Jack Kirby: Storyteller

By | Friday, July 06, 2007 Leave a Comment
I went ahead and picked up the extended cut of the Fantastic Four movie on DVD yesterday, more for the Kirby documentary than anything else. I fired it up late last night while The Wife was on the couch aimlessly browsing the internet.

The documentary itself is excellent. I've seen a few complaints that range from "it doesn't cover enough" to "it's too long" but I think those are largely unfounded. It runs just over an hour long and, I think, does an incredible job of capturing the power of Jack Kirby in that time frame. It couldn't go much longer and sustain people's attention; Ken Burns notwithstanding, you simply can't sustain a casual person's interest that long in a documentary. If it were any shorter, it would cut short much of what you'd need to cover Kirby's lifetime. If you really want to know about Kirby -- really want to know about Kirby -- you'll need to wait for Mark Evanier's biography of him. Not the slim volume coming out later this year, but the bigger one he's still working on.

The documentary provides a range of views on Kirby, both the man and the artist. There are interviews with his kids Lisa and Neal, Steve Sherman, Mike Thibodeaux, Mark Evanier, Neal Adams, Walt Simonson, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Morrow, Stan Lee, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, and probably a few others that I'm forgetting off-hand. Loads of images, both his artwork and photos. There were anecdotes I'd never heard before, photos I'd never seen and an immense amount of respect pouring out of everyone. Even hearing Neal tell about the time his dad came to pick up him and drive up on the sidewalk, narrowly missing a telephone pole, was in the context of how great a professional he was.

But you know what really struck me?

The last ten minutes or so of the documentary were about Roz. Not, "Oh, hey, we ought to mention his wife" but "Roz was a powerful force in her own right and deserves some of the spotlight." Now, I'd expect that coming from a friend of the family, but the documentary wasn't produced (as far as I know) by a friend of the family. That they not only picked up on that from several of the interviewees but ALSO realized how important she was that they devoted 1/6 of the entire film exclusively to her... well, that's just darn impressive. Huge, huge kudos to the folks who put it together.

If the documentary on the Fantastic Four (which I haven't watched yet) is half as good as the one on Kirby, then the price tag is well worth the money even if you throw out the first disc that has some lame movie on it.
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