Monday, 5 September 2016

"Don’t Do Comics. Comics Will Break Your Heart."

Jack Kirby (1992)
Photo by Susan Sakar 
...The long battle between Kirby and Marvel had -- for now -- been laid to rest. While the details of the 2014 settlement between Marvel and the Kirby family are secret, it's likely -- given the amount Marvel stood to lose if the case went to trial -- that the terms were generous. But while Kirby's family may have finally gotten some measure of compensation, they are very much the exception....

...It's a well known fact in the comics industry and fandom that while superhero films make hundreds of millions at the box office, many creators of classic characters rarely see a dime for their work. They often have to rely on charity organizations like the Hero Initiative -- founded to help comic artists in financial need -- if they're alive, and they have little to leave to their families after they're dead. This is, of course, completely legal under current definitions of copyright law, regulations that have been repeatedly altered to help protect the corporations that hoard intellectual property. But it’s also the sort of thing the companies in question largely prefer not to talk about. Marvel's "Kirby Week" content all links to Kirby4Heroes, a program created by Kirby's granddaughter Jillian that raises money for the Hero Initiative while neglecting to discuss why such a program might need to exist.

All of which makes Marvel's celebration of "Kirby Week" so bittersweet. Kirby's vast legacy marches on. So, unfortunately, does its shadow: the long history of the industry using up artists and tossing them aside like so much crumpled paper. There’s a famous anecdote told by James Romberger, the artist of the graphic novel Seven Miles a Second. In the 1980s, Romberger met Kirby at a convention and showed him some of his work. "Kid, you’re one of the best," The King said, looking over the portfolio. "Don’t do comics. Comics will break your heart."

Jack Kirby


Dave Sim said...

Makes me admire the Steve Ditkos of the world all the more: "A deal's a deal." He got paid what he got paid to work on SPIDER-MAN. He was a big boy, he knew what he was doing. When you're talking about a billion-dollar property, THAT's almost unimaginable ethical integrity.

Good to see more people talking about it, anyway.

It's true comics will break your heart, but I don't think Jack Kirby regretted his decisions.

Arguably: don't put your HEART into comics. Use your HEAD.

Tony Dunlop said...

I'm sorry, but Marvel doing something called "Kirby Week" isn't "bittersweet;" it's obscene.

Dave Sim said...

Tony - Anything you can think of that Marvel could do that could push it toward "bittersweet" and away from "obscene"? I have to think that they -- and Disney -- must be aware that they have an EXTREMELY "bad optics" situation on their hands.

Tony again said...

Actually I haven't given half a thought to Marvel since the mid-80s - but considering Jack's dead, and how they shat on him when he wasn't? Um, no.