My Interview Questions for Stan Lee Part 3: Chapter Breaks

In My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 1, among other things I asked Stan about the creation of Fantastic Four and the similarities between the Fantastic Four and the Challengers of the Unknown. In My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 2, I went through the Fantastic Four # 1 synopsis with Lee in detail. For this final part of the interview, which I’m going to break up in segments because it may go on for a few days, I’m going to ask Lee about the published version of Fantastic Four # 1. Today I’m going to focus on Stan’s suggestions for chapter breaks in FF # 1.

My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 3: Chapter Breaks

“Stan, in your original synopsis for FF # 1 (1961), you told Jack that this synopsis covered 11 pages and those pages were supposed to be broken up into 2 chapters: ‘Chapter One: 6 pages, Chapter Two: 5 pages.’ In the published book, Chapter One is 13 pages. So did Jack ignore your directions? Or is it possible Jack was in charge of pacing the story and you were offering him suggestions that were not set in stone? Is it possible Jack decided how long to make this first chapter based on the story he was telling?”

“At the end of your synopsis for FF # 1, there is some text at the end of the document that is a little hard to read. You crossed out some of the numbers and penciled in new numbers. This is what I think your text says: ‘The next two chapters, in which the Fantastic Four undertakes their first case will (also) be two chapters (two has been crossed out and you wrote a 3 under it) for a (totals) total of 10  (it looks like the number 10 was crossed out and replaced with 13) pages. (pages) (?) (?) (chapters) (3, 5, 5).’ “

“So it looks like initially you wanted the 2nd half of FF # 1 to be two chapters with a total of 10 pages, then you changed your mind to three chapters with 13 pages (Chapter Three being 3 pages, Chapter Four being 5 pages, and Chapter Five being 5 pages). So at this point you have the first part of FF # 1 at 11 pages and part 2 is 13 pages which equals 24 pages out of a 25 page story.”

“Stan, your page count notes are confusing, they don’t add up to a 25-page book and they are crossed-out and new ones are scribbled onto the page therefore hard to read — Jack must have had one hell of a time trying to figure out what exactly it was that you wanted. In reality, for the second half of FF # 1 Jack gave you two chapters, not three — both of Jack’s chapters are 6 pages. Is it possible Jack was the one who decided to change the number of chapters in the second half of FF # 1 and Jack decided to change the number of pages in each chapter?”

“Stan, reading your FF # 1 synopsis, it almost seems like you are having a problem piecing together a 25-page book. Had you done other 25-page books in the past? Maybe you were inexperienced with this type of format and that is why you ended up crossing out all those numbers and replacing them with new numbers — then your numbers did not add up and were not even used? It’s almost as if you felt you should give Jack some arbitrary page counts just to give him some guidance and justify your role as the ‘writer’ without considering Jack actually had to pace the story. Instead of relying on your scratched-out, mixed-up page counts, Jack broke it up into logical chapters based on the actual needs of the story. In fact, is it possible it might have actually been Jack’s idea to use the chapter breaks in the first place and this is why clearly you are having a very hard time with that format?”

Here’s a recent comment sent into Kirby Dynamics by comics historian Mike Gartland. Mike is the author of the “A Failure to Communicate” series for The Jack Kirby Collector.

Mike Gartland:

About this synopsis: one thing that always bothered me was that stories weren’t done in chapters by Lee until Kirby came along and incorporated them in the monster stories. Jack was doing stories this way for years. I could be wrong of course, but if Lee wrote the synopsis without input from Jack, why would he break it down into chapters ala Kirby? To me this is a telling example that, if the synopsis is real, then Lee must have worked out the plot with Kirby, because the story is broken down the way Jack would do it. In my opinion if Kirby didn’t have any input, as Lee attests, then the synopsis was typed after the story was drawn; as Jack attests!

“Jack also suggested that this synopsis has a questionable history. Is it possible this document may have actually been written after Fantastic Four # 1 was illustrated by Jack? At the very least you have to admit it’s possible you and Jack might have discussed using chapter breaks — clearly you were having a hard time breaking the book up in that fashion — so is it safe to say Jack may have played a key role in deciding the format of that book, and executing the format of this book in terms of using chapter breaks?”

“Here is a comparison between what you suggested for FF # 1 and what ended up in the published book:”

Stan Lee’s Suggestions for Jack  (FF # 1 Synopsis Page Count)

Chapter 1  (6  pages)

Chapter 2  (5 pages)

Chapter 3 (3 pages)

Chapter 4 (5 pages)

Chapter 5 (5 pages)

Total: 24 pages (the published book was 25 pages)

Jack Kirby’s Illustrated Story (FF # 1 Synopsis Page Count)

Chapter 1 (13 pages)

Chapter 2 (6 pages)

Chapter 3 (6 pages)

Total: 25 pages (the published book was 25 pages)

“Notice, Stan, that in your proposed second half of FF # 1, you would have had one extraordinarily short chapter. Chapter Three would only be 3 pages. That would have been very awkward pacing. Notice Jack’s chapter breaks for the second half of FF # 1 are nicely balanced — 6 pages and 6 pages.”

“In the first part of FF # 1, there is actually a fairly natural place to put another chapter break between pages 8 and 9.”

Fantastic Four # 1, page 8, panel 6

“The final panel of page 8 could have served as the end of an 8-page story or the end of an 8-page chapter, and marks a clear transition between pages 1 – 8 (that introduce the characters), then pages 9 – 13 (that present the origin). So even the long first chapter is well-balanced by Jack. Is it possible Jack made these final decisions in the illustration phase? Clearly the directions you gave Jack are completely different than the artwork he turned in. Don’t you think it was probably Jack that brought some order to this chaos? Don’t you think Jack’s more balanced approach works better than the unbalanced one you suggested?”

“Don’t you think Jack’s contributions in this regard were a tremendous contribution to the FF # 1 story? Clearly you couldn’t even decide on something as basic as the number of chapters in the story or the number of pages for each chapter, so why do you still claim you created the Fantastic Four characters alone and you wrote the first issue of Fantastic Four alone when it’s obvious Jack was heavily involved in the process, right down to something as simple as deciding chapter breaks?”