AN EMPIRE OF ONE

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Every One of Us is Jack Kirby

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With apologies to Spartacus

Everyone is linking to Stephen Bissette today. Why? Because Bissette, like many of us, is upset by the Kirby vs Marvel decision (in which Marvel won and the Kirby heirs lost) and is calling for a boycott of everything from Marvel that is derived from characters or stories created by Jack Kirby. Bissette wants to make noise during Comic-Con next year at the Marvel related panels. (Do Marvel executives even do panels?)

It sounds nice and all that, but ultimately, I think, it will not change what needs to be changed.

Why?

1. Jack Kirby is dead. The court decision changes nothing. The status quo prevails. If Bissette is upset with the court’s decision, then he should boycott the judge. If he hasn’t been boycotting Marvel all these years, why is he so eager to start now? This decision has changed nothing and if he has been angered by Marvel making money from the creations of Jack Kirby without Kirby having received proper recognition or compensation years ago, then he should have been boycotting Marvel starting all those years ago.

2. Jack Kirby is still dead. His heirs did not create the Marvel characters; he did. Giving them money is not going to help Kirby now or redress the injustice Kirby experienced. (It wouldn’t hurt to give him proper credit, though. Even Brad Bird did not acknowledge Kirby, or Stan Lee, when he did The Incredibles.)

3. I sure wish we could get someone such as Karl Marx, who would surely be on our side, to say something about this and similar matters regarding comic book creators. Perhaps Grant Morrison or Alan Moore can conjure him up with their magick. Marx might explain how artists and creative types are not the only ones who are exploited in our society. Practically everyone is exploited. Most of us, not just Jack Kirby, make others rich through our work for them. Since we cannot survive without the job that someone else usually provides, we have little choice about it. This is why Jack Kirby apparently signed away the rights to his work, but, as I see it, this happens to most of us. Boycotting Marvel is not going to help workers throughout the world live better. It may help Kirby’s heirs live better, but are they really in need more than the homeless people I could not help but notice this year during Comic-Con?

4. What about the fans, the “early adopters” of the Sixties, who bought Kirby comics and provided feedback in the fan mail columns, etc.? Kirby did not create in a vacuum and I’m sure that fan mail helped inspire him. Without fans there would have been no Kirby (or Marvel or Stan Lee). If fans had not responded to Fantastic Four, X-Men, and the rest, Kirby may have been drawing Fin Fang Foom-type comics for the rest of his career. This year at Comic-Con, I heard a lot of lip service paid to fans. As my grandfather would say, if I had a nickle for every time I heard someone say, “We wouldn’t be up here without you fans,” I’d be as rich as Rockefeller. If only they’d back those words up with real action! Marvel is what it is, not just thanks to the work Kirby did, but thanks to fans with pocket change who bought and continue to buy Kirby or Kirby-derived work.

5. Boycotting Marvel is not going to change the system that each of us must deal with every day. The system simply cannot survive without the kind of exploitation that Kirby, as well as each of us puts up with every day. Each of us is born into this world that we never made, but if we don’t like it, why don’t we really do something about it? You may say that a Marvel boycott is one small step on a very long journey, but that’s all it is, one very small step. There have been many boycotts throughout the years, but here we are, and the game has not changed much, if at all. Let’s not lose sight of the larger picture, our world, where billions of Jack Kirby’s are toiling away in obscurity at this very moment without proper credit or compensation.

6. The Kirby case is seen by most as a creator’s rights issue, but if we look at it as a worker’s rights issue, we will see that we are all creators in one way or another and we are all exploited by our employers. Employers hire us because they can exploit us. Of course, this is perfectly legal. It’s the basis of our system. But just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s just.

Every one of us is Jack Kirby.

Related posts:

Marvel’s The Avengers: Some thoughts

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Written by David Kilmer

August 1, 2011 at 5:08 pm

One Response

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  1. I know that this post is years old, but I just wanted to mention that Stephen Bissette did, in fact, boycott Marvel for many years, and has been outspoken about creators’ rights for decades – including when Jack Kirby was still alive. He also used to be a comics publisher himself, and always used contracts in which creators retained ownership of their own works. This post seems to imply that Bissette came to this particular protest late, and that just is not true. He’s been there for many years and has backed his words with actions.

    pearceduncan

    December 23, 2014 at 8:15 pm


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