Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #158

STATUS: False, although he was connected in a roundabout way.

In November of 1979, Iranian students took over the American embassy in Tehran, Iran, taking 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days.

While almost all of the workers at the embassy were taken hostage, a few did manage to escape. They first tried to escape in groups of five or six. The locals first (the first local group was quickly recaptured) and then married couples. The group of married couples actually managed to escape capture, and eventually were given secret sanctuary in the Canadian embassy.

The Central Intelligence Agency tried to think of a way to get them out of the country. Faking passports and the like were simple enough, even passing them off as Canadians was simple enough - explaining why six Canadians were in Iran during such a tumultuous time? Not simple at all.

Eventually, CIA agent Tony Mendez came up with a plan - pass them off as working on advance scouting for a motion picture!

Only, to make it look real, they needed to basically make a real motion picture, and this is where Jack Kirby is involved.

A fellow named Barry Geller had purchased the rights to Roger Zelazny's science fiction novel, Lord of Light, and Geller then hired Jack Kirby to do design sketches for the film. Kirby was quite thrilled at the time to be involved in the film.

As part of the production of the film, Geller also planned a theme park, a sort of science fiction amusement park...

Here is one of his sketches Kirby made for the film (Geller has a lot more on his website here):

Well, like a lot of films, the project fell through.

Makeup artist John Chambers (Oscar winner for his work on the Planet of the Apes) was hired by Geller for the film, so he had access to the film's documents, and the setting of the Lord of the Light fit the terrain of Iran perfectly, so now the project had a film to work with!

They renamed the film Argo, and proceeded with their plan, including an ad for the film in Variety.

The Kirby art was used extensively - the workers carried it around with them, etc.

And eventually, the six embassy workers disguised as film workers (now also all passed off as Canadian citizens, thanks to the super-heroic work of the Canadian government in this time of crisis) went to Tehran's Mehrabad Airport and flew off to Switzerland.

Pretty amazing, huh?

The six rescued American diplomats were:

Robert Anders, 34 - Consular OfficerMark J. Lijek, 29 - Consular OfficerCora A. Lijek, 25 - Consular AssistantHenry L. Schatz, 31 - Agriculture AttacheJoseph D. Stafford, 29 - Consular OfficerKathleen F. Stafford, 28 - Consular Assistant

Here is a picture of three of the men, along with CIA Agent Tony Mendez (four months after the escape)...

Mark Lijek (1), Tony Mendez (2), Robert Anders (3), Henry Lee Schatz (4)

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