Contest: Write your own Jack Kirby pitch

Dave Itzkoff at the NY Times uncovers the story of  a vault of 600 pages of unpublished Jack Kirby concept art.  After leaving DC in the ’70s, the King went on to work in animation for Ruby-Spears through the ’80s, designing such things as Thundarr the Barbabian, among others. But so prolific was Kirby’s imagination that he just kept churning out concepts and new characters, whether anyone wanted them or not. The art for these unseen projects sat in some boxes at the Ruby Spears vaults…until now.

Now, a partnership between that studio’s founders, Joe Ruby and Ken
Spears, and Sid and Marty Krofft, the longtime children’s entertainment producers (“H. R. Pufnstuf,” “Land of the Lost”), is planning to revive these unseen Kirby characters in as many forms as possible. It’s a proposition that faces challenges as the studios scour the landscape for the next comic book or cartoon character they can transform into a franchise, but also one that has piqued the interest of some powerful Hollywood players.

While the ideas may be ones that no one has ever heard of, there’s got to be gold in them thar hills somewhere. For instance…


A female Indiana Jones accompanied by a midget magician on a unicycle and a cowboy with giant hands? It writes itself!

“Roxie! Look out! My unicycle has become stuck in this molten alloy and I can’t move!”

“Don’t worry, L’il Mojo, Big Hand Luke will fan out the fires with his massive mitts!”

Or…

This one should be rennamed…”The Turban Squad!” But our favorite…


“Nekrona, hurry!  You’ve got to contain that floating skull before it grabs the last Jelly Filled Munchkin!”

“I’m trying, Dr. Zadge! But its chattering teeth are disrupting my spell!”

…etc., etc., etc.

It’s infectious. Truly, The King looms overs us all; we’re blanching midgets in the light of his titanic imagination.

Comments

  1. Manny says:

    The GarGoids are Evil warrior “gods” from another dimension! A darker dimension. They have used their black magicks and powers beyond our simple ken to break through the walls of time and space itself and wreak horrible havoc on the good people of earth!

    What is their ultimate, sinister goal? To control the Earth! It’s up to Ben Barrack and his band of 6 World Renowned Adventures to stop them!

  2. Justin Fairfax says:

    They should let Mike Mignola have a go at these concepts–Remember “The Amazing Screw-On Head”? He’s great with wacked-out concepts like these! And he’s “done” Hollywood, so with him attached it would help sell it!

    While I’m glad Kirby’s still creating from beyond the dead, I am concerned that no compensation to Jack’s heirs has been mentioned in these reports so far. Yes, these were definitely “work-for-hire” (OR WERE THEY–if Jack did these on his own, without being commissioned by Rudy-Spears, and they chose not to act on them at the time–can they be considered “work for hire”?) but if they’re going to use Jack’s name as a selling-point and potentially make millions off at least a few of these 600 pages of presentations, shouldn’t his family get something?

  3. Since I saw this last night the one property that seems to me to be most immediately bankable is GOLDEN SHIELD. Why should Roland Emmerich get to have all the 2012 fun? Put Grant Morrison on that book; he will bring the crazy fun.

  4. I believe it has been stated elsewhere that the Kirby Family has consulted their lawyer and concede that this material was unquestionably “work-for-hire” to which Jack could lay no legal claim. Any compensation to the Kirby Family would be a goodwill gesture and not a requirement.

    That said, the art on the Warriors of Illusion appears to be more Gil Kane than Jack Kirby.

  5. Blackeye says:

    Ernie, you’re exactly right on the Gil Kane piece, of course Gil worked for Ruby Spears also.

    The funny thing is…this stuff is all rather dumb. It shouldn’t be any surprise it never surfaced as a series. I know, I know, everything Kirby did was pure genius. Really… look at this stuff with an unbiased eye it’s terrible stuff.

  6. Ah, the past returns. Some of these concepts were Jack’s–others were ideas that were presented to him either in rough outline or just a few sentences. I remember “Roxie’s Raiders”. It was supposed to be another networks answer to “Goldie Gold”. Jack thought Goldie Gold was the goofiest idea ever.

  7. Josye says:

    If even half these projects get a shot at animation, it can only be a good thing. Animated shows in the US are sorely lacking in substance right now. Even half decent ones like Brave and the Bold will soon be cancelled and replaced by more updated/tween targeted shows like Young Justice.

    The more Kirby, the better. And the more Garfield, the better too. :)

  8. It’s not the character it’s how it’s handled. And any of the above stuff beats Kick “most realistic comic ever”* Ass. Seriously, how lame are current comics? Jeebus.

    *really? and some lost souls actually agree with that statement? zombies.

  9. Dave Elliott says:

    These and many more were printed in Comic Images 1994 trading card set “JACK KIRBY THE UNPUBLISHED ARCHIVES”. Has several more Gil Kane pieces as well.

    I’d like to hold on to the notion that Jack didn’t create many of these and that he was paid to purely do the boards.

  10. I’d thought that a common clause in work-for-hire contracts was that *all* work done at the studio, even if not specifically commissioned, belonged to the studio.

    Besides, it’s, as I’ve said elsewhere, all in the execution of these ideas. A pitch itself can be intriguing, but without the work to develop it into something, well, it’s just a pitch.

  11. Synsidar says:

    A storyline for Warriors of Illusion:

    The mages are charged with keeping Earth’s inhabitants from realizing the awful truth: That the planet has become an arena in which avatars representing the opposing forces in the universe battle each other. As cities, counties, and states are decimated by the battles, the Warriors come up with ways to disguise the damage and loss of life. But what will they do when Earth is depleted of human life? Or can they convince their deity, who controls reality and illusion, to end the conflict?

    SRS

  12. That floating skull in the Gargoids piece is obviously a demi-lich which the psychic woman is trying to lull back to sleep before her buddy’s soul is sucked right out of his body!

  13. While I know that Sid and Marty Krofft are involved, I’d love it if some of these concepts were done in the classic Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated style. That’d be one way of embracing any goofiness and just running with it.

  14. I dunno … The Warriors of Illusion/Turban Squad sounds good top me … and I like that woman on the left … especially with it’s Gil “Sugar” Kane backing them up! And I have no probloem with Roxie’s Raiders … keep cracking that whip!

  15. Maybe someone should ring up Stan Lee and see what he could come up with these Kirby drawings?

    ;)

  16. Torsten Adair says:

    Having grown up on the Kroft Supershow, part of me would love to see a live-action version of some of these.

    Actually, the Krofts should steal the idea that Hanna-Barbera stole from them: live actors in suits (perhaps a central World Emergency Center) monitoring the adventures of various groups (both animated and live). The Banana Splits Meets The Watchtower. Either dubb the serials for other markets, or produce new versions like Power Rangers.

    Series DVDs are sold at regular price ($39.99) with all sorts of extras, while each serial gets a separate no-frills package at $9.99 (to encourage kids to buy). Write the serials so that they can be edited like a movie… the show is an 80-page giant, the serial DVDs are trade collections.

    If the show is a hit, film an Event Crossover with all the characters, and release it in theaters.

    Maybe even have Lou Scheimer consult…

    The 2012 project is problematic… best to make that the enciting incident, the thing that starts the whole she-bang… the beginning of a new epoch which can go either way.

    Any Toth concepts lurking in the HB vaults?

  17. Al™ says:

    I’d like to see a collector book series, with all of these Kirby concept board drawings by Kirby. Similar to Twomorrow’s Jack Kirby Collector.

    Not so excited about the prospects for any of these old concepts beyond a printed book. They weren’t well received back in the 80′s, has the market changed that much since then?

  18. A traveling circus that fights crime? What a great idea! Somebody needs to develop Roxie’s Raiders into a series. I’d buy that in a heartbeat.

  19. Barry Buchanan says:

    That’s cool, news. I used to work at a Video/comic store and they would get those Comic Images 1994 trading card set “JACK KIRBY THE UNPUBLISHED ARCHIVES” that was filled with these rejected ideas ( along with old Kirby covers from the 40s and 50s).Of course I bought as many as I could. Only card collecting I ever did. Some ideas where pure cheese but hey every Kirby idea is is still chock full of goodness.

  20. Robert Pope says:

    Actually, Jack didn’t design Thundarr the Barbarian, Alex Toth did. Kirby was called in when Toth became unavailable to design incidental characters, villains, props, etc. That’s why villains like “Gemini” and others looked like they were hanging around the Negative Zone. And I know this is true, ’cause Mark Evanier’s written the clarification about a zillion times in the Kirby Collector!

  21. I’ve heard rumors of many pages of Toth notes/designs having been xeroxed out of notebooks housed at some of the Hollywood animation houses, but I’ve never seen them. Have seen preproduction boards (in color!) by Toth trading hands, though. Beautiful craftsmanship and design.

  22. Joe Heffernan says:

    The animation companies treated Jack really well and I believe the Kirby family recognize that. I also believe that Ruby and
    Spears, along with Sid and Marty Krofft, would at least credit Jack on the concepts he either created or expanded on (as in Goldie Gold from Mr. Sherman’s comment). And according to Mark Evanier’s website, there is a book planned for these drawings!

  23. Wow….looks like MOST of those so-called Kirby concepts in the article’s slideshow are actually Gil Kane concepts!

    In addition to the one already pointed out by Ernie, check out the other Kane concepts here, here, and here.

    Plus, I’m pretty sure this one is by Kane as well. The woman’s costume design looks like characteristic Kane stuff, and not Kirby’s. Second opinions?

    As for the Kirby stuff, none of it really does much for me…as does most of his later-career stuff. In the Ruby-Spears stuff, there’s really nothing *new* there…just B-movie archetypes (hooded masterminds, safari-chick, fez or turban-wearing bad guys) paired with more of Kirby’s interchangeable cosmic warriors (like the guy in the bottom panel here.)

  24. Whoops! Had the wrong link to the “Maybe Gil Kane” concept. Here’s the correct one:

    http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/04/12/arts/20100413_KIRBY_SLIDESHOW_2.html

    Again, not completely positive it’s Kane, but it sure doesn’t look like Kirby’s stuff.

  25. footyfoot says:

    The Bad Guys looks like fun, even if from the looks of it they were merely just former Circuit City employees gone rogue. The purple fish-scaled guy is especially nice- he looks like Machine Man after he popped a few denial circuits back in 1978 and came out of the closet. Oh, and isn’t the gal in two of those panels Roxie?

  26. Kid Kyoto says:

    ” Yes, these were definitely “work-for-hire” (OR WERE THEY–if Jack did these on his own, without being commissioned by Rudy-Spears, and they chose not to act on them at the time–can they be considered “work for hire”?) but if they’re going to use Jack’s name as a selling-point and potentially make millions off at least a few of these 600 pages of presentations, shouldn’t his family get something?”

    They were work-for-hire so by definition his family has no legal right to it.

    If Kirby himself was alive I’d argue there’s some ethical arguement he should get a share of these hypothetcial millions but people who had nothing to do with the creation, nah. Wouldn’t go out on a limb for them.

    Besides why does anyone think there’s millions to be had? I see ideas that were rejected 30 years ago and sure they COULD be winners but anything COULD be a winner. Ideas don’t make money, the delivery and development of those ideas does.

  27. When will the raping stop?

    ~

    Coat

  28. Michael says:

    It’s now 2013- Jack Kirby’s work deserves another look, and now, Disney legally owns those works, but still, in order to make things right with Kirby’s family, get Ruby-Spears involved and Disney can contract R-S to turn them into animated series, with Roxie’s Raiders likely going to Disney Channel, while the rest go to Disney XD. Disney should realize Joe Ruby and Ken Spears have the most knowlege about Jack Kirby’s products and should be contracted to make something out of them, also get Sid & Marty Krofft involved, too, for those products that could be turned into live-action TV series. This needs to be done, as soon as possible.

  29. Michael says:

    It’s now 2013- Jack Kirby’s work deserves another look, and now, Disney legally owns those works, but still, in order to make things right with Kirby’s family, get Ruby-Spears involved and Disney can contract R-S to turn them into animated series, with Roxie’s Raiders likely going to Disney Channel, while the rest go to Disney XD. Disney should realize Joe Ruby and Ken Spears have the most knowlege about Jack Kirby’s products and should be contracted to make something out of them, also get Sid & Marty Krofft involved, too, for those products that could be turned into live-action TV series. This needs to be done, as soon as possible.

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