott. Yesterday I received a comment via Facebook from cartoonist Jay Stephens that he's kicked Marvel. Anyone else? Let's see: yep, it looks like the comics critic and founder of The Doug Wright Awards, Brad Mackay, has joined the boycott, a brave move for the father of a little girl who just discovered Kirby's classic run on the Fantastic Four and is clamoring for more. Good luck Brad!

Elsewhere, Brendan Wright writes a really wonderful essay on the case for Kirby and how heartened he is by the boycott in terms of restoring his faith in humanity. You should go read it!

"Which is the other reason we’re here. These companies will never do the right thing on their own. It will only happen if they suffer the right combination of bad press and the threat of a loss of profit large enough to make them blink. And that’s hard to accomplish, especially with a fandom that can’t imagine not buying the next issue of The Avengers or Superman, has never not bought the next issue, but it’s not impossible. It doesn’t have to be enormous. A movie doesn’t have to fail. It just needs to be the difference between a #1 weekend opening and a #2 weekend opening. What do we have to lose?

I don’t kid myself that there’s any bravery in not buying a comic book or not going to a movie. But something doesn’t have to be brave to matter. It just requires clear vision and a goal. If we want publishers to stop denying talent what they are owed, we need to make it clear that they have more to lose by doing the wrong thing than by doing the right thing."

And Tucker Stone, who writes some of the hardest-to-parse comics criticism around, especially in his weekly "Comics of the Weak" beatdown of the latest superhero comic books, has his regular harsh things to say about the latest Marvel offerings, with a few references to the "boycott Marvel" movement. I think Mr. Stone works in a comic shop, so he may not technically be buying these comics? Anyway, it's pretty funny as usual but you shouldn't read it if you like Squirrel Girl or if you are sensitive about the use of "bad language" in your reviews of Hellboy tie-ins and Marvel's Fear Itself miniseries.

All good stuff!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #8: NYT

Well, the New York Times has covered the Marvel Boycott, sort of, by mentioning it on their comic book and graphic novel Bestseller List and linking to Steve Bissette's original call for a boycott and the letter from Seth posted here on Mystery Hoard. So that's something.

In my own boycott news, I went into my local comic shop last week, the first time I've been there since this whole thing started, and cancelled all my subscriptions to Marvel books. I'm not a big fan of current Marvel but I have gone through several periods of buying new comic books from the company over the last few years out of a combination of senile nostalgia and a misguided effort to "keep up" with all aspects of comic art. My tastes these days lean more towards graphic novels and classic comic strips, but when younger bloggers write about the plots of Jonathan Hickman comics or the slick stylings of Kyle Baker in Deadpool Max, I still burn with curiosity and have to see for myself. Usually I'm disapointed, but I have come to appreciate the various virtues of the works of Bendis, Brubaker, et al, and have even come to terms with John Romita, Jr., among many others. Regardless, I dumped the tiny batch of Avengers spin-offs and miniseries I was buying and won't buy another until Marvel does right by Kirby and his legacy. Just to be 100% Marvel-free, I even dumped the nicely-drawn-and-coloured Incognito by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips because the publisher, Icon, is owned by Marvel. (Yes, I realize that the whole idea behind the Icon imprint is to publish creator-owned work, but I still felt badly about Marvel taking even a penny from me when Kirby gets zero royalties or credit, let alone ownership, for any of his Marvel work.)

My thanks to Any Chop, the manager at The Dragon in Guelph for her patience while I explained why I was boycotting Marvel. Hopefully soon we will all have a petition ready to share with comic shops and other fans to take some of the bafflement out of this sort of exchange.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #7: The King

Just one link and one fun note tangentially related to the Marvel Boycott today:

The artist Michael Netzer has posted a long article about Jack's status as "King" Kirby that delves into the origin of the nickname and Stan Lee's role in the creation of both the Kirby Legend and Marvel's keystone comic book characters in general, all in the context of the litigation and boycott. Worth checking out, especially for Netzer's concluding sentence.

At the heart of the litigation to reclaim the rights to Marvel properties by the Kirby Estate is an issue of a moral injustice and personal humiliation that Marvel, aided by Stan Lee, tried to inflict on Jack Kirby because he dared ask that their promises to reward him, should his work help the company succeed, be fulfilled. It is painfully human and humane to understand the combative mode Kirby entered into during his latter years, which ultimately brought upon him the bitterness of betrayal that caused him to lash out in all directions. It’s a natural reaction for someone who trusted the people he worked with, and reacted with resentful emotion upon having that trust become so horrendously shattered. It becomes a much more understood reaction when seen in light of how Marvel tried to destroy Jack Kirby morally and in spirit, by attempting to turn him into the villain, when he was in effect their victim.

Now on to something a little less serious. I spent the past few days at a trade show where I picked up DC's Fall 2011 book catalog from their distributor Random House Canada (they also distribute Archie to bookstores, I think). It's fascinating to see how DC markets itself to traditional booksellers, selling their graphic novels and creators the same way other publishers market the latest mystery series or "great American novel". The thing is slightly different from the insider or fan-directed hype that is the stock-in-trade of Previews and DC's websites. Anyway, there are a few Kirby books scheduled for late-2011 release in the catalog, including Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 1 --a 300 page, full-colour trade paperback (graphic novel) collecting the first part of his New Gods epic. The book design plays up Kirby's status by printing the author name first and in giant letters above the title. As I understand it, although Warner/DC owns the characters, they still pay royalties on these reprints as well as giving full credit to the creator. The opposite of the current Marvel situation. The biographical ad copy is worth quoting (emphasis added):

Jack "King" Kirby's comics career began in 1937 and continued for nearly six decades. With partner Joe Simon, Kirby first made his mark in the 1940s by drawing and/or creating numerous features for DC Comics including Captain America, the Young Allies, the Boy Commandos, Sandman, the Newsboy Legion and Manhunter. As the most valued team in comics, Simon and Kirby went on to create titles and concepts including Fighting American, Boys' Ranch and the creation of the romance comics genre. In 1961, the first issue of Marvel's Fantastic Four cemented Kirby's reputation as comics' preeminent creator, and a slew of famous titles followed that elevated him to legendary status, including Incredible Hulk, Avengers, and X-Men. Kirby returned to DC in 1971 with his classic "Fourth World Trilogy," which was followed by THE DEMON, OMAC and KAMANDI. Kirby continued working and innovating in comics until his death in 1994.

A very concise, if a trifle carefully-worded, capsule biography of The King, but I'm sure that Joe Simon would be surprised to hear he and Jack created Captain America for DC Comics!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #6: Seth

Seth on The Marvel Boycott

"...For a bunch of guys who like good-over-evil stories you sure meet a lot of morally bankrupt assholes"

--"Ashcan" Kemp


I love Marvel Comics. I have loved Marvel Comics as long as I can recall. Marvel Comics were among the very first comics I ever read.

I should qualify that statement though. When I say "Marvel Comics" I don't mean the heartless corporation. I mean Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, Larry Lieber, Paul Reinman, Carl Burgos, Stan Lee (among others), and the most important name of all, Jack Kirby. The man who created most of it.

I was pretty disheartened recently to hear that the Marvel corporation had succeeded again in robbing Mr. Kirby of his credit and his legacy. And of robbing his children of the income their father would surely have liked to pass along to them.

The corporate lie about Kirby's role in the creation of all those characters is abhorrent. It's a bold faced lie. Everyone knows it's a lie. No one is fooled. Everyone lying for the company should be ashamed. Stan Lee should be ashamed. What the Marvel corporation is doing might be legal but it certainly isn't right.

I was even more disheartened to read some of the comments of comics fans last week. A great number of whom clearly have more sympathy for the Corporation than the people who crafted the comics they grew up with. I cannot understand this and I won't bother to try. No matter what you think of the Lee/Kirby collaboration and of who did what --I simply cannot understand how anyone could agree that Mr. Kirby does not deserve at least the same credit and compensation as Mr. Lee. That's asking the very minimum of justice. "Ashcan" Kemp was speaking about collectors in the quote above but it certainly applies to superhero fans as well.

Bryan Munn asked me if I would write a couple of words to support Steve Bissette's Marvel Comics boycott. I am certainly in favour of it. I hope it catches fire and spreads. The corporation badly needs to be shamed into doing the right thing.

Admittedly, it's a pretty symbolic gesture on my part. I cannot even recall the last item I purchased from the corporation (maybe a Marvel Masterworks volume or something of that sort), nor have I ever worked for them. I certainly won't work for them in the future either until something is done to right this wrong. This is a rather hollow promise as well though --what work would I likely be withholding from Marvel Comics?!! It's not much of a heroic stance on my part.

Still, I would encourage anyone reading this to refrain from supporting the corporation until some form of justice is brought forth for Mr. Kirby. Might I suggest that money usually spent on Marvel products be redirected into the back issue market --buy some of those charming early 60s comics. That's the real stuff anyway. Not the decades of vulgar elaboration that followed. Decades of barnacles encrusting Jack's works so thickly you can barely see his genius any longer underneath all that crud.

August 9, 2011

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #5


The latest on the ongoing reaction to the Marvel Boycott.

Over at The Comics Journal, cartoonist and comics critic Frank Santoro joins the boycott and announces his new backissue sale.

On the opposite side, in a FAX-based interview with Straw-Man creator David Brainstetter, self-publisher and Biblical scholar Dave Sim (Cerebus, Glamourpuss) skirts the issue of Marvel and Disney's moral obligation to do right by Kirby in favour of more armchair legal analysis:

"Even if you leave aside jurisprudence and seek Overview in True Justice, I think you have to look at the pattern of behaviour. Jack Kirby was always a freelancer by choice. Even when Joe Simon pitched him on publishing Young Romance themselves, his choice was to take it to a publisher, thus costing them a lot of money they could have been making. [...] What was Kirby's pattern regarding his other creations? Did he actively seek to regain ownership of characters whose trademark and copyright had lapsed or did he allow them to fall into the public domain?"

Of course, Sim seems to be ignoring the major issue: wouldn't it would be "True Justice" if Marvel acknowledged Kirby's role as creator and co-creator of their major characters and compensated the Kirby family? (Whatever happened to a little "The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me"?)

Meanwhile, the man who started the whole boycott, Steve Bissette, continues to chronicle the Kirby case with a couple of blog posts on Kirby's value and the nature of co-creation, with plenty of reference to Bissette's own experience with Alan Moore and Steve Ditko's working relationship with Stan Lee on Amazing Spider-Man. Lots of great facts dug up in the comments, including a real gem courtesy of Patrick Ford quoting Steve Ditko’s letter to Comic Book Marketplace magazine published in issue #63:

"In your Comic Book Marketplace #61, July 1998. page 45, Stan Lee talks about “…a very famous scene…” of a trapped Spider-Man lifting heavy machinery over his head. The drama of that sequence was first commented on and popularized by Gil Kane. Stan says “I just mentioned the idea…I hadn’t thought of devoting that many pages to it…” I was publicly credited as the plotter only starting with issue #26. The lifting sequence is in issue #33. The fact is we had no story or idea discussion about Spider-Man books even before issue #26 up to when I left the book. Stan never knew what was in my plotted stories until I took in the penciled story, the cover, my script and Sol Brodsky took the material from me and took it all into Stan’s office, so I had to leave without seeing or talking to Stan.
Steve Ditko, New York"

Monday, August 08, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #4

FFF: Fiftieth Anniversary of Fantastic Four #1

How propitious that the Marvel Boycott begins with the 5oth anniversary of the publication of the Fantastic Four comic book, the Jack Kirby creation that revived Marvel Comics and began Kirby's run of incredible characters and stories that are still being exploited by the company today without any credit or compensation being given to Kirby or his children.

The Kirby Museum reminds us of the anniversary here, and Tom Spurgeon has some comments here.

The Kirby museum also has some recommendations of Kirby-related comics you can buy if you don't want to support Marvel, as does this blogger who is not participating in the boycott, mainly because of the perceived effect on retailers:

"As sad as the situation is the LCS [Local Comic Shop] should not pay for Jack’s adult decision 30+ years later. I was told the LCS’s would survive selling indie titles in place of the Marvel book, and I pointed out that indies do not have the same mainstream appeal and would not fill the 60% income gap that Marvel represents every week for these stores. Now I could be wrong, but cutting off a income stream is hard on any business. At this point I was told I didn’t know anything, and my LCS was worthless compared to this persons LCS which sells nothing but indie titles (something smells like a bull in that statement)."

The idea of a boycott is to put pressure on Marvel through local retailers, but that doesn't mean those who are participating have to drop comics altogether. As Bissette mentioned in the manifesto that started all this, just put the money you would usually spend on Marvel product into something else, while letting your retailer know what's up. This doesn't mean don't pay for things you've already agreed to pay for.

(At least Shawn Hopkins at the Toonzone blog has some positive suggestions --like writing letters-- to counter his objections to an actual boycott.)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Marvel Boycott Diary #3

Very Exciting!

A couple good posts today from the blogosphere about the Marvel Boycott.

First up, Danish comics critic Matthias Wivel weighs in with some thoughts about why he is joining the boycott. (There is also a good discussion n the comments between Matthias and Patrick Ford about Stan Lee's deposition and the weird testimony he gave that led to the recent court decision.)

"It may seem utopian to get Marvel to change its ways, but its nearest competitor has made some progress on the issue, paying royalties to creators from films in which their characters or concepts appear. Their track record is far from perfect, but they’re doing a hell of a lot better than Marvel and its corporate overlords at Disney, who are raking in that box office moolah over assorted Kirby-derived superhero movies as we speak. And, as Tom Spurgeon has pointed out, Kirby’s collaborator at the inception of the Marvel Age in the early 60s, Stan Lee, won himself a lucrative deal with the publisher with just as little legal claim to his work for Marvel. Why can’t Marvel do something similar for Kirby’s family?

I think Bissette’s suggestion is worth taking seriously and have decided to join his boycott. I’ve been enjoying superhero comics from both Marvel, DC, and elsewhere for a number of years now and think there are a lot of talent in the business right now, and I shall be sorry to give up on some of my favorite creators, but thinking things through I just cannot bring myself further to support a company with policies as rotten as Marvel right now.

I went to my local comics store today, passed over the superhero comics I would usually consider and picked up the latest issue of The Jack Kirby Collector. It felt good. You should consider it."

The second post comes from Alec Burris, who writes an open letter to Marvel. Maybe we all should write letters!

"I implore you, as a fan and a reader of Marvel comics since the age of six, show us some of the heroics that grace the pages of your books. Until you do, those books -those heroes- will not line my shelves.

And I will miss these books. I will miss seeing Captain America during it's theatrical run. I will miss my monthly Amazon order of all the sweet premiere editions I have been buying since I switched from issues to trades. I will miss the upgraded Ultimate edition of Marvel VS Capcom 3. But all of these things will be waiting for me to come back to as soon as you take a stand and do the right thing."