In what has become an annual event at the San Diego convention, the Jack Kirby Tribute Panel kicked off Sunday with comic industry veterans paying their respects to Mr. Kirby, who died in 1994; and the panel of Mark Evanier (author of Kirby: King of Comics), Stan Goldberg (Marvel colorist veteran), Paul Dini (DC Comics writer) and Charles Hatfield (author of Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby) all recounted memories of the visionary artist who is called the “King of Comics.” This was to be a celebration of Kirby, but in a weird and awkward way it was more of soapbox for the panelists to promote themselves, which is fine and I would respect a Mark Evanier panel or a Stan Goldberg panel, but at the Kirby panel I expected more talk about the man and his art. It was also strange to have the Kirby family attorney, Paul Levine, sit in as a part of this panel – but never speak.
A lot of the talk about Kirby was veiled and rambling industry-insider posturing about what is or isn’t true regarding the treatment of Kirby and the ownership of his creations. I don’t think that this is what anyone came to hear and I get that Kirby, as well as many other comic creators of the gold & silver age of comics, may have been mistreated; but there is a time and place for that discussion and I don’t think the “tribute” panel was it.
Despite some of the legal hand–wringing and unrelated storytelling, there WAS some interesting insight into the renowned comic-book creator and his art. Mr. Evanier touted the recent re-printing of Kirby’s “Spirit World,” a book that the artist couldn’t even get distributed back in 1971; and Evanier was amazed at how publishers are now capitalizing on renewed interest in Jack Kirby’s work, which was not treated as a valued property at the time it was created.
Author Charles Hatfield talked about how he was inspired to write his book about Kirby (Hand of Fire, which won the 2012 Eisner Award for Best Educational/Academic Work) and how as a child he was blown away by the artists’ style, which he described as “[it] looks weird, but a good weird.” The panel also talked about Kirby’s style of working, how he would illogically jump from page to page and how he would create on-the-fly, with some original story concepts being a completely different tale by the time the product was finished. He was described as working like “a rocket on the end of a tether, if tied to any tether at all.”
Kirby was also described by the panel as a man who took his work very serious and worked long hard hours to always deliver the best product he could create, because in the end his primary concern was to be able to provide for his family.
There is a drive to make the current online Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center a full brick & mortar home; and the museum representative, a very dedicated Arlen Schumer, had a booth at the Con to help promote this effort.
Arlen is the author of The Silver Age of Comic Book Art and he is a very enthusiastic supporter of Kirby and the museum effort. He was selling his autographed magazine/book The Auteur Theory of Comics, which discusses ownership issues in regards to how a creator is actually determined , to help raise money for the museum project.
After the Kirby tribute panel and a visit with Mr. Schumer at the Kirby Museum booth, I spent the rest of the day taking in the remainder of the exhibit hall. There were still tens of thousands of attendees on hand with just as many attractions to see. I ran into one of my favorite artists, Chet Phillips from Austin, Texas, who is responsible for some of the coolest “Monkey-Art” you are ever going to see. Chet has a detailed style that gives his characters unique personalities with simian distinction.
Chet has steampunk monkeys, historical monkeys, monkeys as robots, monkey’s with ray guns and yes, even monkey zombies. He calls this world Monkopolis and it’s incredible fantasy art for ape-lovers of all types.
I picked up the first Chew graphic novel by local creator John Layman. I keep hearing crazy wonderful things about this book and finally got the opportunity to get a copy. I also got an autographed copy of the first Axe-Cop graphic novel, was highly recommended by Adrianne Curry during our roundtable interview session for her Super-Fans show on the World of Heroes channel.
Several comic shops had drastic reductions, up to 60%, on their comics and graphic novels during this last day of the con. With many vendors claiming it was easier to sell at that large discount than to carry the books back home.
But after buying a backpack full of discounted books (including the Incredible Hulk: Heart of the Atom [with art by Marvel 50th Anniversary panelist Herb Trimpe], Marvel Visionaries: Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby’s Kamandi Archive Edition: Volume 1; and an autographed copy of Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero by author Larry Tye), I found out the hard way that even though there is a huge discount on the price, the airlines don’t care about your savings and are happy to charge you $50 for an overweight bag – unless you can beat the system by shoving all the books into your carry-on backpack. Eat it [undisclosed airline]! There were still plenty of cosplayers about on the last as well, in fact I saw some of the coolest costumes yet, including Galactus (complete with a mini Silver Surfer flying off his shoulder) and a perfect replica of Dark Helmut from Spaceballs. There was even a guy whose entire costume was made out of free promo/swag cards he had collected from all of the vender tables – American capitalist ingenuity at its finest!
Speaking of swag, a ton of it was carried back to Arizona as a free giveaway to one lucky reader at next month’s NERDVANACON in downtown Mesa. We’ll be posting more info regarding the contest as soon as the Nerdvana weights & measures department finalizes the rules. But, there will be some very cool items inside this Comic-Con swag bag, including a Whilce Portacio autographed Marvel Versus Capcom poster, a Weyland Corporation ID badge, comics, posters, art and a ton o’ Comic-Con promo materials. So stay tuned for details.
Check out the slideshow below for a look at some od Sunday’s attractions, and read all the Nerdvana Comic-Con coverage for the chance to win the swag bag described above. You can read the Twitter posts as well as all the Con blog posts HERE.