Thursday, April 28, 2011

Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al - Reading Lists

More on the Marvel vs Jack Kirby's estate court case.  During Mark Evanier's deposition, he made this statement, when asked if he'd referred to any research material or reference books to substantiate his claims about Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Marvel Comics during the time period in question (1958-1961). 

MARK EVANIER: I don't know of any reference book or source like you're describing that would do that. I derived a lot of my knowledge about Marvel from books, as I mentioned.

There is very little written and published about a lot of this material. A lot of what has been published about it was written by me. So if the question is, did I check my opinions against published works by others, I don't think there are any published works by others that would cover this material.
That's a bit misleading to say the least and, as you'll soon see, John Morrow makes use of a list of published works by people other than Evanier that covers the material in question.  For a while people have been asking what makes Mark, and to a lesser extent John Morrow, 'experts' in the field of Jack Kirby, as opposed to others such as Greg Theakston or any number of people really.  Mark has met a lot of people, has done a lot of interviews, and, again by his own admission, taken a lot of people to lunch during his life to bend their ears.  That kind of knowledge is important, but what tickled me a lot was the release of new documents by the Kirby's lawyer, Marc Toberoff, which clearly states what research material that Mark would be using to prepare for bboth his declaration and his deposition.

Here's the list:
Alter Ego Collection Vol. 1 (2006)
Fantastic Firsts (Tom DeFalco) (1994)
King Of Comics (Mark Evanier) (2008)
The Comics Journal Library Vol 1 Jack Kirby (2002)
Kirby Five-Oh! Celebrating 50 Years Of The "King" Of Comics (John Morrow) (2008)
The Collected Jack Kirby Collector Vol 1 (John Morrow) (1997)
The Collected Jack Kirby Collector Vol 2 (John Morrow) (2004)
The Collected Jack Kirby Collector Vol 3 (John Morrow) (1999)
The Collected Jack Kirby Collector Vol 4 (John Morrow) (2004
Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book (Jordan Raphael & Tom Spurgeon) (2003
Tales To Astonish (Ronin Ro) (2004)
Marvel Universe (Peter Sanderson) (1996)

Alter Ego No.s 1-96 (Vol 3) (complete)
The Jack Kirby Collector Nos. 1-54 (complete)
Comic Book Marketplace Nos. 1-121 (nearly complete)
David Anthony Kraft's Comics Interview Nos 1-150 (nearly complete collection)

And that's it.  Now I'm not considered an expert but I have all of that, and much more, at hand, in addition to my own research and interviews, plus material and anecdotes that I've gathered throughout the years.  And consider these quotes about some of the material.

Four or five times a week, I get an e-mail asking me my opinion of Tales to Astonish, a recently-issued biography of Jack Kirby by "Ronin Ro." I've avoided answering because I've been having a hard time figuring out how to phrase my response, and because every so often, I pick up my copy, re-read a section and find myself more conflicted. There is no doubt in my mind that the book has an awful lot of inaccuracies and that the over-all portrait it draws of Jack is not the Jack I knew...and you'd think that since I feel that way, reviewing it oughta be easy. But I also think its author is undeserving of that kind of curt dismissal because, first of all, he did uncover a lot of facts about Jack's life that have previously gone unreported. Also, a few of his errors come from believing things Jack himself was quoted as saying.

Kirby had many talents but giving clear, accurate interviews was not among them. It wasn't so much that he got things wrong but that he got them confused and a diligent researcher needs to look at certain statements and say, "Oh, I get where Jack was talking about Captain America, he actually meant Captain Marvel. Then it makes perfect sense." Having struggled with this problem myself for decades, I cannot bring myself to fault "Ronin Ro" too much for taking some statements at face value. Or for not knowing a lot of things about Jack that have simply never been recounted anywhere.

I was interviewed for the book by a gent who (I guess) is the person who wrote it under the pen name. The interview, done by phone with some e-mail follow-ups, surprised me in its brevity. If I'd been him and I had a chance to ask me questions, I'd have asked a lot more than he did. As I page through the finished volume, I find myself impressed by him knowing a couple of things that I know I didn't tell him...but also annoyed about a number of things that I could have corrected if he'd run them by me.

So here is my problem and why I've declined several offers to do formal reviews. I don't want to dump on the book because I think the author made a sincere effort and because I think he did a better job than I'd have imagined from a guy who was so far removed from Jack. At the same time, I don't want to endorse everything in it, nor do I want to go page by page and cite things that I think are wrong...and I mean "wrong" either on a factual basis or just in conveying the sense of what was transpiring at a given time. I also believe that in the latter category — the interpretation of Jack and his life as opposed to the cold, hard data — there's room for other views than mine...and I do agree with a number of conclusions. I finally decided just to say I have mixed feelings about Tales to Astonish and that I don't discourage anyone from purchasing it. I'd just discourage them from, if they do read it, believing everything they read.  -Mark Evanier, 2004

While I'm on the subject of Lee and Kirby, I should mention that I just received my copy of Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book, a new biography of Guess Who by Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon. I was sort of afraid to open it because I have way too many opinions and knowledge about Stan, especially with regard to his relationship with Jack, and...well, Jordan and Tom are good reporters but that's no guarantee. It could have been a book where I'd feel compelled to condemn its conclusions, issue corrections and challenge the authors to fisticuffs. Happily, that does not seem to be the case. After an (admittedly fast) read, I found my quibbles with their factual recital to be minimal.
There are a few minor facts that don't coincide with mine, and a number of minor value judgments, but it's beyond the realm of possibility that anyone could write about Lee and/or Kirby and not have that happen. I don't even agree with all that I've written about them in the past.

The book seems to be a well-researched, even-handed effort, with what strike me as some very perceptive comments about much of Stan's life and career. No one book could capture everything but I was pleasantly surprised with how much they crammed into a little more than 300 pages. They successfully avoided and even debunked a lot of nonsense that has been published and commonly believed in the past.  Mark Evanier, 2003

And there you have it.  Faint praise for one book, a damning review on the other.  All the time Mark was promoting his own 'long awaited' Kirby biography, which he has still yet to deliver.  On the other hand, John Morrow's reading list was very impressive indeed.  And if you don't believe me, then take a peek at this:

Now THAT'S a reading list to be reckoned with (click on the images for a better view - I'm using a new machine here, so I hope to have better images shortly).  This just shows that having a wide library can class you as an expert in any field in a court of law - you just need to know what you're talking about.  With Mark Evanier, sadly he might find himself let down a bit by limiting himself to material that he had input into and referring to material that he has found it easy to criticise in the past.  Again, I know which expert I'd be hanging my chances off.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU, Dan. Evanier is so biased towards Stan Lee, even when he does panels with legends, he will frequently only touch on deprecating comment about Stan then giggle about it- I've noted it myself several times. I myself consider myself as much an 'expert' because I have feverishly read every article, interview, etc. with Kirby & Lee for years now, and compare/contrast many things. I can tell you if you go on FACTS, Kirby has made dozens of errors and contradictory statements whereas Stan, as insincere as people find him, generally says the same thing. In regards to Ronin Ro's book, he wrote it with a huge bias and chip on his shoulder, I wrote Roy Thomas about it and he concurred he had similar feelings. He was *manipulative*, for example, in an interview, John Romita playfully states "I do the work and Stan cashes the checks!(laughs)" and 'Ro' puts it clinical and stark, removes the laughter, and presents it as Romita being disgusted with some kind of stealing Stan. It's misleading and dishonest, that book just sucked. In the second book, those authors basically documented proven cases of Stan having a badly recieved lecture or something, so Mark had a better chance of sticking by THAT. -Percy S.