In a recent thread on Jack Kirby, there was some speculation that Darkseid may have been influenced by Nixon. In comments, Peter Sattler wondered about that and about Kirby’s influences more generally.

I know that this thread is fairly unraveled by now, but it seems that I find myself siding with Russ on simple matters of history. These two things seem likely (with a third question added on):

1. The Nixon of 1970 was not perceived in the same way — even by his opponents — as the Nixon of 1973 and after. That year, Nixon’s approval ratings hovered around 60%. He was viewed (domestically) as a political moderate/pragmatist. Yes this was the time of Cambodia, Kent State, and CSNY’s “Ohio.” But this was also the Nixon who publicly supported the ERA, attempted price controls, backed environmental enforcement (and Earth Day), regulated Big Tobacco, and did not try to stop the progressive agenda of the Democratic Congress.

This is before the Imperial Presidency, the enemies list, and of course Watergate became associated with the man. Sure he was a Cold Warrior, but he was not — I think — seem as a Goldwater or a second-string McCarthy.

My point is not that he’s a liberal — or that’s he’s *really* anything. But I am curious how he was viewed back then. Were other political cartoonists viewing him as a ruthless dictator and power-mad autocrat? Was Kirby — if you accept his version of events — the only one? It seems unlikely.
 

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2. It seems to be a fact that Kirby’s stories about his creative process in the 1960s and ’70s tended to evolve as he grew older, growing more elaborate and even inflated. I am no Kirby exert, but I can recall plenty of doubtful stories about his intentions or thoughts behind The Hulk, Galactus, Dragon Man, and even his own later work — stories that seemed to become embellished with time, making things sound more serious, more poetic.

Again, is that the case here? I don’t know. But Russ seems to indicate such a timeline. Has anyone made an effort to track the ways in which Kirby’s stories changed over the decades?

3. I would, finally, like to here what evidence we have for Kirby being a “voracious reader.” I’ve heard this many times, but I am not sure why we think that it is so. (Indeed, if I recall correctly, his wife said that she had few memories of Kirby reading.)

Once again, I have no problem believing Kirby did love to read. I simply wonder how we know this. Do we see evidence of deep reading in his comics? (I, for example, don’t see a deep understanding of evolution in his little essays for, I think, Devil Dinosaur — just a pretty standard, Life Magazine-level images of life and energy and what ‘science now tells us’…. Of course,that is just one subject. fantastically inflected.)

I honestly do not know. But I do know that this blanket claim is often made to link Kirby to other writers or to vouch for his historical accuracy/acumen. On what grounds is it made?

None of these comments is meant to disparage Kirby, for whose work I have no great feeling either way. (Heck, I love Charles Schulz, but I don’t believe that he loved Tolstoy, no matter how many times he said it — and in part because of the number of times he said it.) But the facts behind the discussion interest me nonetheless.

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