Each and every year Comic-Con International brings with its 125,000-plus fans, giant floor displays and glitzy movie star panels. The con also brings a round of complaints that with the bigger media picture, the San Diego institution is losing sight of its comics focus. Though, the old con still lives when you look for it, and just as in many, many past shows, 2009 proved to be another year where Jack Kirby was King at Comic-Con.
"It's Sunday morning in San Diego. Let's do a Kirby panel," writer Mark Evanier announced on the show's final day to a warm applause from a crowded room of fans of the late art legend. Evanier and his former employer/mentor both won big over the weekend as the writer's biography "Kirby: King of Comics" won the coveted Eisner Award earlier that weekend. Evanier also ensured that more Kirby books from the Abrams ComicArts imprint would be on the way, with one having to do with the creator's past animation art.
Other announcements at the panel included word of plans for future volumes in Titan Books' "Best of Simon & Kirby" library of hardcovers and Evanier's own personal take on when fans would see more archival collections of Kirby's work. Asked often what will be collected, "The answer is 'Darn near everything,'" Evanier said at the podium. "Everything that can be reprinted of Jack's is going to be reprinted. That's not an official announcement...there may be a few selected things like things based on a license like '2001' that may not get reprinted. But everything else, DC is going to reprint everything that's possible to reprint. I don't know if 'Justice, Inc.' will be a part of that...but the reason you don't get things as fast as you like is because these can be very expensive items. They don't want to put out $300 of Kirby product next month. We would buy them all, but a lot of other people wouldn't. So they're spacing them out.
For readers of modern comics, the biggest Kirby news of the panel and show came when Kirby estate lawyer Paul Levine announced, "Dynamite [Entertainment] will be publishing, within the next few years, all of the characters owned by the Kirby estate – that is to say all the characters not owned by Marvel or DC. Characters like Captain Victory and Silver Star." For more info on this development, CBR reached out to Dynamite for their plans with these characters.
"We're doing the Kirby-verse," explained publisher Nick Barrucci. "It's everything Jack created for Topps, everything he created for Pacific Comics and 'Silver Star.' Everything. It's all going to be under one universe, which is why we're calling it the Kirby-verse. We were playing with the idea of calling it Kirby World because it sounds cool, but we didn't want anybody getting it mixed up with DC's Fourth World. And Kirby's art was so massive that Kirby-verse ends up fitting better."
While an exact creative lineup for the book (or books) that will launch the Kirby-verse remains under wraps for now, Barrucci did explain that as with so many of the companies recent revivals, painter Alex Ross will lend a hand on conceptual work and covers. Asked how he would gauge his involvement, Ross told CBR, "I'm not always necessarily in the position of taking lead on these things, but I may be the first person that Nick calls to say, 'Do you want to do covers or a cover on this?' and then sometimes the project takes a hold of me creatively, and I'm pitching him on ideas that have been percolating. Often, just in the design of doing a single cover, I might come up with an entire series of content."
The artist expressed desire to keep Kirby's later characters true to their original form rather than trying to "modernize" them for readers of today. "Any use of the Kirby material, if you're going to redesign it much like DC recently did with the New Gods, I think you're meddling with forces beyond your right to do so. It doesn't matter what you say needs to be cleaned up for a modern audience, we're still reading character primarily between 40 and 70 years old, and those are the most popular characters in the world. Very few of the ones created in the last 20 years ever reach that list."
And though characters like the Silver Star may not have the legacy that some of Kirby's works for the corporate publishers have, Ross noted how the legendary cartoonists ideas and themes seem to work as part of a whole. "The thing that he ultimately did was that he largely repeated archetypes. You can look at Captain Victory and see anyone from Ikarus to the prettier version of Orion and so many other characters he created over time. There's even backup characters in Captain Victory where one guy looks like Triton from the Inhumans. So all these physical types started to repeat throughout his work, and costume elements started to repeat. So in a way, by having the Kirby estate's library what you have is the equivalent of many of the creative concepts that would be a counterpoint or mirror what he did at DC and Marvel.
"With the 'Project Superpowers' stuff, we're reviving stuff that is largely 70 years old, and within that stuff, there is no Kirby influence for the most part. We don't have that cool extra factor that he brought to comics in the Silver Age, and that's a considerably missing element from this burgeoning universe. To take that influence directly from the creator's hands like with the Kirby-verse, that's going to be a cool thing. Kirby's artistic sense is the most original in the history of comics, and the most influential, obviously."