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A Long Strange Trip, If You’ll Pardon the Expression

The Someday Funnies, Edited by Michel Choquette

So Michel Choquette’s The Someday Funnies now joins Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America Part 2, Brian Wilson’s Smile, Harvey Kurtzman’s From Arrgh to Zap, and a complete version of Metropolis on the list of Things That Have Come Out Before The Last Dangerous Visions. There is more to this reference than an uncalled-for attempt to needle a person not present, as there are several interesting parallels between the first and last named ill-fated projects. To be sure, before Bob Levin started the Hell freezing over process Someday Funnies didn’t have nearly the same notoriety in its sphere, not least because its editor didn’t have the habit of periodically announcing its imminent release. Rather, Choquette treated it like Lyndon Johnson’s proverbial one-eyed aunt, who you don’t keep in the front parlor. I expect I was more aware of it than most, and my reaction was, “Oh, yeah, I heard of that once.” Like The Last Dangerous Visions, The Someday Funnies started with workable proportions. Just as Harlan Ellison got bitten by the bug of enlisting every significant voice in its genre that hadn’t been heard in the first two Dangerous Visions anthologies, Choquette was seized by the ambition to bring the entire world of comics (aside from that which appeared in American newspapers) to bear on his subject. As each editor’s eyes grew bigger than his stomach, the respective anthologies came to burst the bounds of feasibility. For Ellison, from what I gather, the main problem was in having committed himself to a constantly inflating body of uncompensated editorial work, as his format required that he not only write a personal introduction to each story, but obtain and assemble afterwords from each author. Choquette was like a comic book hero whose super power was opening doors, as the roster of talent enlisted attests. This quality carried with it a temptation to overreach, and he became instead like the hero of the movie The Longest Yard, who had his shit together but couldn’t lift it. As the prospects of keeping his promises grew dimmer he came to look at his contributors the way a bankrupt man looks at process servers. (A difference worth noting is that whereas Ellison had paid his contributors, Choquette couldn’t.)

Now Choquette finds himself a Quixote standing over a dead windmill. What he has discovered and what Ellison may have the opportunity to discover (he still has a chance of beating The Other Side of the Wind if he gets cracking) is that when you let these things lie long enough your project passes through a phase where it can be nothing but a disappointment into another where it loses the power to disappoint. The contributors Choquette was once afraid to look in the eye were so wonderstruck to see it finally come out that all anger had dissipated. The major problem arises from the subject matter. In Normandy Revisited A.J. Liebling, who as a war correspondent covered the D-Day invasion, tells a story about revisiting the beach at Normandy (for his book is indeed accurately named). He spies a family group examining an abandoned landing ship and begins ambling over with a mind towards favoring them with his reminiscences of the great day. As soon as they spy him they start ambling away, and being downwind he overhears the paterfamilias say, “It was a near thing. If I hadn’t spotted him we would have been for it. He would have said hello and then told us for the next half hour how he and his pals came ashore on this very spot.” This is essentially the attitude of most modern day people about the prospect of listening to members of the Love Generation reminiscing about The Sixties. It is a subject that activates an automatic eye-rolling reflex. They have heard all about it they care to for a long, long while.

Those who have retained their appetite for the subject will find a post mortem done while the body was still warm. Created too late to still feel the passions and too early to be nostalgic, the general tone is of rue, chagrin and regret. This sort of thing doesn’t have to be good to be interesting. Under the circumstances, this was just as well. At one to two pages apiece, the contributors who have something original to say get no more space than the ones that don’t, and encompassing such a wide range and variety of talent and styles, there was no possibility of coherence. The desire to conjure coherence led Choquette to his one huge and irredeemable mistake: Having each contributor leave a blank panel somewhere in each strip, which was to be filled by an ongoing strip that would create a narrative thread through the book. If you are going to have a bright idea like this you ought to have some idea what the narrative thread was going to be beyond trusting in fate. The solution concocted these many years later, having the blanks filled with cartoon anecdotes of Choquette’s adventures gathering the material, serves only to compound the problem by inserting the editor into every page. I came to think of this character as Douchey Tie-Dyed Guy, and he is a distraction throughout. The other major difficulty is that he didn’t have the resources to have the foreign language comics appropriately re-lettered in English. The solution employed was an appendix of translations next to thumbnail versions of the pages. What this ultimately meant for me was that I wound up reading all the foreign material from the thumbnails, occasionally peeking back when things became unclear.

Nevertheless, for my part the sheer mass and wonder of the thing carried it along. Even though the talent is not always at its best it is seldom objectively bad, and there’s so much of it that the cumulative effect serves to impress. My mind organized the contributors in categories, some of which overlapped, particularly when the writers and cartoonists were mixed.

Celebrities: Federico Fellini, Tom Wolfe, Frank Zappa, Pierre Berton (in a Canadian sort of way), Tuli Kupferberg, William S. Burroughs, the aforementioned Ellison — these are the kind of names that when you heard them connected with the project had you thinking, “that must be incredible,” and for the most part turn out to be the biggest disappointments. The biggest name, Fellini, turns out what might be the very worst, but if I was going to pick the best thing in the book it would be Wolfe’s “The Man Who Peaked Too Soon”, which makes the point that you could have looked a complete fool by being a couple of years ahead of the times. Burroughs turns in a characteristically acid anecdote — acid in the sense of corrosive.

Newspaper Comic Cartoonists: As far as I can tell, completely unrepresented. Other than that the ones that would have been most wanted, Walt Kelly and Al Capp, were already dead, I don’t know what accounts for this gap.

U.S. Comic Book Old School: Surprisingly vital. This was not the first time Will Eisner had been asked to resurrect the Spirit, but it was before the full blown Eisner revival got underway. Nevertheless he was prepared to come through with an original explanation for some of the notable crimes of the decade. Jack Kirby is the real shocker, though, waxing both lyrical and comical. The point you might have made against Kirby was that he seemed to lack a sense of humor, but apparently he was holding out. Harvey Kurtzman laughs the premise off; Wally Wood applies his own sense of perversity to a rote recounting of the sexual revolution; and C.C. Beck (with Denny O’Neil) is given the final word (spoiler: “Shazam”), I suspect because theirs is the only contribution that ends on a hopeful note. Not, however, one that could have been terribly convincing at the time, or that panned out in the end.

U.S. Comic Book Then-Contemporary: What’s particularly striking about Someday, and what probably wouldn’t be repeated today, is the role mainstream creators play in it. Potentially you could get something very interesting from the Garth Ennis/Grant Morrison/Warren Ellis generation of big company talents working off the reservation, but I doubt it would have the same attraction. The major difference is the absence of the Comics Code. The 1960s/1970s people clearly envy the freedom the underground cartoonists have, and jump at the chance to exercise it. Their modern counterparts would be much likelier to feel they’ve been able to express everything they wish to express in their normal line of work, and to suggest to them that they could be working on a broader horizon would no doubt have them smelling condescension. I think there’s a harder schism between the commercial and art comics world these days, fed no little by the URL UR at right now. The contributions from the mainstream world are some of the most militant and radical in the book (other than from the foreigners, for whom Marx is definitely not Groucho), and they are better prepared to do work to order than the undergrounders.

Foreigners: If Choquette missed out on Zap, Pilote is pretty well represented, and curiously fixated on cowboys. Asterix and Obelix feel like visiting celebrities. Barbarella seems lost. If there’s one thing that Someday Funnies does to broaden our understanding of the era it’s to remind you that the 1960s were not something that happened just in America, England and Vietnam. You get to feeling like Ronald Reagan learning that Central America was all different countries. The English not named Ralph Steadman make a rather weak showing, and the Dutch, who were savvy enough to do their work in English, a particularly strong one.

The Underground: The Zap cohort are conspicuously absent, and not having Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton is like not having the Beatles and the Stones. What the hell, let’s go through the rest: Spain was the Who (though Pete Townshend himself is present, in a sense). Robert Williams was Frank Zappa (though Zappa himself is present). S. Clay Wilson was Captain Beefheart. Rick Griffin was Pink Floyd. Victor Moscoso was also Pink Floyd. There was no Bob Dylan of underground comics. These people were suspicious-cum-paranoid about anyone connected with mainstream publishing, which would include Rolling Stone and National Lampoon in their mind, and that they were going to be asked to do work to order was probably the nail in the coffin. One imagines the discussion with Crumb: “So, what’s the subject?” “The Sixties.” “What do you think I’ve been doing for the last five years?” This points out a problem that also extends to an overlapping cohort, the Lampoon Guys, who included a number of Air Pirates. For the mainstream comics people Someday Funnies was the chance of a lifetime. For the underground comics and Lampoon people it’s another day at the office. The Sixties were essentially what underground comics were about, and the collapse and betrayal of counterculture ideals was a running theme of National Lampoon. Which is not to say that a day at the office can’t be a good day. After a mind-numbing recitation of cliché in the text introduction by Robert Greenfield (exactly the sort of person who would be selected to write the Sixties miniseries for network television), Bill Griffith’s Zippy, then at the peak of freshness, turns cliché on its ear. Shary Flenniken gets under the surface of things as few contributors do. The Mad Peck, who really shouldn’t be forgotten to the extent he is, tackles the times though the lens of television like someone who lived inside a television set. While it is natural that the answer to the question “Where was Kim Deitch’s Waldo when Kennedy was shot?” would be “Tormenting and enabling some rummy,” you sort of wish it was “In the Book Depository with Oswald” or “On the grassy knoll.” Too soon then, perhaps. The late blooming Art Spiegelman had not at that point yet bloomed. Arnold Roth transcends time period. Chris Miller (with Gray Morrow) presents a wish-fulfillment Sixties that should have happened that could induce salivation.

Fancy Meeting You Here: Choquette has the good fortune here and there to come up with something truly surprising, such as a bit of Don Martin sickness that would definitely not have gotten into Mad, Sergio Aragones waxes unexpectedly serious on the Mexico City Olympics, and a flashback sequence in the Doug Kenney strip gets done in Archie style by genuine Archie guy Stan Goldberg.

Of the Great Lost Projects that have finally come to light I think the one Someday Funnies most resembles is Smile. Both are wonderful in part but ultimately are incapable of fulfilling the large promises they made. Based on the Smile session tapes I have heard and the version that was finally released, the conclusion I draw was that the album was in fact close to completion, and the reason Wilson couldn’t complete it was that it wasn’t going to match his ambition. There was simply no string he could pull that that would bring about the celestial musical experience he thought was in his reach, and I suspect this was a major reason for his breakdown. (I have a pet theory that Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On is a Smile that got released – three fully realized tracks and a lot of big ideas that never come to fruition.) On the other hand, like Smile, there are selections in Someday Funnies that do live up to the project’s ambitions. I’m thinking particularly of Griffith, Wolfe, Eisner, Don Martin, Kirby, Steve Skeates with Alan Weiss, Uderzo and Goscinny, and Flenniken. Most of the contributions are at least entertaining, and relatively few truly self-indulgent or dire. Going back to the example of the Dangerous Visions anthologies, what Choquette could have used as an editor is Harlan Ellison’s knack for getting his contributors to sign on to his agenda. For every contributor who comes up with something original to say there’s another who descends into mere journalism. One must at least give Someday Funnies credit for conveying the message the Sixties have for posterity: If you ever get another chance like this, don’t blow it.

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28 Responses to A Long Strange Trip, If You’ll Pardon the Expression

  1. Excellent summation of the book (and an interesting contrast to Dan Nadel’s review). About the only thing I’d disagree with is that I thought it was a good decision to show the strips in their original language. Having to flip to the back of the book to read the translation is a minor irritant at times, but on the other hand it’s worth it just to see some of these strips (like Carlos Giménez’s page) with their original lettering.

  2. Jeet Heer says:

    A very thoughtful review. I haven’t talked to Abrams or Michel Choquette about this, but my sense is that it wasn’t cost that kept the European strips from being relettered in English (Abrams after all has spent a fair penny releasing a very lavish book) but rather a belief that the original lettering was integral to the strips. Again, I don’t have any inside information about this decision but that was just my sense.

    The Kirby/Sinnott pages are among my favorite in the book. As for Kirby not having a sense of humour — have you ever read Mister Miracle #6 with Kirby’s great parody of Stan Lee and Roy Thomas (Funky Flashman and Houseroy). Aside from Clowes’ Dr. Infinity, Funky Flashman is the best (and most accurate) take on Lee.

    In general, a lot of the solo comics Kirby had genuine humour in them, usually of a roughhouse sort. Some of the fun comes from the sheer crazy exuberance of Kirby’s ideas.

    • BradM says:

      Jeet, RE: the European strips, I believe Choquette says in the book that the decision to leave them unaltered was an editorial one (though I may have read this in a news article). Either way, it’s a bad decision. It hinders the appreciation of these strips.

      And I’m still waiting for my Funky Flashman action figure……

      • R. Fiore says:

        There’s what he says, and there’s my interpretation of what he says. It is no more than surmise, but what I surmise from is that as it is Choquette had to sink his own money beyond Abrams’ advance to finish the book. The cost of comissioning lettering to match the style of the original would be daunting, I would imagine.

  3. James says:

    Too bad the editor ruined Kirby’s strip by changing his text.

  4. BradM says:

    R. — Thanks for the cogent, thoughtful and funny take on this well-intentioned but deeply flawed book.

  5. patrick ford says:

    Hadn’t thought about newspaper strip cartoonists not being included? Were any asked? It’s hard to imagine not asking Schulz at a minimum?

    The Kirby strips revised text reads like Kirby’s work, but based on a note from Kirby to the editor it seems he might have revised the text because he was asked to. The original text is broadly metaphorical. It’s quite obvious there is no intent on Kirby’s part the story is to be taken as a crazy exuberant science fiction story where Bullfeather is a man going to the Moon as opposed to Kirby using the recent (at the time) Moon landing as a symbolic backdrop for what is really a parable.

  6. Kim Thompson says:

    I was smugly and selfishly pleased that Choquette left all the French, Spanish, and Italian work in the original language. That said, I don’t think it would have been that costly or hard to translate (some of the artists, like Morris and Uderzo, by now have excellent fonts available, and Aragonés has a Sakai font; find one letterer with a gift for mimicry and you’ve got the rest licked); it makes sense to me as an editorial decision, but it obviously has its liabilities. But as has been pointed out, it’s certainly not this book’s worst problem.

  7. patrick ford says:

    Using scans of Kirby’s pencils I posted a transcript of Kirby’s original text at the Kirby Museum.
    Rand cleaned up a few typos in my transcription, and posted the revised text as well.

    “Two Transcripts

    Found a few blips in your transcript, Pat, so I’m re-presenting it here, as well as that of the published version”

    In pencil:

    BULLFEATHER Or

    Tune in! — Cop-Out! And
    Drop-Up!

    BEARDSLEY: “FAR OUT!”

    In nineteen hundred and sixty-five,
    The world was lucky to be alive…
    Mid shot and shell and protest yell,
    Beardsley Bullfeather left that hell!

    BEARDSLEY: “PISH AND TUSH TO ALL THAT SLUSH!”

    Past Sputnik, and Lunik, and Echo, and Telestar,
    Past all Earthly dramas that got out of hand…
    Lone Beardsley had made it beyond all expectations…
    And, gave vent to emotions inspired by Ayn Rand!

    BEARDSLEY: “GET YOURS!”

    (Illegible) by superior, practical fiscal ability…
    Above the disturbance that troubles the soul…
    Go to the satellite asleep in it’s vaccuum…
    Bask in the silence of each gaping hole…

    Then “Moonwalk” and skim ‘cross the gritty horizons…
    Dance in the Earthlight that shines so serene…

    See it glisten on novels and cooling martinis
    As, time, dims the vision of blood on the green..

    By virtue of “Apollo”, that project most vaunted,
    The trip that came later, found nothing upon,
    That gray, lifeless surface, to betray a lost presence.
    Bullfeather, his soul, and the Sixties, had gone.

    Who steps across history? Who’s mark stamps the years?
    Whose image leaps forward and then disappears?
    Who lives and who dies in the turbulent scheme?
    The questions grow moot as fact fades into dream…

    As published:

    The Ballad of Beardsley Bullfeather
    or
    Tune In — Cop Out and
    Drop-Up!

    BEARDSLEY: “FAR OUT!”

    In nineteen hundred and sixty-five,
    When the world was lucky to be alive,
    Though middle-aged and far from hip
    Beardsley Bullfeather took a trip.

    BEARDSLEY: “PISH AND TISH TO ALL THAT SLUSH!”

    Past Sputnik and Lunik and Telstar and Echo
    The rocket Bullfeather alone built and manned
    Flew him free of the laws of both Newton and Congress
    To indulge in emotions inspired by Ayn Rand.

    BEARDSLEY: “GET YOURS!”

    “So ‘do-it-yourself’ and a little ambition
    Pay off in the end!” chuckles Beardsley, and soon
    Lands his ship, his visage as calm
    As the smile on the face of the Man in the Moon.

    He moonwalks and skims ‘cross the gritty horizons
    And dances by earthlight that shines so serene

    By its glow he reads novels and sips cool martinis
    As time dims his visions of blood on the green

    Apollo explorers, as might be expected,
    Found boulders and pebbles, no trace upon
    That gray lifeless surface of Beardsley Bullfeather.
    His skeleton, soul, and the sixties were gone

    Who steps into history? What’s in a name?
    If a plot has a hero, who stars in a scheme?
    Does it matter whose footprint officially marks
    The start of an era, the end of a dream?

    • R. Fiore says:

      An improvement as far as I can see. The coloring didn’t bother me. I fear I may have been overly cynical about the reasons for not translating the foreign strips. As an American monoglot I find the way the translations were handled detracts from my enjoyment of the book.

  8. James says:

    How is it an improvement that the last portion which actually meant something, now means nothing? Bah.

  9. patrick ford says:

    Yeah as I see it the changes weaken Kirby’s original intent which embraces the ’60s hippie/Buddhist idea that man is just a small part of nature, and the universe.

    “By superior, practical fiscal ability…
    Above the disturbance that troubles the soul…
    Go to the satellite asleep in it’s vaccuum…
    Bask in the silence of each gaping hole…”

    The revised version places the focus a bit more on the individual:

    “‘So ‘do-it-yourself’ and a little ambition
    Pay off in the end!” chuckles Beardsley, and soon
    Lands his ship, his visage as calm
    As the smile on the face of the Man in the Moon.

    Another is found in the last stanza. The original text:

    “Who steps across history? Whose mark stamps the years?
    Whose image leaps forward and then disappears?
    Who lives and who dies in the turbulent scheme?
    The questions grow moot as fact fades into dream…”

    The revised text:

    “Who steps into history? What’s in a name?
    If a plot has a hero, who stars in a scheme?
    Does it matter whose footprint officially marks
    The start of an era, the end of a dream?”

    I like both versions. The original version works as metaphor. The revised version is more like a piece of humorous fantasy.

  10. James says:

    If you read the main character as representing Ditko, and understand the foulness at what was done to him and Jack, the original ending makes a lot of sense, and the constant and sickening hailing of the name of the exploiter Stan Lee bears out the truth of Kirby’s words. Then you can read the changes forced on Jack, which relate more to the actual space program or something, and Kirby’s meaning has been lost entirely.
    Of course in the end it is moot because all we can do is drawing inferences from a cropped note from Kirby which is published in the book cropped— what is visible seems to imply that Kirby made changes in a finished, complete piece, that he didn’t want to, to please an editor who didn’t understand what he was getting at, as Kirby’s editors unfortunately usually didn’t. At least, if anyone cares what Kirby’s intent was, the Kirby Museum does have copies of the pencils, for this and for his other ruined works.

  11. R. Fiore says:

    The reference to Ayn Rand seems like a thin reed to connect it with Steve Ditko. The metaphor seems like a bit of a stretch. If we’re talking about Marvel, it wasn’t as if Kirby’s and Ditko’s names weren’t attached to what they did. Their names were all over the place.

    • patrick ford says:

      Kirby’s most expansive commentary on Rand never made it into print.
      Based on Kirby’s original art including Kirby’s border note script, and comments from Mark Evanier Mike Gartland reconstructed the story Kirby intended for issue #66 of the Fantastic Four.
      http://twomorrows.com/kirby/articles/24compare.html

      Mike Gartland: …the mysterious “Citadel of Science” in which “The Human Beehive” exists. Technicians and scientists gathered together in secret to perform the most awesome of experiments: The creation of a perfect human being.

      As stated previously, the Sixties was a time of turmoil; there were more social changes occurring than had been seen in decades. Movements, philosophies, and even religions were being born in this decade, or were at least reaching public awareness. One of these movements would play an interesting role in Silver Age Marvel history. The philosophy of Objectivism was developed by its discoverer, Ayn Rand, in the late Fifties, gaining strength in the early-to-mid-Sixties.

      Mark Evanier: Jack originally intended for this storyline to represent his take on the Objectivist philosophy. What Jack had read of Ayn Rand and had explained to him had gotten him to thinking about the philosophy and its pitfalls (some, of course, will dispute that there are pitfalls in it and that is their right), which led him to do a story about it. But in Jack’s original story, the scientists are well-intentioned, with no evil plans. They are attempting to create a being totally self-sufficient, intellectually self-reliant; not encumbered by superstition, fear, or doubt; in short, a being based on Rand’s absolutes. Of course such a being would be totally intolerant of those who created him; a truly Objectivistic being would not cope with the flaws in others.
      In the first part of the story, the scientists attack the being in an attempt to control him. This violates one of the doctrines of Objectivism; also, the scientists are conducting this experiment for the benefit or betterment of mankind—another violation. The being destroys his creators at the end of the story not to help mankind, but because in his eyes they are evil; no matter how well-intentioned, they tried to destroy him. He is allowed to act in his own self-defense; remember, in the eyes of the Objectivist there is no gray area between good and evil.
      When Stan received the first part of this storyline, he felt that changes had to be made. Perhaps he found its content too negative to a given philosophy, politically-based, or simply confusing to him. Stan didn’t notice any villain in the story and almost always felt that every story had to have a bad guy, so he had to come up with one. He could only choose between the being or the scientists and it was simplicity to just go the “Mad Scientist/Sympathetic Creature” route…
      During these years Stan would have photostats shot of Jack’s artwork, to be sent back to Jack so that he could remember his plot continuities in these multi-part stories of his. These photostats would have Stan’s dialogue intact to show Jack how Stan was interpreting the stories. When Jack received the photostats to issue #66, the first part, he wasn’t pleased at all. His storyline had been corrupted; the entire reason for the story had been gutted, replaced with a standard comic book plot; and he was now (due to the fact that this issue was going to print) forced to change the rest of his story to support Lee’s version.

  12. Grant Joon says:

    I just want to know what the three fully-realized tracks are on There’s A Riot Goin’ On: Family Affair, Runnin’ Away, and… Thank You for Talking to Me Africa, I guess? (I was always kind of partial to Spaced Cowboy myself). Maybe that infamous title track with a 00:00 running time is the equivalent of Choquette’s abandoned grand narrative thread.

  13. James says:

    Well, it was never only about the names, was it? Who ended up with millions, who got bupkis?
    I don’t think this reading is a stretch and neither does Rand Hoppe; the character resembles a drawing Kirby did of Ditko. Ditko exiled himself, he dropped out (up) according to his principles. If it is meant to represent Ditko (and by dint of their similar position of disenfranchisment from the fruit of their efforts, obliquely Kirby himself), the piece makes a lot of sense, at least it did in pencil form.
    If it isn’t, then please share what you think it means.

  14. James says:

    “Who steps across history? Whose mark stamps the years?”
    Whose image leaps forward and then disappears?”
    Gee I wonder who this is talking about

    Who lives and who dies in the turbulent scheme?”
    The questions grow moot as fact fades into dream…”
    Yeah, facts count for nothing (see: testimony)

    Actually I wonder if the Man somehow managed to get in and rewrite those verses to add the banality that reached print, most appropriate for a history of the sixties

  15. Jeet Heer says:

    It’s not just the Rand reference. 1965, the year the strip starts with, was the year Ditko stopped working for Marvel (although Ditko strips continued to appear into 1966). Also Beardsley Bullfeather looks like Ditko as drawn by Kirby. Compare The Someday Funnies story with the cover of The Kirby Collector #30 (a drawing of Spider-Man carrying Ditko): the same circular glasses, the same scrunched bulldog face. Also, in the early 1970s Kirby had already used Lee and Roy Thomas as characters (Funky Flashman and Houseroy). So it would make sense he would do Ditko. The evidence all points in one direction, that Beardsley Bullfeather is portrait of Ditko, one that is both admiring of Ditko’s courage in breaking with Marvel while also making a critical point about the limits of Randian individualism (in general, Kirby always admired team efforts more than lone wolfism: virtually all of Kirby’s characters belong to some group or other).

  16. R. Fiore says:

    Went clean over my head. As you can see above, even when this is pointed out to me it seems as opaque as it was before. I don’t see how anybody who isn’t deeply steeped in Kirby lore (needless to say, far more than me) could possibly pick up on this.

  17. James says:

    R: My point was that Kirby’s point was lost with the changes, with the result that the piece printed ends up meaning basically nothing—-and this happened so much in his career that it not surprising that so many do not give him his just due as a writer. Then, many apparently prefer their text easily scannable.

  18. Jeet Heer says:

    James: it’s not absolutely clear to me that the printed version of the the Bullfeather story is inferior to the first draft. And let’s be clear about what happened: Kirby did a draft version and was asked to make changes in the text, which he did. The printed version is as much Kirby’s handiwork as the draft. As an example of editorial interference this seems of a different order from Kirby’s experiences at Marvel (where Lee’s captions often told a story that was different than Kirby’s drawings, and where Kirby’s role as a co-creator, designer, and plotter were systematically minimized) and DC (where they cancelled his major Epic half-way through, just as the story was reaching its crucial moment).
    Doing drafts and revising work is par for the course if you’re working in a collaborative form — and shouldn’t be confused with censorship or suppression.

  19. patrick ford says:

    Jeet, Have you seen the whole of that note Kirby wrote to Choquette? I almost get the impression Choquette had asked for a whole new story. What I can make out of the note sounds like Kirby is apologizing because he doesn’t have the time
    to create a whole new story, and is hoping Choquette will be happy with a revision.
    I agree both versions work in much the same way. As Robert points out the fact Bullfeather is a metaphorical Ditko would go over the heads of 99% of all readers.
    On the whole the story reminds me of various things Crumb has said about the ’60s. At the time people got excited and thought mankind was entering a new era of enlightenment, yet in the end the Hippies devolved into “I’ve got mine” Yuppies, and in the long view “Does it matter whose footprint officially marks
    The start of an era, the end of a dream?” Or do people just keep on making the same mistakes over and over.

    Crumb: We haven’t come that far since Hitler, and the concentration camps, and the gas chambers, Stalin and Mao, all the people they had killed or sent off to Siberia or whatever. You can go on and on.

    Kirby: I think we are living in medieval times. It’s only 40 years ago we cooked people in ovens. How sophisticated is that? We can pat ourselves on the back, and say we’re living in a high tech age, but I think we’re still medieval.

  20. James says:

    Jeet: My basic feeling is that Kirby was asked to do a piece for a history of the sixties, because of his position as a major creative artist in that decade. The pay wasn’t great and I don’t know how many other contributors were asked to change what they did. But it seemed to happen to Kirby a lot and I could speculate that some of the other Marvelite contributors may have put a little “Jack can’t write” worm in Choquette’s ear. Kirby at the time was very much focussed on his writing in textual terms, establishing his authorship, and the piece in question in it’s original pencil form is very carefully wrought by its maker. Obtuse, maybe, but who said art must be easy? Writing in such a poetic form is not as easy as it looks. There are odd moments as always but then there are places where it sings. Kirby was coming from a self-educated place, but he was thinking and trying to express himself on a higher level than his contemporaries. At his best he leaves them all in the dust. The visual, philosophic and literary encodings throughout his work are there to be analysed.
    In the case of Drop Up I vastly prefer Kirby’s original intent, I trust the artist’s initial judgement and consider the piece ruined by the editor. What I can see from the scrap of note is that Kirby wasn’t happy about changing his work; as usual, NO ONE trusted his judgement no matter how many times he proved it sound. The type of auteur control so many take for granted now was never REALLY offered to Kirby, someone alway had to fuck with his stories or cancel the books just as he was hitting his stride and he’d have to go back to square one again. Cumulatively, it must have been incredibly frustrating for him personally—and, it truly is our loss.

  21. patrick ford says:

    Looking at Heritage by way of the comments on Annie Fanny and there are a bunch of interesting thing by Kurtzman (also with Davis and others) up for sale. None I can afford, but anyone can look.
    Can’t resist linking to a Kurtzman/Davis “Roulette Wheel “here:
    http://comics.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=7054&lotIdNo=53001#Photo
    Also a Kurtzman colour proof:
    http://comics.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=7054&lotIdNo=92073#Photo

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