Shel and Jack Kirby Discuss California Living in 1970

December 10, 2009

For San Diego comic fans, 1969 was a banner year. That year Shel Dorf and Ken Krueger moved to San Diego and Jack Kirby moved to Irvine, which was an easy day-trip distance away in Orange County. Shel was from Detroit, Ken from Buffalo, and Jack from New York City. Late-sixties Southern California was quite a change for them, and one that they found to their liking.

We thought you might enjoy hearing Shel Dorf’s voice as recorded during a December 1970 visit by San Diego fans to Jack Kirby’s house in Thousand Oaks, California (where the Kirby family had bought a house after renting in Irvine). This is just a brief excerpt from the nearly three-and-one-half hours of audio that was recorded that day. In it, Shel and Jack discuss California living. Just click on the player button below to have a listen. (If you’re reading this via news reader or email, you may have to visit the web site to play the clip.)

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And here’s a transcript of this snippet of audio:

Shel: Now that your environment has changed and you’re here sort of isolated in the mountains, do you think you’re going to lose touch with what’s going on in the cities?

Kirby: Maybe.

Shel:If you bring your characters into the cities, what are you going to do?

Kirby: I’ll just remember the city I know. And, uh, you know, you never get that out of you. Everything I’ll probably see till the day I die will be New York. And, uh, you just, you know, never get it out of you. Not because I particularly like New York: it, it’s what I know. And uh, uh….if I write about a city, I’ll know more about a city than three other guys. And you may put a new building, or something, I’ve seen it.

Shel: In other words, probably, you might be able to see it clearer now than actually when you were…

Kirby: I see it, I see, uh, I see something that I’ve never seen before…it’s the one reason I love California. And, uh, it’s the one reason I’m glad I got off my backside because New York is all vertical. And I’ve never, except for that one experience in France where I saw the Moselle Valley, you know, and, of course, that was France. That wasn’t America, and France is something different. And, uh, but over here, I’ve never seen anything like, anything with the expansion of California, and I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I saw it. So uh, uh, I, I, I just love it here. I love it here.

Shel: Well, there’s a new look to the cities. I was in Detroit on business about two weeks ago. Actually, it wasn’t business. I had to testify in court. My brother was hit by a car, a hit-and-run driver, as we were walking, five years ago and the case just came up. I got the license number and I identified the guy, and my brother won the case, etc. But just being in Detroit for, uh, the twenty days that it took, the brutality of the city came across stronger than ever after having lived in California for a year and a half. And I noticed a brand new architecture springing up. The store fronts are all bricked up, and they’ve got one little strip of glass, you know, at the top to let a little light through. And they’ve got this new design of, uh, of mesh over the ones that do have windows. They’re trying to put some design into the mesh to make it attractive, but, still. And the cities are like fortresses now.

Kirby: You have a condition in the cities that I, I never had: I know that. There’s a heckuva lot of people. A heckuva lot of them. And, uh, in my day, you know, there weren’t that many people. I think conditions are becoming, maybe there’s a denseness accumulating there too. And….you’re going to, you’re going to warrant a little more protection. I think, uh, if, you know, if there’s any sort of a menace building up there, it’s because of the, the population build up. And, in my day, uh, there was plenty of room for everybody. The room wasn’t much to look at, [laughs] but everybody had plenty of it. Even in the ghettoes, you know, where it was really overcrowded, uh, it was the only place that was really overcrowded. In other sections of New York, you know, you could, uh, you could walk the streets and, uh, you wouldn’t feel the crowds as much as you do now. When I lived in Long Island, I’d, I’d come in maybe twice a week to the city and there would be something about the crowd that would scare me, and I’d just, right back to the suburbs. And I felt a hell of a lot much better. So, uh….

Shel: The city does have an effect on people in so many ways. You smile at somebody here in California and they return your smile. Smile at people in Detroit and they look at you and they say, “What is he smiling about?” You know, “What does he mean by that?”

Kirby: I don’t think that means anything.

Shel: And the colors. They all wear dark colors, like black overcoats are in now, black rain coats, black trousers.

Kirby: The climate’s different.

Shel: They look like pallbearers.

Kirby: Sure, You’re walking around in a gray climate – you wear a gray suit.

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