Tonight is Oscar night and with Marvel’s The Avengers being the only comic book movie up for any awards i.e. visual effects, you might be wondering “What on earth do the Oscars have to do with comic book movies?”
Well, you see, tonight’s Best Picture frontrunner, Ben Affleck’s Argo, does have a connection to the comic book world. Affleck’s character, CIA agent Tony Mendez, goes to Hollywood while trying to design a fake movie to try and rescue six Americans who escaped being taken hostage in the Iranian embassy invasion of 1979. Once there, he works with Alan Arkin’s producer Lester Siegel and John Goodman’s John Chambers, to create the look of the movie along with a storyboard artist named “Jack Kirby.”
Most comic book fans will already know that name from the pivotal art and creative work he did in comic books starting in the ’40s and throughout his entire career as one of the most influential comic artists ever. Some of his creations or co-creations include Captain America, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, the New Gods and many more.
Buzzfeed interviewed Joshua Bearman, author of the original article on which Argo is based, and got the skinny on how the real Jack Kirby was involved with the project:
“Argo was the name Tony [Mendez] gave to a script that was in turnaround and sitting in a pile at [makeup artist John] Chambers’ house. That script was called Lord of Light and had been adapted from a successful Roger Zelazny science-fantasy novel of the same name. A small-time self-starting dreamer who called himself a ‘producer’ — isn’t that how it always starts? — named Barry Geller had optioned Zelazny’s book himself and raised money to get the project started. He hired Jack Kirby to do concept art and Chambers to make the alien masks. But the whole project fell apart when Geller staged a press conference in Aurora, Colorado, where he announced his intention to film Lord of Light there, and then use the sets to create a theme park, called Science Fiction Land.”
They’ve subsequently found the original Jack Kirby concept sketches for the “Lord of Light” project, the script of which was found and transformed into the fake script for “Argo” as seen in the movie, although they’re not storyboards as depicted in the movie.
Jim Amash, who regularly interviews Golden and Silver Age artists for Alter Ego, knew Jack Kirby well and he also knew something about Kirby’s work on this project, having seen copies of the original artwork. We asked him about the images to get some clarification on their connection to the CIA operation and whether Jack knew anything about what was going on.
This is what he told us:
“I seriously doubt Kirby knew the truth either; he thought he was doing designs for a theme park based on Roger Zelazny’s work, as I remember. I saw the drawings many years back, so I was familiar with them. Jack did not do storyboards, btw; he did concept presentations. If you look at the drawings, you’ll see they are mostly buildings for playgrounds. When I first saw the art, I thought to myself that these ideas were too damn expensive to ever build and was suspicious of the entire idea. I thought maybe Jack had been scammed into thinking they were going to do something they weren’t going to do, but Kirby said he was paid. But I never thought it was anything more than a crazy idea by people who didn’t understand that these things could never actually be built as Kirby designed them, economically, I mean.”
So there you go. There may be a little bit of bending of truth in the movie because there were never any Jack Kirby-drawn storyboards for the fake movie “Argo,” but either way, you can check out some of the images below and check out larger versions of these and the rest of the images over at Buzzfeed.
(Thanks to The Playlist for bringing this story to our attention.)