Dave Sim Versus Jack Kirby
by Jeet Heer
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Anyone interested in Dave Sim should try and get a hold of copies of Comic Art News and Reviews, a fanzine he frequently wrote for in the early 1970s.
As a teenage fan, Sim interviewed and analyzed many major creators who shaped his art, including Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, and Jules Feiffer. In retrospect, the Feiffer essays Sim wrote are particularly piquant because the young fan praised the alternative cartoonist for his insights into gender relations. Who knew back then that Sim would grow up to be a character out of Carnal Knowledge?
Equally ironic is an outburst against Jack Kirby that Sim penned in the very first issue of Comic Art News and Review. Sim was upset that Kirby had been given too much artistic freedom by his editors at DC:
I maintain, as I have for some time, that Kirby has little or no talent. His writing disgusts me even more than the early work of Gerry Conway. His creations seem to be of less than human quality. [...]
Now for some conclusions on this topic. Why do these characters exist? They are Kirby creations and it is a well-known fact that the only way to maintain Jack Kirby as a staff artist is to cater to his wants. One of these wants is total freedom to change, distort or completely destroy anything in the panel art at DC. He changed Superman into something less than he should be, totally demolished anything it took DC thirty years to build Jimmy Olson into….and left both characters when he was through with them. This is somewhat reminiscent of ushering a spoiled child into a room full of antique toys, permitting him to smash them at will and guiding him to yet another room.
Now, the almighty King demands that he be granted a team of artists at his California headquarters that he might continue his Fourth World Farce. Whom would he take? Neal Adams? Jim Aparo? Joe Kubert? Certainly sacrificing these gentlemen to the pseudo science fiction slop of the Fourth World means nothing…if the King is satiated by it.
At least on the issue of creator rights, Sim became wiser as he grew older. The entire magazine Comic Art News and Reviews testifies to the vital fan culture that existed in Southern Ontario in the early 1970s. A run of the journal can be found in Robarts Library at the University of Toronto. If anyone has access to the library, they should definitely check it out: it’s a goldmine waiting to be opened up.