Jack Kirby vs. Marvelon July 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm
Not so long ago, last I heard, The Comics Journal posted video statements from several well known creators done for a panel hosted by Craig Fischer at the just completed HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC. Somehow or other, my testimony was included with the esteemed Steve Bissette, James Sturm, John Morrow and my bud,Kirby expert extra-ordinaire, Charles Hatfield. I was honored to be included.
Taping the statement was a lot more difficult than I had thought it would be, there was so much to say, and so little time to say it in-I found myself stumbling through a pre-written statement at least 20 times before I quit in frustration. It was my wife, deb, who took the camera from my hand, pulled me aside, and said: “Why don’t you just tell me what’s going on with Kirby and Marvel?”
The result is the snippet you might have seen in the video on the TCJ website. I’m including that snippet above–and a more formal version of the same thing (done for Craig so he’d have something to choose from) expounding a bit further on my attitude towards this stain on comics history.
I have very little to add to my taped statements, except to say–I am no lawyer, and I’m not speaking from a perspective that holds this law (copyright law from what–1976? in which “work for hire” is supposedly defined) sacrosanct. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the legality of copyright law. But my own feeling is that said law perpetuates a situation in which the artist/creator is unavoidably and automatically placed in subservience to the corporate mechanism; implicit in this arrangement is the idea that the purchase power of the corporation or business entity supersedes justice, morality, notions of equity, fair play and decency, and; in situations like the recent ruling in the Kirby/Marvel case; our judicial system has sacrificed those vaunted principles to the power of the almighty dollar, the dominance of the corporate worldview in which corporations are “people” with all of the rights but none of the responsibilities of citizens, to capitalism run rampant over all we hold dear as a society.
Who can say that Siegel and Shuster were not screwed, conned, robbed, whatever you want to call it- out their rightful ownership of “Superman’? $135. ????!!!! The original sin of comic book history, the exploitation–or con, if you will, of two teenage rubes from Ohio, has become-in legal history, comics history-the rule by which all subsequent laws are made. In matters like Kirby vs. Marvel-we see that injustice played out to absurd and despicable ends. I’m sure members of the crew made more out of The Avengers movie than the Kirby family has. This doesn’t sound absurd to people? This isn’t unjust?
Finally, I revere Jack Kirby. His influence is all over my work; from the images and visualizations in my drawing to the use of collage and mixed media-he’s everywhere. To me, Kirby-in partnership with Stan Lee-explored and fulfilled the most profound possibilities of the superhero comic book like no other creators before or since. But in the end, Jack Kirby alone brought a boundless imagination and monumental graphic sensibility to these little 12 cent pamphlets–for no reward- more than the paycheck he received and the fulfillment of his own limitless creative energy. I hope the time has come, in which justice will be served, and Jack Kirby’s name will be on the masthead and in the movie theaters and on thousands of royalty checks sent to the Kirby family. I hope the time has finally come to wipe away the stain of comics’ original sin.
the expanded( and more formal) version of my HeroesCon clip: