Thursday, June 9, 2011

The "Car Accident"

As I warned in the introduction, some of my memories will be fuzzy and this will be one of them. I kick myself around the block for not making a note, but at the time it didn’t really seem that important. I got a distress call from Roz, telling me that they’d been in an automobile accident and that Jack was in the hospital.
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed,” Is he all right? Are his hands hurt?”
“No, he’s just a little shaken, but they want to keep him in the hospital for a couple of days for observation,” she responded.
Right? Unfortunate, but hardly historic.
It was a while before I understood that he’d had a stroke, or heart attack, or gas, depending on who you were talking to. About the time CAPTAIN VICTORY #3 (May 1982) hit my hands. It was Kirby art, but like none that I’d ever seen. What had always seemed effortless now seemed to be a struggle.
Since Jack only missed one San Diego ComicCon, in 1981, it must have occurred shortly before that.
In later years, Roz claimed that Jack had triple or quadruple by-pass surgery (depending on who she was talking to), but I went swimming with the guy pretty much to the end and saw no scars. I later asked Neal about it and he looked at me like I was off my rocker, denying it immediately.
Kirby’s health was a secret that was guarded like the crown jewels, even from extended family members.
There has been some discussion in Kirby biographies about Jack losing some of his eyesight and the result was a collapse of his artistic construction. While one eye was weaker than the other, Roz refuted this, “That’s simply not true. Jack never had problems with his eyesight. He had glasses because he was a little nearsighted. I’m the one with the bad eyes. I’m going to have to get my cataracts removed.”
The success of CAPTAIN VICTORY prompted management to offer Jack a second title. The other Kirby production for Pacific was SILVER STAR a character created in 1975 for a screenplay with Steve Sherman. The story deals with genetically altered humans, the chaos some of them bring and is as dark as anything he’d ever produced.

As an example, there was the time that Jack and his wife Roz and I met for lunch at the Copper Penny Restaurant that used to be across the street from the bungalows at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. He wanted to know if I would ink this new comic book he was doing called Silver Star. I was busy working full time at Disney then and we hadn’t done a project together in a while, and he proceeded to tell me the story of Silver Star; and all through lunch I’m thinking. “My Gawd, all of this material in one issue?” No, what Jack had done was relate to me the complete six or seven issue saga. It was all in his head. So when he sat down to draw it and put his dialogue in, he already knew everything about his story. When I got the penciled pages, looking them over, sometimes I’d find an instance of something left out, maybe just a word or explanation of motivation or something. Jack didn’t realize it because he knew his plot and characters by heart. Roz did too. What he needed was an editor who had no vested interest in anything except “Does this part make sense to me?” At Marvel I believe the attitude was “We’ve got to rewrite this so that it’s Stan Lee type dialogue yadda-yadda-yadda.” Jack needed an editor but someone to just simply say, if they were unsure of a story point, or whatever, “Jack, I’m confused…is this what you meant?” Am I making any sense?

DB: Yeah.
MR: There were…I don’t remember how many Silver Stars that I inked. I always thought it was one but somebody said I did four or five of them, so geez…who knows. As it turned out, the screen cartoonists were on strike and so I was working for the studio at home (we’d pick up work at the Jack In The Box drive through across the street from the studio), rather than cross the picket line. It was a case where we (the creative department for consumer products) weren’t violating the strike; we were just honoring the strike by not crossing the picket line. We were doing work that had nothing to do with what the animation cartoonists were striking over. So we worked at home. Well, I could do in four or five hours what one could do in an office situation in twelve hours. I had plenty of time to work on Silver Star. But there were a couple of spots where I thought, “This is a little confusing.” So I thought about it and added a couple of words here and there in narrative and then it made sense. But like I say, people wanted to “fix” Jack.

CAPTAIN VICTORY and SILVER STAR are a lot like olives. Some saw the change in the art and winced, others viewed it with delight as yet another step into abstraction. The art was as powerful as it had always been, but now Jack seemed to be drawing more like he felt and less like a world any of us recognized. Pacific was doing quite well with publishing comics, but was having less success collecting cash for them. Many of the comic shops eventually switched to other distributors left Pacific holding the bag on three months of deliveries, resulting in red ink. As a result CAPTAIN VICTORY was canceled with #13 (Jan. 1983.)
Just as the bad news was settling in, Mike Thibodeaux walked through the door at Casa Kirby with a big smile on his face and announced, “I just quit my day job. Now I’m inking Jack Kirby full time!”
No word about a new Buick.
By August of 1984 Pacific was out of business

No comments:

Post a Comment