This is going to be a difficult blog post to write… mainly because I don’t have a clear cut black & white view of the whole “Avengers movie and Jack Kirby” thing. As is the case with life most of the time, I have many conflicted feelings that go back and forth between seeing Marvel’s side and seeing the view of the Kirby defenders.
I think Scott Kurtz makes some very insightful points in his blog post about Kirby and the Avengers movie but I can’t say that I agree with all of them.
But then I read another article like this one and I think “Man, there’s some great points in there too…”.
So where does MY opinion fall, you might ask? Well, as I said in that opening paragraph, it probably falls somewhere right square in the middle. Just call me Chris “rockin’ the fence” Flick from now on, I guess.
See, here’s the thing… for a great many years, I worked as a production graphic designer grunt designing car ads that made car dealerships lots of money – money I never saw a penny. I’ve designed Buick professional golf tournament posters. Never got invited to the event. Never got any extra cash for it. Now, I now there’s a difference between designing a poster using products that already exist and designing a new super hero that goes on to become an American icon – but the one thing that isn’t different about those two things is that they are both “work-for-hire” situations. Graphic designers are used to this kind of thing… especially if you’re an “in-house” designer – which I basically was when I was a newspaper graphic production grunt.
Later on, I worked at an advertising agency where I got to create those Buick golf posters and a bunch of other really great – and highly commercial – stuff. But other than a steady paycheck and health benefits and a vacation package, I didn’t receive any other benefits for designing a great potato chip package that helped Potato Chip Company X reach top ten sales along the east coast (totally made up but you get my point). Those of us that are or have been “in-house” designers know we’ll get very little compensation for doing what we’re… well, what we’re hired to do – to create great creative designs so our clients can make more money then WE will probably ever see. But we go into the job knowing this as we are making a conscious decision to trade in freelance flexibility but job uncertainty with in-house inflexibility but job security.
Now, with all of that being said, any kind of “work-for-hire” situation sucks (except for that job security, health and vacation benefits thing). You will never get to own your own stuff, you can’t make any extra money profiting off of a logo you created for a client. If you create the next NIKE Swish, well, too darn bad. NIKE owns it. You’re just the designer that gets two weeks vacation on NIKE’S (your employer) dime.
Now, would it be nice if Marvel got all “It’s a wonderful life” and gave the Kirby Estate a large “donation” to show their appreciation for what Jack created for them? Sure it would. Is it likely to happen? Nope, not a whole lot.
But here’s the part that I seem to be aligned with Scott Kurtz on…
To me, the movie Marvel characters have always been greatly different than their printed counterparts. I understand the argument that the BASIC CHARACTER in the movie would never have existed were it not for the people who created them in print. Shoukld Ditko be given compensation and credit for a Spidey that shoots organic web fluid from his body instead of mechanical web shooters? Should Len Wein be given credit for a six foot two inch celluloid version of Wolverine?
How much credit should Marv Wolfman get for all of the Blade movies? How much of it should go to Wesley Snipes for bringing the character to life and making Blade into a totally unique character that looked nothing like the comic book version?
In happy-happy land, it would be great if all future comic book films shared a similar partnership like Mignola, Del Toro and Ron Perlman all share with Hellboy… Sure, Mike Mignola created the printed version of Hellboy but the Hellboy movies were a success due to the great three-way partnership of EACH of those creators. I know, I know… totally different story because Hellboy was an independently created character Mike came up with himself 0 but remember, this is happy-happy land where inconvenient things like that don’t matter.
In the end though, the argument I have made online to other friends who have been adamant about supporting Kirby and boycotting The Avengers movie is this… yeah, it sucks that Kirby never seems to get the same amount of credit Stan Lee does but Kirby always seemed to shun the spotlight where Stan always craved it. In some ways, Stan was Jack Kennedy where Kirby was Richard Nixon – not in terms of politics but in the way they both seemed to have dealt with the media.
For me… I never grew up reading Kirby or Stan’s Avengers. I grew up reading the George Perez drawn Avengers when I went to go see the movie, I didn’t see Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Avengers. I saw George Perez’ and Bryan Hitch’s Avengers. In fact, when I saw the first X-men movie, I didn’t see Len Wein’s Wolverine on screen. I saw John Byrne’s. That’s why I personally don’t have any problems going to The Avenger’s movie and won’t have any problems buying the DVDs either.
But that’s just my opinion.