Monthly Archives: March 2012

Stan Lee: Quitter?

I could go through Greg’s email point-by-point and argue with him, but I think you can clearly see we disagree on this topic and I don’t see us accomplishing anything by going back and forth on this endlessly. Greg did phrase a couple of his answers as questions, so I figured I should answer them.

I told Greg that I did not believe Stan Lee was literally going to quit working for Martin Goodman in 1961 — that was just more of Lee’s legendary hyperbole. I asked Greg how exactly was Lee going to pay his bills if he was unemployed. Greg replied,”savings?”

Here’s my response to that. How does Greg know how much money Stan Lee had in his savings account back in 1961? Does Greg have his bank records? Did Lee tell Greg in an interview that he was going to live off of his savings after he quit working for Goodman in 1961?

I asked Greg, why didn’t Lee just spend a few hours each evening working on his novel? That’s what many novelists do to this day; it’s very hard to make a full-time living as a novelist — surely after working in publishing for 20 years Lee knew that. Greg’s reply was: “You kick out fifteen comics a week, deal with hundreds of creators, take orders from Goodman, and ride the train for an hour two ways five days four times a month in a profession that will suck the life out of you.”

Was Lee really dealing with “hundreds” of creators in 1961? Were these comics creators so awful that Stan felt he had to walk off his job? Lee was in charge of hiring and firing — why not just hire people who he got along with? Stan Lee wasn’t working in a coal mine — he sat in his air conditioned office and dialogued cartoons. And Stan was going to quit because he had to ride the bus? Why not use his “savings” to buy a car?

I mentioned to Greg that Lee told the exact same story about wanting to quit when he discussed creating Fantastic Four and Spider-man. I mentioned that I thought Lee made up the story to add some drama to his mythology. Here are two interviews where Stan Lee tells the same story about creating two different intellectual properties: FF and Spider-man.

This is from an interview with Roy Thomas where Lee discusses the creation of Fantastic Four:

Roy: Was there any thought at that time to just bringing back Cap, Torch, and Sub-Mariner?

Stan: No, I really wanted to do something new. You probably heard this story: I wanted to quit at that time. I was really so bored and really too old to be doing these stupid comic books; I wanted to quit. I was also frustrated because I wanted to do comic books that were—even though this seems like a contradiction in terms—I wanted to do a more realistic fantasy. Martin wouldn’t let me and had wanted the stories done the way they had always been done, with very young children in mind. That was it.

My wife Joan said to me, “You know, Stan, if they asked you to do a new book about anew group of super-heroes, why don’t you do ‘em the way that you feel you’d like to do a book? If you want to quit anyway, the worst that could happen is that he’ll fire you, and so what? You want to quit.” I figured, hey, maybe she’s right. That’s why I didn’t want to do the Torch and the Sub-Mariner; I wanted to create a new group and do them the way I had always wanted to do a comic book. That’s what happened.

Roy: I assume that Joan said this after you were given the assignment to do the super-hero group and not while you were doing the monster books.

Stan: It was after I told her that Martin wanted to do a super-hero group but I thought that I would say to him, “Forget it. I want to quit.”

Roy: So you were actually thinking of quitting instead of doing the Fantastic Four? I hadn’t heard that before! That would have changed comic book history.

Stan: Maybe. If Martin hadn’t come in to me and said, “Liebowitz said the Justice League is selling well, so why don’t we do a comic book about super-heroes?”—if he hadn’t said that to me, I might’ve—in the next day or two, I might’ve just quit.

Here’s the story Stan Lee told in his “How I Invented Spider-man” (1977) article where he discusses the creation of Spider-man:

Stan: “Personally, I was bored. I had 20 years of writing and editing comics behind me. Twenty years of ‘take that, your rat!’ and ‘So, you wanna play, huh?’ Twenty years of worrying whether a sentence or phrase might be over the head of an eight-year-old reader. Twenty years of trying to think like a child. And then an off-hand remark by my wife caused a revolution in comics tantamount to the invention of the wheel. Eighteen simple words, electrifying in their eloquence and their portent for the future. Each momentous syllable is engraved in my memory ‘When are you going to stop writing for kids and write stories you yourself would enjoy reading?’ It was a casual question. posed in a casual way, but it really rocked me. It made me suddenly realize I had never actually written anything for myself. For two unsatisfying decades I’d been selling myself short, sublimating any literary ability I might have in a painful effort to write down to the level of drooling juveniles and semicretins. ‘Nevermore!’ I shouted. ‘Nevermore will I fashion tales for the nameless, faceless ‘them’ out there. Henceforth, I will write for an audience of one; an audience I should have no trouble pleasing, for I certainly no what turns me on.”

Lee goes on in the article to describe how he invented Spider-man alone.

(Note: First of all, how about Lee referring to the hundreds of young people who had read his comics for 20 years as “drooling juveniles and semicretins?” Talk about a rare glimpse into what Lee really thinks about the people who buy his comic books.)

Here’s what I think: I think Lee made up this story about quitting to add some drama to his solo-genius/creator mythos. If Lee was “bored” why not go out and hire a writer to dialogue the comics? If Lee had enough money in his savings account to quit his job, surely he could have taken a pay cut and brought in someone who was passionate about doing comics for young people.

In reality, I think Lee realized in 1977 when he wrote his “How I Invented Spider-man” article that when you looked at his whole career in comics from 1940 – 1970, it’s as if an atomic bomb went off in 1961. The material Lee put out from 1940 – 1960 was forgettable and Lee knew it was his fault. Then when Jack comes onboard, BOOM!

There is an explosion of ideas. Specifically it’s Jack’s visual dynamics that resonate with readers. When kids picked up a Kirby book off the spinner rack in 1959 they noticed something was different, something was new and exciting — something special was happening starting with Jack’s monster stories, and the momentum kept building into Jack’s superhero work. It wasn’t the Lee plots that kids started noticing, it was Jack’s style — his graphics, his imagery.

I think what Lee is doing here is trying to take credit for that seismic shift that took place in comics in the early-1960s where you saw DC readers starting to pick up Jack’s Marvel books. Lee tells his “I was going to quit” story to explain why his work from 1940 – 1960s was so awful and so forgettable; Lee uses being trapped in the children’s genre as his excuse for publishing what he knows is substandard work, then Lee pretends the spike in Marvel comics sales in the early 1960s is the result of his master plan — his wife inspired him to consciously start doing stories for adults and that is the reason the books took off. In reality, I think it was Kirby’s dynamics that revolutionized the Marvel line. I think Jack was the catalyst for the Marvel revolution, not Lee’s wife telling him to write for adults.

My Discussion with Greg Theakston on FF # 1, Part 2

Here’s Greg Theakston’s reply to my email yesterday. I could argue with just about every point Greg makes here, but I’ve been debating Greg on this subject for years now and clearly he’s a man that’s not going to budge an unstable molecule on this, so I’ll give him the last word today, although I’m sure I’ll reference his theories as I wrap up this brief mini-series on FF # 1. Thanks again for answering my questions, Greg.

I went ahead and left the email in it’s original format. I would’ve corrected my typos as I did in yesterday’s post, but Greg’s jokes about my typing wouldn’t make any sense without them, so I left the email as is. There should be a little bar at the bottom of Greg’s email where you can adjust the page width if the text goes too far to the right.

From: Greg Theakston
To : Robert Steibel
Subject : Re: Question (Jack Kirby)
Date : Thu, Mar 29, 2012 01:10 AM

>Hi Greg, do you mind if I post this at Kirby Dynamics tomorrow? I
>plan to discuss Ff # 1 more this week and this post would fit in
>perfectly.

	Investigate your story, then report it. this seems a bit last minute                  

>
>If you do have a problem, please LMK, I'd appreciate it.

	See above.

>
>While I'm at it I always wanted to ask you: would you be interested
>in doing a phone interview with me in the future about Kirby for
>Kirby Dynamics. If not no problem, just thought I'd ask.

	Sure. I had the pleasure of living through it so it is my
obligation to report what I remember.

>
>Thx,
>
>R-
>
>Hi Greg,
>
>I'd like to post this at Kirby Dynamics tonight, because I only have so much
>time in the day, and I don't want to type this out and waste it in a private
>members-only forum.

	So you want me to type it for you.

>  I only used a few of your quotes.

	Dude, this shit is gold. Use all of it!

>If you have a problem with
>me doing that just let me know and I'll change your exact words to
>paraphrasing.

	I don't trust you to paraphrase me.

>
>First of all, thanks for answering my questions and for sharing your research.
>As I've told you many times before, I have a lot of respect for you and I
>consider you to be one of the best Kirby Historians (and comic historians) on
>the planet.

	Sorry, it's a bit loud in here. Can you repeat that?

>
>I do humbly disagree with you about the creation of FF because unless you can
>provide some hard evidence (a document, a memo, or a quote from an interview)
>that proves some of your various theories behind the creation of FF, in my
>opinion some of you rconclusions are just that -- theories.

	Well, yes. I present it as I see it. If I convince you or
don't we still have theories in these matters. Convincing theories
carry weight.

>
>You're a great comic historian, your books are full of well-researched
>information,

	Again, it's way too loud in here.

>  but on this topic, I think you are giving us a lot of assumptions.

	No, you make assumptions. FF #1 was Goodman's first
feature-length book in twelve or thirteen years. Lee's too. First
pairing with Kirby on developing this kind of thing. While it is an
important book that doesn't make it a good one.
	I was talking to Detective #27 about this last night.
	It was the first time Lee got to write the great American
novel, in comic book terms.
	None of this is assumption in context.

>
>I'd like to ask you some follow up questions based on our conversation on
>ditkokirby last night, if you don't mind.
>
>(1) Do you have any evidence (a document, a memo, or a quote from an
>interview)
>that proves Martin Goodman told Stan Lee to give him a book-length comic book,
>and the result of that was FF # 1? Or is this your theory? It's a logical
>theory, because you say book-length comics was not the norm for Goodman/Lee at
>that time, but if you don't have any hard evidence it's just your theory.

	My hard evidence is a copy of FF #1.

>
>(2) You mention "Stan was at the end of his rope" around the time of FF #
1.
>Why?

	Because Stan wanted to be famous and remembered and wasn't,
almost two decades after he got there. Seriously, how much do you
know about Stan Lee?

>  Lee had a great job working for his relative Martin Goodman.

	WAHHH!  See above.

>  He was able to
>give his brother Larry work.

	At a magnificent publishing powerhouse of eight books a month.

>  And Jack Kirby walked in the door full of ideas.
>Why would Lee suddenly want to quit getting a regular paycheck in
>1961 and write
>a novel at this point?

	Because he wanted to be famous and remembered. Marvel kind of
saved him the trouble.

>  Do you really think his wife would support Lee giving up
>his income so that he could try and write this novel?

	No, she just told him that if this was the end he should at
least give it his best shot.

>  Where would they get money
>for food and for rent?

	Savings?

>If Lee wanted to write a novel, why not do like everybody
>else, set aside 2 - 4 hours at night and work on the novel?

	You kick out fifteen comics a week, deal with hundreds of
creators, take orders from Goodman, and ride the train for an hour
two ways five days four times a month in a profession that will suck
the life out of you. Are you a trust-fund kid?

>
>Sure, maybe Lee wanted to quit comic books because he was ashamed of doing 20
>years of Archie and EC rip-off material, but I do not believe that was the
>inspiration for FF # 1.

	I've given deep thought to what you have presented
(documents, memos, interviews, etc.) I'm about to be persuaded.

>  I also don't understand why you think Lee wanted to use
>FF # 1 to impressed his boss or his wife or why Lee would feel compelled to do
>so with FF # 1.

	See above.

>
>Also, Lee told the exact same

	"exact same" is redundant. It's "Spider-Man."

>story about wanting to quit comics and reinvent
>the superhero genre in his "How I Invented Spider-man" article.
>Spider-man came
>out 9 months after FF # 1 and by this point weren't the Marvel books becoming
>more successful? Why would Lee quit then?

	I'm thinking that you don't remember what you read.
	What next? Your theory?

>
>Here's my theory:

	Okay, in court, this is called "leading the witness." You ask
my opinion but feel compelled to tell my yours first. Groth did that
with Kirby.

>  I think this story is fiction. Stan made this story up to give
>the creation of properties like FF and Spider-man some drama.

	How much do you know about the state of the market in 1961?
	Context.

>  Some pizzazz. In
>reality, it was just another day at the office for Lee.

	Do you have any memos, documents, interviews, etc. to support
your assumption?

>  He worked with Kirby on
>these stories and Jack played a significant role in coming up with the main
>characters and Jack contributed significant story elements to the
>final product.

	Yes, after Stan created it.

>
>(3) You mentioned "Goodman had asked for a super-hero book with no costumes.
>That idea defies Kirby's take on heroes." Do you have any evidence
>(a document,
>a memo, or a quote from an interview) that proves Martin Goodman told Stan Lee
>to give him a comic book, featuring superheroes without costumes? Or is this
>your theory?

	See above.
	Way above.
	You keep asking me the same questions.

>
>(4) You wrote of FF # 1: "A whole lot of stuff went on before the idea hit
>Kirby's hands and I believe that Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four."
>
>I replied: "The synopsis makes it look like Lee needed a lot of help
>and he got
>it from Jack."
>
>You responded" Yes, and in stating so you infer that Lee created it."
>
>I disagree.

	Yes you do. Lee created it and needed a lot of help to fix it.

>I don't think Lee giving Jack a synopsis proves Lee created Ff alone
>or that Lee created FF first. I think the synopsis proves Lee and Jack were
>working together on FF, therefore they both created FF together. Jack may have
>even pitched some of the ideas to Lee before the FF synopsis.

	These are the parts where while being interviewed I get to
say, "I think..." and not make assumptions.

>
>(5) Another reason you mentioned for you theory that Lee created FF alone was:
>"the first issue sucks so badly."

	I'd be hard pressed to come up with another Kirby  first
issue that sucked so badly.

>
>I replied: "Greg, is this the foundation for your theory Lee created FF alone?
>Because you personally think FF # 1 'sucks?' What kind of comic book
>scholarship
>is that?"
>
>Your response was: "I know when Jack is jazzed on a job and this was a
>decade-long low point. If you don't think FF #1 sucks I can't help any more."
>
>I disagree totally. I think FF # 1 is a masterpiece

	Unless it was you before, this may be the first time I've
ever read that.

>  and it is one of the most
>important comics in the history of the medium.

	Detective #27 stuck me with the tab.

>  I contend that thinking FF # 1
>sucks is a personal opinion, not evidence proving Lee created FF alone.

	If it walks like a duck.

>
>(6) You also mentioned "Kirby didn't care" about his work on FF # 1. You
added
>that it was "probably his worst work in years."

	You asked this with question #5.
	See above.

>
>Again, I think this is your opinion, not a fact proving Lee created FF alone.

	Dude, you asked my opinion.
	How long is this thing going to go on?

>
>(7) You also wrote: FF "...was a chance to do something new and a
>lot of time to
>do it. Also, this is the first instance of Stan having Jack launch a book and
>you would expect more from Jack if he'd had a hand in the concept."
>
>Looking at the FF synopsis, it is true that at this phase of the story, Lee's
>suggestions are not very strong. Lee's FF has a superhero who can stretch, but
>it hurts; a female superhero who has to strip totally naked to be invisible; a
>flame superhero character that only can burn for 5 minutes, and can only burn
>ropes; and a monster superhero who lusts after his best friend's girlfriend.
>Fortunately Jack (or Lee made) changes resulting in what i and many FF fans
>think is a very dynamic team of four complimenary heroes.

	It's called, "concept development."

>
>Sometimes that's the mark of a great creator, Greg. Taking something
>like Lee's
>synopsis that is full of weak ideas,

	Hang on. So Lee is the creator?

>  and making the concept work despite that --
>I think FF # 1 proves Jack did a great job of that, and I suggest
>the impact of
>that book on the history of the medium supports my theory.

	Now you're just making assumptions.
	And leading the witness.

>
>AI don't think the fact that you personally feel Jack did not do a good job on
>FF # 1 proves Stan Lee created FF

	Hitler had a nation behind him. Didn't make them right either.

>, plus Jack did a great job taking Lee's
>synopsis, throwing out all of the bad ideas,

	Thank God you convinced yourself that Stan created the FF.

>  and turning that synopsis into a
>compelling comic book. We also have to keep in mind that in the same way you
>think Lee created FF alone, it is also possible Jack pitched the idea of four
>elemental astronauts/adventureres traveling into outer space and being
>transformed into heroes to Stan Lee.

	Goodman told Stan what he wanted, Lee told the talent. Martin
was producing eight comics a month, knew what was selling, and wasn't
much interested in what Lee had to suggest. Much less the "grunts."

>
>In fact, to address a point earlier, I'd argue the FF do have costumes. They
>wore those purble jumpsuits and the blue baseball caps.

	Could you repeat the question in a manner that I can understand?

>Wasn't it the readers
>who wanted a costume like Super-man

	Pretty certain that they wanted different costumes.
	Also, it's "Superman."

>  with some kind of logo,

	Pretty sure FF #1 wouldn't have made it to the stands without one.

>  so that's why Lee
>had Sol Brodsky design the "4" logo?

	Logo is on the cover. Emblem is on the chest.
	No, Stan changed his mind and Brodsky developed it into the "4."

>
>Anyway, I hope you don't mind me posting this on Kirby Dynamics. I think you
>raise some valid points, I'd like for your opinion to be out there
>so that other
>people can think about the points you've raised. And if you would
>answer some of
>these questions, that would be great.

	See above.

>  I realize you are busy so I thank you for
>taking the time to discuss this with me.
>
>You may well be right about this, I just don't think you've presented enough
>hard vidence to convince me Lee created the FF 100% alone. Unless you can give
>us some new evidence, I based just on the FF # 1 synopsis, I think Jack Kirby
>helped Stan Lee create the FF and Kirby helped Lee write the origin story.

	"re-write."

>
>Thanks,

Regards,
GT

From: Kenn Thomas

Thanks to Kenn Thomas for sending in these images from Stan Lee’s new project.

Kenn also had this brief comment to add to the Kirby/Lee authorship discussion:

Kenn Thomas:

Even if Stan Lee gets credit for “his” ideas about FF, it still seems likely they came from Kirby. Lee probably read Challengers of the Unknown and, consciously or not, had that influencing him when doing whatever he was required to do with the new assignment. The characters are not the most terribly original things about the FF. Kirby used nearly identical ones as circus villains in a 1940s Sandman story. They are derivative of Doc Savage’s group from the earlier pulps. That they are imbued with Kirby’s personality traits not Lee’s does not seem to by anything a reasonable critic would even try to dispute. And certainly the reason FF #1 will go down as a masterpiece of American art is because Kirby was the artist. It’s a masterful show of his “writing” technique, i.e. graphic dynamics. The existence of that synopsis, even if it’s real, means nothing.

My Discussion with Greg Theakston on FF # 1, Part 1

I was discussing the Kirby/Lee authorship debate and the history behind the FF # 1 on the ditkokirby forum. Greg Theakston was nice enough to respond to some of my comments. Greg is one of my favorite Kirby Historians, he’s always been very generous in terms of answering questions and sharing his opinions on Kirby history. I agree with Greg on hundreds of other topics, if not thousands, but I totally disagree with him about the creation of Fantastic Four # 1. I think it’s at least possible Jack might have pitched some ideas that resulted in the core 4 FF characters and their origin, and I think the FF # 1 synopsis proves Jack contributed significant story ideas which helped to shape the FF characters and the first FF story.

Despite the fact that Greg and I have had pretty heated arguments about this subject in the past, Greg was nice enough to answer my questions. He was also nice enough to give me permission to use some of his quotes. So thanks again to Greg for sharing your knowledge on the subject. Below is my dikokirby posting from yesterday, tomorrow I’ll post Greg’s reply to this post which he just sent me via email.

Hi Greg,

I’d like to post this at Kirby Dynamics tonight, because I only have so much time in the day, and I don’t want to type this out and waste it in a private members-only forum. I only used a few of your quotes. If you have a problem with me doing that just let me know and I’ll change your exact words to paraphrasing.

First of all, thanks for answering my questions and for sharing your research. As I’ve told you many times before, I have a lot of respect for you and I consider you to be one of the best Kirby Historians (and comic historians) on the planet.

I do humbly disagree with you about the creation of FF because unless you can provide some hard evidence (a document, a memo, or a quote from an interview) that proves some of your various theories behind the creation of FF, in my opinion some of your conclusions are just that — theories. You’re a great comic historian, your books are full of well-researched information, but on this topic, I think you are giving us a lot of assumptions.

I’d like to ask you some follow up questions based on our conversation on ditkokirby last night, if you don’t mind.

(1) Do you have any evidence (a document, a memo, or a quote from an interview) that proves Martin Goodman told Stan Lee to give him a book-length comic book, and the result of that was Fantastic Four # 1 (Nov 1961)? Or is this your theory? It’s a logical theory, because you say book-length comics were not the norm for Goodman/Lee at that time, but if you don’t have any hard evidence it’s just your theory.

(2) You mentioned “Stan was at the end of his rope” around the time of Fantastic Four # 1. Why? Lee had a great job working for his relative Martin Goodman. He was able to give his brother Larry work. And Jack Kirby walked in the door full of ideas. Why would Lee suddenly want to quit getting a regular paycheck in 1961 and write a novel at this point? Do you really think his wife would support Lee giving up his income so that he could try and write this novel? Where would they get money for food and for rent? If Lee wanted to write a novel, why not do like everybody else, set aside 2 – 4 hours at night and work on the novel?

Sure, maybe Lee wanted to quit comic books because he was ashamed of doing 20 years of Archie and EC rip-off material, but I do not believe that was the inspiration for FF # 1. I also don’t understand why you think Lee wanted to use FF # 1 to “impress” his boss or his wife or why Lee would feel compelled to do so with FF # 1.

Also, Lee told the exact same story about wanting to quit comics and reinvent the superhero genre in his “How I Invented Spider-man” (1977) article. Spider-man came out 9 months after FF # 1 and by this point weren’t the Marvel books becoming more successful? Why would Lee quit then?

Here’s my theory: I think this story is fiction. Stan made this story up to give the creation of properties like FF and Spider-man some drama. Some pizzazz. In reality, it was just another day at the office for Lee. He worked with Kirby on these stories and Jack played a significant role in coming up with the main characters and Jack contributed significant story elements to the final product.

(3) You mentioned “Goodman had asked for a super-hero book with no costumes. That idea defies Kirby’s take on heroes.” Do you have any evidence (a document, a memo, or a quote from an interview) that proves Martin Goodman told Stan Lee to give him a comic book, featuring superheroes without costumes? Or is this your theory?

(4) You wrote of FF # 1: “A whole lot of stuff went on before the idea hit Kirby’s hands and I believe that Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four.”

I replied: “The synopsis makes it look like Lee needed a lot of help, and he got it from Jack.”

You responded: “Yes, and in stating so you infer that Lee created it.”

I disagree. I don’t think Lee giving Jack a synopsis proves Lee created FF alone or that Lee created FF first. I think the synopsis proves Lee and Jack were working together on FF, therefore they both created FF together. Jack may have even pitched some of the ideas to Lee before the FF synopsis.

(5) Another reason you mentioned for you theory that Lee created FF alone was: “the first issue sucks so badly.”

I replied: “Greg, is this the foundation for your theory Lee created FF alone? Because you personally think FF # 1 ‘sucks?’ What kind of comic book scholarship is that?”

Your response was: “I know when Jack is jazzed on a job and this was a decade-long low point. If you don’t think FF #1 sucks I can’t help any more.”

I disagree totally. I think FF # 1 is a masterpiece and it is one of the most important comics in the history of the medium. I contend that thinking FF # 1 sucks is a personal opinion, not evidence proving Lee created FF alone.

(6) You also mentioned “Kirby didn’t care” about his work on FF # 1. You added that it was “probably his worst work in years.”

Again, I think this is your opinion, not a fact proving Lee created FF alone.

(7) You also wrote: FF  “…was a chance to do something new and a lot of time to do it. Also, this is the first instance of Stan having Jack launch a book and you would expect more from Jack if he’d had a hand in the concept.”

Looking at the FF synopsis, it is true that at this phase of the story, Lee’s suggestions are not very strong. Lee’s FF has a superhero who can stretch, but it hurts; a female superhero who has to strip totally naked to be invisible; a flame superhero character that only can burn for 5 minutes, and can only burn ropes; and a monster superhero who lusts after his best friend’s girlfriend. Fortunately Jack (or Lee made) changes resulting in what I and many FF fans think is a very dynamic team of four complimenary heroes.

Sometimes that’s the mark of a great creator, Greg. Taking something like Lee’s synopsis that is full of weak ideas, and making the concept work despite that – I think FF # 1 proves Jack did a great job of that, and I suggest the impact of that book on the history of the medium supports my theory.

I don’t think the fact that you personally feel Jack did not do a good job on FF # 1 proves Stan Lee created FF — Jack did a great job taking Lee’s synopsis, throwing out all of the bad ideas, and turning that synopsis into a compelling comic book. We also have to keep in mind that in the same way you think Lee created FF alone, it is also possible Jack pitched the idea of four elemental astronauts/adventureres traveling into outer space and being transformed into heroes to Stan Lee.

In fact, to address a point earlier, I’d argue the FF do have costumes. They wore those purble jumpsuits and the blue baseball caps.

Fantastic Four # 1 (1961) Pg. 17, panel 5

Wasn’t it the readers who wanted a costume like Superman with some kind of logo, so that’s why Lee had Sol Brodsky design the “4″ logo?

The back of Fantastic Four # 3, pg. 16

Anyway, I hope you don’t mind me posting this on Kirby Dynamics. I think you raise some valid points, I’d like for your opinion to be out there so that other people can think about the points you’ve raised. And if you would answer some of these questions, that would be great. I realize you are busy so I thank you for taking the time to discuss this with me.

You may well be right about this, I just don’t think you’ve presented enough hard evidence to convince me Lee created the FF 100% alone. Unless you can give us some new evidence, based just on the FF # 1 synopsis, I think Jack Kirby helped Stan Lee create the FF and Kirby helped Lee write the origin story.

Thanks.

(Note: Greg recently published 2 books on Jack’s life: Jack Magic Vol. 1, and Jack Magic Vol. 2, I encourage you to check them out.)

Jack Magic Vol. 1 (2011) by Greg Theakston

Jack Magic Vol. 2 (2011) by Greg Theakston

The Kirby Kultists

I’ve been getting a bunch of feedback on the “Stan Lee Interview” series. 99% positive, but a few of Stan Lee’s hardcore fans — the archetypal “Marvel Zombies” — seem to have been awakened from their slumber and they’re back at their old tricks of accusing anyone who is critical of Stan Lee as being a “Stan Basher.” The new phrase du jour seems to be “Kirby Zealot” since Mark Alexander used that term in his new Wonder Years book, which I recommend you pick up, it’s a beautiful book with a lot of great Kirby artwork. I encourage all of you to support John Morrow’s wonderful comics’ research publications.

So this series of posts about Kirby/Lee is going to go on longer than expected. My apologies to those of you who would prefer to see more of Jack’s art. I’ve posted well over 1000 pieces of Jack’s art here, so I hope a few of you will forgive this little detour, I want to address some comments and questions that are out there.

First of all, several people have asked me: “What is up with this ‘Kirby cultist’ stuff? What does it mean? Where is it from? Who are the Kirby Cult?”

Here’s how the concept came about to the best of my admittedly imperfect recollection:

I started studying Jack’s comics in about 2002. I got online and joined a forum called the Kirby-l which was on Yahoo. The forum had been going on in various incarnations since the 1990s. There were maybe 20 – 40 or so people who participated regularly, Maybe 100 or so “lurkers” who just read the posts. When I joined it was like a bar room brawl. So I jumped in.

Because of that cantankerous and argumentative aspect of the forum the owner of the site closed it down a few years ago.

One of the many conversations we all had was about Jack’s solo dialogue. Obviously on a Kirby forum you had a few people who loved Jack, so not surprisingly they loved Kirby’s dialogue on books like the Fourth World. One member of the forum did not like Jack’s dialogue; he preferred 60’s Lee dialogue on Kirby. The individual said he found Jack’s solo dialogue “stilted and awkward.” He went on to call it, I think, “klunky.”

(Note:  I’m not going to use the guy’s name because this was a private, membership-only forum, but obviously if the individual wants to clarify or comment on what I’m writing I’d be more than happy to post anything he has to say here.)

The debate got heated. At one point the individual started calling some of Jack’s fans “Kirby Kultists.” This further upset some of the members, that term was a little too close to the KKK for some people’s tastes. This just added fuel to the fire. When a couple of other notoriously pro-Stan Lee members of the forum found some of Jack’s fans were offended by the KK concept – not necessarily by the term itself, but by the kind of ignorant and disrespectful tone of it – those pro-Lee individuals seized onto the term as a way to slam Jack’s fans. Interestingly, the individual who coined the term “Kirby Kultist” will not even allow any discussion of the Kirby/Lee authorship debate on a comic book forum he moderates so I think that should give you some idea how personally some people took those debates.

Now, listen — I’m guilty of making up names for Stan’s fans as well. Using the “K” motif, at one point I joked that the people working for Marvel on Jack’s comics were nothing but “PhotoKopiers,” making new copies of Jack’s original stories and characters. A Marvel employee was on that forum, and he claimed my use of the term “PhotoKopier” was offensive to him, so obviously no one is perfect here. We all were sort of arguing and “name-calling” in the spirit of a good old fashioned knock-down drag-out internet brawl. I personally meant nothing personal by calling people at Marvel “PhotoKopiers” — it was a metaphor.

In any case, that was 10 years ago. In that time, I think we’ve established that there is no literal “Kirby Kult,” or Kirby Cult. It’s just a goofy term someone came up with on an obscure yahoo chat list where a few geezers were arguing about comic books. Today, 10 years later, a couple of Stan Lee’s fans have latched onto the concept again in what appears to be a last ditch effort to defend their fearless leader – instead of debating the actual history, they call Jack’s fans names that begin with “Ks.”

I had hoped the concept was dead, because quite frankly I thought it was immature, but I see now when someone criticizes Lee, a few people are going to  inevitably bring back the KK concept. Like zombies that have been stirred to life once more after 10 years of inactivity, the “Kirby Kult Critics” are digging themselves out of their graves for one last hurrah.

I think that’s sad. Back in 2002 when we were all hashing this out in a private forum, I saw the whole “Kirby Kultist” mentality as a sort of friendly way to “pick on” your opponent in an argument. That’s how a lot of people joke around with their friends. But 10 years later and a few people are still clinging to this KK argument? That criticizing Stan Lee makes one a member of a Kirby cult? No offense meant to those people promoting the concept of the KK, but I find that kind of sad. Especially from grown men in their 60s and 70s.

One more quick observation about the Kirby/Lee debate. I’ve spoken to a few hundred people on this subject and I’ve noticed that people tend to fall into 3 very clear categories on this debate.

(1) Pro business conservatives tend to come down on the side of Stan Lee: they feel as the administrator and boss Lee deserves the bulk of the credit for making Marvel successful.

(2) Pro labor liberals tend to come down on the side of Jack Kirby: they feel as the principal author of the stories and the head artist who designed all the costumes of the 60s characters, Kirby deserves the bulk of the credit for making Marvel successful.

(3) Neutrals fall in the middle: they are what I call “the peacemakers,” they say the credit should be split 50/50, and instead of arguing, we should all embrace and celebrate the magic of the 60s Kirby/Lee comics.

Now obviously everyone reading this may not fall into these categories – I’ve met some Republicans who don’t believe Stan Lee, and I’ve met some Liberals who love him — my point is that for the most part, the Kirby/Lee argument isn’t necessarily “Stan Fans” vs “Kirby Fans.” To many people I think the Kirby vs Lee discussion is about more than just who created the characters — it’s a classic business vs labor debate. It’s conservative values vs liberal values: should we protect big business at all costs or should we try and get the workers a fair deal. Obviously both sides have compelling arguments.

So I think we need to be careful not to act like there are good guys fighting bad guys here — that’s a gross simplification — the Kirby/Lee authorship debate is certainly a quest to get at the truth for some of us, but I think it’s also a reflection of the core divisions people all around the world have on virtually any topic, meaning everyone involved in the debate would find something else to argue about if it wasn’t this topic. The Kirby/Lee discussion isn’t a holy crusade by one side to vanquish the other — it’s just another debate taking place online where people who generally tend to disagree anyway form an opinion based on their own philosophy, their own experiences, and their own socioeconomic background, and they express those opinions.

So there is no secret cult out there trying to erase Stan Lee from the annals of history, there are just a couple of us who think Jack did more than just pencil Stan Lee’s stories and it would be great if more people knew about it. For me personally, I think Jack’s life story would make for a great documentary film, so that’s my main motivation for discussing Jack — I hope at some point a solid filmmaker will discover the Jack Kirby story and decide it is a compelling one worth exploring further.

My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 2

Part 2 or my hypothetical interview with Stan Lee 

Today I’m going to go through the so-called FF synopsis (or “synopses” as he calls it) with Stan Lee. Several people over the years have contended this document proves Lee created FF alone. A couple notes, I’m not 100% sure of the history behind this document. I’ve heard a Marvel staffer found it in a drawer at some point, not sure what year, so certainly we can’t be 100% sure when in the process this document was written.

“Mr. Lee. Thanks for participating in part two of the interview. Let’s look at your FF synopsis. Did you give this to Jack at the Marvel office, and he took it home and read it? Did Jack call you and you discussed it, or did he drive into NYC and you two discussed it in your office or perhaps over lunch?”

“I assume this is the original document you saved for your records, and you gave Jack a copy of the document? Was it standard practice for you to make multiple copies of documents for your files? How do you think such an important historical document from 1961 ended up in some Marvel staffer’s desk in the 1980s?  Do you recall writing any other documents pertaining to FF # 1? What did Jack think of your synopses? Did he have any ideas or comments?”

“Let’s look at page 1: The story is going to use chapter breaks, very similar to Jack’s Challengers of the Unknown series. Was that your idea, or did Jack come up with that approach?”

“The list of the 4 characters is polished and decisive, then in the next section immediately you are is indecisive. You wrote: ‘Story might open up with a meeting of the Fantastic Four.’ How could you go from confidently naming each character and describing each character in detail to not even being able to tell Jack where to begin the story? This suggests to me that this document started off as (phase one) a polished synopsis of a previous Kirby/Lee meeting where you discussed the main characters and the origin, then (phase two) that segued into you brainstorming, even making a few typos as you cranked out some ideas for FF # 1. Am I correct? Are these really two separate documents? That would explain you using the plural form of synopsis: ‘synopses.’”

“You gave the members of the FF names which is an important part of the creative process, but your descriptions of each one are very short. Did you verbally give Jack more information to help him flesh out the characters, or did Jack contribute all the additional elements to the FFs personalities and their visual design?”

“Don’t you think it’s at least possible that in your previous discussions with Jack (in the late-1950s and 1960) where you bounced ideas off of each other, some of Jack’s ideas from those jam sessions may have ended up in those 4 FF charter’s personalities?”

“The story starts off the same as the first appearance of Jack’s Challengers of the Unknown which appeared in DC Showcase # 6 (Feb 1957). A flight where 4 adventurers representing the 4 elements encounter problems in flight, come crashing back down to earth, and are transformed into a team of 4 heroes intent on helping mankind based on the experience. Yesterday I showed a comparison of the Kirby art from the first 3 pages of DC Showcase # 6 (Feb 1957) and the mirror-image Fantastic Four # 1 origin (Nov 1961). Do you think maybe Jack contributed those elements to this synopsis, or are you claiming you came up with the exact same premise, and the exact same origin on your own, totally alone without any input whatsoever from Jack Kirby?”

“Page 2: Notice how conversational and indecisive you are, Stan. You wrote: ‘Maybe we better make this a flight to the stars instead of just to Mars.’ ‘Maybe?’ Which is it? Who made the final call on that? Does Jack have to make these types of story decisions when he works from a Lee-plot? Wouldn’t that make Jack a ‘writer’ on this story if he has to make these types of fundamental story decisions?”

“Is this document the single, solitary FF synopsis, or does this represent one phase in a collaboration where both you and Jack were exchanging ideas throughout the process verbally and via memos like this? I call this a memo because it does not contain the plotline for FF # 1, it is not really a synopsis of FF # 1, and it certainly does not contain the story in FF # 1, except for the aforementioned 4 elemental astronauts transforming into heroes ala COTU. Is it safe to say this is more like a memo to Jack than a synopsis of FF # 1? Or do you consider this a synopsis of FF # 1?”

“Did you write this document because you wanted Jack’s input, you valued it? You cared what Jack thinks. You didn’t want to give Kirby a laundry list of directions, you wanted to work with your partner to come up with the best story. Right? You were collaborating on the creation of FF. Together. This was your way of getting his feedback? Plus you were very busy running Martin Goodman’s comics line? A polished, professional 20-page script would have taken you quite a bit of time to put together. Better to give Jack some ideas and let him decide where to go with the story?”

“Notice your comment in parenthesis about not having the FF go to Mars because as you wrote, ‘by the time this mag goes on sale, the Russians may have already made a flight to Mars!’ It seems here you are joking around with Jack, right? Sort of a little playful aside on what was happening in current events and in science and technology, kind of like your blurbs in your comics. Obviously you didn’t literally think the Russians were going to land on Mars in the next 3 months back in 1961, or did you? Isn’t this you being friendly, and even playful with Jack?”

“What you or Jack seemed to realize at some point is that a long trip to Mars wastes time. If the FF simply go into space, get hit by the cosmic rays, then come back down to earth,  the story can start sooner. This is how stories evolve. This is how collaborations take place. That is what this document is, right? One step in the process of you and Jack working together to create the FF?”

“Notice the material about Ben lusting after Sue and piloting the ship based on that did not make the final cut. Was that your revision or Jack’s? Notice too, the paragraph about them being warned about the comic rays also doesn’t make the final cut — in the published version, they just run to the ship and take off. Was that your revision or Jack’s? It seems like Jack threw out a lot of your ideas to make the story play faster, then you were able to insert some of your ideas into the story via dialogue balloons.”

“You then wrote, ‘maybe we’ll change this gimmick somewhat.’ We? Again, this suggests to me you two were working together in this very early phase of the creation of the Fantastic Four. Jack is helping you create the characters and write the story. You are relying on Jack to figure out how to handle the Invisible Girl, you know you can count on Jack to figure out whether to make her invisible with clothes on or without clothes, and you clearly are asking for his input. Right?”

“And isn’t that one of the hardest things about telling a story. Sometimes you run into a brick wall. You want an invisible character, but you realize having her get naked might be a problem with the comics code. You could have spent all day trying to solve that problem, but luckily you just state the problem in your synopsis — then leave things like that up to Jack, right? He’ll figure it out. “

“As the document continues, notice Sue has a mask at one point – an idea that would be discarded. Who discarded that, you or Jack? Later, you, wrote to your collaborator Jack Kirby: better talk to me about it Jack, better change this gimmick somewhat.’ ‘Talk?’ ‘Change?’ You talked to Jack about FF? Jack’s input might cause you to change something? I thought you created FF alone! When did you talk? What did you change?”

(Note: I think clearly what we are witnessing here in this document is one step in a communication process that had already been taking place over time. And this is when Lee and Jack were meeting regularly, from 1964 – 1970 Jack was pretty much on his own.)

“Continuing on page 2: notice you only want the Torch’s flame to last 5 minutes — that later gets discarded. Did you discard that or did Jack? Also excitement causes him to flame on. I guess he better avoid women! That idea – also discarded almost immediately. Did you do that or did Jack? You say the Torch can only burn ropes and doors. That got discarded. Did you do that or did Jack?”

“I hate to say this, Stan, because you are widely acknowledged as a creative genius by many comics fans, so no disrespect meant here, but a female superhero character that has to get naked to be invisible, and a flaming superhero character that only can burn ropes and doors — how in the hell did you expect this to be a successful comic book? In fact, it’s as if you have no idea how to create a dynamic, compelling superhero comics character looking at this. Don’t you think maybe Jack was the one who threw out those awful ideas?”

“Notice you were playing the role of editor: clearly telling Jack the comic code rules on what a flame character can do. Think about it — why did you need to tell Jack this if you wrote the story? Just write a story where the torch never burns anything. Again, this clearly suggests to me Jack is going to be coming up with significant parts of the story if you need to convey this type of information to him. Do you disagree?”

“Page 3: You give Jack directions for the segment of FF # 1 where the FF discover their powers in this section. And I think that proves you absolutely deserve to be recognized as one of the creators of the FF property and one of the writers of the first FF story. It looks like Jack used your ideas here. But why not pay that same courtesy to Jack for his contributions? Other than this sequence, almost nothing from your synopsis appeared in FF # 1.”

“You mention the Torch can’t throw fireballs, that was discarded soon afterwards. Did you discard that or did Jack? In the next paragraph, you wanted it to be painful for Mr. Fantastic to stretch, that is discarded almost immediately. Was that your idea or Jack’s? You then describe the ‘shapeless Thing’ (as an artist, imagine your editor telling you to draw a character that has no shape!). Then you write: ‘here’s a gimmick I think we might play up to advantage.’ Notice you said ‘we’ here as if — you guessed it — you and Jack were collaborating: you were creating the Fantastic Four characters and writing the first issue of the Fantastic Four — together! Right?”

“You wanted the Thing to be a creep with a crush on Sue Storm. This is another idea discarded immediately. Did you reject that idea or did Jack? You go on to waste about a page describing this Reed/Ben/Sue triangle. What a creepy concept for a superhero book to begin with, and what a waste of your time — spending an hour or so typing up ideas that Jack would not use. No wonder you started working Marvel Method!”

“Where is the story, Stan? Is this an example of the kind of plot Jack had to try and come up with a story out of? Your soap opera with Grimm lusting after Sue is meaningless and none of this makes it into the final story. Sure, Ben Grimm is irascible at first, but ultimately you or Jack or both of you must have realized a gentle giant with a heart of gold underneath the gruff exterior is far, far superior than what you propose in this FF synopsis, a document many feel made it clear that you created FF alone.”

“Stan, your idea for the FF is: a superhero who can stretch, but it hurts. A female superhero who has to strip totally naked to be invisible. A flame superhero character that only can burn  for 5 minutes and can only burn ropes. And a creep superhero who is a monster (visually and literally) who lusts after his best friend’s girlfriend! That’s the Stan Lee Fantastic Four? That’s what you created by yourself?”

(Note: Thank god for Kirby…)


“Page 4: Finally you get back to the ‘story.’ The FF want to help mankind. But they fight each other along the way.”

“Did you later revise this document and make all the changes that made it into the published version of FF # 1 or did Jack help out with that? Did you give Jack another “synopsis” (a part 2) that directed him what to do for the rest of the book, or did Jack write that material? Is it possible that hypothetical ‘FF synopsis Part 2′ document may have been just like this one — it contained a large number of story elements that Jack ended up not using.”

“Is it even possible this document is all you gave Jack to work from, and this was your main creative contribution to FF? Finally, is it possible that maybe you never even gave this to Jack? Maybe these were some notes, and you verbally gave him some brief directions, then Jack was the one who forged ahead on the project — he did most of the problem-solving, wrote the bulk of the story with visuals, and you added text to his visual story?”

“Maybe Jack even pitched the FF to you, and that haphazard ‘synopsis’ of unused ideas was part two of the process?”

That’s it for my questions for Stan on his “synopsis.”

Stan mentioned that’s “11 pages of  story.”  I challenge any comics artists out there to do 11 pages of comic book art based on that synopsis without feeling they deserve a writer credit. He or she would have a lot of work to do. They’d have to decide on a lot of things. How are they going to logically string all these ideas together? How are they going to make the Grimm/Reed/Sue triangle work and not seem like lame melodrama that slows the story? And what happens next? Could Jack Kirby expect this same sort of all-over-the-place, wandering, rambling plot most of which didn’t make it into the final story from Stan Lee for the next half of the FF plot?

Tomorrow I’ll take a look at FF # 1 and ask Stan a few questions about it. I’m sure most of you have a copy of it somewhere, Marvel has probably reprinted it 1000s of times. Compare FF # 1 to Lee’s “synopsis.” You’ll see that aside from the character names and the COTU origin sequence, all of which I suspect were decided upon by Kirby/Lee before this synopsis was written, aside from the transformation scene, there is virtually NOTHING from Lee’s synopsis that made it into the published FF # 1 book.

Stan Lee: Face Book Comments

Thanks to all the people over on the Kirby Museum Face Book page for making several solid comments on my recent posts concerning Stan Lee. Obviously you all can go over there and check them out, but I thought all involved made some excellent points so I’m going to post them here as well:

“Why I Discuss Stan Lee” comments:

Paul Mason: I was always someone who felt Lee was a great ‘Editor’, who was able to harness the best from his stable of artists (especially, Kirby-a virtual work horse), bounce early ideas/concepts from, he was very good at giving the characters a unique voice, adding sub-text, and quite clearly, he was a great “salesman”.

But when it comes down to it, there was a mammoth amount more sweat, creativity and man hours put down in those books/characters by Kirby than Mr Lee or the corporation cares to admit- that’s shockingly sad, and creatively criminal. In my honest opinion, Kirby’s contributions (and in Spider-man’s case, Ditko) should not be a “mainstream” secret, with Mr Lee being considered Marvel’s Walt Disney in the eyes of the movie going public.

Sorry for all the words. I enjoy every post made by the Jack Kirby Museum, and I look forward to reading your posts for your opinion :)

Ron Good: I love Jack’s work, and I love Stan’s work. I think both men did great work separate from each other. BUT judging from the comics I’ve read, I feel that Jack and Stan’s best work was when they were working together at Marvel. Obviously, Jack poured more sweat into those books. However Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were a great collaboration of artist, writer, and editor. Jack Kirby should absolutely get more acknowledgement in mainstream media. I guess the job falls to us, the fans, to spread the word about Jack in forums such as this. God knows you’ll die of old age before you get any truth from the mainstream. I have a great respect for both Jack and Stan. And I’m a “Kirby Kultist” and proud of it! I enjoyed your article, Rob.

Joe George: Why is it the FF origin story is near identical to the COTU? Why is Kirby’s Spider-man almost identical to the Kirby and Simon’s THE FLY?

AND why is the first Iron-Man story a knock-off of Kirby’s Green Arrow origin story THE WAR THAT NEVER ENDED?

“My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 1″ comments:

John Coyne: If I were Stan Lee I think I would get up an quietly leave the interview once you started throwing around the word liar. Grilling, as you mentioned, is not a good way to interview someone and expect answers. It still amazes me that people who were not there in that room seem to the “truth” more than those who were. Later in life, as we know, Jack made lot of claims of character creation that were not true ( and I am certainly not calling him a liar for that!) Also, the sign on Stan Lee’s door in your piece speaks volumes of the one sided perception of the interviewer. Not good journalism.

Ravi Swami: ‎@ John Coyne – true, but then this is largely hypothetical , & unfortunately Kirby isn’t around to give his side of the story, which somewhat negates the point of the piece.

It only really highlights the primacy in most peoples (& copyright lawyers) minds of writers (eg Lee) over artists (eg Kirby) – a writer will say they write stories & that stringing a bunch of images together in a sequence isn’t storytelling, which of course is BS.

Joe George: Lee was almost certainly asked most of your questions during the December 2010 deposition of Lee conducted by Marc Toberoff. It’s a matter of record Lee does have a contract paying him 1.2 million dollars a year, and it contains a clause which says he my do nothing which could assist in any way a challenge to Disney/Marvel ownership of the characters.

The much touted synopsis was found by Marvel Editor Roger Stern in Lee’s desk at the Marvel offices in the early 1980s. Kirby said any suggestion he had ever seen the synopsis was (quote) “An outright lie.” Both Steve Sherman and Mark Evanier say Kirby told them any synopses were written by Lee after Kirby had delivered pages to the office, and told Lee what he had planned for the next issue. Any brief notes by Lee on the original art (1958-63) were written down by Lee as Kirby explained the plot on the art boards to Lee. Evanier says Sol Brodsky confirmed Kirby was generating the stories in the early years.

Mitchell Sternbach: I agree that the sign on Stan Lee’s door in the piece indicates a one-sided perception. I’m not sure what the exact truth is- I’m quite sure Kirby’s contributions have been minimized, but Lee has been getting a raw deal, too. He was more than a salesman- it’s usually obvious which dialogue is his. Kirby probably created most of the concepts and plots. Jack was not great at humanizing the characters via dialogue, and I suspect that there was also a third element- that of the two men reacting to each other. If you doubt Lee’s abilities- just check out those works that Kirby was not involved with on a month-to-month basis. No artist was better than Kirby, and I always hoped to see Lee’s name listed as writer.

Gerhard Schlegel: when I was a kid, the greatest Team on Earth where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, when I grew older I realised Stan Lee takes all the credits for himself. Now, for me, the greats Team on Earth is Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Maybe Stan Lee did not care for my feelings, but he disappointed me very much. Maybe, if you read in 100 years in some kind of wikipedia about Stan Lee, there is written, he was the biggest cheater in Comic History. If I would be Stan, I would not like to be remembered like this. Well Jack is death, but Stan has the chance to do right to Steve Ditko and make his peace. But that, unfortunately will never happen. (Gerhard form Germany, sorry for my bad English)

Richard De Angelis: Thanks for sharing this piece. It leaves little doubt as to the truly collaborative nature of the Kirby/Lee partnership and the contributions Kirby made to shaping the Marvel universe from its very inception. I shared the post on the Week of mourning for Avengers co-creator Facebook page calling for an opening week boycott of The Avengers movie in honor of Kirby’s legacy to comics.

Jason Zorn: it’s a shame their relationship came to that….when Lee/Kirby were doing FF, Cap America, Thor (the 3 titles which seemed best suited to their partnership) there was no one better. the first 100 or so of FF are the best comics ever

“My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 1: Comments” comments:

Joe George: Steve Duin a reporter for the Oregonian quotes Lee as saying Kirby, ” either lost his mind, or he’s a very evil person.”

Greg Theakston quotes Lee as calling Kirby a “son of a bitch”

Lee: I wrote the Origins of the comics for Marvel I think I even put it in my introduction, and he read that. He didn’t say anything then. But with the Hulk I wanted something that was a combination of the Frankenstein Monster and Jekyll and Hyde, and I’ve said that to people over and over again. And I read an interview with him somewhere, and he said, “I’ve always liked Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde, and I wanted to do it.” And the son-of-a-bitch read that I had written it and it somehow became part of his–you know, how d’ya–

The origins book was published in 1974.

Here’s Kirby in early 1969 (a year before he stopped selling his freelance creative work to Marvel) talking to Mark Herbert.

Kirby: “I created the Hulk, and saw him as kind of a handsome Frankenstein. I never felt that the Hulk was a monster, because I felt the Hulk was me.

My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 1: Comments

I see some folks are commenting on my hypothetical Stan Lee interview on the Kirby Museum Face Book page, and I’m getting some private emails as well. I’ll get to Part 2 of the proposed interview with Stan about FF # 1 soon, after I address some of the comments. I’ll respond to a couple of them today. Maybe more if I have time. This is from the Museum Face Book page. Thanks to the readers who sent these in, I appreciate your feedback.

Mitchell Sternbach: I agree that the sign on Stan Lee’s door in the piece indicates a one-sided perception.

Remember, more than anything, the “Lee Interview” post is a piece of satire, done in the format of a mock interview. I’d be shocked if Lee actually answered my questions, but I threw them out there anyway. The door with the “Kirby: Do Not Enter” sign is the equivalent of a comics’ political cartoon. You might not agree with the gag, but it is symbolic of a perception that is out there — it visually shows you one aspect of the Kirby/Lee authorship debate –that Lee somehow prevented Kirby from contributing any ideas to FF. That image is certainly not my literal interpretation of what took place because I’m convinced Jack worked on FF with Lee from day one, but that image does, I think symbolize Lee’s version of the history, in a funny way, of course.

John Coyne: If I were Stan Lee I think I would get up an quietly leave the interview once you started throwing around the word liar.

Notice I used the term “liar” when I talked about Jack Kirby. Why would Stan Lee walk out of an interview when someone points out he painted Jack as a liar? Isn’t that what Lee did? That’s what happened. Why would the truth offend him?

I also recall at least one comment Lee made where he insinuated that maybe Jack was crazy when he talked about helping to create a character like Spider-man; or maybe something was wrong with Jack. Why not take the high road: why not say, “it’s possible Jack did help me create Spider-man!” Would that kill Lee? Why take all the credit and portray Jack in a negative light? I just don’t understand why Lee did that. It was incredibly cruel and must have been very hurtful to Jack while he was still alive to see Lee not only take all the credit for creating all the 1960s properties alone, but then to add insult to injury Lee questioned Jack’s honesty and his sanity.

Either Lee remembers what took place and Jack is indeed a liar, or Lee does not recall every moment from 1960 – 1970, which means Lee isn’t telling the truth.

Grilling, as you mentioned, is not a good way to interview someone and expect answers.

Right. But again, try and think of this as a Saturday Night Live sketch. I don’t expect Lee to ever address these questions; he’s had 50 years to do so, but I love being proven wrong so I threw the questions our there — maybe Stan will surprise us all tomorrow with his replies. That being said, even with a heavy dose of sodium pentothal, I think we’d find Stan Lee just doesn’t remember specifically what took place. Which is fine and understandable. Just tell us that! That’s one of my main points with this comedy sketch: I don’t think Stan Lee has a photographic memory, so I don’t think he clearly remembers creating all the major 60s Marvel characters alone.

It still amazes me that people who were not there in that room seem to the “truth” more than those who were.

This is a very common debate tactic I’ve seen used frequently in this debate. This is the argument (I’m paraphrasing): “The only person who was in the room that is still alive is Stan Lee, therefore we must give his story the most weight. Anyone’s opinion who was not in the room is irrelevant.” Have you ever watched a court TV show? Tune into one today. Chances are you’ll see two people who were in a room together last month telling two totally different sides of a story. The judge has to weigh both sides and come to a conclusion and reach a verdict. What about a case where someone is dead? Do you simply rule in favor of the survivor because they were the only one in the room who can testify? Just because Jack passed away, must we disregard his account of what took place in that room? What about Jack’s associates?

So, no, none of us here were in the room with Lee and Kirby, but we can look at other evidence like the margin notes on about 7000/10,000 pieces of Kirby 60s Marvel art which show Jack was involved in the creating/writing process, we can look at Jack’s  interviews, we can read Lee’s interviews and his “bio-autography”(that’s what Lee called his ghost-written autobiography) which are full of contradictions, and we can compare and contrast the accounts of their associates like Ditko, Brodsky, Lieber, Romita, etc., all suggesting Kirby was more than Lee’s “penciler,” therefore we can try and guess at the “truth.” As long as we clearly label our speculations as such, you the reader can reach your own conclusions.

How do you think any crimes in this country would get solved if the detectives just believed the story of the last man standing and didn’t try and speculate on other possibilities? So I don’t think this kind of “you were not in the room with Lee and Kirby, therefore your speculations are incorrect argument” has that much credibility, although, sure, we may never know for sure what really happened unless the CIA tapped Lee’s phone line, or aliens recorded their conversations in a UFO somewhere.

Later in life, as we know, Jack made lot of claims of character creation that were not true (and I am certainly not calling him a liar for that!)

I’ve said in the past, I think at the very end of his life, there were moments where Jack reached a point where he was at the end of his rope. Decades of Lee’s false witness had worn him down. Jack realized he was never going to get promised royalties from Goodman. Jack realized Lee was stealing all the credit for his 60s creations and this was hurting his reputation. Jack knew he was not going to be able to leave his family a nest egg despite the immense value of his creations. That must have been hard for him. He was always that little kid who survived the depression inside, I’m sure a kind of panic might have set in.

Jack was a quiet guy. A humble guy. I suspect he was like a lot of men from his generation. He kept his mouth shut. He didn’t complain. And he knew better than to criticize Lee if he ever hoped to work for Marvel again. I heard one anecdote that in the 80s Marvel actually threatened to sue Jack for using his own style! (that was off-the-record, so that may be hearsay). Imagine if Jack couldn’t even draw the way he illustrated because some court decided Marvel owned his style? So Jack knew he better keep his criticisms of Saint Stan and Marvel to a minimum if he was ever desperate and needed the work.

I doubt he was consumed by rage, but there must have been moments of anger when he’d see Lee on TV pretending he created Jack‘s characters and that must have been infuriating and painful. If you’ve ever had a former friend lie to your face, you’ll know how this feels. Imagine seeing that in the press for 2 decades! Also, Jack was not a great orator. I don’t think he had the verbal skill or the desire to fight Stan Lee and Marvel in a war over his creations – so for a bunch of reasons I think Jack tried to avoid a confrontation with Lee/Marvel.

But, at the end of his life, when his health was failing him, Jack got mad when a couple interviewers asked him about Stan Lee. Jack decided to fight fire with fire and he famously said in one interview: “Stan created nothing.” Can you blame Jack for saying this? It’s the same thing Lee had been saying about him for 2 decades! Jack, in his own admittedly awkward way was telling you: Lee’s story is not true! Jack could have probably handled it with more tact, but unfortunately the Kirbys really needed a good PR person, they didn’t have one, and Jack just wasn’t shrewd enough to come up with a better plan to get his own story out there.

As for his “Stan created nothing” comment, I’ve said before, I think Kirby was not speaking literally. He was using a metaphor. Obviously Stan created something on his own. Or at least I guess he must have at some point (I think Lee is credited with creating She-Hulk for example in the 1980s, but I’m not positive). I think Jack was saying: if you look at the big picture, if you look at the whole of the 1960s, in the Jack Kirby books, metaphorically, Stan created nothing – nothing alone, none of those characters were created by Stan Lee alone. That’s what I think Jack’s point was.

As far as Jack claiming he helped create some of the characters — like I have an audio interview where Jack says he pitched a character to Stan called Spider-man who Jack wanted to “crawl all over the walls of NYC” — how do we know that’s not true? What if Lee got the story wrong or consciously decided not to tell the truth about Spider-man? Why must Jack be the one accused of saying things that (as the Face Book poster said) “were not true?”

 Also, the sign on Stan Lee’s door in your piece speaks volumes of the one sided perception of the interviewer. Not good journalism.

As I said, this was a comedy piece. I loved Stan Lee comics when I was 5-years-old. If I had died in 2002, I would have told you Stan Lee was a genius with my last breath. But after studying the topic, I had to change my mind. I learned that Kirby was the real creative force behind those 60s Marvel stories (specifically the ones Jack worked on for Stan) and I think Lee’s false witness about the real history behind the creation of those iconic properties was hurtful to Jack while Jack was alive, and now Lee’s behavior is just plain disrespectful.

So the jokes with the doors locked are not based on me being “one-sided,” they are based on me looking at both sides from 2002 – the present, not just the side in Lee’s Origins books. That is a visual depiction of the absurdity of Stan Lee’s version of the history. It’s laughable, ridiculous, and for Jack and his family, tragic. Again, my “interview” was not meant as hard journalism. I think the joke there is that most people would answer those types of questions without giving them a second thought, but Stan Lee will not. Hence the irony. These questions are all out there anyway, people all over the net have been asking them for years now, I just put them all in one place, so I say if Lee wants to set the record straight, I’m sure we’d all enjoy reading what he has to say here.

If Stan Lee remains silent and never addresses these types of criticisms, then these unanswered questions are going to be a part of his legacy for all time. Yes, when they build the comics hall of fame, it will most certainly be called the Stan Lee Comics Hall of Fame, because Lee is unquestionably a deity in the comics industry, he is the undisputed, unparalleled king of the medium, a comics god. But as it stands now there are always going to me murmurs when people pass that massive gold statue of Smilin’ Stan at the front of the Stan Lee Comics Hall of Fame museum. People are going to look at the carving in the base of the statue that says, “I created everything” in Latin, then as their eyes rise skyward, they are then going to look up at his smiling golden face, his sunglasses reflecting the morning sunlight, and ask themselves and their friends: “Did Stan Lee really create all those characters alone?” Add someone is going to raise their hand, step forward, and invariably say, “No, Stan Lee is a liar and a fraud. Jack Kirby helped create all those characters.”

Stan’s still here with us. He can set the record straight if he answers these questions (and they are the tip of the iceberg, I’m only discussing one book: FF # 1). If Stan answers these questions, I think there is still a chance he can save himself from being a punchline in comics circles for symbolizing the bottom of the barrel – a credit thief — a man who stole credit from Jack Kirby, a man who was by all accounts one of the biggest class acts to ever work in the industry, not to mention one of the most unselfish, most reliable, most creative artists to ever work in the comics.

I like redemption stories. I like a happy ending. I’m still hoping for a death bed conversion from Stan. If not, he’ll certainly remain a comics icon, but I suspect because of his treatment of Jack Kirby, in comics circles (and maybe in the wider culture one day) if Lee doesn’t tell the truth, after he passes on he may become a target of scorn and ridicule.

Or no one will care about any of this stuff in 10 years. For now it’s fun to discuss because many of the principal players are still alive. We can ask them questions. Once they all have passed on — and that will be a sad day, the end of an era — then no one who was “in the room” will be able to give us any new information, so I feel now is the time to discuss this stuff. Now is our final chance to try and get answers.

I’d love to see Stan end this debate. If he merely admits maybe Jack helped him create all those characters,  then the Kirby/Lee debate will be over, and this cloud that hangs over Kirby/Lee partnership will be gone for good. If Lee sticks to his story until his dying day, then this debate is never going to go away, and these rumors of Lee as a credit thief and a back-stabber will only be discussed more and more as long as Stan Lee remains the Walt Disney of comic books.

We are nearing the end of the final chapter on the “Marvel Age of Comics.” I’d still like to see an ending where Lee and Marvel admit Jack played a pivotal role creating all the major 60s Marvel characters and I’d like to see an ending where Lee and Marvel admit Jack helped write the bulk of his stories. Maybe I’m naive, but I can’t help but be an optimist – that’s just my personality, and that’s why I put my questions out there. I hope Lee does answer them. For his sake and for the sake of the hobby.

My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 1

If Stan Lee would sit down for an interview with me, below are the first series of questions I’d ask him. Now understand a few things: in some respects this is a piece of satire because I don’t expect Stan to answer my questions. Secondly, if I was going to interview Lee I’d warn him — I’d tell him, “I’m going to ask you some very tough questions, so be prepared for a good old fashioned grilling.” God forbid I give the poor guy a heart attack. That’s not my goal. I genuinely have questions for him. Stan has told us so little about his working relationship with Jack we could probably take every single book they did together and ask Stan a good 20 – 40 questions about each story. Who did what? Did Stan come up with a certain story element or did Jack? And if Lee can’t remember, is it possible an idea may have come from Jack?

I realize some people don’t like to work with “possibilities,” but many people do. If I can’t remember what I had for breakfast a year ago, but I usually eat cereal, then I would say it’s possible and quite probable I had cereal for breakfast a year ago. It’s certainly possible Jack helped create the Fantastic Four characters, the major villains, and it’s also possible Jack helped write all of those stories uncredited and uncompensated. So that’s what I’m trying to establish here with my line of questioning. It’s time for Stan to admit he really doesn’t remember what the hell took place in the 1960s and admit Jack was more than just some mumbling, cigar-chompin’ work-for-hire employee who penciled Stan Lee stories.

For this series of hypothetical interview questions I’m going to pick one single book: Fantastic Four # 1. The point I’m making here if you want to just skip my pseudo-interview below is that I say the evidence suggests strongly, if not beyond a shadow of a doubt: Stan Lee did not create the Fantastic Four alone. 

Part One of My Interview Questions for Stan Lee:

“Mr. Lee, you’ve mentioned in the past you have a terrible memory. You also claim you created, for example, Fantastic Four alone. Don’t you see a contradiction there? On the one hand you say you can’t remember anything, then in the next breath you say you recall creating every single major Marvel character by yourself?”

“Is it possible that Jack helped you create that team of heroes in the Fantastic Four origin story (not to mention the supporting characters in the next 100 issues of the book), and you don’t have a photographic memory so maybe you forgot a moment here and there — maybe you forgot an instance where Jack might have helped you create the 4 members of the Fantastic Four? I’m not saying you have to credit Jack as a the sole creator, I’m asking you if it’s possible Jack may have contributed key elements to those 4 main characters at the very beginning of the process, the genesis stage, and you just don’t remember.”

“Jack claimed in interviews at the end of his life that he did indeed help you create Fantastic Four. Jack said in interviews some of the main ideas, themes, and relationships were his. Are you calling Jack a liar?”

“Greg Theakston claimed in his new book Jack Magic Volume 2 that three separate lawyers read the Comics Journal article where Kirby claimed he helped you create some of the major Marvel characters, and all three of those lawyers called you and advised you to sue Jack and Roz. Is that true? Do you recall what firms these three lawyers represented or their names so we can corroborate this? What did the lawyers expect to get — were they going to try and take Jack’s house away from him?  And who knew so many lawyers read TCJ?”

“What specific comments did Jack make in the TCJ that you or the three lawyers felt were legally actionable, slanderous, libelous, or damaging to your reputation? And what if you were wrong, Stan? What if you have a lousy memory, and Jack was telling the truth? Why not say, ‘I don’t remember what happened throughout every moment from 1960 – 1970. maybe Jack did help me’ — why paint Jack out to be a liar?”

“And even if Jack did try to steal credit from you, I thought you two were friends? Collaborators. Why not just take the high road and say, ‘I don’t recall each millisecond of our partnership, so maybe Jack is right and I just forgot.’  Why not be gracious and polite towards your old partner who may have been having financial problems and health problems at the end of his life. Why do you have to claim all the credit at any cost?”

“A few comics historians have suggested maybe you signed some kind of gag order or confidentiality agreement where you agreed to lie and pretend you created all the major Marvel intellectual properties by yourself. Is that true? Do you think that’s ethical? You didn’t work for the NSA or the CIA, telling the truth would not be treason. Do you think it was ethical or morally right to screw over Jack and his family so that you could get a regular million dollar paycheck from Marvel? Or have you in fact never signed such a contract with Marvel and your self-promotional solo-genius propaganda is something you decided to put out there on your own?”

“I read an interview where you claimed you were going to quit comics and become a novelist. You were embarrassed by doing 20 years of Archie and EC rip-off stories. You claimed your wife encouraged you to tell one real story before you quit working for your relative Martin Goodman who had provided you and your brother Larry with a pretty nice living. Your wife advised you to tell one story that you were truly passionate about, and that inspired you! You decided to reinvent the superhero genre alone. You created Fantastic Four alone. I read a second interview where you claimed you were going to quit comics and become a novelist. You were embarrassed by doing 20 years of Archie and EC rip-off stories. You claimed your wife encouraged you to tell one real story before you quit working for your relative Martin Goodman who had provided you and your borther Larry with a pretty nice living. Your wife advised you to tell one story that you were truly passionate about, and that inspired you! You decided to reinvent the superhero genre alone. You created Spider-man alone. Which story is true? Are you claiming you were going to quit comics both times? Did you get the stories mixed up? Is either story true? Weren’t you just doing your job as you had always done, and this anecdote about your wife inspiring you to reinvent the superhero genre is just after-the-fact myth-making? And why quit comics around the time of Amazing Fantasy # 15 (Aug 1962)? Fantastic Four # 1 (Nov 1961) was a success. Nine months after the publication of a successful book, why quit comics?”

“Do you think that by taking all the credit for creating those characters alone (like Fantastic Four) you damaged Jack’s reputation while he was alive, and you may have damaged his family’s chance to reach a fair settlement with Marvel today? How do you feel about that? Are you even in touch with Jack’s kids and grandkids? Do you maybe send them a Christmas card at least?”

“Obviously we could spend probably a whole year discussing the stories you did with Jack because we’d be talking about literally thousands of new characters in Jack’s 1960 – 1970 run, and thousands of wonderful story elements Jack must have added to the mix, not to mention the evolution of Jack’s drawing style which I think you would agree became the foundation for the ‘Marvel House Style,’ and the cornerstone of the ‘House of Ideas,’ and the ‘Marvel Universe.’ So, since our time is limited (I assume you have to go out and do a cameo for the new Spider-man film), let’s just take a look at one book — FF # 1. First let’s look at thefamous FF synopsis you feel proves you created the FF.”

Fantastic Four # 1 Synopsis

“The first part of the document is a list of names for the characters, then you go into a kind of stream-of-consciousness, brainstorming session where you suggest all kinds of different ideas to Jack, most of which did not make the final cut. The synopsis (what you called a “synopses”) is very conversational, almost like a memo to Jack where you are pitching ideas. It looks like this document is a part of an ongoing conversation, not a Lee ‘script,’ Lee ‘plot,’ or a Lee ‘story ‘ (all terms you tend to to use interchangeably to describe anything from a one sentence suggestion to a paragraph of ideas). This ‘synopses’ looks to me like one step in the creation process of FF. One rung on the ladder. Is it safe to say you and Jack were collaborating on FF when this document was written? That you and Kirby were bouncing ideas off of each other? That this synopsis is an agreed-upon list of 4 characters you and Jack came up with together beforehand, and the rest of the document is you brainstorming at your type-writer trying to flesh out the story?”

“Also notice how many things in this document were rejected? Did you reject those story elements? Or is it possible maybe Jack took the story in a different direction? How about Mole Man. Did you create that alone? Or did Jack help?”

“Well, hold on a second, Mr. Lee, I’m getting ahead of myself. First let’s go ahead and take a look back in time at Challengers of the Unknown. You have 4 characters who represent the 4 elements, they are adventurers, pilots, they take a rocket into space, then they come crash-landing down to earth transformed into heroes who pledge to serve mankind. That’s pretty similar to the FF origin. Wouldn’t you say?”

DC Showcase # 6 (Feb 1957) Pages 1, 2, and 3

Fantastic Four (Nov 1961) Pages 10, 11, and 13

“I’m not accusing you of stealing FF from COTU, Mr. Lee, I’m just saying it sure is a coincidence how similar the team origins are. Or is it possible, based on your admittedly poor memory, maybe, just maybe, Jack contributed something to those 60s FF characters? Maybe Jack had some left-over ideas after working on those 4 elemental adventurers so it would have been easy for him to do a book with that kind of dynamic on a monthly basis.”

“Didn’t you guys pitch ideas to each other and bounce around ideas during your whole working relationship? Why did you suddenly slam the door in Jack’s face at this point and lock yourself alone in a room where Jack had no way to help you?”

“Why would you shut out a man who had helped create so many popular comics teams with Joe Simon from the creation process? Why not do your own version of Simon/Kirby and work with Jack — work together to create a new super team!”

“And how did you immunize yourself from the Kirby Virus? How were you able to ignore all of Jack’s ideas an ensure that only your ideas went into the creation of a property like FF? Surely Jack’s input had some influence on your decisions, right?”

“If you are convinced FF was a 100% Stan Lee solo-creation, where did you come up with FF alone?  Your office? A room in your house? Which character did you create alone first? Human Torch? Wasn’t that Goodman’s idea to bring back the character? Does Goodman deserve a writer credit for that? His input was equivalent to most of the plots you gave Jack.”

“Who was the the first FF character you created? The second? The third? Were there any other characters you considered using? The Submariner would have fit nicely into the 4 elements motif. Can you tell us about your solo-creation process? Did you brainstorm, write down ideas, then come up with the final list through trial and error? Or did the Fantastic Four just come to you full-blown in a burst of inspiration?”

“How did you keep Jack out of your office when you were creating FF alone? Was there a lock on your door?”

“Or did you just tell Kirby to take the day off or something on days where you would create full-blown, fully-realized and totally conceptualized intellectual properties all by yourself? Maybe Jack was sick those days?”

“Is it possible this synopsis was not the first draft of the FF story? Maybe you and Jack had been working on FF before you typed up this document? Obviously there must have been other similar documents along the way, or at least discussions?”

“After you gave this document to Jack, did you and Jack discuss this synopsis? Did Jack (gasp) give you any new ideas, or fill in any holes in your synopsis that made it into the final story? And notice how you go from naming the characters to not even knowing where to start the story. You don’t even know for sure where to have the 4 astronauts go? Is this how the Marvel Method worked, Stan? You basically say to your artist, ‘Uh, here’s a bunch of disjointed concepts, no story, you figure it out?’ Isn’t it possible Jack contributed SOMETHING to the mix SOMEWHERE along the line?”

In the next post, I’ll go through the FF synopsis document in more detail with Mr. Lee.

Why I Discuss Stan Lee

Because of a bunch of factors: the new Avengers movie coming out soon, the  recent release of Thor on cable, the recent release of X-Men First Class on  cable, the various online discussions concerning the Kirby Estate appeal, the new “Give Kirby Credit” petition at the Museum site, plus the release of Theakston’s “Jack Magic Volume 2,” Alexander’s “Wonder Years,” Hatfield’s “Hand of Fire,” and various other online essays like the Shumer and Pearl artcicles, I’m going to do something I don’t do too often here — I’m going to spend a couple days discussing Stan Lee.

Now, I know some of you are going to go crazy when I do this because there is going to be an element of satire to these posts. There’s going to be some irony in these posts. There’s going to be some pretty fierce criticism of Stan Lee in these posts. If you are a Stan Lee fan and that sort of thing upsets you: STOP READING THIS SERIES OF POSTS! Right now! Enough! Don’t read things you don’t like if they’re going to make you mad.

For those of you who are going to stick around for this, if you go through the archives here, you’ll see I don’t discuss Lee a lot: most of the posts at Kirby Dynamics are about Jack and his art, because that’s what interests me. I take a moment every week to post a bunch of Kirby scans into the Kirby Museum WordPress site, and sometimes I add a little text. My hope is that people enjoy seeing some Kirby art every day — especially if it’s a piece they’ve never seen before — it’s my tiny way of trying to celebrate and promote the legacy of Jack Kirby.

But for a few days I want to discuss Stan Lee a bit because I’m seeing a resurgence in anti-Kirby, pro-Stan Lee rhetoric online and I want to weigh in on that in my own way. I know that is going to either bore or upset a few people reading this. Whenever I or anyone else criticizes Lee, inevitably we get a bunch of hateful emails calling us “Stan-bashers” — why are we “disparaging” and trying to “tear down” their beloved Stan? I’ve only been studying Jack since 2002, so I don’t know who came up with the term “Stan-bashers,” it existed when I jumped into the conversation. I’ve never understood this mentality. If I criticize Obama, am I an Obama-basher?” If I criticize Romney am I a “Romney-basher?” Can’t we discuss the history without trying to demonize each other with wacky names?

And I’ve also seen these same people try and demonize Jack’s fans with nutty names like “Kirby Kultist,” “Kirby Krowder,” in his new book Mark Alexander mentioned what he called “Kirby-centric zealots,” etc., etc. Jeez. Somebody call the cops! We have dangerous Jack Kirby terrorist cells in America! What’s up with this nonsense? Are comic book collectors still in kindergarten? Enough of the infantile elementary school name-calling. Let’s discuss Kirby and Lee, not each other. So despite the inevitable hate emails full of personal insults I’ll get for discussing Saint Stan, here goes.

Here’s why I discuss Stan Lee:

Stan Lee is alive.

I talk about Lee because he’s here on earth with us — he has the ability to speak up for himself. He can answer his critics. I’m not criticizing a dead guy who can’t defend himself. I’m not badmouthing a dead person who can’t set the record straight. I’m talking about a living, breathing person who is probably online right now doing a google search for “Stan Lee” to see if he’s trending. I’d love it if Stan would answer some of my questions here — so I discuss Stan Lee to try and see if we can almost embarrass him into telling us something new — like…. the truth.

I’m not sure how old he is but no one lives forever, and when Lee passes away (and may he rest in peace either one with the universe or in that great bullpen in the sky), I may never discuss the dude again. I find him boring. He sticks to his talking points and we rarely learn anything new or get any kind of meaningful insights from the guy. He didn’t even write his own autobiography. He hired a ghost writer  and made up a name for it — a “bio-autography.” To me Lee is a comedian. Doing Shtick. He’s amusing in a creepy 70s used-car salesman kind of way. Stan Lee is funny… unless your name is Jack Kirby.

I’ve met people who know Stan. Or at least they have the ability to schedule an interview with him. So I put my criticisms out there with the hopes that maybe one of these people (who Stan will actually talk to) will try and get him to set the record straight. Most of these people will not ask Lee my questions because (1) they love him, (2) they don’t want to offend him or they might face the wrath of his true believers, (3) they don’t want to ask tough questions because Lee is older and that might seem cruel, (4) they don’t want to ask Lee questions with some meat because he might never do an interview with them again, and (5) as one interviewer said to me: Lee would just claim he doesn’t remember, so what’s the point of asking him specific quesitons.

On Jack’s birthday, why doesn’t Stan sit down with someone like John Morrow or Mark Evanier and do an extensive, thorough, thoughtful interview for the Jack Kirby Collector focused purely on the Kirby/Lee collaboration? Can’t Lee at least do that for Jack? A two hour phone interview to celebrate his partner’s birthday?

If Stan agreed to sit down with me tomorrow and do an interview, in my next post, I’ll give you the main questions I’d have for Stan.