Thursday, 27 March 2014

How many Jack Kirby characters in Captain America : The Winter Soldier?

Jack Kirby presents Captain America The Winter Soldier

Captain America was created by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby way back in the 1940s, but the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier contains much more Kirby content than just Cap, it is absolutely chock full to the gills of Jack Kirby ideas, concepts and characters. It positively reeks of Kirby. Here’s a breakdown…..

Early on the character who leads the pirates is a French mercenary called Batroc. In the comics he’s known as Batroc the Leaper, a French mercenary created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in the sixties, master of French kick boxing. Kirby very kindly storyboarded the sequence for the movie decades before it was filmed.


Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury gets a lot of screen time in Winter Soldier. In the comics, the original Nick Fury character started as Sgt Fury in World War II, only becoming an Agent of Shield in his later years. The Samuel L. Jackson version of Fury owes more to the Marvel Ultimate Universe Nick Fury, and Jim Sterenko was responsible for moulding many of the aspects of the Shield Nick Fury character, but still, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee first created the character in the sixties, the name, the story, the eyepatch.

When Steve Rogers visits the museum in the movie,  the tour guide mentions the Howling Commandos, and there’s a large backdrop showing characters from the first film that Cap helped save from the Red Skull – all these characters – “Dum Dum” Dougan, “Izzy” Cohen, “Pinky” Pinkerton and the others, all created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

Remember the nurse who lived across the hall and turned out to be a Shield agent? This was Sharon Carter, Agent 13, in the comics she went on to become Steve Rogers girlfriend, among other things, she originally appeared in 1966, created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

When Cap visits the army base he was first trained at and finds the underground SHIELD complex where Arnim Zola’s brain pattern has been downloaded onto magnetic tape and he speaks to Cap via an indistinct green face on a  monitor? The movie only hints at it, but in the comics Arnim Zola is a face on a screen that is embedded on the stomach of a character who has a CCTV camera for a head, a classic Kirby creation. Arnim Zola - created by Jack Kirby.

The old lady Cap visits, his love interest form the first film, Peggy Carter (in the comics she was related to Sharon, originally her sister, then her aunt, comic families are complicated),she is not surprisingly, a character created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

Remember the bald guy they rescue from the ship? He says “Shield don’t negotiate” and then later on turns out to be working for Hyrda. That’s Jasper Stilwell, another Kirby/Lee creation.

The bad guys in this movie? It’s HYDRA again, an evil organisation that infiltrates SHIELD. HYDRA – created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. SHIELD? Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

In the first end credits sequence we see a man with a monocle, almost certainly Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, another Kirby/Lee character, and the big reveal is the  twins in the prison cells, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, both Kirby characters.

If all these aren’t enough to show that the whole movie is Kirby character driven - last of all, the character in the title of the movie – The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who to be fair isn’t actually in the movie that much, is I hope you know by now, Bucky Barnes, Captain America’s best friend in the first movie Captain America:The First Avenger and his teenage sidekick in the comics. Bucky Barnes was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and first appeared in Captain America #1.

Joe Simon & Stan Lee played their part of course, and Steve Epting and Ed Brubaker gave us a lot of the story that is Winter Soldier, but Kirby first created all these characters, their personalities, their costumes, their stories, their abilities, so many of these in the movie are straight from Jack Kirby’s head. Without Jack Kirby Captain America:The Winter Soldier would not exist.

Captain America, Nick Fury, Bucky Barnes, Agent 13, Batroc, the Howling Commandos, HYDRA, SHIELD, Baron Strucker, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, Arnim Zola, Peggy Carter, despite all of these, Jack Kirby’s name is hidden away in the middle of the end credits.....

“based on the comic by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby”

In a slightly smaller font than anyone else. Such a shame Marvel/Disney can’t give proper recognition to the creative powerhouse whose ideas are the foundation on which the “House of Ideas” is built.

Jack Kirby

If you want to know more about upcoming movies featuring Jack Kirby characters, look up Jack Kirby on IMDB, currently 68 movies listed, many of them (Ant-Man, Silver Surfer, Nick Fury, Fantastic Four) still on their way. The box office belongs to Kirby, makes you wonder why he isn’t given more recognition……

Did I miss any significant Kirby characters in Winter Soldier? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Comics Will Break Your Heart

Comics will break your heart -Jack Kirby

Stan Lee was interviewed again recently by that well respected highbrow journal Playboy and yet again, like so many articles over the years, he was down as the “creator” not “co-creator” of an impressive list of superheroes- The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Spider-Man, The Hulk, The Avengers etc. etc.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Lee didn’t create these characters on his own, some would argue the lions share of creation belonged to artists like Jack Kirby, who would come up with the costumes, ideas, plots and sometimes dialogue of the comics Stan “wrote”.

The really interesting snippet though was picked up on by the Comic Alliance website where Lee says-

“There was never a time when it just said ‘by Stan Lee.’  It was always ‘by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’ or ‘by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.’  I made sure their names were always as big as mine.  As far as what they were paid, I had nothing to do with that.  They were hired as freelance artists, and they worked as freelance artists.  At some point they apparently felt they should be getting more money.  Fine, it was up to them to talk to the publisher.  It had nothing to do with me.  I would have liked to have gotten more money too.  And twice, not once, I offered a job to Jack Kirby.  I said to him, ‘Jack, why don’t you work for Marvel with me?’  I was the art director at the time.  I said, ‘You be the art director.  I’ll just be the editor and head writer, and you’ll have that security.’ He wouldn’t do it.  He didn’t want a staff job.  With him, as with Ditko, I don’t see where they were unfairly treated.  Jack was a great guy and so is Steve.  I’m sorry anybody feels there’s any acrimony.  I loved them both.”

Stan tells us “it had nothing to do with me”. He washes his hands of the matter, he was a hired hand, so were they, both battling against some faceless corporation. The little guys, trying their best to make good. Good for you Stan. Excelsior.

OK. So what Kirby got paid had “nothing to do” with Stan? Stan was in a position to offer Kirby a job. Not once, apparently, but twice. Yet his position in the company meant he had “nothing to do” with how Kirby was treated or what he got paid. Kirby built the Marvel universe from the ground up, you’d think maybe he deserved a little recognition for this, sure he got paid as a “work for hire”, but the work for hire he did was the backbone of the entire company, and he was treated like another disposable employee.

Stan is “sorry anybody feels there’s any acrimony.” There was acrimony, Kirby felt bitter at the way he was treated, his family still feel that bitterness, and they heard firsthand from their dad how he felt. Kirby continues to not get media recognition for having co-created the vast majority of superhero characters that are the stars of so many recent and upcoming Marvel/Disney films.

Lee says he loved Ditko and Kirby. Of course he did, they made him a lot of money by feeding him year upon year of ideas that he still makes a living from while the Kirby kids resort to trying to sue Marvel as the Kirby estate doesn’t see a cent of the billions of dollars Kirby characters have made over the years.

Maybe Stan believes everything he says in this article, he just doesn’t get why Kirby and Ditko felt aggrieved at the way they were treated. Maybe he’s incapable of imagining how it feels to see other people make a fortune from your creations and art, from merchandise and action figures based on your designs and ideas. Maybe he’s just Stan Lee and he imagines everyone else thinks like Stan Lee and can swallow their pride and take the money.

It’s such a shame. When I was a boy Stan Lee could do no wrong, he created the best club on earth, he used long words that all started with the same letter, he was cool. I wish it had been like it was portrayed in the FF anuual when Stan and Jack tried to crash the wedding, two pals, no animosity, watching each others backs. 

I wish he’d be cool again and make a stand for Kirby, he could speak out and say his buddies Jack and Steve don’t get enough recognition; he could make sure he isn’t credited as the “creator” of Captain America when he had nothing to do with his original creation, or the “artist” on Thor when he just filled in the speech balloons, he could refuse to appear in Marvel films until a CGI Jack stands next to him. Instead Stan Lee, one of the world’s finest self promoters, the smiling survivor, continues to do what he does best, promote Stan Lee. Jack turned down the art director job, I did all I could, it's nothing to do with me.

I don’t want to be down on Stan though, he has done so many amazing things in his life, he brought me a lot of joy as a kid, without Stan we wouldn’t have had the Marvel Universe as we know it today, I’m glad he’s alive and enjoying life, I just wish he’d try to understand why there still is acrimony and take a stand to even the scales. It’s not too late. Jack died 20 years ago, but Stan is still here, if he lost that “It had nothing to do with me” attitude he’d be able to redeem himself in the eyes of comic book history and not be the guy who spent the last years of his life promoting himself over the men whose shoulders he stood on.

Kirby said “comics will break your heart.” It’s such a shame that the greatest creative force we’ve ever seen in comics was paid in heartbreak instead of dollars, but we’re left with a legacy of characters and ideas that still burn as bright as they ever did. As Stan says “Jack was a great guy”. If Stan won’t, then make sure you let people know Jack Kirby existed, use social media (#jackkirby), use conversation, be crazy and use an actual pen, let them know he did such astounding things, that it wasn’t just Stan that created these modern myths.

It’s the last, best thing we can do now.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

London Super Comic Convention (LSCC) 2014 review

As anyone who has ever thrown a party knows, creating the right atmosphere can be tricky. You can have all the right ingredients, but still end up with a funereal mess, there’s no magic recipe, no secret formula, sometimes it falls flat, sometimes it just works. LSCC just worked this year, which I’m sure was actually the result of a lot of hard work by the party throwers. It was obscenely busy, but still had a really nice friendly vibe to it. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. No-one died. At least 17 Batmen turned up.

I travelled up with two friends and a daughter. Scott who drove us down to London & dropped us off, John Watson was also a guest at the con, and Chloe who was going to check out Westminster University. Last year I drove down with John, but left most of his art on top of a cupboard in my house 400 miles away, it was a failure of epic proportions, you can enjoy John’s version of events on his blog.

This year was going to be a triumph of scheduling and preparation, a well oiled organisation machine. John and Scott only had to wait half an hour while I finished packing and we set off aiming to get to the Excel for about 7pm.

The M6 was like a very long car park. We arrived at 11pm. The fail had started.

Scott dropped us off, very kindly insisting on a door to door service despite the fact that travelling two blocks at the Excel Centre in a car means driving in a complex series of one-way spirals.

John had arranged to meet up with people at a hotel that was about 14 miles away from our hotel, so we opted to go for a direct straight line of sight walking route that involved climbing over a line of metal fences. John leapt over them like a gazelle, Chloe managed to dislocate her hip on the third fence and I was left straggling the first hurdle in almost complete darkness as Chloe and John progressed into the distance. Not entirely sure it was a great idea introducing my 18 year old daughter to the seedy underbelly of the comic book industry, but she coped very well with the torrent of filth and deviancy.

The hotel breakfast seemed more like some sort of punishment than a tasty treat you’d pay £8.95 for. Lukewarm scrambled egg, cold croissants and the only thing the juice had in common with oranges was the colour. This isn’t trip advisor, sorry, but hotel breakfasts should be a feast, this felt like a punishment. I’m too nice to name the hotel, I just won’t be travelling to that particular lodge again if I can.

LSCC was so busy this year, the queue stretched to the horizon; I worried that those at the con would be over by the time those at the end of the queue made it inside. It didn’t happen though, the same metal fences I’d scaled just the evening before were now efficiently herding punters in all the right directions. It was very well staffed, very well co-ordinated, yellow STAFF t-shirts were everywhere, despite losing the bit of paper that proved I had a pro-pass allocated, the organisers sorted me out very quickly with a pass and we set up the table in plenty of time for the mad rush of VIP ticket holders at 9:30am.

John Watson and Russell Payne at LSCC 2014

I was invited to LSCC because I volunteer for the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Centre, and to give a talk called “You Don’t Know Jack?” about the late, great Jack Kirby, the co-creator of the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Ant-man, Iron Man, Thor,  The Silver Surfer, Galactus,  the Inhumans & oooooh  many, many  more. The main point was promoting the work of the excellent Jack Kirby Museum,  whip up a bit of enthusiasm for Jack Kirby & maybe even tell people a few things they didn’t know.

The Kirby talk went pretty well, more people turned up than I expected,  it was a really nice crowd who were more than happy to chant “Jack Kirby” repeatedly and quite a few came over afterwards to say they enjoyed it. I had some intelligent questions too, one gent asking about the Jewish heritage of Kirby and other comic creators, and another asking about Lichtenstein and recognising real artists from plagiarists. I was secretly hoping more for “Who’d win Thor or Hulk?” type questions but it was nice to get more in depth stuff. Also, a 16 year old girl called Emily stood and queued up just to say thankyou to me for the t-shirt she won as part of the talk, who says the youth of today aren’t nice? There’s a few photos scattered around Instagram, Twitter and Facebook of the talk, although they all seem to be using some sort of filter that makes me look bright red and overweight. Odd.

Cosplay accounted for a lot of the footfall, a suspiciously large amount of cosplayers seemed to be congregating just outside the con not wearing passes, suggesting they maybe had zero interest in comics, or just zero interest in paying to get in, but it went for the usual colourful mix. I saw Bane having his photo taken with Zarina the Pirate Fairy while a Predator holding a ghetto blaster walked past wearing heart-print Pyjamas. 

However you feel about cosplay, it’s hard not to enjoy the surreal combinations it produces. I had no idea Predators liked UB40 so much. The Cosplay competition was visible from where I was sitting across the auditorium and in a moment of weakness I stood up to watch as Princess Elsa from Frozen did a number to “Let It Go”. She threw some glittery snow in the air, it was quite magical. Some of the lovingly hand-made costumes were genuinely stunning, it’s amazing what you can do with some spray painted cardboard and a broom handle.

With all this visual spectacle going on, I always mean to take photos at comic conventions and this time I did actually manage to remember a camera and took possibly the worst comic convention video of all time-

Artists Alley was organised alphabetically, by first name so it mixed up the small press and the pros and gave us an entire aisle of “Daves”. I was sat with John Watson in the “J’s”, in between the My Little Pony artist Katie Cook and Kate Ashwin the writer/artist for online comic Widdershins. Kate writes, draws, colours and letters her comic and has been at it for years so she had a range of books collecting  hundreds of webcomic pages and a steady stream of people who knew her work. Great to see someone actually making a success of their own comic.

Jack Kirby

Funnily enough there was a comic writer there called Jack Kirby, who was sitting nowhere near us but came over to say Hi. His actual name actually was actually Jack Kirby, he showed me his actual driving licence. Jack writes a comic called Alien in the Outfield, which I didn’t get time to check out, but it references Bill Watterson so it can’t be all bad. He really should change his pen-name though, it’s like someone born in 1994 deciding to work in movies when their name is Steven Spielberg. It’s already taken. I wish him every success though.

So many other names there whose work I didn’t know, you always feel a bit guilty for not knowing someone’s work, but I don’t really many read modern comics, I still think of anything published after 1985 as a “new comic”, so I just chatted to a few whose work caught my eye. There’s still some very talented people out there, not all of them might work for Marvel or DC, but they produce results, wish I’d had more time to walk round and chat but I was sitting behind a table for 95% of the con, so didn’t really get to meet all the other guests, but did a whistlestop tour.

It was great to meet MikeGrell, the one time I felt a little starstruck, and I caught up with friends at the bar in the evening, in between naps. In fact during the whole con, I only came back with one actual comic, a gift from the notoriously shy and retiring Jeff of Closeencounters. Tiny Titans issue 1 for my youngest, a great comic series well worth checking out if you have fledgling comic fans in the house.

I did spend a few minutes at one stall that had an incredible collection of original art, Kirby 2001 covers, Eternal covers and some really nice interior pages. Way out of my price range, but nice just to be standing near them.

Very briefly saw Gary Frank and Chris Weston’s tables, they both had some original art for sale that I really liked. Dan Slott seemed to have the biggest queue, and one of the biggest beards.

There was that phenomenon where some of the unpublished and/or small press artists had amazing stands and banners, 16 foot high full colour extravaganzas with fairy lights, badges, flyers, t-shirts and professional looking art and prints in nice plastic folders, while other more established pros just had a pile of dog-eared original art, an A4 piece of paper with their name on and a sketchpad.

The very best artists sometimes make the worst businessmen, which is why I suppose you can sometimes get such great bargains at comic conventions, but it always seems a shame when it becomes about buying something just to sell it on ebay within a week to make a profit, it’s so much more heart-warming when art is bought because the buyer loves it and it is just going to give them pleasure to look at it and own it. There was plenty of that sort of thing going on too and a few of the free sketches  did for people got gasps of delight, which is what a comic convention should be about, appreciating, sharing and enjoying the art, characters and stories that bring such an odd group of people together in one place.

At one point a little girl dressed as some sort of Manga Princess came over to the table and told  me how much she likes drawing and asked me how she should draw lighting. I told her to make sure all the shadows point in the right direction. She said “OK”. 

My work here was done.

So a particularly good comic convention with something for everyone. Big thanks to George from LSCC for inviting me to give a talk. Had a great time, lots of laughs, it was a feast for the eyes, I met lots of people and hopefully helped keep the flaming legacy of Jack Kirby burning, or at least blew on the embers.

There’s loads more photos and stuff online about LSCC, try the hashtag #lscc on twitter.

If you would like to know more about Jack Kirby, visit the Jack Kirby Museum Website. There's probably videos online somewhere of my LSCC talk, but here's one I gave last year at the Bristol International Comic Expo....

Monday, 17 March 2014

Back from the London Super Comic Convention LSSC 2014

Dr Doom lscc london super comic convention 2014

Just back from London and the 2014 London Super Comic ConventionActually one of the best cons I’ve ever been to, well organised, loads of attendees, good atmosphere, decent turn out for the talk I was giving, talked to old friends, I met Mike Grell and I got some work offers. Very little sleep and only eating only a jammie dodger for dinner have taken a physical toll but I’m sure my fine tuned athletic constitution will soon recover.

When I’ve slept, I’ll post some more…..

Russell Payne lscc london super comic convention 2014Eternals lscc london super comic convention 2014

Friday, 7 March 2014

Old comics smell good.

My name is Russell Payne and I love old comics.

Comics offer a unique opportunity halfway between film and book to tell a visually rich story that can be savoured or rushed, packed with detail, speaking to both hemispheres of the brain at the same time, and by happy co-incidence, they often feature robots, aliens and superheroes.

Most new comics though, they don’t do much for me, what I really love is old comics. Specifically, good comics published before 1987, ideally late 1960s, early 1970s. Early seventies, a good vintage, the comic equivalent of a fine wine, not only is the original content superior, the aging process has causing subtle chemical shifts in the actual thing, making it fuller bodied, more mature with a cheeky suggestion of oak and cherries.

The look, the smell,  the feel of old comics. I know rationally that what I should really be concentrating on here is the artwork and story. Who pencilled it? Who wrote it? Who inked it? Who did the cover? What characters are in it? What happens to Superboy when Teenage Robots Revolt? I know these are the things that matter, so why am I opening the mylar bag anticipating having a good sniff of some old paper?

While at the same time being aware that what I’m smelling is a combination of the comic itself decomposing & whatever mould and bacteria have come to live in it over the past 40 years, I still breathe deep as if I was appreciating the perfumed soft hair of a lover. I linger over the woody overtones, the metallic bite where rusty staples have started to grow little oxidised barnacles on them, the flaky and jagged page edges that devalue it in the money blinkered eyes of CGC but just make me love it all the more.

Just holding an old comic makes me happy, knowing that once it nestled in a spinner rack, maybe grabbed for a few cents by a scrappy young street kid, read over and over and then lovingly stored away, changing hands over the years before I notice it for 99p, no reserve on Ebay or at a convention bargain box.  Here’s some I bought this week, they smell of pure joy.

Am I being irrational? Is it some olfactory memory that I’m hanging onto? I don’t know, but I do know I’m not alone. I’ve seen people, when they think no one is looking, sniffing their comics too. I don’t care why I do it, I like it, I love old comics and I love the way they smell and after a while, when I’ve finished the smelling, I sometimes like to read them. All this enjoyment from old comics, and we haven’t even opened one yet.

A new comic costs what $3.99 now? Worse still, new comics smell of chemicals, they’re all shiny, slippy, glossy and perfect, the colours are cocky and over-saturated, too bright for my liking, don’t even get me started on the content.

Maybe I’ll buy it in a few decades when the colours have faded and it smells right.