Jack Kirby: Hail to the King, 100 years later

Jack Kirby self portrait

Jack Kirby self portrait (enhanced version, adding other characters from the original drawing)

Hail to the King! Aug. 28, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of comic book artist Jack Kirby.

“Comic book artist” actually is an inadequate description. Comic book creator is more like it. His nickname was the “King.” It was deserved.

Kirby lived the stories he drew in his mind. The characters he depicted existed in that fertile imagination. At one point his beloved wife Roz banned Kirby from driving. He was so distracted devising new stories he wasn’t safe behind the wheel.

In the 21st century, much of the output of Marvel Studios wouldn’t be possible without Kirby’s contributions: Captain America (co-created with Joe Simon in 1941), the Avengers (co-created with Stan Lee in 1963), Iron Man (co-created with Lee, Larry Lieber and Don Heck, also ’63), Thor (co-created with Lee and Lieber, ’62), Ant-Man (Lee and Lieber, ’61), the Black Panther (co-created with Lee, 1966). Not to mention the X-Men (co-created with Lee, ’63) that are licensed by 20th Century Fox.

Walt Disney Co. reached an out-of-court settlement with the Kirby family that ensured the company would maintain control. Terms weren’t disclosed but ever since Kirby’s on-screen credit in Marvel-made movies is more prominent.

Still, Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) isn’t as well known among the public as Stan Lee is. Stan was the showman and promoter. Kirby was the workhorse at the drawing board who dreamed up much of the story content. Stan gets cameos in every Marvel movie. Kirby got a cameo in one episode of the 1970s Incredible Hulk TV show.

This isn’t intended as a criticism of Stan. For several years in the 1960s, there was a magic every time there was a Stan Lee-Jack Kirby story published by Marvel. It’s just that Kirby deserves more notoriety than he has received.

Kirby has some detractors who note his drawing style wasn’t realistic. In a 2005 documentary, artist Neal Adams said that missed the point.

Paul McCartney and Jack Kirby in 1976

“I don’t think Jack could really draw anatomy,” Adams said. “I don’t think Jack could draw a real car. That wasn’t Jack. He was a visceral animal. (He) drew impressions of things.

“If you sit around with artists and talk about Jack’s anatomy… you would get the artist who was critical. ‘Oh, he doesn’t know how to do anatomy and everything,'” Adams added. “Then you say, ‘But can you do the power that he can do? Can you do it?’ Let’s just say I ask you to do it. Would you know what to do? Wouldn’t you essentially be held back by what you knew?”

Finally, Adams had this thought: “Me as an artist, it overwhelms me to see this gutsy, ballsy thing and in a way say to myself, ‘I can’t do it.'”

No one else could. That’s why Kirby was the King.

To read about the 1976 meeting between Jack Kirby and Paul McCartney, CLICK HERE to read a post from the Jack Kirby Museum website.

To view frequently asked questions about Kirby, prepared by his biographer Mark Evanier, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE (2:45 p.m., Eastern time): Evanier, who once worked as an assistant to Kirby, has his own tribute you can view by CLICKING HERE.

Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, sent out a post on Twitter on Monday afternoon.

 

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Spider-Man: Homecoming generates a $117M opening

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster

Spider-Man: Homecoming is estimated to generate box office of $117 million for its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada, Exhibitor Relations said on Twitter.

The movie was aided by a wave of positive reviews. Spider-Man: Homecoming has a 93 percent “fresh” rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

This is the third version of Marvel Comics’ flagship character. This time out, Marvel Studios produced the movie while Sony Pictures released it.

With this version, Spider-Man is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man makes an appearance.

The film also is a follow-up to last year’s Captain America: Civil War, where Spider-Man (Tom Holland) made his MCU debut.

Sony produced and released five previous Spider-Man films from 2002 to 2014.

The opening is less than the $146.5 million opening for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 in May and a bit higher than the $103.3 million opening for Warner Bros.’s Wonder Woman last month.

Exhibitor Relations gathers and tracks entertainment industry data. Here’s the post it made on Twitter.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming and the art of the twist

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster

No spoiler unless you consider mention of a plot twist a spoiler.

Spider-Man: Homecoming, this weekend’s big movie opening in the U.S., has a lesson about how to spring a plot twist on the audience.

We’ll avoid details here. However, this paricular plot twist may be a bigger surprise to those familiar with the original source material, i.e. the 1962-66 original comics run by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

The movie’s creative team does take some creative liberties with those Lee-Ditko stories in updating them for a 21st century setting.

That’s not a surprise in and of itself. Ever since Marvel began making its own movies, it has picked and chosen among comic story lines going back decades. The first Marvel Studios film, 2008’s Iron Man, moved the site of the character’s origin from Vietnam (as in the 1963 comic book) to the Middle East.

In any case, Spider-Man: Homecoming’s plot twist works.  Viewers who know the original stories may not see it coming.

One other non-spoiler note, the movie also adapts a major sequence from the original (plotted and drawn by Ditko and scripted by Lee). That will probably also catch the attention of fans of the original comic stories.

Spider-Man 3.0 gets blessing from critics

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster

Spider-Man: Homecoming had its premiere this week and received a lot of positive reviews, including a score of more than 90 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

This is the third version of biggest character in Marvel Comics. Tom Holland, 21, is taking over from the likes of Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

However, this is the first Spidey movie that’s officially part of the Marvel film universe after Marvel and Sony Pictures (which produced five Spider-Man movies from 2002 to 2014) cut a deal. Marvel produced the latest Spidey epic while Sony released it.

Well, here’s a (non-spoiler) sampling of reviews ahead of the official July 7 release.

JONATHAN L. FISCHER, SLATE: “Spider-Man: Homecoming is both a homecoming for the character as well as a movie in which Spider-Man literally goes to homecoming—a fitting re-introduction and an endearingly goofy teen flick.”

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE: “News Flash: Tom Holland is the best movie Spider-Man ever. He finds the kid inside the famous red onesie and brings out the kid in even the most hardened filmgoer….Spider-Man: Homecoming feels fresh off the drawing board, as if he was a character with the dew still on him.”

SCOTT MENDELSON, FORBES.COM: “(T)he film doesn’t work. Why not?  Because in a desire to highlight his youth and inexperience, the film turns Peter Parker into a dangerously incompetent would-be superhero.”

BRIAN TRUITT, USA TODAY: “(Tom) Holland not only looks the part of a 15-year-old but portrays the needed vulnerability, immaturity and jocularity of his comic-book counterpart that was sorely missed in previous movie incarnations.”

SCOTT MENZEL, WE LOVE FILM: “The attempt to recreate what made John Hughes films so great felt incredibly forced. It was so obvious that the writers were doing it that there was nothing clever about it.”

Caveat Emptor: New rumor Eon wants a 007 ‘universe’

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

Jeff Sneider, editor-in-chief of The Tracking Board entertainment news website, publicized a rumor that Eon Productions wants a James Bond film “universe.”

“I’ve heard the Broccolis have caught Universe Fever and would love to explore other corners of the Bond franchise… simultaneously,” Sneider wrote in a June 23 post on Twitter.

It was part of an exchange with another Twitter user.

No other details were provided in the exchange.

Previously, Eon developed a script featuring Jinx, the U.S. spy character played by Halle Berry in 2002’s Die Another Day. But nothing came of that would-be project.

Also, during the 1989-1995 James Bond film hiatus, there was a James Bond Jr. cartoon show (where James Bond Jr. was Bond’s nephew).

However, “Universe Fever” has become a thing since Marvel Studios began establishing its shared universe of characters beginning with 2008’s Iron Man.

Today, that’s formally known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Warner Bros. has counted with the DC Extended Universe. Universal is using The Mummy, released earlier this month, to launch its Dark Universe of monsters.

There have been 007-related continuation novels and comic books exploring young James Bond, Moneypenny and Felix Leiter.

However, is Eon prepared to crank out a film 007 universe?

The Bond pictures, in part because of financial issues at home studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, have come out at irregular intervals. MGM needs other studios to release Bond movies and currently doesn’t have a partner for Bond 25.

Eon has branched out into other films, but they tend to be small dramas such as The Silent Storm and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

Something to ponder for the future. Meanwhile, you can view Sneider’s tweet for yourself.

 

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Spider-Man Homecoming goes for the Romita look

John Romita Sr.’s cover to Amazing Spider-Man No. 52 in 1967

The publicity machine is gearing up for Spider-Man: Homecoming. There are stories about how this third movie version of the character came about, how Marvel Studios is collaborating with Sony Pictures, etc.

Less attention is being paid to something more basic. Namely, how, with Marvel actually producing the movie for Sony, the cinematic Spider-Man looks more like Spider-Man in the comics. Specifically, how he looks more like the version drawn by John Romita Sr. starting in 1966.

Romita, now 87, assumed the assignment after Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko quit Marvel that year. Romita essentially got a try out when he drew a two-part Daredevil story featuring Spider-Man as the guest star.

The change didn’t hurt Spider-Man’s popularity. Romita had a long run on the title. At times, other artists such as Gil Kane were brought in, with Romita doing the inks to maintain the basic look.

Romita also helped launch a Spider-Man newspaper comic strip in the 1970s. Eventually, Romita became Marvel’s art director before retiring.

Sony eventually got the film rights to Spider-Man as the result of a 1999 deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  Prior to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Sony made five Spidey films from 2002 to 2014.

In all five, the costume crew put its own spin on the Spidey suit. For example, the one worn by Andrew Garfield in two of the movies had a spider design more elaborate than the one in the comics. You can view previous the Sony versions in this video:

Now, with Marvel and Sony collaborating (Sony is financing and distributing, Marvel is handling the production), there’s yet another new movie look for the character.

Spider-Man: Homecoming poster

This version, with Tom Holland as the character, made its debut in last year’s Captain America: Civil War.

Spidey in full costume looks almost like a Romita drawing come to life. There were a few changes, including some blue stripes not in the original. The web shooters are visible outside the gloves.

Still, the resemblance to the Romita version is there.

It is perhaps strongest on the poster for the new movie, where the largest image is Spider-Man in costume.

All of this may be overthinking the topic. It’s natural that Marvel Studios would want its Spidey to look different than the five previous Sony films. Still, consider this post a kind of shoutout to one of the stalwarts of the Marvel bullpen.

Wonder Woman breaks the superhero movie glass ceiling

Wonder Woman poster

Appropriately, it was Wonder Woman who broke the glass ceiling of superhero movies.

If anyone doubted it, star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins showed women are more than capable of carrying a superhero epic on their shoulders.

The movie also provides a much-needed lift to Warner Bros.’s franchise of films based on DC Comics characters.

Movies such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad opened big but fell off quickly amid sour reviews and bad word of mouth.

Wonder Woman likelywon’t open as big in the box office. It spotlights a single character, unlike Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. But it appears to be enjoying good word of mouth and absolutely is getting good reviews, with a “fresh” rating above 90 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Superhero movies have been something of a boys club. You’d occasionally get something like 2005’s Elektra with Jennifer Garner. However, it has been a male-dominated genre. Marvel Studios has featured Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in several movies, but she’s either been part off a group or a supporting character.

Meanwhile, things are simply more interesting with a Warner Bros./DC Comic movies that’s not being lambasted for being crummy. Marvel has been on a roll but it could use some competition to keep it on its toes.

In tone, Wonder Woman is somewhat similar to Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger fro 2011. Both feature characters who come of age in a war setting. (Wonder Woman’s origin story is set in World War I, unlike the original comics which were set in World War II.)

Wonder Woman is by no means a copy of that Marvel film. But Wonder Woman, like the first Captain America movie, lays the groundwork for more to come.