The Jack Kirby Trigger
Aftershocks of Marvel’s victory over the Jack Kirby Estate are rippling through the comics web community. Of special note is a spirited plea, Honoring a Fallen King, by Stephen R. Bissette, the prolific artist known for his collaboration with Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, calling for an industry-wide boycott of all Kirby derived products at Marvel, including films, toys, games and all other merchandising products.
Stephen’s bold call to action is being received with unpropitious agitation at Bleeding Cool forums, where it’s quickly topped the 150 comments mark, and where many members are venting their often misguided angst, that entirely misses the point of the moral foundation on which Stephen makes his plea. A few good forum members are holding the fort in answering this barrage of antagonism there, but the general thrust of the discussion is peculiar for comics fans who claim to base their opposition to a boycott on legal and financial ramifications it could have, while entirely disregarding the moral injustice that’s been rendered to the Kirby Estate…and which also portends of an overriding cataclysm not only for the comics industry but also for our entire world.
On the opposite side, Tom Spurgeon has called for a consideration of Stephen’s plea at The Comics Reporter. Indeed, and in staying in true form to his outspoken discourse on the moral injustices of creator/publisher issues, Tom delivers yet another masterpiece of reasoning and heart-felt disassociation from the grossly unjust treatment of creators by major publishers. It cannot be stressed enough how important a voice such as Tom’s is, within the expanse of mainstream comics journalism, that seems to be more and more avert to taking such a clearly and blatantly confrontational position towards Marvel and DC.
It would be hoped that Stephen Bissette’s call to boycott Marvel is a beginning of an avalanche of public outcry to come. Indeed, if there ever was a creator/publisher issue that should trigger widespread condemnation, then Jack Kirby’s enormous and fundamental contribution to the medium we love, and his tireless creative output that shaped the modern narrative, along with his definitive influence on the cultural success of Marvel properties… all these suggest that this is the single-most event that should send a wake-up call to creators, fandom and the comics press, for realizing a minimal degree of moral humanity, that we should be demanding a greater representation of in the comics.
The case for the Jack Kirby Estate cannot, however, be isolated from the larger picture of the comics industry, nor from the signs of the times we live in, where global public unrest over the financial demise of the middle-class is reaching decibel levels that have not yet been heard in recent history.
It is this basis, evident in the shattered Obama dream; along with people taking to the streets in France, Spain and Greece; giving rise to the Arab Spring; and agitating the African and Far-Eastern nations, that is at the heart of the injustice rendered to the legacy of Jack Kirby. Yes, it is all woven into an intricate web and driven by the same power-lust and obliteration of basic moral and humane considerations, that are leading our world into an intolerable critical mass where the only answer will be a bursting of the bubble that comes at the risk of the highest price possible.
The toppling of our social, political and economic infrastructures, and our subsequently trying to pick up the pieces in order to prepare a better world for our children. Until we more fully understand the implications of such local events as Marvel’s victory over the Jack Kirby Estate, and strive to fathom the operative forces at the root of the problem, then we have little chance of being prepared for the storm to come, that this case heralds.
It would seem that this is as good a time as any to once again call for comics creators to join together and form a guild or union in order to better withstand the strengthened position of publishers in the wake of this court decision. I cannot however mislead myself or anyone else by believing such a possibility is visible over the horizon. It is not yet imminent nor visible. I cannot also deceive myself or others to suggest that this could solve the problem of creator/publisher issues. It will not nor can it. Comics creators, fandom and the comics press, generally do not yet feel the heat strongly enough to support such a minimal needed step towards rectifying injustices inherent in the medium. And even if they did, it is long past a time that a guild or union can be effective, considering how the root of the problem, which is far beyond the comics industry, has raised its head on the world stage over the last decade.
It was in this spirit that I proposed The Comic Book Creators’ Party, as a political union of creators, borne to address the larger global issues affecting the comics industry, back in 2004.
The site called on creators to organize for the 2008 elections in an effort to take leadership of the United States, under a platform calling for a vision for the success of all of humanity. And while most industry proponents scoffed at the notion, primarily citing that America wasn’t ready for such a message, it turned out that the Barak Obama victory of 2008, driven by a platform calling for the same vision, proved that America was indeed ready.
Part of the message in the website was to utilize the San Diego Comic-Con International as the event within which to announce the launching of the party.
I believe Stephen Bissette is right on target by calling for the boycott to culminate in a painful blow to Marvel at the 2012 SDCC International. This is one of the single-most events and vehicles at the disposal of the comics industry that should be utilized to loudly voice the cry for justice, and make it heard around the world.
But I cannot also deceive myself or others by suggesting such a possibility is imminent, or visible around the corner. Indeed most of the people who would lead such a clearly needed effort, and this includes creators, fans and the comics press, are not anywhere near prepared to raise such an aspiration to the forefront of discourse in the comics community and to begin working towards making it a reality. Even though it may be clear to a lot of people that the times have become more agreeable with such an effort. The barriers to such thinking and action appear to be two-fold. On the one hand, we have natural psychological checks in place which prevent us from initiating something that does not yet appear to have wider public support. On the other, we tend to maintain a complacency of action, if it seems that the action could threaten the stability of our local environment – regardless of how clearly we can see that the present path we’re on is heading for all-out chaos and anarchy that will likely obliterate any stability we’re holding onto anyway.
No, I cannot deceive myself or anyone by suggesting a revolution is around the corner. It is not. But I can tell you with unrestrained assurance that it is certainly at least a few neighborhoods away, if not actually the distance of only several blocks.
The critical mass cataclysm is coming. The fall of the Jack Kirby Legacy and Estate, trampled by the corporate insensitivity and greed of Marvel Comics, heralds a trigger for public outcry and unrest of the magnitude we can only hope for. Stephen Bissette has just squeezed the trigger and fired the shot that should be heard around the industry and the world.
I have not personally bought a DC or Marvel product in the last decade nor do I intend to. Nor do I believe the struggle will begin or end with Stephen’s call for the boycott. But for everyone frequenting comic book shops, it is imperative to take his advise and let retailers know why you’re not buying a Marvel product. It is imperative to capture this momentum and elevate it into the front pages of the comics industry.
And it is no less imperative that we begin opening our eyes and utilizing all the tools at our disposal to put the more serious issues to the forefront of public talk. Having fun with 52 relaunches and retailer gimmicks is alright when placed in proportion. But such fun cannot continue to be the bread and butter of our lives, when it’s all leading us astray into a very dangerous future that will catch us unawares and unprepared.
It’s time to start getting ready for the more serious action coming our way, and that means raising the more serious issues into public debate.