Sunday, April 03, 2011

Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al - Jack Kirby's 1966 Statement

Yet another great document that has been brought back into the light via the the Marvel vs Jack Kirby's estate court case.  This document is a declaration by Kirby himself, done on the 12th of July, 1966.  This statement came about because Joe Simon decided to sue Marvel in 1966 for the rights and copyright to Captain America as the copyright renewal to the character, created in 1940, had just come up.  The case took about two years, Simon and Marvel reached a settlement, and Simon issued the following statement, " "Simon acknowledges and agrees that all his work on the Materials, and all his work which created or related to the Rights, was done as an employee for hire of the Goodmans [Martin Goodman, Publisher of Marvel]."  This was a massive win for Marvel at the time, and part of the case hinged upon the sworn statement of Jack Kirby, one time collaborator of Joe Simon and the co-creator of Captain America.  Simon went back to court in late 1999 over the same matter, and won the right to again challenge Marvel for the copyright to the character.  Marvel decided that enough was enough and again settled with Simon, reaching a confidential settlement that saw Marvel retain the copyright and Simon receive due compensation.  This time around Kirby wasn't alive to add his own history with the character.

However in 1966 Kirby was alive, and the events of 1940 were only twenty six years prior.  Much has been made of the changing memory of Kirby, the poor memory of Stan Lee and the differences in recollections as opposed to actual events by the likes of Joe Sinnott, Gene Colan and others who have contributed to the current Marvel vs Kirby case, and to illustrate the differences Marvel have introduced documents such as this to assist them.  It would appear that Kirby's recollections in 1966 differed vastly from his recollections in 1986 and beyond.

It can be argued that Kirby supported Marvel in 1966 because Marvel was the primary source of his income.   The Kirby's current lawyer, Marc Toberoff, can claim, and has, that Kirby was not beholden to Marvel and could have easily sold his art, concepts and stories anywhere he wanted to, but the reality of the time was quite different.  Kirby was on the outer at DC Comics at the time due to a dispute with DC editor Jack Schiff, and other companies of the era, such as Charlton, Archie and Dell, would not have paid Kirby as much money as Marvel, nor would he have been allowed the same freedom that he enjoyed (or didn't enjoy, depending on who you believe).  Kirby might well have directed his testimony to suit Marvel, and indeed Toberoff has responded to these documents as 'hearsay' (a claim that they've placed on virtually every piece of evidence that Marvel has produced, a common legal argument), but the fact is that it's there for all to see - the account that Kirby gave in 1966 differs in both content and tone from the accounts that Kirby would later provide when asked about such matters.

As with anything, I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in between what Kirby said in 1966 and what he then said in 1986, but then it'd be hard to argue that Kirby knowingly lied while making a sworn declaration.

Click on the images for a larger, clearer view.

 
 

1 comment:

mr ed said...

Joe Simon commented in TCJ #107;

GROTH: I understand that you tried to get Captain America back from Marvel?
SIMON: Oh, I had the copyright. It's right here. The first ten issues.
We went through the whole works. Very complicated pre-trial examinations, and Goodman hired a very distinguished law firm, we had a settlement.
GROTH: But you never secured the copyright?
SIMON: This is a very complicated story, and it turns out some of the dirty little angles Marvel pulled.
GROTH: I see.
SIMON: On Kirby, not on me.
GROTH: Really?
SIMON: Very dirty. They got him on their side. Even Kirby doesn't know the reason I settled. You know how a copyright works if there are two authors? One author renews, the other author is entitled to complete 50% of all negotiations, profits, sales, that type of thing. You know I told them (Marvel) the truth. I told them what they did to Kirby on that Captain America thing was disgusting. Disgusting.