Jack Kirby's LORD OF LIGHT Concept Art Used By The CIA For ARGO
If you're a fan of the legendary comic-book artist Jack Kirby, who co-created the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk with Stan Lee, than you are used to the artist not getting as much credit as he deserves. Ben Affleck's Argo is just another example of that.
Ben Affleck's Argo is loosely based on a covert mission created by the CIA, with help from the Canadian government, that rescued six U.S. diplomats from Iran. C.I.A operative Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) smuggles the U.S. diplomats out of Tehran, by pretending that they are Canadian filmmakers working on a new science-fiction film, “Argo.”
In the film, Affleck's character is seen hiring an artist to create concept art and storyboards for his fictional movie. Later the art is used in a pivotal scene, as it plays a major part in the diplomats convincing the Iranians that their cover is legit.
In reality no artist was commissioned by Mendez as he already had production drawings Jack Kirby created for "Lord of Light," which is the actual title of the script the CIA used for "Argo." The film doesn't even acknowledge Jack Kirby's artwork, and of course doesn't use any of his original drawings.
"Argo" is adapted from a 2007 Wired magazine article written by Joshuah Bearman. You can read a more authentic version of events below.
An excerpt from Wired's "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran":
In just four days, Mendez, Chambers, and Sidell created a fake Hollywood production company. They designed business cards and concocted identities for the six members of the location-scouting party, including all their former credits. The production company’s offices would be set up in a suite at Sunset Gower Studios on what was formerly the Columbia lot, in a space vacated by Michael Douglas after he finished The China Syndrome.
All they needed now was a film — and Chambers had the perfect script. Months before, he had received a call from a would-be producer named Barry Geller. Geller had purchased the rights to Roger Zelazny’s science fiction novel, Lord of Light, written his own treatment, raised a few million dollars in starting capital from wealthy investors, and hired Jack Kirby, the famous comic book artist who co-created X-Men, to do concept drawings. Along the way, Geller imagined a Colorado theme park based on Kirby’s set designs that would be called Science Fiction Land; it would include a 300-foot-tall Ferris wheel, voice-operated mag-lev cars, a “planetary control room” staffed by robots, and a heated dome almost twice as tall as the Empire State Building. Geller had announced his grand plan in November at a press conference attended by Jack Kirby, former football star and prospective cast member Rosey Grier, and several people dressed like visitors from the future. Shortly thereafter, Geller’s second-in-command was arrested for embezzling production funds, and the Lord of Light film project evaporated.
Since Chambers had been hired by Geller to do makeup for the film, he still had the script and drawings at his house. The story, a tale of Hindu-inspired mystical science fiction, took place on a colonized planet. Iran’s landscape could provide many of the rugged settings required by the script. A famous underground bazaar in Tehran even matched one of the necessary locations. “This is perfect,” Mendez said. He removed the cover and gave the script a new name, Argo — like the vessel used by Jason on his daring voyage across the world to retrieve the Golden Fleece.
The new production company outfitted its office with phone lines, typewriters, film posters and canisters, and a sign on the door: studio six productions, named for the six Americans awaiting rescue. Sidell read the script and sketched out a schedule for a month’s worth of shooting. Mendez and Chambers designed a full-page ad for the film and bought space in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. The night before Mendez returned to Washington, Studio Six threw a small party at the Brown Derby, where they toasted their “production” and Mendez grabbed some matchbooks as additional props to boost his Hollywood bona fides. Shortly thereafter, the Argo ads appeared, announcing that principal photography would commence in March. The film’s title was rendered in distressed lettering against a black background. Next to it was a bullet hole. Below it was the tagline “A Cosmic Conflagration.”
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Slate.com has a great article about what else was fictionalized in Ben Affleck's Argo. Definitely worth a read.
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