Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kirby wins!

Everybody knows that golden and silver age comic creators got tragically screwed over by giant faceless corporations. The fact that Jack Kirby’s family have to fight so hard for simple acknowledgement is a goddamn tragedy, and no amount of shareholder return can justify Marvel Corp’s innumerable dick moves towards one of their founding fathers.

The latest court action has led to another loss for the Kirby clan, but Marvel is dreaming if it thinks that’s the end of it. These people have Jack Kirby’s DNA – they’re not going to give up. They learned that from their Dad’s art, while Marvel turned out to be just another evil and boring corporate entity that has learned none of the greatest lesson taught in many of its greatest comics – don’t be such a fucking bully.

So it’s easy to take a basic human moral stand and declare that Marvel is ideologically bankrupt, and that it hasn’t produced anything worthwhile since Fantastic Four #102 and that we should stick it to the man by not buying any more Marvel comics.

Unfortunately, while the types of people who take these stands often profess their love for Marvel, if asked to name a dozen creators, they often wouldn’t be able to name anybody who has done anything for the company since 1978. Saying you won’t buy any more Marvel comics for political reasons doesn’t mean dick if you weren’t buying them anyway. It’s not much of a sacrifice if there is nothing to sacrifice.

I don’t blame people for taking that stand and calling for a boycott of Marvel comics, but they do make me feel guilty about buying and enjoying the new Daredevil comic the other day. Even the tribute to Gene Colan at the back was instantly tainted by knowledge of the way Mean Gene was treated over the years.

So yeah, fuck Marvel. Obviously.

But it’s too easy to get mixed up between corporate tactics and artistic visions, and the two rarely fit well together. While I maintain a slightly unhealthy obsession with Marvel and DC superheroes that goes back to the cradle, the vast majority of their comics are of no interest, so it’s easy enough to hold on to my money.

But I still like to read bright and shiny and smart superhero comics that build on their own history and somehow turn silliness into something transcendental and iconic, and that is a lot rarer than it should be. I can’t help myself – I’m going to seize on to anything that offers something clever and colourful, like that Daredevil.

I know it’s not just money, it’s the encouragement, and the terrible tickle at the back of the brain that says you are giving moral support to a corporation that has royally screwed over almost all of my favourite creators. But that niggling feeling is drowned in selfish need, and the desire to support current creators – Waid, Martin and Rivera are all doing fine work that is a real pleasure to read.

Morally speaking, the Kirby family are so obviously in the right, that I can't help thinking my buying habits have zero impact. (Especially when I buy from a comic shop outside the US, whose numbers apparently mean nothing.) I can deny myself a comic I know I’m going to enjoy on purely political grounds, but it isn’t going to make any difference.

Especially when ultimately, irrefutable truth wins. People may try to hide it, or defend it in court, but Marvel and DC’s deplorable treatment of their founding fathers is historical fact now. This is not an argument. There is no fight here.

I just can’t believe there is anybody out there who could support Marvel’s business practices except for moron fanboyz and happy lawyers. This is as simple as one of Steve Ditko’s rants – there is Right & Wrong and Marvel is Wrong.

Somebody like Jack Liebowitz may have made an extraordinary amount of money by steering DC Comics through most of the 21st century, but he has been gone for ten years now, and his legacy is already fading, reducing him to a footnote in the biographies of immortal artists.

People will still going back to Kirby and Colan and Ditko and Siegel and Shuster and Finger and the work they did in comics for centuries to come. Boycotting Marvel comics isn’t going to change that fact. Their families deserve far more than they are getting, but that's an argument that will have to be settled in a court of law and endless commentary pointing out all the injustices committed over the years will not make any difference to that.

Jack Kirby co-created some of the most iconic and powerful fictional characters of the 20th century. Jack Kirby was not suitably rewarded for his efforts, but his work will last for eternity.


plok said...

Myself, I think it's possible that protest might help things get better, but the possibility is pretty much unquantifiable, so...who knows? And I hate to admit it, but I've known about these things for a long time, and pure moral outrage has always proved insufficient to stand-taking or boycott-making. I care about the creators, but apparently not enough.

But now what has really started to piss me off is...well, why am I the one who gets the cognitive dissonance put in his hands, when all I really want to do is read a decent Daredevil comic? That's a hell of a trivial want, to end up being so politicized. Wanting a cheap cup of coffee is a far more potent and meaningful desire, than something like that! So I'm pissed enough that somehow this responsibility, which is not mine and which I can do nothing about, has been sloughed off on me for the sake of other more powerful folks' apparent equanimity about the whole thing...that, yeah, I can walk away from that without too much trouble, for sure.

plok said...

So, I guess I agree with you, except I don't like having to constantly justify buying comics or seeing movies or whatever: if Marvel makes a show of its ethical neutrality in business, they basically attack my claim to ethical neutrality in my purchases, which I feel is the far better claim, and I really resent them pilfering my clear conscience.


That all came out relatively clearly, right?

Damn, should probably get the caffeine levels up before trying to comment on stuff...