Oscar-nominated, and the favorite to win Best Picture this Sunday, Argo is a film about a fake movie production. But before Ben Affleck’s Argo, there was Tony Mendez’s Argo, the actual fake production that was a cover for the CIA agent to get six trapped Americans out of revolutionary Iran. And before Tony Mendez’s Argo, there was a little script called Lord of the Light, that was kept under wraps by the CIA until the operation was declassified in 1997. Now with a new documentary on the CIA operation featuring on the soon-to-be-released Argo DVD, the concept art by famous 70s comic book artist Jack Kirby (co-creator of The Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc) is resurfacing for the first time in years.
Argo was given its name by Tony Mendez when he was looking for a suitable sci-fi film that could believably be filmed in Iran. He came across a partial script for a movie, Lord of the Light, in the Hollywood make-up artist, John Chambers, house. The script was based on a successful Roger Zelazny science-fantasy novel of the same name. Explains Joshua Bearman, the journalist who wrote the Wired article that would become the 2012 film:
A small-time self-starting dreamer who called himself a ‘producer’ — isn’t that how it always starts? — named Barry Geller had optioned Zelazny’s book himself and raised money to get the project started. He hired Jack Kirby to do concept art and Chambers to make the alien masks. But the whole project fell apart when Geller staged a press conference in Aurora, Colorado, where he announced his intention to film Lord of Light there, and then use the sets to create a theme park, called Science Fiction Land.
Mendez then took the script and Kirby’s art, to make it seem that an actual film was being made. A fan of Lord of the Light posted these sketches on a website years ago, but it was only until the Affleck film brought the CIA operation to mainstream audiences that they received a renewed interest.
Currently there is a documentary about the failed film and Science Fiction Land that was funded on Kickstarter and still in production, but for now, click through to enjoy the sci-fi wonder that came out of Kirby’s mind, and helped save six Americans: