Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kane & Lee: Essential Salesmen [or "Without us, you wouldn't know Jack!"]

Jack Kirby, King of Comics, Creator of Marvel Universe
In my previous blog, I spoke of how Bill Finger was the true creator of the dark knight we have all come to love and admire - Batman.

Lately I've been visiting The Jack Kirby Fan Page on Facebook and the year-by-year creative output timeline over at The Jack Kirby Museum. Clearly, he too was the driving force behind early Marvel and did the mountainous creative work that was needed to create a WHOLE new universe that had characters SO enduring, they have all been made into blockbuster films in the last decade: Thor, Hulk, Captain America, The Avengers [you get the idea, True Believer].

He's also responsible for creating for DC Comics all their "New Gods" mythos, including characters such as Darkseid, Big Barda, Mr. Miracle, Orion, Highfather, Granny Goodness, etc. These were featured heavily in the successful DC Animated Universe under Bruce Timm's expert direction and guidance.

So you got Finger being overlooked because of Bob Kane and Kirby being overlooked because of Stan Lee - both because they were able to promote their name WITH the brand and let people assume they did a lot more work than they actually did. Both understood the law and how this business worked. Yes, they both had SOME talent, but not to the level their co-workers/talented employees had.

Their creative talent was the masquerade. They put a great face on it. They smiled and met with people and made sure they were always identified with the product.

They were promoters. They were hucksters. They were charming. They were savvy.

They were necessary. That is, if the product was going to go out into the world.

Jack Kirby, Creator of Fourth World for DC Universe
I'll explain that terrible truth in just a moment, but let me tell you what I have found out as a creative writer serving as a caregiver: I only have so much time and so much energy.

And when I am writing something GOOD and working HARD, I get too tired to promote it. I need help. I need a voice loud enough to be heard by the world. If I say "My stuff is GREAT! You have GOT to read MY STUFF!!" I sound like a neglected child.

But if another "praises [me], not my own lips", then I can relax. I can rest and do more of the stuff I like. I will, by nature, be something of an introvert, gathering energy and joy by isolation and deep thinking, unwilling to hang around with a mass of people.

So an extrovert becomes a Helper to me. He will make sure others I do not know will read and enjoy my work. I work on the craft; he works on the promotion.

Now here's where it gets "blackmailing" ugly. I mean, unethical and disingenuous and symbiotic at the same time. There's a fine line between a well-paid promoter and a scoundrel.

I think Kane a full-fledged scoundrel, but Lee closer to a overpaid and overcredited promoter. I am sure there is a "proper way" to do this, but frankly nothing has been as successful as these properties that did NOT give back to their creator's what they were worth. Not even a decent fraction of value.

But here's the ugly truth: these men worked hard to promote what their name was attached to because they would have starved otherwise.

It was in their interests. It was going into their pocketbooks. If it failed, their name was in lights - and they would be a failure. Oh sure, they would have found SOMETHING to stay alive, but nothing beloved by children and loved by millions.

So they became the "Face" and "Author"  - the character's 'ambassador' if you will.

They were advocates for something they believed was awesome. They were opportunists who knew the law and the public.

The actual creators did not, not to that extent. They were honest men who just wanted a living - and maybe a raise or two.

And so we are drawn to this terrible reality: without the huckster, dedicated, face-saving, opportunistic hacks would we, the ignorant public, really know of or have enjoyed the talented work of Bill Finger on Batman or Jack Kirby on... well, crud... the Marvel and DC Universes?

The honest answer is: probably not.

But do not think I am approving of the inequity; I just do not think all 'rewards' must be monetary and here and now - and those men served a better purpose than they imagined.

Jesus called this one out for all of us creatives rightly angered at the unethical treatment of these men: "There is nothing hidden that will not be found out."

You cannot hide the truth. Not forever.

Many men of great artistic talent and men of deep faith in God have died, not seeing what legacy they left behind, but these men did see their creations become enormously popular.

That is true.

We fans need to acknowledge our debt to them. To make sure they get he credit they are due.

But let us be fair as well.

We owe a DIFFERENT debt to their *ahem* co-workers.

We can say, with a straight face: "Thank you for introducing me to the work of ________ . He had real talent and his work is part of my childhood."

You can say that.

Even Jesus did that - acknowledge that evil existed, but it served a better purpose.
[Jesus] answered and said to them:
It is one of the twelve, He who dips his hand with me in the dish, the same is the one who will betray me.
I am going to do what the Father has sent me to do, as it is written in scripture, but woe to the man who betrays the Son of man.
It would be better if he had not been born.

Jesus had to be betrayed to die - so He could pay for our sins. Judas was a necessary part of God's plan, though he was a willing volunteer.

It just may be that you have to be betrayed to be famous, O Creative One. I hate to say it, but it may be so if you are REALLY good.

Don't worry. Trust God to take care of you anyway.

The truth will come out.

It always does.


1 comment:

Jeff Phillips said...

As always I so enjoy your comments Justice very thoughtful and thought provoking. Thank you brother for your love of God and your sharing of your thoughts. The Lord has always used those who seek Him and those who hear Him and it is obvious in their very being. Like Moses coming down off the mountain and his face glowing because he had been in the presence of God, it shows when have been with the Master. Don't know you in the natural but love you brother your a blessing. Keep up the good work.

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