2006 Jack Kirby Tribute Panel at Comic-Con September 10, 2012 – Posted in: A Picture's Worth, Blog, Featured Columns – Tags: ,

A Picture’s Worth #97 – “2006 Jack Kirby Tribute Panel at Comic-Con”

Contents ©2012 Mike Pascale. Visuals copyright and trademark their respective owners.

I was digging around and found a treat from the past. Back in 2006, I contributed a wrap-up of a couple panels to the Comics Buyer’s Guide web site. Since that was awhile before I began this blog, I figured hey, it’s new to you! Since Jack Kirby would have turned 95 a little over a week ago, I figured this would be a good time to revisit a nice tribute to the man and his work by some of his famous peers and co-workers. Peppered throughout is of course, art by Jack. Some inked by Mike Royer, plus a CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN page inked by Wally Wood. Enjoy!

From the Jack Kirby Tribute Panel, hosted by Mark Evanier: guests included Mike Royer, John Romita, Neal Adams, George Perez, and the gentleman who served as Kirby’s lawyer during the (in)famous Johnny Carson incident (more on that below).

 

When asked “What was your first Jack Kirby comic?”, Neal Adams gave an unusual, impassioned, and insightful five-minute response complete with dramatic pauses and sound effects (of explosions). He described the jarring feeling of going from “normal” comics to a Kirby comic as a kid in the 50s, along with Kirby’s effects on the industry, storytelling and art styles. Adams concluded with the statement, “The industry always tried to catch up to Jack Kirby…I don’t think they ever did.” The crowd applauded enthusiastically. Evanier then said, “I think that’s the best reply to that question I’ve ever gotten.”

Long-time Kirby inker Mike Royer told the story of how he was recruited to Kirby’s DC work (he was picked by Kirby and not DC editors) and the intimidation factor of working on the master’s pencils. He also thought that, having inked Kirby for so much of his career (and from early on), that his own art style perhaps never fully developed.

Classic Kirby/Royer images.

George Perez (whose last name was mispronounced by Evanier; the accent is actually on the first syllable, which has the usual mark above the ‘e’ that I am unable to duplicate on my keyboard) spoke admiringly about Kirby, being a fan from his first exposure. Kirby’s work on team books such as THE CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN, FF and THE AVENGERS helped influence Perez how to handle team books.

John Romita said that early on he tried to “ape Jack as much as possible” because he had the intimidating task of following Kirby on FF when JK moved to DC in the early ’70s. Romita thought Marvel would cancel the book because no one could follow Kirby. Instead, Stan told John to draw it till they found a replacement. 
Romita explained his philosophy that anyone following a long-time creator, especially one of Kirby’s stature, owes it to the readers to try to continue as much in that vein as possible, because that is who they are expecting when they buy the book. He contrasted that with today’s artists (and writers) who seem to want to throw out everything done previously and start over.

Kirby at his absolute finest.

When Romita was teamed with Kirby on two issues of DAREDEVIL (12 and 13, John’s first Silver Age Marvel pencilling work), he explained that Kirby provided breakdowns, which varied from simple silhouettes (often with initials for character names) to usually one “beautifully drawn panel or page”; the purpose of these were to “breakdown” the plot into panels, essentially pacing the story. Romita said those those two issues taught him how to draw “the Marvel way” and served as a “crash course” in cinematic storytelling.

Adams went into detail about his experiences, observations and opinions while at DC during Kirby’s ’70s stint. He thought DC’s editors at the time were trying to turn Kirby’s art into “marshmallow” with the scratchy, soft inking of the early Fourth World books; so much so that Adams would at times try to re-ink portions with harder, heavier lines better suited to Kirby’s style. Adams gave some strong negative opinions regarding DC management’s treatment of Kirby during that time.

Romita revealed that he had an opportunity to work with Jack during 1948-1949 after applying to the Simon and Kirby studio; however, he said he lacked the confidence and did not pursue it. 
Many years later, when telling Kirby of this, Jack told John that he should have, that they really could’ve used him.

Lisa Kirby, from the audience, thanked everyone in the room for keeping her father’s memory alive and supporting his work. A gentleman from the audience mentioned the newly-formed Kirby museum and its need for members.

Lisa Kirby thanking the audience.

 

The Deluxe Edition of the FANTASTIC FOUR DVD will feature a bonus Kirby tribute piece with comments from several comics creators including Tim Sale and Barry Windsor-Smith. A portion of the tribute was shown at the panel.

Also shown to the crowd was an excerpt of a sales video starring Stan Lee that was shown to television stations to interest them in the original Marvel cartoons in the 1960s (those starring Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner and Thor). Featured in the video were shots of spinning comic racks and close-ups of several Marvel comic covers of the time. Lee remarked that “for the first time in animation history”, the cartoons would contain artwork and stories by the same artists and writers of the comic books.

Evanier and Jack Kirby’s lawyer told the story of the only time Kirby sued anyone. In one of his opening monologues of the 1970s, Johnny Carson mentioned that an LA-area company had shown a 3-D horror movie (hosted by Elvira who was also a guest on the show at the time) and sold 3-D glasses at local stores for 99 cents. He held up a pair of the glasses to joke about the quality and price, but was apparently holding glasses that came with Kirby and Ray Zone’s comic, BATTLE FOR A THREE-DIMENSIONAL WORLD instead.


Carson read the glasses’ printed inscription to the audience: “Designed by Jack Kirby, king of the comics.” Mistaking the word “comics” as slang for “comedians”, Carson was unfamiliar with the name and sarcastically asked who Jack Kirby was; when sidekick Ed McMahon replied, “King of the comics”, Carson quipped, “King of the con-men as far as I’m concerned!” 
Kirby, who had been recuperating from a mild heart attack earlier, was devastated by this—his reputation, his name, meant everything to him. After contacting the lawyer, letters were sent and calls were made to NBC. The show had aired on a Friday and the following week Carson was on vacation. The next Monday upon Carson’s return, Johnny formally apologized to Kirby on the show. (Kirby was not a guest, unfortunately.) Jack also received a cash settlement. Both segments were shown to the enthusiastic crowd, with various “ooohs” and applause at the appropriate moments. 
All in all, an informative and insightful bit of history on one of comicdom’s all-time greats.

Left: Johnny Carson tries on 3D glasses in a video where he unwittingly mocks the “King Of The Comics”, not realizing there was a real one named Kirby! Right: A certain Kirby collaborator who curiously has more hair now than he did in the ‘60s. Shades of William Shatner!

Thanks,As always, let me know what YOU think in the Comments section.

Mike

P.S.: Want a personal, original commission of your favorite Jack Kirby character? Or any other? Just ask Craig here!

 

 

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