Monthly Archives: April 2012

X-Men # 9, Page 20

Here is the posting that was supposed to run yesterday. Just like the chronology in Lee’s With Great Power film, here at Kirby Dynamics things got a little mixed up. :)

X-Men # 9 (Jan 1965), page 20. Kirby/Stone. You can see some Kirby notes in the margins. Notice the little subscription ad taped to the right side of the page. Solid inking by Chic Stone although not one of the very best Kirby/Stone X-Men pages.

One of the interesting things about X-Men is that I don’t ever recall Jack discussing X-Men in an interview. This is due partially to the fact that Jack did very few interviews in his life, but you still would have thought someone in the 1980s would have asked Jack about the genesis of X-Men and his thoughts behind the personalities and the dynamics of the characters. I’ve never, ever seen Jack discuss the concept.

In 1965, many comics historians agree Jack was heavily involved in the plotting of the stories. Jack may have even done the bulk of the writing on the X-Men stories — as I showed you he had done on books like FF # 1–  using visuals and starting in late 1963 margin notes like the ones you see above. So one has to wonder: how much input did Jack have into the creation of the X-Men? We’ve seen that Stan Lee did not create FF alone from looking at his FF # 1 synopsis, so is it also possible Jack helped create X-Men? Additionally, is it possible that in the same way Jack might have pitched FF to Lee (the FF being a superhero revamp of Jack’s Challengers of the Unknown) is it possible Jack may have even pitched X-Men to Lee – basically a super-powered teen version of his various Simon/Kirby kid gang books?

Since Jack never commented on X-Men we really don’t have much to go on. I personally find it unlikely Lee created X-Men full-blown and gave it to Jack who then followed his master’s commands because it appears Kirby/Lee never worked like that, so you’d have to think Jack must have had substantial input into the creation of the X-Men characters and the X-Men storylines. I just wish we had a comment from Jack on the subject of the X-Men. Maybe I’ll email Mark Evanier and see if he has something on the topic.

“Stan Lee Month” R.I.P.

A couple quick housekeeping things to wrap up “Stan Lee month.”

First, thanks to everyone who chimed in on the subject. I enjoyed all the positive feedback and the criticisms. Special thanks to Kirby historian par excellence Mike Gartland for sending in that Excelsior fanzine, and to everyone else out there who pitched in scans and comments. I think the Kirby/Lee authorship debate is an interesting one — there’s a subject I’d like to see a proper documentary film on. :) So thanks to you all for participating and for tolerating the subject if it’s one you don’t enjoy.

To anyone out there who emailed me a comment or a scan you wanted me to post here at Kirby Dynamics, just remind me if I forgot to post it here. Most of the discussion was just regular off-the-record private email chat, so I don’t want anyone to get lost in the shuffle. Here are a couple comments I made to a few readers just to kind of give my final thoughts on the last month. I edited my comments some to address all readers in general.

Re: Torturing Lee with my questions

I hope I didn’t make it seem like I was accusing anyone in particular of accusing me of attacking Lee. That post about tying Lee up in a chair and electrocuting him with questions was more directed to the people in general who email me off-the-record and complain I’m “Stan-bashing” and what I’m doing is “cruel” because Lee is old.

Re: I wish this debate was over

I also wish the Kirby/Lee authorship debate was over. It’s sincerely why I put those posts on the FF # 1 synopsis vs. the published FF # 1 book out there. I’d love for Lee to address this subject and end the debate. How come 90% of the story in FF # 1 is not in his synopsis? Why are the only things that are in his synopsis elements that were in Jack’s Challengers of the Unknown? What happened? Was this the birth of the Kirby/Lee “Marvel Method?”

Re: Lee’s “I created” everything routine in his documentary and Lee’s comments that Jack quit working for Marvel in the 60s because of a newspaper article

Maybe Lee doesn’t even realize the things he says paints Jack in a negative light. Or if it is shtick, I’d just like for him to tell us that.

I remember an interview with Rodney Dangerfield where he dropped his stand-up persona and he was himself — and it was so enlightening and inspiring to meet the real person behind the hilarious stand-up character.

I’d love for Lee to do that — just admit something like creating Spider-man after seeing a fly on the wall (or a spider, he’s told the story differently over the years) isn’t true. Jack helped create all the 60s characters. I think dropping the act and making an effort to be honest and really do some sincere introspection would humanize Lee while at the same time it would finally give Jack the rightful credit he deserves.

I don’t foresee Lee doing this, but I figure at least we gave him a chance. The questions are out there in the cyberverse — he can address them if he chooses to. The ironic thing is I did not do this series to bash an old man, I did it to give a man who is alive-and-well the chance to address his critics and potentially redeem himself before he passes on.

Re: Some readers don’t have Epix so can’t watch the Lee film, and some don’t want to anyway because it sounds awful

Lee’s With Great Power was pretty awful. It was more like one of those promotional films Disney does to promote their theme parks.

It was nothing like a real documentary such as Ken Burns’ Civil War.

There were a couple interesting tid-bits in the film. After telling the story about how he got the job working for Marvel in the 40s because he answered an ad, I think Roy Thomas may have joked Goodman was Stan’s relative, but I’d have to watch the film again, maybe I heard that wrong. It’s funny that Roy of all people would say that and they would include that in the film. As opposed to being plucked from obscurity because of his talents as a writer, Stan Lee’s cousin was married to Martin Goodman, the owner of Timely Comics — that’s how Lee started at Timely at the age of 16, just before the company changed its name to Marvel.

I also love that they put in a John Romita interview clip where John Sr. talks about how Lee and Kirby would discuss a plot and the story Jack turned in was totally different than what was discussed. So you see these tantalizing clues even in Lee’s self-produced documentary that there is more to the Kirby/Lee story. And Lee does at one point talk about how some people are wrong: Lee says he didn’t write and draw the stories as some people think, he just put the words in the characters’ mouths… but Lee always has to end that thought with “the ideas were mine.”

The only really interesting thing in With Great Power is they did mention Jack worked on Spider-man. At one point in the film, Lee gives the same shtick that Jack failed to draw non-heroic characters so that’s why he took Jack off the book, but at least Jack is mentioned as part of the process of creating the character in a Stan Lee “documentary” produced by Lee’s very own Pow! production company. Years ago, Lee would never have even addressed this — he would have just given his old “I created Spider-man” alone routine — but I think the media pressure, specifically from Toberoff claiming Jack helped create Spider-man, sort of forced Lee and the filmmakers to address the subject.

And I like that, because even though Lee thinks he created Spider-man alone, discussing it in his documentary makes it clear this subject is important — the inclusion of this fact in a Lee documentary at least plants the seeds that Jack was indeed involved in the process of creating Spider-man.

If you look at how disorganized the Lee documentary is as a whole, how many important subjects are left out of the film, and how many facts are mixed-up and misleading, you have to wonder if those seeds will grow — more people might think to themselves: maybe there is more to the Spider-man creation story than meets the eye. Maybe there is more to the story behind the creation of all the 60s Marvel characters than meets the eye.

Thanks again to all of you out there for taking part in the discussion. Here’s hoping one day we can discuss a well-done Jack Kirby documentary film here at Kirby Dynamics. :)

X-Men # 9, Page 20, Part 2

Here are close-ups of the panels where we can see Jack’s directions for Stan Lee. There were also notes next to the other panels on the page but they were cut off  in production.

Jack’s directions for Stan say, “Bomb really heaving.” Lee uses that in the caption box.

Jack’s directions for Stan: “Click — fuse deactivated.”

Jack’s note: “We did it!”

These notes are rather sparse, focusing on the action, but there are hundreds of examples of Kirby notes from the mid-1960s through 1970 where Jack gives Lee far more detailed directions, many of which ended up in the captions and word balloons of the characters.

With Great Power?

I just saw Lee’s “documentary” on Epix. Clearly this was a promotional piece for Lee and his Pow! entertainment company, not an historical examination of Lee and his life by any stretch of the imagination. Jack was mentioned a few times which was nice to see, but as you can imagine, there was no real substance to any of the segments on Jack.

I could list a 100 things in the film that are ridiculous, but I’ll only point out one thing. Lee talks about how he moved out to California in the 1970s because he liked the weather out there. Then Lee talks about how his master plan to use television to promote the Marvel properties like Spider-man in the 70s was a success — lots of people learned about characters like Spider-man thanks to his presence on the west coast. Then the film cuts to a clip from the Spider-man cartoon from the late 1960s.

Marvel had already been doing television projects before Lee moved to California, but the With Great Power film makes it appear that famous 1967 Spider-man cartoon was the result of Lee’s move to California in the early-1970s.

The film has lots of other moments like this. It’s a mishmash that looks like it was thrown together quickly, for a target audience of probably 10-year-olds – I guess Lee’s Pow! is trying to attract new readers to Lee’s new projects.

Funny to watch Lee and his wife bicker in the film. Imagine what goes on off-camera! Interesting to see Lee drop his fake salesman persona with his wife. After watching this, anyone out there REALLY think Lee’s wife would have let Lee quit his job for Goodman in 1961 to “write a novel?”

One thing I did learn from this documentary: with great power comes the power to produce a “documentary” about yourself that’s really an infomercial promoting yourself and your new company.

My Interview Questions For Stan Lee. Part 4.4

My Interview Questions For Stan Lee. Part 4.4

Page 9

Stan, on page 9 of FF # 1, to me this is where Jack starts actually using your synopsis to tell the story. You said in your synopsis the story might open with a meeting. Jack opened the story with a mysterious character firing off a flare the whole city sees, then he gives the reader 8 pages showing the characters in action, establishing their personalities, and generating anticipation for their origin and first adventure. On page 9, now he gets to what you asked for where the 4 characters meet, then there is a flashback to the scene where they crash-landed back to earth transformed into heroes. In terms of the actual story, Jack used the FF synopsis for about 5 out of the 25 pages of the published book (pages 9 – 13).

Panel 1: Notice that Jack has totally thrown out several key elements from your synopsis.

Jack could have spent several pages having scientists and experts warn the FF against cosmic rays if he had followed your suggestion in the synopsis, but he chooses not to do that. He gets right to the story.

There is no melodrama of Ben Grimm lusting after Sue Storm in the published FF # 1 book. In your synopsis, you spent several paragraphs almost salivating over this idea of the Thing wanting to betray his best friend, wanting to screw the guy’s girlfriend, in addition to wanting to sabotage the FF’s quest to help mankind — but this Sue/Ben/Reed love triangle is absent from Jack’s story. There is simply nowhere for you to put that aspect of your synopsis in Jack’s story in the captioning phase.

If Jack had followed your directions, we would have had 2 or 3 pages of the Thing “lusting” — I guess hiding in the shadows at night in his trench-coat, in the rain, peering through the windows through a crack in the curtains at Reed and Sue necking, planning how to destroy their love (and all mankind) in his thought-balloons. Well, thank God for Kirby because Jack jettisoned that idea like that pilot parachuting out of his melted plane after the Touch burned through it. Jack gets right to the story.

In panel 1, Ben Grimm is against the trip. You can tell by his body language.

Panel 2: Sue convinces him to pilot the craft. This was in your synopsis… sort of. In your synopsis Ben Grimm agrees to pilot the ship hoping he can steal Sue Storm from Reed.

Panel 3: Ben smashes a table with his fist. He’s not driven by lust as he was in your synopsis, he steps up when called a coward.

Panel 4: the FF speed off to the rocket launch site. You use dialogue to explain why they are going into space in this panel.

Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you consider the rigors of astronaut training, but Jack didn’t really give you a whole lot of room to rationalize the space trip.

Panel 5: They sneak onto the airstrip at night and head towards the rocket.

This page and the next 4 pages (9 – 13) are from your synopsis. Jack does make some changes here and there, Jack adds some details to the mix (for example the Torch sets the entire woods on fire, and you clearly told him not to do that since the Comics Code would have a problem with that sort of thing), but I do think that for these 5 pages in FF # 1 you and Kirby are truly collaborating.

Uh oh — Stan has to go do a cameo for the new Spider-man movie. You know, Stan, that reminds me… that I have a lot of questions for you about the creation of Spider-man too, but we can save those for another day. Stan, thanks for taking a moment to speak with us here at Kirby Dynamics. I’m sure all of Jack’s family, friends, and fans appreciate the fact you took a moment out of your busy schedule to discuss Jack.

To wrap up my discussion of FF # 1:

I could go through the next 12 pages (pages 14 – 25) of FF # 1 with Lee, but I won’t for several reasons. First, the main reason I examined FF # 1 is because we have an actual source document to look at — a document Lee says he wrote under oath  – the FF # 1 synopsis. We don’t have anything for the second half of FF # 1. Lee may have given Jack a separate synopsis; Lee may have given him nothing at all. We just don’t know. Unless Lee has a deathbed conversion, we never will. Maybe Lee would tell us if he was asked about it. But I doubt he remembers. I don’t even think he recalls who inked FF # 1.

We simply don’t have anything even remotely like the FF synopsis for part 2 of FF # 1, or any other Kirby/Lee books for that matter. Theakson and Evanier apparently have 5 or 10 Lee “plots” (the “plots” range between a sentence each or a few paragraphs), but other than that there is scant written evidence proving Lee did or did not give Jack substantive ideas for stories. Plus like the FF # 1 synopsis any “plots” we can find may be notes from a Lee story conference, so I don’t see the need go through the second half of FF # 1 point by point since we have no idea what idea came from Lee or Jack.

But I will say this: in terms of the story, there is NOTHING from pages 14 – 25 of FF # 1 is in Lee’s FF # 1 synopsis. In fact, pages 1 – 8 are not in the Lee synopsis either. So either Jack did a lot of writing on this book, or Lee gave Jack several more documents with suggestions, many of which Jack may have rejected. I am going to go ahead and count the number of story elements in the second half of FF # 1 to show you how many ideas in the story may have come from Jack. I counted: 76. So that’s either 76 specific instructions Lee gave Kirby for pages 14 – 25 of FF # 1 (either verbally or in a another written “plot”), or Jack came up with a lot (if not all) of those ideas on his own.

And we could say the same thing for all of Jack’s 1960s books. There may be 100 or more individual story elements in every single Jack Kirby story. Because of that and the lack of any scripts by Stan, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous for anyone to suggest Lee verbally (or in a one sentence “plot”) gave Jack Kirby over 100 individual story elements every month, for 3 books a month.

That just does not make any sense at all on any level. In reality, sure, Lee may have given Jack some basic direction, like “have the FF fight among themselves for 5 pages, make it funny; then they fight Doc Doom this month; Doc Doom traps them back in time; they escape; and Doc Doom lives to fight another day,” but that’s only about 6/100 story elements, meaning Jack would have had to figure out 94% of the nuts and bolts of each  story. Not that I think Jack minded — clearly he had no problem telling a good story — it just would have been nice of Lee to credit Jack for his contributions, pay him, and admit to the Marvel fans that this is what really took place. Plus Lee has admitted Jack didn’t even need a plot, therefore there were times Jack made up the entire story on his own.

Okay, that’s it for me on this. I’ve said my piece. I’m going to get back to showing Jack’s art. Thanks to everyone out there for the wonderful emails and all the feedback on this series. It was a lot of fun.

My Interview Questions For Stan Lee. Part 4.3

Here’s part 4.3 of my look at Fantastic Four # 1 with Stan Lee.

Page 7

Stan, page 7 is a wonderful piece of art where Jack starts off with 3 panels separated by borders that look like electricity, providing a bridge between events happening in different locations. Jack had been working in comics for 2 decades in 1961 so he was a master at these types of comics’ storytelling techniques. Were ideas like that his, or did you direct him to use that approach?

Panel 1: The Mayor wants action. He yells at a radio-man.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

Panel 2: A jet fighter is rolls off the runway with the airport in the background.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

Panel 3: We see a close-up of the face of a shocked airman as he sees the Torch for the first time.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

This is a motif you see throughout FF # 1. We see close-ups of the expressions of the people in Jack’s version of New York City (what Lee calls “Central City”) when they see the FF characters for the first time. So far we’ve seen several close-up reaction shots of several faces: Sue’s friend, a cabbie, a clothing store owner, a bunch of cops, and now this pilot. All gawking. Jack uses these various faces of the people of NY to draw the reader into this world. We are witnessing an event with many participants, all of whom represent us – the reader watching the tale unfold. This is a common storytelling strategy, but again, it’s not in your synopsis, Stan, so probably Jack’s idea? Or do you recall directing Jack to use this storytelling technique?

Panel 4: The Torch is flying loops around the airplanes.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

Panel 5: The Torch melts a United States Air Force jet.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

So much for your direction to Jack that the torch can’t burn anything but ropes and doors. And what happens if the melted plane lands in the city and kills a bunch of people? What if the plane blows up and kills the pilot? You’re talking the murder of a US soldier. But of course: this is comics, none of it is supposed to be logical. No cops or civilians ever die, it just looks good visually, and that’s why Jack put this in the story.

Panels 6 – 8: a great cinematic sequence where a missile zeroes in on the Torch.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

Page 8

Panel 1: Amazingly, Mr. Fantastic stretches up and grabs the missile.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

That means the missile must have been floating directly over him for him to make that grab. Silly, but convenient to move the story forward and introduce Mr. Fantastic’s power. I love how the sleeves on his arms are able to stretch hundreds of feet in the air. And so much for your direction that stretching hurts Mr. Fantastic. He catches a missile for crying out loud, no pain. How were you going to pull off that gimmick anyway, Stan. Was Mr. Fantastic going to exclaim ”AARGGH — stretching — is — so — painful!!!!” in every dialogue balloon?

Panel 2: Then we see Mr. Fantastic’s arm throw the missile into the river. I guess the FFs meeting spot must also have a view of the water.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

Panel 3: The torch inexplicably burns out. This might actually be an element that came from your synopsis. You proposed that the Torch can only burn for 5 minutes, but you don’t tell the reader this in the caption and that concept was immediately discarded.

Panel 4: Mr. Fantastic is also in perfect position to catch Johnny as he falls.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

Panel 5: Mr. Fantastic swings into a room through an open window carrying Johnny.

That story element is not in your Fantastic Four synopsis, Stan. Did you tell Jack to put that in the story after you wrote the FF # 1 synopsis? If you don’t remember, is it possible Jack Kirby came up with that idea?

Panel 6: All four members of the Fantastic Four group are together. This is also in your synopsis – the FF meet. But notice so far there are a lot of story elements that were not in the synopsis, meaning you either gave Jack another synopsis, or Jack contributed a significant number of story elements to FF # 1.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap this up.

Crackle Comment

Here’s a piece of email I just received.

Rob, I don’t see how you can say Sinnott influenced Kirby Krackle. Jack said in many interviews he never looked at printed comics.

Thanks for the comment. Here’s my take on this. I think it’s important not to always take Jack (or any human being) literally all of the time. For example, if I say “I never listen to Rush Limbaugh,” am I telling the truth? Yeah. I never listen to his show; it doesn’t interest me. But have I heard him before? Sure. I’ve heard clips. I’ve had conservative friends play me some of his rants. I see clips of his show on other talk shows. So when I say I never listen to Limbaugh, figuratively I’m telling the truth — I don’t listen to his show. But literally that comment isn’t true — I do hear him sometimes. We all make comments like that all the time.

So did Jack Kirby never, ever look at a published comic book in the 1960s? I doubt Jack Kirby had time to obsess over the published comics, I bet it would have been heartbreaking for him to read the captions Lee added to his work (for all the reasons I’ve been discussing this week), and Jack really didn’t need to look at the published comics since he was going full speed ahead. But I suspect somewhere along the line Jack did see a Sinnott-inked Fantastic Four book.

And if he did, I would not be at all surprised if Jack did the same thing just about every kid reading those books in the 1960s did when they started seeing the crackling energy pouring off a Kirby/Sinnott page — Jack probably loved it. He must have been impressed with the effectiveness of how Joe was handling the black dots or black splotches he was putting on the page in the pencil phase. The pages “crackled” with energy, hence the obvious term “crackle.”

And I suspect that’s why it almost seems that Jack started smoking a bong filled with crackle in the 1960s, and the crackle started pouring out of his ears and eyeballs making it into just about every book he ever did afterwards. Jack got high on crackle in the same way the kids reading his comics did (I’ve actually seen people suggest Jack started getting stoned in the 60s and that might have been the influence for the crackle).

Harry Mendryk’s article is great, and there is no doubt Jack used polka dots in the 1940s and 1950s, but we could ask the same question about the squiggles. When was the first time Jack drew a squiggle? Would that technically be the first prototype “Kirby squiggle?” Would the first wavy lines Jack drew be prototypical Kirby squiggles?

I think you can ask the same question of the Kirby crackle. Are the first polka dots drawn by Jack prototypical Kirby crackle? Or are they just polka dots? Sure, I think you could call the early 40s and 50s crackle “prototype crackle” if you want to, but I think the real archetypal crackle, the classic crackle, starts when Sinnott begins inking FF. In fact, I think the Kirby/Sinnott crackle is what has become the standard prototypical crackle — the Kirby/Sinnott crackle style influenced all the artists today who use Kirby crackle.

I remember when I was a kid reading comics, a lot of the artists used Jack and Joe’s crackle effect. Here’s an example by Geroge Perez from 1978 inked by Terry Austin.

Here’s a more recent image by Tom Scioli with quite a bit of Kirby/Sinnott crackle in it:

I’m not saying Sinnott created Kirby crackle; or that Sinnott inspired Kirby crackle; what I’m saying is that, yeah, here-and-there in the 40s and 50s Jack drew polka dots, but that approach wasn’t a specific conscious stylistic motif in Jack’s work until the 1960s. On the Kirby/Sinnott FF books, that’s when I think at some point Jack made a conscious decision to use the crackle effect a lot more and a lot more often, because it was visually stunning when inked by Sinnott — call it Kirby/Sinnott symbiosis or Kirby/Sinnott synergy.

Fan mail and positive fan reaction may also have influenced the decision to use more crackle; Lee might have even liked the effect and asked for more of it; hell, Roz may have seen a book and told Jack she liked it. Here’s one of the famous Kirby black light posters (Third Eye 1971) inked by Frank Giacoia, with a massive dose of crackle — even the person who colored this poster got into the spirit of crackle adding hundreds of additional dots.

Without Sinnott on inks, I don’t think the famous Kirby crackle would have ever become a visual motif Jack would end up using so frequently and I doubt that it would have ever really caught on. In fact, I’ve seen multiple examples of Colletta totally obscuring Jack’s crackle in late-60s Thor books so you could even argue that if Jack was using crackle, without a master cratsman like Sinnott carefull delineating each circle, that element of Jack’s style may have been lost in the inking phase — without Sinnott, crackle may never have become a motif hundreds of comics artists would end up using over the last several decades.

Recently I tried to come up with a character influenced by Jack’s crackle. But nobody does crackle as good as Kirby.

Re: Kirby Crackle

Re: Kirby Crackle

Here’s a link to a posting from the Kirby Museum on Kirby crackle: Kirby Krackle. The post discusses Harry Mendryk’s article on Jack’s “Krackle:”

Evolution of Kirby Krackle
Posted on September 3, 2011 by Harry Mendryk

I think Harry’s article on the “Kirby Krackle” is a nice “Part One” to the story, but I think the prototypical Kirby crackle that’s become so famous — using geometric circles to depict energy and the cosmos — started to appear in the 1960s. Joe Sinnott deserves a lot of the credit for achieving the classic Kirby crackle effect because of his exceptional craftsmanship and his decision to delineate all of Jack’s black splotches as perfect circles. I bet Jack heard the buzz surrounding the Kirby/Sinnott collaboration, he looked at some of the Sinnott-inked books, and I suspect because of the remarkable effect Joe was able to achieve Jack started using the “crackle” effect more and more in all of his books.

Eventually Jack used crackle for everything: here are examples where the crackle effect is used to depict churning water and impact explosions. From Fantastic Four # 95. It’s also interesting to see how the crackle can be seen as a visual extension of the four-color process — out of the perfect rows of dots that give a comic book it’s color, Jack’s crackle seems to pour out of the panels like energy that charges the printed pages with life.

By the 1970s, crackle was an integral part of every Kirby book, and inkers like Mike Royer — who were influenced by Joe Sinnott’s inks on Jack — worked hard very hard to maintain that high level of craftsmanship on the crackle, carefully making each circle perfectly cylindrical, so there was an almost mathematical precision in the undulating streams of flowing Kirby cosmic crackle that we can see for ourselves in the universe.

Here’s a page inked by Mike Royer from 2001: A Space Odyssey # 6.

I discussed Harry’s article here:

Kirby Crackle
Posted on September 5, 2011 by Rob Steibel

In my opinion, these are the four phases in the development of Jack’s crackle:

Phase One: Kirby/Simon Studio Smolder: Jack used circular and semi-circular shapes to depict backgrounds and energy, inked in different ways by the various Simon/Kirby staff-inkers producing various prototype crackle effects.

Phase Two: Kirby Smolder-Crackle: This is a transition from the smolder of the Simon/Kirby days of the 40s/50s to Jack’s distinctive 1960s/70s crackle. Jack was inking his own work in the late 1950s and he started to make these circular pencil shapes symbolizing energy more geometric.

Phase Three: Kirby/Sinnott Non-Geometric Crackle: Sinnott begins to make these swirling circular shapes into black polka dots, but they aren’t all perfect geometric circles yet and there are no white dots to provide contrast.

Phase Four: Pure Kirby/Sinnott Crackle: Joe makes each circle geometric, and carefully inks the open circles, providing stunning contrast between blacks and whites. Jack sees this effect works wonderfully well and he starts using it more and more in the mid-1960s. Jack continued to experiment with crackle throughout his career.

Here’s a great example of Kirby/Sinnott crackle from the Silver Surfer Graphic Novel (1978), pages 112 and 113.

You can see how Sinnott’s careful delineation of each circle charges the entire piece with energy. Sinnott also did a tremendous job inking all of Jack’s speed lines on those little cosmic bursts, and Joe would carefully add shadows to many of the smaller planets in the illustration — all of this combining to create the unique Kirby crackle effect that has become so famous.

Stan Lee Month

I’ll be wrapping up “Stan Lee Month” here at Kirby Dynamics soon as we near the cable premiere of his documentary With Great Power on March 27 on Epix. Thanks to everyone out there for all the great feedback on this series. I love talking about the Kirby/Lee authorship debate. It was fun speaking to all of you on Facebook and via email. I’m impressed with how even people out there who disagree with me were incredibly polite.

There are a few people out there who have me baffled, though. A couple of you act like I’m torturing poor Stan. A few of you are behaving like I’ve kidnapped a poor 90-year-old man and I have him tied to a chair and I’m electrocuting him.

Don’t you all understand that Stan Lee could care less about my stupid questions? Just listen to the way he laughs at Jack in this 1987 interview. If Stan Lee laughed at Jack Kirby when he tried to suggest he was involved in writing the stories? What do you think he would say about some obscure blogger? Lee doesn’t care what people like me have to say. He’s had 50 years to address this topic and he decided long ago to ignore any criticisms.

I realize the series did go on too long — such is the nature of blogging every day, concepts get spread out depending on how much free time I have — but I would hope even Lee’s most hardcore fans would understand what is happening in front of our eyes:

Stan Lee just used his POW! production company to do a documentary about himself. Apparently it’s a total fluff piece where we can look forward to about 2 hours of more Lee self-promotion. Wouldn’t it be a crying shame if there wasn’t someone somewhere out there in the cyberverse poking fun at this — pointing out that Lee is a hypocrite? Must we all march to the drumbeat of the PC police? Lee’s version of the history is not historically accurate — and he’s in charge of a documentary film about himself? What a joke.

So you know what? To the tiny handful of you out there weeping and wailing because I took a couple weeks to clearly show you all  that Jack probably wrote about 90% of the FF # 1 story, spare me the accusations I’m torturing an old man by posting questions for him online.

And no one is forcing him to read my questions or to answer them. In reality they are all rhetorical questions anyway. They are questions for you to answer. You go through all my questions for Lee and answer them. Guess what you’ll say when you’re done? “Yes, it’s possible Jack Kirby created the FF characters with Stan and it’s possible Jack wrote FF # 1 with Stan.” Some of you might even say it’s probable, or even an historical fact.

Don’t worry. Lee will survive my series of questions. He is having the time of his life now as his Avengers movies is about to come out. Lee’s like Uncle Scrooge swimming in his money. I guarantee he doesn’t give a damn about addressing Jack’s side of the story.

In the meantime, instead of badmouthing me for comparing the FF # 1 synopsis to the published FF # 1 book, why don’t some of you Lee fans do some research on Stan Lee. Look at all the books he did for Goodman from the 1940s through the 1950s and tell us what characters Lee created and tell us about some of his best stories. Tell us about the patterns in his creative life. Dig up some documents that prove your case. Then tell us what he did after Jack quit in 1960. Prove to us that Lee is indeed a solo-genius creator by showing us the stuff he created without Jack and Steve Ditko.

I won’t be holding my breath. I’m beginning to think this whole “Kirby Krusader” gimmick is simply the dying breath of the last few people out there willing to defend Stan Lee’s veracity. You have nothing else to add to the dialogue so you complain that your fearless leader is being attacked.

One more thing about this upcoming Lee documentary. I’m not going to pass judgement on it until I’ve seen it, but here’s an observation: I think many agree Lee/Kirby was a pretty important team in comics, and the period where Lee worked with Jack in the 1960s was a very important part of Lee’s life.

Just look at all the characters behind the “hero” on the movie poster (at the bottom of this post today) — those were all created by Jack Kirby during the 1960s (Spider-man, Dr. Strange, and the Vulture were created by Ditko). So I’m expecting to see a pretty significant chunk of this film focusing on that period and specifically on Lee’s relationship with Kirby.

Or am I crazy? Lee barely mentioned Jack in his “bio-autography.”

I believe Lee even badmouthed Jack in his autobiography suggesting Jack was crazy for thinking he worked on Spider-man (but I read Lee’s book long ago so maybe I got the quote mixed up). Stan’s book was about 256 pages, I think he discussed Jack for maybe 1 or 2 pages? I threw my copy in the garbage, so if anyone out there can pull the sections where Lee discussed Jack, I’d appreciate it.

I joked after I finished that book that reading the Stan Lee autobiography was like reading a 250 page book about Stan Laurel where only one page was spent discussing Oliver Hardy.

Reading the Stan Lee autobiography was like reading a 250 page book about Bud Abbott where only one page was spent discussing Lou Costello.

Reading the Stan Lee autobiography was like reading a 250 page book about Dean Martin where only one page was spent discussing Jerry Lewis.

Seriously, Lee’s autobiography was an absolute joke. Sure, I know Lee did lots of other stuff in his life besides work on comics with Jack in the 1960s, but how can you totally glaze over the most important creative 10-year period in a man’s life in an autobiography?

What if Paul McCartney worked with a ghostwriter on an autobiography about his whole life, and out of 250 pages only 1 or 2 mentioned John Lennon! Can you imagine! It’s inconceivable.

One of the reasons I write about Stan Lee is I am absolutely amazed by this guy. How does he get away with it? He is truly the ultimate con man.

I’ve never seen anyone pull the wool over so many eyes the way this guy has. And even though people know he isn’t telling the truth — they still love him. It’s a testament to the power of the Marvel machine, and a testament to the power these superhero characters have over people. It’s an amazing glimpse into how a human being can become a legend.

Well… maybe Lee will redeem himself with his self-produced documentary about himself? Or are we looking at another con job where Paris Hilton gets more face time than the guy who designed just about all those characters behind Lee in this movie poster…

Stan Lee: “I Created The Black Panther”

Here’s a video that’s going to make you Kirby Historians out there want to throw a shoe at your computer monitor. In this clip from his documentary film With Great Power, Stan Lee talks about how he wanted to see more black people in comic books so he decided to create Black Panther. No mention of Jack, of course…

I’m sure Lee really does believe he did create the Black Panther — as we saw in his Disney-Marvel vs Kirby testimony Lee feels that as editor if he approved a Kirby idea, he created that idea… it would just be nice of Lee to say “we” created Black Panther and mention Jack. Right? Or am I really being rude to poor Stan? Am I being a jerk for expecting he would at least mention Jack’s name in reference to a mid-60s supporting character like Black Panther? Or am I just ignorant?

Here’s Jack’s original design for the character, at that time Jack called him the Coal Tiger. Probably not a great name, but obviously Jack was a part of the creation process. I believe this piece may still be owned by Jack’s family. Jack may have come up with this totally on his own.

Here’s the piece that ran in the comics:

Here’s the rejected FF cover with the first appearance of the Panther where you can see part of his face.

The published cover featuring the first appearance of Jack’s Black Panther. Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966).

I doubt Stan Lee had anything to do with the creation of Black Panther aside from approving the idea and adding captions to Jack’s story.

I think Jack wanted to do a black superhero and he pitched the Coal Tiger. I don’t think Lee liked Jack’s first costume design or Jack’s name for the character, so Jack went back to the drawing board (or Jack decided to make the changes). Lee did not like one aspect of Jack’s second costume design, the face, so Lee had him cover the character’s entire face. Jack came up with the story and Lee added his text to it.

I’ve never heard anyone suggest before Lee consciously wanted to create a black superhero in 1966, so he created Black Panther. Plus Jack was handling the stories at that point, and had been doing so for about 2 and 1/2 years, so does anyone out there really think Lee suddenly decided to become a social activist and so he created Black Panther? I think this is another piece of Lee fiction. Yes, Lee did caption Jack’s story and ask for changes as editor — so I think he was a part of the creation process — but for him to suggest he came up with the idea of a black superhero and he created the character because of that… it’s just ridiculous and once again insulting to Jack.

Also notice the guy in the video (not sure who that is) also credits Lee with creating the Falcon. The Falcon first appeared in Captain America #117 (Sept. 1969). Here’s what Gene Colan (the guy who was working “Marvel Method” with Stan on the story) had to say on the subject. I highlighted the important part of the text in boldface.

Gene Colan: …in the late 1960s [when news of the] Vietnam War and civil rights protests were regular occurrences, and Stan, always wanting to be at the forefront of things, started bringing these headlines into the comics. … One of the biggest steps we took in this direction came in Captain America. I enjoyed drawing people of every kind. I drew as many different types of people as I could into the scenes I illustrated, and I loved drawing black people. I always found their features interesting and so much of their strength, spirit and wisdom written on their faces. I approached Stan, as I remember, with the idea of introducing an African-American hero and he took to it right away. … I looked at several African-American magazines, and used them as the basis of inspiration for bringing The Falcon to life. (Colan, Gene. “Introduction,” Marvel Masterworks: Captain American Volume 4, Marvel Publishing: New York, 2008, p. 2)

Gene Colan