Wednesday, August 08, 2007

San Diego Comic Con: Mark Evanier's Kirby Biography

Mark Evanier has been a bit of a comic book legend, not so much for the one single shining genre defining work that he accomplished, but for a body of work, much of it on the sidelines, in support partly, of the King, Jack Kirby. And thats almost a shame, as Mark has been involved in writing in for comics, TV, animation and a whole host of other endeavors over the 30 plus years. But it is the Kirby connection that concerns us here.

When I very publicly decided to see what was up with the signature on my Kirby FF page, I sent an email to Mark. Questions about Kirby? The Kirby Collector magazine, from TwoMorrows Press, has a whole section where he answers queries from the mundane to the profound. We're not here to talk about Mark, the writer of Groo, aren't we just here to talk about Mark "The guy who knew Kirby well".

No, fortunately, we're here to talk about Mark as the writer of what I'm sure will be the definitive Kirby biography. And I can't wait for it. Evanier, on his own site, is commenting on how long the Canniff biography is, at 800 pages, and mentions that it doesn't make him feel so bad about his own book's length. 800 pages on Jack? I'm OK with that.

Unfortunately, it wasn't ready for this year's San Diego Comic Con, which is a shame, as it would have been a real treat to have seen it released the same time as the Marvel Comics stamps, with many of them, of course, from jack's pencil. Harry Abrams, the publisher has this oversized sampler to look at, drool over, and basically whet the appetite over the upcoming tome.

When I've gotten on my history kicks, I have developed the habit of reading three or four different books on the same time period as a way to get the fuller picture. After all, each writer has their own theories and pet areas of interest, as well as, sometimes, their particular axe to grind, and it helps to almost take in a time period from close to 360 degrees. There are more than enough excellent books on the start of world war two, for instance, for one to overcome the limitations of a single writer's viewpoint.

The same goes for the fascinating field that is the gestation and birth of the American Comic Book Field. The players in those early years, born out of the pulps in the gangster streets of New York are fairly well known by now, but the reality of the birth of National Periodical Publications, Timely Publications, Quality and Fox is a far greater and more interesting story than even Michael Chabon could concoct. Perhaps I'll pull out Men of Tomorrow back out, as well as The Dreamer and my Fourth World Omnibus.

In the meantime, I'll order the Caniff book, and delve a little deeper into the world of another cartoonist, despite my annoyance at the Steve Canyon strip. A few years of Terry is about as addictive as Pogo or Cerebus, especially if you have the habit of falling in love with Caniff's broad beautiful swathes of black ink.

You know, for a reviled bit of americana, the comic doesn't seem to be doing too badly these days.

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