The Fall Classic is upon us and here in the Philadelphia area we baseball fans have reason to be excited! The Phillies are making their fifth trip in a row to the playoffs, hoping to reach the World Series for the third time in four years!
Sports and comics have a lot in common, challenge, conflict, victory, colorful uniforms drenched in primary colors and heroes, plenty of heroes. In sports heroes come and go. A hero one day may be the goat the next. Some heroes become legends and their exploits border on the mythic. The greatest tragedy in sports is when the most idyllic of heroes fall from grace crushing the hearts of all their faithful fans and admirers.
Phillies fans, though currently enjoying a great era of success, have a long history of witnessing failed efforts so the few highlights in their history shine like beacons. We all know that the Phil’s first World Series Championship, won in 1980, would never have happened without, then first baseman, Pete Rose.
It was a great team and had been for a few years with heros like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Bob Boone and other greats but the acquisition of Pete Rose made the difference. He was Charlie Hustle, Mr. Baseball. Even when Rose played for the opposing Cincinnati Reds, as much as he was a hated rival, he had to be admired. Pete Rose was the kind of player every fan wanted on their team, hard working, skilled and doggedly determined to win.
Pete Rose defined everything that was great about baseball and was one of the sport’s greatest heroes. When he was banned from Major League Baseball in 1989 and later from the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 because of his admissions to gambling and betting on his team, his situation ignited a firestorm of contention among baseball fans that continues today.
Many believe that Pete Rose’s banishment from Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame is unfair, deprives fans of an accurate accounting of history and is a hypocrisy when compared to the inductees that are known drinkers, wife beaters, drug users, etc.
But this is Charlie Hustle, and when I heard that there was a Pete Rose Museum in Cooperstown I gloated at the thought of Mr. Baseball erecting a gleaming shrine to himself right in the shadow of Baseball’s hallowed Hall of Fame redirecting the foot traffic through his doors and reaping financial rewards and well deserved glory from adoring fans ravenous for memorabilia with his name on it. I imagined Pete standing in his door thumbing his nose at Major League Baseball, then going to the bank, everyday.
In actuality the Pete Rose Museum is a modest hall of memorabilia on the second floor of a brick building a block away from the Hall of Fame sitting atop the Mickey Mantle Museum and Pete Rose continues to face his life sentence with dignity and respect to the sport that he so loved.
So what does this all have to do with Jack Kirby?
Pete Rose’s story in some ways reminds me of Jack Kirby’s story. Kirby dedicated his life to the mastery of the comics medium he loved. In the eye’s of many, he was the greatest but for all his accomplishments he was denied the final rewards of his endeavors, some rights to the many, many characters he created. Jack Kirby’s characters continue to make millions of dollars for the corporations that claim the rights while his heirs continue to fight for some reasonable compensation.
Heated discussion has continued for decades as to what is fair in the case of Jack Kirby and other comic artists with similar issues that will probably never be settled.
My thought is that maybe, like in the case of Rose’s museum, focus should be trained away from the monolithic industry and aimed at the man himself, or in this case, the King, Jack Kirby.
It is time that the name Jack Kirby become a brand that is synonymous with all that is great and can be great about comics. Beyond all the characters that Jack Kirby created, there is a style that is distinctive solely to him a style that has affected pop culture for decades.
Imagine a Jack Kirby retail store that sold only product that was derived from Kirby’s original creations. Sure, it would look like a comic shop littered with product produced by Marvel and DC but the retail revenue instead of meager royalties from the wholesale revenue would go to holders of the Jack Kirby store who would either be the heirs or someone who pays the heirs for the rights to use Jack Kirby’s name.
How about Jack Kirby comic conventions? Kirby Con International? There might be a few bucks to be made there!
The Jack Kirby brand in a strange turn could license rights from Marvel and DC to produce all kinds of Jack Kirby branded merchandise. Everyone makes money and the Kirby legacy lives on providing the heirs with fiscal security for generations.
Kirby’s distinctive style could lend to clothing designs that could rival anything on the market today. Instead of Coogi, stylish folks could wear Jack Kirby. Why not?
Stan Lee has turned his name into a brand. Can you say Walt Disney? Why not Jack Kirby? Forget about the characters and turn the legacy of the man into the commodity. Is he not the King, after-all?
In terms of strategy, I guess this would be considered “Beat them at their own game.”
Just an idea, inspired by a guy who never gave up.
Making Comics Because I Want To