INKSTUDS and “AVENGERS ASS…..” oh damn it all to hell.
well, the INKSTUDS interview is up and running. i like this show a lot, and am always happy to talk comics with Robin, the host. check it out.
when i did the interview, afterwards i immediately felt like i had not done very good job expressing my feelings about the ongoing Jack Kirby/ Marvel/ Avengers situation, and began typing out what you see below. so i’ve been typing this over the course of the week–some of it is redundant, and i go off on some tangents, but skip to the bold type half-way down for the crux of the thing. also, for clarity’s sake– in the interview, at around 51 minutes, i’m talking about the Hero Initiative, and stop my sentence and say “I don’t want to give them a DIME of my money”. to be clear, my brain misfired and i am now talking about MARVEL, not the Hero Initiative, that i “don’t want to give a dime” to. i DO want to give the Hero Initiative a dime, and i would like them to receive a great many dimes, now and in the future, from me and many other people. anyway, here goes.
it’s old news now, but the Avengers movie has cracked a billion dollars. far past what anyone expected, apparently, and people expected quite a bit. the thing is huge , and it’s only just begun. as all you nerd readers know full well, there’s been a bunch of controversy in our little world about all this of late, mostly centering around one man– Jack Kirby.
we all know who Jack Kirby is: how he is responsible for (at the very least) half of the creation of a majority of the characters in this movie, and lets face it: much of the American Comics industry as we know it. i could go on about Kirby at great length (and someday i might), but for now lets just say– NOBODY is denying that Jack Kirby had a critical part in establishing and creating the foundational framework (both visually and otherwise) that all these characters rest upon. NOBODY. i’m not saying Stan Lee didn’t have his part in that, but come on. and all you nerds will also know the incredibly shitty treatment Kirby got while he was alive from Marvel, and that continues almost 20 years past his death. however you cut it, this man has had a hand in earning Marvel BILLIONS of dollars in revenue; that is not a made-up, inflated-for-effect number. Avengers movie aside, you’ve got the Hulk movies. and Thor. and the X-Men. and…that’s just movies– not comics, not licensing, not lunchboxes or underoos or Comic Books, for that matter.
and what did he get in return? in the 80′s, Marvel refusing to return his original art to him, on top of a bunch of other egregious, insulting BS. these days, just constant legal stonewalling and a near-total denial of his legacy; no credit beyond some intermittent lip service, and certainly not a damn bit of money. and that, everyone, is plain wrong. it’s been wrong for a long time but this new wrinkle makes it even uglier. a billion dollars.
there’s been a slew of different ideas in the comics community regarding how to deal with this– from all-out boycotts of Marvel, to creators leaving in protest, to giving to worthy comics creator advocacy groups like The Hero Initiative and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
i hate to say it, but with this thing hitting a billion dollars in 19 days, “hitting them where it counts– in the pocketbook!” makes sense, but in this case…well, too late. they’ve got a BILLION DOLLARS in said pocketbook, and the whole problem here is that that really is all they give a shit about in the first place (this, of course, has nothing to do with what each individual’s conscience might dictate). and the response to the Hero Initiative has been just over $2000 as of this writing. which– don’t get me wrong– is great; it’s $2k that wasn’t there before the movie, that’ll go towards a good cause. but in the face of the other number, it’s rough.
between this and the recent “Before Watchmen” stink, all i know of the world of mainstream comics is this: you all SUCK. i’ve been WAY out of that loop for a good long time and seeing the reaction to this stuff is pretty horrifying and unbelievable. someone comes out and says “there’s a moral point to all this, beyond the (dubious) legal point” and the fanboys descend like flies on a not-quite dead corpse. Alan Moore saying “this is terrible. i don’t want money, i want this to not happen”? the faithful legions respond with “well, it’s nobody’s fault but their own if they signed a shitty contract” and “why can’t those cranky, bitter old hacks just be quiet?”. and it’s not just that, it’s delivered with a sort of righteous indignation that makes me fear for the future– it’s as if they DESERVE to not take any of these issues into account whatsoever, and HOW DARE anyone intrude upon their little world.
why? because they want to enjoy their arrested development entertainment with a clear conscience, and all this other stuff muddies the water in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
but this whole attitude also extends to the “creative” types who RUN these 2 companies, which is unbelievable to me; to a certain extent, it can be expected from the top of these heaps– the controlling entities of Disney and…what, is it Warner Brothers? all they know or care about is that Marvel and DC are holdings, and this is the numbers these various holdings are yielding– they don’t care if it’s superheroes or belly bongos, as long as it’s paying. but the OTHER guys, it just boggles the mind– i mean, Jim Lee is/ was a cartoonist, correct?! some of the quotes from the dudes involved in the Watchmen knockoffs (J Michael somethingorother, i have to admit i know virtually nothing about this guy except that he’s a) popular and b) said some extraordinarily heinous shit regarding his involvement in Before Watchmen…and i don’t know about Darwyn Cooke, but i liked his Parker stuff…you really don’t give a rip? classy.) are displaying an astounding disregard for the concept of “shitting where you live”. you guys are supposedly in comics because you LIKE COMICS, right? have fun with your cash, folks. and do NOT come bitching when that beast comes and bites you on the ass; you are perpetuating this behavior.
what this all amounts to is, frankly, what’s wrong with the whole damn world (so it should be no surprise that it occurs in comics as well, i guess) and it’s this: “fuck you jack; i’m getting mine.” only in this case it’s a literal “Jack”.
and–Stan Lee is Stan Lee. my opinion of him changed considerably after reading Tom Spurgeon and Jordan Raphael’s excellent bio of him– in the comics world, he’s usually reviled or tolerated; to the rest of the world, he is the face of Marvel and comics in general and in a bigger way, comics as a whole (and another long piece that i’ll maybe never write someday is how damaging it’s been to have “Stan The Man!” as the public face of the artform here in the good old USA for 60 years; i mean, Tezuka was an intelligent, thoughtful humanitarian. Herge was an elegant, refined dude. Stan is, and always has been, the carnival barker in the goddamn geek tent.)
but with matters such as these, Stan Lee is a transparent opportunist at best, and at its worst a fucking coward. look at this guy: he’s reveling in it– he goes on to mention NEW and DIFFERENT superhero movies he’d love to see, that were ALSO created by Jack Kirby. and Stan Lee has made obscene amounts of money off of what he co-created (and before you ask– NO; i don’t begrudge him that money on that basis; as i said, he DID have his part. the problem with Stan is that he takes THE WHOLE PART. and yeah, the many people/ freelance writers and artists along the way who added to the Marvel mythos along the way, why aren’t THEY getting a cut as well? i don’t know. i mean, Capitol Records sure did write and record a lot of great Beatles songs. hell, we wouldn’t even KNOW about the Beatles if it weren’t for Capitol Records, am i right? and furthermore, it’s a damn good thing those 4 guys don’t get anything when anybody plays their songs on the radio or wherever; i mean, some of them have been dead for YEARS. same goes for, say, someone who covers one of their songs, records it and puts a new spin on it. those people shouldn’t and don’t get paid either, right? that’d be stupid.)
so, i don’t have any answers here. other than this: the world is the world and some things never change; there are people who have a gift for creating things and there are people who are very good at making money. very rarely do those 2 things coincide. and that whole– “well, there’s no excuse for stupidity and signing a bad contract– that’s YOUR OWN FAULT.” argument…yeah, fine. so that makes Marvel as a corporation– what, completely entitled to this, because they were able to pull this shit off for numerous decades? because they were SMARTER? i don’t know if that’s what i would call “smart”, necessarily. and in the end, i don’t care about what contracts Jack Kirby and Alan Moore signed– call me naive (and i probably am…) the legal system was supposedly set up as a means to determine and enforce what was “right” in society. thousands of people and numerous corporations making buckets of money off of this movie and the Kirby Estate not seeing a dime? that’s just wrong. where are all the Hollywood actors and their “real men don’t buy Marvel” signs now? more than one person has brought up the fact that all these untold millions have been made in a genre whose entire deal is creating hyper-moral characters who “uphold justice” and stand for “doing what is right”.
actually, over the course of writing this, i think i DO have an answer– not THE answer, but an idea anyway: it’s somewhat presumptive on my part, and it is NOT what “should” happen, but it falls under the category of “the least you could do”.
i think Marvel comics should pay for the Jack Kirby Museum. they should fund the thing in its entirety, right now– and not a temporary, pop-up (which would still be awesome), but a permanent, brick and mortar space. what is that– 10, 20 million bucks to do it right? that’s a drop in the bucket. and all profit from the museum in perpetuity could go to the Kirby estate.
and there’s where the presumption comes on my part– what SHOULD happen is that Kirby is given some credit on all his creations and a commensurate slice of the action. but i don’t think that’s going to happen; do you? so, this would be a simple, classy way to honor the man and his contribution, without endangering their precious legal status as “creators” of the work in question (and, again, as i write this– all of you who are yelling about “well, they did it under a work-for hire contract”, which, yes, is legally binding– what you are then saying is that THE CORPORATION IS THE CREATOR OF THE WORK AND CHARACTERS, both morally and legally. that, effectively, NO ONE CREATED the stuff, just this amorphous, profit yielding, non-human entity. you’re ok with that, as an ongoing and seemingly perpetual situation? HAVE FUN.)
from what i know of Jack Kirby, he would want his creations to help take care of his family, and that he would want a place his grandkids could go to see his life and work celebrated. if Marvel (or DC for that matter) would’ve ever just said, at ANY point; “this guy has been incredibly important in our success; let’s take care of him” (in the same way that a guy working at a Ford plant gets a pension) — not to the tune of millions of dollars (which, after all, is what Stan got), just taken care of the guy as a valued piece of their ongoing success– someone who shaped this thing at the outset, and set the template for what’s going on right now (which is, essentially, “making money hand over fist”), i don’t think you would’ve ever heard a peep from the Kirbys, the creators, anyone. that is, of course, just conjecture on my part, but i do think we’d be looking at a different thing than we are now. i mean, how much have they spent in legal defense on these issues?
what they probably want on the corporate level is for Jack Kirby to disappear. and more than boycotting the Avengers movie, i think that’s the most important thing here; not forgetting what this guy did, or allowing those people to forget. and obviously, this little community is where we keep that respect alive and vital– the general populace does not know who Jack Kirby was, and how it relates to taking the family out to a popcorn flick on Sunday. people IN comics are the ones who know the story, and care.
i actually believe that, framed in a less rant-fueled, angry setting, a campaign to get Marvel (and Kirby did no small amount of work/ creation for DC, either) to pony up for the museum is a pretty damn good idea, and i would urge saner, more reasonable minds who agree with this idea to put it forth in whatever way they deem fit.
look– i’m not even a superhero guy. i’m a fringe cartoonist who makes comics with funny animals yelling at each other. but Jack Kirby was a force of nature; the breadth of his ideas is incalculable, and that goes double for his VISUAL ideas. my respect and love for Kirby, and my appreciation of what he did with the art form i love, is absolutely without bounds. he was pure comics.
and i’ll tell you this: Herge hasn’t disappeared. nor has Tezuka. and Jack Kirby won’t, either.