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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, December 16, 2013

THE CANONIZATION OF SAINT JACK



I suppose the Lee-Kirby debate is one of my hot buttons, given that I've so often criticized the tendency of fans-- and some pros-- to always assume the worst of Lee and the best of Kirby, no matter what the circumstances.

On the same Alan Moore thread that got me started on his neopuritan tendencies, one fan enthusiastically echoes Moore's (largely ignorant) putdowns of Stan Lee in a separate panel-interview.  That fan then went on to rave about how awfully Lee wrote women, with particular reference to FANTASTIC FOUR and the portrayal of the Invisible Girl.

This incredible lapse of logic having been a bone in my throat for some time, I responded-- despite knowing the hopelessness of arguing with a righteous fan:

Say that I agree to the proposition that Jack Kirby wrote everything in FANTASTIC FOUR and Lee added nothing but dialogue. That means everything drawn on the page follows Kirby's storyline, not Lee's.

That means that when we see Sue storm away from Reed in a snit because she's sick of being a superhero, that's all Jack Kirby.

When we see See faint dead away before an adversary even hits her, that's all Jack Kirby.

When we see Sue in an apron, serving all the guys at the breakfast table instead of telling them to serve themselves, that's all Jack Kirby.

But please-- by all means regale me as to how Stan Lee manages to change all of Kirby's art-sequences with his evil misogynistic dialogue. I can't tell you how fascinating I find such reasoning.

As of today, I got no substantive responses, nor do I suppose I will get any in future.  The tendency to make Jack Kirby "the hero" and Stan Lee "the villain" will probably continue, world without end, until no one reads comics of any kind any more.  Until that time, it doesn't matter if it's some barely educated forum-fan pissing on Lee to make himself feel powerful, or a pseudo-intellectual telling people talking about "the Logocentrism of Stan Lee."  History, as Captain Kirk famously said, has made its judgment-- and yes, it's not even as sophisticated as the theme of a STAR TREK episode.

The most fatuous aspect of portraying Lee as the arch anti-feminist is, of course, that both he and Kirby, together and separately, did a number of stories that could be equally critiqued in this manner.  To say this is not to denigrate Jack Kirby.  Far from being the plaster saint that so many fans have made of him, he was a human being, and like Lee, a man born before feminism had much influence on the shaping of hearts and minds.  I would think it strange if he were such an angel that he never quarreled with his wife and then wrote a story in which women didn't come off well-- or just made observations about feminine nature that an ardent feminist might not like.



By the way, most of the un-feminist things I describe Kirby's art doing with the Sue Richards character come either from right before her marriage to Reed or right after.  I theorize that when Kirby decided to have Sue rail about not wanting to be a superhero any more because "I'm a woman," that this was his sincere belief that a woman might say something like this close to, or following on the heels of, her first marriage.  Even though Stan Lee wrote the specific dialogue, and might have even agreed with Kirby on that score, there's no reason to think Kirby did everything modern fans liked and Lee, like some sort of sin-eater, simply absorbs the guilt for their joined endeavors.

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