I spent yesterday attending the Wizard World LA comics convention at the LA Convention Center (next to Staples Center downtown). The event is run by Wizard Magazine, and a lot of the programming and events are aimed at Wizard's target audience -- teen and twenties-aged young men. Which meant that the attractions for an older fan like me were relatively slim.
One standout event was a Jack Kirby tribute panel by Mark Evanier. Evanier, Kirby's assistant, friend, and hand-picked biographer, has put together a tribute panel to Kirby at every San Diego con since Kirby died in 1994. Usually, he packs the panel with comics professionals who worked with Kirby or were inspired by his work. This time, the panel was all Evanier, all the time. That isn't a bad thing. Evanier is both a gifted storyteller and a spellbinding speaker, and has a seemingly limitless database of anecdotes at his command. The panel consisted of Evanier taking about 20 minutes to recount how he first met Kirby in the late sixties, and came to work with him as an assistant; and then Evanier taking a few questions from the audience. Each question triggered about 20 more minutes of explanations and digressions. Thus passed the hour.
Evanier's book JACK KIRBY: KING OF COMICS was recently released, after a few delays. It was one of those books that I could not resist reading half of as soon as I received it last week. Evanier described it as the prelude to an exhaustive bio of Kirby he will release in a few years. His publisher wanted a book now; and so Evanier released this chronological account of Kirby's life wrapped around tons of Kirby comics and art.
The link above is to a current entry on Evanier's always-entertaining blog. Those who have seen REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, in which Jim Backus plays James Dean's father, may recall the scene with Dean, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood in which Dean mocks his father by imitating the cartoon character Backus voiced, Mr. Magoo --"Drown 'em like puppies, ah ah ah." Evanier links to a news story on Backus's death, which recounts Backus's anecdote about the imitation and the studio reaction it triggered.
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