Wow. This is a year to be at Comic-Con International: San Diego. It’s the centenary of Jack Kirby (1917-1994) and the centenary of Will Eisner (1917-2005), two comics greats who improbably crossed paths early on and improbably kept innovating and nudging comics forward throughout their long careers. The two men eventually developed very different reputations in comics studies, but both were seminal, inspiring, and frankly astounding narrative artists who carried comics a long way. Both left their mark on Comic-Con too, becoming household saints of that great convention. Both are honored yearly for that. But this year is something special, as Comic-Con is observing the centennial of both men with a special series of panels and events throughout the weekend. See below for a full listing of those CCI events that appear to be Kirby and/or Eisner-related (clicking on an event’s title should take you to its official place in the online CCI schedule).
I will be lucky enough to take in part of the weekend. Though I won’t be able to attend all of the events listed below (who could?), I will be at several, and man am I grateful for that! Both Eisner and Kirby have meant a lot to me as a comics reader and scholar, and I’m sure that this is going to be one long nostalgiathon!
NOTE: I have the good fortune to spend part of the Con signing and selling books at the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center’s booth (#5520), as detailed in this separate post. The Booth is going to be amazing, so come check it out!
(The following blurbs come direct from the CCI program, with minimal editing:)
Thursday, July 20 • 10:00am – 11:00am • Room 5AB
Finally, the fascinating truth about the real CIA Argo mission! Hear how Jack Kirby and Barry Ira Geller’s script and production designs for Lord of Light made the actual Argo mission successful, as recently testified to by the “Sons of the Iranian Revolution.” The Kirby/Geller work, though not mentioned in the Oscar-winning film, rests in the International Spy Museum forever. Discover the unbelievable awareness and consciousness of Jack Kirby as remembered by Barry Ira Geller, one of the last people to have creatively partnered with Jack. Kirby was the Rembrandt of comic art, the Einstein of superhero visions, and the creator of the modern romance genre. Hear Mike Royer, arguably the best Silver Age inker–certainly Jack Kirby’s favorite–give the real story behind the inking of these fantastic series!
Thursday, July 20 • 11:30am – 12:30pm • Room 4
As part of this year’s gala Jack Kirby Centennial, here’s an hour-long chat with Jack’s favorite inker of his work, the man who worked with him on the Fourth World comics, Kamandi, The Demon, and many others. But Mike Royer was so much more than just Jack Kirby’s inker. He worked with Russ Manning on the Tarzan comic books and newspaper strip and again with Russ on the Star Wars newspaper strip. He drew for Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella and worked on the ’60s Marvel superhero cartoons and for Gold Key Comics and had a multi-decade career working for Disney on things as un-Kirbylike as Winnie the Pooh. Come hear him be interviewed by his friend and colleague, Mark Evanier.
Thursday, July 20 • 2:00-3:00pm • Room 2
Ever wondered how the legendary Jack Kirby created his signature style? Now you can learn the tricks of his trade and those he collaborated with to draw Captain America, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men among many other iconic characters. Celebrate Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday with Kirby fan and cartoonist Mark Badger (Batman, Just Draw) leading this workshop, with guidance from the Jack Kirby Museum. Supplies provided by Sakura.
Thursday, July 20 • 3:00-4:00pm • Room 9
Born 100 years ago, Will Eisner not only recognized the future potential of comics at an early age but also worked his whole life to help achieve those goals. But how could Will Eisner still be relevant to us today? Join Paul Levitz (former president of DC Comics, author of Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel, educator, comics historian), Jackie Estrada (administrator, Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards), Paul Dini (Harley Quinn co-creator, writer, producer), Maggie Thompson (writer, editor, comics historian), and maybe a surprise special guest to discover why.
Thursday, July 20 • 8:30-9:30pm • Room 8
Richard Kyle published the first graphic novel, Beyond Time and Again by George Metzger, as well as Graphic Story World and Argosy magazines. Mr. Kyle’s publishing work and the future of graphic novels will be discussed by a panel of experts: Mike Royer (artist, writer, Jack Kirby’s inker), Denis Kitchen (artist, writer, publisher, creator of Kitchen Sink Press), Ron Turner(writer, publisher, founder of Last Gasp), Jamie Coville (writer, comics historian), Phil Yeh(cartoonist, publisher of Uncle Jam), Greg Koudoulian (early SDCC film program contributor), David G. Brown (cartoonist, winner of the 2009 NAACP Image Award), and Maggie Thompson(writer, comics historian, co-editor of the Comics Buyer’s Guide).
Thursday, July 20 • 9:00-10:30pm • Room 9
This feature-length documentary about Will Eisner premiered at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival. The film includes interviews with Stan Lee, Jules Feiffer, Jack Kirby, Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, Michael Chabon, Gil Kane, and many other famous writers and cartoonists who knew and worked with Will Eisner. The showing will be introduced by Danny Fingeroth (comics historian, Spider-Man group editor) with a brand-new videotape introduction from the film’s director/producer Andrew D. Cooke and writer/producer Jon B. Cooke.
Friday, July 21 • 11:00am – 12:00pm • Room 4
Comic-Con special guest John Morrow (publisher at TwoMorrows) presents a sequential image, stereophonic, multimedia extravaganza: “Jack Kirby: Yesterday, Today, and TwoMorrows!” Join John on a comics history road trip that explores how Kirby’s career was inexplicably intertwined with John’s own life, long before he published Jack Kirby Collector #1 in 1994, and continues to permeate TwoMorrows Publishing today. You’ll see rare Kirby artwork, video and audio of Jack himself, rare photos, and the debut of John’s new book, KIRBY100, an all-star celebration of Jack’s 100th birthday! The video presentation will be followed by a Q&A session with details of other new TwoMorrows titles, including their Reed Crandall biography and GROOVY, which documents how flower power affected comics and pop culture.
Friday, July 21 • 11:30am – 1:00pm • Room 26AB
Friday, July 21 • 12:30-1:30pm • Room 8
Comic-Con special guest Denis Kitchen looks back on his 35-year relationship with Will Eisner, from the unlikely friendship that formed between a scruffy underground comix publisher and a buttoned-down businessman to the creative and publishing partnership that brought The Spirit to a new generation and helped give birth to the graphic novel.
Friday, July 21 • 1:30-2:30pm • Room 8
If Jack Kirby were as immortal as his work, he’d be 100 years old next month . . . and he’s still here in spirit and impact. Today a group of his family members and closest friends will talk about the man they knew, the man whose genius revolutionized the comic book industry again and again, and they’ll even tell you what he liked on his pizza. Your moderator is former Kirby assistant Mark Evanier (author, Kirby: King of Comics).
The 29th annual Eisner Awards (the “Oscars” of the comics industry) honor comics creators and works in 30 categories… Other prestigious awards to be given out include the Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award, the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award, and the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comics Writing.
This is the 13th year for presentation of the Bill Finger Award… The 2017 recipients are William Messner-Loebs (Superman, the Flash, Aquaman, Mr. Monster, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Dr. Fate, Jonny Quest, Spider-Man,Thor, Journey) and… Jack Kirby! …The awards will be presented by Mark Evanier.
Saturday, July 22 • 11:00am – 12:00pm • Room 4
Originally a syndicated Sunday newspaper comic insert, Will Eisner’s The Spirit is still acclaimed for its great artwork, imaginative splash pages, unforgettable characters, and attention-grabbing storytelling. Hear Danny Fingeroth (Spider-Man group editor, comics historian), Denis Kitchen (publisher, writer, comix cartoonist), Jeff Smith (cartoonist, Bone,RASL), Joe Staton (cartoonist, Dick Tracy) and, on videotape, Jules Feiffer (Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning cartoonist and screenwriter) talk about the impact of The Spirit on their own careers. Hear about their favorite Spirit adventures and learn why Will Eisner’s original Spiritstories are still in print today with new comics appearing monthly.
Saturday, July 22 • 1:00-2:00pm • Room 25ABC
Featuring an impressive library of more than 1,300 pages of Kirby original DC and Marvel artwork — the largest showing ever! IDW president Greg Goldstein hosts this stellar birthday tribute with a groundbreaking slide show, featuring art from eight different Artist’s Editions plus some surprises. The panel features superstar creators Walter Simonson and Kevin Eastman, who will share their Kirby remembrances and influences, along with senior editor Scott Dunbier and creative director at IDW PDX Dirk Wood. Everyone who attends will receive a “birthday” gift! One lucky fan will go home with an Artist’s Edition!
Saturday, July 22 • 2:00-3:00pm • Room 29AB
Sunday, July 23 • 10:00-11:15am • Room 4
Continuing the celebration of the Kirby Centennial, this is the annual panel about Comic-Con’s first superstar guest, the man they call “The King of Comics,” Jack Kirby. Jack left us in 1994, but his influence on comics, film, and this convention has never been greater. Discussing the man and his work this year are Jim Chadwick (editor at DC Comics), Paul Levitz (former president at DC Comics), Mike Royer (Kirby’s favorite inker), attorney Paul S. Levine, and several highly surprising surprise guests. Naturally, it’s moderated by former Kirby assistant Mark Evanier.
Sunday, July 23 • 2:45-3:45pm • Room 5AB
Andrea Colvin (Lion Forge), Gina Gagliano (First Second), Kurt Hassler (Yen Press), Heidi MacDonald (The Beat), and Filip Sablik (BOOM! Studios) talk about the challenges and opportunities of selling graphic novels into traditional book markets. Moderated by John Shableski (Will Eisner Studios and Udon Entertainment).