If you are an avid Jack Kirby fan then you have probably noticed that the recent release of Ben Affleck's film 'Argo' has done very little in terms of crediting Kirby's involvement with the 1979 CIA-Canadian operation portrayed in the film.
This covert rescue mission involved creating a fake film and production company to be used as a backdrop to help save six American diplomatic workers from Iran during the embassy crisis. This fake film was actually created using genuine production illustrations and screenplays that were intended to make a real movie at the time.
The concept art was a crucial element in determining the plausibility of the production to the Iranian authorities. Indeed, in one of the tensest scenes in Argo the concept art was used by the group when confronted by Iranian border staff - suggesting that the concept art contributed greatly to communicating the high adventure of the science fiction film. Similarly, a poignant moment in the film hinges on a piece of concept art being retained as a souvenir, preventing it from being placed in the classified file. Unfortunately, the pieces that were used and presented to the audience in Argo were fairly generic, uninspiring and arguably served to undermine the power of these scenes.
Indeed, it would be no surprise if Kirby's concept art was instrumental in convincing the CIA - of all people - to use such a bizarre plan in an effort to rescue a group of hostages from in amongst the turmoil.
Creators of comics sometimes spend years developing characters, scenarios, history and visual effects. Many well know comics are inspired by ideas surrounding philosophy and theology; some reflect cultural features and societal issues - this is particularly true of Kirby - which I suspect made the 'fake film' all the more believable in the eyes of those ready to question it.
In 1988 Kirby said:
"I know our own place in the Universe. I can feel the vastness of it inside myself. I began to realise with each passing fact what a wonderful and awesome place the Universe is, and that helped me in comics because I was looking for the awesome. I found it in Thor. I found it in Galactus."
The story 'The Coming of Galactus', introduces Galactus as an almighty being ready to demolish worlds and the Silver Surfer as a solitary wanderer who is misunderstood and feared by humanity.
In order to enable his sustainability, Galactus wants to convert elements on earth into pure energy using a deadly energy converter, destroying the world and all that exists on it.
When Kirby created the Silver Surfer and Galactus it came out of a Biblical feeling. He came up with what he thought was God in Galactus.
"Everybody talks about God, but what the heck does he look like? Well, he's supposed to be awesome, and Galactus is awesome to me. I drew him large and awesome. No one ever knew the extent of his powers or anything, and I think symbolically that's our relationship with God."
Continuing with this biblical theme, Kirby began to create a fallen angel, and the fallen angel was the Silver Surfer.
Galactus' name is derived from the terms God and Galaxy; before his arrival on Earth, he had attempted to devour planet Zenn-La. The Zenn-Lavians experienced the 'Golden Age of Reason', where they overcame social difficulties. However, Zenn-La was then run by machines which the inhabitants grew idle to - disabling them from Galactus. One inhabitant, Norrin Radd, then sacrificed himself to Galactus, becoming his herald. In return, Galactus would not harm Zenn-La. Radd joined Galactus on his quest and transformed into the Silver Surfer.
Galactus' arrival on Zenn-la can be seen as a kind of epiphany when all of Zenn-La's technological advancements proved worthless in an instant. This is when Radd sacrificed himself for Zenn-La's salvation.
At the end of the story, Galactus confines him to the Earth, just like the fallen angel.
In Gnosticism; humans are believed to be divine souls trapped in a world ruined by material possessions. Gnostics associated the God of the Christian Old Testament with an evil creator who produced materialism in the world; it was this corrupt ruler that the Hebrews had formed their belief system around. It is this 'Old Testament' deity that Galactus represents.
According to Gnosticism, angels are manifestations of one's spiritual self. They believe in radical dualism where the lower part of self is merely a fleshy illusion and the higher part is the spiritual essence of the being. Norrin Radd discards his outer illusive self and takes on a higher form as the Silver Surfer.
In theology heraldry is associated with spreading the word of God. Similarly, here, the Silver Surfer takes on classic functions of a herald. He discovers new worlds and announces the coming of his master.
Each panel, colour, line and style is carefully planned in order to deliver a specific impact. Kirby became renowned for creating visually bold comics. In 'Coming of Galatus' there is a clear division of anticipation turning into aggression, which Kirby creates through lines representing motion. In their early days, comics used motion lines that poorly represented moving objects, however, over the years, these lines became increasingly stylised.
Jack Kirby brought comics to life through his highly expressive motion lines and unique rendering techniques - particularly those used to represent crackles of energy, which comic artists now refer to as 'Kirby Dots' or 'Kirby Krackles'.
The numerous connotations and visual elements that lie beneath Kirby's pioneering art suggest an academic stance towards the characters and scenario, thus creating pieces full of intellectual ideas and vivid imagination. These elements combined draw me to the conclusion that during the Iran mission in 1979, it could only have been Kirby's concept art which would have sufficed in order to carry out such an operation and therefore should have been used, or at least acknowledged, in Affleck's film - particularly when he is such a huge comic fan himself and claimed to have kept the main details of the film as close to the truth as possible.
Affleck's Argo is a great; however, with its recent release and the wider exposure of what was a tremendous feat between Hollywood and the CIA, it seems unfortunate now that the concept artist - who played a pivotal role in the operation - has received such little acknowledgment.
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