"I Begrudge Stan Lee Nothing But Sole Credit": the Jack Kirby Tribute Panel at Wondercon
The Jack Kirby Tribute Panel was the last event I attended at this year's WonderCon, and it's always good to end a con with a panel that is sentimental and funny because it can help you forget any nonsense from the rest of the convention. And thanks to moderator Mark Evanier (one time assistant to Jack Kirby and all around entertaining man), Tom King (writer on Mister Miracle, Batman), Steve Sherman (a one time assistant to Jack Kirby with Evanier and master puppeteer), John Morrow (editor of the Jack Kirby Collector), Tom Kraft (President of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center), Paul S. Levine (Kirby's longtime attorney) I was not disappointed.
Evanier started talking about how he was surprised how often people talk to him about Kirby without having any idea about his connection to Kirby. He talked about going to Costco one time and picking up a CD-ROM set of Marvel's early books and the guy at the checkout said to Evanier, "This is the work of Jack Kirby, the greatest artist of all-time, and Marvel f-cked him over." Evanier than talked about how he was interviewed for Robert Kirkman's AMC comic book documentary and he was asked how he feels about Stan Lee making millions. Evanier said, "I begrudge Stan Lee nothing but sole credit." The quote was not used in the documentary.
Evanier said that when Kirby was in his prime he could do 23 pages in 5 days and that he usually watched the Spanish language channel while he was drawing because it didn't distract him from his work, but the sound and the music was a comfort. Evanier and Sherman said Gamera was Kirby's favorite movie because he liked to watch the turtle shoot fire out of his ass.
Morrow said the new Jack Kirby Collector would be out in 2 months, with the theme of fathers and sons. Evanier shared that Kirby wanted Evanier to be his Boswell (not the guy from Charlie's Angels, but the biographer) as he wanted Evanier to write a book about Kirby someday.
Sherman then read a excerpt from Joe Simon's autobiography, in which Joe says he had to share a room with Kirby, Evanier, and Sherman, and saying that one of them took out their teeth. Sherman said his teeth are all his and Evanier said he wasn't even at the convention. Levine shared that Kirby's unfinished novel, The Horde, was turned into a screenplay by Peter Burke and they were looking for Hollywood to make it into a movie.
Evanier then started interviewing King. King said he had been talking to the people who are making the New Gods movie and they are going to make it very Kirbyesque. The first Kirby that King read was about the history of Marvel Comics, then The Eternals, and an Avengers Masterworks book. When asked about his favorite Kirby, King said, "Mr. Miracle stands out." After he finished Vision, King said he wanted to work on something where he could be left alone. He was offered Atomic Knights and Mr. Miracle. He wanted to be able to deal with the New Gods, but Mr. Miracle appealed to him because of the romantic relationship. In relating his book to Kirby, he feels he simplified the metaphor of the New Gods for people.
King also said people ask him a lot about Funky Flashman and the relationship between Jack and Stan Lee. Evanier said the relationship between Jack and Stan wasn't that good at the end. He finds that the difference between Jack and Stan's opinions on various projects aren't that different when you take Stan's most generous version and compare to Jack's opinion.
King said he first realized Kirby was a genius when he was in college and every paper he had to write he tied to comics. He had to do a war essay and so he went to the library to do research and he said he was looking through the films, he said films because he couldn't remember the right word, so at that point I called out microfiche, to which King responded, "Yes. We're so old." Sadly he was correct. He said all that every book from the era looked the same, except Kirby's work, Kirby's work was always different.
It was a great panel to end the convention on, and it's always wonderful to hear new stories about Kirby and his life.
For further musings from Joshua Stone you can follow him on Twitter @1NerdyOne