Monday, July 19, 2010

Found For Thought

Jack Kirby Special 1

For the next few weeks I will be changing my normal routine to bring you a set of stories that should (and probably will) be collected by DC at some point. At the end of the fifties, Jack Kirby had fallen on bad times. His selfpublishing adventure with Joe Simon had gone wrong and the two friend, who had worked together for more than 15 years had parted ways. Joe Simon had taken on an editing job as Harvey Comics and went on to do advertising and several projects of his own (including the minor succes of 'not nearly but enough to be seen as such' Mad imitator Sick in the early sixties). Kirby first went back to Stan Lee to do several jobs, including a couple of impressive western comics. But Stan Lee had his own stable of artists, not in the least Joe Maneely, who could work almost as fast and was just about as versitile as Kirby. So when he managed to get work from the most highly regarded and best paying publisher around, DC, he focused all his energy on that. Since DC is a superhero publisher and superheroes still dominate the marketplace after all these years, Kirby's work for The Green Arrow and The Challangers has been reprinted. But the sf, he-man and fantasy stories he did for DC's enthology titles House of Mystery, House of Secrets and My Greatest Adventures have not been represented to todays readers yet. Still, it's these stories that loom large in most discussions about teh amount of writing Kirby did on his own work. There are many people out there, who believe that Jack Kirby was such a powerhouse creator, that he must have written most of his own short stories, including the pre-hero monster stories he did for Marvel (eventhough Larry Lieber has stated that he wrot them, full-script even, after which they were edited and rewritten by his brother Stan Lee) and even the early superhero stories signed by Stan Lee. Or that he at least plotted them and used notes to give Stan Lee an indication for the dialogue. Although this certainly is the case in some of the later superhero stories, I am not convinced. Even in the cases where there is evidence of notes in the sidlines of the original art, we don't know if these notes were written before or after the art was drawn and we don't know if they were a reflection of Kirby's intentions or a shorthand for Kirby himsef of Lee's intentions (weather they would have been discussed in person, on the phone or transmitted through a script).

On argument often used in this discussion, is the fact that many of the pre-hero stories Kirby did at Marvel before the new superheroes were created, use the same subjects and themes as some of Kirby's earlier DC stories. Surely, Kirby much have used these from his own work, leaving unanswered the question if he wrote the DC versions himself or if they were given to him in script form. I think they must have been given to him in script form, given that the then current prctice at DC was that writers discussed their stories with the editors and that the artists opinion was never asked. Given the fact that Kirby may have been respected back then, he was at a low point of his career and I don't think that the editors at DC, who were not the most respectful editors in the bussiness anyway (although Jack Schiff seems to have been an exception) would have been inclined to act any different.

I have collected most of not all of these DC stories and will be sharing them here over the next couple of weeks. I will not be here to join in a discussion as I am on holiday, but I hope they will prove a resource that we can refer back to on one of the many lists that like to dabble in that type of thing.

Or you can just enjoy the stories and Jack Kirby's more than excellent art.

From House of Mystery #61:


Runs.with.Ferals said...

yay ! I loves me some hard to find Kirby ! Thanx for posting Ger !

Duane Spurlock said...

Very nice! Thanks for sharing.