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May 20, 2008

Comments

Brian

Mark,
Interesting take. I think I liked the book more than you did, but that might have been because I read it shortly after finishing Ronin Ro's Tales To Astonish-- the latter has some really interesting stories in it, but epitomizes even more acutely the "me-against-the-world" narratives you point out (in addition to its occasional inaccuracies about some of the comics), and it becomes even more vindictive and exhausting after awhile. I went into Evanier's book with trepidation (despite my admiration for his comics writing), and was pleasantly surprised at the book's balance.

I also think, in your last paragraph, that you put your finger on something important-- that the various Kirby stories are just emblematic of the larger Romantic myths that comics history and criticism are still struggling with, and that Kirby's very real difficulties with Marvel and other companies can certainly be manipulated to fit our desired frameworks. Maybe that means moving away from biography (or a strict biographical lens?) to focus on other aspects of the artist's work and personality? That's why comics blogs excite me-- the best of them seem really interested in telling new stories about comics.

Mark Engblom

"Maybe that means moving away from biography (or a strict biographical lens?) to focus on other aspects of the artist's work and personality?"

Like I said, I don't want to completely ignore the negative aspects of anyone's biography, but Evanier didn't seem interested in much else. I realize the larger book will have the luxury of focusing on other details of his life and the minutia the coffee table book just couldn't fit...but even that limited format could have included other aspects of Kirby's personal and professional life that were positive or, at the very least, humanizing.

For example, who were Kirby's KIDS? The only one mentioned was Lisa, and only then in the context of the Kirby's having to move to California to help her asthma. Did Kirby let his kids sit on his lap while he was drawing? Did Jack make the coolest Pinewood Derby Cars for a Boy Scout son? What were his favorite cigars or pipes? What role (if any) did his Jewish faith play in his life or during his times of trial? What were some of his GREAT memories of working for Marvel during it's 1960's heyday (they can't ALL be bad, right)? Did he know any fellow creators socially?

In other words, WHO WAS THIS MAN other than the Frustrated Genius he's constantly being portrayed as? At some point, Evanier needs to stop AVENGING the man, get beyond the standard victimization tropes, and give us a well-rounded portrait more deserving of a King.

Joe Lewallen

Hi Mark,
I really liked the book and did learn some new stuff about Kirby like the story that Simon and Kirby worked on an early Captain Marvel comic.
In regards to the "They Done Him Wrong" theme that runs throughout the book, yeah, a lot of Golden Age creators got the shaft. Siegel, Shuster and Bill Finger all really got worked over by the "suits".

As far as why did Kirby put up with being "exploited" all these years instead of telling the suits to shove it, I think it has to do with him growing up in the Depression. Jobs were really scarce, and if you had one, you knew that you were better off than a lot of other guys. Kirby seem to have a great fear of not being able to support his family.

Mark. Engblom

"As far as why did Kirby put up with being "exploited" all these years instead of telling the suits to shove it, I think it has to do with him growing up in the Depression."

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify where I'm coming from, Joe. Here's what I said toward the end of the post:

"I have no doubt matters between Kirby and his employers caused him and his family grief and aggravation..."

I want to make it clear I'm not saying that Kirby should have told his employers to shove it, or that he shouldn't have worried about supporting his family. I completely understand that, actually.

What I'm objecting to in the book isn't the fact that Kirby had a rough time of it with his employers, but that this seemed to be the only thing Evanier was interested in telling us about the man. Again, I know the more exhaustive stuff will show up in the larger biography, but I refuse to believe even the limited art book format couldn't have included information on his family life, his faith, or any of the 1001 additional aspects of Kirby beyond the dreary pity party.

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