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Thursday August 4, 2011 2:47 pm

Jack Kirby And Marvel Comics




Posted by Tom Mason Categories: Editorials, Marvel Comics

Jack KirbyMost of you already know that a federal judge ruled in favor of Disney/Marvel and against the estate of Jack Kirby in their claim for copyright termination for 45 characters Kirby either created or co-created.

Naturally, there has been some reaction to this as we all await what the next step will be in what one can only assume is an ongoing, sad, and unnecessary struggle.

Here are some links if you want to follow along:

Michael Dean at The Comics Journal - which has a history with Kirby and was instrumental in helping Jack get what was left of his art back from Marvel in the 1980s and exposing how Marvel was extorting his signature - does the heavy lifting on the ruling.

Dean also wrote a summing up of Kirby’s 1980s-era battle with Marvel over the return of his original art.

The always-reliable Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter sums it up nicely as a situation that should’ve been settled long before it got to this stage.

Over at Comics Beat, Heidi covers the story and has links to various depositions given during the hearing.

And later, Heidi has a story about Steve Bissette’s call for a Marvel boycott. The comment section is somewhat depressing because too many of the posters seem to side with Disney/Marvel and base their decision on incorrect information. Kurt Busiek wades into the section and, as always, brings his facts to set people straight on the matter. Hopefully, it’ll change the way some of them think.

If you want to read Steve Bissette’s call to action in its entirety (and that’s highly recommended), you can find it on his website.

Daniel Best at 20th Century Danny Boy posts the court’s ruling with commentary. And if you poke around on his site, you’ll find he posts some depositions too, and offers up insightful thoughts on the matter. I don't agree with some of his observations, but they're worth a read.

And me? I’m squarely in the TCJ/Spurgeon/Busiek camp. At a minimum, Kirby created and co-created so many characters in the Marvel Universe that it formed the foundation for its success and growth. Those properties have been exploited for decades, earning hundreds of millions of dollars for the corporate owners. Even though others worked on them and some made them more successful - ie Claremont and Byrne's X-Men was far more successful than Lee-Kirby's earlier version - Kirby deserves to share in those proceeds and it’s an industry shame that he did not during his lifetime and that his estate is not benefitting in the present. It didn't have to become such an ugly, public fight.

Also, I’m intensely biased. Through the kindness of Mark Evanier I got to attend a special surprise birthday celebration for Kirby at the San Diego Comic Con. I also got to meet Kirby and shake his hand.

A good friend of mine, Dave Olbrich, was a frequent and welcomed guest at the Kirby home. And I was around during the period when Marvel was holding Kirby’s art hostage and refusing to return it until he signed away his rights.

[Artwork: Jack Kirby © Marvel Comics, taken from That’s My Skull]

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