Tagged: Fourth World

Mike Gold: Jack Kirby’s Moxie

Next Monday marks the 100th anniversary of Jack Kirby’s birth. For one horrible moment, let us consider the following question: what if that birth never happened?

No Captain America. No Fourth World. Probably no romance comics. No Challengers of the Unknown. No Kamandi. No “Marvel Age of Comics.”

Think about that last one for a moment. The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Hulk, Nick Fury, Thor, Silver Surfer, Black Panther… most likely, they would not have existed; certainly not as the astonishing successes they were.

I will avoid suggesting the American comic book medium would have disappeared decades ago if not for Jack Kirby, although a case could be made for that argument. If Marvel Comics didn’t happen the way it happened, it’s possible that direct sales to comic book stores would not have happened, and that little phenomenon certainly has kept this racket alive.

Nobody put more power, more energy, more excitement onto a single page. Even when he dialogued his own work when he created the Fourth World for DC Comics – and, to be fair, his dialogue was damn close to self-parody – his story, his concepts and his ability to deliver sheer entertainment were so strong the reader would forgive his few shortcomings. In fact, after a couple panels, we usually didn’t notice.

From time to time, artists of subsequent generations would be accused of being too “Kirby-esque.” Well, all artists (including writers, musicians, filmmakers, etc.) tend to reveal their influences, particularly in their early stuff. In comics, there always has been a fine line between influence and imitation. And that applies to Jack himself: the visage of Etrigan the Demon, first published in 1972, bears very close resemblance to a mask worn by Prince Valiant on Christmas Day 1937, drawn by the great Hal Foster. And Jack always was upfront about the source material.

I look at this “influence” thing a bit differently. Instead of accusing an artist of being Kirby-esque, I wonder why some of the others are not. In the early days of their careers, a little Jack Kirby moxie would have helped guide them to their own distinctive abilities.

Sometimes I wonder if some later generation of comics talent will not know of Jack Kirby’s work. I have met many a young’un who was sadly unfamiliar with the work of Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff, Wally Wood, Jack Cole… to name but a few.

I need not worry. If there is one person who has an indelible legacy in the comic art medium, it is Jack Kirby.

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Plug number one: I will be at Wizard World Chicago starting tomorrow, and I will be on two panels: one discussing the bombastic Doctor Who convention of 1982, the first major big-time Who show in the States. For three hot, sweaty days Chicago’s Congress Hotel looked like the San Diego Convention Center on steroids. The other panel will be a tribute to legendary artist Jerry Robinson, on occasion of the publishing of Jerry’s last memoir, Jerry and The Joker. Both panels are on Saturday.

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Plug number two: Martha Thomases said it best last Friday, and since I’m about to drive off to the above-mentioned convention I shall re-appropriate her words:

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You might also want to pledge so you can get a cool book, with stories by Neil Gaiman, Trina Robbins, Rachel Pollack, Becky Cloonan, Stuart Moore, Mark Said, Amber Benson, Louise Simonson, Jody Houser… and Mike Gold… and Martha Thomases!

Ed Catto: Planning for Geek

There’s a big year ahead in Geek Culture with lots to look forward to. Upon reflection, I feel like should have more clearly defined plans.

Cosplayers are the best at looking ahead and especially planning their convention attendance. The inherent creativity and creation of cosplay demands disciplined convention selection and scheduling. Cosplay entails developing elaborate timelines so that cosplayers have the necessary time to envision, plan, purchase materials and sew and/or assemble their cosplay costumes. And of course, so many cosplayers create multiple costumes. The finished products are impressive, and the work it takes to get there is impressive.

I’d like to attend several conventions this year and have my favorites. But in general, I find myself really looking forward to the smaller ones. That might be just because I’ve had so many great experiences at the big ones. And as a very impatient guy, I hate waiting in lines but I kind of like those big crowds at big shows.

But I think there’s something else going on.

There are many small shows that are very professionally run. They serve as a counterbalance to the chaotic frenzy of the larger comic-cons. Maybe their growth is part of the emerging “shop local” or “homegrown” trends. So, for me, shows like Ithacon, NJ Comic Expo, Salt City Comic-Con and Awesome Con are all on the radar this year.

There also bog two centennial birthdays to celebrate this year.

March marks the annual Will Eisner Week. Danny Fingeroth and The Eisner Foundation organize of series events nationwide at Comic Shops and libraries. I’d like to get one going locally, in fact. I never tire of Eisner’s work and we can all continue to argue about the validity or obsolescence of the term “graphic novel.”

Jack Kirby, the King of Comics, was born 100 years ago too. The more we understand the vast tapestry of comic creators, the more we can appreciate the many creators who contributed to comics. In fact, sometimes I’m surprised when speaking to industry professionals or historians, and they’ll casually categorize Kirby as a creator, just like any other.  That’s probably a rational way to approach the man and his work, but…

I was part of the generation that was taught to revere all his work. We believed all the hype. “Don’t ask: Just Buy It!” was a command we eagerly obeyed.

One event I’m looking forward to is the clever Kirby-themed issue of Back Issue! just announced, even though it’s not scheduled for publication until 2018. Back Issue! #104 is all about “The Fourth World After Kirby,” and the articles will be focusing on all the series and creators that followed in Kirby’s huge footsteps.

And there’s one other artist that I’m definitely going to have to learn about this year.

Two weeks ago, Disney and Warner Brothers artist Tyrus Wong died at the age of 106. The New York Times reported his passing on the front page. As a Chinese American, Wong suffered great hardships and bias throughout his life, but somehow he managed to become the guiding creative force behind Disney’s Bambi. He worked in the Warner Bros animation division for years after that.  His artistic vision was so great that he even contributed to live action films like Rebel Without A Cause and The Sands of Iwo Jima.

Wong has been given overdue credit, most notably in major exhibition at the Disney Family Museum and in a documentary called Tyrus. But most of his life seemed defined by enduring racial prejudice while producing incredible artwork. I’m looking forward to learning more about this fascinating artist.

These are my shoot-from-hip plans for Geek Culture in 2017. What are yours?