My Interview Questions For Stan Lee. Part 4.4
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.