No disrespect should be inferred, in the previous section, to Mr Loeb, currently in (I think) the third blush of an incredibly successful career in commercial comics. As well as being the man who gave us the story in which Vernon Wells pretty much orgasms in his leather trousers at the thought of killing Arnold Schwarzenegger. His populist ways are well-honed, and, like Mark Millar’s, sometimes get away from him. But he loves comics, too, and comics artists. He’s been talking recently about styles himself, in an episode that illuminates the previous section somewhat. Having discovered that his regular artistic collaborator Ian Churchill had in fact been forced into his familiar Jim Lee-influenced style by editors in the X-Men office some years back — the admonition was simply that, if you don’t draw in this (“kick-ass!”) style, you won’t get work — Jeph Loeb’s writing him something to draw in his original style, his true voice.
I imagine, in the madness induced by living in an office with the severed robot head of Jack Kirby, that the project appeals to the screenwriter in Jeph Loeb — that he can be the mentor figure that helps the (Joseph) Campbellian hero find his true self at the bottom of the second act. It has a certain mythic power to it. (Mythic Resonance. It’s something I reference a lot.)
“I know about myths,” quacks the head of Jack Kirby, whose mouth has been disgorging copies of a photo of him and Frank Zappa taken thirty years ago.
An ocarina is a lousy soundtrack for a mythic meeting. Stan Lee, sitting on a filing cabinet in the Marvel offices, filling the place with its howl. Stanley Lieber as was, Sergeant (Retd), not sure where he’s going with his life, installed there by his cousin. Has he had that conversation with Joan yet? Perhaps he’s days, weeks or months away from it. Perhaps it’s in the recent past, and he’s still wondering how to do… anything. Waiting for the lightning to hit.
And then, rolling thunder, as Jack Kirby bulls into the room, sizes up the kid on the cabinet (Kirby is a little over five years older than Lee) and says, “Here’s what we’re gonna do.”
In some of Kirby’s variants on this tale, Stan Lee is in fact weeping as he sits on the cabinet.
I’m damned sure it didn’t happen like that. Comics, for all Jack’s talk about American mythology, aren’t terribly mythological things to make. Superhero comics people are outright bad at myth-making moments, for people who fabricate stories of heroes.
“I know about myths. I know about styles, too,” Jack Kirby’s head mutters darkly. Because Joseph Campbell’s hero of a thousand faces requires darkness and failure too. “I know about editors and styles.”
I decide to light him a cigar, one of the good ones, because I know what’s coming. I mentioned Carmine Infantino, and that was my mistake. I can ruminate on myths all I like — David Bowie’s “Heroes” is playing through the office speakers — but we’re going to have to talk about styles, and heads, now.
I’m going to quote something from the blog of music writer Simon Reynolds, at http://www.blissout.blogspot.com, and hope he doesn’t mind.
“What I’m getting is, nothing was stopping people writing histories (about “light” music like)… Doris Day or Pat Boone or Engelbert Humperdinck or whatever… Same as nothing ever stopped anyone from writing a history of electronic dance music in the Nineties that made trance or handbag house the central narrative. That those people haven’t come forth tells you something about the motivating power of certain kinds of music, their ability to generate Myth.”
I can be sent things via Avatar Press at Avatar Press, 515 N. Century Blvd., Rantoul, IL 61866, USA, but I cannot promise a response or a review. Although, let’s be honest, it’s fairly likely, as eventually the ANYTHING section will need to be about comics. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but I warn you, it’s a dump address, not my regular email address, so it can take me a few days to check it.
DO ANYTHING IS © WARREN ELLIS 2009, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.