Original 1978 Jack Kirby 'Argo' Film Artwork, From
Collection Of Comic Legend Jim Lee, Readies For Auction
In 2007, Jim Lee, one of the most accomplished comic book writers
and artists of the Modern era, and the Co-Publisher of DC Comics,
read a story in Wired Magazine and suspected there was something
special about two pieces of Jack Kirby art in his collection:
Kirby's Lord of Light/Argo "Pavilions of Joy" illustration
original art, 1978, and
Lord of Light/Argo "Planetary Control Room (Interior)" illustration
original art, 1978.
Shortly after breaking into comics in 1987, illustrating titles
such as Alpha Flight and Punisher War Journal, Lee
began collecting original comic art. Among his favorites was the
legendary Jack Kirby (1917-1994), whose many co-creations included
Captain America, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Avengers and X-Men, the last
of which Lee himself would re-define on his way to the top of the
"Jack isn't called 'The King' for no reason," said Lee. "His
work created the visual vocabulary of modern-day superheroes. He
established the aesthetics for superhero action."
So when original Kirby artwork went to auction at Sotheby's in
1993, Lee was among the bidders.
The pieces were described as concept drawings for an unproduced
movie based on Roger Zelazny's 1967 science-fiction classic Lord
"I'd been buying Kirby art, loose pages, single pages, here and
there," said Lee, "but these particular pages, I thought they
looked cool and would look impressive on the wall."
Lee placed the winning bid and added the artwork to his
collection, where it remained undisturbed until the 2007
Wired magazine story, titled "How
the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From
It told how CIA operative Tony Mendez created a phony movie
production company in 1980 to help smuggle stranded Americans out
of revolutionary Iran. To set up his ruse, Mendez teamed up with
friend and veteran Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers.
"All they needed now was a film — and Chambers had the perfect
script," reported Joshuah Bearman in Wired.
Chambers had been hired to work on the Lord of Light
movie. By 1980, the project was dead, but Chambers still had the
script and Kirby's concept drawings. Mendez retitled the project
"Argo," packed copies of Kirby's drawings and was soon on his way
"I read that story in Wired," Lee said, "and thought,
'Wait! How can this be unknown for so long?' Well, it was unknown
because it was a secret mission for all those years. When I bought
them, I thought they were just cool pieces from a failed animation
project from the 1970s. At the time, the whole Argo mission
was still a top secret."
The rescue was eventually declassified, and the Wired
story led to director Ben Affleck's 2012 Academy Award-winning
movie Argo. With the movie's release, the real-life
exfiltration of U.S. diplomatic staffers was firmly planted in
Now, Kirby's artwork, which played a crucial role in the
mission, and has been in Lee's collection for two decades, is a
Heritage Auctions' Aug. 1-3 Vintage Comics and Comic Art Signature®
in Dallas. Each piece is expected to realize at least
"These are not only fantastic examples of Jack Kirby's art, but
also pieces of American history and Pop Culture," said Steve
Borock, Senior Consignment Director at Heritage. "Kirby was a
patriotic American who fought in World War II and co-created
Captain America. He would be proud to know his work helped bring
those Americans safely back home."
For his part, Lee is happy to have owned "a cool bit of
"I have four kids going to college, however," he said. "It's
time to balance needs and my love for the art. I've always been a
collector. I've always bought what I loved. I never intended to
have an art collection. It just ended up that way."
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