Friday, August 28, 2015

Happy Birthday to the King of Comics!

"'Am I an artist?' Sure, kid. I can draw some.
Got any comics from the 40's, 50's, 60's or 70's?"
Today would have been Jack Kirby's 98th birthday. He left this mortal coil over 20 years ago, but he left behind a legacy of comic book creations that literally kept the industry alive in the 50s and 60s and literally changed the way comics were drawn and viewed by readers.

If Jack Kirby had not been born - and God sent no one to replace him - we would have never had the following:

...uhhh...

*ahem*

We've got a slight technical difficulty.

I was going to post a list of his creations and co-creations but it is FAR too long for this blog. I mean it. There is a two-page Wikipedia listing of his 308 characters:

So much credit has been given to Jack's editor Stan Lee it is become a part of heated contention. While back in the day, Stan Lee got writer's credit, it was because he'd add dialogue balloons over Jack's work, and got credit for the stories that Jack had plotted and designed and laid out. Lee was the icing on the cake. Jack was the cake, obviously.

Proof of this reversal of attribution is found in the fruitful output of Jack's career BEFORE Marvel Comics and AFTER Marvel Comics. Lee has nothing. I mean it. Nothing worth anything. He got put in as the writer, we think we know what that means because of the modern work flow in comics. But in a letters' column in the 60's, Stan Lee himself said the "Marvel Method" was to discuss the idea, let the artist go do it and add dialogue later on, since 1) comics are inherrently a visual medium and 2) there was so much work to be done.

Kirby had been drawing for 20 years and knew how to tell a story. Lee was the nephew of the publisher and adored Jack. So he was proud to be the "writer" of such great titles and loved telling everyone how great they were.

As time went by, the distance between "writing dialogue" to "writing the comic" to being "The Writer" of Spider-man, Fantastic Four, etc. got smaller and smaller.

And when you have a net worth of $50 million, you don't correct folks' assumptions. You just don't.

Thankfully, the Kirby estate is not only getting Jack his due recognition but some payback. Jack would be very happy with that, I think.

Jack Kirby was not only the real King of Comics - creating Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man and so many more characters, but also the pantheons of "New Gods" for DC comics, including their most terrifying space god of annihilation: Darkseid.

Oh Snap! Crackle! Pop!
[Doom over Surfer by Kirby]
His reach extended into every part of comic book storytelling, from how many panels are standard on a page to the famous "Kirby Crackle" of energy we boys all copied with ballpoint pens to show how cool OUR heroes were.

What is stunning to me to this day is that Kirby did so much and helped so many but basically kept his head down and did not try to humiliate or attack Stan Lee. He moved on when promises were not kept, but the weirdest thing is that he had a sense of fairness and honesty, yet was never rancorous or demanding. He had a crazy work ethic that killed all competitors. Kirby could draw five pages a day, and had been known to put out an entire comic book over a weekend.

What? I mean, how could anyone be so dam' talented, so fast, so strong mentally and ethically and let Lee get so much credit? Or let his detailed pencils get "simplified" by a lazy inker [yes, this happened much].

I think I have the answer. He was humble, and Lee was grateful. I have never, ever heard Stan Lee say anything but the kindest, most flattering things about Jack Kirby.

Jack was from poverty and worked hard. He knew his talent and knew who to cut loose. He knew he worked for assinine men. He knew there were battles to fight and battles to walk away from. But he also knew that if he kept moving forward, he'd be a success. No one could out-work him. Yes, someone might draw better here or there, but no one could match his creativity and speed.

He threw out a thousand seeds of creation and we got hundreds of fruit-bearing trees from his wild generosity.

He was generous. He was honest. He was humble.

I want to show you what humility looks like. It is not pooh-poohing your obvious talent or not stretching your wings because you are surrounded by ostriches. It is doing what is in front of you to the Level of Awesome, day in and day out. 

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

17 
Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?
18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
You don't see it, do you? The humility?

You think it is the one leper who came back, praising God loudly, right?

No, that is gratitude. Jesus notes it. The guy wasn't even a true believer [foreigner at that time implied they were also foreign to the Jewish faith].

No, the humility is that Jesus cleanses ALL ten and even when only ONE comes back, to give gratitude and praise, Jesus simply moves on.

He does not go lecture them on gratitude. He does not hunt down these ungrateful jerks and blast them. He simply says "Wow. Well, this is a shock, isn't it? You are welcome. And you know what, buddy? Your trust in Me has really and honestly made you whole, inside and out."

You see, you can do great work. Others may even benefit at your expense. You may be ignored umpteen times, or passed over. But the ones you help and who are grateful become better people. They are not simply "fixed up" for the moment but made into a better person. That's why Jesus says ten were "cleansed" but one was "made well."

Humility is doing the job before you at awesome level, no matter what.

If you appreciate hard work, and if you are grateful for the touch of a master, say thank you to them. Tell others what they did for you, loudly. Tell God you are grateful, too.

If you do this, you won't just be better.

You will be whole, as in complete. And that might just change your life permanently.

Thanks, Jack. The King of All made you a King of Comics, and we are grateful.

Amen.

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