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benday-dot
09-24-2006, 06:55 PM
Having spent most of my comic reading life in the Marvel Universe and then in the Kirby portion of the DC Universe, it is to my regret that I have little familiarity with the work of Robert Kanigher, whose praises I have often heard sung on various threads of this forum. Nevertheless, I was surprised to read recently (alas I cannot find the reference, but I am almost certain it was from Mark Evanier's blog/website) that at one time Kanigher had some unkind words to say about Kirby.

No elaboration was given as to the nature of Kanigher's criticism. I know Evanier sometimes posts on this forum, so maybe he will fill in the details, but if anyone knows the story behind whatever Kanigher is supposed to have directed to Kirby I'd be most interested in knowing.

I can only imagine it must have been criticism of a professional nature, since Kirby is almost universally described as a kind and generous person, virtually without enemies in regards his personal relationships as far as I can tell. Even the disputes with Lee/Marvel were mostly centred around business rather than anything personal. We've all read of Kirby's occassional resenting of Lee's perceived publicity hogging, but even where personalities clashed the core dispute had to attributions of credit. Again at DC, any antagonistic positions taken with Kirby seemed largely to do with editorial interference (the Superman redraws, questions over Kirby's writing (which I happen to very much like), and the final pulling of the Fourth World) rather than any personal dislike of the man. And finally with Kirby's return to Marvel there seemed to have been a bit of a generational dispute between the Kirby vision, and that of other younger writer/editors who had since taken up position in the company in Jack's absence. If they loved the man, maybe they argued method.

I know Kanigher was a war comic specialist, then again Kirby also prided himself on his war comics from Captain America to Boy Commandos to Our Fighting Forces. I'm guessing here, but was Kanigher critical at some point about Kirby's efforts on his war titles? As I've said it is hard, and for good reason, to find a fellow professional come down on Kirby. So much is JK admired, I would be most interested if anyone could comment on Kanigher vs. Kirby. Thanks.

Kan-Man
09-24-2006, 07:51 PM
It's Sunday night and I'm bored, so I've been doing some searches on this. Here's something from Evanier's site...

"On the other hand, he had a great talent for taking a lemon and making lemonade. He did not want to take over writing and drawing "The Losers" in Our Fighting Forces because he thought it was a silly premise, a bad name and because it was the creation of Robert Kanigher, a writer who had expressed enormous contempt for Kirby, his work and darn near everything ever published by Marvel. Still, Jack tackled the project and, by infusing the stories with his own, rather plentiful World War II anecdotes, he produced a very personal, satisfying comic...one that I think ranks with his best work of that decade."

So you're definitely on to something here. I also found something else on the site suggesting that Kanigher was a polarizing figure when he was working. I'll see what else I can dig up.

Jonathan Bogart
09-24-2006, 09:41 PM
From what I've read here and there, I gather that Kanigher was, by most accounts, kind of an asshole to work for or with, much like Mort Weisinger. There's a story that at least one person threatened his life during a dispute (I can't even remember whether it was a writer or artist, much less specifically who), and like other DC editors, he thought that Kirby's art was sloppy, crude, and busy, without any of the compositional balance or graceful figure work that DC mainstays Kane, Infantino, Kubert, and Anderson were known for.

That he completely missed, or didn't care about, Kirby's idiosyncratic design sense, explosive dynamism, or sheer idea-power is analogous, in my view, to the way older people were unable to hear anything but cacophanous primitivism in the rock & roll of the 50s and 60s. It's all about what your aesthetic priorities are.

Kanigher wrote some of the best non-Kurtzman war stories of the pre-Direct Market era, and had his own delightfully loopy side as evidenced by his Wonder Woman run (though a lot of that goes to Ross Andru), but he seems to have had a churning-out-twaddle-for-the-kids mindset, and would have been impatient with Kirby's artistic and philosophical aspirations. This, of course, all at third or fourth hand. I'm sure Mark Evanier will have a much more nuanced, and accurate view.

Aaron Kashtan
09-24-2006, 11:12 PM
That he completely missed, or didn't care about, Kirby's idiosyncratic design sense, explosive dynamism, or sheer idea-power is analogous, in my view, to the way older people were unable to hear anything but cacophanous primitivism in the rock & roll of the 50s and 60s. It's all about what your aesthetic priorities are.

The ironic part is that at the time of his dispute with Kanigher, Kirby himself was probably no longer young-- he was born in 1917 and was therefore past fifty when the Fourth World series began.

I suppose you were using that as a general analogy, rather than suggesing that Kirby and Kanigher's dispute had anything to do with youth versus age. It is interesting, though, that Kirby was able to maintain such youthful energy and enthusiasm into his middle years.

MDG
09-25-2006, 05:17 AM
I'm not sure about Kanigher--I used to wonder why his war stories seemed so good, but his hero stuff was generally horrible (unless it was goofy, like WW or Metal Men).

Then I read an interview with George Evans where he said that every Kanigher script he got was almost totally re-written by the editor (he mentioned Kubert and Boltinoff, maybe others). I thought, "Well that explains it." (I'm not sure, though, that Evans was doing DC war books in the 60s, so don't know how far back this rewriting went.)

MDG

T GUy
09-25-2006, 05:49 AM
Benday,
Having spent most of my comic reading life in the Marvel Universe and then in the Kirby portion of the DC Universe, it is to my regret that I have little familiarity with the work of Robert Kanigher, whose praises I have often heard sung on various threads of this forum.

This would be because he's the best comics writer ever, i suspect.


Nevertheless, I was surprised to read recently (alas I cannot find the reference, but I am almost certain it was from Mark Evanier's blog/website) that at one time Kanigher had some unkind words to say about Kirby.

'All I know about Jack Kirby is that he draws fists the size of St. Peter's Cathedral,' if I remember correctly. Kanigher claims never to have read comics, so I take the view that any comments he makes on them should be taken with a grain of salt rather than swallowed raw.

I suspect his antipathy towards Kirby derived from a misunderstanding leading from his assumption that an editor/writer and an artist worked the way that Kanigher and Kubert did rather than the way Lee and Kirby did. He thought that Kirby's claims to be the creator of the FF and the X-Men were like Russ Heath claiming to have created the Haunted Tank.

He also didn't like Kirby's version of 'the Losers,' I imagine because it was different from his own. There's a bizarre scenario here, in that Kanigher never seemed comfortable with this shoving together of three separate strips, and it was always his weakest work; whereas Kirby - notorious for hating taking over other prople's series - came to the strip and produced some of his best ever work (it's not quite as well-kept a secret as it was at the time, but there are still few who appear to know of it).

This leads me - irrelevently to this thread - to wonder what Jack Kirby made of all those versions of his series after he left (the most obvious example is the ol' Wakandan written by the verbose dwarf, but it is only the most obvious example).

Aaron King
09-25-2006, 12:24 PM
Bob Haney on Robert Kanigher from The Comics Journal #276:


Haney: ...They were forcing Kanigher to take on a writer. Because he wrote everything himself.
Catron: And what was he writing at that time?
Haney: He was writing everything. He made his -- he's insane, the man's certifiably insane. I don't say that lightly. He was writing -- with this incredible, manic energy of his, he was writing everything he could get his hands on. He was writing all his own stuff to make as much money as possible. He didn't want to take on a writer but the publisher was forcing him to. But anybody he took on, he made life absolutely miserable [for them]. You know. Bill Finger did some work for him and Eddie Herron, too. Because they only worked for him now and again, he gave them as much shit as he could.

And later on...


Catron: OK. Well, let's talk about your relationship with Kanigher.
Haney: Oh, well.
Catron: When you first came in, you said, you put up with his shit.
Haney: Oh, he was -- the man's insane. The man's one of the sicker human beings I've ever known. He's really insane. Working with him was a trial a lot of the time.

Haney has also called him "a half-insane little man who I soon realized had been rejected for war service" and a "whacko editor." If what Haney says is true, it doesn't surprise me that Kanigher disliked Kirby. It wouldn't surprise me to find that he hated most everyone he worked with.

benday-dot
09-25-2006, 07:41 PM
It's Sunday night and I'm bored, so I've been doing some searches on this. Here's something from Evanier's site...

"On the other hand, he had a great talent for taking a lemon and making lemonade. He did not want to take over writing and drawing "The Losers" in Our Fighting Forces because he thought it was a silly premise, a bad name and because it was the creation of Robert Kanigher, a writer who had expressed enormous contempt for Kirby, his work and darn near everything ever published by Marvel. Still, Jack tackled the project and, by infusing the stories with his own, rather plentiful World War II anecdotes, he produced a very personal, satisfying comic...one that I think ranks with his best work of that decade."

Kan_man... thanks for your research. The Evanier reference I found was much more scant than this, just an allusionive note really. So it seems the difference comes down partly to an artistic/aesthetic divide and partly, even perhaps the largest part this anecdotal evidence shows, to Kanigher being a bit of a misanthrope. If there is one thing Kirby wasn't it was a loather of humanity. I'm not saying Kanigher was all that (I'm hardly in a position to judge him artistically or personally) but he did seem, if you'll pardon the expression, to be a sonofabitch from what I've just read. The two seem to be world's apart in matters of both aesthetics and outlook of life. Kanigher, I suppose, was interested first and foremost in the primacy of his vision, and didn't take kindly to other interpretations. Kirby, super personable and more interested in the common of humanity than in its divisions and rancours always seemed to be an ally of the new and innovative (see his interest in youth culture, and certainly in artistic experimentation). Of course to write all those amazing stories of the greater good versus the overwhelming evil you have to know a little of both.



Kanigher wrote some of the best non-Kurtzman war stories of the pre-Direct Market era


This would be because he's the best comics writer ever, i suspect.

Kurtzman I know is top drawer; having read plenty of his masterful EC work. Though I see there are differences of opinion, rom what Jonathan and T Guy say I really need to at least explore Kanigher's work further. Any suggestions as to where to start?

Kanigher may have been guilty of being one nasty individual, but so were lots of brilliant creators. Picasso was a real piece of work. In comics, Ditko's world view I cannot embrace at all, but man that guy can draw. Visual brilliance. So its easy for me to separate the man from the work in cases like these. Yes, I must read Kanigher.


Kanigher claims never to have read comics, so I take the view that any comments he makes on them should be taken with a grain of salt rather than swallowed raw.

Interesting comment. Yesterday I was at a Word-On-The Street event (a Canadian wide literacy promotion event) in which several cartoonists and comic book illustrators were present with much generosity. Among the finest, and nicest, illustrators there was Darwyn Cooke (DC's New Frontier, Solo, upcoming Spirit series). As I watched him whip off sketch after sketch (including a beautiful illo of the Spirit for yours truly) I asked him about his childhood days of comic reading, who is old favourite heroes were, seeing his obvious affinity for Golden and Silver Age adventurers. I asked him if he grew up loving comics or if he just wound up through other roundabout ways as a comic book professional. I think he thought my question a little odd. How else he said does a comic book writer/artist (Cooke does both) end up in the field, if he wasn't also a lifelong fan. Obviously Kanigher differed. [/Quote]


I suspect his antipathy towards Kirby derived from a misunderstanding leading from his assumption that an editor/writer and an artist worked the way that Kanigher and Kubert did rather than the way Lee and Kirby did. He thought that Kirby's claims to be the creator of the FF and the X-Men were like Russ Heath claiming to have created the Haunted Tank.

It really does show that the much ballyhooed difference in the early years between the DC and Marvel methods was real and not imagined. Other writers (Steve Gerber comes to mind) have also spoken out about the writers dues as far as creative ownership of a character goes. Perhaps many felt the pendulum, after Marvel's Silver Age came and went, seemed to have swung a little too far in the direction of the artist, at the writer's expense. For Kanigher I guess the guy who put down the words was king (especially if he was a master of his form, as many have stated him to be), for others the artist, who is so integral to a story's plotting deserves the laurels. Of course the truth usually lies in the boring middle!

Thanks all.

Scott Shaw!
09-25-2006, 08:44 PM
Robert Kanigher also wrote (and I believe, self-published) one of the first -- if not THE first -- book specifically about writing scripts for comic books. I don't know the exact year (I can't reach my copy right now) but it was published in the mid-1940s, and uses B. K.'s scripts for Archie/MLJ's "Steel Sterling" as examples.

I've no idea if he mentions his work on his Oddball creation, The Bouncer, though!

Aloha,

Scott!

Mark Evanier
10-05-2006, 11:16 AM
Briefly, because I have to run out to a meeting and only now noticed this thread...

The friction between Robert Kanigher and Jack Kirby can be explained pretty simply: Kanigher had a tendency to denounce as utter garbage, almost any comic book not written by Robert Kanigher. It wasn't just Jack's work or the entire Marvel line. At various times, it was pretty much everything done by DC, as well. The first time I met Kanigher in person, he was standing in the hallways at DC, telling anyone who'd listen (and many who did not want to) how rotten most of the writers in the business were. The rantings were so over-the-top that no one took them seriously.

Kanigher did some brilliant things in his work. A fan of his once said that he batted about .500. Half his scripts were terrific and half were dreadful, and I think that's a pretty good assessment up until his later years when he was batting more like .150. The reference someone made earlier to George Evans saying that Kanigher's scripts were completely rewritten is to later work when almost all of it was. In the fifties and sixties though, he was the editor of most of what he wrote and no one rewrote him.

He was an enormously rough editor to work for. He loved everything Joe Kubert, Jerry Grandenetti and Irv Novick drew for him and seems to have hated everything else, even work by people who drew for him for 20 years. Russ Heath. Gene Colan and John Romita will gladly tell you tales. Bob Haney's stories about writing for him are typical of all those who did...and the odd thing is that I have copies of a few of the scripts Haney did for Kanigher. What Kanigher did on these examples -- and Haney said this was normal for the guy -- was to rewrite everything without making significant changes. Haney would write a line of dialogue like, "Let's walk up that mountain" and Kanigher would cross it out and write it, "I think we should hike up that hill." Just so he could say he had to rewrite the other guy.

I was a fan of about half of what Kanigher wrote, which is not a bad percentage. But I'm glad I never spent a lot of time in his presence.

benday-dot
10-06-2006, 06:19 PM
Briefly, because I have to run out to a meeting and only now noticed this thread...

The friction between Robert Kanigher and Jack Kirby can be explained pretty simply: Kanigher had a tendency to denounce as utter garbage, almost any comic book not written by Robert Kanigher. It wasn't just Jack's work or the entire Marvel line. At various times, it was pretty much everything done by DC, as well. The first time I met Kanigher in person, he was standing in the hallways at DC, telling anyone who'd listen (and many who did not want to) how rotten most of the writers in the business were. The rantings were so over-the-top that no one took them seriously.

Kanigher did some brilliant things in his work. A fan of his once said that he batted about .500. Half his scripts were terrific and half were dreadful, and I think that's a pretty good assessment up until his later years when he was batting more like .150. The reference someone made earlier to George Evans saying that Kanigher's scripts were completely rewritten is to later work when almost all of it was. In the fifties and sixties though, he was the editor of most of what he wrote and no one rewrote him.

He was an enormously rough editor to work for. He loved everything Joe Kubert, Jerry Grandenetti and Irv Novick drew for him and seems to have hated everything else, even work by people who drew for him for 20 years. Russ Heath. Gene Colan and John Romita will gladly tell you tales. Bob Haney's stories about writing for him are typical of all those who did...and the odd thing is that I have copies of a few of the scripts Haney did for Kanigher. What Kanigher did on these examples -- and Haney said this was normal for the guy -- was to rewrite everything without making significant changes. Haney would write a line of dialogue like, "Let's walk up that mountain" and Kanigher would cross it out and write it, "I think we should hike up that hill." Just so he could say he had to rewrite the other guy.

I was a fan of about half of what Kanigher wrote, which is not a bad percentage. But I'm glad I never spent a lot of time in his presence.

Okay... now I know, if the thread ever comes up, "With which comic book creator would you least desire to be trapped in an elevator?" I'll know who to choose ;)

Jesse Hamm
10-07-2006, 12:34 AM
Catron: OK. Well, let's talk about your relationship with Kanigher.
Haney: Oh, well.

*LOL*!

Two little words that say nothing but suggest so much.

Mike Kuypers
10-07-2006, 07:31 AM
Okay... now I know, if the thread ever comes up, "With which comic book creator would you least desire to be trapped in an elevator?" I'll know who to choose ;)

It did -- and I said the same thing before reading this post. :D

benday-dot
10-07-2006, 03:22 PM
It did -- and I said the same thing before reading this post. :D

Yes I noticed that! Okay Mike, let's male a deal... if the Kanigher in elevator situation were ever to come up, ignoring the fact that we can presume he is resting in peace now... we agree to make room for eachother so that neither of us is cornered alone by the ornery man berating us for our choice of shoes, or whether we haven chosen to occupy the left or the right side of lift?!

Mike Kuypers
10-07-2006, 08:11 PM
Sounds good to me. (Of course, I don't know how Robert Kanigher treated people who didn't work for/with him, so maybe we'd be okay. But let's stand by the door just in case. ;) )