In late 2014 I contracted Heavy Metal Productions to do the 14 Kirby/Geller Lord of Light Production designs, approving the art for their first Jack Kirby Magazine #276, and writing a great article of my creative relationship designing everything with Jack Kirby. Heavy Metal has continued to develop several other merchandise deals based solely upon the Kirby/Geller designs, which derived from my original screenplay Lord of Light.
Because of the hard-to-read copy (unless we wanted to wait around 10 minutes for the big files to load) here is the text of the article. You can view the actual pages in the e-book below, which we admit look a lot cooler than text. Thanks.
Jack Kirby and the Art of Reality Reconstruction*
(* “Hologram” in physics is defined as “wave front reconstruction,” also meaning “whole picture.”)
“Did you see Errol Morris’ new interview show with that CIA spy?”
What spy? What show?
It was early in the year 2000 & I am getting a lot of phone calls. “There’s this CIA guy Mendez holding up one of the Kirby drawings saying he “stole the script from Lord of Light.” “He said he used the Lord of Light script and production images as a disguise, a phony production company doing a fake Film to save the hostages” – the real CIA mission which got those hostages out of Iran in 1979. The mission was called… ‘Argo.’
This is the true story of how everything started; the real story about what allowed the CIA mission to happen at all. I am going to take you deep into the rabbit hole. Hear the real story of how Jack Kirby and I, Ray Bradbury and John Chambers were putting together an actual film called Lord of Light, and a real SciFi theme park called Science Fiction Land, with Paolo Soleri and Bucky Fuller consulting – almost at the same time the CIA was looking for ways to save those people in Iran. Our paths crossed through mysterious means and the history of the future was altered! In 2005 Wired Magazine described the tale of the CIA’s story fairly accurately. In 2012 a Hollywood film came out with the same name as the mission – but you already know that story. Here’s what really happened….
In 1977 I wasn’t in the comic book field at all. I never worked for Marvel, DC, or any Comics publisher. I wasn’t an assistant to Jack, or to anyone else in the business. Nothing. There are many great people who’ve worked on Jack’s characters for him or other publishers. I never was one of them, either. I was just a fan, came from being a fan, since a kid reading and collecting JK stuff off a newsstand in the Bronx, from 1953, 6 or 7 years old Then on through FF, Hulk, Iron Man, and FF’s Galactus in 1962 — which literally changed my consciousness of Life itself —although I did not realize it at the time. It was Jack who gave me such an AWESOME vision as a child – the astounding life-changing moment when I was reading FF and saw that incredible montage in a FF centerfold. I was done for it. Totally.
As a teen I got into science and won city-wide science fairs because of Jack’s stories. And when my well-meaning but book-toting father made me sell all my comics so as not to “destroy my mind” I was afraid to tell him my mind, thanks to Jack Kirby, was already gone. Jack’s influence grew on me for the next 14 years, inspiring me to get into physics, have visions of other worlds, other cultures, other dimensions, and the future possibilities of new technology.
I went on my own life’s adventures, culminating in early 1977 when I decided to leave TV and become a film producer and bought the rights to Roger Zelazny’s Hugo-Award winning novel, Lord of Light. I knew no one in comics; all I remembered was Fantastic Four and Thor from my teenage years. I’d gone to several artists, asking them to “do something like Jack Kirby” but was never happy. Then I came to that light bulb moment to call up Jack himself. Which I did……
The novel Lord of Light is full of the Gods of the Hindu Pantheon; originally ordinary people from a destroyed planet, they used technology to turn themselves into Gods of Earth and set up the planet accordingly to live by their rule. When I came to Jack it was as a young film producer just 30 years old; I was collaborator, partner, son, co-visionary, but also boss. I had vast visions of building a theme park called Science Fiction Land to finance the film, which also entailed me bringing in some of the greatest creative talent in the country – and all of our work together was aimed at getting production drawings which could be used to promote both film and science park.
To me at the time, Jack Kirby was a genius but part of a team of geniuses of his peers I’d put together – and whom I was looking at making everything possible with. But it all started with Jack, as many, many things often did – and do today.
While Lord of Light dealt with creating the greatest Gods of the universe; it never occurred to me this was the exact film property Jack Kirby was waiting for all that time, what he has always been trying to do all his life. Although I’d not read any comics since I was 15 I knew very quickly he was the right man to actually give expression to all the visions I had about Science Fiction Land and the film Lord of Light!
Working with Jack was like simultaneously watching and mutually participating in an exploding star being sucked into a black hole then emerging out from another dimension into another whole starlit universe of a trillion other stars and galaxies, all in fluid 3 dimensional and 4th dimensional motion. And everything comprehensible! Jack Kirby was a very aggressive creative development partner and sometimes it felt we were fighting side by side under General Patton (which he did do in WWII) or we were battling strange alien creatures as Gods of Asgard, with Odin leading the charge (which he did, also!).
I came with ideas. I came with my Lord Of Light screenplay/adaptation, looking for visions. I came with plans to turn his drawings into actual buildings (several of which made my engineers nearly have heart attacks). I may have been utterly out of mind at the moment but I do not think there was any other way to have approached JK at that time, and so I became his creative partner. He saw my visionary illumination of an actual Sci-Fi Disneyland, as I called it and, beyond what I thought any other man or artist capable to see. I completely took it for granted that my dreams and visions were completely understood by this loving man who also taught me about honor – not realizing that what I was presenting to him as a reality – a full architectural and modern reality – was what he was dreaming about all along, for years. A better marriage of childish madness could not have been better made. That I found this similar conformity of minds, imagination, and madness with Ray Bradbury, John Chambers, Paolo Soleri, Don Broadbent, & the amazing Buckminster Fuller was just something I expected – because of Jack. It was Jack Kirby who paved the way to make it all real! He was the model of unconditional imagination I brought to each other man. When I went to Scientist and Holographer Donald Broadbent I just expected him to invent stuff like Holographic film Projection systems for the film, and 100 foot holograms for the Theme Park – I mean, why not? It didn’t faze Don at all. Nor was anyone of the highest imaginative caliber fazed by making Jack’s drawings into reality – it was the way we all saw things to begin with!
So many of my conversations with JK, which preceded every drawing, were about civilizations which we both felt really existed in some universe – but which I often discovered JK already had well thought out. It was as if he was already living in each dimension, just waiting for each drawing commission, each discussion, each possibility to get expressed. And then I discovered the real Jack Kirby: the set of drawings I designed with him took him outside the world of comics, which he’d already changed, and into changing another world – the one we call Earth.
Working with JK was partnering in a form of creative consciousness, which was meant to imbue everyone in the world. The whole Idea was that people, after seeing the film, would realize THEY were Gods, with psychic powers of their own – themes which never before were properly depicted in film or otherwise. I’d kind of like stumbled into the whole situation. The beauty of that man was he just took it in stride. Honestly I didn’t really know how incredible the guy really was up to that point — until I sat down and started telling him what my plans really were, at our first meeting, in the summer of 1977. My world just totally changed. Later I told Jack, Roz, and Ray that in 30 years technology would create a totally new consciousness & that was our plan, to change the imagination of children of the future, through Science Fiction.
Transformation of Reality was our Reason for doing Lord of Light – and that got communicated to Jack, Ray, John, Paolo Soleri – the Goal was to transform Reality –we are talking about 1978 here – no computers or social media or email or anything – just figments of our collective imaginations – our individual imaginations – Ideas of robots, ideas of teleportation, telepathy, telekinesis, & embedding emotions into objects — I mean what was a God? How did we talk about it? I’d been promoting that Lord of Light’s “god-powers,” which I called “Psychic Powers,” would be recognized everywhere and become just as familiar to audiences as Aliens at a bar on a distant planet had become with the film, Star Wars (which had just come out). We felt that this recognition would transform people to recognizing their own innate Psychic or expanded Mental Powers, and would influence cultures everywhere.
Jack was totally into changing the consciousness of the world, outside the confines of comics. We were aware that no one realized what was going on yet; no one really understood anything about what we were doing just yet – no one understood the Star Wars of Psychic Reality just yet. So I promoted, Why not just do it? WHY NOT? Why can’t we just do it? There was no question about being able to do it. There was no problem of belief. I began raising appropriate funds. Let’s just build a theme park! And of course, you cannot just build a Theme Park out of the blue – all this stuff went from a very beginning of designing the Film into, well, the Science Fiction Land Theme Park — was also part of the idea which was allowing me to raising money, to talk to bankers and other financial types. I didn’t even have to change my pitch – the excitement of showing drawings which transformed life itself! And make tons of money!
The brilliance was we worked FOR each other as well as WITH each other. Because we were Partners in Illumination. Partners in Concepts. Partners in the possibility that what we were doing would possibly alter the course of Mankind and the current culture. That was what we were all doing. The Lord of Light Kirby/Geller drawings represent all of this. So then it came down to well, what kind of technology DID Heaven have? What were the streets like? How did these guys do what they did? How was the life organized? What was the construction of Heaven’s culture, their morays, their operative communication and values? That’s the essence of each drawing: We wanted to Alter Life on this Planet – no less. NO LESS! These were the topics of conversation Jack and I spent hours together charging through.
We had an interesting aspect here in that technology, just as it was in the brilliant novel Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny, which was FULL of technology everywhere – but the Gods who came from this other planet called Urth, they have been masquerading under the trappings of the Hindu Pantheon – but all the technology was there all the time, just not easily seen by the population.
So you have as a premise of intentionally keeping the population ignorant of technology – giving the impression that the levitating Raga Wheel or the Hover Craft, Video-TV screens – were there by the God’s power. But if you take away the cognizance – take away the universal cognizance of technology – that becomes the introduction of magic – the introduction of Heavenly Powers of the Gods – the introduction of Sam, Mahasamatman. And Roger’s novel, Lord of Light. And then enters Jack <drum roll> Kirby, who has been toying with all these worlds of god-like powers for years before I met him, where you have a man, who is always a man—but from the might of Honor and Justice, a man becomes like a God.
So Jack Kirby sees Lord of Light as an extension of himself, as what he always wanted to do. As an expression of his life! And Science Fiction Land as the proper expression to seeing it into the physical world! Consultants Bradbury and Fuller and Soleri are there to make it so, and completely agree. So all of this – we are making up all of these designs, these drawings – and we are CHANGING THE WORLD. This is what no one has understood about Jack Kirby, past and present. Being an artist doing Lord of Light he was back again with Patton, with Odin, making the world better, freer, safer, and more real.
On www.lordoflight.com you can see all the Lord of Light drawings and read vignettes of how each was created. One is “Brahma’s Supremacy.” It’s Jack’s concepts of (God) Odin-like omnipotence. Like many of our seminal discussions which preceded new drawings, we talked more about Space Beings with vast inter-dimensional power like being able to be aware of many planets at the same time. I mean, this is what the Brahma of the novel, Lord of Light was trying to impress everyone with — so why not have his personal building which flaunted it all? In Science Fiction Land it was to become a 150 foot projected hologram.
Another is ”Brahma’s Pavilions of Joy <Showstreet>” which in Roger’s novel I was inspired by a single line, where Kali wants to save Sam’s life and Brahma says, come to my Pavilion of Joys (my sweet darling) for the weekend (dear Goddess), and let us pray together – LOL! This drawing was to show a street in Science Fiction Land, of God’s Statues, where each building was dedicated to restaurants of different countries, to pay for the Film — the Producer’s idea — but with galactic euphoria imagined by Jack Kirby!
Another example is the double paneled “Planetary Control Room,” inked by Mike Royer, and so brilliantly depicted by Tom Kraft for JK Fine Arts, and by Mark Engbert and Dave Stewart for Heavy Metal Productions. I was originally inspired by Zelazny’s idea of Sam as Prince Siddhartha coming to town and using the “Celestial” Video telephone to talk to God in a Temple of Brahma! I envisioned a giant video screen, when he went to Temple to “Pray” — which attending Priests considered to be Holy Communion. Zelazny depicted a small Temple room, but I came up with the idea of floating robot-priests, holograms, a stadium-sized Control Room, cube of Earth, Raga Wheel of Life ferris wheel, and all the rest. Were we crazy? Jack gave life to everything, created the awesomeness of the total presentation, as he did with every explosive drawing, so literally no description is needed further! It was his way of telling a story, which he considered his best talent, even better than his actual drawing skills.
My publicist interviewed him in the summer of 1979, where he said, “I’m a concept man. I can get to the nut of a story. My way of looking at things and the way I develop is exactly what this film needs. That’s my background.
“The film will have a tremendous impact in the world, it will show enormous strength. It will allow Eastern man and Western man to relate to each other. I believe that this film and the way we are conceiving it could contribute to saving the world.”
“I had to be involved….. And I most definitely am.”
My vast dream project faltered in December 1979. John Chambers who, unbeknownst to all of us, had for years been doing work for the CIA. He took the opportunity to give the Lord of Light script and drawings to his boss, CIA spy Tony Mendez. Meanwhile the CIA was languishing, inactive, with no means of completing their mission. The Lord of Light script and Kirby drawings provided the exact cover they needed; the mission to act as a film company was green-lighted right away. Over the years it’s finally gotten known the CIA used the Kirby/Geller Lord of Light drawings and my screenplay to get out the hostages during the 1979 Iran Crisis. Which the film called Argo was loosely based upon. What has not been known, just told to me recently, by the French-Iranian avant-garde magazine Zaman, is Jack’s drawing called Terminal of the Gods made the Iranian Revolutionaries believe the CIA’s film company to be actually legitimate (as opposed to the stick figure drawings used in the film Argo). Why? Because it symbolized the removal of the oppressive Shah and the Return of their sacred religion. Can you imagine that?
Jack Kirby’s work with Lord of Light really DID change the world! Jack’s stuff works on a cross-cultural level of multi-consciousness, with many integrated dimensions, more than any other artist in our world, Comics or otherwise, has previously achieved.
Barry Ira Geller
Producer, Lord of Light, April 12, 2015
Jack Kirby and the Art of Reality Reconstruction* *“Hologram” in physics is defined as “wave front reconstruction,” also meaning “whole picture.”