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Jack Kirby

October 14, 2011

In case you’ve been too caught up recently with living your own life or occupying Wall Street then I bet you didn’t know there’s another big corporation out there working hard to crush the little guy. I’m not talking about Monsanto, Halliburton, or Wal-Mart. I’m talking about the ever-lovin’ entertainment giant Marvel Comics.

As reported this summer in the New York Times:

In a major victory for Marvel Entertainment and its parent, the Walt Disney Company, a federal judge in New York granted them summary judgment in their legal dispute with the heirs to the comic book artist Jack Kirby. [… The ruling] declares comics and characters created by Mr. Kirby — who helped give birth to the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and the X-Men, all of which now underlie valuable movie series — were works for hire under the Copyright Act of 1909, and cannot be reclaimed by the Kirby family.

It is disheartening to see Marvel (Disney) insist that the “work for hire” clause is reason enough to stiff this artist and his family. Kirby merits special consideration for his contributions to popular American culture and the billions of dollars he’s generated for Marvel. Even if Marvel has a legal right to deny Kirby’s family any copyright access to Kirby’s creations–which is in question partly because of a dubious contract–it is a dick move. Marvel is being a dick.

Until Marvel does the right thing by Jack Kirby, and I hope they do so soon, I will “make mine Marvel” no more.

Below you’ll find a few links. This list is not complete, but it’s a handy reference for those just starting to catch up on this topic.

  • Kirby heirs sue for copyright – comicsbeat.com, 16-March-2010
  • King Kirby and the Amazin’ Terminatin’ Copyrights: Who Will Prevail?! (pdf)- Intellectual Property Brief, Jay Goldberg 2010-Summer
  • Marvel Superheroes and the Fathers of Invention – New York Times, Brent Staples 25-June-2011
  • Honoring A Fallen King: What of the House That Jack Built? – srbissette.com, Steve Bissette 30-June-2011
  • Court rules in favor of Marvel in Kirby copyright case — with text of ruling and depositions – comicsbeat.com, 28-July-2011
  • Court Ruling Says Marvel Holds Rights, Not an Artist – New York Times, Michael Cieply 28-July-2011
  • Full Ruling For Marvel’s Win Against Jack Kirby – bleedingcool.com, Rich Johnston 28-July-2011
  • Go, Read: Steve Bissette On Jack Kirby And Marvel – comicsreporter.com, Tom Spurgeon 1-August-2011
  • Steve Bissette calls for Marvel boycott in wake of Kirby copyright ruling – robot6.comicbookresources.com, Kevin Melrose 1-August-2011
  • Steve Bissette calls for Marvel boycott over their treatment of Jack Kirby – comicsbeat.com, 1-August-2011
  • Kirby in Vermont – The Panelists, Craig Fisher 13-October-2011
  • Marvel vs. Jack Kirby: Legal Rights & Ethical Might – Vermont Law School, Oliver Goodenough 21-October-2011
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    3 Comments
    1. To be fair, I’m not too happy about how the oil companies run things, but I do still drive on occasion. Different tactics.

    2. Also … You’ll want to buy Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby by Charles Hatfield which hits stands in January-2012 (http://handoffire.wordpress.com/)

    3. Nick Weintraub permalink

      Marvel/Disney might buy Kirby lunch at the company cafeteria, but they won’t kick down any significant dough. Sounds like they fought long and hard to secure these rights. Now they won’t have to share Avengers profits, Iron Man 3 profits or Fantastic Four 3 profits with anyone. Can’t blame Stan Lee for cashing out at the high water mark (but how old is he?). Too bad Kirby is collateral damage at this point.

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