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  1. #1
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    Default WonderCon: Kirby - King of Comics

    Saturday’s Jack Kirby panel at WonderCon proved that, although the King is dead, he still reigns for many of today’s creators.

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/ne...m.cgi?id=13114

  2. #2
    world of yesterday benday-dot's Avatar
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    Nice stuff, including a few tidbits of Kirbyania that came out on this panel new to me. I can't get my hands on Evanier's Kirby book soon enough.

  3. #3
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    It is hard to imagine all of this artwork happening in California. The publishing world was centered around Manhattan and almost all of the creative talent lived either there or nearby. Only someone like Jack Kirby could have gotten away with working so far from the source. Nice historical view of Mike Royer, too.

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    This is probably going to come across as sour grapes, or yet more internet fanboy whining, but to me the report on this panel highlights one of the ways in which I believe the comics industry is totally screwed up.

    You have yet another panel of comics pros praising Kirby, saying he was the greatest comics artist ever, etc, etc, and I have no doubt they were all completely sincere. But when you compare what they say about Kirby to what they've actually done ... boy, there's quite a contrast there, to put it mildly.

    I'm not thinking so much of individuals - certainly not someone like Mark Evanier, whose book I'm looking forward to BTW, or even Kurt Busiek, who as far as I know hasn't really worked much with any of Kirby's independently created characters - as of the general contrast between the sincere praise we continually hear from contemporary creators and what Marvel & DC actually have done and are doing with Kirby's legacy.

    Now I think of it though, I will criticise at least one person on the panel: Paul Dini. A talented creator, no doubt, though I admit his stuff isn't to my personal taste. But look at what he says about the Kirby-related work he's actually done:
    Evanier asked Dini about the use of Kirby concepts in the Warner Bros. animated shows. Dini replied that they were “looking for bigger and bigger villains for Superman to fight, and there was such a natural fit with Apokolips and Kirby’s other concepts. I don’t know if that was (Kirby’s) intention (to use them that way), but we did it.”
    So you have a guy on a panel devoted to the work of one of the giants of the medium talking about one of the creator's most famous creations, and his contribution was, "wow, this character would make a great villain for Superman."

    You know, if John Milton had worked for DC, I think the minute he dropped dead, they'd have begun praising him to the skies and hiring Paul Dini to figure out how to get Lucifer into the JLA's "rogues gallery". And if he'd worked for Marvel, they'd probably have hired Neil Gaiman to make Milton's world "an integral part of the Marvel Universe" and show us how Michael and Gabriel react to super-hero registration. Because that's as far as they can see. That's the ultimate to them, they can't imagine anything more desirable, more creative than somehow exploiting anything they get their hands on to support their money-makers.

    Some of you will probably react by saying, "well, the market has spoken. Fans want to read about Batman and Wolverine, so that's what Marvel & DC have to give them." But all that demonstrates to me is exactly why the market shouldn't be the only consideration in creative endeavours.

    I'm really sickened by the whole thing. Sick of reading intros by Grant Morrison full of insight into and understanding of Kirby's ideas and then reading his JLA series where he does exactly the same thing Dini and his ilk have done. Sick of seeing Neil Gaiman eloquently describing his appreciation of Kirby's vision and then watching his Eternals series get rid of every single thing that made thvision so original and ground-breaking. But the market doesn't want ground-breaking. It doesn't want innovation. It wants what sells and what sells is the tried and true, the safe, the comfortable. So that's what we get. More Batman. More X-Men. More JLA. And on and on and on.

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    Well, reading my previous post, I see I gave way to bitterness there and probably appeared to contradict myself when I started talking about Morrison, etc, so let me try to put it another way.

    I suppose what I'm really critical of, in my more rational moments, is the comics industry as a whole, and not the individual creators, no matter how little much of their work might appeal to me. I don't really blame Paul Dini or Grant Morrison or Neil Gaiman or whoever so much as the environment that more or less obliges them to treat Kirby's ideas as second-rate, to break up the concepts into its constituent parts some of which are then removed from their context and employed as props for the more popular, revenue-generating series and characters. Writers and artists still, after all this time, probably don't have a lot of choice. If they want to make a living in the comics industry, they almost have to work for one of the Big Two at some point. And if you want to work for the Big Two, that means you've already acquies,ced to some degree of editorial control.

    I do wonder sometimes if people like Gaiman, people who appear to have a flourishing career outside comics, really couldn't find it in themselves to make a stand and use their prestige and finiancial independence to pay more than lip-service to Kirby's legacy, but then you get yourself into trying to guess who is and who isn't in a position to do that. Maybe Gaiman needs the work, I don't know.

    So I'm critical of the industry, what does that mean? Partly, as I was saying, the editorial-driven nature of everyhting at Marvel and DC these days, but equally we the readers, the "fans" have to share the blame as well. Marvel and DC are tryin to give us what they think we want, and sales tell them that what we want is apparently more of the same. Forever.

    I understand that publishing companies want to make money. One thing I do think could change though, even with the current structure of the industry, is the attitude of Marvel/DC management towards their own respective heritages. Let the money-making books subsidize a few, just a few projects that aren't based exclusively on market performance, that are motivated purley by creative considerations. Maybe you'll say that this is already being done to some extent, with some of DC's Vertigo stuff and other creator-owned concepts. Maybe it is. I must say, I haven't seen much from Vertigo lately that catches my eye, but tastes differ and all that.

    But the point is, getting back to the Kirby panel, if DC can let Grant Morrison write the Invisibles or the Filth, or Gaiman his Sandman, allowing those works to stand on their own, to be what they are, I see no reason the same respect and consideration couldn't be given to Kirby's independent concepts.

    Yes, I know, Kirby introduced the Fourth World stuff in Jimmy Olsen, had Superman meet the Forever People, had SHIELD in the Eternals, blah, blah, blah. I don't think any of that is relevant at all. If you read all those series, it's pretty clear that none of them were really intended to be nothing more than just one more feature of the established DCU or MU. Quite possibly a lot of that happened because Kirby felt he had no choice in the matter. And besides, I don't think he really understood the escalation of fan-obsession with established universe continuity and inter-connectedness that was beginning to take place back then.

    Point being that if you read those series on their own merits, there's no doubt that they each encompassed their own unique reality, and as creative concepts they derserve to be respected as the unique works of art they are, not as fodder for the latest DCU crisis or Marvel crossover event. They deserve better than that. They ARE better than that.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by benday-dot View Post
    Nice stuff, including a few tidbits of Kirbyania that came out on this panel new to me. I can't get my hands on Evanier's Kirby book soon enough.
    I agree.
    I pre-ordered the book through Amazon, and they contacted me about a month ago, saying the book has been delayed, and asking me to indicate if I still wanted it.

    HELL YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by berk View Post
    Now I think of it though, I will criticise at least one person on the panel: Paul Dini. A talented creator, no doubt, though I admit his stuff isn't to my personal taste. But look at what he says about the Kirby-related work he's actually done: So you have a guy on a panel devoted to the work of one of the giants of the medium talking about one of the creator's most famous creations, and his contribution was, "wow, this character would make a great villain for Superman."
    The use of Darkseid was one of the reasons I'm not as high on the Superman cartoon as many other fans are. Leaving aside whether they should have used the New Gods or not, I just didn't the characterization was there. As usual when other writers handle him, Darkseid came across as a generically evil brute, not the nuanced schemer he was under Kirby.

    I do think, though, that using such ideas was as much to do with Timm and Dini's failure to understand Superman as whatever they might have thought about Kirby's work. Most of the interviews I've read with them regarding the series drip with disdain for Superman and his mythos; lots of references to the pressure to "make Superman cool", which I guess is what lead to great ideas like giving Jimmy a mullet?

  8. #8
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    berk,
    Well, reading my previous post, I see I gave way to bitterness there
    No, you were spot on.

    and probably appeared to contradict myself when I started talking about Morrison, etc, so let me try to put it another way.
    I saw no contradiction.

    I do wonder sometimes if people like Gaiman, people who appear to have a flourishing career outside comics, really couldn't find it in themselves to make a stand and use their prestige and finiancial independence to pay more than lip-service to Kirby's legacy, but then you get yourself into trying to guess who is and who isn't in a position to do that. Maybe Gaiman needs the work, I don't know.
    Alan Moore seems to be able to live without that sort of work. Indeed, he has spent most of his life doing precisely not that sort of work. I can only think of the Swamp Thing as an exception.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by berk View Post
    So you have a guy on a panel devoted to the work of one of the giants of the medium talking about one of the creator's most famous creations, and his contribution was, "wow, this character would make a great villain for Superman."
    This is a bit unfair. Don't forget that Superman was part of Kirby's Fourth World from the start, and for that matter, Darkseid first appeared in a Superman book.

    You know, if John Milton had worked for DC, I think the minute he dropped dead, they'd have begun praising him to the skies and hiring Paul Dini to figure out how to get Lucifer into the JLA's "rogues gallery". And if he'd worked for Marvel, they'd probably have hired Neil Gaiman to make Milton's world "an integral part of the Marvel Universe" and show us how Michael and Gabriel react to super-hero registration. Because that's as far as they can see.
    LOL. Tell us how you really felt about that Eternals miniseries. :D

  10. #10
    world of yesterday benday-dot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by berk View Post
    Point being that if you read those series on their own merits, there's no doubt that they each encompassed their own unique reality, and as creative concepts they derserve to be respected as the unique works of art they are, not as fodder for the latest DCU crisis or Marvel crossover event. They deserve better than that. They ARE better than that.
    Well, I agree. The real question I suppose is if the Kirby creations are in any way diminished by such inconsequential fodder as succeeded original vibrant concept. Not in the slightest I would answer. I read a Kirby book knowing it's a Kirby book. Thus, it's Kirby's New Gods I will have read and not just a (generic) New Gods. The title under other hands may or may not be good. And whether it's good or not may or may not have to do with its respect for Kirby. It could be something entirely other than a Kirby concept, but in use of Jack's titular characters still make for a fine story. The thing is such successes or failures do not particularly annoy me as I have already expectedly divorced them from the original Kirby mythos. So just as you will be reading Kirby on his own merits, so must you approach the revisionist books. Two different kettles of tea I suppose.
    Last edited by benday-dot; 02-27-2008 at 05:49 PM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by scratchie View Post
    This is a bit unfair. Don't forget that Superman was part of Kirby's Fourth World from the start, and for that matter, Darkseid first appeared in a Superman book.
    I don't think this is unfair at all. It's an accurate description of Dini's attitude and there's no question whatsoever that this is not how Kirby saw the character and that it does not fit the New Gods concept as he created it.

    Unfortunately, yes, Kirby's introduction of the New Gods in the Olson series gave DC an excuse to turn the concept into the travesty it's become. As I already said, he ahd to introduce them somewhere and Olson was the series he was on at the time. I don't think he really understood just how rabid fan-worship of Superman/Batman was to become, and how obsessed fans were even then becoming with continuity and interconnectedness within the shared universes of the Marvel and DC. He had no way of knowing that later editors and creators would look at his carefully wrought creation and see nothing but a potential Superman villain, an attitude soon to culminate in the complete erasure of the entire concept except for Darkseid.

    Any honest reader who looks at Kirby's Fourth World stories has to see that he was envisioning an entire universe onto itself, with its own history, its own strange logic. Yeah, he introuduced it in Jimmy Olson. I don't think he'd have seen that as a big deal. ONce he was given his own books to write, there was no sign of Superman or the rest of the DCU. Kirby was telling a story that had little or nothing to do with the JLA and the rest of that shared universe. Just read the stories, without reading into them the Darkseid, et al you've come to know through decades of Superman appearances. The entire concept underlying the New Gods has literally nothing to do with the DCU. It's a complete accident of history that it happened to be introduced there. That this even requires assertion is an indication of just how brainwashed everyone seems to be in regards to this question.

    Look at it this way. You know that Spirit tribute thing that's being done now? What would you think if, instead of that, DC's editors decided they didn't really need the Spirit, they didn't need anything except, say, P'Gell. Boy, that P'Gell, she'd make a great femme fatale for Batman. We can just write the Spirit as a bumbling incompetent for a few years and then kill him off, leaving us with this great supporting character for the Dark Knight. Would you consider that consistent with the respect and praise they would no doubt at the same time be alvishing on Eisner's legacy?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by benday-dot View Post
    Well, I agree. The real question I suppose is if the Kirby creations are in any way diminished by such inconsequential fodder as succeeded original vibrant concept. Not in the slightest I would answer. I read a Kirby book knowing it's a Kirby book. Thus, it's Kirby's New Gods I will have read and not just a (generic) New Gods. The title under other hands may or may nor be good. And whether it's good or nor may or may not have to do with its respect for Kirby. It could be something entirely other than a Kirby concept, but in use of Jack's titular characters still make for a fine story. The thing is such successes or failures do not particularly annoy me as I have already expectedly divorced them from the original Kirby mythos. So just as you will be reading Kirby on his own merits, so must you approach the revisionist books. Two different kettles of tea I suppose.
    The original point was the contrast between the repeated avowals by creators and editors of admiration for Kirby's work and what we see those same creators actually do on the page. There's a contradiction between what they say and what they do. I don't think that contradiction should go unnoted.

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