Friday, April 27, 2012

7 Things Journalists Should Know When Writing About the Avengers Movie

1. The Avengers were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1963.

Although the characters in the comic book had appeared elsewhere, they were first brought together as a team in the The Avengers #1, published by Marvel Comics. Stan Lee, cousin of Marvel's publisher, was the salaried editor and senior writer at the company, while Kirby worked as a freelancer, being paid a flat rate for every page of art that was published. Although the exact division of labour is not known, Lee and Kirby shared co-plotting duties, with Kirby drawing the story in comics form, and Lee adding dialogue from Kirby's notes afterword.

2. Neither Lee or Kirby ever received any royalties or copyrights for their creations or stories.

The Avengers comic book series has been almost continuously published by Marvel for close to 50 years. The original stories by Kirby and Lee have been reprinted in different comics and books hundreds of times, and there have been spin-offs, foreign translations, toys, videogames, and animated cartoons, but not one cent of the millions of dollars collected by Marvel has gone to paying royalties to the original creators.

3. Jack Kirby died in 1994 without ever receiving royalties for the Avengers or any of the other characters or stories he co-created while working for Marvel, including Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Nick Fury, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and many others.

4. Stan Lee has continued to work as a spokesman for Marvel and currently earns a million dollars per year from the company and is credited as an Executive Producer on the Avengers movie.

While acting in this capacity, Lee testified in court that he was the sole creator of the Marvel characters and that Kirby acted only on Lee's instructions in illustrating the stories.

5. The family of Jack Kirby is currently engaged in a lawsuit with Marvel Entertainment and its owner Disney for control of the copyrights of the characters and stories Kirby had a hand in creating, including The Avengers.

6. Although Kirby is mentioned in the closing credits of The Avengers, and although the basic plot of the film follows the original Avengers comic book, Kirby receives no story credit and his heirs do not receive any compensation for the use of the characters.

7. Over the last year there has been a growing backlash against Marvel and The Avengers movie, with many fans and comic book creators lobbying for a change in Marvel's policy towards crediting and compensating Jack Kirby.

Comic book artists Stephen Bissette and James Sturm have urged a boycott of the Avengers film and so far 1,400 people have signed a petition on asking Marvel to pay royalties to the family.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Marvel Boycott Diary: Jack Kirby Petition Playlist

The Jack Kirby Petition Soundtrack. 1,400 signatures and growing.

It's always a delicate balance with these Kirby playlists. I want to capture something of the fury and frustration of the Jack Kirby petition, and the growing movement to abandon Marvel, but at the same time I have this fantasy that Kirby should actually be able to relate to the music? Dunno. It's tough. On the one hand, Kirby was a visionary whose gaze took in galaxies and the far future. He was a political liberal who nevertheless had a super-strong work ethic, having survived the Depression, the streets of New York, World War II, and the comic book industry. He saw a lot, loved a lot of what he saw, was philosophical, but was also fairly embittered by many of his experiences. So, what kind of music did he listen to? Surely he was immersed in the pop music of his youth: jazz, blues, swing and the ballads of the 20, 30s, and 40s? Later, his son Neal had a rock band. Would the creator of the Hairies, OMAC, and Captain Victory hate punk and new wave? What about hip-hop? I like to imagine Kirby working in his studio through the 80s and 90s with MTV blaring in the background, chomping on a cigar, cartooning cosmic conflicts. But was he also thinking about how he wasn't going to get any credit or royalties for all the characters and stories he created for Marvel, and how he might not be able to leave a legacy for his kids?

5. Feel The Pain, Dinosaur Jr.

Fun video, but I really like the lyric, "I feel the pain of everyone/Then I feel nothing/Is it up to me?/You won't wait to see/Screwed us both again/About as close as you dare."

4. Dunkin Bagel, Slim Gaillard.

Like to think that Jack could have seen Slim and Slam back in the day (he could be in the audience of this video!) or maybe owned one of their records. Goofy fun with wonderful jazz instrumentation and since Kirby was Jewish thought he would enjoy this tribute to a New York City Jewish delicacy (hey, it was either this, or Gaillard's "Matzo Ball").

3. New York City, The Demics.

Thought about maybe something by The Diodes here, maybe Time Damaged (kind of futuristic, with a pallor) or their cover of Shape of Things to Come (ditto), or maybe Tired of Waking Up Tired ('cause Kirby pushed himself but never got enough credit or money and he was tired of it), but decided on The Demics' New York City. Thought the lyric could be about trekking downtown for another story conference with Stan the Man: "I'm getting pretty tired/Of going downtown/You know the same trip everyday/It's kinda bringing me down/Will I get out/Well I wonder how/I gotta get it movin' Man/I gotta move it right now..."

2. Just a Little Bit, Van Morrison and Them.

Garage-y R&B with killer organ. Van the Man sings, "I don't want it all/I just want a little bit." Why can't Marvel give just a little bit of their love to Kirby and fam?

1. Brother Can You Spare a Dime? by E. Y. "Yip" Harburg and Jay Gorney (performed by T. Waits)

Is it just me or is this song about Jack Kirby? From the depths of the Depression, through the days of the mob, through war, he built a tower up to the sun: "They used to tell me I was building a dream/And so I followed the mob/When there was earth to plow or guns to bear/I was always there, right on the job/They used to tell me I was building a dream/With peace and glory ahead/Why should I be standing in line Just waiting for bread?"


Playlist: The Jack Kirby Petition is a Missile Hurled by History

Playlist: Top 10 Songs the Jack Kirby Petition Would Be


Until next time, please remember to Boycott Marvel!


Should We Boycott Marvel?

Cartoonist Seth on the Marvel Boycott

The Jack Kirby Petition at

Monday, April 23, 2012

Marvel Boycott Diary: Avengers vs Buffy

So, I bought the first issue of Peter Bagge's new comic book Reset this week and enjoyed it. The book is published by Dark Horse Comics as part of their DarkHorse Originals line of creator-owned genre work. Other creators being published by this line include Gilbert Hernandez and Matt Kindt. The company has a good track record of publishing quite a few creator-owned series that have become big hits and benefited both creators and publisher enormously, most notably Mike Mignola and his Hellboy empire, but also including Eric Powell's The Goon, and series by John Byrne, Frank Miller, and many others.

I don't buy too many Dark Horse books beyond the very occasional Hellboy or Hernandez Bros side-project so it's been awhile since I've had a chance to peruse one of their periodicals. Besides some modern and progressive publishing deals in the creator-owned field, I believe the bread-and-butter of Dark Horse is in the realm of licensed and branded comics series like Star Wars and Conan. One of the "brands" that they publish are comics based on characters and media properties created and developed by director-writer Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its various "Buffy-verse" spin-offs).

My copy of Bagge's Reset features the April 2012 edition of the company's Horsepower column, a monthly hype-advertorial page like the old Marvel Bullpen Bulletins, and this month's column is devoted to Joss Whedon, or rather, "a slew of great Joss Whedon-related titles" that will be arriving in comic shops over the coming months. All well and good. The company is doing its job hyping the books they publish. My problem is a short blurb for the Avengers movie that is stuck into the 3rd paragraph of the column, urging Whedon fans to see a movie produced by a Dark Horse competitor, in the same breath that they hype the various Whedon-related product on offer for Free Comic Book Day:

"May is rather a full month for Whedon goodies. Joss Whedon's blockbuster extravaganza The Avengers opens May 4 (so go see the movie and support Joss), and then on Saturday, May 5, head over to your local comics shop to buy some great comics --and take home some free comics, too..."

Now, my problem with this is not the good-natured cross-company promotion but rather the matter of credit. Of course, Whedon is credited as writer and director of the film, which nevertheless the producers (ie, Marvel/Disney) are calling "Marvel's The Avengers." But Jack Kirby and Stan Lee created the Avengers and Kirby had a hand in the creation of the majority of the main characters who will be featured in the film, including Captain America, Nick Fury, Thor, and Iron Man. So here we have an example of a company known as the anti-Marvel for its pioneering work with promoting creator-owned genre material, shilling for Marvel, and helping to erase the name of Jack Kirby from a movie based on his work that is generating tons of money for other people. Besides his million dollars per year from Marvel, even Stan Lee is getting a cameo in the film and I believe may also get a writer credit (or something like "based on the comic book by ..."). Everyone except Kirby and his family seems set to get credit and profit from the film. Kind of gross that Dark Horse has to help promote it.


[Yes, I am aware that most of the Whedon-verse comics are produced using work-for-hire contracts. And no, I don't know who the writer of the Horsepower column is, although it is signed "editor" below an illegible signature.]

Until next time, please remember to Boycott Marvel!


Should We Boycott Marvel?

Cartoonist Seth on the Marvel Boycott

The Jack Kirby Petition at

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Marvel Boycott Diary: Jack Kirby Fans Speak Out

Around the world with the Marvel Boycott:

Item! The Jack Kirby petition is still going strong and is approaching 1,400 signatures! If you disagree with Marvel's treatment of Jack Kirby's legacy and think that Kirby should share in the credit for the stories and characters he created, please go to and sign the petition. Please share it with your friends, share it at your local comic shop, tweet about it, link to it on Facebook, anything. Just please help get the word out.

We strongly urge Marvel Entertainment and its owner Disney to acknowledge Jack Kirby's authorship and primary role in the creation of these characters. As well, we urge Marvel to pay Kirby's family royalties or other just compensation for the use of these characters and stories.

Item! The best piece of writing this week about how Marvel Comics and DC have mistreated the artists who work from them comes from journalist and critic David Brothers. Brothers' essay on Comic Alliance, The Ethical Rot Behind 'Before Watchmen' & 'The Avengers' is a heartfelt, blistering analysis of the history of DC's mistreatment of Alan Moore and his Watchmen graphic novel and Marvel's attempt to erase Jack Kirby from the history of the company and from the upcoming Avengers movie, all while continuing to fight the family of Jack Kirby in court. After reading it you may understand why Brothers has given up buying and reading all comics from both companies:

"Why doesn't Marvel honor Kirby's legacy by making his work available to the people of the future and giving him what he's due, after years of screwing him over? You call him "King." Treat him like one."

Item! Lastly, the best thing last week was this wonderful memoir by Jack Kirby's son, Neal Kirby, about growing up in the house where The King was creating the Marvel Universe. A very touching article in the Los Angeles Times that really gets at the heart of what Kirby did and what he was like as a human being. Everybody should read Growing Up Kirby: The Marvel Memories of Jack Kirby's Son:
"My father drew comics in six different decades and filled the skies of our collective imagination with heroes, gods, monsters, robots and aliens; most of the truly iconic ones are out of the first half of the 1960s, when he delivered masterpieces on a monthly basis. I treasure the fact that I had a front-row seat for that cosmic event."

Until next time, please remember to Boycott Marvel!


Should We Boycott Marvel?

Cartoonist Seth on the Marvel Boycott

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Munn Wired Envelope Company

I think I've found my new business card.

(thanks to cartoonist Ethan Rilly for sending me this image. Check out Rilly's delightful new comic book, Pope Hats #2)

The Munn Wired Envelope Company
manufacturers of the Munn Envelope
133-135-137 Mulberry Street, New York
Artemas Ward, President
Frank E. Munn, Vice-President
William Gow, treasurer and secretary

I love how the company is located on Mulberry Street, site of so many amazing spectacles in the world of that notorious socialist, Dr. Seuss.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wednesday Hoard

Cartoon Monarch, Nancy is Happy, Pete and Miriam: minimalist cartooning heaven! #newcomics

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Comics I Bought on Easter Sunday

A mystery hoard pilfered from several different hoards, otherwise known as bookstores that were open in the towns I drove through on Easter Sunday. How do I define myself when not at work? By consuming mass quantities. Took advantage of my day off today to do what comes naturally: buy comic books.

Cartoonist Doug Wright on Amazon: What's Up With That?

It's wonderful that the work of one of Canada's greatest cartoonists, Doug Wright, is now available in 3 different books from Drawn and Quarterly. Too bad that they don't seem to be lumped together on Amazon. Just browsing online and was surprised to find that the latest collection of Wright's Nipper strips (collecting 1965 and 66) doesn't in any way connect to the previous volume in the series or to the giant monograph, the Collected Doug Wright, Volume 1. Part of this is because of the ubiquity of the name Doug Wright: most notably, the U.S. playwright and author of Quills shares the same name. So clicking on "more books by Doug Wright" gives you a giant list of unrelated stuff. A common problem on Amazon. The only way you would know the three books are connected is if Amazon happens to connect them when it spits up its "commonly bought together" or "customers who bought this item also bought" recommendations. There is an author page for Wright on Amazon, but it only includes one of the three books, and seems to have been randomly generated by Amazon, with no input from the publisher or editors. Is this normal? I wish all 3 books could be viewed together.

Nipper 1964-1964

Nipper 1965-1966

The Collected Doug Wright: Volume One: Canada's Master Cartoonist

Marvel Boycott Diary: Passover Edition

Catching up with some links about the ongoing Avengers movie protests.

Item! First things first, please sign and share the Jack Kirby petition at Over 1300 people from all over the world have already signed this letter asking Marvel Entertainment and its owner Disney to start paying royalties and giving credit for characters and stories co-created by Jack Kirby.

Item! It's worth reading the comments section to this episode of the Savage Critics "Wait, What?" podcast, hosted by Jeff Lester and Graeme McMillan. The discussion concerns Lester's struggle with buying comics from Marvel. He wonders if he is really taking part in a formal boycott or if his only making an individual ethical choice, sort of like the decision to become a vegetarian. What makes a boycott? Is it, as one anonymous poster claims, "an actual organized campaign to press a target to cave into a demand or a set of demands"? Or can a boycott include simply the decision not to give Marvel money, as long as many other people have come to the same decision (a sort of "de facto" boycott), as commenter Kevin Huxford argues?

Item! Lastly, at the Jack Kirby Museum, Rob Steibel has been using his Kirby Dynamics blog for the past week for a series where he pretends to interview Stan Lee about his collaborations with Jack. It's a great series. Rob's premise is twofold. He argues that since the judge's decision in Kirby family's case against Marvel hinged entirely on Stan's testimony and claims that he created Marvel, and because nobody ever seems to ask Stan any hard questions about the conflicting stories he's told over the years, there are a lot of unanswered questions. The whole thing is done with a sense of humour since the Stan/Jack credit question is such a tired debate for so many fans. Rob summarizes the series in his last post but there are many diversions including a debate with Greg Theakston and a summary of the debate on facebook. Along the way, much is made of the infamous "synopsis" of Fantastic Four #1, which Stan and Marvel claim is proof of Stan's arguments. If you are at all interested in these matters, you should really read everything here.

Please send me your links and comments about the Marvel boycott and Jack Kirby.