Arts & Entertainment » Culture

Fiz 7.06.05

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Fantastic Kirby

"Co-created by" is such an awkward phrase. It accurately describes that middle-school science project on which your parents "absolutely, positively did not" provide any assistance. It correctly describes Captain America, who was co-created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Both wrote. Both drew. A few years later, the pair co-created the unbelievable genre of romance comics. Simon and Kirby went their separate ways in the early '50s. Kirby continued producing freelance art, ultimately hooking up with Marvel Comics.

In 1961, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee co-created the Fantastic Four. Having worked together for two years, the pair had developed a very pragmatic approach to producing comics. Lee would give cursory instructions about the next issue (something like "giant bug stomps LA") and Kirby would go home and develop a story, illustrate it, and annotate the panels. After receiving the finished pages, Lee would add the dialog.

The pair used this methodology throughout the genesis of the Marvel Universe, institutionalizing it as the Marvel Method. Kirby was the artist-storyteller on the first appearances of the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Thor, the X-Men, and several others.

Within a few years, Marvel's corporate cronies realized that Kirby had never signed over his rights to those characters. Another 20 years later, Kirby agreed that Marvel owned all rights to the characters forever and Marvel returned his artwork, which it had been holding hostage. A phenomenal worker, Kirby had regularly produced 15 pages of comic art per week. During the decades of legal posturing, Marvel had destroyed or lost all but 1,900 pages.

Recently re-released, Essential Fantastic Four, Volumes 1-3 includes the first five years of Kirby's work on the title. Volume three contains "This Man, This Monster" from Fantastic Four #51, which some have called the single best comic book ever published. For those of a more obsessive stripe, issue 43 of the Jack Kirby Collector (Twomorrows Publishing) is scheduled to hit comic shops July 20.

--- Craig Brownlie


Curses

George Washington called the use of profanity "A vice so mean and low without any temptation that every man of sense and character despises it." My mom thinks only lazy people too dumb to come up with an alternate way of expressing themselves trot out the curse words. Both the father of our country and the mother of me make interesting points, but most people really seem to enjoy swearing.

Over the last two decades expletives have slowly seeped into television shows, be they network (NYPD Blue), basic cable (The Shield, South Park), or premium cable (The Sopranos and the Old West cusstravaganza Deadwood). Oddly enough, it seems that when the restrictions on language are lifted, the quality of the shows skyrockets. Is this because profanity makes situations more true to life?

The nearly Shakespearean Deadwood is arguably one of the best-written shows on TV, but not everyone is on board with the need for --- or historical accuracy of --- the cursing woven throughout each episode. It is a fact, however, that in 1878 a law was passed in the real town of Deadwood making swearing illegal, which suggests that it had become a problem.

But it's surprising that modern society continues to be shocked by the use of excessively colorful language. According to the Federal Communications Commission, "Obscene speech is not protected by the First Amendment and cannot be broadcast at any time." The FCC makes big money leveling fines at violators of its nebulous laws, but advertising dollars just might speak louder. Even under the current administration, the line between what is and isn't considered obscene continues to blur.

And they're only words, aren't they? I thought we had bigger fucking fish to fry.

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