Along with the countless others it takes for a movie to make more than $250 million in its opening weekend, I saw Avengers: Infinity War, during its opening few days.
I went Friday (April 27) morning (11:20 a.m. to be precise) which marks, officially, the first time I have ever gone to a movie, in an actual cinema, before lunch. Truth be known, I didn’t know those two things co-existed – movies in theatres playing before noon – prior to plopping down my money and Scene card Friday a.m. at the Bayers Lake theatre.
I was anxious to see the third installment in the Avengers franchise which, of course, is part of a larger series of movies called the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Into its 10th year, the MCU is an unprecedented venture; a series of new movies featuring different characters but all connected through a common universe which allows for the opportunity of the personal stories and adventures to intertwine.
To say I’m familiar with the characters and these stories would be an understatement. I grew up collecting Marvel Comics and my old hobby remains a keen interest. Now, I like to read about the times when Spider-Man, Captain America and the Black Panther were first being introduced in comics and, even more so, about the artists who created them.
I say ‘artists’ plural, and that’s a small criticism I have with the MCU films and those in Marvel’s other universe of movies involving the X-Men characters. The creators of these characters, at least those not named Stan Lee (who makes briefs cameos in virtually all Marvel movies, including this one, and often enjoys ‘executive producer’ credit), receive very little recognition. Meanwhile, their creations, with each screen appearance, become more-and-more household names and pop culture icons.
It was illuminated for me while watching a recent BBC interview with British actor Tom Hiddleston, who brilliantly plays Loki, step-brother and arch enemy of Thor, in the MCU. The interviewer asked Hiddleston about Loki’s costume which, in the comics, is a bright green and yellow combination with a helmet featuring very exaggerated horns (the movie character sometimes wears a slightly toned-down version). Hiddleston started his answer with, ‘when Stan Lee developed the character …’
Now Hiddleston, who owes his current fame to playing the Norse God of Mischief, may have misspoke, or he may be amongst the many who think Lee is the sole or, at least, main creator of these enduring characters.
The truth is, Lee is not an illustrator and the look of the Marvel universe should really be attributed to a man named Jack Kirby who passed away in 1994; unfortunately, well before getting to see his co-creations really take life.
It could be argued that Kirby is, even, more so the Avengers’ creator than Lee since he is a co-creator (along with Joe Simon) of Captain America, a character on the scene long before Lee every worked in comic books.
Lee was the writer and Kirby the artist and it’s fairly well-understood by comic book fans that the style at Marvel in the early days was; the artist and writer would come up with an idea and a plot line together, and then the artist would go and draw the story, including word balloons in the panels to be filled by the writer.
Marvel, known as Timely then, was struggling in the early 1960s before Lee and Kirby came up with the Fantastic Four; then, Thor, Iron-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, etc. etc.
Artist Steve Ditko is credited, along with Lee, in creating Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and artist Bill Everett receives the same for Daredevil – the central character in Marvel’s TV success on Netflix. But there is also the belief, and quite legitimately considering his incredible body-of-work, that Kirby also had a hand in creating Spider-Man and Daredevil.
It’s a long and, at times, fierce debate over who deserves more credit for creating these characters; but there is no debate over their current popularity which only seems to grow with every Hollywood treatment. It’s just too bad Kirby, affectionately known as the ‘King’ of Comics, isn’t around to be doing cameos and receiving the accolades too often only attributed to Lee.
And when it comes to this movie, the other name which should be highlighted more is that of writer/artist Jim Starlin.
In the early 1970s, Starlin created the villain Thanos, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy characters Drax the Destroyer and Gamora, and, in the early 90s, the ‘Infinity’ storylines which are borrowed from, generously, by the movie makers.
His name is in a little bigger font in the middle of the end-credits but, if it wasn’t for Marvel adding a short scene, or sometimes scenes, during those credits, it’s doubtful anyone would still be around to see it.
Starlin deserves people knowing his immense contributions; that his creativity, from the groovy years, is all over this soaring epic.