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Paying Tribute to the King at Comic-Con

Mark Evanier, Neil Gaiman, Erik Larsen and Darwyn Cooke at Comic-Con
An all-star cast of creators joined Mark Evanier for his annual Jack Kirby tribute at Comic-Con Sunday morning. Sharing the stage with Evanier were creators and Kirby devotees Neil Gaiman, Erik Larsen and Darwyn Cooke. Toldja it was a high-powered cast of panelists.

Evanier, a longtime friend of the Kirby’s, is busily assembling Kirby: King of Comics, a coffee-table book of Kirby’s art, for publication this Fall by Harry N. Abrams. Speaking of Kirby’s comics, however, Evanier observed that “Jack is in print more [now] than he’s ever been,” noting that even what were viewed as Kirby’s flops at the time of their publication, “are now $49.95 hardcovers.”

Evanier got things started in earnest by asking each of his fellow panelists what was their first exposure to Kirby’s work and what is their favorite Kirby work. Gaiman replied, “oddly enough, I was just having this conversation with Guillermo del Toro in Budapest on the Hellboy set.” Gaiman was rhapsodizing to del Toro over a specific page from one of Kirby’s The Demon comics and he told the crowd that del Toro responded, “you know, Neil, we must make The Demon movie, and we will put that [panel progression] in there shot by shot.”

Gaiman also claimed great affection for Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles, mentioning that he’s not sure if it’s currently in print (it is). Gaiman says that one particular 13-page story which featured Kirby inked by an artist whose name I unfortunately didn’t capture, represented “what Jack would’ve been in an alternate universe where he was a pre-Raphaelite.”

The Eternals HC cover by Jack Kirby Speaking of his own stint as caretaker on the Kirby creation The Eternals, Gaiman said that upon rereading Kirby’s original series as research, he was “bleeding” for Kirby, explaining that “you sort of read it and obviously saw him fighting with editors.” Referring to what Marvel has done with those characters post-Kirby (and pre-Gaiman), the writer likened it to “watching people try to breed a prize greyhound with … a bottle of wine … and got something that would neither win races nor be particularly drinkable.” As a result of this, Gaiman’s personal mission was to “try and restore the characters and restore the basic equation [of Kirby's vision] … a lot of what I was doing was chipping away the muck off.”

Erik Larsen answered Evanier’s question by saying that his first exposure to and favoriteKamandi Archives vol. 1 cover work by Kirby are one and the same: Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth which, he says, “kicks all kinds of ass.” Larsen announced that he will be writing and penciling a new ongoing series of the Kirby creation Silver Star, and that legendary Kirby inker Mike Royer will be inking Larsen’s pencils.

Darwyn Cooke’s first exposure to Kirby’s work was the Marvel Superheroes cartoons he saw when he was a child and thought “they were terrible.” Explaining that he was “one of those Neal Adams babies,” it was years later when he picked up an issue of Marvel’s Greatest Comics that everything turned around for him. The issue in question featured Blastaar the Living Bomb, and Cooke says that the shockwaves of Kirby’s storytelling prowess “blew his head apart.” Cooke went on to clarify that, “on an emotional level, Kamandi is the one I really responded to,” joining Larsen in claiming that title to be his favorite of Kirby’s work.

I’ve got one final tantalizing tidbit to share from the panel. In response to Evanier’s asking if there were any Kirby-related project that the panelists were yearning to do, Gaiman referred back to his previously mentioned conversation with Guillermo del Toro. Gaiman shared with the Comic-Con crowd that he has already told del Toro that “if you are going to do this [movie of The Demon], I am writing it, and I will kill anybody else who tries.”

Yes, that’s right, Guillermo “Pan’s Labyrinth” del Toro and Neil “The Sandman” Gaiman are considering adapting Jack Kirby’s The Demon as a feature film. How cool would that be?

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