Living with the King: Telling the Jack Kirby story

Jason Mehmel shares what he learned about Jack Kirby during his time directing the play “King Kirby” in Calgary in 2016.

All this week we’re celebrating the life and influence of comics legend Jack Kirby, who would have turned 100 on Aug. 28. Today we present a guest editorial from Jason Mehmel, a professional director and producer of theatre in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, who had a unique opportunity related to Jack Kirby.

by Jason Mehmel

I’ve known about Jack Kirby for years… his style is as unique as a fingerprint. Crazy designs, often using circles. Crackling energy balls of negative space (later called ‘Kirby Krackles’). It represented the platonic ideal of superheroes, particularly the Marvel characters he created, and the subsequent artists, composing with better anatomy, perspective or even composition, are still ultimately riffing on the energy behind Kirby’s pencil, and the choices it led him to.

Robert Klein as Jack Kirby (Jeff McDonald/Sage Theater)

Two years ago, I came across a theatre script about the life of Kirby and found myself running a theatre company. I decided to jump at it and produce King Kirby: A Play by Crystal Skillman & Fred Van Lente, which walked through the pivotal moments in Kirby’s life:

How he came from poverty, his early love of science fiction and big ideas, and of telling them visually. How he got into comics from that love, and the birth of Captain America, just before his own wartime experience. How Marvel Comics as we know it exploded from his pen, and those of his fellow pencillers, though it would be hard to compete with the sheer volume of characters and stories Kirby developed in those years.

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Comics Lowdown: Jack Kirby special edition

A roundup of some of the Jack Kirby 100th birthday news this week!

Not only is it “Kirby Week” here on Smash Pages, but the entire comic industry has come together to honor and remember one of the industry’s greatest and most influential creators, Jack Kirby, for what would have been his 100th birthday. Here’s a round-up of links related to “The King.”

The first place to check is Marvel.com, which has an entire section dedicated to Jack Kirby. The colorful articles have been posted throughout the month of August, with reading lists, character features and articles by Jim Zub, Carlos Pacheco, Mark Waid and Mike Allred. Plus there are several videos about the life of Jack Kirby.

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Comics Lowdown: Businessman wins against Marvel, DC Comics to use  the word ‘superhero’

Plus: assistant principal fired for Pepe the Frog book, new Madefire/DC Comics digital deal, and the hunt for H. G. Peter photos

When Graham Jules (pictured above) wrote his book, Business Zero to Superhero, he had no idea he would end up in a battle against the two largest comic publishers in the world. When his book was about to be published in 2014, he received a letter from Marvel and DC Comics claiming the word infringed on their jointly owned trademark since 1979. Jules, who also studies law, decided to represent himself in the case. A two-and-a-half year legal case ensued and this week, the two comic giants decided to drop the case for “commercial reasons.” The entrepreneur estimates that he spent a total of £200 and 200 hours in writing letters.

“This is an amazing result. It shows that even the little guy can achieve something with determination.”

It will not be surprising if his next book is about being a superhero of trademark cases.

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Comics Lowdown: Wakanda fashion show, marketplace celebrates artisans and Black Panther

Plus: Roxane Gay thoughts on diversity, Jeff Smith, Cully Hamner, public-domain comics and more!

Excited for the increasing spotlight on Black Panther with the feature film coming out in 2018, retailer Fantom Comics in Washington, D.C. hosted a unique event known as Move or You Will Be Moved: A Black Panther Fashion Show over the weekend. The haute couture show included cosplay and Wakandan street fashion, and a marketplace of local black creators selling their jewelry, clothing and other Afrofuturist fashion accessories. Plus of course, Black Panther comics and paraphernalia.

“Where’s all the Black Panther merchandise? We’re less than a year out, and we don’t have any Happy Meal toys or anything we can just get on hand,” Sellars asked, introducing the concept to the crowd. “So with that came this idea of what about an Afro-futuristic showcase of what it means to be great? Of what it means to be in Wakanda.”

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‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ sequel is coming… to a comic shop near you

Tokyopop will release the sequel as single issue comics, full-colour tpbs and black & white “manga”

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero’s Journey’ (Tokyopop)

In a surprising announcement, Tokyopop has secured a deal with Disney to publish a sequel to the 1993 Tim Burton stop-motion animated classic The Nightmare Before Christmas in sequential art form. The beloved film has never had any official continuation until now.

Announced as a Hollywood Reporter exclusive,  The Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero’s Journey will be written by D.J. Milky aka Stu Levy (Princess Ai) with art from Studio DICE (Beauty and the Beast). The story will follow Jack Skellington’s loyal dog, Zero, as he gets lost in Christmas Town.

Slated for spring 2018, the comics will be available for the 25th anniversary year of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The series will be released first as standard, serialized comic issues, then will be republished as a full colour tpb as well as black and white manga “pocket book” format graphic novels.

Comics Lowdown: Analyzing gender representation of 34,476 comic characters

Plus: Calexit sells out, climate change comics, Adam West as the Dark Knight, Becky Cloonan, Gerald Way, Jay Baruchel’s thoughts on Canadian superheroes and more!

A fascinating study takes a look at the gender representation of 34,476 comic book characters. Journalist Amanda Shendruk asks, “Female characters appear in superhero comics less often than males — but when they are included, how are they depicted?”

Wonder Woman gif by Nicole Dirksen

She examined 34,476 different characters. The study results were published with a plentiful helping of graphs, graphs, and more graphs looking at everything from the types of powers a character has, to the gender make-up of their superhero team, to the naming scheme and frequency of character’s aliases. Some of the findings include:

  • The data suggest that less-physical powers — such as empathy, intellect, and telepathy — tend to be more represented among female characters. Men however, often have highly physical powers, as well as those that involve gadgets.
  • 30% of all teams have no women, and only 12% have more female team members than male. The majority of those 12%, however, are exclusively female teams.
  • A full 30% of male characters with gendered names get ‘man’ in their name. That number is only 6% for ‘woman’. However, ‘girl’ is the third-most common gendered name for a female character (13%). ‘Boy’ only shows up sixth for males (5%).

The study was then topped with very cute pixel art by Vancouver’s Nicole Derksen.

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Comics Lowdown: TSA vs United Airlines – are comic books banned from flights?

Plus: Big Hero 6, DC saves the day, Graphix winners, Best comic shops in the US, Todd Klein’s SDCC, and Spider-Man mows a lawn!

Fly the confusing skies: While at the San Diego airport on Sunday morning, Twitter user @AdiChappo sent out a warning to other Comic-Con attendees about a comic book ban on flights. Recently, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suggested passengers needed to remove books from luggage for inspection, so this idea wasn’t out of the ordinary. Despite the fact that the pilot project was trashed due to civil liberty concerns, this was the message that greeted travelers:

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Indy comics icon, Marvel Comics legend “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg passed away

Best known as one of Marvel’s original bullpen members and an independent comics pioneer, Flo Steinberg has passed away Sunday morning. According to Larry Hama, who reported her death on his Facebook page.

I am grieved to report that ‘Fabulous’ Flo Steinberg passed away this morning after complications from a brain aneurism and metastatic lung cancer. She will be interred at the Jewish cemetery in Kerhonkson NY. We are making plans for a memorial in September or October. I will update on this page.

“Fabulous” Flo Steinberg, art by Jack Kirby

Steinberg’s career in comics began in the 1960s as Marvel’s only employee besides Stan Lee. She was the company’s first receptionist, answered letters, managed the Merry Marvel Merry Marvel Marching Society, and making sure the company ran smoothly. She is considered one of the key people in growing Marvel into one of “the big two” in comic book publishing. And many times, she has been featured in comics along with the Marvel Bullpen as herself.

She eventually left Marvel. After a short break from the comics industry, she returned to New York City to help run Captain Company, the mail-order division of the horror-comics magazine firm, Warren Publishing.

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Comics Lowdown: Walking Dead to end, Remembering Bernie Wrightson

Todd Klein walks us through Comic-Con. Plus: Robert Sikoryak parodies Trump, San Diego Police, beer for the thirsty con-goer.

And the winner is…: The Eisners are tonight! Our own Brigid Alverson will be live tweeting the awards show and the results on our Twitter feed @smash_pages. The Eisners are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Pacific.

Robert Kirkman with some pals (photo: Skybound Entertainment)

The Walking Dead will die: Creator Robert Kirkman has confirmed that the Walking Dead will have an ending. At the Walking Dead panel in San Diego, Kirkman told fans, “I think about two or three years ago, I had a pretty good idea for a definitive ending. I have known that since then and been working towards that, so I know exactly where I’m going and what’s going to happen when I get there.” He expects the series will wrap up in the next 2-3 years.

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