Yesterday, JACK KIRBY, had he yet been alive, would've been 102. Cue various blog writers waxing eloquent and lyrical about what a great guy he was, what a fantastic artist/writer/ideas man he was, how prescient he was about graphic novels, collected editions, the fate of comicbooks, etc. And, of course, how he healed the sick, walked on water, foretold the future, and performed many signs and wonders. Oh, my mistake regarding the previous sentence, but it's a natural false impression that some may get, given the over-the-top deification of the man in some comicbook circles.
Now, I never met Jack, but like I said, I'm prepared to accept that he was a decent guy in the main - but, just like the rest of us, he wasn't perfect. He didn't always credit JOE SIMON for his contributions during their partnership when recounting a list of his (Jack's) achievements in later years, something you think he'd have gone to great pains to do, given his perception of how he himself was denied credit for his own work. He became bitter and angry (fueled, it has to be said, by some of those around him) at not receiving what he considered proper financial compensation for his many creations or co-creations, and unwisely (as well as inaccurately) accused Stan Lee of never having created or written anything in his life.
However, as I've pointed out a few times before, Jack knew how things operated at the time, and knew and accepted that the copyright of any feature belonged to the publishers. That was only natural (as well as sensible), because why should a publisher shell out many thousands of dollars to launch a comicbook, only for the writer or artist to take it elsewhere if it became successful? They'd have spent thousands and then have nothing to show for it. There's nothing to indicate that Jack or Joe treated their contributors any differently to the established norms of the time when the ran their own company, MAINLINE COMICS.
Jack sold his creations to keep himself in a job, by which he earned a good living to support his family. The fact that his work later appreciated in value didn't really entitle him to cry 'foul' after the fact. Otherwise that Aston Martin D.B.5 I sold for £200,000 a few years ago and which is now worth 5 million - well, I'm entitled to a slice of that, so I am. (No, of course I didn't - I'm just illustrating the point.) British cartoonist LEO BAXENDALE likewise felt cheated (with no real basis in my view), but it's interesting (and relevant) to consider the opinion of another UK cartoonist, the late TERRY BAVE.
I once asked Terry if he'd ever felt cheated, and tempted to seek reimbursement for all the characters and strips he'd created (with his wife SHIELA) over the years that IPC were still reprinting, and his response was "Nah! Kept me in a job, it did. Who needs the grief of all that palaver?" (Despite the quotes to indicate speech, that's a paraphrase of what Terry said as best as I can remember it, but it carries the full essence of his sentiment.) Terry enjoyed his career in comics, enjoyed the creative process, regarded himself blessed to have worked in the industry for so long, and didn't feel cheated, or deprived, or bitter about anything. Why? Because he knew the deal going in and accepted it - and didn't whinge about it later.
I note that some blog writers are claiming that Jack has been vindicated by time, seeing as how some of his later work, regarded as failures when it was first published, is now being reprinted in hardcover volumes. This proves, they say, what they knew all along, that it was just the rubes who were too dim to realise what masterpieces Jack was producing. Well, no (simply). What it proves is that once 'cult status' has been built up around a figure by dedicated fans over the years since he died, then an interest has been generated in his work, not that the work was necessarily or automatically deserving of unqualified success back in the day. It also proves that, given the growing industry in collected editions of material that has already been paid for, there is a market to be exploited and an appetite to be developed that will need fed. I have a lot of Jack's original comics, as well as many and various editions of reprints of the same material. I find that it doesn't read any better or worse now than it did at the time I first read it, decades ago.
So Jack was a nice guy, who may have believed (or held hopes of) how the comicbook industry would develop in the future, but I'm sceptical that Jack knew - he couldn't 'know'. But just for argument's sake, even if he did (and remember, he'd have been aware of what other countries were doing in the field of comics publishing, so there was a template), it wasn't necessarily because he thought that his comics were intrinsically deserving of such treatment (deluxe collected editions, blockbuster movies, etc.), merely, perhaps, that he was cynically aware of just how 'big business' eventually gets around to mining and exploiting absolutely everything down to the very last molecule. In short, if there's money to be made from something, they'll find every which way to make it. Jack certainly knew that.
Jack was a fine man by all accounts, and a great comicbook creator, but let's dial down the more 'godlike' attributes that some fans and former associates are prone to ascribe to him, eh? However, that'll probably never happen while there are people and publishers with a vested interest in promoting (and sometimes exaggerating to the point of deifying) his achievements in order to sell books by or about him.
Let me tell you what I know. This post well receive a lot of visits, that's for sure. However, whether or not it'll generate a lot of comments depends on you.