Tag Archive for 'Jack Kirby'

Kirby at 100


Today, Jack Kirby, one of the great artists of the twentieth century and a visionary of the comics form, would have turned 100. For those unfamiliar with this extraordinary person and artist, or merely wanting to brush up, here’s a good primer and here is the touching and informative reminiscence by Kirby’s friend and erstwhile employee Mark Evanier, and here are a couple of really good pieces on his work reposted today by two great comics critics, Ken Parille and Andrei Molotiu.

I myself will be contributing a piece to the rolling celebration taking place all week at Danish comics site Nummer9, masterminded by my friend and occasional collaborator Henry Sørensen, whose feature-length 2009 essay on Kirby leads a variety of homages and critical takes. He posted the first part of it today, soon to be followed by the second, as well as the first of a series of tributes by Danish cartoonists. Meanwhile, Danish afficionados Morten Søndergård and Kim Schou have posted a two-hour podcast on Kirby. All of this, regrettably is only available in Danish, but if you do read the language stay tuned for more, including an article by yours truly which will feature the image above (from New Gods #5, 1971) and will subsequently be posted somewhere (probably here) in English, I hope.

Oh, there have of course also been a few posts on Kirby on this site. Among them are my thoughts on Kirby’s extraordinary transitional work on the Challengers of the Unknown in the late 1950s, my take on his last Fantastic Four story with Stan Lee, and my review of Evanier’s 2008 monograph, which has just been re-released to mark the centenary. Also, there is the provocative 2007 article by aforementioned Søndergård on his possible involvement not just in the creation of Spider-Man, but the execution of some of the first comics pages featuring the character. I don’t really believe it, but it is worth your attention, as is the debate it sparked, which features Evanier (again!) as well as Blake Bell, expert Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, and others.

UPDATE: here’s my essay in Danish at Nummer9 and in English at The Comics Journal.

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The Week

The week in review.

Sorry, I can’t let it go. Yesterday I filed an article on the media shit storm over Charlie Hebdo‘s provocation, Riss cartoon speculating that poor, dead Aylan Kurdi might have become an ‘ass-groper in Germany’, had he been given the chance to grow up in Europe. I guess this small cartoon, buried deep within an issue with David Bowie on the cover and with many other, very different cartoons (one of which is at least as offensive…) is newsworthy, in the sense that anything Charlie does these days is potentially so. But: this is a still rather marginal left-wing magazine we’re talking about and casting it as the reincarnation of Der Stürmer or whatever in the manner of many, mostly uninformed left-wing critics is not only hugely overblown, but ignorant of context. Not to mention insensitive to the multivalent qualities of even heavy-handed cartoons. Look, it’s perfectly legitimate to criticise this cartoon for bluntly furthering an anti-refugee agenda — it clearly does, whether intentionally or, more likely, not –but this is mostly because of the media treatment of it. Continue reading ‘The Week’

The Week

“The Supreme Court is saying that campaign spending is a matter of free speech, but it has set up a situation where the more money you have the more speech you can buy. That’s a threatening concept for democracy. If your party serves the powerful and well-funded interests, and there’s no limit to what you can spend, you have a permanent, structural advantage. We’re averaging fifty-dollar checks in our campaign, and trying to ward off these seven- or even eight-figure checks on the other side. That disparity is pretty striking, and so are the implications. In many ways, we’re back in the Gilded Age. We have robber barons buying the government.”

David Axelrod

The week in review

Watching (selected parts of) the Republican National Convention this past week has accentuated the distinct feeling that we have been witnessing a gradual dismantling of democracy in America over the past fifteen years or so. The nadir so far was still the stolen election in 2000, closely followed by the disgraceful first election of George W. Bush on the backs of a vulnerable minority in 2004. However, the political deadlock in Congress for the past four years has been a dismaying spectacle to say the least, as has the Obama administration’s utter failure to correct the political abuses of its predecessors in its foreign policy.

And now we’re getting myth-making on a grand scale, with bald-faced lying and deception the order of the day for the Republican candidacy. Romney seems to be the ultimate candidate of this particular moment in time. Entirely malleable in his effort to reach the majority that will win him the election, he is now running along with a right-wing ideologue whose approach to facts as something equally malleable was made apparent in his address on Wednesday. And with the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010, the stage is set not only for the mass propagation of these lies, but the further marginalization of the greater electorate.

I know, politicians have always lied and American politics have long been dependent on special interest, it just seems to me that we are witnessing an accelerated decline these years. For all its disappointment, the Obama administration have achieved — or seemed to achieve — a few important victories for democracy, from ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to fledgling universal health care, but overall the prospects that the fundamental problems of the system by which they rule, starting with its dependence on big money, will be solved are bleaker than ever. This election will not even carry the entertainment value of the last one, it’ll just be depressing, but it will also be a real test of a severely tested democratic system.

Links:

  • Jane Meyer at the New Yorker has written about the Obama administration’s relationship to its donors and the general dependence of American politicians on same, past Citizens United. Tying into this, this 2008 profile of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, one of Romney’s chief donors, is an illuminating read. Last, but not least, Matt Taibbi has written about Romney’s time at Bain Capital at Roling Stone.
  • Comics: R. Fiore on The Dark Knight Rises, Craig Fischer on Jack Kirby, Derik Badman on comics poetry, Dan Nadel on Mazzucchelli and Miller, Henry Sørensen and Morten Søndergård on fifty years of Spider-Man (Danish alert!).
  • The Week

    We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people… Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppressed people in the society…

    Huey P. Newton, 1970

    The week in review

    This week Obama finally put on the line his position of gay rights. Forget the spin, it was an important moment. One that will hopefully vindicate the despicable distraction the Bush government used to get elected in 2004. One for the books, even if it loses Obama the election, and it seems we can be pretty confident it won’t.

    This week’s links:

  • Matt Taibi on Dodd Frank and the general lack of financial reform. Muck-raking as usual, and on point, as usual.
  • Kirby roundtable at The Comics Journal. OK, I’m late to the table, but if you missed or went tl;dr on it, it’s well worth the time for anybody even remotely interested in the great cartoonist Jack Kirby, superhero comics, or just great art. It also yielded a link to this fantastic examination of Kirby’s collage work.
  • Maurice Sendak. This week, one of the greatest cartoonists and children’s books illustrators alive isn’t anymore. Sad to see him go to where the Wild Things are. I found the New York Times obituary by Margalit Fox excellent, and not a little touching, as is this 2008 interview with him in the same paper. The obituary at The Comics Journal is good too, and check out this short 1987 interview.
  • The other notable — and sadly early — passing, of course, was that of Adam Yauch, aka. MCA of the Beastie Boys. I already wrote a little on his achievements, but just wanted to point anyone not already in the loop toward this:
  • The Week

    The week in review

    Vacation and work have kept me away for a while, a will probably continue to do so for a little while yet. While in Boston, I checked back on one of the city’s premier cultural institutions.

    The new wing of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is emblematic of museum branding today, all the more so because of the particular intractability of its foundational stipulations. In a cultural climate where having a great collection simply isn’t enough, institutional visibility has become closely tied to event culture. for a museum that can’t even rehang its collection, this is of course a problem, so what do you do? Raise $180 million and hire go-to starchitect Renzo Piano to facilitate all the things museums seem convinced they have to do to stay afloat these days: an new wing housing a concert hall, a gift shop, a restaurant, a children’s art room, an exhibition space for artists-in-residence, a greenery. All sustainable, geothermal and daylight-harvesting, of course.

    You do what you gotta do to survive, I suppose, but the absurdity of this trend for museums to go extra-curricular is particularly clear at the Gardner, whose intermittently great collection is forever trapped in a mediocre hang by the vanity of its founder, who insisted that everything be presented exactly as she left it at her death. This results in many important works being hung at low visibility and in often idiosyncratic and unenlightening juxtaposition, with the preciously empty frames of masterworks stolen in 1990 remaining on the walls as if to consecrate this “vision.” A new wing could have worked wonders for the presentation of the museum’s masterpieces, if only.

    Still, Boston has a new, reportedly great concert hall and I’m sure Piano’s elegant building will attract customers. It has the potential to become a strong cultural center, if it does not blow too many leaks and if the museum’s direction finds ways of breaking its somewhat stale reputation. A good thing, even if the overall tendency is troubling.

    A bunch of recent comics links:

  • The new Du9. One of the best critical sites about comics on the web, du9.org has just undergone a thorough, attractive redesign, led by editor-in-chief Xavier Guilbert’s extensive analysis of developments in the French-language comics market in the last year or so.
  • Neal Kirby on his Father Jack Kirby. Touching and informative reminiscence of growing up Kirby.
  • Shaenon Garrity on the fifty greatest pop songs about comics. Inventive, fun, insightful. And it mentions the Last Emperor’s amazing “Secret Wars.” I should add that the Philly MC does dead-ringing impressions of the rappers he casts in his epic comic book battle. Here’s hoping she will post part two soon.
  • The Week


    The Week in Review

    What a week. Starting with Fantask’s fortieth anniversary celebration last weekend and ending with my participation at NNCORE’s foundational meeting with a short Berlin jaunt to see the astonishing Renaissance portraits and Hokusai shows there. I hope to return a bit to the portraits (though I can’t promise anything), but just wanted to say a few words about Hokusai here.

    A huge retrospective covering the artist’s eighty-plus year career, the show really brought home just how prodigious an artist he was. He must have been drawing all the time. The kind of artist whose ambition is to understand no less than everything about the world through drawing, like Leonardo or Dürer. From the proliferating analytical notations in his manga and other instructional booklets to the elegant summaries of his brush paintings, his is a recording of human experience as such. Not the idea of it, and not really with an attempt to comment, but rather a continuous ambition to formulate a vision that suspends it within a order that grasps it all without reducing it to style. In a sense, what all cartooning should aspire toward.

    Some links:

  • Questlove’s Top 10 Life-Shaping Musical Moments. As always writing with passion and insight the Roots backbone takes us down memory lane through the songs that shaped his life and work.
  • Ben Katchor on picture stories. The great New York cartoonist does something similar, if less personal, for comics here. A fine thinker about comics, his recommendations contain plenty of nutrient for your dome.
  • Eddie Campbell on Simon and Kirby’s romance comics. The same goes for this, which serves as a reminder just how much of his career Kirby spent creating reality-based comics, and how important the romance genre used to be for comics.
  • Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • 9/11: The Winners. The Village Voice‘s muck-raking isn’t always that credible, but this panorama of hucksterism and profiteering off the national tragedy makes for compelling if disconcerting reading.
  • Kirby’s 70th. Jack Kirby interviewed on the radio in 1987, with Stan Lee calling in! Great listening for afficionados of Kirby and the Marvel Age.
  • Kirby Crackle. More Kirby! This is the kind of nerdy article examining pertinent minutiae of a given artist’s work that I can’t help but enjoy. Rob Steibel brings a discerning eye to Jack Kirby’s development of his graphic crackle-effect, crucially aided by his sixties inker Joe Sinnott.
  • Happy Labor Day!

    Calling Marvel Out

    Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott, and Stan Lee, from Fantastic Four Annual #6 (1963)


    Since the ruling in the Kirby vs. Marvel case last week, there’s been a fair amount of discussion in the comics blogosphere as to whether we, the readers, can take positive action to help get Marvel finally to start addressing its shameful history of exploitation, of Kirby, Ditko and the other founding fathers, but also of all the other artists whose underpaid work built the brand and has generated billions of dollars in revenue for their shareholders, especially those published before 1976 when the law and Marvel contracts were made clearer.

    Steve Bissette has mounted a passionate call for a general boycott of any Marvel or Marvel-related product as one small thing each of us can contribute, and suggests further that fans get together to name and shame Marvel into action, on the internet and at public events such as Comicon.

    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.

    On the Kirby vs. Marvel Decision

    Jack Kirby's iconic cover to Fantastic Four #1 (1961), the beginning of the so-called "Marvel Age of Comics"

    By now, most of you interested in such things will have seen that the heirs of Jack Kirby have had their lawsuit against Marvel rejected in a summary judgment by the federal court in New York. A sad, if predictable setback for the Kirby heirs, but also for anyone hoping for official recognition and substantial reconciliation efforts from the mainstream comics industry towards the creators (or heirs of), whose work have exploited throughout most of their sordid history, without more than a pittance in compensation.

    The judge’s decision is understandable and rationally argued, but sometimes the adhering to letter of the law obstructs justice. Marvel and their corporate overlords at Disney would do well to recognize that and do the only honorable thing and start a systematic compensation plan for all creators who have suffered under the unjust and largely unarticulated work-for-hire conditions that governed their daily operation through at least the 1970s and which have secured for their shareholders millions upon millions of dollars in revenue over the last half century or so.

    For those of you who read Danish, I now have a summary of the decision up at Nummer9.

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • This is a well-written piece on the sometimes hermetic and puzzling vagaries of art world authentication. It doesn’t change, however, that there is no way the Buffalo Pietà at its center was painted by Michelangelo. Look at it. The provenance may be compelling, though the argument about the wax seal on the back seems iffy. And the underdrawing could of course be by the master, as the owner and his conservator champion claim, but the cropped infrared published in the interactive section of the article (look right) is hard to judge by. Nothing about it yells Michelangelo at this viewer though.
  • The passing of Gil Scott-Heron brought this fine personal tribute from one of his talented heirs, Michael Franti of Spearhead, but if you only read one thing about him, make it this profile by Alec Wilkinson, written last year for the New Yorker.
  • Comics links. Two excellent pieces up at The Comics Journal this week: the latest installment in Ryan Holmberg’s history of gekiga and Ken Parille’s analysis of creation as a motif in Jack Kirby and Chris Ware.
  • Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

    A bunch of quick comics links this week.

  • Tom Spurgeon on Chester Brown’s Paying for It. D&Q only brought 25 copies of Brown’s long-awaited new book to MoCCA, so it was sold out before I arrived, but I got a chance to leaf through. Looks amazing. And it has occasioned a thorough, intelligent critical review from Spurgeon, which makes one wish that he would do it more often.
  • Tim Kreider on the state of editorial cartooning. Good, heartfelt essay by a fine essayist.
  • Matt Seneca on color harmonies in comics. That guy’s on fire, man. I’m not sure this quite works, but whoa.
  • Anders Nilsen interviewed. Fine interview with one of comics best and brightest!
  • “Seed Toss, Kick it Over.” New DIY book from the Warren Craghead. Need I say more?
  • Kubrick! Another excellent critic and essayist, Chris Lanier, has penned this piece on Jack Kirby’s weird adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And in other Kubrick content, I dug this look at some of his 1950s reportage photographs from Chicago.
  • Jeet Heer on racism in comics. These pieces offer plenty to think about and interesting information on such classic cartoonists as Harold Gray and Frank King.
  • Photo by Stanley Kubrick.

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Eagleton on Hobsbawn on Marxism. Three-in-one. What’s not to like?
  • Kirb Your Enthusiasm. HiLowbrow is currently running a relay series on Jack Kirby, with 24 writers, artists and critics each writing about one panel of choice from The King. Good contributions from Gary Panter, Ann Nocenti, and Greg Rowland. Bonus: 4cp is running a suitably fetishistic series of 70s panels concurrently.
  • James Romberger on Jules et Jim. Excellent analysis of Truffaut’s masterpiece as a political film.