Barry Ira Geller
Winner of Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing, Argo has been praised for being an exceptionally well-made film based on a true story. However, as is commonly the case with “based on” movies, even one as fine as Argo, liberties were taken with the facts and omissions made in the interests of telling a tale the filmmakers hoped the audience would enjoy.
Some of those historical liberties and omissions center around the script and artwork that were used to establish the cover for the operation to rescue six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. That script was written by Barry Ira Geller and the art was design work that the great Jack “King” Kirby had done for Barry.
Barry’s active interest in science was demonstrated at ages 13 and 14 when he won 3rd and then 1st Prize in the NYC Science Fair. His interest in the arts also came to the fore in his teen years when at age 15 he became a devotee of such counterculture poets as Allen Ginsberg and Tuli Kupferberg, and saw his own poetry published in poet Ted Berrigan’s C Magazine at 16.
His dual interests in science and art would lead Barry at age 30 to buy rights to Roger Zelazny’s award-winning science-fiction novel Lord of Light. Barry envisioned producing both a movie of the book and a related theme park to be called Science Fiction Land. He wrote a script for the planned Lord of Light film and brought in Oscar-winning makeup artist John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to help. For the theme park, his notable consultants included Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller, Ray Bradbury, and architect Paolo Soleri. Barry also brought in the great Jack Kirby to do design work for the theme park.
As mentioned above, it was Barry’s script and Jack’s design art that were used to provide cover for the hostage rescue mission and the San Diego Comic Fest is proud to present Barry Ira Geller in person to tell the full story of how this all came about. And while we’re waiting to see him at the Fest, Barry has been kind enough, in the meantime, to write the following brief description of his days working with the King:
Life with Jack
by Barry Ira Geller
In the summer of 1978 Star Wars had been out for a year but few people thought very much of Science Fiction. I began interviewing artists for the film Lord of Light by their ability to “be like Jack Kirby” but I was never satisfied. Then I got the brilliant idea to call up Jack Kirby himself. Lo and Behold we really hit it off as mutual creative entities. I had a strong feeling how important he was going to be to the future history of Comics and Western culture. I knew I was dealing with a legendary man whom I also wanted to be chief designer for the buildings of my theme park, Science Fiction Land.
Generally, when Jack and I started working together on a particular drawing, we would first have long, sometimes very deep thematic discussions. What did Zelazny write, what my screenplay said, what would it take to build it 100-200 feet tall, and finally get the heart of what we both wanted.. I found Jack’s creative energy to be very aggressive, as if we were fighting side by side under General Patton, or battling strange creatures as Gods of Asgard, Odin leading the charge. This went on for a few hours until I felt the energy had reached its highest crescendo, when Jack’s eyes would be positively sparkling. I’d call an end to the meeting and, after schmoozing with him and Roz, would go home. A few days later I’d get a call from Jack. The new drawing was complete. It included everything we’d discussed – with several more galaxies added.
I have tracked my creative consciousness to having my brains warped from reading Fantastic Four books off a newsstand in the Bronx in 1961. A year later when I was 15 my father, an intellectual and avid reader of hardback books, made me sell some comics with his stern fatherly guidance that comic books would ruin my mind. I thought it might not be such a good idea to tell my father my mind was already gone.
© 2013 Barry Ira Geller
You can visit Barry’s Lord of Light web site at www.lordoflight.com.