When Paul McCartney met comic book legend Jack Kirby
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When Paul McCartney met comic book legend Jack Kirby

    Marvel movies are all the rage in the modern-day. Even your grandmother knows who Iron Man and Thor are, and they’ve likely opened their wallets to add to the billion dollar box office grosses that follow pretty much every superhero movie. We might currently be on the downswing now that Marvel’s initial phase of films have been completed, but there remains no more surefire hit than a superhero flick.

    Back in 1975, this wasn’t exactly the case. Richard Donner’s Superman often gets credit as the first genuinely successful superhero film, and that movie doesn’t hold up at all. But it did lay the foundation on which Marvel would build their cinematic empire since, before that, all that there was to compete with was the 1966 camp classic Batman. In short, being a comic book fan wasn’t a transcendent or even remarkably cool thing to be in the early 1970s.

    Another figure struggling to get his groove back around this time was Paul McCartney. With the breakup of The Beatles placed squarely on his shoulders, McCartney started a solo career that paled in comparison to his bandmates’ successes. McCartney I and Ram prompted confused reactions, as did his first two LPs with Wings, Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway. Drummer Denny Seiwell and guitarist Henry McCullough abandoned what surely seemed like a sinking ship, and the McCartney’s were left to forge ahead with former Moody Blues singer Denny Laine to prove the world wrong.

    The trio would right the ship with 1973’s Band on the Run, and they entered the studio for their next effort with much more confidence. Venus and Mars, while not as universally beloved as its predecessor, still contains some of Wings greatest tracks, including the central ‘Venus and Mars’/’Rockshow’ medley, the laid back rocker ‘Letting Go’, and the bouncy and goofy ‘Magneto and Titanium Man’.

    The latter was born while McCartney was attempting to keep his kids occupied while he and Linda went to the recording studio. He had found a shop that sold comic books and began buying the latest Marvel titles to keep his children occupied. McCartney would often read the stories to them, and one night found the central electric piano riff that inspired the song’s arrangement. Remembering the superheroes from his children’s comic books, McCartney made their storyline the centre of ‘Magneto and Titanium Man’.

    When Wings arrived at the LA Forum on the ‘Wings over the World’ tour, Kirby was backstage. According to Kirby’s biography, “The thing about Jack was that within a few minutes you felt as if you were best friends, so Paul too was soon laughing it up with Jack as if he had known him for years.” Kirby presented the McCartney’s with a line drawing of them being trapped by Magneto, and Wings continued to perform the track throughout 1976. Sadly, McCartney has yet to resurrect the song since.

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