PBS Superheroes Documentary Neglects Kirby

Of all the things that bother me about Michael Kantor et al.’s PBS documentary Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, which aired last night, the most disheartening is the show’s one-dimensional take on the rise of Marvel Comics in the 1960s and its almost entire neglect of the crucial role played by Jack Kirby in that rise.

Kirby’s singular contribution to the look and substance of Marvel—the fact that he provided characters, premises, stories, and the overarching visual aesthetic of the company—is never forthrightly addressed. The show simply reinforces the familiar corporate mythology about Stan Lee creating properties and writing stories that were then illustrated by Kirby, Steve Ditko, and other artists—a shallow view that fundamentally misunderstands the role of the cartoonist in the Marvel style of production. The result is all fog and strobe lights, not history.

My full take on the documentary can be found at The Superhero Reader website, here.

Mix 2013, plus a blast of Kirby from Mix 2012

Mix 2013 logo

About a year ago, in October 2012, the Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) launched Mix, its annual series of symposia about comics. I hope it lasts forever. Under the leadership of CCAD’s Robert Loss, Mix is rapidly shaping up to be a key event in the comics studies calendar—and that first Mix, 2012, was a delight. I had the privilege of attending Mix then, and fondly recall working and hanging out with Robert, Douglas Wolk, my good friend, fellow scholar, and co-author Craig Fischer, local comics creators such as Ken Eppstein and Michael Neno, and a host of other fine folk.

Ach, would that I could attend Mix THIS time, but sadly I cannot. I still want to tell you about it! This coming weekend, Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27-28, CCAD will put on the second annual Mix, i.e. Mix 2013, featuring keynote guest Jeff Smith, plus Carol Tyler, Tom Spurgeon, documentary filmmaker Dr. Jonathan Gayles, and a screening of Gayles’s White Scripts and Black Supermen, plus Jared Gardner, John Jennings, Mark C. Rogers, and many other comics scholars, both veteran and new. PLUS an exhibition of art from Smith’s RASL, and, talk about an embarrassment of riches, an exhibition of work by Gary Panter (visiting CCAD almost as I type this!). It sounds fantastic, and I wish Robert and everyone a stimulating, collegial, and fun event!

I had the pleasure of giving a talk at Mix last year, on Oct. 5, 2012, titled “Kirby Goes for Broke.” Thanks to Robert and his collaborators, video of that lecture, as well as other events from Mix 2012, has just gone online!

(Check out CCAD’s YouTube channel, CCADedu, for more!)

Giving that talk was a blast, especially the post-talk Q&A, which I thought was rich and interesting. It gave me a chance to think about Kirby “on my feet” before a very sharp and attuned audience, something I’ll always be grateful for. It’s all captured on this video!

Go to Mix 2013 if you possibly can.

A Birthday Bonanza!

A moment of joy and optimism, from Captain America's Bicentennial Battles (1976)

Today is the 96th birthday of the great Jack Kirby, and it’s wonderful to see the online outpouring of interest, affection, and commentary that this event has inspired!

There’s so much about Kirby on the Web today that knowing where to go could be a right challenge. Me, I recommend:

Or you could just turn off your computer, pick up and read a vintage Kirby comic, and get your mind blown all over again. :)

Hail Kirby!!!

Essential Reading: Taking Back the Kirby Case

US Supreme Court Building, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, from the Library of Congress

Attorney Jeff Trexler has written an excellent essay for The Comics Journal titled “Taking Back the Kirby Case” that I emphatically recommend to anyone who cares about comics, the work of Jack Kirby, the implications of copyright law for independent contractors, or just plain fairness.

Trexler not only reviews the decisions in the Marvel v. Kirby lawsuit and considers their ramifications, but also gives a thorough rundown of the legal case histories behind those decisions, in effect explaining the whole complicated story of how case law interprets and affects the work of comics freelancers. He shows, in essence, how court opinions have effected a massive shift of intellectual property from artists to corporations. Along the way, he suggests how and why the U.S. Supreme Court might take an interest in the Kirby case.

Essential reading, for which many thanks to Jeff Trexler! I learned a lot from it.

Support Kirby4Heroes in Honor of Jack’s Birthday

Kirby4Heroes Facebook page--please lend your support!Good, good news! Once again Jack Kirby’s granddaughter Jillian Kirby has launched a donation drive to benefit The Hero Initiative, the nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veteran comic book creators in need. In honor of Jack, and in the spirit of generosity that he championed, the Kirby4Heroes drive seeks to raise money for The Hero Initiative so that the Initiative can continue to provide, as its website says, “a financial safety net for yesterdays’ creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work.” Last year Jillian’s initial Kirby4Heroes drive raised $6000 for the Initiative, and she has set the goal of $10,000 for this year—a worthy goal for a worthy cause!

Jillian Kirby, for Kirby4Heroes

Jillian’s article at Hero Complex (the Los Angeles Times‘s pop culture blog) explains how the campaign will work, and how you can lend your support. Please read the article and consider donating to the cause! Also, you can see Jillian’s new video about the campaign via YouTube, courtesy of the Nerdist Channel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVhB2PGh4lg

Supporting Kirby4Heroes is simple. You can donate online via The Hero Initiative’s website, at heroinitiative.org (be sure to type “Kirby4Heroes” in the space for “special instructions”), or by good old-fashioned mail at:

Kirby4Heroes Campaign
c/o The Hero Initiative
11301 Olympic Blvd., #587
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Or simply shop at your local comic book store on Jack’s 96th birthday, Wednesday, August 28. Many comic book shops in California and across the country will be donating a percentage of their sales on that day to Kirby4Heroes—in a show of respect for an artist without whom there might be no comic book stores to speak of!

The Hero Initiative

Please consider donating to Kirby4Heroes—help Jillian Kirby support our comic book heritage! Visit and “like” the Kirby4Heroes Facebook page now to show your support!