Down in the Valley


Monday, November 22, 2010

Dan contributes an epic, must-read essay on Jack Kirby to Vice. You can read it by clicking “here.”

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9 Responses to “Down in the Valley”
  1. patrick ford says:

    Nice article by Dan. It wasn’t hippies on those motorcycles though it was teen age kids.

    TJKC: Tell me about the house you built in California.
    ROZ KIRBY: We bought the land, and we built this beautiful Spanish house from the plans. We had to do a lot with the lawyers and the builders, and finally got the thing built. And we lived over in Baranca. We lived on one level that looked down into a valley with a stream. There were these beautiful green acres, with sheep grazing there. Just beautiful. And after we were living there for awhile, all of a sudden we hear, “Vroooom! Vrooooooom!” All this noise! And these motorcycles were down there. We lived right on Baranca, and it’s like a funnel, and Jack’s studio is right overlooking it. The noise was so loud, it was terrible, and it went right into Jack’s studio. We’d complain to MGM, who owned the property at that time. They said there wasn’t anything they could do about it. Then we called the newspapers, and they took a picture of Jack pointing down into the valley. They called him Superman because they always said all the super-heroes were Superman. So the headline read, “Even Superman Can’t Get Rid Of Them.” (laughter)
    We said we didn’t mind the kids using their motorcycles down there, but to just put mufflers on them. But they wouldn’t do it, and the police would go after them on their motorcycles, and we’d have double the noise! (laughter) And then finally they had a meeting, and the parents complained that, because of us, the kids were going to turn to drugs, because we were chasing them off their motorcycles. (laughter) So we lived there two years in this beautiful home. And I finally said, “It’s no use. We can’t take it anymore. I’m not gonna have Jack get sick.” And we sold it after living there two years. (Editor’s Note: Roz previously told me these motorcycle riders were the inspiration for the Outsiders gang in Jimmy Olsen.)

  2. Dan Nadel says:

    Well, to nitpick with a friendly nitpicker: I was told by a friend of Kirby’s that it was hippies. Teenagers often equal hippies.

    • patrick ford says:

      Dan, There is a newspaper article (the one Roz mentions) where it’s clear (I think) the kids were into off-road motocross. A noxious “sport” which decimates wild areas. Growing up in S.Cal at that time I knew the type, and if anything they trended towards, slot cars, Drag Racing, and other motor sports. If I can find a link to that damn article I’ll send it along.
      I know the Rand has the article buried someplace in the Kirby Museum, but that site is hard top search.
      The distinctions Kirby makes between the various groups appears very distinct to me.
      The Hairies, and The Forever People are in what might be seen as an idealized (as opposed to the more realistic R. Crumb version) hippie mode. The Outsiders, the group Roz said was inspired by the motorcycles in the valley, are violent and clearly Hell’s Angels types.
      A third group seen briefly in Jimmy Olsen are foes of the Outsiders, and the Hairies. While not developed the group is clearly a paramilitary militia. They have adopted military lingo, and uniforms. I’ve wondered if Kirby may have been aware of the first rumblings of armed militia groups? In 1969 the Posse Comitatus was organized by Henry Lamont Beach, “a retired dry cleaner 1969 in Portland, Oregon. Beach, “a retired dry cleaner was former member of the Silver Shirts, a Nazi-inspired organization that was established in America after Hitler took power in Germany.

  3. Jeet Heer says:

    The thing is, when Kirby was making those remarks, hippy culture and parts of biker culture had kind of merged. Or to be more percise, parts of biker culture (and many other subcultures) had absorbed the paraphenelia of hippy culture. See the comics of S. Clay Wilson or Spain Rodriguez, for instance, or the writings of Hunter Thompson, Ken Kesey and Tom Wolfe. There was a lot of cultural mixing going on. Kirby noticed and filtered it through his own brand of craziness. To put it another way, Kirby probably didn’t do any drugs, but he saw the 1960s and 1970s the way the acid freaks did because his own imagination had LSD-like powers.

  4. jon c says:

    it`s a real shame to have to read an essay of this scale next to a repugnant/rubbish dos and donts feature on that crap site.

  5. James says:

    There are some excellent issues of Kamandi but that’s the first time I ever saw anyone claim #6 as the major Kirby masterpiece of the run (!!?). Whatever floats your boat.
    I’ll have to find that issue of Vice—-hey Dan, did you find a picture of Jack in his underwear to run with the article?

    • Dan Nadel says:

      I won’t defend all of Vice, but I will say that in the last year or two it’s been one of the better print forums for long form, intelligent non-fiction writing about often unusual parts of culture. I mean, there’s a Bob Nickas interview in this issue. That’s awesome. And Charles Willeford has been featured twice in the last two years. So… yeah, it’s kinda worth looking beyond the surface.

  6. Lastworthy says:

    I somehow read the article on Vice without realizing who wrote it, then immediately went and listened to the “Dan Nadel 2010” interview at Inkstuds for followup. Because I’m dumb, but thorough.

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