With the anniversary of what would have been Jack “The King” Kirby’s 100th birthday coming up in just a few days time I thought I’d add a small article acknowledging the milestone but placing it in context of the current state of the comics industry and specifically that of Marvel Comics.
For my money Jack’s contribution to the world of comic books is unequaled. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid when Saturday morning cartoons featured the animated adventures of the Fantastic Four with story-lines taken directly from the comic books created by Stan “The Man” Lee and Jack “The King” Kirby.
Stan’s writing and Jack’s pencils were a perfect one-two punch that assured my move away from DC (or as Stan Lee labeled them, Brand Echhh) and over to Marvel’s ranks. Marvel was innovative and overflowing with creativity. They also had a much more serious edge than DC that really appealed to me. They were also very, very, cool 🙂
In contrast to the preachy, in-your-face, heavy handed treatment that Marvel comics delivers today, Stan and Jack were able to introduce minority characters with such smooth skill and finesse that you’d find yourself cheering for them without feeling compelled to do so.
A case in point is the Black Panther, aka T’Challa king of the Wakandas. This character debuted in Fantastic Four issue #52 published in 1966. He was initially, put forth as an antagonist to the Fantastic Four, and as an opponent that came within a hair’s breadth of utterly defeating them. In fact, it can be said he actually did beat them but for the intervention of the Native American support character, Wyatt Wingfoot.
It’s soon revealed that the Black Panther is one of the good guys and that one, Ulysses Klaue (initially simply called “Klaw” or “Klaw the Master of Sound”) is the true villain in the tale. Klaw is an arms dealer and land grabber seeking to obtain the rare metal vibranium; a product only found within T’Challa’s African kingdom.
Klaw is depicted as an ersatz Afrikaner without ever having to identify him as such. Is Klaw a racist? Oh, probably; and yet that aspect of things wasn’t explored back in 1966 nor need it have been. Klaw is an evil guy bent on destroying the Black Panther. That’s all we need to know. We cheer for the Panther because he is so obviously a good guy. We cheer against Klaw because he’s evil. This is the difference (or should be) between comic book entertainment and politics. T’Challa is depicted as powerful, noble, righteous, and a great ally of the Fantastic Four. He is also an original, obviously African, non-derivative hero possessed of intelligence, great skill, and capability. Yet, none of this is done with a heavy hand.
Likewise, the character of the Falcon (Sam Wilson) who first appeared in Captain America #117 (1969). Sam meets Steve Rogers aka Captain America on a deserted island, the two train together and Sam a US Army veteran takes on the guise of the superhero, Falcon. Again, the same basic characterization is in place. Sam is obviously African-American, but he’s honorable, skilled, definitely a good guy, and powerful. Nuff said!
Make no mistake, Marvel could be topical and did address race issues more directly most notably in an Avengers story arc detailing a criminal organization called the Sons of the Serpent whose #1 raison d’être is white supremacy.
Make no mistake, these were bad guys… they were murderers, xenophobic, and they were overt racists. In 1966 we all understood that; even an 8 year old as I was then understood it.
Fast forward 50 plus years and the Leftist writers at Marvel have resurrected this old criminal gang and applied their hateful propaganda to the present Trump administration. So, let’s take a look and attempt to explain why the template does not fit.
Honestly, the current political climate is so hot that I hesitate to even present any of this but as always it’s simply a means of blowing off some steam and exercising some stress relief via the catharsis of writing. Earlier this month a young woman was struck by a car and killed during a mass White Supremacist march/demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since then the media has abandoned it’s failed ” President Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election” attack and replaced it with “Trump is a Nazi” or as Marvel Comics might see him, “The Serpent Supreme”.
In a classic case of art imitating real life, the writers at Marvel fail to distinguish between the far right and conservatives – instead painting both with the broad brush of intolerance and anti-diversity. It’s disheartening to say the least. Fans like myself who grew-up reading and enjoying Marvel comics are now being equated with the villains we cheered against as children.
Full disclosure: I no longer read comics (with the exception of my treasured Marvel Master Works) but I do enjoy watching commentators analyse the current state of the industry on Youtube. Notable among these is fellow going by the name of Cap’n Cummings. His videos are entertaining and being a conservative his take on current Marvel is in line with my own. Another channel I enjoy is called Diversity and Comics (again featuring commentary with a conservative take). I encourage anyone interested in the comic book industry to check them both out.
Look folks, I’m a mixed race (Cree Indian and French, Scottish, German, and Irish) post-operative transsexual. As a kid my best friend was an East-Indian kid named, Davey. My favorite football player was the late Ernie Pitts, a black guy who played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and who lived above the duplex our families shared in the late 1960s. My fellow conservatives and I are not the KKK. We do however, have concerns with globalism and open borders. We also aren’t fans of Islam even though many of us have co-workers, acquaintances, and in my case a friend who converted to Islam. And no, I do not hate any of these people.
But therein lies the not so subtle difference between classic Marvel and this new Social Justice incarnation. Marvel is simply a leftist propaganda factory now. It’s the same difference between Stephen Colbert and the Leftist Comedy Central and Johnny Carson. Back in the day Johnny would take swipes at various politicians and his Ronald Reagan impersonations are unforgettable. But they weren’t attack pieces or mean-spirited as they are now; and it certainly wasn’t preachy propaganda.
For all its appeal towards diversity and tolerance, Marvel Comics has none for conservatives and patriots. They are reduced to being the fodder for their new line up of female powerhouse heroes and racial minorities; fit only for defeat and humiliation.
I wonder what Jack Kirby would think about all this? Honestly, I doubt the young Jack Kirby could even get a job at the current Marvel. I doubt they’re looking to help out any military veterans.
Anyways, Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby. Sadly, I doubt we shall see your like again.