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History Twists Around Original Argo Comics


“Pavilions of Joy” 1978. Ink on paper, approx. 22.25″ x 17″, matted to an overall size of 26″ x 20″

Jack Kirby Lord of Light/Argo ‘Pavilions of Joy’ Illustration, Original Art (1978).

The drawings of Jack Kirby (1917-1994), whose many co-creations included Captain America, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Avengers and X-Men, currently on sale as part of Heritage Auctions. Kirby created these wonderful images for a film, never did he imagine they would be used by the CIA.
Originally conceived as production pieces for a proposed film about a fictional planet the film idea was based on a Roger Zelazny Science Fiction novel Lord of Light.  Producer Barry Geller wanted to adapt Zelazny’s book to the big screen and hired Kirby to create the concept art and also brought on a makeup artist named John Chambers. (The saga of the Lord of Light production is actually the subject of its own documentary called Science Fiction Land.) The commissioned art was stored away when producer Barry Geller lost his funding for the film idea but when Mendez of the CIA called on Chambers to help him exfiltrate six American diplomats hiding out in Tehran, the makeup artist still had copies of the script and concept designs.
Planetary Control Room

Planetary Control Room

Thus this images were used in a covert rescue mission of six American diplomats held in Iran during the storming of the US Embassy in the wake of the deposition of the Shah.  A fake film production company was created for the heist, supposedly making a film named Argo – after the Greek myth of Jason and his ship the Argo with offices set up in Hollywood, permission to film scenes in Iran obtained and posters and cast readings for the press set up, all as a ruse to spirit the Americans out. The film crew were looking for lunar-like locations to shoot in, they said. The Ben Affleck film Argo love it or hate it is based on these true events, and the Jack Kirby illustrations played a pivotal role in the original mission.

Yet even without this back story, what’s artistically amazing about the works are how completely sci-fi they are yet how much they borrow from North Indian Hindu and Buddhist art, and how the two blend so well. At first glance you can see who adept Kirby is at depicting perspective and scale, not to mention the powers of his imagination and his ability to render these on paper. No wonder he is considered top of his game in the comic world.

The auctions take place from Aug. 1-3 at Vintage Comics and Comic Art Signature® in Dallas and online. Each piece is expected to fetch at least $10,000. As the creator of Captain America, it seems entirely fitting that in the end, Kirby’s work became part of an artillery of objects used as tools of the state. However for the Iranians – and this is the main problem everyone seems to have with Affleck’s film – the hostage situation occurred because the lfShah was spirited away from the country, when he was expected to remain and answer to his people. Being offered protection by foreign powers, the Iranians felt more than ever that he had been the puppet of these powers, and that they had in fact been used by the USA. Perhaps if Kirby had known the true nature of the mission, when the story was finally released to the world after being kept secret for so long, he might have objected to aspects of the plan as being ‘un-American.” If you doubt so, check out this page also on auction, of the all-American Vanilla Cupcake. The child whose pheromones make her extraordinarily loveable, and who is exploited and merchandised by Godcorp, shares some facetime with Ronald Reagan: “Well Godcorp and Vanilla Cupcake are what this country stands for Mr Packer. I hope you’ll communicate that to the people of the Middle East!”