Category Archives: News

Kirby Day: What a Blast!

Kirby4Heroes

Two days ago, Thursday, August 28, was Kirby Day—that is, Jack Kirby’s birthday. It brought a delightful outpouring of remembrance and appreciation that spilled over into Friday. The Kirby4Heroes campaign took the occasion to raise money for The Hero Initiative—I hope they were able to raise a lot!

It’s never too late to donate to The Hero Initiative. 🙂

I was glad to contribute to Kirby Day in my own small way: with a posting at Acts of Geek (also run here on my blog), and by taking part in the big two-part (one, two) celebration over at Comics Alliance.

I went a little Twitter crazy on the 28th, tweeting links to online examples of top-notch Kirby scholarship, Kirby appreciation, and Kirbyana. For the record, here are the things I linked to (besides those mentioned above):

Requiem for Jack Kirby (2001)

Of course I also followed the #WakeUpAndDraw campaign on Twitter, which you see here:

(Dig this Hollywood Reporter article about #WakeUpAndDraw!)

Congratulations to Jillian Kirby and her family for leading the charge on Kirby Day! As far as I’m concerned, it’s now a genuine holiday. 🙂

 

Celebrate Kirby Day by helping Kirby4Heroes!

August 28, 2014, just over two weeks from now, would have been the 97th birthday of Jack Kirby, who passed away twenty years ago, in 1994, at the age of seventy-six.

Kirby means so much to the history of comics that I believe his birthday ought to be, for fans, a holiday—a day of remembrance, celebration, and thanks. I think of it that way myself. As Tom Spurgeon has observed, over at The Comics Reporter,

there seems to be a slowly developing movement to honor Kirby on his birthday,

and I’m glad to participate in and encourage that. Kirby Day: a day for acknowledging comics, cartoonists, and in particular the history of the American comic book.

Kirby Day! I like the sound of that. And it can be much more than a private celebration among fans—it can be a way to give back:

Kirby4Heroes Facebook page--please lend your support!Kirby’s family continues to celebrate his birthday by supporting veteran comic book creators through The Hero Initiative, a federally chartered, not-for-profit organization dedicated to honoring and helping creators in need. Since 2012 Jack’s granddaughter Jillian Kirby has spearheaded the Kirby4Heroes campaign to raise money for the Initiative on his birthday. In the spirit of generosity that Kirby himself championed, the Initiative seeks 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.” In 2012 Kirby4Heroes raised $6000 for the Initiative, and in 2013 it raised $10,000. This year Jillian has set the goal of $15,000. I urge my readers to help reach that goal!

On August 28, Kirby Day, select comic book shops across the country will be donating a portion of their sales to The Hero Initiative. Some stores will also be hosting special events, as will as the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco and other organizations. ComicsPRO, the professional organization of comic book retailers, has endorsed Kirby4Heroes, and many comics artists will be lending their time and talents as well. (Follow #WakeUpAndDraw on Twitter on Aug. 28th!)

Supporting Kirby4Heroes is simple. Besides shopping at your local comics store on August 28, you can donate online or by mail. To donate online, visit The Hero Initiative at heroinitiative.org (and be sure to type “Kirby4Heroes” in the space for “special instructions”). To donate by mail, send a check to:

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

Be sure to make out your checks to The Hero Initiative!

The Hero Initiative

For more information about Kirby4Heroes, check out the Kirby4Heroes website and this article at Hero Complex (the Los Angeles Times‘s pop culture blog). Also, visit the campaign’s Facebook page, and watch Jillian’s video about the campaign via YouTube, courtesy of the Nerdist Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQbKLQkDa6k

Unfortunately, I can’t embed the video here, since WordPress doesn’t play ball with YouTube, but click through the link and you’ll see it. Here’s a screenshot:

Kirby4Heroes video screenshot

I hope all of my readers will consider supporting Kirby4Heroes. Celebrate Kirby Day by lending veteran creators a helping hand!

RIP Dick Ayers (1924-2014)

Ayers Cartoonist Profile

I’m sorry to report the passing of Dick Ayers, the Eisner Hall of Fame cartoonist, who is best known as a longtime Marvel artist and prolific Jack Kirby inker but did quite a bit of other work as well—in penciling, inking, lettering, coloring, basically in just about every aspect of comics production. He did all this not just for Marvel, but for many other publishers too. His historic career in comic books and comic strips made him, for fans, a living link to the fondly remembered roots of the business.

Ghost Rider #6 (1951)

Ghost Rider #6 (Magazine Enterprises, 1951)

Ayers’ full-time comics career spanned from about 1947-48 to the mid-80s, tapering off after that, but he continued to cartoon into the 2000s. From his early work for Magazine Enterprises, for which he co-created the horror-tinged Western character Ghost Rider, to his late-career work for DC, Archie, and Bill Black’s AC, Ayers was a jack-of-all-trades comics artist who put his hand to many different genres and trends. He had a particular yen for Western and war comics.

Avengers #1 (1963)

The Avengers #1 (Marvel, 1963), cover by Kirby, Ayers, and letterer Artie Simek

It is Ayers’ Silver Age work for Marvel that fans are most likely to remember today: he penciled Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos (co-created by Kirby) for a heroic ten-year run (1964-1974), and inked Kirby on scads of comics, including Westerns, monster tales, and, most famously, seminal superhero comics such as The Fantastic Four, “The Human Torch” (in Strange Tales), and The Avengers. Whenever I think of Ayers, I see comic books like The Avengers #1 and Fantastic Four Annual #1 (both 1963) in my mind’s eye.

By all accounts, Ayers loved being a comics artist. He was said to be an easygoing and generous man, and took great pride in revisiting his accomplishments and recalling old times (an interview between Ayers and Roy Thomas in Alter Ego #10, from 2001, gives a glimpse into his very early days). In recent years he had been an enthusiastic comics convention-goer as well as commission artist, often recreating iconic covers from his comic book heyday.

My condolences to Mr. Ayers’ family, friends, and fans. I am sorry to know that he is gone.

Links: I recommend my readers visit comics historian Blake Bell’s blog for a touching reminiscence of visiting Ayers at his home back in 2001-2002 (the photo at the bottom of this post comes from there).

Tense Suspense #2 (1959)

Tense Suspense #2 (Fago Magazines, 1959)

Sgt Fury #38 (1967)

Sgt Fury #38 (Marvel, 1967)

Mighty Marvel Western #11 (1970)

Mighty Marvel Western #11 (Marvel, 1970)

Fantastic Four #10 (1963)

Original page by Kirby, Ayers, and letterer Artie Simek for Fantastic Four #10 (Marvel, 1963)

Strange Tales #89 (1961)

Original page by Kirby, Ayers, and letterer Artie Simek [?] for “Fin Fang Foom” (Strange Tales #89, Marvel, 1961)

Fantastic Four Annual #1 (1963)

Splash from Fantastic Four Annual #1 (Marvel, 1963), by Kirby, Ayers, and Simek

Ayers in his studio, by Blake Bell

Dick Ayers at home in his studio, photographed by Blake Bell c. 2001

Kirby Estate Appeals to US Supreme Court

Today brings Kirby news on the legal front—specifically, an important new development in the Marvel v. Kirby case.

The legal news site Law360, the entertainment industry news site Deadline Hollywood, and several comics news sites, such as CBR’s Robot 6 blog and Bleeding Cool, are reporting that on March 21 Jack Kirby’s heirs petitioned the US Supreme Court to review the case.

To be precise, the Kirby estate filed a petition requesting a writ of certiorari—essentially, they have asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal and reconsider the opinion handed down last August by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. That opinion reaffirmed the original ruling of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York (July 2011), which had favored Marvel, denying the Kirbys’ case.

The Second Circuit’s decision last August appeared to all but close the door on Marvel v. Kirby. Though the Kirbys petitioned the Second Circuit for a rehearing, their request was denied in October. However, the March 21 petition—which from here on out I’ll refer to as the Cert Petition—may yet reopen the door, at the highest court in the land.

I refer my readers once again to attorney Jeff Trexler’s Comics Journal article from last August, “Taking Back the Kirby Case,” and to the coverage at Deadline Hollywood for a reasonably complete timeline of the case, including legal documents (the original ruling of July 2011; the Second Circuit’s appeal decision, August 2013; the Cert Petition, 21 March 2014). Over the coming week, I will try to embed PDFs of these documents right here at this blog.

I’m at a loss as far as knowing what to say about this case that I have not said before. It’s a complicated and vexing case, certainly. It’s important. Because the case centers on work-for-hire law, it keeps dragging me back to the difference between legality and justice (a point I’ve examined here previously). If the Supreme Court takes up the case—which, as so many commentators have already pointed out, is a big if—it could be a game-changer.

Suffice it to say that I wish the Kirby family success, in the name of justice and a better, more honest history of the American comic book.

History was made at this board, on both coasts

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.