My Interview Questions For Stan Lee. Part 4.1

Here are my final set of questions for Stan Lee discussing Fantastic Four # 1. I’m going to break this up into a set of 4 posts because if I make this one gigantic, long post, I don’t think anyone’s going to read it.

Before I start, let me say a few things. First, I realize I keep repeating the same question over and over in this final part of my interview with Stan Lee… but that’s my point. If Stan answers “yes” to even one of my questions, that means Lee is finally admitting it’s possible Jack helped create the Fantastic Four characters, and Lee is finally admitting it’s possible Jack helped write the first Fantastic Four story.

Secondly, I’m going to ask Lee about each individual story element in the published FF # 1 book. To me a story element is something in the story that you can describe. It might not be all that important (for example it could simply be people in a crowd yelling), but to me a story element is a part of the story that I would mention if I was describing the story to a blind person, so I’m going to cover everything.

I’d love to show you the art in the whole book here at Kirby Dynamics, but I don’t want to violate Marvel’s copyright of the material, and I assume probably all of you have a copy of the book at home anyway (maybe 20 copies, Marvel has reprinted that story so many times), so I encourage you all to break out your copy of FF # 1 as we go through the story — read it again for yourself comparing it to Lee’s FF # 1 synopsis. I will show a few panels for each post.

My scans are from one of the Masterworks reprints. Has anyone ever scanned the original published 1961 FF # 1 book? I’d love to use scans from that. If anyone out there has that, please send it in. And of course if the owner of the original art to FF # 1 wants to mail in scans of that, I wouldn’t complain. :) I stopped putting each one of my questions for Stan in quotes as I did in Parts 1 – 3 of the series — I think the text reads better without them. I hope my questions in boldface don’t seem like I’m shouting. I just want to break up the story elements from my questions and that method seemed to work.

Finally, in addition to seriously wanting to ask Lee these questions, this  final series of posts on FF # 1 is also what you would call a “sight gag.” Clearly there is no way Stan Lee gave Kirby every single one of these story elements. To even suggest he did is absurd. Obviously Jack Kirby played a pivotal role in the creation of Fantastic Four #1, but (aside from a few of Lee’s hardcore fans who like to argue) the only person on planet Earth who won’t admit this fact is Stan Lee.

And I know this might seem overly relentless, like I’m Perry Mason hammering a witness, but again, I really want to drive home the point that there are hundreds of story elements in FF # 1 that are not in Lee’s synopsis, and any one (or all) of them could have come from Jack Kirby.

My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 4.1

Page 1

Page 1

Stan, FF # 1 starts off with the faces of the characters in a box at the top of the page. In your synopsis you don’t direct Jack to do this. Was something like that a decision you relied on Jack to make? Also the look of the characters. Did you tell Jack to give Reed grey sideburns? Did you tell him to have Sue and Johnny with light-colored hair? I mean, Jack could have made Ben Grimm Asian, and Reed Richards black, and Sue and Johnny Mexicans. Was it just assumed they would all be typical conservative WASP characters? Or did you tell Jack to do that? These types of things are not in your synopsis.

Panel 1: FF # 1 starts with a big cloud of smoke over the city that says “Fantastic Four.” There are a bunch of people in the crowd panicked by the cloud. As a kid I thought that was kind of goofy. What kind of gun could make a flare that big and that complex? But it is dramatic and works great as a clever way to highlight the title.

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?

In panel 2, you have a bunch of cops reacting to the cloud.

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?

In panel 3, you have a gaunt character in silhouette holding a smoking gun. That mysterious character fired the flare. This is our first glimpse of Mr. Fantastic.

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 2

Panel 1: Sue Storm is drinking tea with a rich friend in a nice house. The friend is looking out the window.

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: Sue turns invisible while drinking tea.

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?

In your synopsis you mentioned you didn’t know whether to have Sue strip naked in order to be totally invisible, or because of the comics code you wondered whether she should turn invisible with her clothes on? Did you tell Jack what to do or did he decide?

Panel 3: Sue walks out the door, invisible. Her friend is in shock. She has no idea where Sue is. But why the shock? I mean, Sue could have gone into the kitchen to get some sugar while she was gawking out the window.

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?

And why would Sue do this? Why not just make up an excuse and leave? Why freak out her friend like that? I love the way the sequence works visually, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense storywise. But that’s why I loved comics like this as a kid. I love the wacky elements of the story. I enjoyed the fact that everything didn’t have to make sense in a comic. As a 10-year-old reading this in your Origins book, I thought the FF # 1 story was a lot of fun. And I think that all comes from Jack in the illustration phase. None of this humor is in your synopsis.

Panel 4: Going from left to right, there’s a guy who fell on the ground looking shocked, there’s a guy who dropped his hat and his briefcase, a woman is screaming, another guy in a doorman uniform is falling backwards with his hat flying off, and Sue Storm (who is invisible) is knocking the packages out of a guy’s hands.

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 reminds me a lot of a classic street scene in the first Invisible Man movie (1933) starring Claude Rains. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jack was paying homage to the film with that panel.

Jack’s story is more  like Abbott and Costello meet the Invisible Man (1951) than the dark “adult” comic you proposed in your FF synopsis, Stan, where the Thing lusts after his best friends girlfriend and wants to back-stab his 3 partners by preventing them from helping humanity. Jack’s story is light and freewheeling, not the lame overwrought melodrama you proposed.

You won’t admit Jack helped you create the Marvel Invisible Girl, but I hope you will admit you and Jack (and people like the makers of all the various Invisible Man movies) were all inspired by the HG Wells novella originally published in 1897. 

If you can admit Wells was an influence, why can’t you admit Jack may have also have been an influence? Jack might have pitched the character to you. Or maybe you two wanted to do Marvel versions of the classic monsters like Invisible Man and Frankenstein (Hulk). Why act like Jack had no part in the genesis of the character?

Panel 5: Sue sees an empty cab. She gets in without being seen.

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: the cab drives off. Sue is in the back seat, still invisible.

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 7: Still invisible, Sue hands him a bill, and asks to get out.

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?

Panle 7: the cabbie looks at the bill which looks like it’s floating in mid air and his cigar drops out of his mouth.

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 another bizarre story element. What are the odds the cabbie would drive exactly to where Sue wanted to go without being told to do so? This story element doesn’t make much common sense, but it is a great visual sequence. Jack was terrific at using facial expressions to convey information. It’s a nice little comedy routine – the hardened New York City cabbie who’s seen it all dealing with a character who is invisible.

People are always talking about how you brought “humor” to Jack’s stories, but I think a tremendous amount of the humor is in Jack’s visuals. This is a great example of that. There are a million ways to introduce a character that turns invisible — and while Jack’s may not make common sense, it’s certainly funny and  memorable.

Page 3

Panels 1 – 3: The cabbie can’t believe there is a bill floating in front of him.

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 4: The cabbie speeds off. Sue is left standing there with the dollar bill invisible.

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?

In her thought balloon we learn Sue stayed invisible the whole time to test her power. It’s a strange test to freak out her friend and a NYC cabbie, but it does give some logic to the scene.

Part 4.2 tomorrow.