The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part three

Michael Hill sent us this article, as well the Interviews piece we published in June, for consideration for The Kirby Effect. We’re publishing it here in 3 parts with comments disabled – Rand Hoppe. With thanks to Steven Brower.

Articles in this series:
* Interviews
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part one
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part two
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part three (you are here!)

Lee the Creator

Tom Crippen: 1

People compare Lee-Kirby and Lennon-McCartney. I think that misses the point. It was more like Jimi Hendrix was in a band with whoever did the words for “Incense and Peppermints.” Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko (the label’s Syd Barrett, I guess) had talent. Lee had knacks: for putting words on pictures, for peanut gallery banter, for gimmicky ear prodding, verbal drumrolls, the hey-gang tone, mock grandiosity… Now he makes a handsome living as an icon while pretending to be a creator. Being Stan Lee means saying the artists do the pictures first and then you put on the balloons, and your wife said to you why not do a story you want to do, and Kirby was the best, a splendid imagination, and comics do a lot for getting young people to read.

From Neal Kirby’s deposition: 2

FLEISCHER Do you have any basis to contradict Mr. Lee’s testimony that the concept for the Iron Man character was his?

A Do I have any basis for that? I have the basis that I know my father’s creativity versus Mr. Lee’s creativity and Mr. Lee was an excellent marketer, he was an excellent manager, excellent self-promoter. I honestly don’t believe he had any creative ability.

Q Do you feel that Mr. Lee’s testimony in some way diminished the contribution that your father made to the various characters that he worked on at Marvel?

A Diminished I think is – I think diminished is the least of it. I think Stan Lee is kind of rewriting history…

Steve Ditko: 3

Such is the power of a prestigious public spotlight and blind faith.

Stan Taylor: 4

Stan Lee says “all the concepts were mine” (Village Voice, Vol.32 #49, Dec. 1987). It is his contention that he singly produced a script [for Spider-Man], offered it to Jack Kirby, and when he didn’t like the look of Kirby’s rendition, he then offered it to Steve Ditko. Can he be believed? Not really. Stan would go so far (or stoop so low!) as to claim that a minor character named The Living Eraser from Tales to Astonish #49 was his creation. This character, had the dubious distinction of being able to wave people out of existence with a swipe of his hand. “I got a big kick out of it when I dreamed up that idea,” Lee is quoted as saying (Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, pg. 97). He then further embellishes this tale by stating how hard it was to come up with an explanation for this power. The fact is, this ignoble power and explanation, first appear in a Jack Kirby story from Black Cat Mystic #59 (Harvey Publications, Sept. 1957). If Lee will take credit for an obvious minor Kirby creation such as The Living Eraser, which nobody cares about, then he certainly would take credit for another’s creation that has become the company’s cash cow.

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Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon (between 1952 and 1955 Keyes was a prolific contributor to Stan Lee’s fantasy/horror line): 5

MURRAY: Stan Lee is today considered one of the great comic book writers. Was he writing many comics in those days?

KEYES: Not to my knowledge. He edited, I guess. He was a businessman, as far as I was concerned. And a shy businessman is almost an oxymoron. I’ve never thought of Stan as a writer at all. So that surprises me. Of course, he might have been turning in comics for a few extra bucks, doing it under pen names so that Martin Goodman wouldn’t know about it. I never thought of Stan as a writer. He says that he created Spider-Man. I never thought of him as a creative person. It could be that one of the writers created it and sent in a synopsis. And it got picked up. But of course he’s become a multi-millionaire for that stuff.

Richard Kyle: 6

By the way, in discussing just what Jack did and what Stan did, no one seems to refer to that SHIELD story in Strange Tales #148, mentioned by the San Diego panel in another connection. In an editorial, Lee mentions specifically that Jack was going to write the story while Stan took a vacation. I recall turning to the story, wondering if it would be different from the regular SHIELD yarns, and being a little surprised that it read the same as the others—which I had believed Lee wrote. Consequently, I wasn’t surprised when Lee’s attempts to write the FF after Jack left were not only poor but completely unlike any of the Fantastic Four stories done under Jack. By that time, I realized that Lee was simply a dialogue writer, not a story writer—much like the “title-writers” in silent movies, many of whom were extremely talented (and often touched with genius) and highly paid, but whose work was after the fact of the actual creation of the story and filming.

1989 [Groth] 7

KIRBY: Stan was a very rigid type. At least, he is to me. That’s how I sized him up. He’s a very rigid type, and he gets what he wants when the advantage is his. He’s the kind of a guy who will play the advantages. When the advantage isn’t his at all, he’ll lose. He’ll lose with any creative guy. And I could never see Stan Lee as being creative. The only thing he ever knew was he’d say this word “Excelsior!”

Lee’s Inspiration

[see the “Interviews” post for Kirby’s Inspiration]

Thor

From Origins: 8

The only one who could top the heroes we already had would be Super-God, but I didn’t think the world was quite ready for that concept yet. So it was back to the ol’ drawing board.

I must have gone through a dozen pencils and a thousand sheets of paper in the days that followed, making notes and sketches, listing names and titles, and jotting down every type of superpower I could think of. But I kept coming back to the same ludicrous idea: the only way to top the others would be with Super-God.

As far as I can remember, Norse mythology always turned me on. There was something about those mighty, horn-helmeted Vikings and their tales of Valhalla, of Ragnarok, of the Aesir, the Fire Demons, and immortal, eternal Asgard, home of the gods. If ever there was a rich lode of material into which Marvel might dip, it was there—and we would mine it.

Historians of the future will wish to note that Larry Lieber acquiesced when asked if he’d pen a new superhero strip for the greater glory of Marveldom. Let the record also show that Jack Kirby did likewise when offered the illustrating chore.

Assorted characters

From Stan Lee’s depositions [emphasis mine]: 9

QUINN: Tell me to the best you can recall, how did the idea for the Fantastic Four come about, and who they were, and what was the back story with regard to the Fantastic Four.

A. Well, as I mentioned, Martin Goodman asked me to create a group of heroes because he found out that National Comics had a group that was selling well. So I went home, and I thought about it, and I – I wanted to make these different than the average comic book heroes.

Q. Let’s talk a little bit about the Spider-Man. How did the idea for Spider-Man come about?

A. Again, I was looking for – Martin said, “We’re doing pretty good. Let’s get some more characters.” So I was trying to think of something different.

Q. And could you tell us how The Incredible Hulk came about? What was your idea for him?

A. Well, same thing. I was trying to – it was my job to come up with new characters and to expand the line as much as I could. So I was trying to think again what can I do that’s different.

Q. Tell us about how Iron Man came about, how he was created, the back story with regard to Iron Man.

A. I will try to make it shorter. It was the same type of thing. I was looking for somebody new.

Q. And how Thor was created and what was your idea behind Thor.

A. Same thing. I was looking for something different and bigger than anything else.

Q. Daredevil. I want to hear about the lawyer.

A. Again I’m trying to think of what can I do that hasn’t been done. And it occurred to me –

Q. Keeping with our discussion, could you tell us about the creation of X-Men? How did that come about?

A. Again, Martin asked me for another team because the Fantastic Four had been doing well. And again I wanted to try something different.

Q. Who created Ant-Man?

A. What could I do that was different?

voice

Nick Fury

From Lee’s depositions: 10

Q. Next Nick Fury. Tell us about Nick Fury.

A. Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. There was a television series called The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that I used to watch and I liked it. And I thought it would be fun to get something like that as a comic book.

So I remembered we had done a war series called Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, Stories of World War II. And it was quite popular. I don’t really like war stories, so after a few years of doing it I asked Martin if we could drop the book so we could concentrate on superheroes. And he said okay. But we got a lot of fan mail. The kids loved the characters. And we kept reprinting those books, and they sold as well as the originals.

So when I wanted to do the thing like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I thought why don’t I take that popular Sgt. fury that was years ago in World War II, why don’t I say he’s older now and he’s a colonel, and he’s in charge of this new outfit that I made up, S.H.I.E.L.D, which stood for the Supreme Headquarters International Law Enforcement Division. So I took Sgt. Fury, who now has a patch over one eye, and made him in charge of this group.

And again, there was Jack Kirby. I said, “How would you like to draw Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. And it was right up Jack’s alley. He loves that kind of stuff. And he came up with all kind of weapons and things.

As of May 2015, the official version of Nick Fury’s creation differs from Lee’s sworn testimony. Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, quoted on Marvel’s website: 11

“Jack Kirby first broached the idea of doing a modern day strip with Nick Fury, and he produced a two-page ‘pilot sequence’ to show to Stan Lee, titled ‘The Man Called D.E.A.T.H.,’” he says. “Stan liked the idea of a modern day Fury strip, but reworked the basic concept with Kirby to create NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. And that two-page pilot story was never used. In fact, when Jim Steranko turned up at Marvel looking for work, Stan gave it to him as an inking test, which is why those pages are inked by Steranko.”

Kirby the Creator

Joe Sinnott: 12

I got to know Jack Kirby’s work and remarkable creativity quite well and witnessed his characters and stories as they evolved. There is no question in my mind that Jack Kirby was the driving creative force behind most of Marvel’s top characters today including “The Fantastic Four,” “The Mighty Thor,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “X-Men” and “The Avengers.” The prolific Kirby was literally bursting with ideas and these characters and stories have all the markings of his fertile and eclectic imagination.

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Jim Woodring: 13

He was like a wild spraying geyser of the substance we struggled pitifully to evoke in driblets. Even those among us who had never read superhero comics and saw Jack without his aura, so to speak, stood in awe of him. He was more than a master; he was the comic book impulse incarnate.

We loved to draw him out in conversation because he was completely unpredictable; his mind was nimble and unfettered by convention. I never heard him tell an anecdote that was not heavily spiced with benign absurdity. As with his drawing, there was something preciously fragile about his sledgehammer approach to storytelling. One sensed that a hard life had made Jack tough, but that the great child’s heart of which he was the custodian had been sheltered and saved at all costs, and that this heart was the force that drove him.

Jim Steranko: 14

More than anyone around him, Kirby was aware of the magnitude of his contributions, yet he never evidenced a moment of public arrogance or conceit.

From Neal Kirby’s deposition: 15

FLEISCHER Of your own firsthand knowledge do you know whether the concept for the Spider-Man character and the basic powers of a Spider-Man character were conceptualized initially by Stan Lee or someone else?

A Well, I would say my firsthand knowledge, my first guess would be my father just because of his – just his knowledge of science, his use of science fiction in stories, just in his if you want to call it pattern, for lack of a better word, of how do you get a human to have super powers, you know, without direct intervention from God. Well, the best way to do it was somehow altering DNA which was the big thing at the time with the Cold War going on and so on.

Q Did your father ever tell you that he was the sole creative force at Marvel during his tenure there?

A I don’t recall him using – again, my father would have been too humble a person to even word anything like that but I know in discussions it just, to me, he certainly seemed that way.

Q What information, if any, do you have concerning the creation of The Fantastic Four?

A In discussions with my father The Fantastic Four basically was a derivative of the, from what he told me, basically he came up with the idea just as a derivative from the Challengers of the Unknown that he had done several years earlier.

Q Apart from the specific instance that you recall with respect to Fantastic Four, can you recall the specifics of any of those instances where your father relayed to you statements made to him or others by Stan Lee that were the subject of concern to your father?

A I can remember one instance, again I do not recall if it was a print interview or, you know, on-the-air interview or what it might have been, but I do recall one instance involving the creation of Thor and I guess Stan had taken – he had created that and my father was very upset about that. He said Thor was his idea, his creation. Honestly, given my father’s interest in mythology and Norse mythology and, again, biblical history and all kind of history, that kind of thing just flowed out of his mind. I mean, to me just from my knowledge of comic history, and I’m not a comic historian by any means, but my knowledge of it and my personal history, the thought of Stan Lee, honestly, coming up with concepts of, you know, Thor, Loki and Ragnarok, The Rainbow Bridge and every other part of Norse mythology coming out of Stan Lee’s mind is relatively inconceivable.

Stan Goldberg (interview with Jim Amash): 16

Jack would sit there at lunch and tell us all these great ideas about what he was going to do next. It was like the ideas were bursting from every pore of his body. It was very fascinating because he was a fountain of ideas.

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Ken Viola: 17

When I first began the journey to make my 1987 film The Masters of Comic Book Art, I had no idea it would end up being about The Storyteller — artists who both drew and wrote. It is the supreme challenge of the artist and their ability to tell the story — to break it down visually, in terms of content, time, space, action, emotion, reflection… et al. The accomplishment of that goal is to take the personal and private experience of the artist and give it to the reader. To then be able to communicate that same spark of life to the masses is the rarest of gifts. That achievement is Jack Kirby’s life’s work.

Stan Taylor: 18

Jack Kirby was a conceptualist, an idea man, he felt that creation was the coming up of new ideas.

Michael Vassallo: 19

Only Kirby could have launched the Marvel universe because all the concepts came from him.

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Funky Flashman

In Mister Miracle #6, Kirby unleashed a brilliant send-up of Stan Lee called “Funky Flashman.” Lou Mougin called it “one of Kirby’s best satires.” 20 (Mougin knew Kirby was no stranger to satire — 1967’s “This is a Plot?” in Fantastic Four Special #5 was filled with Kirby visual gags, including a book on Lee’s desk entitled Shakespeare Made Simple, perfectly encapsulating Lee’s Thor dialogue.) “Funky Flashman” is a tour de force, showcasing Kirby’s literary abilities as well as his exquisite eye for caricature, and proof that no one was ever better positioned or equipped to give Lee the treatment.

villain

Stephen Bissette: 21

Kirby’s and Ditko’s work after departing Marvel was inherently reactionary, at first. Both writer/artists explicitly autopsied and rejected many of the core principles of the work they’d done at Marvel, countering the compromised heroes of the Marvel Silver Age, and even personifying and vilifying Lee himself via gross caricature (see Kirby’s Funky Flashman character in Mister Miracle). Ditko’s and Kirby’s conscious rejection, even vilification, of key characteristics of their collaborative work with Lee arguably and necessarily eschewed any emulation of Lee’s writing strengths and style.

shadowIn the opening sequence, Funky is taking “bread” out of the mouth of a bust that resembles Kirby. This could be a reference to an event like an increase in Kirby’s page rate—on one such occasion it enabled him to stop doing layouts and cut back on his penciling page count, reducing Lee’s take for Kirby’s writing to just over half what it was.

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Kirby examines Funky’s attitude toward the talent.

Roy Thomas once remarked, “Stan is always ‘on’…” 22

Like Funky, the real Stan Lee occasionally comes through with shocking results.

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Funky loves the sound of his own voice. Kirby mentioned Lee’s recording device in the Pitts interview. 23

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Funky turns out to be a bit of a sexist. In addition to being credited with promoting comic books to teach literacy to young children, Lee gutted Kirby’s strong female characters to allow them to demonstrate traditional gender roles to an impressionable audience.

After causing the estate to go up in flames, Funky heads for Hollywood. Kirby injects another comment regarding the treatment of the talent at the family-run operation.

cyclopean

ROY: 24 I said to Jack, “I don’t take the Houseroy stuff that personally, because you don’t know me. My relationship to Stan was somewhat like what you said, and partly it’s just a caricature because I was there. And the name ‘Houseroy’ is clever as hell, and I kinda like it.” I’m even a sympathetic character because I got tossed to the wolves. (laughter)

Funky had forerunners in the 1960s. Joe Simon depicted him as Sam Me in a 1966 issue of Sick Magazine 25, and Stan Bragg appeared in Angel and the Ape #2 (1968). 26

SamMe

In both cases, the character took delight in signing his name to other people’s work. Physically, Stan Bragg and his sidekick are the Funky and Houseroy characters reversed, perhaps to add a layer of deniability. Plotting and scripting are credited to Sergio Aragones and Bob Oksner, but it’s not hard to imagine editor Joe Orlando’s input based on his own experience with Lee.

What Makes Stanley Run?

1986 [Pitts] 27

PITTS: Why did you leave the F.F. and Marvel that first time?

KIRBY: Because I could see things changing and I could see that Stan Lee was going in directions that I couldn’t. I came in one night and there was Stan Lee talking into a recording machine, sitting in the dark there. It was strange to me and I felt that we were going in different directions… I realized I was creating something I didn’t want to create. Did you ever read What Makes Sammy Run by Budd Schulberg?

PITTS: No.

KIRBY: Read What Makes Sammy Run. Sammy, in that book, is the kind of a character you wouldn’t want to be responsible for developing. I felt that I was developing a Sammy– which I was, in Stan Lee. I felt it was my time to go.

PITTS: You’re very cryptic, Mr. Kirby.

Sammy

What Makes Sammy Run? 28

Sammy was waiting for them when they got home. With a face full of bad news. “Tough luck, kid,” he said. “I’m afraid your scenes didn’t go over like I thought they would.”

When the script was finished and Sammy was waiting for his next assignment, Julian didn’t like to sit around without writing so he started working on an original called Country Doctor because he thought it would help Sammy plead his case at the studio.

Julian wrote easily, and it was his sort of stuff, simple and human, and he had it finished in a week. For the next three days he wondered whether it was good enough to show Sammy. He had decided it wasn’t when Sammy came to him and said, “Say, I read that yarn of yours Blanche showed me. It’s pretty fair–got a couple of nice moments. I’ll see what I can do with it.”

“Well,” Julian said, “weeks went by and it looked like he’d forgotten all about my story, so I started helping him with his next screenplay because there didn’t seem to be anything better to do. And then one day Blanche happened to be reading through the trade paper and found this:

He handed me a ragged little clipping. I was beginning to feel like a district attorney. “Exhibit B,” I said.

Sammy was running through the room again as I started to read: “Sammy Glick makes it two in a row as his latest original, Country Doctor…” and handed the squib back.

“I guess you must have thought I was a little shell-shocked when you saw me after the preview last night. Well, maybe I was. Because that picture was the biggest shock in my life, Mr. Manheim. How do you think you’d feel going in to a movie cold and suddenly starting to realize you’re hearing all your own scenes?”

“The whole picture,” Julian was saying. “All those scenes I thought I was just doing for practice–actually showing on the screen–all mine–every line, mine–you know what I felt like doing, Mr. Manheim? I felt like jumping up right in the middle and screaming. I wanted to tell everybody there that the only line Glick wrote on Girl Steals Boy was the byline on the cover…”

There was no bitterness or anger in Julian’s story. It was full of mild wonder and deep resignation.

Wallace Wood paid tribute to What Makes Sammy Run?, likening Lee to Sammy Glick with his title “What makes Stanley run?” 29 Michael T. Gilbert described it like this: 30

Eventually [Kirby, Ditko and Wood] realized they were effectively co-writing the comics, but without extra credit or extra pay. Wood addressed this very topic in a bitter 1977 article for his Woodwork Gazette newsletter. He described an editor “Stanley” who “came up with two surefire ideas… the first one was ‘Why not let the artists WRITE the stories as well as draw them?’… And the second was… ALWAYS SIGN YOUR NAME ON TOP… BIG.”

The recording machine Kirby mentioned makes an appearance in “Funky Flashman.” Did he accurately capture Lee’s words from that night when he wrote, “Naturally, as your leader, my faithful pets, I can only say… and get this gem…”? Or did he overhear something more sinister? Based on the context of the Sammy reference, Lee might have been reading Kirby plots and ideas into the device.

The “notorious” TCJ interview

Patrick Ford on the interview: 31

The interview is a conversation. In conversation there is almost always use of hyperbole, comments which are exaggerated for humor (even if it’s an insulting humor), and comments which might be understood by the participants but might not be understood by the reader. Far from being angry Kirby was about as even tempered and sweet as any person in the history of the form. In no way does he have a reputation for being bitter or angry. There are numerous video clips of the man anyone can look at and he comes across as soft spoken, controlled, whimsical, anything but angry.

Gary Groth on the interview: 32

Jack’s comments about Stan revealed a lot about Jack’s recollection. I don’t know if his recollections were literally accurate; I guess nobody knows but Jack and Stan, but it certainly reflects how Jack perceived that, and I thought that was important. There’s a section where Jack said Stan didn’t write anything. I don’t think that’s literally true; I think from Jack’s point of view that’s true, because Jack felt he wrote the comic by pacing it, and drawing it, and writing the descriptions in the margins; he considered that writing. And you have to accept that as Jack’s perception, and you have to read between the lines. I think that also reflected a lot of bitterness on Jack’s part, and that revealed the extent of his resentment. He felt betrayed. I also think there was Stan’s public attitude that Jack took offense at, in the sense that Stan took too much credit. There was a feeling that Jack felt betrayed because Stan didn’t stand up for him; that Jack gave all the creative energy he could to Marvel, and he got f*cked as a result.

Neal Kirby on the interview: 33

Though my opinion may be viewed by some as non-objective, I can say that my father spoke the truth in this interview.

When Charles Hatfield declared as his proof, “Lee explicitly denied all this years later,” he went further: 34

In any case [Kirby’s] account seems self-mythologizing and is hard to credit. At one point Kirby refers to Lee as being “just still out of his adolescence,” which is inaccurate, and characterizes him as helpless and childlike, which is unlikely.

Hatfield’s reading of Kirby’s comment is pedantic. Kirby had known Lee since Stan was an adolescent, and was making a comment about his character rather than a statement of fact. A better choice of words would have been, “It’s like he never grew up.” The Kurtzmans had some observations to that effect. Paul Wardle: 35

Harvey Kurtzman claimed that Lee would return his original art to him (strips such as Hey! Look! that Timely published in the 1940s) only after drawing a big “X” through them with a black grease pencil. He also said Lee would sit on top of a filing cabinet and force the employees to bow to him on their way to work. Stan was reportedly an “enfant terrible” in those days, having been promoted when still a teenager by publisher Martin Goodman after the departure of Simon and Kirby.

Adele Kurtzman: 36

He would blow a whistle and everyone would have to start drawing. Frank Giacoia was busy reading The Daily News when this happened, so Stan sent him home. I guess artists were notorious goof-offs.

Hatfield’s charge of self-mythologizing shows Lee’s “history” is so pervasive it’s mistaken for the truth. After he’s spent decades repeating his version of events, Lee’s account is widely taken as fact. (It’s been disputed by Kirby, Ditko, Wood and other creators, but that only served to get them labeled: Liar, Unreliable, Eccentric, Drunk, Bitter, Demented, Senile. The moment one of them is quoted disagreeing with Lee’s claims, the label is the automatic response.) Hatfield has got the players reversed… it would have been closer to the mark if he’d called Lee the self-mythologizer, and stated Kirby used the interview to explicitly deny all of Lee’s claims. Lee’s denial should be taken as an outright endorsement of everything Kirby said.

In a fresh introduction to the interview when it was reprinted in the first volume of The TCJ Library, Groth added the caution, “Some of Kirby’s more extreme statements (e.g., ‘I’ve never seen Stan Lee write anything’) should be read with a grain of salt…” 37 The line has been used to discredit any or all of Kirby’s “claims” in the interview. On the occasion of its posting on the TCJ website, for instance, a commenter recalled Groth as saying “some of Jack’s claims… weren’t exactly true.” Dan Nadel replied, 38 “That’s not accurate. Gary Groth published a note saying that some of the claims were possibly exaggerated (Groth never said they were not true), a thought I echoed upon publishing this on Monday.”

Groth later added, “when I said that Kirby’s claims were excessive, I did not mean to say that Kirby’s claim to have ‘written’ his Marvel work was not without merit, only that, as I recall, such claims as his that Lee never wrote a thing in his life were, well, obviously excessive.” 39 Even during the interview Groth made it clear his disclaimer would be unlikely to support the broader interpretation.

1989 [Groth] 40
GROTH: At the risk of sounding partisan, let me ask you this: every time I read something by Stan or see Stan speak publicly, I’m struck by how obvious a bullshit artist he is. Was he always that way?
ROZ KIRBY: Yeah.

The only comments on Kirby’s part that call for scrutiny are the ones to which Groth refers, above. “I’ve never seen Stan Lee write anything… If Stan Lee ever got a thing dialogued, he would get it from someone working in the office. I would write out the whole story on the back of every page. I would write the dialogue on the back or a description of what was going on. Then Stan Lee would hand them to some guy and he would write in the dialogue.” 41

If the words “for all I know” are taken as implied, everything Kirby said becomes true. Prior to his 1970 departure, Kirby would have been aware that “some guy in the office,” namely Roy Thomas, was doing precisely that on books which Lee had grown tired of dialoguing, or had lost the plotting credit but was still being credited for editing. Thomas states 42 that Lee’s editing on his books was of the hands-off, sight unseen variety.

Fantastic Four #6 is an interesting study: in a Kirby Collector article, 43 Mike Breen shows that Kirby dialogued it himself, and suggests Lee was an absentee editor that month. Dick Ayers, the inker on the issue, once described  his reaction to learning his “Kirby/Ayers” signature was being whited out in production. 44 In this case it was replaced with Lee’s “Stan Lee + J. Kirby” at the beginning of all five chapters, despite the lack of evidence that Lee even laid eyes on the book. There is, however, no question who received the writer’s pay and the editor’s salary for FF #6.

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There is photographic evidence that Lee spent time with some of the pages; some even bear notes and comments in his handwriting. To state, however, with no eyewitness corroboration, that he wrote the copy himself, would be to fall into the same trap that was decried at the beginning of part one of this article. Let’s hedge our bets against some Marvel office worker coming forward in the future to lay claim to the task. To use Lee’s qualifying words to Jonathan Ross regarding Ditko’s creatorship, 45 “I consider” Stan Lee to be the one who added the dialogue and captions.

Filling in the balloons, connecting the dots

Like Piscine Molitor Patel in Life of Pi, Stan Lee is the myth-making, untrustworthy narrator in The Marvel Story. In opposition to Lee’s version of events, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko have provided interviews and writings that form a historical record of immeasurable value based on their first-hand accounts. These are consistent internally and with each other’s, and with those of other of Marvel’s designated pariahs from the 1960s.

Everyone from fans to scholars claims Lee’s genius was the ability to surround himself with artistic talent. In reality, it was the ability to recruit writer-artists who were desperate enough to put up with, not just Marvel’s poor page rates, but also having their pay appropriated for the writing they did. Lee had a tremendous effect on the product Marvel ultimately published, not all of it positive, but his creative work began on Kirby’s books when Kirby first relinquished the pages to him. Lee then made his mark by adding his unique dialogue and by demanding redraws to reconfigure stories in a way that made sense to him.

Stan Lee encourages the belief that the proliferation of margin notes on Kirby’s pages marked the point where Kirby came into his own, plotting-wise, but Stan Taylor proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Kirby plotted the earliest issues of the superhero revival. Other evidence confirms Kirby’s contention that he always did his own plotting.

In his deposition creation accounts, Lee’s stated motivation in every case was the desire to create something different. Astonishingly, none of the creations actually were different. Jack Kirby never said he was trying to do something different, he often simply did a thing that was the same as something he’d already done. The idea that Lee’s “different” creations somehow coincidentally always turned out the same as older Kirby concepts is somewhat improbable.

Kirby portrayed the story conference as the place where he would tell Lee what was happening in the story. Looking at what came out of it, he was being modest. The story conference was where Jack Kirby spun plots for all the stories, even those he wouldn’t draw. Not only did he plot the stories, he created the characters, and he brought superheroes back to Marvel to enable Goodman’s comics division to return from the brink of oblivion. His closed-door meetings with Lee were where he pulled back the curtain on his work to reveal the Marvel Universe to an audience of one.

When Stan Lee wrote the captions and the dialogue based on Kirby’s margin notes, sometimes he used Kirby’s words. At the very least, the Kirby Version should be given the same consideration as the Lee Version, and when we tell the Jack Kirby story, we can’t go wrong using Kirby’s words.

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Articles in this series:
* Interviews
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part one
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part two
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part three (you are here!)

Footnotes

Repetition of citations allows linking back to individual quotes.

back 1 Tom Crippen, “Stan,” The Hooded Utilitarian, 30 September 2008 (originally ran in The Comics Journal, February 2008).

back 2 Neal Kirby deposition, 30 June 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit G.

back 3 Steve Ditko, “A Mini-History 13: Speculation,” The Comics, v14n8, August 2003.

back 4 Stan Taylor, “Spider-Man: The Case for Kirby,” 2003. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 5 Daniel Keyes interviewed by Will Murray, Alter Ego #13, March 2002.

back 6 Richard Kyle, letter to the editor, The Jack Kirby Collector #13, December 1996.

back 7 Jack Kirby interviewed by Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 8 Stan Lee, Origins of Marvel Comics, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1974.

back 9 Stan Lee deposition, 13 May 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit I, and 8 December 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit J.

back 10 Stan Lee deposition, 13 May 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit I, and 8 December 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit J.

back 11 Tj Dietsch, “C2E2 2015: S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Comics News blog, Marvel.com, 26 April 2015.

back 12 Joe Sinnott declaration, 25 March 2011, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 92.

back 13 Jim Woodring, “Jack Kirby: Reminiscences, Tributes and Critical Commentary,” The Comics Journal #167, May 1994.

back 14 Jim Steranko, “The Man Who Was The King,” Hogan’s Alley #1, Fall 1994. Reprinted in The Jack Kirby Collector #8, January 1996.

back 15 Neal Kirby deposition, 30 June 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit G.

back 16 Stan Goldberg interviewed by Jim Amash, Alter Ego v3 #18, October 2002.

back 17 Ken Viola, “Jack Kirby – The Master of Comic Book Art,” introduction to his interview of Kirby for the film, The Masters of Comic Book Art. Published in The Jack Kirby Collector #7, October 1995.

back 18 Stan Taylor, “Spider-Man: The Case for Kirby,” 2003. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 19 Michael Vassallo, by email, 22 October 2014 and 4 January 2015.

back 20 Lou Mougin, “New Gods for Old: A Hero History of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Part II,” Amazing Heroes #21, March 1983.

back 21 Stephen Bissette, “Marvel/Disney v Kirby: Part 2,” SRBissette.com, March 2nd, 2012.

back 22 Roy Thomas interviewed by Jim Amash, conducted by phone in September 1997, published The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 23 Leonard Pitts, Jr., conducted in 1986 or 1987 for a book titled “Conversations With The Comic Book Creators”. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 24 Roy Thomas interviewed by Jim Amash, conducted by phone in September 1997, published The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 25 “The New Age of Comics,” written by Joe Simon, art by Angelo Torres, Sick Magazine, November 1966.

back 26 “Most Fantastic Robbery in History,” plotted by Sergio Aragones, co-written and penciled by Bob Oksner and inked by Wally Wood, Angel and the Ape #2, November 1968.

back 27 Leonard Pitts, Jr., conducted in 1986 or 1987 for a book titled “Conversations With The Comic Book Creators”. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 28 Budd Schulberg, What Makes Sammy Run? Vintage Books, © 1941, 1968, 1990.

back 29 Wallace Wood, “What makes Stanley run?” Woodwork Gazette v1n5, 1980.

back 30 Michael T. Gilbert, “Total Control: A Brief Biography of Wally Wood,” Alter Ego 3 #8, Spring 2001.

back 31 Comments section, “TCJ Archive: Jack Kirby Interview,” The Comics Journal website, 26 May 2011.

back 32 Gary Groth interviewed by Jon B. Cooke, conducted February 1998. The Jack Kirby Collector #19, April 1998.

back 33 Comments section, “TCJ Archive: Jack Kirby Interview,” The Comics Journal website, 2 June 2011.

back 34 Charles Hatfield, Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby. University Press of Mississippi, 2012.

back 35 Paul Wardle, “The Two Faces of Stan Lee,” The Comics Journal #181, October 1995.

back 36 Adele Kurtzman to Blake Bell, I Have to Live with This Guy!, TwoMorrows, 2002.

back 37 Milo George, Editor. The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby. Fantagraphics Books. Seattle. May, 2002.

back 38 Comments section, “TCJ Archive: Jack Kirby Interview,” The Comics Journal website, 25 May 2011.

back 39 Gary Groth, personal email, 1 January 2015.

back 40 Jack Kirby interviewed by Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 41 Jack Kirby interviewed by Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 42 GUSTAVESON: Is Stan Lee a “fan”? THOMAS: Lord, I don’t think so! I mean, he probably was when he got into the field as a teenager, but I don’t really think that Stan has enjoyed being in comics… One of the reasons Stan liked my writing, for instance, was that after a few issues he felt he could trust me enough that he virtually never again read anything I wrote—well, at least not more than a page or two in a row, just to keep me honest. Roy Thomas, interviewed by Rob Gustaveson, The Comics Journal #61, Winter 1981.

back 43 Mike Breen, “That is strong talk… whoever you are,” The Jack Kirby Collector #61, Summer 2013.

back 44 “So… regarding those Kirby / Ayers signatures… I always put the signatures on our work together just as I always sign my work. I noticed that the ‘whiteouts’ were happening and it sure didn’t make me happy for I usually had the signature as part of the composition of the drawing. It was a sore point. I’m not keen on the credit boxes that are added to the drawing and confuse the composition of my drawing.” Dick Ayers, Kirby-L, the Jack Kirby Internet mailing list, 8 December 1998.

back 45 Jonathan Ross, “In Search of Steve Ditko” (television documentary), BBC Four, 16 September 2007.

Looking For The Awesome – Preface

PreviousTitle, Dedications, and  Notes | Contents | Next – 1. Jack Kirby’s America

We’re honored to be able to publish Stan Taylor’s Kirby biography here in the state he sent it to us, with only the slightest bit of editing. – Rand Hoppe

Not just another day

What I remember most about the drive to Thousand Oaks was the weather change. Coming from Palm Springs where the air was warm and dry, perhaps warmer than expected in November. Since I had lived in the Los Angeles area before, I had always wondered at just how much and how quickly the weather changes when one goes through one of the mountain ranges. Going East from the ocean cities into the San Fernando Valley, one is always struck by the ten-fifteen degree jump in temperature, and another ten degree jump heading toward the desert locales. But I was on a vacation, five years since my last visit to the City of Angels, and passing from Palm Springs, over the mountain through Banning and Beaumont I was once again amazed at how suddenly the air changed to a nice comfortable coolness. It was still early as we had a four hour trip head of us.

Greg Theakston's first volume

Greg Theakston’s first volume

My wife and I were taking our first vacation back to California in five years. The first priority was visiting friends long forgotten, and taking in all the money grabbing tourist sites. But we also decided to spoil ourselves a little and indulge our hobbies. This meant stopping at every out of the way antique store looking for little tchotchkes, and doodads that caught her eye, while I had mapped out every comic shop in the county. The reason for our spending two days in Palm Springs was for my pleasure. I had seen an ad in either CBG, or the Overstreet book for an art dealer named Tom Horvitz, who always advertised that he had Kirby art available, so we had left Long Beach and traveled to the desert to track Mr. Horvitz down. It wasn’t hard to find Tom, and he invited us over to his apartment to view what he had. Imagine my amazement at seeing a whole batch of Kirby art from a splash page from Vagabond Prince to multiple pages of Thor, the FF, and later Kirby works. I even got the chance to look at a copy of the small digest sized b&w comic of Boy Explorers #2. But what most caught my eye wasn’t even by Jack Kirby; on one of the walls of Tom’s apartment was the original cover art to Hit Comics #5, featuring the Red Bee fighting a huge swordfish under the sea. It was perhaps Lou Fine’s greatest cover–so energetic and fluid–the line work was so delicate but strong at the same time. It was no wonder that Kirby had mentioned him so often as an inspiration.

Lou Fine's incredible Red Bee cover is better in black & white

Lou Fine’s incredible Red Bee cover is better in black & white

While looking through the stack to make a purchase, Tom and I discussed Kirby and what he meant to the industry. This was 1989, and comics were doing ok, the direct market system seemed to be doing just fine, and a lot of new publishers were flooding the market with new and different product. We both agreed that the absence of new Kirby was a minus. I carefully picked out a Thor page that had caught my eye: it wasn’t a great action page with Thor fighting Ulik or Mangog, but one of those gentler more humanistic pages of Thor intermingling with humans- a guy on a motorcycle reacting in disbelief and scorn at a God in his presence. So Thor picks up the cycle and rider and takes him on a real trip, leaving the rider in complete disarray. It was a fun page gently inked by one of my favorite inkers, Vince Colletta in his scratchy, textured manner. After reaching a mutually satisfactory price, I called my ever patient wife and said we were done and we could go shopping. But before I left, almost as a parting nugget, Tom asked if I would like to meet Jack Kirby. Call me a doctor, my heart has left the building! “Of course!” I answered. I knew Jack lived in California, but never expected to possibly meet him. Tom grabbed his wallet and turned to a little note pad and scribbled down a number. “Call him up; he is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. I stammered, “Just call him and invite myself up?” “Yeah, Tom replied, “he does it all the time”

That evening, after some shopping on the Miracle Mile, and eating at a California Pizza restaurant we went back to our hotel room. I was in constant agony debating over whether to actually call Jack and invite myself over or not wanting to disturb the man. My wife was in heaven; calling me a wuss and teasing me about acting like a school boy asking the hot girl in class out on a date. Finally, my wife says to give her the slip of paper and she will call. I ask her what she will say, and she says that she will tell Jack that her idiot husband is in town for his birthday and Tom Horvitz gave him the number and told me to call you up for a birthday present. It wasn’t true since my birthday is in August, but damn she made it sound convincing, so I said for her to go for it. She picked up the paper and dialed the number and the first thing I heard is her saying “Hello Mr. Kirby?” I was apoplectic! After a few minutes of small talk I saw her write down an address and directions and thank him for his time.

She turned to me and said, “Here you go wussburger, he says to come by on Monday around noon, I didn’t even have to use the bullshit birthday story, it was like he was used to people calling and inviting themselves over, sounds like a real nice person.”

Two days later, we loaded up our rental car with some food and the art page I had bought and headed out going west. The time in Palm Springs was great; warm and sunny, we spent a lot of time by the pool. Our internal clocks were haywire; we stayed up till almost three in the morning because people were still partying at the pool. We got hungry around one-thirty and were told that the grocery store a few blocks down was a 24 hour affair and we could get something there. We went into the store and found it half full. We were amazed that anyone was out shopping at this time, but a friendly man told us that it’s uncomfortable to shop during the day when the temperature nears a hundred, so many people wait until early morning to do their weekly food shopping. Apparently there was no dress code either. People were milling about in shorts and tees, bathrobes, even skimpy bikinis with no one the worse for wear. My wife loved the idea. We hated leaving the desert. What we didn’t bring was sweaters.

The trip through the Los Angeles basin was kind of boring, Los Angeles is not a very scenic vista, mostly small town after small town, and then a big town, but one without a very exciting skyline, at least from the freeway. What is noticeable is the constant growth of traffic as one nears Los Angeles, the ever restricting lines of traffic that winds its way around and through the city. Oh how I hated driving in LA when we lived there. Eventually in the distance you see a new horizon line, one that seems to rise and snake until you realize it is the San Fernando Mts, and you are heading into the Valley. The landscape changes from the browns and grays of the city to greens and orange from grass and red tiled Spanish roofed villas. The air was getting warmer and we neared midday. The valley went by quickly as we neared another mountain range. We climbed for a while and it leveled off, but it never got flat again, it became like a sea of swells up and over rise after rise. The view became gorgeous. But the air had gotten cool again, sweater cool, and we weren’t prepared. Finally we saw the exit sign, and took the small streets that led to a road that seemed to head straight up. So up and up we went until we reached the crest, and before us was the house number we were given. We parked in front, slowly got out, working the kinks out and restoring the blood flow to our legs. The house was well appointed but not ostentatious- there was no sign that royalty lived there. We knocked on the door, and in the background we heard a dog barking, not a vicious bark, more a welcoming bark letting his master know that there was someone at the door.

Hard to imagine the view in Southern California

Hard to imagine the view in Southern California

Quickly the door opened and greeting us was a small grey haired man and his lovely wife, holding out their hands to embrace us. We said our hellos and I was struck that his handshake was not strong; in fact it was kind of weak. He must have noticed because he said the he probably wasn’t what I expected. I laughed nervously and said no, but I was expecting someone bulkier and stronger. That’s when he laughed and told me that drawing comics didn’t take or build many muscles, mostly it expanded his seat. I laughed and patted my own big ass. We all laughed. I didn’t know that at the time he was in poor health.

Upon entering you noticed that the walls were full of art, but not cluttered, it was obvious that the pieces were chosen based on personal memories, not career highlights. There was no Fantastic Four or even Fourth World pages noticeable. The most eye-catching was a huge collage made of cars of all sorts, race cars, motorcycles, dragsters, sportscars all arranged willy nilly, but the more you stared the more of a pattern emerged. This was not slapdash; this was well thought out, everything in its rightful place. Across from the collage in a place of honor was the double splash pages of the bar fight from Boy’s Ranch #3.

boysranch

Jack noticed how quickly I made my way over to it. The original art is breathtaking, so alive and vibrant with those quirky Kirby Kolors. Every square inch was full of action and fun. I think more than any iconic Kirby aspect, the one that most amazed me was his ability to fill up every bit of space with action, yet never make it cluttered and chaotic. If you stare long enough the flow of action is always understandable. “Just a little something Joe and I came up with” Jack said. Now I knew that I was getting the canned spiel. I had read other recollections of people to the Kirby manor and I remember someone else getting the exact same quote. But it was reassuring, almost a realization that he had accepted me into his confidence. He ushered me over to a long hallway, but before we got there I stopped and looked at a small drawing on a side wall. It was the Thing, dressed up in yarmulke, and prayer shawl, holding the Talmud. I was in shock. “Jack, is this a personal drawing or something meant for a comic?” He laughed and said it was something done for a holiday card. I asked him why he never mentioned Ben Grimm being Jewish in the comics. He said that it pretty much a standard of the industry that religion was never mentioned except in the vaguest terms. The editors were always worried about not offending any segment of the buying public, and any mention of one religion might turn off another segment. Jack agreed, “Religion is so personal that unless there was an overriding need to highlight one, than it was best left unmentioned.” He said that only at Christmastime was a story allowed to have a religious overtone, and even then it had to be multicultural; more Santa than Jesus. And yet when we finally reached the hallway, there were four very large pencil and inked drawings of man and God in contention. These four drawings would be offered by Dark Horse as a limited portfolio titled Interpretations of God in 1995. They were mighty, bold, and awesome to behold; just a glimpse of a side of the man never revealed in the funny pages. I stood there for a long time trying to take them all in. The images were of Jewish origin but through a sci-fi prism of unknown bent. But to Kirby, one wore his religion in his heart, not on a sleeve.

bengrimm

Jack asked me if I wanted something to drink and he led me to the kitchen. I didn’t realize it but my wife had not followed me around the rooms, she and Roz had been sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking about their shared Jewish heritage and telling stories of the old country. I could envision my wife and her Grandmother sitting around the table after seder. My wife was raised partly by her grandmother and I often saw the same reassuring peacefulness that I saw in the Kirby kitchen, when we visited her Nanny.

The kitchen was not large but two drawings dominated the room. One was a beautiful splash page of American Eagle, by John Severin; perhaps the only comic art in the house not done by Jack. The colors were amazingly bright. Jack said that it was a page that he asked John for because he loved it so much. I could understand why.

The other drawing simply stopped one in their tracks; I had never seen anything like it before. It was the double splash page from what became known as Street Code, a biographical story of Kirby’s early days.

Hint of why Jack wanted a Severin page

Hint of why Jack wanted a Severin page

The page is like a Rorschach test, images moving from front to back as other images come to the fore. Every inch offered new detail and movement. I asked why there were no open spaces, and Jack looked surprised. “That’s how it was in my neighborhood”, “there were no open spaces, just people everywhere, see? “The parks and trees were uptown.”

After a little coffee break, we went back out to the living area and sat down on the sofa, so I could question Kirby. First though I saw his drawing table, and asked if I could sit at it. Jack laughed and said sure. Looking at it from the uncomfortable chair I began to laugh. Jack asked what was so funny and I picked up the few implements at the table and held them aloft. In my hands were a collection of crayons. I asked if he was experimenting with a new media. He laughed and said his granddaughter Tracy had been up over the weekend, and she always draws on the table; inspiration through osmosis.

Close re-creation

Close re-creation

I excused myself for a minute and went outside to get the art page I had just bought for Jack to look at. Jack took the page, looked it over and began nodding. “It’s all there” he said. I didn’t quite know what he meant but he continued. “It’s all there, all the elements that the story needed” And he was right, the story was told with the art, no words were really needed. Later I would wonder if maybe he was talking about Colletta’s penchant for erasing, but at this time I had no idea there was a debate over Colletta. Jack said that he was sorry but he couldn’t sign the page. I said that was ok, I didn’t need him to, but why? He mentioned the fight for his artwork, which I knew about, and his principle not to sign pages that were never returned to him. We talked about the art battle, and about how dealers got these pages, but I could see it bothered him. It always struck me funny at his hatred of the non-returned pages, yet he was friendly with many art dealers who sold this same un-returned art.

We talked about my childhood and why I read comic books, and what made Jack’s stories so much better. I explained that his art resonated on so many levels, and that his stories seemed truer is many ways, even though they were so fantastic. They ignited my imagination and made me think. I told him that in my small group of comic fans, his style was the one we always copied. It was more dynamic than anyone else’s. He told me that he always copied Alex Raymond. I mentioned that he was this generations Raymond and the FF was our Flash Gordon. He laughed a small laugh; he seemed to not be thrilled with the comparison. He talked about his time in animation, which I really wasn’t aware of. And we talked and laughed about Destroyer Duck. I really loved the irony and spoofing of the industry.

I asked Jack about Stan Lee but it quickly became clear that Stan was not a fit subject for mixed company. Funny though it was Roz who was the most dismissive of Stan, not Jack, and it also became clear that it was Roz who took the lead whenever there was a contentious subject brought up. “I’ll tell you about Stan Lee, if you ever meet him, don’t bend over; if you do he’ll stamp your butt with his name. “He’ll take credit for anything.” Roz spat out. Roz was the spark plug of the couple.

It never changed.

It never changed.

I asked Jack if he was going to write a biography. He said he had thought about it, but there were other books that told his story, and he got up, walked into another room and brought me out a small book titled The Jack Kirby Treasury Vol 1 by Greg Theakston. “He’s a close friend and he tells my early history in this book. You should try to get a copy.” I looked the book over carefully and stared at the art on the cover. Jack said the art was from Simon and Kirby stationary and featured all the great characters that he and Joe created. I looked and quietly named all the characters until I came upon one I didn’t recognize. “Who’s the green woman in the middle?” I asked. Jack looked and I could see his mind searching for an answer, but it wouldn’t come. “I don’t remember her name but she was a very early character, maybe even the first villain we drew.” He asked Roz, but she was of no help. “Hold on” I’ll find out.” He bent over and picked up the phone and punched a number. “Mike, Mike, hey it’s Kirby, How are you? I’m fine, but I have a question. I have a fan over and I showed him Greg’s book. Do you remember who the green woman on the cover was?” About a minute later Jack replied, “Oh yeah, now I remember, thanks. Mike Thibodeaux says she’s the Green Sorceress from Blue Bolt, the first thing Joe and I worked on.” That made sense since I had never seen any Blue Bolt stories before. I asked Jack, what was this penchant for starting every character name with a color? Blue Bolt, Blue Beetle, Green Sorceress? I asked. ‘I think that was to make sure the colorists knew what color to make the hero.” He replied. “Y’know we always called the Hulk the green behemoth, or green colossus so that the colorist would remember he was green and not gray.” I just nodded uncertainly, not sure if he was pulling my leg. “Mike wants’ to know if you have a copy of From Here to Insanity #12?” I assured him I didn’t but said to say hello to him. Jack talked another minute on the phone and then hung up. “He’s been trying to find a copy because he thinks there some S&K work in it. I don’t know for sure.”

We talked for another hour on the sofa, about every stupid fan question one could think of-except who’s stronger Thing or Hulk? Jack loved the questions about his early years, and occasionally threw in a war story, but Roz always stopped him short when he started. “Jackson, he doesn’t want to hear that!” Roz snapped, not realizing I was eating it all up. Once, when I had asked a rather obnoxious question, my wife reached over and slapped me on the head. WHAP!!! Roz and Jack looked at her in mock horror, but she explained that it was an agreed upon signal to alert me if I was getting a little too near to geek territory. I don’t even remember what the question was. Jack said don’t worry; he’s heard all the questions. Finally I asked him. What was the most important influence in your storytelling? What makes your art you? Jack replied. “I needed to make sales.” Now I knew I was getting the boiler plate.

Never at a loss for art this is from the heart no comics

Never at a loss for art this is from the heart no comics

I tried again. “I know that feeding your family was most important, but what separated you from all the others?” Roz joined in, “he wants to know what drove you from your soul?” I thought, “Damn, her question was better than mine, “Oh, you mean what drove me as a person; two things, my childhood in the Lower East Side, and the war. Jack stood up and walked over to a bookshelf full of books, a thunderbolt award, a three dimensional representation of a comic cover, and other artifacts of a life well lived. He grabbed a book, opened it up and showed me a picture I recognized as the planet Apokolips, from the New Gods series. “That’s where I grew up. No one lives in that horror and doesn’t get changed by it. That’s why so many entertainers came out of my neighborhood, because the only way to get out was by making others notice you and making them laugh, see?” And the war, I wasn’t there long, but it didn’t take long to realize what we can do to each other. It never leaves you.” You know what, make that three things, the other is meeting Roz, she is what got me out of the ghetto, and kept me alive in Europe.” I looked at Roz, and saw a softening smile and a quiet nod Jack’s way.

Jack asked if we brought a camera, and I replied yes. He said let’s go outside and take a few shots. I only took two, one with Jack, myself, and my wife, and one with Jack, Roz and me. I also made sure we got one with that old yeller dog. This dog loved Jack, wherever Jack went, this dog was nearby. Jack pretended that the dog was a nuisance, but we caught him a couple times reach down and pet him without even realizing it. You can’t fool a dog.

We finally made our good byes and were shocked at Roz’s soft hug and warm personal wishes to my wife. I thanked them for their time and trouble and told them that were even better in person than I had read about. I literally flew back to the hotel. It would be many years before I decided to actually write a bio of Kirby, but the one thing guiding my every word was to let the reader know that nothing was more important to making Kirby what he was than his childhood in the Lower East Side, and his time at war, plus the woman always at his side. The warmth of those two would be felt for a long time, as we headed to the car, I didn’t even care that we had forgotten to bring a sweater.

cap1cover

The one that started it all

susanskaarphoto

The Man and His Pencil

 

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Jack Kirby’s Own Words: a chronology

I had to do it! I dove into TwoMorrows’ Kirby Checklist Gold Edition and pulled all the interviews listed there into a separate chronological list. Since the Checklist was published in 2008, it only contained info up to issue 49 of The Jack Kirby Collector. So, into the Museum’s TJKC archives I went to make sure everything was as up-to-date as possible. From there, I went to YouTube, Facebook, my email archive, and regular ol’ Google searches to find as many entries as I could. I included a few non-interview-but-Kirby’s-words entries, too, well, just because.

This post is a work-in progress. I’ll add to it as more information comes in. Any scans, snapshots, suggestions, pointers welcome via the comments below. OF COURSE there are more Jack Kirby recordings and/or transcripts out there. Please don’t keep them a secret!

Many thanks to the multitude of Kirby fans and scholars who contributed to the Checklist, especially John Morrow and Richard Kolkman – Rand Hoppe

1964

Len Wein, transcript published in Masquerader #6, Spring 1964; later published as “Jack Kirby: An Artist With Impact” in The Jack Kirby Collector #49, Fall 2007.

Mid-Late 1960s

Interview at drawing board, Wonderama, NY TV. Note: Could be mistaken. Romita and Lee appeared on Wonderama in the 1970s.

1967

Mike Hodel, Kirby and Stan Lee radio interview titled “Will Success Spoil Spider-man?” conducted 3 March 1967 and broadcast live on WBAI (NY). Transcript published in The Stan Lee Universe, 2011.

1968

unknown, transcript published in Excelsior #1, 1968. Later published as “Stan and Jack: Excelsior” in The Jack Kirby Collector #60, Winter 2013.

1969

Mark Hebert, conducted early 1969. Transcript published in The Nostalgia Journal #30, November 1976, and #31, December 1976. Later published as “There Is Something Stupid In Violence As Violence,” in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby, 2002.

Shel Dorf and Rich Rubenfield, conducted August 1969, published as “We Create Images, And They Just Continue On,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #36, Summer 2002 and as “I Don’t Like To Draw Slingshots, I Like To Draw Cannons” in The Jack Kirby Collector #37, Winter 2003.

“The Life And Times Of Jack Kirby,” Comic Special. 1969

1970

Bruce Hamilton, conducted shortly after Jack left Marvel in 1970. Transcript published as “A Talk With Artist-Writer-Editor Jack Kirby” in Rocket’s Blast Comicollector #81, 1971; later published in Marvel Collector’s Handbook, 1973, and The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

various, San Diego Golden State Comic-Con panel, 1 August 1970; Audio published on Comic Con Memories website, 8 January 2010. Transcript published as “It’s Not In The Draftsmanship. It’s In The Man.” The Jack Kirby Collector #57, Summer 2011.

unknown, transcript published as “I Met Kirby: The Thing That Drew” in Train Of Thought #5, February 1971 and in #6, July 1971; #5 excerpted as “Train Of Thought” in The Jack Kirby Collector #17, November 1977. #6 excerpted as “Train Of Thought part 2” in The Jack Kirby Collector #52, Spring 2009.

Shel Dorf, conducted December 1970; transcript and audio published as “Shel Speaks (and Kirby Too)!” on Shel Dorf Tribute website, October 2009.

1971

“Old Comic Heroes Return: For Awhile,” Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 4 April 1971.

Saul Braun, transcript excerpts used in “Shazam! Here Comes Captain Relevant”, New York Times Sunday Magazine, 2 May 1971.

Manny Maris and Mark Sigal Rosal, conducted 31 January 1971 in the National/DC offices. Transcript published as “Comic & Crypt Interviews Jack Kirby & Carmine Infantino!” in Comic & Crypt #5, 1971. Later published in Fantasy Advertiser (UK) #48, March 1978, as “The King & The Director” in Comic Book Artist #1, Spring 1998, and as “Jack Kirby and Carmine Infantino Interview – 31 January 1971” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, June 2013.

Tim Skelly, radio interview conducted 14 May 1971 on “The Great Electric Bird” show broadcast via WNUR-FM, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL). Transcript published as “My School Was Alex Raymond And Milton Caniff,” The Nostalgia Journal 27, August 1976, and as “I Created An Army Of Characters, And Now My Connection With Them Is Lost,” in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby, 2002.

1972

Jack Kirby, “To What It May Concern,” The Los Angeles Times – West magazine, 10 September 1972

Jim Steranko, conducted at 1972 Comic Art Convention (NY) Awards Luncheon, published in Comic Art Convention Program Book (NY), 1973; later published as “1972 Comic Art Convention Luncheon,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #8, 1996.

1973

Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, transcript published in G.A.S. Lite, Vol 2 #10, 1973. later published as “Cleveland Rocks!” in The Jack Kirby Collector #47, Fall 2006.

1974

Russ Maheras, conducted via mail, 13 May 1973. Published in Maelstrom #2, November 1974. Later published as “A Chat With Jack Kirby” in The Jack Kirby Collector #34, March 2002.

Jerry Connelly, conducted 18 September 1974, broadcast live via KNJO radio, Thousand Oaks, CA. Transcript published as “Kirby on Kirby 1974: an Interview with the King of Comics” in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1401, 22 September 2000; later published as “Kirby On Kirby: 1974” in The Jack Kirby Collector #64, Fall 2014.

1975

Steve Sherman and Mark Evanier, conducted “as they planned a follow up to the King Kirby portfolio” (1971), transcribed and compiled into “Kirby: In His Own Right/Kirby Kirby Kirby” in Comic Art Convention Program Book (NY), 1975; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #8, January 1996.

Shel Dorf, transcript published as “Let’s Visit! Jack Kirby” in The Menomonee Falls Gazette, Vol. 4 #181, 2 June 1975; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #15, April 1997.

Did Jack Kirby call in to a Stan Lee radio interview? Los Angeles. (Carole Hemingway). Note: Hemingway had a talk show on KABC 1974-1982

Barry Alfonso et al, Jack Kirby and Don Rico interview,. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby & Don Rico Discuss WWII, The Mafia, Watergate, & Comic Art” in Mysticogryfil: Journal of Cosmic Wonder #2, May 1975; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #20, June 1998.

unknown, Jack Kirby, Steve Englehart, Don Rico, and Jim Steranko interview conducted at the 1975 San Diego Comic-Con. Audio excerpts published as “Jack Kirby/Jim Steranko,” on The 1975 San Diego Comic Con, LP record, 1976. Full transcript published as “The Captain America Panel,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #64, Fall 2014.

“Kirby Speaks,” FOOM #11, September 1975.

1976

Phil Seuling, Jack Kirby and Walter Gibson interview, conducted at the 1975 Comic Art Convention Awards Luncheon, New York City, July 1975. Transcript published in Comic Art Convention Program Book (NY), 1976; later published as “Jack Kirby & Walter Gibson Interviewed,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #13, December 1996.

Peter Hansen, conducted late October-early November 1976, Lucca, Italy. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #48, Spring 2007.

Nessim Vaturi, conducted late October-early November 1976, Lucca, italy. Italian translation published in WOW! COMICS. English translation of Italian published as “Wow-What An interview!,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #12, October 1996.

Furnell Chatman, appearance at North Hollywood comic shop, 3 October 1976, published as “COMIC ART FILM TRANSFER” on NBCUniversal Archives website, October 2014. Kirby segment starts at 2:09.

Kenn Thomas, et al, conducted November 1976. Transcript published in Whizzard #9, November 1976; later published as “The Day I Spoke With Jack,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #55, Fall 2010.

1977

Shel Dorf, transcript published as “Jack Kirby Recalls Lucca, Italy” in The Buyer’s Guide to Comics Fandom #213, 16 December 1977; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #12, October 1996.

1978

Annie-Isabelle Baron-Carvais, conducted 8 November 1978 in the Kirby home in Thousand Oaks, California. Transcript published in Baron-Carvais’ Ph.D. thesis, “L’Evolution Des Super-Heros Dans La Bande Dessinee Aux Etats-Unis,” L’Universite De Paris X-Nanterre, 1981. French translation published in DC Spécial, March 2000. Transcript published as “The Lost Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #32, July 2001.

Early 1980s

Jack Kirby, signed handwritten notes, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 97, Exhibit RR. Published as “A Note From Jack Kirby” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, December 2014.

Three unknown children, telephonic interview, transcript published in Kidsday section, Newsday, later published as “Talking With Jack Kirby” in The Jack Kirby Collector #23, February 1999.

1982

Will Eisner, transcript published in “Shop Talk”, Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine 39, February 1983; later published in Will Eisner’s Shop Talk, 2001

Roger Green, transcript published in “Questions And Answers With Jack Kirby,” The Fantastic Four Chronicles, February 1982.

Howard Zimmerman, transcript excerpts published in “Kirby Takes on the Comics” in Comics Scene #2, March 1982. Later published on Barry’ Pearls Of Comic Book Wisdom, 16 March 2013.

Catherine Mann, television interview, broadcast 28 October 1982 on Entertainment Tonight, Transcript published as “Entertainment Tonight” in The Jack Kirby Collector #39, Fall 2003. Video published as “Jack Kirby on Entertainment Tonight – 28 Oct 1982” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, January 2009.

1983

Greg Theakston and Tony DiSpoto, video recorded 17 March 1983. Partial transcript published as “Kirby Speaks” in The Complete Jack Kirby 1940-1941 (Vol. 2), 1997. Segments published as “Jack Kirby Draws,” “Jack Kirby On The Lower East Side,” and “Jack Kirby At War” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, 20 October 2010, 8 May 2014 & 13 May 2014, respectively.

Ronald Levitt Lanyi, conducted 18 September 1976 in the Kirbys’ hotel room in the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA, during Bay Con Two. Transcript published as “Idea & Motive In Jack “King” Kirby’s Comic Books: A Conversation,” Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 17 #2, Fall 1983; later published as “Idea & Motive In Kirby’s Comics” in The Jack Kirby Collector #44, Fall 2005.

James Van Hise, transcript published as “Jack Kirby in The Golden Age” in Golden Age Of Comics #6, November 1983; later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #25, August 1999.

1984

Peter Dodds, transcript excerpts published in “The Gods Themselves,”  Amazing Heroes #47, May 1984.

Juanie Lane and Britt Wisenbaker, conducted 15 September 1984 in the Kirby home, Thousand Oaks, CA. Transcript published in Oasis magazine, Pepperdine University, 1984; later published as “Jack Kirby interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #16, July 1997.

Ray Zone, video interview conducted 10 October 1984, broadcast on The Zone Show on 21 November 1984. Transcript published as “A Battle With The Camera” in The Jack Kirby Collector #45, Winter 2006.

Mid-to-late 1980s

unknown, audio taped response to fan questions. Transcript published as “Kirby on The New Gods” in The Jack Kirby Collector #24, April 1999.

1985

James Van Hise, “Superheroes: The Language That Jack Kirby Wrote,” Comics Feature #34, March-April 1985.

John Hitchcock, video recorded by John Floyd at AcmeCon, Greensboro, NC, 1 June 1985.

Tom Heintjes, transcript published as “The Negotiations” in The Comics Journal #105, February 1986, later published as “I’m A Guy Who Never Gave Anybody Trouble” in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby, 2002

Great Comic Book Artists, video, 1985. Note: can’t find any reference to this.

1986

Mark Borax, Comics Interview #41, 1986; later published in Comics Interview Super Special: Masters of Marvel #1, 1989, and Comics Interview: The Complete Collection Volume X,

Mike Hodel, radio interview with Mark Evanier, Frank Miller, Steve Gerber, Arthur Byron Cover, broadcast live on Hour 25, Los Angeles, 17 February 1986; partial transcript published as “Hour Twenty-Five” in The Jack Kirby Collector #19, April 1998.

Alain Carrazé, conducted July 1986. broadcast on Temps X, French TV, 27 October 1986,

James Van Hise, transcript published as “Jack Kirby: Creator” in  Comics Feature #50, December 1986.

1986/7

Leonard Pitts, Jr., conducted for a book titled “Conversations With The Comic Book Creators”. Transcript published as “1986/7 – Jack Kirby interview” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, August 2012.

1987

Ken Viola, filmed interview conducted February, 1987. Included in the documentary The Masters of Comic Book Art, 1987. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby – The Master of Comic Book Art” in The Jack Kirby Collector #7, October 1995.

Greg Theakston, transcript published as “Jack Kirby, The King Of Comics,” Fungus Rodeo, 1987; later published as “1987 – Jack Kirby, The King Of Comics” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, June 2012.

Robert Knight, Warren Reece, and Max Schmid, live radio interview conducted 28 August 1987, broadcast on Earthwatch, WBAI, NY.  Transcript published as “Jack Kirby and Stan Lee Radio Interview Earth Watch WBAI 1987” on Comic Book Collectors Club, 29 June 2012. Later published as “Kirby on WBAI Radio: 1987,” The Jack Kirby Collector #65, Spring 2015.

Ron Mann, video interview, presented in documentary Comic Book Confidential, 1988.

Janet Bode, Village Voice Vol 32 #49, 8 December 1987?

Ben Schwartz, conducted 4 December 1987, transcript published in UCLA Daily Bruin. 22 January 1988; later published as “Jack Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #23, February 1999.

1988

Greg Theakston, conducted at Pure Imagination Fun Fair, 29 May 1988. Partial video published as “Jack Kirby Discusses Captain America,” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, July 2009.

1989

Gary Groth, conducted Summer 1989, transcript published as “Jack Kirby” in The Comics Journal #134, February 1990; later published as “I’ve Never Done Anything Half-Heartedly,” in The Comics Journal Library, Volume One: Jack Kirby, 2002, partial audio as “Jack Kirby, 1989” on The Comics Journal Library Interview CD Sampler, 2002 and on The Comics Journal website, May 2011.

Ray Wyman, Jr., conducted 24 July and 16 October 1989. transcribed and compiled into “Childhood Stories Part 1: The Block” published in The Jack Kirby Collector #45, Winter 2006.

1989-1992

Ray Wyman, Jr., conducted multiple interviews from 1989 to 1992, transcribed and compiled into “Jack Kirby On: Storytelling, Man, God, Nazis” published in The Jack Kirby Collector #26, November 1999.

Ray Wyman, Jr., conducted August 1989, 5 October 1989, and June 1992, transcribed and compiled into “Conversations With Jack: Roz & Jack (Part I) published in The Jack Kirby Collector #29, August 2000, and “Conversations With Jack: Roz & Jack (Part II)” in The Jack Kirby Collector #46, Summer 2006.

1990

Paul Power, et al, panel discussion with Kirby, Mike Vosburg, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefield, Jim Starin and Jim Valentino at Fred Greenberg Los Angeles convention, transcript published as  “For Love Or Money” in Comics Interview #90, 1991.

“Simon & Kirby Discuss Captain America,” Comics Scene #14, August 1990.

J. Michael Strazcynski and Larry DiTillio, radio interview conducted 13 April 1990, broadcast live on Mike Hodel’s Hour 25, KPFK FM, Los Angeles. Audio published as “Hour 25 1990” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, June 2012, Transcript published as “1990 April 13 – Jack Kirby Interview” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, June 2012.

Paul Duncan, transcript published as “Jack Kirby” in ARK 33, 1990; later published as “The ARK Interview,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #61, Summer 2013.

various, candid San Diego Comic-Con video appearance, 2-5 August 1990. Published as “JACK KIRBY!!!! SD Comic Con 1990” on ytshawzam’s YouTube channel, 31 May 2010.

Mark Voger, transcript excerpts published as “Comic Genius: The Faces Behind The Funnies – Jack Kirby” in Asbury Park Press, 21 September 1990

“Birth Of A Legend: Jack Kirby Talks About Captain America,” Marvel Age #95, December 1990.

Early 1990s

Glenn Danzig with Mike Thibodeaux, transcript published as “Jack Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #22, December 1998.

1991

Glenn Fleming, video interview, excerpts published in “The Tape” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, September 2008.

Rick Green, television interview, broadcast on Prisoners of Gravity, TVOntario in January 1993. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby: Prisoner Of Gravity” in The Jack Kirby Collector #14, February 1997. Video?

MSN (Italy), 1992.

Nikola Atchine, transcript published in Scarce #31 (France), Spring 1992.

DogmanDave, candid video interview conducted 28 August 1992 at San Diego Comic-Con. published as “Dogman Presents Jack Kirby’s 75th Birthday” on DogmanDave’s YouTube channel, 31 December 2007.

Andrew Mayer with Randolph Hoppe, conducted 1992 August 14 in the Kirbys’ hotel room during San Diego Comic-Con for unpublished Mondo 2000 article. Transcript published as “Mondo Kirby” in The Jack Kirby Collector #21, October 1998. Audio published as “Mondo Kirby” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, June 2012. Transcript later published as “1992 August 14 – Jack Kirby interview” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, June 2012.

1993

Previews #?, January 1993.

various, appearance at Comics & Comix, Palo Alto, CA, videotaped 14 March 1993. Partial transcript published as “An Afternoon With Jack,” The Jack Kirby Collector #38, February 1997. Partial video published as “A Half Hour With Jack Kirby” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, August 2013.

Comics Interview #121, 1993.

Chrissie Harper, conducted via telephone on 28 July 1993. Transcript published as “An Exclusive Interview: Jack Kirby” in Jack Kirby Quarterly #1, 1993, Later published as “I Always Tried To Do My Best” in Jack Kirby Quarterly #15, 2008.

professional film set up in Kirby’s studio in Thousand Oaks, CA. Published as “Jack Kirby in his studio (1993),” on Chrissie Harper’s YouTube channel, 4 July 2008.

Happening, November 1993.

“Jack Kirby Creates A Universe For Topps”, Comics Buyer’s Guide #1044, 19 November 1993.

“Secret City Secrets,” Comics Scene #34, 1993

“Living Legend” Comics Scene Yearbook #2, 1993.

1994

Phantom Force #0, March 1994.

transcript published in San Diego Comic Con Program, 1994.

Looking For The Awesome – Title, Dedications, and Notes

PreviousForeword | Contents | Next – Preface

We’re honored to be able to publish Stan Taylor’s Kirby biography here in the state he sent it to us, with only the slightest bit of editing. – Rand Hoppe

Looking For The Awesome

Jack Kirby: A Life Among The Gods

Stan Lee Shuts Up

Stan Lee Shuts Up

rozjack

For Jack and Roz
and all the Joes, Stans, Dicks, Wills, Mikes, and Marks etc.
who populated his life and work.

franklin

Pieces of pleasantry and mirth have a strange power in them to allay the heats and tumults of our spirits
— Ben Franklin

I realized that people make cartoons for a living. It had never dawned on me that you could do this as a career.
— John Lasseter

I was doing political cartoons and getting angry to the point where I felt I was going to have to start making and throwing bombs. I thought I was probably a better cartoonist than a bomb maker.
— Terry Gilliam

All parts of this book are freely available to be excerpted by anyone. Data must be free to all. I own no data and share what I have learned with all. Crediting me does not strengthen any point of debate or argument.

hooverville

Hooverville in Central Park – surrounded by dreams 1931

All illustrations in this book are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders (according to the original copyright or publication date as printed) and used per the “fair use” doctrine and are published for historical purposes only. Any omission or incorrect information should be transmitted to the author or publisher so it can be rectified in any future edition of this manuscript.

The views and opinions expressed in this book are solely those of the author and do not reflect anyone else’s.

Copyright 2009 – Stan Taylor

PreviousForeword | top | Preface

The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part two

Michael Hill sent us this article, as well the Interviews piece we published in June, for consideration for The Kirby Effect. We’re publishing it here in three parts with comments disabled – Rand Hoppe. With thanks to Steven Brower.

Articles in this series:
* Interviews
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part one
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part two (you are here!)
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part three

The story conference

There were no outside witnesses to a Kirby-Lee story conference; they happened behind closed doors. There was one staged for a reporter, and there were one or more car rides where the two men threw out ideas but ignored each other’s. Still, the real story conferences had only two eyewitnesses, the participants. Flo Steinberg is considered a witness, but she really only heard things.

FLO: 1 Jack would come in and sit around and talk.; then he’d go into Stan’s office and they’d go over plots, make sound effect noises, run around, work things out. Then he’d go back home to work some more.

Steinberg’s testimony is often used to confirm Lee’s make-believe version of his story conference with Kirby, but in an earlier interview she had qualified her observations. “I did not see what came out later. The hostility. I did not see them like that. I saw them working very closely and creatively together on all this great stuff, the Hulk, FF and Thor. I don’t know who actually created what – I wasn’t privy to that.” 2

Jim Amash made a point of asking his interview subjects who chose to speculate on the Lee/Kirby workflow if they had ever actually seen it in progress. (Marc Toberoff needed a similar tack during the 2010 depositions, repeatedly reminding Thomas and John Romita that they were not present during the years covered by the suit.)

1997 [Thomas by Amash] 3

TJKC: Were you around when Stan and Jack were plotting together?

ROY: I remember times where they’d talk briefly, but I wasn’t around for much of that. I remember Stan talking about how he and Jack had been in a car stuck in traffic and had plotted an issue that I think became the first Diablo story, one of the ones he most hated. I was called in more for him and John Romita, to take notes.

2002 [Goldberg by Amash] 4

JA: Were you ever around when Stan was plotting with Kirby or Ditko?

GOLDBERG: No. I was usually at that front desk making corrections when they came in. Stan had that desk at the back in that long, narrow room we worked in, and there were things going on and I didn’t pay much attention to any of that.

Romita, starry-eyed at the idea of witnessing the actual creation process, characterized a couple of car rides as Lee-Kirby plotting sessions. On occasion, he revealed the fact that he knew Jack Kirby was the creative powerhouse (“I don’t consider myself a real creator in a Jack Kirby sense.” 5 ). Most of the time, however, he brought Kirby down to his level, just another artist like him, lacking in confidence, receiving assignments and plots from Lee. From his 2010 deposition: 6

SINGER. Do you know whether Jack Kirby was working from – do you know how he would get his stories in the 1960s?

A. No, no, he was plotting them the same as I was. With Stan.

MR. TOBEROFF: So my objection is vague as to time. Calls for speculation. Calls for opinion testimony.

A. I was present at at least two plotting sessions of John – Jack and Stan Lee. They were the same as my plotting sessions and the same as Gene Colan’s and Herb Trimpe’s and John Buscema… Jack Kirby would come in, I was at the office, we would plot in Stan’s office, and with Stan and Jack, most of the time – some of the times Jack would – Stan would drive both of us home on a Friday night or whatever night he was in plotting. They would finish or almost finish and then Stan would say, “come on, I will drive you guys home.” He would drop me off first and then he would take Jack, who lived about twenty minutes past me in the same general area of Long Island. So I was in the back seat of Stan’s Cadillac on two occasions that I remember distinctly, maybe more, where they were continuing what they had not finished in the office, continued plotting.

Romita misrepresents the extent of his knowledge on these two occasions. Kirby would invest a day to take the train into the city to meet with Lee privately in his office. It’s unlikely that he would chance leaving any part of the real discussion for the ride home. Thomas’s car ride story featured the creation of Diablo, an event that occurred in early 1964. Thomas wasn’t present at the time, so Diablo’s creation may or may not have actually involved Lee, or a car.

The car rides were an example of Lee playing to an audience, in this case Romita. The most egregious example of this is the Nat Freedland Herald Tribune article. Freedland wrote that he witnessed Lee’s “weekly Friday morning summit meeting with Jack ‘King’ Kirby.” At this point, Kirby’s trips to the office were nowhere near weekly in frequency since this was after he began using margin notes. The article’s portrayal of Lee’s act 7 presumably convinced Lee to incorporate it into his “workflow,” because it became a trademark.

“Suppose Alicia, the Thing’s blind girlfriend, is in some kind of trouble. And the Silver Surfer comes to help her.” Lee starts pacing and gesturing as he gets warmed up.

“And meanwhile, the Fantastic Four is in lots of trouble. Doctor Doom has caught them again and they need the Thing’s help.” Lee is lurching around and throwing punches.

“The thing is brokenhearted. He wanders off by himself. He’s too ashamed to face Alicia or go back home to the Fantastic Four. He doesn’t realize how he’s failing for the second time… How much the FF needs him.” Lee sags back on his desk, limp and spent.

As with the car rides, Lee’s act is purely for the audience. As with the FF #8 synopsis, it’s not hard to imagine Lee pretending for the sake of his audience that he was “plotting” one of the stories Kirby had already turned in. Thomas knew it wasn’t a story conference. He stated that he didn’t attend Lee-Kirby story conferences, but on this occasion was invited to attend what he called an interview: 8

There was a big article in the New York Herald-Tribune, where some reporter came in and interviewed Stan and Jack. For some reason, I was called in to be a witness or whatever, because I certainly took no part in it.

HeraldTribune

Steve Sherman: 9 Jack told me the details of that famous interview with Nat Freedland. Jack said that Stan basically put on a show. As Jack said, “Stanley was jumping on the desk, waving his arms like a crazy man. I just sat there on the couch and watched him. It was nutty. When it was over, I said a few words and went back to work. The article comes out and the guy writes what an amazing writer Stanley is. Who could work like that? By the time he was through jumping around, I had three pages done.”

1987 [Earthwatch] 10

REECE: But Jack, what about these legendary story conferences of you and Stan, or Stan and whomever, acting the stories out, in the office, jumping up on the desks and so forth, making things considerably more lively than when it was just an office consisting of Stan and Fabulous Flo Steinberg, having people stick their faces in the door, from Magazine Management, going, “Hurry up, little elves, Santa will be coming soon!”

KIRBY: Uh, I’d have to disagree with that. It wasn’t like that at all. It may have been like that after I shut the door and went home.

Lee used the Freedland article to lay the groundwork for a disinformation campaign against Ditko. 11 At the time of the interview for the article (December 1965), Ditko (and Wood) had already left the company.

I don’t plot Spider-Man any more. Steve Ditko, the artist, has been doing the stories. I guess I’ll leave him alone until sales start to slip. Since Spidey got so popular, Ditko thinks he’s the genius of the world. We were arguing over plot lines, I told him to start making up his own stories. He won’t let anyone else ink his drawings either. He just drops off the finished pages with notes at the margins and I fill in the dialogue. I never know what he’ll come up with next, but it’s interesting to work that way.

Shortly after Ditko’s departure, Lee’s disinformation campaign was taken to the fan press by John Romita. In the fanzine Web Spinner, 12 he told Bob Sheridan a number of reasons why Steve Ditko had not been the best employee. Some of the assertions were things that could only have been known by Lee, and they were false.

WebSpinner

Roy Thomas did his part to disseminate the Lee mythology by claiming Romita made Spider-Man Marvel’s best-selling title: 13

[Romita] was also the man to whom writer/editor Stan Lee turned at the beginning of 1966 when Steve Ditko forsook the Amazing Spider-Man title he’d co-created, and the one who quickly helped Stan turn it from Marvel’s second-best-selling comic into its undisputed #1 seller.

This is almost certainly false. Spider-Man was Marvel’s “undisputed #1 seller,” as Thomas put it, before Steve Ditko left. 14

Neal Adams on the story conference: 15

Arlen: After your run on the X-Men ended, you did a couple of issues of Thor immediately following Kirby’s departure from Marvel; how did that come about?

Neal: I don’t know quite when it was. Stan asked me, “What would you like to do next?” I said, “Y’know, Stan, I would love to work on a Thor with you.” He said, “Really?” So then Stan asks, “What do you think you want to do?” I said, “Well, do you have a story?” Stan would go, “What do you think you want to do?” (rather than say no). So I said, “I’d like to change identities between Thor and Loki.” He said, “Oh, that’s fine. Go ahead and do that.” I said, “I’d like to do that for two issues. Is that okay?” He said, “Yeah, sure, sure. Go ahead and do it.” So that was pretty much the story conference.

2002 [Goldberg/Jim Amash] 16

GOLDBERG: One time I was in Stan’s office and told him, “I haven’t got another plot.” Stan got out of his chair, walked over to me, looked me in the face, and said very seriously, “I don’t ever want to hear you say you can’t think of another plot.” Then he walked back and sat in his chair. He didn’t think he needed to tell me anything more. After that, I could think of a plot in two seconds.

JA: Sounds like you were doing the bulk of the writing then.

GOLDBERG: Well, I was.

Larry Lieber was witness to the aftermath of one story conference. From his 2010 deposition: 17

(break in testimony)

LARRY LIEBER: Well, this must have been a Hulk story and I have the originals at home. I don’t remember when I first got them. I don’t remember the year, but I obtained them when they were discarded.

TOBEROFF: Can you tell me how you came into possession specifically of these drawings?

LARRY LIEBER: They – I was in the office, the Marvel office. It probably was at – no, it must have been at the – on 57th Street when they were there on Madison, and Jack Kirby came out of Stan’s office from – and from the direction of Stan’s office. He may, probably, he had come out of Stan’s office, and he seemed upset. And he took the drawings, he had these drawings, he took them and he tore them in half and he threw them in a trash can, a large trash can.

And I, since I was such a big fan of his, I knew that at the end of the day, they would be discarded, you know, and would be trash. And I – I saw it as an opportunity to have some of his originals to keep, to look at and study, and so I took them out of the trash can.

And there were other people in the office, but nobody else seemed to have noticed this, which I was glad about, and I just took them, walked over to where I was sitting and put them in my case. And I took them home and I taped them together, you know, I taped them all, and I kept them and I’ve kept them all these years to look at them and, as I say, to study them.

Q: What was your understanding of why or your impression of why Jack Kirby was upset when he tore these up and threw them in the trash?

LARRY LIEBER: I didn’t know. I didn’t speak to him. I assumed, seeing a man walk out of the office and tear his artwork up, that – or I thought probably they were rejected and he was annoyed or disgusted. I didn’t, you know, and I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t hear anything, so I just – that was my first assumption, but I didn’t know.

(Lieber Exhibit 6, an excerpt from Jack Kirby Collector Forty-One, marked for identification, as of this date.)

lieberhulkpageAn incident like this might have precipitated Kirby’s decision to reduce the frequency of his face-to-face meetings with Lee and resort to margin notes.

Stan Lee’s credits worked as a voucher system

In December 1962, when Stan Lee’s credit boxes took effect, Lee was already receiving the writing page rate. The credits for the very first story, “Prisoner of the 5th Dimension!” in Strange Tales #103 show Lee as the plotter, remarkable on a story that so obviously bears a Kirby plot.

strangetales103It’s the beginning of a pattern: Lee is credited (and paid) for writing stories that come to him already written by Kirby. The credits worked as a voucher system in the absence of any other accounting records. Mark Evanier: 18

Marvel kept no records of this stuff. In fact, every time there’s a reprint fee due on FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #5 — inked by Giacoia but credit to Sinnott — they pay Sinnott.

Lee disclosed his writing page rate when he was deposed in 2010: 19

STAN LEE: I received a salary which paid me as Editor and Art Director, but I got paid on a freelance basis for the stories that I wrote.

Q. And when you say you were paid on a freelance basis, how were you paid? On what basis?

STAN LEE: The same as every other writer. I was paid per page, so much money per page of script.

Barry Pearl reported on a visit to the home of Dick Ayers: 20

Dick told us how Stan called him one day and said, “I can’t think of a story for Sgt. Fury #23. We won’t have an issue unless you think of something!” A worried Dick could not sleep that night and kept Lindy awake too. They talked about story after story until, in the middle of the night, Lindy came up with the idea of the Howlers saving a nun and her young charges. Dick said, “Stan will never go for that, he wants nothing about religion… But I’ll ask him.” When Dick did, Stan said, “What a great idea, I’ll use it.” So they put together a terrific story. When Dick’s finished pages were shown to him, he saw the credits where he was only listed as artist. He went to Stan’s office and asked if he could also be listed as co-plotter. Stan yelled, “Since when did you develop an ego? Get out of here!”

The credit boxes had multiple facets. The public-facing side told the readers that Stan Lee gave credit to his collaborators. For many, this perception obscures the overwhelming evidence that Lee was misappropriating the pay of the “artists,” and Kirby and Ditko are cast as ingrates. The same credit boxes told the writer-artists that they were being denied credit; the writing credit was only for adding dialogue and captions. Stan Taylor: 21

I think that Stan’s singling out and praising the artists actually upset the artists, more than making them happy. Stan was quick to tell everyone how his artists not only pencilled, but plotted also, yet they knew they were only being paid for pencilling, and at a rate less than the competition, and getting nothing for plotting, while Stan was getting all the glory, and the big bucks for simply putting the finishing sheen on the artists stories. If it was me, I would get pretty mad about doing the work of one and a half people, while being paid less than the competitor paid just for pencilling, and then someone else takes the credit for my stories.

Steve Ditko: 22

Lee started out early with his self-serving, self-claiming, self-gratifying style, of giving credit and then undercutting the giving by taking away or claiming most or all of the credit.

Martin Goodman was evidently under the impression that the plotting credit was part of writing. When this credit was granted, the accompanying page rate was deducted from the writing rate. To keep this from dividing his page rate, Lee concealed his arrangement by spinning it as the Marvel Method.

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1982 [Eisner] 23

KIRBY: I’ll tell you from a professional point of view. I was writing them. I was drawing them.

EISNER: But you do not necessarily subscribe to the idea of someone else, regardless of who it is, putting balloons in on a completely penciled page. I have a prejudice on it but I want to get your opinion.

KIRBY: My opinion is this: Stan Lee wrote the credits. I never wrote the credits.

In early 1965, Steve Ditko requested and received plotting credit on Spider-Man. Lee took the hit directly in the wallet, and stopped speaking to him: 24 “Stan Lee claimed (in Comic Book Marketplace, July 1998) that he gave me that ‘idea’ for that ‘famous’ Spider-man lifting sequence (issue #32). I responded (CBM Sept-Oct 1998) that he couldn’t have because he had chosen to stop communicating with me before issue #25 and that I alone was creating the story line and all panel ideas.”

Steve Ditko’s letter to Comic Book Marketplace: 25

In your Comic Book Marketplace #61, July 1998, page 45, Stan Lee talks about “…a very famous scene…” of the trapped Spider-man lifting heavy machinery over his head.

The drama of that sequence was first commented on and popularized by Gil Kane.

Stan says “I just mentioned the idea…I hadn’t thought of devoting that many pages to it…”

I was publicly credited as plotter only starting with issue #26. The lifting sequence is in issue #33.

The fact is we had no story or idea discussion about some Spider-man books even before issue #26 up to when I left the book.

Stan never knew what was in my plotted stories until I took in the penciled story, the cover, my script and Sol Brodsky took the material from me and took it all into Stan’s office, so I had to leave without seeing or talking to Stan.

Steve Ditko, New York

Steve Skeates: 26

It was during one of these frequent visits of mine to the offices that I took note of the fact (it would have been hard NOT to notice) that Stan was fuming and saying he was really gonna have it out with Ditko this time! I asked somebody what was up, and whomever I asked (Marie or Flo or maybe even Roy) explained the whole thing. As you undoubtedly know, the way the Spider-man comic was put together back in those days was that Ditko would turn in his pencils and his plot, Stan would write the dialogue and the captions and make various instructional notations in the margins of the artwork, next the story would be lettered, and then it would be given back to Ditko so he could ink it! It was the finished inks that Stan was fuming about – in the panel I previously spoke of, even though the dialogue was obviously that of Spidey, Ditko had drawn the villain, forcing Stan to either rewrite the dialogue or have the panel redrawn (probably by either Sol or Marie) and I really can’t remember which course of action he chose! I of course have no way of knowing whether Steve simply forgot he was supposed to change the figure while at the same time failing to read the dialogue and missing the notation in the margin, or if he purposely drew the villain because he (Steve) was being obstinate, but I am positive that Stan THOUGHT that the latter was the case! Needless to say, I wasn’t privy to Stan “finally having it out” with Steve! Still and all, the next thing I knew, Ditko was outta there!

Ditko’s Spider-Man creation account is often used to refute Kirby’s creation claim. Strangely, an actual reading of Ditko’s essays reveals statements like, “The ‘original idea’ for S-M was in Jack Kirby’s five pencilled pages and Lee told me that S-M is a teenager with a magic ring that turns him into an adult S-M.” 27 He also makes one thing perfectly clear (something he’s compelled to add because of what he knows of Stan Lee): 28 “Stan never told me who came up with the idea for SM or for the SM story Kirby was pencilling.”

1975 [Sherman] 29

SHERMAN: About your drawing. At your fastest, during that time, do you have any idea how many books you were doing?

KIRBY: I felt, for a while, like I was doing them all. The stuff I wasn’t penciling, I was doing layouts on. I got the books going–I think that was mainly my function–so that, as Marvel acquired a top-notch staff, they could keep them going.

Beginning in 1964, Kirby was writing books for other artists in the way of breakdowns or “layouts,” roughly sketched action broken down into panels with extensive margin notes. Even these figured into Lee’s scheme. Ostensibly the process was designed to show new artists how to work Marvel Method. The small layout page rate was deducted from the penciller’s rate, and Lee was able to retain the full writer’s rate without having to plot for new pencillers. Mike Gartland wrote a detailed article for Kirby Collector: 30

As has been noted on other occasions, Stan never wanted his other artists to draw like Kirby, but to learn his abilities at dynamic storytelling, which is probably why with the border notes/directions, Jack was requested to do the pencil layouts… The artist would do 75% of the work, but only be paid the standard page rate for penciling; Lee, on the other hand, would be paid for writing, editing, and dialoguing a story already fleshed out and drawn. Jack, of course, received a better rate as a penciller, but never as much as he was promised or felt he deserved. The layout work he did just added insult to injury, as Jack was only paid 25% of his usual page rate; near the end it may have been moved up to around a third, but he still felt it was terrible pay. And as with FF and Thor during this period, it also increased the number of comics per month where Jack was contributing story ideas and plots to comics that were published with sole writer credit going to Lee.

Kirby layouts were designed from the start to give Lee more Kirby-written pages for which Lee could be paid the writer’s rate. (Incidentally, the Gartland article was accompanied by page 29 of Tales To Astonish #73, with the caption observing, “A good example of Stan dialoguing almost verbatim from Jack’s notes.”)

John Romita described Kirby being invited to lay out Daredevil for him: 31

[Lee] said, “Wanna help me out? How about penciling this Daredevil story?” Like a dummy, I said, “Okay.” [laughter] I did it, and when I came in with the first four pages, he loved the splash page, but the next three pages he said were very dull, like romance pages. He said, “I’ll tell you what; just to get you rolling…” He calls up Jack Kirby right there and says, “Listen Jack, how quick can you do 10 pages of breakdowns?”

Ultimately an increase in Kirby’s page rate enabled him to say no to Lee’s abusive practice of making him do layouts.

The Marvel Method

Stan Lee has said he created what he called the Marvel Method to keep his “artists” busy while he dialogued multiple books, and that the happy result was that it gave them more freedom. It’s advertised as an assembly line approach to comics production (something that didn’t originate with Lee). Story conference, synopsis, sometimes just the “germ of an idea” passed from the writer/editor to one of the interchangeable artists. In reality, it was having the writer/artist do the plotting without pay to the benefit of the editor’s income.

From Lee’s depositions: 32

QUINN: Okay. Why don’t you describe the Marvel method.

A. There was a time when I was writing so many stories that I couldn’t keep up with the artists. I couldn’t feed them enough work. And, you see, the artists were freelancers. Now, for example, if Jack was working on a story, and Steve was waiting for me to give him a story because he had had finished what he had been doing –

Q. Jack being Jack Kirby?

A. Jack Kirby.

Q. And Steve Ditko?

A. Right. Or it could have been any of the artists. But just using them as an example, if one of them was waiting for a story while I was still finishing writing the story for the other one, I couldn’t keep him waiting because he wasn’t making money.

No mention is made of how the “artist” would continue to not make money for the plotting that now fell to him because Lee wasn’t doing it. Marvel was pretty much the bottom of the barrel, page-rate-wise, so the people applying for work were desperate. Kirby being blacklisted by Schiff at DC forced his return to the company, and John Romita had to be let go by DC in 1965 before he would consider returning. 33 Even under those circumstances, Lee managed to attract and keep some talented writer/artists.

2002 [Goldberg/Jim Amash] 34

JA: Was Stan writing full scripts for you when you started drawing Kathy, your first humor work?

GOLDBERG: He was at the very beginning. Then things started exploding at Marvel, and Stan needed to cut some corners at his end so he could come up with new ideas. That’s when he developed the “Marvel Style” of writing stories, where the artist did most of the plotting and he did the dialogue. He didn’t trust too many other writers, and this was a good way to keep control of the stories. Some people weren’t happy about it, because Stan was putting work on the artist for no extra pay. Some artists resented it, but that was how it was done. I wasn’t happy about it at first, but I learned how to do it.[emphasis mine]

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When Thomas interviewed Lee in 1998, they backdated the Marvel Method into the ’50s and portrayed it as something that ultimately brought happiness and fulfillment to everyone involved: 35

Roy: You probably didn’t write full scripts for Jack for “Fin Fang Foom.”

Stan: I did full scripts in the beginning, but then I found out how good he was just creating his own little sequence of pictures—and I did it in the beginning with Ditko, too—but when I found out how good they were, I realized that, “Gee, I don’t have to do it—I get a better story by just letting them run free.”

Roy: The amazing thing is, not only could you get Jack and Steve to do it, but that other artists who had always worked from scripts—Dick Ayers, Don Heck, and others—could also learn to do it and be quite successful with a little training from you.

Stan: I will admit that a lot of them were very nervous about it, and very unhappy about being asked to do it. But then they loved it after a while.

Mark Evanier’s unpublished interview with Wallace Wood: 36

WW: I enjoyed working with Stan on DAREDEVIL but for one thing. I had to make up the whole story. He was being paid for writing and I was being paid for drawing but he didn’t have any ideas. I’d go in for a plotting session and we’d just stare at each other until I came up with a storyline. I felt that I was writing the book but not being paid for writing.

ME: You did write one issue, as I recall…

WW: One, yes. I persuaded him to let me write one by myself since I was doing 99% of the writing already. I wrote it, handed it in and he said it was hopeless. He said he’d have to rewrite it all and write the next issue himself. Well, I said I couldn’t contribute to the storyline unless I got paid something for writing and Stan said he’d look into it, but after that he only had inking for me. Bob Powell was suddenly pencilling DAREDEVIL.

ME: I believe Powell pencilled an issue before the one you wrote.

WW: Oh? God, you know this stuff better than I do. Well then, I think I complained about it before. That’s right. I complained about not being paid for writing and suddenly I was inking Powell but I managed to talk him into letting me write one… I guess Stan Lee couldn’t stand having me do the whole thing. I do remember that that was his way of dealing with me asking for writing money if I was pencilling. He had me ink other guys who didn’t want to share the writing money. He said it was because the book was going monthly and he didn’t think I could pencil and ink both but I think it was just because I wasn’t going to write the book for nothing. Actually I wouldn’t have minded if their page rate for pencils hadn’t been so awful.

ME: So you wanted to write and pencil?

WW: Yes. I got to do some of that for Tower. But remember that issue of DAREDEVIL I wrote? Stan said it was hopeless and that he’d have to rewrite the whole thing. Then I saw it when it came out and he’d changed five words, less than an editor usually changes. I think that was the last straw.

John Romita had an amusing take on the Marvel Method: 37

It was very difficult for me, very hard, but it turned out to be the greatest thing for the industry and for me, because the comic – the comic medium had been a script first and visual second and this made it visual first and script second, which was probably the greatest innovation, completely done for expediency sake… when [Lee] was behind, when he couldn’t keep up with the artists and he did not want the artists to stay idle, because the deadlines were looming, he would give them a descriptive verbal or written – quickly-written synopsis of what to do. And that’s how the plot first and script second, script third came about, which was called the Marvel method, which I believe made the comic industry what it is today.

Romita has just ascribed to Stan Lee an “innovation” that Jack Kirby and many other cartoonists practiced for their entire careers, and it’s the very definition of cartooning. In his solo work and as part of the Simon & Kirby Studio, Kirby first laid down the pencils, then returned to add the words (“visual first and script second” as Romita described it). The difference at Marvel was that Kirby did everything as usual up to the point where, instead of writing in the captions and balloons himself, he wrote margin notes before turning the pages over to Lee.

Larry Lieber was credited for writing scripts for a number of early Kirby stories. In addition to giving Lee a way to send a little income in his brother’s direction, Larry’s scripts were another mechanism to suggest Kirby wasn’t doing the plotting. Lee was actually feeding Kirby’s own plots, not only to Ditko, but to Lieber so he could script the Kirby stories. There’s no reason to question the assertion that Lieber wrote scripts for Kirby, but why would Kirby even look at a script for a story he had already described to Lee in a story conference?

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Marvel Myths

Golf

Roy: 38 The story has often been told of this infamous, legendary golf game with Martin Goodman and [DC President] Jack Liebowitz in which Liebowitz bragged about the sales of Justice League of America, and Goodman came back and told you to start a super-hero book. Was that story really true?

Stan: That’s absolutely true. He came in to see me one day and said, “I’ve just been playing golf with Jack Liebowitz”—they were pretty friendly—and he said, “Jack was telling me the Justice League is selling very well, and why don’t we do a book about a group of super-heroes?” That’s how we happened to do Fantastic Four.

Mark Alexander: 39 That’s a great story. In any case, it’s entirely false. The legend of Martin Goodman hearing about JLA‘s impressive sales on a golf outing with Jack Liebowitz has been floating around since the mid-1970s. It’s impossible to determine who fabricated the anecdote. The best guess would be that Stan came up with it. In 2002, Lee was still repeating the story as gospel in his autobiography.

Mark Evanier: 40 Mr. Lee has told this story on many occasions. Mr. Leibowitz, when he was interviewed, said he never played golf with Goodman in his entire life.

“I just don’t know why they left”

Stan Lee has gotten tremendous mileage out of playing the injured party in his dealings with Ditko and Kirby. Evidence indicates, however, that he knew precisely how they felt about his treatment of them. Tom Crippen: 41

Meanwhile Stan was having fun, but having fun with other people’s work can be dangerous. He should have recognized that the Surfer was Kirby’s, since Kirby had drawn him up based on no suggestions whatsoever. But Stan was entranced by his own creativity and had to shanghai the Surfer idea for the sake of Norrin Radd. He was grabby, and I would bet he saw no reason not to be grabby. He never figured out why Kirby left. “I don’t know much of what Jack is talking about these days,” he says grimly in 1981, when the art and credit disputes were heating up. “I don’t know what his problem is.” The same for Ditko: “it was all on Steve’s part. I mean, I felt the same, but he got angry.” Yeah, go figure.

In the title of the seventh installment of “A Failure to Communicate,” Mike Gartland asks, “How could he not know?” 42 The answer is simple: Stan Lee couldn’t not know Kirby would leave, having had a role in driving him away. Lee was complicit with Perfect Film & Chemical in establishing himself as The Creator of The Properties, making Kirby’s continued presence an inconvenience at best, a threat at worst. According to Mark Evanier, after Kirby spent months trying to secure a contract (with nary a good word from his longtime collaborator), what was ultimately offered in the way of a contract was an insult. 43

Putting a spin on Kirby’s departure was on Lee and Thomas’s agenda for the Comic Book Artist interview. Lee: 44 “I think [the relationship] certainly could have been salvaged if I knew what was bothering him. He never really told me, nor did Steve Ditko when he left. You can’t salvage something if you don’t know the cause.”

The imminent event seemed to be common knowledge around the Marvel offices as early as 1968. In a story in Not Brand Echh #11, John Verpoorten drew a gag note pinned to the bulletin board next to Kirby’s drawing board. 45 It reads, “All is forgiven,” and is signed Carmine. Roy Thomas is listed as the writer.

NotBrandEcch

Kirby became a casualty of Lee’s ambition, just as Chip Goodman would a couple of years later. Lee also maintains he knew nothing about Ditko’s reasons for leaving, yet according to Ditko, Lee stopped speaking to him when he demanded plotter credit, over a year before he actually left. From Ditko’s essay about why he quit: 46 “Why should I continue to do all these monthly issues, original story ideas, material, for a man who is too scared, too angry over something, to even see, talk to me?”

John Romita revealed that before Ditko quit, Lee intended to replace him on Spider-Man. 47 “Stan asked me to use Spider-Man as a guest star in Daredevil for two issues, number 16 and number 17, I believe, and I put Spider-Man in and drew him as well as I could and it turned out that he was feeling me out as a possible replacement.” Having already taken the plotting pay out of Lee’s pocket for Spider-Man, Ditko’s continued presence might have had a bearing on Kirby’s tolerance for the status quo. In the same way that Kirby would become a threat to the ownership of the properties, Ditko had become a threat to Lee’s arrangement to collect Kirby’s writing pay.

How could Lee not know? It was impossible, since he knowingly drove away Kirby and Ditko. His playing the wronged partner in both cases engendered much rage at the two “ungrateful artists” who abandoned Stan Lee and his Marvel Method.

We weren’t worried about the credit…

The concept of creator/writer/plotter credit is typically given the same treatment as the original art issue. “It wasn’t important back then” may be true of original art, with notable exceptions, but where credit is concerned it doesn’t hold water.

John Romita: 48 Originally nobody thought about plotting credits, except Ditko.

Roy Thomas: 49 They’re really Ditko’s plots, not mine; it’s just the way we did it, and we didn’t question it at the time. Neither did Jack or Ditko. We weren’t worried about the credits, because there wasn’t any money involved. It’s only later you begin to say, “Hey, why didn’t I take credit for this or that? Why didn’t I put my name down as plotter?”

Romita and Thomas misapply the experience of their time at Marvel to earlier events. They profess knowledge regarding the motivations of the three principals, but produce only hearsay. Credit was vitally important to Kirby, Ditko and Lee in the early ’60s: one man went to extreme efforts to appropriate that which didn’t belong to him, and the other two ultimately left their jobs over it.

Thomas’s remark that “there wasn’t any money involved” suggests either that he was complicit in Lee’s system, or unaware of the way it really worked; for Stan Lee, credit was money. If Lee’s assistants, including Thomas, Romita and Goldberg, were fed a constant diet of misinformation, it would explain statements like, “I know Jack was getting detailed outlines even when they started doing The Fantastic Four” (Goldberg); “I figured with Jack as the artist—and maybe Ditko, too—in these minor stories that you mostly wrote, along with Larry Lieber, you must have been doing [the Marvel style] since the monster days” (Thomas); and “[Kirby and Lee’s plotting sessions] were the same as my plotting sessions and the same as Gene Colan’s and Herb Trimpe’s and John Buscema” (Romita).

The Great American Novel

In Origins, Stan Lee described the original motivation for his pseudonym: 50

Myself when born was christened Stanley Martin Lieber—truly an appellation to conjure with… So happy was I being S.M.L., and so certain that I would one day write the great American novel, or the great American motion picture, and so young and witless was I at the time I started writing comics, that I felt I couldn’t sully so proud a name on books for little kiddies.

Lee claims he always intended to leave comics and become a writer of serious literature, and he happened to rub shoulders at the office with a number of people who lived this reality. Bruce Jay Friedman edited fiction magazines for Martin Goodman, and wrote fiction in his spare time. Eventually he left his position at Magazine Management (Goodman gave him an elaborate going-away party), and became a highly successful author. Mickey Spillane, Mario Puzo and Martin Cruz Smith followed the same career path.

Lee himself didn’t make the transition. He continued to write for an audience he described as “drooling juveniles and semicretins.” 51 In 1961, it all changed, as the Lee version has it: Joan Lee told her husband to “write stories that you yourself would enjoy reading.” Lee, concluding that he was above the reading ability of his existing audience, says he then began writing to his own level. His assertion is belied by the fact that throughout the decade, he was editing the greater meaning out of Kirby’s stories, and turning the strong female characters into damsels in distress and submissive housewives. What really happened to change it all in 1961 was Lee hitching his wagon to Jack Kirby.

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Lee fomented his own novel throughout the ’60s, What I Did (with help from some artists under my direction). It would never be published, but it was at his fingertips for interviews, and excerpts in the Origins books. He began by establishing a narrative in the Letters of Comment pages… fictitious letters at first (signed S. Brodsky and S. Goldberg), then fictitious responses to real letters. First he planted the germ of the idea that Marvel readers were a cut above average intellectually, a mantra that will be chanted by his acolytes into their sixties.

Fantastic Four #3 LOC page, March 1962 [cover date]

DEAR EDITOR:
Are you the same one who also puts out STRANGE TALES, TALES TO ASTONISH, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, TALES OF SUSPENSE, AMAZING ADULT FANTASY, and a lot of Westerns like KID COLT, OUTLAW, and teen_age titles like, PATSY WALKER? If so, how do you do it?
S. Brodsky, Brooklyn, New York

With great difficulty!

P.S. – We’ve just noticed something… unlike many other collections of letters in different mags, our fans all seem to write well, and intelligently. We assume this denotes that our readers are a cut above average, and that’s the way we like ’em!

Then he laid claim to the innovation of squabbling teammates (easy since none of his readers are old enough to have experienced the Newsboy Legion). Throw in the suggestion that it will take intelligent readers to appreciate it…

Fantastic Four #4 LOC page, May 1962

DEAR EDITOR:
Are you kidding?? What kind of super-characters are these? They’re always fighting among themselves! They have the same jealousies and personality clashes as real people! Have you flipped your lids?? Do you think comic mag readers are intelligent enough to appreciate all that good writing jazz?? If you want my opinion – you’re darn right!
S. Goldberg, Forest Hills, New York

Too many letter writers seemed to wonder if maybe Kirby was doing the writing, so let’s institute those credits, not to be forthright regarding the breakdown of work, but to have Lee on record as writer.

Hulk #5 LOC page, January 1963

Regarding the art work, Lee, here’s what happened. Jack Kirby draws the strips in pencil and Dick Ayers usually inks them. But Dick was busy inking another strip at the same time as the second ish of the HULK came due, so Steve Ditko helped out by inking that one. To save any future confusion, you have probably noticed that we are starting to name the writer, the artist, and inker (when there IS a separate inker) of all our feature strips from now on. Hope you fans like the idea.

Fantastic Four #11 LOC page, February 1963

Dear Stan and Jack:
Do you mind telling us who wrote the story for FF #8? It was probably the greatest one we’ve ever seen.
James Barnhill & Larry Berry

Thanks, guys. But you must be the only two readers left who don’t know that Stan Lee writes the stories and Jack Kirby draws them.

Mr Miracle_06_10b

The mastermind behind the Marvel Method, which he established to keep his stable of “artists” busy, hasn’t received the next issue’s pages yet from Kirby… Oops, I mean hasn’t thought up a plot for the next issue.

Fantastic Four #23 LOC page, February 1964

Can we level with you? We can’t tell you what the next FF will be because we haven’t decided on a plot yet. So we won’t say “Don’t miss the greatest, most thrilling, etc. etc.” All we’ll say is – we’ve got to dream up a story in the next couple of days, and have it drawn pronto if we wanna make out deadline! So to find out if we succeeded, and how well we succeeded, don’t miss FF #24, on sale around the beginning of December.

Avengers #5 LOC page, May 1964

That’s it for this ish! See you when we present AVENGERS #6! Can’t tell you what the plot is because it’s loaded with surprises, but with Stan writing it, and Jack drawing it, we sort of suspect it will be worth watching for!

Wood begins plotting Daredevil with #5, and Lee gives battle, attacking Wood on the letters page. First he lays the groundwork for explaining any confusion that arises because the copy writer doesn’t understand the plot…

Daredevil #6 LOC page, February 1965

Now before we close, one of the guys in the bullpen gave Stan an idea for a new D.D. story. The plot is so complicated, so off-beat, so utterly impossible to make any sense out of, that Stan immediately decided to adapt it for a script! So, if you want to see either the greatest magazine saga of the century, or the biggest fizzle Marvel’s ever come up with, don’t miss D.D. #7!

Wood quits writing for free, and Lee slags him to the readers. At the same time, he appeals to the audience for insight into understanding Wood’s plots.

Daredevil #10 LOC page, October 1965

Well, if you’ve ever seen a more complicated, mixed-up, madcap mystery yarn than this one, you’ve got US beat a mile! And now, here’s the payoff—Wonderful Wally decided he doesn’t have time to write the conclusion next ish, and he’s forgotten most of the answers we’ll be needing! So, Sorrowful Stan has inherited the job of tying the whole yarn together and finding a way to make it all come out in the wash! And you think you’ve got troubles!

Daredevil #11 LOC page, December 1965

Well, that finally wraps that up! If you understand what these last two ishes were all about, clue us in sometime!

His appeal is answered… a young reader comes to the rescue. Huh, the “writer” doesn’t even remember leaving that clue. To top it off, let’s get one last dig at Wood.

Daredevil #12 LOC page, January 1966

Dear Stan, [it had been “Dear Stan and Wally” up to #10]
If Mr. Jonas isn’t the Organizer, I’ll eat this issue of DAREDEVIL.
Dave Harrer

It’s a funny thing, Dave—literally hundreds of our fantastic fans discovered the Organizer’s identity—but you’re the only one so far who figured it out because Jonas introduced Deb! We didn’t even realize we had left that particular clue in the yarn! So, we’re printing your letter first, because you did it the hard way, lad!

Glad you liked Wally’s story, but we’ll let you in on a little secret—Stan the Man couldn’t keep his hands off the script, and when Our Leader got through editing it, about the only thing left that Wally himself had written was his name!

It’s not about the credit, it’s about the money.

Daredevil #8 LOC page, June 1965

Credit! Credit! Everyone’s always giving us credit! When’s someone going to ante up a little cash around here?

When Perfect Film & Chemical needed Lee to provide a narrative minimizing Kirby’s involvement in property creation, the elaborate groundwork was already in place. He had prepped the “witnesses,” Bails, Goldberg, Lieber, Thomas and Romita among others: they thought they were attesting to the accuracy of his accounts with their second-hand knowledge, but the great American novel they were endorsing was What Stan Said. Lee’s original motivation for building a parallel history had been his need to rationalize the writing credit and accompanying pay, but in the end, just a single critical detail needed to be added for it to perfectly suit the company’s purposes: the claim of “my idea.”

The artist who created…

From books on how to draw “the Marvel way” to court documents sporting shoddy research by judges to a CNN blog trumpeting a book by his daughter, Stan Lee is known as “the artist who created…” followed by a list of Marvel’s most precious properties. In “Digging Ditko, Part 3,” 52 Stephen Bissette drew a comparison between Marvel and the Disney of Richard Schickel’s The Disney Version. Here’s a bit from page 33 of Schickel’s book: 53

Among unsophisticated people there was a common misapprehension that Disney continued to draw at least the important sequences in his animated films, his comic strips, his illustrated books. Although his studio often stressed in its publicity the numbers of people it employed and the beauties of their teamwork, some very unsophisticated people thought he did everything himself—an interesting example of the persistence of a particularly treasured illusion and of the corporation’s ability to keep it alive even while denying it.

These days, Disney similarly keeps the Tale of Stan Lee alive. In Lee’s case they don’t take the trouble to deny it.

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Articles in this series:
* Interviews
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part one
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part two (you are here!)
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part three

 

Footnotes

Repetition of citations allows linking back to individual quotes.

back 1 Flo Steinberg interviewed by Michael Kraiger, The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 2 Flo Steinberg interviewed by Jim Salicrup and Dwight Jon Zimmerman, Comics Interview #17, November 1984.

back 3 Roy Thomas interviewed by Jim Amash, conducted by phone in September 1997, published The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 4 Stan Goldberg interviewed by Jim Amash, Alter Ego v3 #18, October 2002.

back 5 John Romita interviewed by Tom Spurgeon, “Spider-Man At 50 Part Four: A John Romita Sr. Interview From 2002,” The Comics Reporter, 10 August 2012.

back 6 John Romita deposition, 21 October 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 2, and Filing 102, Exhibit F.

back 7 Nat Freedland, “Super-Heroes with Super Problems,” New York Herald Tribune, 9 January 1966. Reprinted in The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 8 Roy Thomas interviewed by Jim Amash, conducted by phone in September 1997, published The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 9 Steve Sherman, by email, 25 February 2015.

back 10 Robert Knight’s Earthwatch, Jack Kirby radio interview conducted by Warren Reece and Max Schmid, WBAI New York, 28 August 1987. Transcript posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 11 Nat Freedland, “Super-Heroes with Super Problems,” New York Herald Tribune,9 January 1966. Reprinted in The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 12 Bob Sheridan, “Rambling with Romita,” Web Spinner #5, 1966.

back 13 Roy Thomas & Jim Amash, John Romita… And All That Jazz!, TwoMorrows Publishing, July 2007.

back 14 In Marvel’s first published Statements of Ownership (Spider-Man #47 and Fantastic Four #61, April 1967), filed on 1 October 1966, Spider-Man had an average total paid circulation of 340,155 for the 12 months preceding the filing, and 362,760 for the single issue nearest the filing date. Fantastic Four had an average total paid circulation of 329,379 for the same period, and 361,460 for the single issue nearest the filing date. John Jackson Miller, Curator of ComiChron, said this in a 7 April 2015 email: “I would tend to suspect the numbers would have probably reflected September-ship to August-ship books, or even August-to-July. That would work out to December 1965-to-November 1966 cover dates, or November-to-October.” Steve Ditko’s last issue had the July 1966 cover date, meaning John Romita was responsible for the last three to four issues, and Ditko was responsible for two-thirds to three-quarters of the average. The numbers for “single issue nearest filing date” show that Fantastic Four had closed the gap substantially by the end of the twelve issues tallied.

back 15 Neal Adams interviewed by Arlen Schumer, Comic Book Artist #3, Winter 1999.

back 16 Stan Goldberg interviewed by Jim Amash, Alter Ego v3 #18, October 2002.

back 17 Larry Lieber deposition, 7 January 2011, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 4.

back 18 Mark Evanier, Jack Kirby Fan Group Facebook Group, 12 August 2013.

back 19 Stan Lee deposition, 13 May 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit I, and 8 December 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit J.

back 20 Barry Pearl, “The Yancy Street Gang visits Dick & Lindy Ayers,” Alter Ego #90, December 2009.

back 21 Stan Taylor, Kirby-L, the Jack Kirby Internet mailing list, 6 November 1999.

back 22 Steve Ditko, “Creative Crediting,” The Avenging Mind, April 2008.

back 23 Shop Talk, Jack Kirby interviewed by Will Eisner, Will Eisner‘s Spirit Magazine 39, July 1982.

back 24 Steve Ditko, “A Mini-History: Wind-up,” The Comics, v14n11, November 2003.

back 25 Steve Ditko, letter to the editor, Comic Book Marketplace #63, October 1998.

back 26 Steve Skeates, “drawing straws, the raw truth…,” Wood-L (Internet mailing list), 15 October 1999.

back 27 Steve Ditko, “He Giveth and He Taketh Away,” The Avenging Mind, April 2008.

back 28 Steve Ditko, “A Mini-History 13: Speculation,” The Comics, v14n8, August 2003.

back 29 Steve Sherman, 1975, The Jack Kirby Collector #8, January 1996. (Originally presented in the 1975 Comic Art Convention program book.)

back 30 Mike Gartland, “A Failure to Communicate: Part 6, The Best Laid (Out) Plans…” The Jack Kirby Collector #29, August 2000. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 31 John Romita interviewed by Jon Cooke, Comic Book Artist #6, Fall 1999.

back 32 Stan Lee deposition, 13 May 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit I, and 8 December 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit J.

back 33 John Romita deposition, 21 October 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 2, and Filing 102, Exhibit F.

back 34 Stan Goldberg interviewed by Jim Amash, Alter Ego v3 #18, October 2002.

back 35 “Stan the Man & Roy the Boy,” A Conversation Between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, Comic Book Artist #2, Summer 1998.

back 36 Mark Evanier’s unpublished interview with Wallace Wood, Kirby-L, the Jack Kirby Internet mailing list, 5 July 1997.

back 37 John Romita deposition, 21 October 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 2, and Filing 102, Exhibit F.

back 38 “Stan the Man & Roy the Boy,” A Conversation Between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, Comic Book Artist #2, Summer 1998.

back 39 Mark Alexander, “The Wonder Years,” The Jack Kirby Collector 58, December 2011.

back 40 Mark Evanier deposition, 9 November 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 8.

back 41 Tom Crippen, “Stan,” The Hooded Utilitarian, 30 September 2008 (originally ran in The Comics Journal, February 2008).

back 42 Mike Gartland, “A Failure to Communicate: Part 7, How could he not know?” The Jack Kirby Collector #36, Summer 2002. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 43 Mark Evanier, Kirby: King of Comics, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York, NY, 2008.

back 44 “Stan the Man & Roy the Boy,” A Conversation Between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, Comic Book Artist #2, Summer 1998.

back 45 “Auntie Goose Rhymes,” written by Roy Thomas, drawn by John Verpoorten, Not Brand Ecch #11, December 1968.

back 46 Steve Ditko, “Essay #45: Why I Quit S-M, Marvel,” The Four-Page Series #9, September 2015. Published and © by Robin Snyder and Steve Ditko.

back 47 John Romita deposition, 21 October 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 2, and Filing 102, Exhibit F.

back 48 John Romita interviewed by Jon Cooke, Comic Book Artist #6, Fall 1999.

back 49 Roy Thomas interviewed by Jim Amash, conducted by phone in September 1997, published The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 50 Stan Lee, Origins of Marvel Comics, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1974.

back 51 Stan Lee, “How I Invented Spider-Man,” Quest Magazine, July/August 1977.

back 52 Stephen Bissette, “Digging Ditko, Part 3,” SRBissette.com, September 14th, 2012.

back 53 Richard Schickel, The Disney Version, Elephant Paperbacks, © 1968, 1985, 1997.

Looking For The Awesome – Foreword

Contents | Next – Title, Dedication, and Notes

As I mentioned when I learned of his passing, the late Stan Taylor and I tried to work out a way for his book, “Looking For The Awesome – Jack Kirby: A Life Among Gods”, to be presented on the Kirby Museum website a few years ago. At the time we weren’t successful, but thanks to his widow Annabelle, I’m now going to serialize it here on the Kirby Effect. It would have been Stan’s 64th birthday today, so I’m pleased to get ball rolling by posting the foreword he wrote at the beginning of 2012 (which I have edited) to get things started. – Rand Hoppe

Happy New Year, y’all!

Thanks to the Kirby Museum for offering me this access. And thanks to you for taking the time to read it.

Jack Kirby was a magician. Not a prestidigitator using sleight of hand or smoke and mirrors; a real magician, a conjurer who produced something of value from nothing. He took blank pieces of paper and created worlds beyond belief; stories of wonder, and pathos, and crime and justice, and humanity.

He didn’t have a wand, a la Harry Potter, he had a simpler more powerful tool; a # 2 graphite pencil, perhaps the most powerful tool ever created. In the hand of a wizard, pencils have righted wrongs, brought down evil, entertained the masses, showed horror and joy and opened doors of the imagination.

People ask me why Jack Kirby? What separated him from every other comic book artist? It’s a hard question. Nothing Kirby did was out of the realm of normal. He didn’t draw anything that any other artist couldn’t reproduce. In fact, I might argue that there were better artists, such as Kubert, Wood, or Frazetta. But they don’t match Kirby. Some claim Kirby was a genius- possessed of some inherent gift that gave him a supra ability that fashioned and guided his work thru the different eras; a sort of X-Men among artists. But in my research, I have found nothing in this man out of the ordinary; truth be told to meet this small man, one was left dumbfounded by just how ordinary he was. When I first met him, in the fall of 1989, I chuckled at just how small and weak his hand was when I shook his hand. I laughed and told him that after 50 years of drawing, I expected his right arm to look like Popeye’s. Kirby laughed and said that “a #2 pencil doesn’t weigh that much.”

But one factor that every Kirby researcher learns is that Kirby did have one super power; the ability to put his seat in a chair and work for 8-10 hours at a stretch, 365 days a year. So why Kirby?, Because no comic artist explored the unknowable and asked those hard questions as much as Kirby. No one exploded the mind and sense of wonder that Kirby’s graphics did. Kirby once described his life as “looking for the awesome” and no one came closer to finding it.

If Thomas Edison was correct-and I think he was- that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, than yes, Jack Kirby was a genius. No one outworked him, whether he was deep into a project that touched his heart or just batting out one of a thousand stories needed to fill some space in a comic book. There were times when Jack Kirby was mad as a hornet at a particular comic company, yet not once did he cut back on production or quality. Other artists would marvel at Kirby’s work ethic. Not one ever said that Kirby had some inherited gene or physical edge, just that he could outwork anyone. It’s hard to know where Kirby got his grit, but it showed up early. A youth spent in the hardscrabble inner city New York ghetto was bound to forge determination and drive. Grow or die; the law of the jungle and the act of evolution. Kirby used his fears and grew from them.

My own fascination with Kirby began in the late 1950’s. I was that grubby little kid collecting empty pop bottles to get the .02 deposit to buy comics; mostly DC’s like Jimmy Olsen, Batman, and Flash. One day I saw a killer comic cover; a huge blue robot fighting a group of humans, and a girl in its hand trying to calm it down. The background was a futuristic cityscape with big black shadows curling thru it. One of the humans was shouting “Ultivac is loose!!” The comic was Showcase #7, the second appearance of the Challengers of the Unknown, and it looked and read like no other comic I had ever seen. It was one lonely story. The action was so gorgeously outrageous, and the robot so terrifying, plus, one of the heroes actually got shot and almost died. The villain was an ex-Nazi- a time still fresh in the human psyche. If pressed, I had probably read a Kirby comic earlier, I have some memory of some comics like Black Magic, or Alarming Tales, but nothing that struck like a thunderclap as the Challs did. I soon found more stories by this artist- fantasy stories in the DC anthology titles. the Fly and the Shield at Archie. More monsters, aliens, and disasters ripped right from my beloved horror movies. The provenance of artist was undeniable. I think the first time I placed a name with the artwork was when I bought an Atlas fantasy comic, but I certainly couldn’t put a name to which one. All I knew was that this artist’s stories were so superior to anyone else. His characters leapt out at the reader, and the special effects were a quantum leap from the usual comic artist. His monsters were menacing and lovable at the same time. His heroes were stalwart and steady. And the stories made sense- not great logic or scientific plausibility, but a sort of cause and effect that Batman and Superman rarely did. I noticed that I was reading Kirby’s stories repeatedly, and rarely ever looking at the Bob Brown, or Gil Kane or Don Heck and Paul Reinman anthology tales sharing the pages.

As a kid, I couldn’t explain just why Kirby’s work appealed to me; in fact, I probably still can’t put it into meaningful and understandable passages what Kirby’s appeal is. It’s not quantifiable, or logical, it is a palpable feeling, purely emotional. It’s magic!

Jump a generation, and I got my first computer. One of the first things I googled (or yahoood) was Jack Kirby. And much to my surprise, there were endless sites spotlighting Jack Kirby. I wasn’t alone as a child in my feelings for Kirby, his appeal I found was world wide.

What I couldn’t find was a satisfactory biography. Everything out there was full of clear misstatements and untruths, false anecdotes and tall tales. I guess it was easier to repeat the same mistakes than to do some actual research and tell the truth. Recently a couple of better bios were published, first Tales to Astonish by Ronin Ro, and then Mark Evanier’s Kirby-King of Comics, I found both to be well done, but ultimately unsatisfactory. Ro’s tome simply repeats the earlier anecdotes of Jack’s life, often repeating word for word mistaken bits from earlier bios. Evanier’s book is great for Jack’s life after 1970 or so, but the early years suffer from a lack of real scholarship. This is understandable since Mark was a part of Kirby’s life from 1970 on.

Another problem is that both books lacked context. Jack Kirby was a man of his time, his actions were often based on or responding to events in the real world, and his career was directed by events in the comic industry not of his making, but unavoidable all the same.

So I was prodded by others tired of my taking shots at the printed bios and decided to write my own tale of Kirby. By nature I am a researcher, I take nothing at face value and dig until I have found what I think is the truth, or at least the kernel of truth. Quotes are of limited use to me as I find them vague, self-serving and often factually incorrect. But in telling Kirby’s story it is impossible not to rely on quotes from his family, friends, and colleagues- simply because Jack was not all that forthcoming and reliable as to his past. He was hardwired for looking forward, not backward. Jack was a storyteller, not a historian. He embellished his tales to the point of their being nothing but a core factual event existing in a cocoon of wonder and bedazzlement. Unweaving a cocoon takes patience, diligence, and often luck. My extensive use of quotes is more to offer a setting, or a proper background; to strike the right mood and set an atmosphere to round out the cold hard facts that I am presenting. Jack had a silly, absent minded quality that is very hard to show except thru excerpts, and anecdotal evidence. It was a most human quality and important to see if you want the real Jack Kirby. So please don’t take my presented quotes as fact, just as part of the veneer of a life.

Another problem with a bio on Kirby is that for the most part, Kirby did not lead an exciting adventurous life. He sat in a chair for 15 hours a day. There is actually very little drama and crisis to draw the reader in. Jack’s life was a simple story of someone working hard and following the rules. Yet there are events that tore at Kirby’s soul and I try not to downplay or overstate them. It’s hard to tell a “warts and all” bio when there are very few warts to be found, but where they were I hopefully looked at them fair and balanced. There are surprisingly few villains in this piece; certainly Stan Lee takes his fair share of hits, but not in a personal way, more as the human face of an industry that never treated its artists in a humane fashion. Stan Lee is not an ogre; Kirby saved that kind of vitriol for just one person- Adolph Hitler. As I said, Kirby was a man of his time. In today’s parlance, Kirby was not a h8ter.

Thanks

Stan Taylor

topNextTitle, Dedication, and Notes

The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part one

Michael Hill sent us this article, as well the Interviews piece we published last month, for consideration for The Kirby Effect. We’re publishing it here in three parts with comments disabled – Rand. With thanks to Steven Brower.

Articles in this series:
* Interviews
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part one (you are here!)
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part two
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part three

We don’t know. We weren’t there.

No one was there to witness the inception of the Marvel Universe but Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Oh, and Roz, Susan, Neal, Barbara, and Lisa, since Kirby worked from his home. A quarter century after Kirby’s most famous telling of his version of events, the question that needs to be asked is how is it that Stan Lee’s version was awarded the status of historical fact? Charles Hatfield in Hand of Fire: 1

It would be an exaggeration to credit Kirby with full authorship of his work at Marvel… Lee’s presence was sustaining, generative, and overwhelming; his verbal swagger and editorial cunning were definitive to Marvel, and documentary evidence suggests he was, early on, both Kirby’s guide and active collaborator in envisioning such properties as The Fantastic Four.

Hatfield’s take is one variation on the nearly universally-accepted doctrine regarding the Kirby/Lee relationship during the late ’50s and early ’60s. Even Kirby-centric historical narratives begin with the assumption that Lee fed Kirby ideas and plots during the formative years, and that Kirby’s claims of authorship are not to be taken seriously. Hatfield: 2

…in a sometimes-volcanic interview given to The Comics Journal in 1989, Kirby… disputed Lee’s share of creative contribution to the early Marvels, claiming sole authorship… “I used to write the stories just like I always did,” he said.

Hatfield cites what he calls “documentary evidence,” the Fantastic Four plot synopses, to prove the Accepted Version. He disputes Kirby’s version by saying, “Lee explicitly denied all this,” and quotes Groth saying, “most observers and historians consider Kirby’s claims to be excessive.” Hatfield qualifies the proof using the words “seemingly,” “reportedly,” and “under what circumstances and at precisely what stage remains unclear.”

In a recent Kirby Collector, John Morrow endorsed Lee’s version of events: 3 “In the early days before Jack started adding heavy margin notes for Stan, Lee was presumably providing scripts to Jack, and Kirby would leave blank areas for Stan’s dialogue.”

The Accepted Version is so thoroughly supported that even a lauded work of Kirby scholarship and a long-running Kirby publication embrace Lee’s version and dispute Kirby’s. Jack Kirby spoke very clearly on all of these issues. When asked specifically about Lee’s first-issue synopsis, he said, “I’ve never seen it, and of course I would say that’s an outright lie.” 4 He denied ever working from a Lee script.

Mr Miracle_06_01

Today, Lee’s creator credit for anything and everything is ubiquitous. Stan Lee and Marvel are synonymous, and reference to his creation of the characters is automatic. The recent settlement between Marvel and the Kirby family calls Jack a co-creator, a condition under which the truth of the matter is unlikely to come to light. In 2015, Lee and Roy Thomas continue to spread the Accepted Version. 5 They might be required to call Kirby co-creator, but they don’t let that interfere with them sticking to their story, and Thomas calls dissenters “crazy.” (There are cracks in the dam, however: shortly after Lee and Thomas appeared in print together, Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort revealed a character creation scenario that blatantly contradicted Lee’s sworn testimony.)

How did we get here?

After their 1968 purchase of Marvel, it would have been in the interests of Perfect Film & Chemical to minimize the contributions of a freelance creator. It was particularly important in Kirby’s case because Marvel had no contract, not even a paycheck, to document his working relationship with the company.

In 1974, Lee’s Origins of Marvel Comics 6 committed Marvel’s authorized version of events to book form.

On numerous occasions in the ’70s and ’80s, Kirby spoke frankly describing his creative contributions (see the “Interviews” post). Rather than being permitted to set the record straight, he was attacked. Special acrimony was reserved for his 1989 interview, despite the fact that Kirby had made the same claims in many interviews for over twenty years.

In 2010, Lee was deposed in the suit brought by Marvel against the Kirby family. He testified that the Origins creation stories were not truthful, that any representation of Kirby participating in the creation of copyrighted characters and plots was only included to make Kirby feel good when he read the Origins book. One by one, Lee explicitly claimed sole credit for the creation of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, the X-Men, Nick Fury, the Avengers, Ant-Man/Giant Man, and the Rawhide Kid; even though he couldn’t claim he created the Silver Surfer, he had the seemingly more important “responsibilty” of making him a “separate character.” He also revealed that he was paid by the page for writing Kirby’s stories. 7

Year Lee Kirby
1963 Steve created Doctor Strange.
1966 Jack created the Surfer.
1968 Jack created Ego… he needed no plot at all. I created the Inhumans.
1969 I created the Hulk, too, and saw him as a kind of handsome Frankenstein.
1970 I was faced with the frustration of having to come up with new ideas and then having them taken from me.
1971 I’d tell Stan Lee what the next story was going to be, and I’d go home and do it. I created the Silver Surfer, Galactus and an army of other characters, and now my connection with them is lost.
1974 I must have gone through a dozen pencils and a thousand sheets of paper in the days that followed… But I kept coming back to the same ludicrous idea: the only way to top the others would be with Super-God. I created the FF, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, Doctor Strange.
1982 The ideas were cooked up by me!
1986 All the concepts were mine. I wrote the script and I drew the story.
1987 The Marvel outfit will give credit to nobody except Stanley, see?
1989 I wrote everything I did. When I went back to Marvel, I began to create the new stuff.
1990 I wrote the complete story. I drew the complete story.
1998 Jack tended toward hyperbole.
2010 I tried to write them to make it look as if he and I were just doing everything together, to make him feel good. I created Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, the X-Men, Nick Fury, the Avengers, Ant-Man/Giant Man, and the Rawhide Kid.

We’ve lost sight of what we once knew about Stan Lee. Mid- and late-1960s satirical swipes in Sick magazine and DC’s Angel and the Ape presaged Kirby’s own Funky Flashman, painting Lee as the guy who signed his name to other people’s work. In the early ’60s he confided to Jerry Bails that Doctor Strange was Ditko’s creation (he later recanted in Origins). In 1986, Bails was under no illusions when he said, “Kirby should be advised to sign on the biggest legal guns and fight for the characters he created.” 8 It’s Lee who has charmed us into believing that Jack Kirby is a liar, and we’re convinced of it even while trying to work out when Stan Lee last told the truth.

The TCJ interview still draws fire, much of it from people who haven’t read it. The condemnation is mystifying, since there are dozens of earlier Kirby interviews ready to rise up to take its place, dating back to 1968. Meeting with Gary Groth in the summer of 1989 was not the first time Jack Kirby had been given the opportunity to dispute Lee’s widely-believed creation story: Kirby had been telling the same version for twenty years (see the “Interviews” post).

When Stan Lee speaks, his “recollections” are treated as history. Many of Lee’s pronouncements have proven to be false with no obvious effect on his credibility; Kirby has been labeled a liar simply because his story is at odds with what Lee says. What would it look like if we treated Jack Kirby’s account with the same reverence and awe given Lee’s? What if we were to give more scrutiny to Lee’s version, along with the accounts and motivations of those who corroborate it?

Memories

In 1998, Roy Thomas cautioned against putting stock in “Stan’s memory or Jack’s memory.” 9 Since he was one of the advocates of Lee’s version, Thomas was referring specifically to the old man memories Jack Kirby had shared with Gary Groth. Three decades earlier, Kirby and Lee were both interviewed for print; only one of them told a story that wouldn’t change.

Lee had credited Steve Ditko with creating Doctor Strange in a 1963 letter to Jerry Bails: 10

Well, we have a new character in the works for STRANGE TALES (just a 5-page filler named DR. STRANGE–) Steve Ditko is gonna draw him. Sort of a black magic theme. The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him– ’twas Steve’s idea, and I figgered we’d give it a chance, although again, we had to rush the first one too much. Little sidelight: Originally decided to call him MR. STRANGE, but thought the MR. bit too similar to MR. FANTASTIC– now however, I just remember we had a villain called DR. STRANGE just xxxxxx recently in one of our mags– hope it won’t be too confusing! Oh well…

In 1968, Kirby and Lee were in the midst of their professional relationship. Lee was hampered by his own credit boxes: he couldn’t say the “artists” were doing the plotting—it might come back to bite him in the wallet; he couldn’t reveal that, for more than a year, he’d had no inkling of what Steve Ditko was going to put in the next Spider-Man; he couldn’t admit that he never provided Jack Kirby with a plot. On the other hand, Kirby’s wording was only tempered by his employment situation.

Castle of Frankenstein, 1968 11
STAN: Some artists, of course, need a more detailed plot than others. Some artists, such as Jack Kirby, need no plot at all. I mean I’ll just say to Jack, “Let’s let the next villain be Dr. Doom”… or I may not even say that. He may tell me. And then he goes home and does it. He’s so good at plots, I’m sure he’s a thousand times better than I. He just about makes up the plots for these stories. All I do is a little editing… I may tell him that he’s gone too far in one direction or another. Of course, occasionally I’ll give him a plot, but we’re practically both the writers on the things.

Excelsior No. 1, 1968 . 12
Q: Who created the Inhumans, you or Stan Lee?

JACK: I did.

Q: Do you plot the Fantastic Four stories by drawing the basic story and then having Stan write the dialogue?

JACK: This is Stanley’s editorial policy. As a Marvel artist, I carry it out

WBAI Radio with Neil Conan, 1968 13
NC: Well, I can remember trembling with anticipation waiting for the next Thor during the period when you had Id, the Living Planet, or Ego, the Living Planet I think that was it.

SL: Yeah. That was Jack’s idea too. I remember I said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” He said, “No, let’s get a living planet, a bioverse.” Well, I didn’t want him to think I was chicken. I said, “All right, you draw it, I’ll write it.” And, yeah, I think it turned out pretty good.

The year after the Excelsior interview, Kirby was still in Marvel’s employ when he told Mark Hebert what he was thinking when he created The Hulk. Roy Thomas should be pleased to learn that Kirby didn’t let his memories of uncredited work get old before getting them published, but did so while the memories were still fresh, still being made.

Mr Miracle_06_03top

It was Lee’s story that changed over the years, and not because of a poor memory. He was aware that the claim often absolved him of criticism. “As you know, I have the worst memory in the world…” 14 One-time collaborator Ditko took Lee to task in a recent essay: 15 “Poor memory advocates — too often — want to be given a blank check for what comes out of their mouths. Can a man/mind with a claimed poor memory have any authentic, personal integrity? There are those who make reference to, justifications for, their poor memory but poor memory doesn’t stop them from still claiming facts, truth, credit.

Thomas and the entire industry have been the enablers for Lee’s “bad memory” cover story. Thomas’s casual interview comment was meant to suggest both men were afflicted; Kirby denounced the idea in the Mark Borax interview: 16

MARK: Jack, even though each of you, in your own hearts, know who did what —

JACK: We know!

MARK: — do you think that time has obscured some of —

JACK: NO! It hasn’t obscured it. He knows it, I know it.

Six years after the Castle of Frankenstein and Excelsior interviews, Stan Lee published the first of his Official Versions, Origins of Marvel Comics. 17 Thomas told Jim Amash that any deviations from the truth in the tales told therein should be excused on account of Kirby working for the competition (Jack had left for DC in 1970): 18

ROY: I think once Jack left, there was a natural tendency to mentally downgrade his contributions… you don’t necessarily play up the guy who’s quit and gone to the competition.

TJKC: A lot of people were really upset about Origins of Marvel Comics, because it seemed like Stan had really downplayed Jack’s contributions a lot there.

ROY: The problem there may also have been the legalities…

Note that Lee later disowned his Origins tales, saying he had exaggerated when he credited Kirby. From his 2010 depositions: 19

So I tried to write these—knowing Jack would read them, I tried to write them to make it look as if he and I were just doing everything together, to make him feel good. And we were doing it together. But with something like Galactus, it was me who said, “I want to do a demigod. I want to call him Galactus.” Jack said it was a great idea, and he drew a wonderful one and he did a great job on it. But in writing the book, I wanted to make it look as if we did it together. So I said we were both thinking about it, and we came up with Galactus.

In a series of essays on Steve Ditko in 2012, 20 Stephen Bissette assessed the state of public perception regarding the company and its creators.

Let’s face it: Marvel and Stan Lee have controlled the mainstream dialogue about Marvel Comics since 1947 (and the article that year by Lee in Writer’s Digest). With the sole exception of [Dan Raviv’s] Comic Wars… every book about Marvel since Stan Lee’s Origins of Marvel Comics (1974) has been either a Marvel Comics and/or Stan Lee self-promotional confection. In fact, I’d date that love affair back to 1947, and the publication of Stan Lee’s chapbook The Secrets of Comics, which handily wrote Joe Simon and Jack Kirby out of the creation of Captain America (chalking it all up to publisher Martin Goodman).

Bissette goes on to ask why Stan Lee’s “account” is given credence, while Ditko‘s own account (“A Mini-History,” published in 16 parts in Robin Snyder’s The Comics), is ignored: 21

Why, oh why, continue to favor Stan Lee’s account, with so much self-evident conflict-of-interest as a benchmark of his entire comics and media career; so many conflicting self-accounts from Stan himself; and such a clear, public record of Stan’s profiting and profiteering for much of his life from sustaining and spinning his own self-aggrandizing accounts?

Ditko is still in the process of telling his story in new essays, and Jack Kirby left us with a wealth of his thoughts and experiences in dozens of interviews over the decades (see the “Interviews” post). When researching the events to which only the three men were party, is it too much to ask for the facts to be checked against the sayings or writings of the two the least likely to have misled us, the two who stuck to their story from the start?

Mr Miracle_06_23b

Evidence

Synopses

1974’s Origins was a company-directed retelling of the creation of the Marvel Universe, with some of the principals relegated to minor roles. As if to give credence to the ridiculous tales, an authentic-looking synopsis for FF #1 turned up. At John Byrne’s insistence that Marvel editor Roger Stern discovered the synopsis in Stan Lee’s old desk, Patrick Ford asked Stern about the desk. Stern said it was David Anthony Kraft who found the synopsis. 22 If this discovery took place in the early ’80s, why was the synopsis not mentioned until the late ’90s?

Daniel Best: 23
…the veracity of this document has been called into question with such a degree that, as believable evidence, it appears to be about as genuine as Bob Kane’s 1934 sketches of Batman… Some claim that it’s not believable at all and are stunned if anyone, even Stan Lee, believes that this was written before Jack Kirby began to draw the first issue. Those who subscribe to that theory believe that it was written well after the event, possibly after the book was produced, perhaps in the 1970s or even the 1980s, in which event it’s not likely that Stan wrote this as a guide for Kirby to follow. It’s just too perfect to be true.

In 2013, Roy Thomas sent a brutally condescending letter 24 to Comic Book Creator in response to Jon Cooke’s first-issue article, “Kirby’s Kingdom.”

You make the mistake that a lot of rank amateur analysts make (even though you are obviously not one of those) in assuming that, if an artist draws pictures which tell a story and then writes out margin notes which clarify points and suggest dialogue to go with it, that necessarily means that the artist made up the story out of whole cloth… that he was not given any directions beforehand as to what the story was. You cannot honestly and reasonably assume that, simply because there is no paper trail of a plot from Stan Lee…

Like me, you’ve seen the plot pages done for portions of Fantastic Four #1 and #8. Jack made a lot of changes and additions to the plot of #1’s origin, most notably introducing the heroes dramatically before going into the flashback origin. That action was breathtaking and wonderful… but it didn’t create the characters or the main story, which was the origin. And in #8, as I pointed out while AE was still part of CBA, Stan’s plot even went into more detail about the actions of the Puppet Master and the F.F. than I would have imagined without reading that plot…

You start out with a defensible aim… to show that Jack did more than he was paid for… and turn it into not much more than a more sophisticated form of Lee-bashing… What’s done on pp. 48-49 of CBC #1 is not far from the kind of statement Jack himself made, during the years when he had first left Marvel, when an interviewer tried to pin him down and ask him what Stan Lee did in those stories. “Stan Lee was my editor,” was all Jack would say. Jack, who of course was and remains even years after his demise one of the greatest artists in the history of the comic book medium, was given at that stage to delusions of grandeur that went far beyond even his massive talents and contributions… and your garbled characterization of the early Lee-Kirby work merely contributes to the fog.

As he admits, Thomas was no more present during story conferences than was Cooke (only Lee and Kirby were). Cooke, who may not be a rank amateur analyst but sure behaves like one according to Thomas, shouldn’t be allowed to interpret the overwhelming evidence when Thomas’s take should be sufficient for anyone. Meanwhile it’s the rank professional historian who’s spewing fog: Thomas blindly supports the Lee version of events, knowing better than anyone the questionable reliability of its author. From his indefensible position, he joins Lee in making Kirby and others out to be the liars. Delusions of grandeur? It’s that grandeur that still provides the payroll, his portion of which allows Thomas to conveniently dismiss the truth while kicking dirt on Jack Kirby’s reputation.

Thomas’s certainty regarding the FF #1 synopsis has grown with age. In his 1997 Kirby Collector interview he wasn’t so sure: 25 “Later I saw Stan’s plot for Fantastic Four #1, but even Stan would never claim for sure that he and Jack hadn’t talked the idea over before he wrote this.” [emphasis mine]

The light was made to dawn on Thomas as soon as the interview saw print: Marvel recognized the misstep and persuaded him the synopsis was authentic. As soon as it could be scheduled in Alter Ego, Thomas printed the document along with a rebuttal of his comment by Lee and company: yes of course it was written before discussion with Kirby. The AE synopsis exposé 26 reads like an ad taken out by Marvel’s lawyers touting Lee’s new, improved memory. In it, Thomas revealed he had initially seen the synopsis in Lee’s office, “late-1960s,” making the timing of even the initial discovery suspect. That would place it at the time Perfect Film & Chemical were looking for documentation to prove Kirby wasn’t involved in creation. From then on, Thomas never waffled on the pedigree of the synopsis.

Mr Miracle_06_22bot

If the AE article weren’t convincing enough, Comic Book Artist #2 on the flip side contained an interview of Stan Lee by Roy Thomas. Lee needed to set the record straight following Kirby’s TCJ interview, and Thomas provided the avenue. He assisted Lee in giving birth to memories that refuted Kirby’s claims, some (again) of events that took place before Thomas was around to witness them. 27

Roy: By Fantastic Four #1, you had developed what later came to be called “the Marvel style.” But you were doing this all along for some monster stories, some time before this. How far back does that go?

Stan: You mean just doing synopses for the artists? Was I doing them before Marvel?

Roy: I know that you did it for Fantastic Four. [Stan’s synopsis for F.F. #1 is printed in Alter Ego, Vol. 2, #2, backing this issue of CBA.] So I figured with Jack as the artist—and maybe Ditko, too—in these minor stories that you mostly wrote, along with Larry Lieber, you must have been doing it since the monster days.

Stan: You know something, Roy? Now that you say it, that’s probably true; but I had never thought of that. I thought that I started it with the Fantastic Four, but you’re probably right.

If the FF #1 synopsis did not precede Kirby’s work on the issue, the other observations made by Thomas and Lee in the interview are clearly apocryphal. Mark Evanier was asked about the item in his 2010 deposition: 28

[ FF #1] feels an awful lot more like Jack’s earlier work than anything that Stan had done to that date. So I find it very difficult to believe that Jack did not have input into the creation of the characters prior to the – that synopsis, whenever it was composed. And, also, I have the fact that I talked to Stan many times, and he told me – and he said it in print in a few places – that he and Jack had sat down one day and figured out what the Fantastic Four would be.

QUINN. And they discussed the plot before they actually – the drawings were done?

A. They discussed the plot before the alleged synopsis was done also.

Did Jack Kirby have something to say on the subject of the synopsis? He was unequivocal: 29

I’ve never seen it, and of course I would say that’s an outright lie.

The second synopsis that surfaced is even easier to discount. In a 1964 issue of K-A CAPA-alpha,30 Jerry Bails reproduced a plot for FF #8 Lee had sent him. In the accompanying text, he wrote: “Stan writes a one-page synopsis of an entire FF story; then Kirby breaks down the whole story even before any dialogue or captions are written. Naturally then, there can be little in the way of real plot carried in the ‘script’. Captions must be limited largely to describing the action in the box, and dialogue must consist mainly of wisecracks, both of which can be added directly to the pencilled drawings.”

Aside from the spot-on assessment of Lee’s dialogue and captions, Bails has got it wrong, presumably because his information came straight from Lee. Perhaps Lee was asked for a script, and he scrambled to improvise. He grabbed an issue he had on hand and performed a little reverse engineering to create the synopsis. It was an unfortunate choice.

In Pure Images #2,31 Greg Theakston presented a transcription of the same synopsis, conspicuously missing the last page. He reserved comment while devoting a page of the article to comparing the last four panels of “Voodoo on Tenth Avenue” in Black Magic #4 (1951) to the nearly identical last three panels of Fantastic Four #8 (1962). Oops, Lee chose the wrong story to synopsize. Although it would be amusing to see how he would have outlined the plot on that “missing” last page, it’s safe to say he had no prior input into a story whose plot Kirby re-used from an eleven-year-old story in his own repertoire.

 

The charitable view on the synopses is that Lee wrote them for his own reference after Kirby related each story to him. Skeptics, however, will insist they were a device manufactured sometime after the fact to “confirm” the details of a history rewritten.

Plots

Stan Taylor uncovered a myriad of Kirby plots in early Marvel comics while researching his Spider-Man article. He began by detailing Jack’s re-use of his earlier work in The Shield and The Fly when plotting the first appearances of Spider-Man and Thor, and found a pattern: 32

This cross-pollination of a character from one story, and a plot from another is classic Kirby. Kirby’s touches are repetitive and easily identifiable. It appears that Kirby did not cross match the Fly and the Shield one time; he did it twice, and both simultaneously. For Spider-Man, Kirby took the basic character traits (insect), and the villain (petty crook) from the Fly, and the origin gimmick (scientific, older teen), and the dramatic ending (mourning a lost friend) from the Shield. For Thor, Kirby reversed himself, taking the origin element, (finding of a mystical artifact) and ending, (transformation back to hapless human) from the Fly, and the villain (rampaging aliens) from the Shield, plus adding in a hero from an earlier DC fantasy story. (Tales of the Unexpected #16).

Is this use of a Kirby plot, in a book not drawn by Kirby, unusual for Marvel at the time? No! Iron Man’s origin, from Tales Of Suspense #39, uses a Kirby plot, first seen in a Green Arrow story from 1959. (“The War That Never Ended”, Adventure Comics 255). Similarly, the origin of Dr. Strange is a reworking of the origin of Dr. Droom from Amazing Adventures #1.(Atlas Pub. June 1961). The idea that Kirby would plot the origin of a new character is the rule at Marvel in the early ’60s. It would actually be an anomaly if Kirby hadn’t provided the origin.

But it doesn’t stop there, for while I was cross-referencing the plots to see if any matched up with AF #15, I noticed another striking coincidence, and this staggered me! Not only does it appear that Kirby provided the plot for AF #15, it appears that he also assisted in plotting some of the following Spidey stories. The second and third Spider-Man stories have plot elements taken directly from the second and third Private Strong stories. That’s correct; the first three Spidey stories mirror the first three Shield stories.

Taylor went on to list earlier Kirby stories containing elements that resurfaced in Amazing Spider-Man #1 and #2: Kirby’s first Green Arrow story, the second Yellow Claw story, the third Doctor Droom tale, the second Fantastic Four story, the second Ant-Man, the third Thor story, Fighting American #7, the test appearance of Captain America in Strange Tales #114, Captain America #7, Headline Comics #24, the third Doctor Droom story, and Challengers of the Unknown #3, all fed elements into the two books. Taylor: 33

What are the odds, if Kirby didn’t assist on the plots, that the first three Spider-Man stories would mirror the first three Shield stories? Wouldn’t one think that Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko would have their own plotting patterns? So it seems clear that Kirby’s participation with Spider-Man extended further than just a rejected proposal. It appears that he not only created the character, he also assisted greatly in the origin and early story lines and added many early plot elements.

Again, is this out of character? No. Kirby helped Stan with the plotting of several characters even when not specifically drawing them. The plot to the origin of Iron Man, several of the early Thor stories, and some of the Torch stories from Strange Tales, not drawn by Kirby, have unmistakable Kirby supplied villains, plots, and dramatic elements. Daredevil showed some early Kirby involvement. Why wouldn’t Kirby assist Stan on Spider-Man? The early Marvel titles and characters were never considered private domains. Stan certainly had no compunction about Kirby doing the first 2 covers, or a back up story.

Marvel had a modus operandi also. Evidence shows that Kirby helped out on just about every new project, even the ones he didn’t draw.

Concept pages

You’ve seen them—Jack Kirby presentation pages for proposed titles. Examples have been published featuring Starman Zero from the ’40s; the New Gods in the ’60s; Kamandi, OMAC and Atlas from the ’70s at DC.34 Kirby’s concept page for Boomerang was printed in Tales to Astonish #81. Two ’60s Marvel presentation images (including one for the original Captain Victory) have been featured on covers of Jack Kirby Collector. Still others that no longer exist in presentation form may have been turned into covers (Iron Man’s debut, for instance, on Tales of Suspense #39) or Marvel Masterworks Posters.

 

According to Susan and Neal Kirby, Jack worked on new character pages for the FF and Thor in the basement.

From Susan Kirby’s deposition: 35

FLEISCHER: Do you have any recollection of discussing with your father the work he was doing for Marvel?

A. Yes. I was in his office a lot, because he had a vast library of books, because he was into everything. And I used to go down there and read, so I used to read his books, and stuff, and one day I was upstairs, and mom told me to go downstairs because Dad was creating some new super heroes. So I went downstairs, and he said, “I want you to see this.” He said, I named the female super hero after you, her name is Sue,” Sue Storm he was talking about, it was the Fantastic Four.

Q. What did you say to him? What did he say to you?

A. I said it looked great. There were three characters on the board, three of the four. And I asked about who they are, and he told me who each one was. And I said, “It looks great, they look great”.

Q. Did your mother ever discuss with you any other characters that were published by Marvel that your father created or didn’t create?

A. Well, the Incredible Hulk. I was there when he was creating him. He called me over, and said, “I want you to see a new super hero.” He said, “This is the Incredible Hulk. What do you think of him?” I said, “He is incredible.”

From Neal Kirby’s deposition: 36

FLEISCHER What story were you talking about?

A I believe it was when he was creating Thor.

Q And what do you recall telling Lisa at that time about Thor, its creation?

A Well, my father was always very interested, he loved mythology, he loved studying religion and history, just knew all about it, his bookshelves were just loaded with that kind of stuff, so as a kid I was always at that time more into history than I was science but we would have long discussions about it. But I kind of got into it, I guess you might say, on a more practical basis and I remember kind of standing by his drawing board as he was kind of doing the Thor character and he had the big, if I remember right, either Thor or one of the other characters that had big horns coming out of the helmet and I said a real Viking wouldn’t have big horns coming out of his helmet and we were laughing and that was about it. I think my father kind of laughed and made some statement that well, this isn’t, you know, Viking reality, it is a visual impact, so he gave me a little art lesson there.

Q And how did you, what is the basis for your belief that it was the first?

A I recall his – we were – we were talking about the – about Thor’s costume and he was doing it for the first time and, again, there were other things. I think I had made some comment about the big circles on the front of the character and, you know, again my father was, you know, jokingly, jokingly referring to visual impact other than possible reality of what a true Viking might have worn.

Q What led you to believe it was the first drawing your father was doing concerning the Thor?

MR. TOBEROFF: Asked and answered.

A Again, the same thing. The basic creation of the costume.

Q Did your father tell you that this was the first drawing he was making of Thor?

A He did refer to doing a new character, yes.

Q And was it the Thor character or some other character that became part of the Thor comic book?

A No, it was the Thor character.

Q And your recollection is that part of the costume that he was creating had a helmet with horns?

A I believe so, yes.

 

In almost all surviving cases, the presentation pages act as model sheets and describe plots and characters. The Starman Zero example and the DC pages suggest plots for one or more issues of the proposed title. This fits in with Stan Taylor’s observation that Kirby plotted, not just initial issues of a title, but succeeding issues as well. Jim Shooter held a Spider-Man presentation page (not the initial 5-page story Steve Ditko was asked to ink): 37

I saw, and held in my hand, exactly one such [Kirby Spider-Man] page. It was a page of design drawings. I remember that his version of Spider-Man had a “Web-Gun” and wore trunks, I think, like Captain America’s. He was far bigger and bulkier than Ditko’s version. There were no similarities to Ditko’s Spider-Man costume. I think he had boots with flaps. There were notes in the margin that described the character, again, nothing like the Ditko version. I think there was something about him being related to, or having some connection with a police official, which was how he’d find out about trouble going on. It was a long time ago, I can’t swear to that last item, but I can swear to the fact that it wasn’t similar to the Ditko version. I remember thinking, “This isn’t at all like Ditko’s.”

Kurt Busiek transcribed the Don Heck interview conducted by Richard Howell and Carol Kalish, originally for ARTFORM magazine (it was ultimately published in Comics Feature #21). 38 “What Don said was that any time you saw a Kirby cover with a nice clear shot of a new villain or costume design on it, it meant Jack had designed and more than likely created that character, and the cover was a way of getting him paid for the design job… When [Kirby] was doing interior layouts, he was surely plotting, and would include character sketches to show his intent. But on, say, the Swordsman and Power Man covers, those are basically dynamic-looking design sketches with a cover framed around them. And Boomerang being an ex-ballplayer was used.”

 

 

Despite Judge McMahon’s contention that teenagers shouldn’t have a say in court, the recollections of Susan and Neal Kirby, along with Shooter’s, indicate that Kirby gave to Lee (at a minimum) presentation pieces for the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man and Spider-Man.

Original art and chapter breaks

The Heritage Auctions website provides a great resource for examining comic art at high resolution. Forensic examination of these yields clues about Kirby’s workflow during specific periods of his work. On a Tales of Suspense #28 page, penciled by Kirby and inked by Russ Heath, Kirby’s penciled lettering is visible in the balloons. This often indicates that Kirby wrote the story, since Lee has stated that according to the Marvel Method, his dialogue and captions were added after he received the penciled pages.

Pages from X-Men #5 (1963), penciled by Kirby, inked by Paul Reinman, have Stan Lee margin notes. Does this prove that Lee wrote the plot on Kirby’s art board before the penciling stage? Of course not… Marvel did not supply Kirby’s materials; as a freelancer he supplied his own. Lee’s margin notes could only have been added during the story conference, confirming Kirby’s version of events that he finished the story, then told Lee what was happening.

In addition to these examples, Kirby is generally credited with writing the stories he did for Stan Lee in the period of 1956-57. The Grand Comics Database has writing credits for no one but Kirby on the stories he penciled. Lee never missed a chance to assert his writing credit: he signed everything he wrote, and as he admits, even things he didn’t. Speaking strictly of the fantasy line, Michael Vassallo wrote (with Vassallo quotes for emphasis): ‘in the post-code fantasy period Stan Lee wrote absolutely “nothing”. There are “no” stories signed by him and I’ve seen almost all of them.’ 39 Contrary to Lee’s minor stories “recollection” (above), Nick Caputo says the evidence indicates that Kirby wrote specific stories during the monster period: 40

In 1959, concurrent with his output on monster, western and romance stories, Kirby was assigned a number of interesting war stories. Based on a reading of many early stories, it appears that Kirby also scripted many early stories, especially pre 1960 (an examination of his possible scripts on other genre stories will appear at a later date). There are many similarities in style, tone, emphasis of words, phrases, use of quotation marks and sound effects that point to Kirby’s input.

Kirby’s trademark chapter breaks are well-known from his non-Marvel work, from Challengers of the Unknown and Bullseye to Kamandi, The Demon and OMAC. Curiously, they also show up in Marvel origin stories supposedly plotted by Lee (The Hulk, Fantastic Four) or scripted by Larry Lieber (Thor’s origin in Journey Into Mystery), as well as Kirby’s monster stories. If Lieber scripted chapter breaks, why did they not show up in stories Lieber scripted for other “artists”? Why do chapter breaks not appear in other origin stories supposedly plotted by Lee but drawn by Ditko or Everett? The exception, as Stan Taylor notes, is Spider-Man: the origin in Amazing Fantasy #15 has a “Part 2” splash, and the first story in Amazing Spider-Man #1 has chapter breaks. Mike Gartland: 41

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!

Articles in this series:
Interviews
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part one (you are here!)
* The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part two
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part three

 

Footnotes

Repetition for citations allows linking back to individual quotes.

back 1 Charles Hatfield, Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby. University Press of Mississippi, 2012.

back 2 Charles Hatfield, Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby. University Press of Mississippi, 2012.

back 3 John Morrow, “Ghost Writing,” The Jack Kirby Collector #62, Winter 2013.

back 4 Jack Kirby interviewed by Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 5 Brian Hiatt, “Stan Lee on the Incredible Hulk’s Path to ‘Age of Ultron’: Marvel Comics legend and writer/Ultron creator Roy Thomas offer history lessons on heroes and villains,” rollingstone.com, April 29, 2015.

back 6 Stan Lee, Origins of Marvel Comics, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1974.

back 7 Stan Lee deposition, 13 May 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit I, and 8 December 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit J.

back 8 Jerry Bails, “We the Undersigned,” The Comics Journal #105, February 1986.

back 9 Roy Thomas interviewed by Jim Amash, conducted by phone in September 1997, published in The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 10 Stan Lee, letter to Jerry Bails, 1/9/63, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 27.

back 11 Castle of Frankenstein (Ted White, Bhob Stewart), 1968 [details]

back 12 Excelsior No. 1 (1968) [details]

back 13 Stan Lee interviewed by Neil Conan, WBAI radio, 12 August 1968.

back 14 “Stan the Man & Roy the Boy,” A Conversation Between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, Comic Book Artist #2, Summer 1998.

back 15 Steve Ditko, “Essay #34: Memory,” The Four-Page Series #5, February 2014. Published and © by Robin Snyder and Steve Ditko.

back 16 Mark Borax interview, Comics Interview #41, 1986.

back 17 Stan Lee, Origins of Marvel Comics, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1974.

back 18 Roy Thomas interviewed by Jim Amash, conducted by phone in September 1997, published The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 19 Stan Lee deposition, 13 May 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit I, and 8 December 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit J.

back 20 Stephen Bissette, “Digging Ditko, Part 3,” SRBissette.com, September 14th, 2012.

back 21 Stephen Bissette, “Digging Ditko, Part 3,” SRBissette.com, September 14th, 2012.

back 22 “Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four synopsis,” Byrne Robotics: The John Byrne Forum, 19 October 2008; “Roger Stern’s Superman (and more!) on Kindle,” DC Archives Message Board Forum, 24 May 2013.

back 23 Daniel Best, “Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al – Stan Lee’s FF #1 Synopsis & Jerry Bails,” 20th Century Danny Boy blog, 10 April 2011.

back 24 Roy Thomas, Letter to the editor, Comic Book Creator #3, Fall 2013.

back 25 Roy Thomas interviewed by Jim Amash, conducted by phone in September 1997, published The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 26 Roy Thomas, “A Fantastic First!,” Alter Ego Vol. 2, #2, Summer 1998.

back 27 “Stan the Man & Roy the Boy,” A Conversation Between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, Comic Book Artist #2, Summer 1998.

back 28 Mark Evanier deposition, 9 November 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 8.

back 29 Jack Kirby interviewed by Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 30 Jerry Bails, “Agent X-ASOCTCRASIDCIWWS Reporting,” K-A CAPA-alpha #2, November 1964.

back 31 Greg Theakston, “The Birth of Marvel Comics,” Pure Images #2, Pure Imagination, January 1990.

back 32 Stan Taylor, “Spider-Man: The Case for Kirby,” 2003. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 33 Stan Taylor, “Spider-Man: The Case for Kirby,” 2003. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 34 Starman Zero and OMAC presentation pages, Kirby Unleashed, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2004. Boomerang, Jack Kirby Collector #13.

back 35 Susan Kirby deposition, 25 October 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit H.

back 36 Neal Kirby deposition, 30 June 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 102, Exhibit G.

back 37 Jim Shooter, Writer. Creator. Large mammal. blog, Monday, March 21, 2011, and comment on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 post, left August 30, 2011.

back 38 Kurt Busiek, “Don Heck interview,” kirbyville (Internet mailing list), 28 November 2010.

back 39 Michael Vassallo, Kirby-L, the Jack Kirby Internet mailing list, 18 November 1999.

back 40 Nick Caputo, “More Kirby War: Battle,” Marvel Mysteries and Comics Minutiae blog, 30 November 2012.

back 41 Mike Gartland, in a comment to the Kirby Dynamics blog. Included by Robert Steibel in “My Interview Questions for Stan Lee Part 3: Chapter Breaks,” Kirby Dynamics blog,  Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, April 7, 2012.

Interviews

Twenty-five years after Jack Kirby’s interview conducted by Gary Groth was published in The Comics Journal #134, many still question Kirby’s veracity. Some Kirby detractors call the interview ‘telling,’ while even some Kirby proponents consider it ‘unfortunate’. Michael Hill collected examples from the entire body of Kirby’s interview record to determine the validity of such accusations. He then sent us his compilation, as well as a longer article that will soon be serialized, for consideration for The Kirby Effect, which we’re publishing here with comments disabled – Rand. (Thanks to Steven Brower, too.)

Articles in this series:
* Interviews – you are here!
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part one
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part two
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part three


Interview snippets of Jack Kirby and others excerpted in large part from The Comics Journal, The Jack Kirby Collector and the Kirby Museum site, categorized and labeled by year. It’s important to have the ability to see that things Kirby said in the TCJ interview were nothing new.

VacuuStat(?) of Jack Kirby's pencil art for page 3 of "Divide.. and Conquer!" Fantastic Four Annual 5, 1967

VacuuStat(?) of Jack Kirby’s pencil art for page 3 of “Divide.. and Conquer!” Fantastic Four Annual 5, 1967. Approximately 14″ by 17″. Slightly adjusted in Photoshop to improve readability..

“They’d take it away from me.”

1970 [Hamilton]1

BRUCE HAMILTON: Do you care to discuss your main reasons for switching to DC?

JACK KIRBY: I don’t mind at all. I can only say that DC gave me my own editing affairs, and if I have an idea I can take credit for it. I don’t have the feeling of repression that I had at Marvel. I don’t say I wasn’t comfortable at Marvel, but it had its frustrating moments and there was nothing I could do about it. When I got the opportunity to transfer to DC, I took it. At DC I’m given the privilege of being associated with my own ideas. If I did come up with an idea at Marvel, they’d take it away from me and I lost all association with it. I was never given credit for the writing which I did. Most of the writing at Marvel is done by the artist from the script.

As things went on, I began to work at home and I no longer came up to the office. I developed all the stuff at home and just sent it in. I had to come up with new ideas to help the strip sell. I was faced with the frustration of having to come up with new ideas and then having them taken from me.

1971 [Skelly]2

TCJ: What do you think the advantages are over at National?

KIRBY: The advantages? Well, I have a lot more leeway. I can think things out, do them my way and know I get credit for the things I do. There were times at Marvel when I couldn’t say anything because it would be taken away from me and put in another context, and it would be lost – all my connection with it would be severed. For instance, I created the Silver Surfer, Galactus and an army of other characters, and now my connection with them is lost.

TCJ: That sounds like a problem.

KIRBY: You get to feel like a ghost. You’re writing commercials for somebody and… It’s a strange feeling, but I experienced it and I didn’t like it much.

TCJ: Things are probably bad enough in the comics field as far as recognition goes.

KIRBY: Well, recognition comes to very few people. It wasn’t recognition so much – you just couldn’t take the character anywhere. You could devote your time to a character, put a lot of insight into it, help it evolve and then lose all connection with it. It’s kind of an eerie thing; I can’t describe it. You just have to experience that relationship to understand it.

1982 [Zimmerman]3

Kirby’s contributions to Marvel Comics are legendary. When asked what he received in return, he says, “A lot of ingratitude. It hasn’t left me bitter, it’s just that it shouldn’t work out that way.”

Jack Kirby…

…”saved Marvel’s ass”

1989 [Groth]4

KIRBY: Marvel was on its ass, literally, and when I came around, they were practically hauling out the furniture. They were literally moving out the furniture. They were beginning to move, and Stan Lee was sitting there crying. I told them to hold everything, and I pledged that I would give them the kind of books that would up their sales and keep them in business, and that was my big mistake.

1987 [Schwartz]5

JACK: The only thing I knew best was comics and I went back to Marvel and Marvel was in very poor straits–all comics were in poor straits–and boy I can tell you, when I went into Marvel they were crying–and Stanley was going into the publisher and lock up that very afternoon and I convinced him not to do it. And of course I didn’t change things in one day; but I knew that in a couple of months I could do it.

1986 [Pitts]6

KIRBY: My version is simple: I saved Marvel’s ass. When I came up to Marvel, it was closing that same afternoon, Stan Lee had his head on the desk and was crying. It all looked very dramatic to me, but I needed the job. I was a guy with a wife and three kids and a house, and I wanted to keep it. And so, having no rapport with Martin Goodman, who was the publisher– Stan Lee was his cousin– I told Stan Lee that we could keep the place going. And I told him to try to tell Martin to keep it going, because we could possibly revive it.

1985 [Van Hise]7

“When I came up to Marvel in the late Fifties, they were just about to close up, that very afternoon! I told them not to do it. Marvel is a case of survival. I guaranteed them that I’d sell their magazines, and I did. I did the monster stories or whatever they had and they began to liven up a bit.”

1982 [Zimmerman]8

“My business with Joe was gone. I did a few things for Classics Illustrated which drove me crazy. I wanted a little stability, and I needed the work. Marvel seemed to be the place, and comics seemed to be the only thing I was really good at. And I already had responsibilities; I was a father, I owned property, I had to work.

“Marvel was going to close,” Kirby recalls. “When I broke up with Joe, comics everywhere were taking a beating. The ones with capital hung on. Martin Goodman [publisher of Marvel] had slick paper magazines, like Swank and the rest. It was just as easy for Martin to say, ‘Oh, what the hell. Why do comics at all?’ And he was about to—Stan Lee told me so. In fact, it looked like they were going to close the afternoon that I came up. But Goodman gave Marvel another chance.”

1982 [Eisner]9

KIRBY: Okay, I came back to Marvel there. It was a sad day. I came back the afternoon they were going to close up. Stan Lee was already the editor there and things were in a bad way. I remember telling him not to close because I had some ideas. What had been done before, I felt, could be done again. I think it was the time when I really began to grow. I was married. I was a man with three children, obligations.

1989 [Groth]10

GROTH: So it was to a large extent circumstance that compelled you to produce–

KIRBY: Circumstances forced me to do it. They forced me.

GROTH: Was there a sense of excitement during that period when Marvel was starting to take off?

KIRBY: No, there wasn’t a sense of excitement. It was a horrible, morbid atmosphere. If you can find excitement in that kind of atmosphere – the excitement of fear. The excitement of, “What to do next?” The excitement of what’s out there. And that’s the excitement that always existed in the field. What am I going to do now that I’m not doing anything more for this publisher? I can go to another publisher. I have to make a living.

GROTH: Did you approach Marvel or –

KIRBY: It came about very simply. I came in [to the Marvel offices] and they were moving out the furniture, they were taking desks out – and I needed the work! I had a family and a house and all of a sudden Marvel is coming apart. Stan Lee is sitting on a chair crying. He didn’t know what to do, he’s sitting in a chair crying –he was just still out of his adolescence. I told him to stop crying. I says. “Go in to Martin and tell him to stop moving the furniture out, and I’ll see that the books make money.”

Drew Friedman: 11 My dad (Bruce Jay Freidman) actually worked at Magazine Management, which was the company that owned Marvel Comics in the fifties and sixties, so he knew Stan Lee pretty well. He knew him before the superhero revival in the early sixties, when Stan Lee had one office, one secretary and that was it. The story was that Martin Goodman who ran the company was trying to phase him out because the comics weren’t selling too well.

Dick Ayers: 12 I worked right through. Things had started getting really bad, I guess, in 1958. And still Stan kept me working. And one day, when I went in, he looked at me and he said, “Gee whiz, my uncle goes by and he doesn’t even say hello to me.” He meant Martin Goodman. And he proceeds to tell me, “You know, it’s like a ship sinking and we’re the rats. And we’ve got to get off.” So he told me, “Try to find something else.”

Larry Lieber: 13 Back then Marvel was Timely Comics. At the time I worked there, Magazine Management was big when the comics were big… it was small when the comics were small. At one time in the late ’50s it was just an alcove, with one window, and Stan was doing all the corrections himself; he had no assistants.

Jim Vadeboncouer: 14 It wasn’t until December 1958/January 1959 that Lee gathered around him the core of what was to be Marvel Comics: Kirby, Ditko, Heck, Ayers, and Reinman. This lends credence to Kirby’s claim to have found Lee despondent on his desk, ready to throw in the towel. If the inventory was depleted and sales were down and growth was restricted, what was a man to do but give it all up?

Flo Steinberg: 15 Well, it was March of ’63… And I went up and talked to this man, Stan Lee. And the interview was in this teeny little cubbyhole of an office… And the whole Magazine Management company was in one big floor [of 625 Madison Avenue] with partitions set up. And Marvel Comics was the teeniest little office on the floor. There was Stan and his desk, then another small desk.

Michael Vassallo: 16 Jack’s recollection of seeing Stan crying shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. When I constructed a timeline of job numbers, I was shocked to find that Joe Maneely’s last story and Jack’s first story in Strange Worlds #1 (“I Discovered the Secret of the Flying Saucers!”) were only a few digits apart. I immediately asked Dick Ayers to check his work records on an equally close western he did and his work records corroborated that all these stories were commissioned within one or two days of Joe Maneely’s death on June 8th 1958! Immediately it made possible sense to me that if Jack had in fact arrived looking for work on the following Monday, June 10th he would have found Stan Lee in his office inconsolable, and predicting the soon demise of Goodman’s already tenuous line of 8 titles a month.

Whatever anyone may want to say about Stan, he was very close to Maneely, had worked with him since late 1949, and depended on him to launch many/most of the Atlas character features in the western, war comics throughout the 1950’s. He was the fastest artist he had (Jack Kirby fast, possibly faster, by all accounts) and after the implosion he was drawing most of the covers and handling the Two-Gun Kid feature. There just wasn’t enough new material to keep him busy so he was also simultaneously at DC and also Charlton. But even more importantly for Stan, he was a partner on their Mrs. Lyons’ Cubs newspaper syndicated feature, both hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and leave the dregs of the comic book industry.

So taking all of that together, the timing and the relationship, it is “very” likely Jack did find Stan, not necessarily bawling his eyes out, but very upset that morning when he went in looking for work.

…while doing monster books, persuaded Marvel to try superheroes

1989 [Groth]17

GROTH: Did you enjoy doing those?

KIRBY: I always enjoyed doing monster books. Monster books gave me the opportunity to draw things out of the ordinary. Monster books were a challenge – what kind of monster would fascinate people? I couldn’t draw anything that was too outlandish or too horrible. I never did that. What I did draw was something intriguing. There was something about this monster that you could live with. If you saw him you wouldn’t faint dead away. There was nothing disgusting in his demeanor. There was nothing about him that repelled you. My monsters were lovable monsters. [Laughter.] I gave them names – some were evil and some were good. They made sales, and that’s always been my prime object in comics. I had to make sales in order to keep myself working. And so I put all the ingredients in that would pull in sales. It’s always been that way.

1982 [Eisner]18

EISNER: So the ideas for superheroes at Marvel and DC were ideas cooked up by you and Stan.

KIRBY: No. That was cooked up by me!

EISNER: So you did the first one all by yourself, then.

KIRBY: Oh, yes. Spider-Man wasn’t the first one I did. I began to do monster books. The kind of books Goodman wanted. I had to fight for the superheroes. In other words, I was at the stage now where I had to fight for those things and I did. I had to regenerate the entire line. I felt that there was nobody there that was qualified to do it. So I began to do it. Stan Lee was my vehicle to do it. He was my bridge to Martin [Goodman].

1975 [Sherman]19

SHERMAN: At this time, you also started again at Marvel.

KIRBY: Right. I was given monsters, so I did them. I would much rather have been drawing Rawhide Kid. But I did the monsters… we had Grottu and Kurrgo and It… it was a challenge to try to do something–anything with such ridiculous characters. But these were, in a way, the forefathers of the Marvel super-heroes. We had a Thing, we had a Hulk… and we tried to do them in a more exciting way.

Hebert [1969]20

KIRBY: I tried to work it out with Stan [Lee], to hint about superheroes. There were a few still going but they didn’t have the big audience they had. There was a thing I was involved in, The Fly, which got a reaction and because of that I told Stan that there might be a hope for superheroes. “Why don’t we try Captain America again?” I kept harping on it and Marvel was quiet in those days, like every other office, and then things began to pick up and gain momentum.

…wrote and penciled the pages he turned in to Stan Lee

Early 1990s [Danzig/Thibodeaux]21

GLENN: A lot of people don’t know that you actually scripted a lot of these stories – most of them. Even the Marvel stuff.

JACK: I did.

1985 [Van Hise]22

I was a penciller and a storyteller, and I insisted on doing my own writing. I always wrote my own story no matter what it was. Nobody ever wrote a story for me. I created my own characters. I always did that. That was the whole point of comics for me. I created my own concepts and I enjoyed doing that. That’s how I created the Silver Surfer.

1982 [Eisner]23

EISNER: In the stuff you worked on with Stan, was he writing at the time?

KIRBY: No. Stan Lee was not writing. I was doing the writing. It all came from my basement and I can tell you that if I ever began to intellectualize, it was then… All right. That’s unimportant. All right, I’ll tell you from a professional point of view. I was writing them. I was drawing them.

EISNER: But you do not necessarily subscribe to the idea of someone else, regardless of who it is, putting balloons in on a completely penciled page. I have a prejudice on it but I want to get your opinion.

KIRBY: My opinion is this: Stan Lee wrote the credits. I never wrote the credits.

1982 [Zimmerman]24

In his Bring on the Bad Guys, Origins of Marvel Comics Villains, Stan Lee explains the genesis of the group: “Much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t produce our little Marvel Masterpieces all by myself. No, mine was the task of originating the basic concept, and then writing the script… However, I’ve long been privileged to collaborate with some of the most talented artists of all, artists who would take my rough-hewn plots and refine them into the illustrated stories… Heading the list of such artists… is Jolly Jack Kirby.”

Kirby remembers it somewhat differently. “I wrote them all,” he states flatly. But what about all those “Smilin’ Stan” and “Jolly Jack” credit boxes? Kirby responds diplomatically. “Well, I never wrote the credits. Let’s put it that way, all right? I would never call myself ‘Jolly Jack.’ I would never say the books were written by Lee.”

1990 [Hour 25]25

Caller: Hi, yeah, I was reading Jack Kirby teamed up with Stan Lee with Marvel Comics in the early 60s, so it’s sort of an honor for me. My question is, and I don’t think this has been talked about, how was the collaboration, which to me was the modern age of comics started with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby working together. How did that either come about and how did that develop in terms of how you wrote a story?

KIRBY: I wrote the story.

Caller: Huh?

KIRBY: I wrote the complete story. I drew the complete story. And after I came in with the pencils, the story was given to an inker and the inker would ink the story and a letterer would letter it and I would give the story to Stan Lee or whoever had the editor’s chair and I would leave it there. I would tell them the kind of story I would do to follow up and then I went home and I would do that story, and I wouldn’t come into the office until I had that story finished. And nobody else had to work on a story with me.

Caller: Hmm! Ok. That’s actually a little bit of a surprise. Ok, thank you.

Host: Thank you. It’s the revision of history going on at Marvel for the last few years.

KIRBY: Yeah, well…

1989 [Groth]26

GROTH: I just want to clear one thing up–did you write the Challengers, too?

KIRBY: Yes. I wrote the Challengers. I wrote everything I did. When I went back to Marvel, I began to create the new stuff.

GROTH: Did you find that fulfilling?

KIRBY: Of course it was fulfilling. It was a happy time of life. But. But, slowly management suddenly realized I was making money. I say “management,” but I mean an individual. I was making more money than he was, OK? It’s an individual. And so he says, “Well, you know…” And the old phrase is born. “Screw you. I get mine.” OK? And so I had to render to Caesar what he considered Caesar’s. And there was a man who never wrote a line in his life – he could hardly spell – you know, taking credit for the writing. I found myself coming up with new angles to keep afloat. I was in a bad spot. I was in a spot that I didn’t want to be in and yet I had to be to make a living. So I went to DC, and I began creating for them.

GROTH: Was Stan your basic contact with Marvel? He was the one that you – ?

KIRBY: Yes. I’d come in, and I’d give Stan the work, and I’d go home, and I wrote the story at home. I drew the story at home. I even lettered in the words in the balloons in pencil.

ROZ KIRBY: Well, you’d put them in the margins.

KIRBY: Sometimes I put them in the margins. Sometimes I put ’em in the balloons, but I wrote the entire story. I balanced the story…

1987 [Schwartz]27

JACK: It was in my generation that the publisher came to learn that sales depended on how you treated the artist… I wrote the stories. I wrote the plots. I did the drawings–I did the entire thing because nobody else could do it. They didn’t know how to do it and they didn’t give a damn. They were taking money they invested in the magazines and putting it in something else. But I made a living off that. So I put out magazines that sold. I made sure they sold.

BEN: In the last two or three years people have finally come out and said you were the prime voice at Marvel. But the Marvel version has always been that you and Stan Lee did it, or these were all his ideas.

JACK: Well, the Marvel version is that the Marvel outfit will give credit to nobody except Stanley, see? Stanley’s one of the family, okay? And he’s the kind of a guy who’ll accept it.

Stan Lee put his name all over the magazines. “Stan Lee presents” and “Stan Lee this” and “Stan Lee that.” And there’s nothing you could do about it because he was the publisher’s cousin and if you wanted to sell, that’s how you sold.

1986 [Borax]28

JACK: The artists were doing the plotting – Stan was just coordinating the books, which was his job. Stan was production coordinator. But the artists were the ones that were handling both story and art. We had to – there was no time not to!

1986 [Pitts]29

KIRBY: What I’m trying to do is give the atmosphere up at Marvel. I’m not trying to attack Stan Lee. I’m not trying to put any onus on Stan Lee. All I’m saying is; Stan Lee was a busy man with other duties who couldn’t possibly have the time to suddenly create all these ideas that he’s said he created. And I can tell you that he never wrote the stories– although he wouldn’t allow us to write the dialogue in the balloons. He didn’t write my stories.

PITTS: You plotted and he did the dialogue?

KIRBY: You can call it plotted. I call it script. I wrote the script and I drew the story. I mean, there was nothing on the first or second page that Stan Lee ever knew would go there. But I knew what would go there. I knew how to begin the story. I wrote it in my house. Nobody was there around to tell me. I worked strictly in my house; I always did. I worked in a small basement in Long Island.

PITTS: Okay, take me through a typical Lee-Kirby comic. Say, from start to finish, an issue of the F.F.

KIRBY: Okay, I’ll give it to you in very short terms: I told Stan Lee what I wrote and what he was gonna get and Stan Lee accepted it, because Stan Lee knew my reputation. By that time, I had created or helped create so many different other features that Stan Lee had infinite confidence in what I was doing.

…created characters and brought them to Stan Lee

1999 [Amash]30

JOHN SEVERIN: Though Jack and I rarely saw one another whilst “S.H.I.E.L.D.” was being produced, I do recall a bit earlier when he and I were at a business conference near Columbus Circle. When it was concluded, we–Jack and I–adjourned to a coffee house, nearby where Anastasia was shot down.

Jack wanted to know if I’d be interested in syndication. He said we could be partners on a script idea he had. The story would be set in Europe during WWII; the hero would be a tough, cigar-smoking Sergeant with a squad of oddball G.I.s–sort of an adult Boy Commandos.

Like so many other grand decisions I have made in comics, I peered through the cigar smoke and told him I wasn’t really interested in newspaper strips. We finished cigars and coffee and Jack left, heading towards Marvel and Stan Lee.

1989 [Groth]31

GROTH: Stan says he conceptualized virtually everything in The Fantastic Four – that he came up with all the characters. And then he said that he wrote a detailed synopsis for Jack to follow.

ROZ KIRBY: I’ve never seen anything.

KIRBY: I’ve never seen it, and of course I would say that’s an outright lie.

GROTH: Well, this is probably going to shock you, but Stan takes full credit for creating the Hulk. He’s written, “Actually, ideas have always been the easiest part of my various chores.” And then he went on to say that in creating The Hulk, “It would be my job to take a clichéd concept and make it seem new and fresh and exciting and relevant. Once again, I decided that Jack Kirby would be the artist to breathe life into our latest creation. So the next time we met, I outlined the concept I’d been toying with for weeks.”

KIRBY: Yes, he was always toying with concepts. On the contrary, it was I who brought the ideas to Stan. I brought the ideas to DC as well, and that’s how business was done from the beginning.

GROTH: How did all those books in the ’60s come to be created? Would someone at Marvel say, “We need another book”?

KIRBY: No. I’d come up with them.

GROTH: You would just come up with them on your own?

KIRBY: Yes, I would come up with them.

GROTH: How do you feel when he talks about what a great guy you are, what a terrific co-worker you were, which he does frequently when asked about the good ol’ days?

KIRBY: Why wouldn’t he say that?

ROZ KIRBY: Yeah. Look what Jack did for Marvel.

KIRBY: Why wouldn’t he say that? If I hadn’t saved Marvel and if I hadn’t come up with those features, he would have nothing to work on. He wouldn’t be working right now. I don’t know what he’d be doing now. He wouldn’t be in any editorial position.

GROTH: Do you think he believes that, or is that a public relations facade?

KIRBY: What’s that?

GROTH: Oh, that he thinks you’re a great guy, and he loved working with you.

KIRBY: I say it’s a facade, and what he really means is he loved taking me. I just hope that you don’t find yourselves in a position where you have to deal with that kind of a personality.

ROZ KIRBY: I’d like to say something if I could. Jack created many characters before he even met Stan. He created almost all the characters when he was associated with Stan, and after he left Stan, he created many, many more characters. What has Stan created before he met Jack, and what has he created after Jack left?

KIRBY: And my wife was present when I created these damn characters. The only reason I would have any bad feelings against Stan is because my own wife had to suffer through that with me. It takes a guy like Stan, without feeling, to realize a thing like that. If he hurts a guy, he also hurts his family. His wife is going ask questions. His children are going to ask questions.

1987 [Earthwatch]32

KIRBY: I can tell you that I was deeply involved with creating Spider-man. I can’t go any further than that, really, because there’d been so many variations and different things done with Spider-man, but I can tell you at the beginning, I was deeply involved with him.

1986 [Pitts]33

PITTS: Now, Stan has said many times that he conceived Spider-Man and gave it to you and that he turned down the version you came up with because it was too “heroic” and “larger than life”-looking for what he had in mind.

KIRBY: That’s a contradiction and a blatant untruth.

PITTS: Are there any other Marvel flagship characters that you feel you created and didn’t get the credit for?

KIRBY: All of them. All of them came from my basement. The Avengers, Daredevil, the X-Men… all of them. The X-Men, I did the natural thing there. What would you do with mutants who were just plain boys and girls and certainly not dangerous? You school them. You develop their skills. So I gave them a teacher, Professor X.

PITTS: You obviously feel that you haven’t gotten the credit that’s due you for the contributions you’ve made. How does that fact set with you?

ROZ: [TO KIRBY] What he’s trying to bring out is… we are hurt about how Marvel treated you.

KIRBY: Well, yes, I am hurt because up at Marvel, I’m a non-person. They say Stan Lee created everything. And of course, Stan Lee didn’t. And Ditko is hurt; Ditko never got his due. The fellas who did make all the sales for the magazines were never given credit for them. They were abused in one way or another. I can tell you that that’s painful. You live with that. You live with that all your life. I have to live with the fact of all those lies, which are being done for pure hype.

1982 [Eisner]34

EISNER: You mean Spider-Man was cooked up between you and Joe Simon, and you brought it to Stan.

KIRBY: That’s right. It was the last thing Joe and I had discussed. We had a strip called the, or a script called The Silver Spider. The Silver Spider was going into a magazine called Black Magic. Black Magic folded with Crestwood and we were left with the script. I believe I said this could become a thing called Spider-Man, see, a superhero character. I had a lot of faith in the superhero character, that they could be brought back, very, very vigorously. They weren’t being done at the time. I felt they could regenerate and I said Spider-Man would be a fine character to start with. But Joe had already moved on. So the idea was already there when I talked to Stan.

1970 [Hamilton]35

BRUCE: Was the concept of the Fantastic Four your idea or Stan Lee’s?

JACK: It was my idea. It was my idea to do it the way it was; my idea to develop it the way it was. I’m not saying that Stan had nothing to do with it. Of course he did. We talked things out. As things went on, I began to work at home and I no longer came up to the office. I developed all the stuff at home and just sent it in. I had to come up with new ideas to help the strip sell.

1970 [San Diego]36

AUDIENCE: In the Marvel line in the 1960s, what part exactly did you play in creating the line? Besides art; I mean also plot and characterization of all the magazines you worked on in the early issues when they were just developing. What part did you play besides art?

KIRBY: Quite a substantial part. That’s all I’m gonna say. [laughter]

1969 [Hebert]37

TCJ: You drew almost everything.

KIRBY: I did, just about.

TCJ: You created and drew all of Marvel’s standard heroes.

KIRBY: That’s right.

TCJ: And they were all the same – Thor, Ant Man, Iron Man –

KIRBY: In spite of it.

TCJ: Exactly. Except for the Hulk who was quite different.

KIRBY: I created the Hulk, too, and saw him as a kind of handsome Frankenstein.

Early 1980s [Kirby]38

In the early ’80s during his original art dispute with Marvel, Kirby was asked by his legal team to make some notes about his work for the company. According to Mark Evanier, Kirby dictated the notes to Roz before signing them. In addition to the details of creation and credit, he touched on the circumstances that brought him and the company back together in their time of mutual need.

When I arrived at Marvel in 1959, it was closing shop that very afternoon, according to what was related to me by “Stan Lee.”

The comic book dept. was another victim of the Dr. Wertham negative cycle + definitely was following in the wake of EC Comics, “The Gaines Publishing House.”

In order to keep working I suggested to Stan Lee that to initiate a new line of “Super Heroes” he submit my ideas to Martin Goodman the Publisher of Marvel.

To insure sales I also did the writing which I was not credited for as “Stan Lee” wrote the credits for all of the books which I did not contest because of his relationship with the publisher “Martin Goodman.”

Although I was not allowed to write the “Balloon” dialogue, the stories, the characters + the additional planning for the scripts progress was strictly due to my own foresight + literary workmanship.

There were no scripts. I created the characters + wrote the stories in my own home + merely brought them into the office each month.

Workflow

1989 [Groth]39

GROTH: Stan wrote, “Jack and I were having a ball turning out monster stories.” Were you having a ball, Jack?

KIRBY: Stan Lee was having the ball.

GROTH: I’ve seen original art with words written on the sides of the pages.

KIRBY: That would be my dialogue.

GROTH: You would talk to Stan on the phone – what was a typical conversation like when you were plotting the Fantastic Four: what would he say and what would you say?

KIRBY: On The Fantastic Four, I’d tell him what I was going to do, what the story was going to be, and I’d bring it in – that’s all.

GROTH: How long were your discussions with Stan Lee when you were discussing the next Thor or the next Avengers or the next Fantastic Four? How long would you talk to Stan about it?

KIRBY: Not much. I didn’t particularly care to talk to Stan, and I just gave him possibly some idea of what the next story would be like, and then I went home. I told him very little, and I went home, and I conceived and put down the entire story on paper.

1987 [Earthwatch]40

KNIGHT: Well, let’s turn then, to the environment, which may be equally as important, the environment out of which Spider-man was created. Of course, you were involved in the historic partnership with Stan Lee at Marvel. So, what was the working environment like there? How was it different from the other companies? What was the Merry Marvel Marching Society like?

KIRBY: Well, it wasn’t… it wasn’t… well, I didn’t consider it merry. I considered it very… well, in those days, it was a professional type thing. You turned in your ideas and you got your wages and you took them home. It was a very, very simple affair. It’s nothing that could be dramatized or glorified or glamorized in any way. It was a very, very simple affair. I created the situation and I analyzed them. I did them panel by panel. I did everything but put the words in the balloons. But all of it was mine, except the words in the balloons.

REECE: But Jack, what about these legendary story conferences of you and Stan, or Stan and whomever, acting the stories out, in the office, jumping up on the desks and so forth, making things considerably more lively than when it was just an office consisting of Stan and Fabulous Flo Steinberg, having people stick their faces in the door, from Magazine Management, going, “Hurry up, little elves, Santa will be coming soon!”

KIRBY: Uh, I’d have to disagree with that. It wasn’t like that at all. It may have been like that after I shut the door and went home.

1971 [Skelly]41

TCJ: How do you feel about your days at Marvel? Did you like working with Stan Lee?

KIRBY: Well, I didn’t exactly work with Stan Lee. I worked at home and I wasn’t at the office much. I’d come in maybe once or twice a month and deliver my drawings. Stan Lee would usually be pretty busy, being the editor there, and I’d deliver my stuff and that would be all there was to it. I’d tell Stan Lee what the next story was going to be, and I’d go home and do it.

1989 [Groth]42

GROTH: When you went to Marvel in ’58 and ’59, Stan was obviously there.

KIRBY: Yes, and he was the same way.

GROTH: And you two collaborated on all the monster stories?

KIRBY: Stan Lee and I never collaborated on anything! I’ve never seen Stan Lee write anything. I used to write the stories just like I always did.

1982 [Eisner]43

KIRBY: Stan Lee wouldn’t let me fill in the balloons. Stan Lee wouldn’t let me put in the dialogue. But I wrote the entire story under the panels. I never explained the story to Stan Lee. I wrote the story under each panel so that when he wrote that dialogue, the story was already there. In other words, he didn’t know what the story was about and he didn’t care because he was busy being an editor. I was glad because he was doing the same thing Joe did. He left me alone.

EISNER: We’re running out of time here. Let me tail off this thing by going back into the technique of work. The laying out of a page. Since you write and draw, you regard yourself as I like to regard myself, as a total writer. Do you agree that this is a total dimension, that there is no separation between the words and pictures? That they’re integrated? Do you agree with that?

KIRBY: I believe that the man who draws the story should write it.

1971 [Skelly]44

TCJ: There was a distinct difference between the stories you drew, and that probably had a lot to do with the writing…

KIRBY: Well, the policy there is the artist isn’t allowed to do the dialogue, and therefore has to confine himself to the script. What the artist does is the script and the drawing, and the dialogue is filled in by the writer in the balloons. The artist writes the action in the margin of the illustration board and the writer is therefore able to follow the action in each individual panel. What the artist does is make the framework for the dialogue writer.

Kirby’s Inspiration

1982 [Zimmerman]45

“My mother was a great storyteller,” Kirby reveals. “She came from somewhere near Transylvania and she told me stories that would stand your hair on end. I loved my mother and I loved those stories. The art of storytelling, certainly, is in all of us. But to tell it dramatically, to tell it right, you have to be influenced, I think, in a certain manner. Somewhere along the line, whoever is good has been raised by people who are good in the same manner.”

Fantastic Four

1992 [Prisoners of Gravity]46

Q: In the early 1960s, you created hundreds of heroes to populate the Marvel universe. What did the Fantastic Four represent to you?

JACK: The Fantastic Four were the team, they were the young people. I love young people, I love teenagers. You’ll find that the Fantastic Four represent that group in many ways. They’re very vital and very active. The teens certainly are in that category. So the Fantastic Four was my admiration for young people.

The Thing was really myself. If you’ll notice the way the Thing talks and acts, you’ll find that the Thing is really Jack Kirby. He has my manners, he has my manner of speech, and he thinks the way I do. He’s excitable, and you’ll find that he’s very, very active among people, and he can muscle his way through a crowd. I find that I’m that sort of person.

1975 [Sherman]47

SHERMAN: As the fifties drew to a close, the super-heroes began to return. When you began the Challengers of the Unknown, were you striving more for a super-hero rebirth or for breaking into science fiction and adventure material more?

KIRBY: The issues I did were still formative and I can’t answer for what DC did with them. But they were heading for the super-hero image when I left. In many ways, they were the predecessors of the FF.

1969 [Hebert]48

TCJ: Then the Fantastic Four came along, which was a small revolution in itself.

KIRBY: Well, it was a revolution in the sense that it was now – the superhero had become now. I felt like experimenting with gimmicks. When I drew a gimmick, it wasn’t the old type of gimmick; it was everything based on right now and what people saw everyday and what they might see five or ten years from now. I could take electronic setups and just let them run riotus, and that led to the gadgets you might see today. That’s how the Negative Zone came about. I began to experiment with that kind of stuff and that’s how Ego came about. I began to throw my mind out in all different directions.

1989 [Groth]49

GROTH: Looking back on it, do you see the Challengers as a precursor to the Fantastic Four?

KIRBY: Yes, there were always precursors to the Fantastic Four – except the Fantastic Four were mutations. When people began talking about the bomb and its possible effect on human beings, they began talking about mutations because that’s a distinct possibility. And I said, “That’s a great idea.” That’s how the Fantastic Four began, with an atomic explosion and its effect on the characters. Ben Grimm who was a college man and a fine looking man suddenly became the Thing. Susan Storm became invisible because of the atomic effects on her body. Reed Richards became flexible and became a character that I could work with in various ways. And there were others – mutation effects didn’t only affect heroes, it affected villains too. So I had a grand time with the atomic bomb. [Laughter.]

Benjamin Grimm

1989 [Groth]50

GROTH: Jack, did you put a lot of yourself into the character of Ben Grimm?

KIRBY: Well, they associated me with Ben Grimm. I suppose I must be a lot like Ben Grimm. I never duck out of a fight; I don’t care what the hell the odds are, and I’m rough at times, but I try to be a decent guy all the time. That’s the way I’ve always lived. Because I have children… In other words, my ambition was always to be a perfect picture of an American. An American is a guy, a rich guy with a family, a decent guy with a family with as many kids as he likes, doing what he wants, working with people that he likes, and enjoying himself to his very old age.

Thor

1992 [Prisoners of Gravity]51

Q: What prompted you to reinvent Thor for the comics in 1962?

JACK: Well, I knew the Thor legends very well, but I wanted to modernize them. I felt that might be a new thing for comics, taking the old legends and modernizing them. I believe I accomplished that.

1969 [Hebert]52

KIRBY: There was a time when I had to do a story about a living planet. A planet that was alive; a planet that was intelligent. That was nothing new either because there had been other stories on live planets but that’s not acceptable. Oh, I could tell you that there was a living planet somewhere and you would say, “Yeah, that’s wild,” but how do you relate to it? Why is it alive? So I felt somewhere out in the universe, the universe turns liquid – becomes denser and turns liquid – and that in this liquid, there was a giant multiple virus, and if this multiple virus remained isolated for millions and millions of years, it would begin to think. It would begin to evolve by itself and it would begin to think. By the time we reached it, it might be quite superior to us – and that was Ego. That was acceptable because I was answering questions that someone might ask about it. It’s a concept. I feel somewhere – in fact, it almost makes sense – that the universe gets denser and the atoms grow more compact and possibly nothingness becomes something and that something gets bigger and it gets bigger and it might resolve itself into some kind of liquid atoms. Why not?

1985 [Van Hise]53

I did a version of Thor for DC. In the Fifties before I did him for Marvel. He had a red beard but he was a legendary figure, which I liked. I liked the figure of Thor at DC and I created Thor at Marvel because I was forever enamored of legends. I knew all about these legends which is why I knew about Balder, Heimdall and Odin. I tried to update Thor and put him in a superhero costume. He looked great in it and everybody loved him, but he was still Thor.

1989 [Groth]54

KIRBY: I loved Thor because I loved legends. I’ve always loved legends. Stan Lee was the type of guy who would never know about Balder and who would never know about the rest of the characters. I had to build up that legend of Thor in the comics.

GROTH: The whole Asgardian…

KIRBY: Yes. The whole Asgardian company, see? I built up Loki. I simply read Loki was the classic villain and, of course, all the rest of them. I even threw in the Three Musketeers. I drew them from Shakespearean figures. I combined Shakespearean figures with the Three Musketeers and came up with these three friends who supplemented Thor and his company, and this is the way I kept these strips going by creative little steps like that.

Galactus

1987 [Viola]55

KV: There was an incredible run of issues of the Fantastic Four, in which you created Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Inhumans, and the Black Panther.

JK: Yes, that’s true.

KV: Do you recall that period of creative breakthrough, and your inspirations?

JK: My inspirations were the fact that I had to make sales and come up with characters that were no longer stereotypes. In other words, I couldn’t depend on gangsters, I had to get something new.

For some reason I went to the Bible, and I came up with Galactus. And there I was in front of this tremendous figure, who I knew very well because I’ve always felt him. I certainly couldn’t treat him in the same way I could any ordinary mortal. And I remember in my first story, I had to back away from him to resolve that story. The Silver Surfer is, of course, the fallen angel. When Galactus relegated him to Earth, he stayed on Earth, and that was the beginning of his adventures.

1985 [Van Hise]56

I’d been using gangsters and it wasn’t fair for superheroes to fight gangsters. My basic philosophy, if you want to call it that, is fairness. I believe in fairness. Gangsters wouldn’t stand a chance against superheroes so I had to find people as good as superheroes who could compete on their own level and that gave rise to the supervillain. I found myself coming out with the most powerful villain, and the most controversial (which is great for sales), and that’s Galactus. I felt that somewhere around the cosmos are powerful things that we know nothing about and from that came Galactus. He was almost like a god and that’s where I came up with the god concepts. There might be things out there that are ultimates compared to us.

1989 [Groth]57

GROTH: How did you come up with Galactus?

KIRBY: Galactus was God, and I was looking for God. When I first came up with Galactus, I was very awed by him. I didn’t know what to do with the character.

Everybody talks about God, but what the heck does he look like? Well, he’s supposed to be awesome, and Galactus is awesome to me. I drew him large and awesome. No one ever knew the extent of his powers or anything, and I think symbolically that’s our relationship [with God].

Doctor Doom

1982 [Eisner]58

KIRBY: I began to define characters.

EISNER: Give me an example.

KIRBY: Okay, I’ll give you Doctor Doom, who is one of my characters. Dr. Doom is a handsome guy… But first, I began with the classics that were very powerful. What comics were doing all the time was updating the classics. So, I borrowed from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I felt there was a Mr. Hyde in all of us and that was a character I wanted and I called him the Hulk. In the legend of Thor, I began to update Thor. I felt that Thor needed friends so I went to the Four Musketeers, and that was the basis.

1969 [Hebert]59

KIRBY: Dr. Doom is paranoid. He thinks he’s ugly and he wants the whole world to be like him. Dr. Doom is the fox who had his tail cut off, and he’s trying to talk the whole world into having their tails cut off so when everyone has his tail cut off, he becomes the most handsome fox. That’s ridiculous, because paranoids are insane people who never get their way. Hitler tried it, you know.

The Hulk

1982 [Zimmerman]60

“I did a mess of things. The only book I didn’t work on was Spider-Man, which Steve Ditko did. But Spider-Man was my creation. The Hulk was my creation. It was simply Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I was borrowing from the classics. They are the most powerful literature there is… I was beginning to find myself as a thinking human being. I began to think about things that were real. I didn’t want to tell fairy tales. I wanted to tell things as they are. But I wanted to tell them in an entertaining way. And I told it in the Fantastic Four and I told it in Sgt. Fury… If I wanted to tell the entire truth about the world, I could do it with Robinson Crusoe, and do Robinson Crusoe for the rest of my life.”

1969 [Hebert]61

KIRBY: I created the Hulk, too, and saw him as a kind of handsome Frankenstein.

TCJ: Strangely enough, that was my first impression, but everyone else thought he was a monster to be pitied.

KIRBY: I never felt the Hulk was a monster, because I felt the Hulk was me. I feel all the characters were me. Being a monster is just the surface thing. I won’t accept that either because I want to know why the Hulk jumps around, what the limits of his strength are. I feel that the Hulk’s strength is unlimited for some damn reason I don’t understand. It’s just unlimited, and when I had him fight with the Thing, I felt the Hulk broke it off at a point where he hadn’t fully tested his strength. I feel it should be that way.

The Black Panther

1986 [Borax]62

MARK: The Panther.

JACK: The Panther. I got to hemming and hawing – “You know, there’s never been a black man in comics.” And I brought in a picture of this costumed guy which was later modified so he could have a lot more movement. Actually, at first he was a guy with a cape, and all I did was take the cape off and there he was in fighting stance, unencumbered. The Black Panther came in, and of course we got a new audience! We got the audience we should’ve gotten in the first place. We began to accumulate new readers and Marvel got back on its feet and then – (pause) – I left.

1989 [Groth]63

GROTH: How did you come up with the Black Panther?

KIRBY: I came up with the Black Panther because I realized I had no blacks in my strip. I’d never drawn a black. I needed a black. I suddenly discovered that I had a lot of black readers. My first friend was a black! And here I was ignoring them because I was associating with everybody else. It suddenly dawned on me – believe me, it was for human reasons – I suddenly discovered nobody was doing blacks. And here I am a leading cartoonist and I wasn’t doing a black. I was the first one to do an Asian. Then I began to realize that there was a whole range of human differences. Remember, in my day, drawing an Asian was drawing Fu Manchu – that’s the only Asian they knew. The Asians were wily…

The Silver Surfer

1986 [Borax]64

JACK: I got the Silver Surfer, and I suddenly realized here was the dramatic situation between God and the Devil! The Devil himself was an archangel. The Devil wasn’t ugly – he was a beautiful guy! He was the guy that challenged God.

MARK: That’s the Surfer challenging Galactus.

JACK: And Galactus says, “You want to see my power? Stay on Earth forever!”

MARK: He exiled the Surfer out of Paradise.

JACK: And of course the Surfer is a good character, but he got a little bit of an ego and it destroyed him. That’s very natural. If we got an ego it might destroy us. People say, “Look at him – who does he think he is? We knew him when.” They throw tomatoes at you. Of course, Galactus, in his own way, and maybe the people of his type, are also doing that to the Surfer. They were people of a certain class and power, and if any one of ’em became pretentious or affectacious, they would do the same thing. We would do the same thing. If a movie star walked past you and gave you the snub, you’d give him a hot foot just to show him, “I paid my money to see you – and that’s what you’re living on.” You’re not just a face in the crowd – you’re a moviegoer, you plunk your dough down, and this guy lives off it.

1970 [San Diego]65

AUDIENCE: What was your inspiration for the Silver Surfer?

KIRBY: Gee, I don’t know. The Silver Surfer came out of a feeling; that’s the only thing I can say. When I drew Galactus, I just don’t know why, but I suddenly figured out that Galactus was God, and I found that I’d made a villain out of God, and I couldn’t make a villain out of him. And I couldn’t treat him as a villain, so I had to back away from him. I backed away from Galactus, and I felt he was so awesome, and in some way he was God, and who would accompany God, but some kind of fallen angel? And that’s who the Silver Surfer was. And at the end of the story, Galactus condemned him to Earth, and he couldn’t go into space anymore. So the Silver Surfer played his role in that manner. And, y’know, I can’t say why; it just happened. And that was the Silver Surfer, I suppose you might call it – I don’t know, some kind of response to an inner feeling.

1989 [Groth]66

KIRBY: My conception of the Silver Surfer was a human being from space in that particular form. He came in when everybody began surfing – I read about it in the paper.

The kids in California were beginning to surf. I couldn’t do an ordinary teenager surfing so I drew a surfboard with a man from outer space on it.

Telling the truth

1986 [Pitts]67

KIRBY: The only thing I can add is that I’ve been telling the truth and I’ll never speak to another person without telling the truth. I’ve been a cruel man in my time, I’ve been a devious man in my time, like everybody else. I’ve told lies in my time. But I’ve seen enough suffering to experiment with the truth.

Since I’ve matured, since the war itself–I’ve always been a feisty guy, but since the war itself, there are people that I didn’t like, but I saw them suffer and it changed me. I promised myself that I would never tell a lie, never hurt another human being, and I would try to make the world as positive as I could.

Legacy

1989 [Groth]68

KIRBY: I can say that I’ve done my job extremely well. My only beef is that a lot of people have put their fingers in whatever I’ve done and tried to screw it up, and I’ve always resented that. I always resent anybody interfering with anybody else trying to do his job. Everybody has his own job to do. If he’s good, he’ll do well, but if he’s mediocre, he’s not going to do as well as he should. I believe that I’m in a thorough, professional class who’ll give you the best you can get. You won’t get any better than the stuff that I can do… I’ve never done anything half-heartedly. It’s the reason my comics did well. It’s the reason my comics were drawn well. I can’t do anything bad. I won’t do anything bad, and I resent very deeply bad people who haven’t got the ability, who try to interfere with the kind of work I’m trying to do because nobody’s going to benefit from it. If you’re a thorough professional, and they won’t let you do a professional job, nobody’s going to benefit from it. The people who produce it won’t benefit. The people who buy it won’t benefit from it. They’re going to get a half-assed product, and I believe that’s what the editorial people in comics at that time bought. They bought a half-assed product, or they created a half-assed product, and that’s what they got in return, they got half-assed returns… If I’ve done it myself, I’ve always been satisfied. If somebody interfered, it always created a bad period in my life.

Articles in this series:
* Interviews – you are here!
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part one
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part two
The Marvel Method According To Jack Kirby – part three

 

Footnotes

The repetition in the footnotes allows linking back to specific quotes.

back 1 Bruce Hamilton interview, conducted shortly after Jack left Marvel in 1970, published in Rocket’s Blast Comicollector #81, 1971 (TJKC 18, Jan 1998).

back 2 Tim Skelly conducting, “The Great Electric Bird” show, WNUR-FM, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), 14 May 1971; later published in The Nostalgia Journal 27, Aug 1976.

back 3 Howard Zimmerman, “Kirby Takes on the Comics,” Comics Scene #2, March 1982.

back 4 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 5 Ben Schwartz, UCLA Daily Bruin. Conducted 4 Dec 1987, published 22 Jan 1988 (The Jack Kirby Collector 23, Feb 1999).

back 6 Leonard Pitts, Jr., conducted in 1986 or 1987 for a book titled “Conversations With The Comic Book Creators”. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 7 James Van Hise, “Superheroes: The Language That Jack Kirby Wrote,” Comics Feature #34, March-April 1985.

back 8 Howard Zimmerman, “Kirby Takes on the Comics,” Comics Scene #2, March 1982.

back 9 Shop Talk, Jack Kirby interviewed by Will Eisner, Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine 39, July 1982.

back 10 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 11 “An interview with Drew Friedman,” conducted by Kliph Nesteroff, WFMU’s Beware of the Blog, August 08, 2010.

back 12 Dick Ayers interviewed by Roy Thomas and Jim Amash, Alter Ego V3No31, December 2003.

back 13 “A Conversation with Artist-Writer Larry Lieber,” interviewed by Roy Thomas, Alter Ego V3No2, Fall 1999.

back 14 Jim Vadeboncouer (based on a story uncovered by Brad Elliot), “The Great Atlas Implosion,” The Jack Kirby Collector #18, January 1998.

back 15 Flo Steinberg interviewed by Jim Salicrup and Dwight Jon Zimmerman, Comics Interview #17, November 1984.

back 16 Michael Vassallo, by email, 22 October 2014 and 4 January 2015.

back 17 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 18 Shop Talk, Jack Kirby interviewed by Will Eisner, Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine 39, July 1982.

back 19 Steve Sherman, 1975, The Jack Kirby Collector #8, January 1996. (Originally presented in the 1975 Comic Art Convention program book.)

back 20 Mark Hebert, conducted early 1969, appeared in The Nostalgia Journal #30, November 1976, and #31, December 1976.

back 21 Glenn Danzig with Mike Thibodeaux, conducted early 1990s, The Jack Kirby Collector #22, December 1998.

back 22 James Van Hise, “Superheroes: The Language That Jack Kirby Wrote,” Comics Feature #34, March-April 1985.

back 23 Shop Talk, Jack Kirby interviewed by Will Eisner, Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine 39, July 1982.

back 24 Howard Zimmerman, “Kirby Takes on the Comics,” Comics Scene #2, March 1982.

back 25 Mike Hodel’s Hour 25, Jack Kirby radio interview conducted by J. Michael Strazcynski and Larry DiTillio, 13 April 1990. Transcript posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 26 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 27 Ben Schwartz, UCLA Daily Bruin. Conducted 4 Dec 1987, published 22 Jan 1988 (The Jack Kirby Collector 23, Feb 1999).

back 28 Mark Borax interview, Comics Interview #41, 1986.

back 29 Leonard Pitts, Jr., conducted in 1986 or 1987 for a book titled “Conversations With The Comic Book Creators”. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 30 John Severin interviewed by Jim Amash, The Jack Kirby Collector #25, August 1999.

back 31 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 32 Robert Knight’s Earthwatch, Jack Kirby radio interview conducted by Warren Reece and Max Schmid, WBAI New York, 28 August 1987. Transcript posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 33 Leonard Pitts, Jr., conducted in 1986 or 1987 for a book titled “Conversations With The Comic Book Creators”. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 34 Shop Talk, Jack Kirby interviewed by Will Eisner, Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine 39, July 1982.

back 35 Bruce Hamilton interview, conducted shortly after Jack left Marvel in 1970, published in Rocket’s Blast Comicollector #81, 1971 (TJKC 18, Jan 1998).

back 36 San Diego Golden State Comic-Con panel, 1 August 1970, printed in The Jack Kirby Collector #57, Summer 2011.

back 37 Mark Hebert, conducted early 1969, appeared in The Nostalgia Journal #30, November 1976, and #31, December 1976.

back 38 Handwritten notes signed by Jack Kirby, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 97, Exhibit RR. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 39 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 40 Robert Knight’s Earthwatch, Jack Kirby radio interview conducted by Warren Reece and Max Schmid, WBAI New York, 28 August 1987. Transcript posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 41 Tim Skelly conducting, “The Great Electric Bird” show, WNUR-FM, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), 14 May 1971; later published in The Nostalgia Journal 27, Aug 1976.

back 42 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 43 Shop Talk, Jack Kirby interviewed by Will Eisner, Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine 39, July 1982.

back 44 Tim Skelly conducting, “The Great Electric Bird” show, WNUR-FM, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), 14 May 1971; later published in The Nostalgia Journal 27, Aug 1976.

back 45 Howard Zimmerman, “Kirby Takes on the Comics,” Comics Scene #2, March 1982.

back 46 Rick Green, Prisoners of Gravity, TVOntario, 1992. Transcript published in The Jack Kirby Collector #14, February 1997.

back 47 Steve Sherman, 1975, The Jack Kirby Collector #8, January 1996. (Originally presented in the 1975 Comic Art Convention program book.)

back 48 Mark Hebert, conducted early 1969, appeared in The Nostalgia Journal #30, November 1976, and #31, December 1976.

back 49 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 50 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 51 Rick Green, Prisoners of Gravity, TVOntario, 1992. Transcript published in The Jack Kirby Collector #14, February 1997.

back 52 Mark Hebert, conducted early 1969, appeared in The Nostalgia Journal #30, November 1976, and #31, December 1976.

back 53 James Van Hise, “Superheroes: The Language That Jack Kirby Wrote,” Comics Feature #34, March-April 1985.

back 54 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 55 Ken Viola, “Jack Kirby – The Master of Comic Book Art,” transcript of his interview of Kirby for the film, The Masters of Comic Book Art, conducted February, 1987. Published in The Jack Kirby Collector #7, October 1995.

back 56 James Van Hise, “Superheroes: The Language That Jack Kirby Wrote,” Comics Feature #34, March-April 1985.

back 57 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 58 Shop Talk, Jack Kirby interviewed by Will Eisner, Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine 39, July 1982.

back 59 Mark Hebert, conducted early 1969, appeared in The Nostalgia Journal #30, November 1976, and #31, December 1976.

back 61 Mark Hebert, conducted early 1969, appeared in The Nostalgia Journal #30, November 1976, and #31, December 1976.

back 62 Mark Borax interview, Comics Interview #41, 1986.

back 63 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 64 Mark Borax interview, Comics Interview #41, 1986.

back 65 San Diego Golden State Comic-Con panel, 1 August 1970, printed in The Jack Kirby Collector #57, Summer 2011.

back 66 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

back 67 Leonard Pitts, Jr., conducted in 1986 or 1987 for a book titled “Conversations With The Comic Book Creators”. Posted on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center.

back 68 Gary Groth, conducted in summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.

The Summer of Jack by Chuck Greaves

Posted in General.

Chuck Greaves recently reached out to the Kirby Museum to offer his October 2012 essay for re-posting here. Chuck is an accomplished writer of legal mysteries and literary fiction. Thank you, Chuck, not only for sharing the essay but also sending along the additional photos. – Rand Hoppe

For most Americans of a certain age, the summer of 1968 is viewed as a kind of dark chasm that yawned between the Summer of Love and the Summer of Woodstock. It was, after all, the summer of Martin, the summer of Bobby. Of My Lai and Biafra. It marked the rise of Nixon and the fall of Prague Spring.  It hosted the Chicago Convention.

For me, the dog days of 1968 evoke different memories, fonder memories, and none more enduring than the memory of my improbable audience with the King.

Iron Man, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four. It was these Ektachrome heroes of today’s CG cinema who formed the warp and weft of my boyhood narrative, their parallel universe of lantern-jawed heroes, buxom damsels and, of course, evil villains bent on world conquest the golden latchkey for a yearning pre-teen fettered to the terrestrial orthodoxy of 1960’s Levittown.

Captain America, the Avengers, the Mighty Thor, the Silver Surfer. Conflicted but righteous, misunderstood yet unerring, they and countless other pulp paladins all sprung fully-formed from the sharpened No. 2 pencil of one man, who today is acknowledged, posthumously, as the greatest pencil artist in comic book history. I’m speaking now of the King of Comics, Jack Kirby.

And all I wanted was his autograph.

It was in 1968, that tumultuous summer of my twelfth year, that my pal Jimmy and I hauled out the Nassau County phone book and started paging through the K’s. We’d reasoned that if Marvel Comics was headquartered on Madison Avenue, then some of the artists must surely ride the Long Island Railroad to work just like our fathers. Just like ordinary mortals.

We found several possibilities — Johns, Jacks and J’s — and I wrote to all of them, effusive in my adulation, and humble, or so I’d hoped, in my request for a signed photograph. I posted the letters and waited.

A week passed, two weeks. My attention, meanwhile, had wandered to the more prosaic diversions of a Levittown summer. The Village Green swimming pool. Curb-ball. Ringalevio. The not-yet-amazin’ Mets.

And then, all but forgotten, it suddenly arrived — a stiff manila envelope with artful block lettering. Inside was no photograph, however, but an original pencil drawing. The Thing, his arms bulging beneath a tight t-shirt, hunched over a drafting table, a word balloon suspended over his rocky brow. “Is this shot okay, Chuck?” he asked, the smoke from his stogie curled upward to form the magical number 4.

Jack Kirby pencil art 1968 Thing self-portrait for Chuck Greaves

A pencilled Jack Kirby Thing self-portrait sent to Chuck Greaves in 1968. Snapshot of the art in frame behind glass.

Jimmy was jealous. Jimmy was, in fact, beside himself. And Jimmy had a plan.

Over the phone, Mr. Kirby was gracious. Yes, he worked from his home. No, he enjoyed having visitors. Tomorrow? Sure, not a problem.

We lied to our parents, naturally, and set out after breakfast on our Sting-Rays for what would prove to be a half-day’s ride into uncharted territory. A suburban neighborhood, a modest home. We knocked. We waited. And Jack Kirby answered the door.

He was friendly, avuncular. He offered us Orange Crush and led us downstairs to the basement studio where he’d been working on a forthcoming issue of the Fantastic Four. The room was littered with monochrome panels of mutants and monsters, machinery and mayhem.

We watched him work. He patiently answered all of our inane questions. We hung. And in the end, after we’d wrung the last drops from our soda bottles, he offered to draw a picture for each of us.

My favorite that week was T’Challa, the Black Panther, Marvel’s first-ever African-American superhero, yet another of Kirby’s pioneering creations. He seemed surprised by my choice, and somehow pleased.

He took a clean sheet of paper. He sketched, he shaded, and in less than thirty seconds he’d confected an astonishing image. The Black Panther, tightly-muscled and perfectly proportioned, sprang forth from the page. Above his head, a word balloon declared, “Chuck, it’s great meeting you.”

1968 Jack Kirby Black Panther pencil sketch given to Chuck Greaves.

Black Panther pencil sketch drawn by Jack Kirby in his East Williston basement and given to Chuck Greaves in 1968. Snapshot of the art in frame behind glass.

Today, almost 45 years later, I still look at both drawings every day, since they hang on the wall of my home office. They’re totems, I suppose; paeans to innocence in turbulent times. And they’re tributes to a man whose genius continues, even in these trying times, to offer the same promise of magic and adventure to a new generation.

Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg, died in Thousand Oaks, California in 1994. He was 76 years young.

Jack, it was great meeting you.

Chuck Greaves, 1968.

Chuck Greaves in 1968.

Key Late Career Moments

This timeline was first published in TwoMorrows Publishing’s Spring 2014 The Jack Kirby Collector 63. Many thanks to John Morrow for allowing us to publish it here. Suggestions or corrections are welcome, please use the comments section below. –  Rand

Continuing our look at key moments in Jack’s life and career from TJKC #60 (which covered Marvel in the 1960s) and #62 (which covered 1970-1975), we present this timeline of key moments that affected Kirby’s tenure after he left DC Comics in 1975. Of invaluable help were Richard Kolkman (who sent me an extensive list to begin work from), Eric Nolen-Weathington, Ray Wyman, Tom Kraft, Glen Gold, and Rand Hoppe, as well as Mark Evanier’s book KIRBY: King of Comics and Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.

This isn’t a complete list of every important date in Kirby’s later career history, but should hit most of the main ones. Please send us additions and corrections. Next issue, I’ll work on pivotal moments in Jack’s 1940s-1950s career with Joe Simon.

My rule of thumb: Cover dates were generally two-three months later than the date the book appeared on the stands, and six months ahead of when Kirby was working on the stories, so I’ve assembled the timeline according to those adjusted dates—not the cover dates—to set it as close as possible to real-time.

Early 1970s

  • May 30, 1972: Kirby signs an agreement with Marvel, effectively relinquishing any claim he might have to the copyright on Captain America. This document is used against Joe Simon’s efforts to secure the copyright on Captain America Comics #1-10.
  • Late 1972: Rocket’s Blast Comic Collector #94 features an erroneous newsflash titled “Kirby Leaves DC,” which speculates what might happen if Kirby returned to Marvel. The article creates quite a stir in fandom.
  • Summer 1974: Neal Kirby asks Roy Thomas to meet the Kirbys for coffee at the San Diego Comic-Con, to determine Marvel’s possible interest in having Jack return. Roy tells Jack he and Stan would be glad to have him back.

1975

  • Early 1975: It is presumed that Kirby talks with Stan Lee regarding the possibility of Kirby returning to Marvel.
  • February 20: Longtime Marvel letterer Arthur “Artie” Simek dies.
  • March 18: Kirby visits the Marvel offices for the first time since his departure in 1970. The visit takes place on the Monday before the 1975 Mighty Marvel Con (March 22–24). Marie Severin spots Kirby going into Stan’s office, and yells down the Marvel halls, “Kirby’s back!”
  • March 24: Kirby signs a three-year contract with Marvel (valid through April 30, 1978), and appears at the Mighty Marvel Con held at the Hotel Commodore in New York City. Kirby stuns MMC attendees with the announcement of his return, and in regards to what he will be doing for Marvel, Kirby says, “It’ll electrocute you in the mind!”
  • May: Barry Alfonso’s fanzine Mysticogryfil #2 features an interview with Kirby.
  • May 25: Wings’ album Venus and Mars featuring the song “Magneto and Titanium Man,” is released (the cover of the 45 rpm single is shown above, which featured re-purposed non-Kirby art from Marvel).
  • June 2: Menomonee Falls Gazette V4, #181 features an interview with Kirby.
  • July: Mediascene #15 features a preview article entitled “The King Returns.”
  • August (October cover date): The Marvel Comics Bullpen page announces, “The King is Back! ’Nuff said!” and lists his future projects as 2001, Captain America, and a giant Silver Surfer book.
  • September (November cover date): New Kirby covers hit the stands: Fantastic Four #164, Invaders #3, Iron Man #80, Ka-Zar #12, Marvel Premiere #26 (featuring Hercules), Marvel Super-Heroes #54 (featuring Hulk), Marvel Two-in- One #12 (guest-starring Iron Man), and Thor #241.
  • September: Captain America #192 features a next issue promo with art by Kirby and Frank Giacoia (next page, top).
  • September: FOOM #11 features a preview of 2001: A Space Odyssey, cover art for Captain America #193 and #194, and “Kirby Speaks,” an interview with Kirby.
  • September: Kirby ignores editorial pleas to integrate the rest of the Marvel Universe into his Captain America series.
  • November (January 1976 cover date): Captain America #193 is published, beginning the “Madbomb” storyline, which is timed to end on America’s bicentennial.
  • November 15: Jack completes the first draft of his Silver Star screenplay.
  • December: FOOM #12 features preview art for an “Ikaris the Eternal” series, later to be renamed The Eternals.

1976

  • January (March coer date): The Bullpen Bulletins page features the blurb, “Who Is He?” with an image of Ikaris.
  • February (April cover date): Kamandi #40, featuring the last of Kirby’s 1970s art for DC, is published.
  • February: The Comic Reader #127 announces a new Marvel series Return of the Gods (ie. The Eternals) along with Kirby’s cover art for the first issue.
  • May (July cover date): Bullpen Bulletins page announces The Prisoner. According to Mediascene (Nov.–Dec. 1977), Marvel’s Prisoner series began as a proposal by editor Marv Wolfman, followed by a Steve Englehart and Gil Kane effort which Stan Lee rejected. Lee then gave the series to Kirby to write and pencil. Kirby penciled one 17-page issue, which was partially inked by Mike Royer, before Lee cancelled the project altogether.
  • May (July cover date): Eternals #1 published.
  • June (August cover date): Captain America #200 is published.
  • June 8: The treasury sized Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles is published.
  • June 22: Kirby and his family meet Paul and Linda McCartney backstage at a Wings concert at the L.A. Forum via Gary Sherman. Kirby gives McCartney a drawing of Magneto (referencing McCartney’s song) to commemorate the occasion.
  • July (September cover date): Bullpen Bulletin page announces that Roy Thomas is to join “Marvel West” along with Kirby and Mike Royer.
  • July: The Marvel Treasury Special 2001: A Space Odyssey movie adaptation is released.
  • August (October cover date): Hulk Annual #5 is published. The story features a bevy of Jack’s Atlas-era monsters, such as Groot, Titan, and Goom, with a new cover by Kirby.
  • September (November cover date): Fantastic Four #176 is published featuring a Kirby/Joe Sinnott cover with Impossible Man. Kirby, along with the Marvel Bullpen, appears as a character in the George Pérez-drawn story inside.
  • October (December cover date): 2001: A Space Odyssey #1 (a new ongoing series) is published.
  • Late October-Early November: Kirby visits Lucca, Italy as Guest of Honor at the Lucca Comic Art Festival, his first international comics convention appearance.
  • November (January 1977 cover date): Black Panther #1 is published. As with his Captain America stories, Kirby isolates the title from the rest of the Marvel Universe.
  • December: FOOM #16 features a preview of the Marvel 1977 Calendar, featuring artwork by Kirby.

1977

  • January: “Stan’s Soapbox” announces the Silver Surfer graphic novel is to be written by Lee and drawn by Kirby.
  • February 1: Kirby submits his art for The Prisoner.
  • March (May cover date): Marvel Two-in-One #27 is released, featuring a Kirby/Sinnott cover with Deathlok.
  • March 14: Kirby hands in concept art and plot concept for the Silver Surfer graphic novel to “Stanley” Lee, and Lee begins scripting.
  • May (July cover date): 2001 #8 is published, introducing Mister Machine. Ideal Toys, having rights to the name, convinces Marvel to rename the character, 75 and Kirby re-dubs him “Machine Man” in the first issue of his solo series.
  • May (July cover date): “Bullpen Bulletins” announces an adaptation of the forthcoming Star Wars movie, which would open to general audiences on May 17. Though not known at the time, Star Wars would feature themes and characters remarkably similar to Kirby’s Fourth World series.
  • May 12: The Star Wars movie premieres.
  • May 20: Kirby works on concept art for Devil Dinosaur under the working title Devil Dinosaur of the Phantom Planet. An earlier working title was Reptar, King of the Dinosaurs.
  • June (August cover date): Eternals #14 is published, featuring a cosmic-powered Hulk, in a feeble nod to tying the series to the Marvel Universe.
  • July (September cover date): 2001 #10 is published, announcing Machine Man will receive his own title.
  • August (October cover date): Captain America #214 is published, marking the final issue of Kirby’s run.
  • October: Pizzazz #1 features a page of Kirby artwork for “2001 Compute-a-Code”. It is the only published artwork Larry Lieber would ink over Kirby pencils.
  • November (January 1978 cover date): Eternals #19, the final issue of the series, is published.
  • November 19: Longtime Marvel production staffer and occasional Kirby inker “Jumbo” John Verpoorten dies at age 37.

1978

  • February (April cover date): Machine Man #1 and Devil Dinosaur #1 are
    published.
  • Early 1978: DePatie-Freleng begins development of a Fantastic Four half-hour cartoon to air in 1979, with Kirby drawing storyboards.
  • Spring: FOOM #21 introduces H.E.R.B.I.E. (earlier named Charlie and Z-Z-1-2-3), a robot member of the Fantastic Four team designed by Kirby for the DePatie-Freling FF cartoon. The rights to Human Torch were tied up with another production company, so DePatie-Freleng used H.E.R.B.I.E. as a stand-in.
  • March: Ballantine Books publishes Sorcerers: A Collection of Fantasy Art, featuring an essay by Kirby, showcasing several unpublished pieces of his personal art.
  • April: The Comics Journal #39 features an article titled, “From Dinosaurs to Rockets: Kirby Strikes Out Again.” The article—along with letters printed in the Marvel letters’ pages and petty cruelty from members of the Marvel Bullpen staff—adds to Kirby’s growing discontent.
  • April 30: Kirby’s contract with Marvel expires and he decides not to renew it, and instead focuses on his animation career.
  • Late Spring: Kirby begins development on Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers, including concept art and co-writing a screenplay with Steve Sherman.
  • July: Kirby begins working on concept art for The Lord of Light movie and theme park (based on Roger Zelazny’s novel of the same name). This artwork would later be used as part of a real-life CIA operation to rescue kidnapped diplomats, as depicted in the 2012 film Argo.
  • August (October cover date): What If? #11 is published. Written and penciled by Kirby, the story, titled “What if the Fantastic Four Were the Original Marvel Bullpen?” features Kirby, Stan Lee, Sol Brodsky, and Flo Steinberg as the FF.
  • August: The Comics Journal #41 features an article titled, “Kirby Quits Comics.”
  • September (November cover date): Fantastic Four #200 is published, the cover of which being Kirby’s final work on the FF in comics.
  • October (December cover date): Machine Man #9 and Devil Dinosaur #9 are published—Kirby’s last ongoing series work for Marvel.
  • Fall: The Silver Surfer graphic novel is published by Simon & Schuster. Kirby and Lee share the copyright.
  • Late 1978: Development begins on the unrealized “Jack Kirby Comics” line of titles: Bruce Lee; Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers; Reptar, King of the Dinosaurs; Satan’s Six; Silver Star (based on the existing screenplay co-written with Steve Sherman); and Thunder Foot.

1979

  • Kirby produces an unfinished 224-page version of his novel The Horde, which is edited by Janet Berliner.
  • The Jack Kirby Masterworks portfolio is published by Privateer Press.
  • January: The Marvel 1979 Calendar features a Kirby Hulk drawing inked by Joe Sinnott. It is Kirby’s final published artwork for Marvel.
  • Early 1979: Stan Lee options the Silver Surfer graphic novel movie rights to producer Lee Kramer. The film is set to have a $25 million budget, with Olivia Newton-John attached to play the role of Ardina (as related in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, pg. 215).
  • Kirby appears in a cameo role on the Incredible Hulk TV series as a police sketch artist.
  • June (August cover date): Fantastic Four #209 is published, introducing the Kirby-designed H.E.R.B.I.E. to comics.
  • September 2 (through January 13, 1980): Kirby’s adaptation of Walt Disney’s film The Black Hole appears in Sunday newspapers across America, and is later translated for foreign publications as well.

1980

  • Kirby continues working as a storyboard and concept artist in the animation industry, particularly for Ruby-Spears Productions on Thundarr The Barbarian (example shown below). Kirby receives some of the best pay of his career, and for the first time, health insurance benefits.
  • October 11: The first episode of Thundarr The Barbarian airs, starting a highly successful syndication run for the series.

1981

  • September (November cover date): Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers #1 is published through Pacific Comics.
  • September (November cover date): Fantastic Four #236—the 20th anniversary issue—is published. Kirby demands the removal of his name from the cover, citing unauthorized use of his Fantastic Four storyboards inside for nefarious “celebratory purposes.”
  • Kirby works with Steve Gerber on the unused Roxie’s Raiders newspaper strip, comic book, and animated series for Ruby-Spears.

1982

  • Battle For A 3-D World is published, with Kirby pencils, Mike Thibodeaux inks, and 3-D conversion by Ray Zone. The 3-D glasses that come with the comic state “Kirby: King of the Comics,” which is later misconstrued by Johnny Carson when he uses a pair as a prop on The Tonight Show, and inadvertently insults Jack on the air. He publicly apologizes to Jack on-air two weeks later.
  • January (March cover date): Destroyer Duck #1, featuring Kirby pencils, is published in an effort to raise money for Steve Gerber’s lawsuit against Marvel for the rights to Howard the Duck. Kirby also donates the cover art for the F.O.O.G. (Friends of Old Gerber) benefit portfolio.
  • January (March cover date): Kirby’s unpublished 1975 story for DC’s Sandman #7 is finally published in Best of DC Digest #22. It had previously only appeared, for copyright purposes, in DC’s Summer 1978 in-house ashcan inventory book Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, of which only 35 copies were produced by photocopying.
  • October 28: Kirby is interviewed on the TV show Entertainment Tonight by Catherine Mann.
  • December (February 1983 cover date): Silver Star #1 is published by Pacific Comics, based on Jack’s 1975 concept.

1983

  • Kirby is commissioned by Richard Kyle to draw the autobiographical story “Street Code”.
  • February: Will Eisner’s “Shop Talk” interview with Kirby is published in Spirit magazine #39, featuring controversial comments by Kirby.
  • October (December cover date): Destroyer Duck #5 (Kirby’s final issue) is published. Pacific Comics would publish one additional issue, without Kirby art.
  • November (January 1984  cover date): Captain Victory #13 and Silver Star #6 (the final issues) are published.

1984

  • April (June cover date): New Gods reprint #1 is published, beginning a full reprinting of the 11 original New Gods issues.
  • May (July cover date): Super Powers #1 (first series) is published by DC Comics, featuring a Kirby cover, and Jack’s plotting (Kirby plots and draws only covers for #1-4). Jack agrees to tackle this series, in appreciation for DC retroactively making him eligible for royalties on the creation of the New Gods characters that appear in the Super Powers toy line.
  • August: Kirby receives a 4-page legal document from Marvel Comics, drafted especially for him, that contains numerous excessive stipulations around the possible return of his 1960s artwork—including denying him the ability to sell the artwork, and with no guarantee of how many pages he would receive if he did sign the document. Kirby refuses to sign, and attempts to negotiate behind-the-scenes with Marvel, with no success.
  • September (November cover date): New Gods reprint #6 is published, containing the new story “Even Gods Must Die” which attempts to bridge the narrative between the original New Gods #11, and Jack’s upcoming Hunger Dogs graphic novel.
  • September (November cover date): Super Powers #5 is published, the final issue of the first series, featuring Kirby plot, cover, and full pencils.

1985

  • The Hunger Dogs graphic novel is published, giving Kirby a chance to put a pseudo-ending to his New Gods saga.
  • February (April cover date): Who’s Who #2 is published by DC Comics—the first of numerous issues to feature single-page illustrations by Kirby, of his DC characters.
  • March 6: A Cannon Films ad in Variety magazine erroneously credits Stan Lee as the creator of Captain America. The Kirbys’ attorney contacts Marvel Comics about the error.
  • June (August cover date): DC Comics Presents #84 is published, featuringa Kirby-drawn story teaming Superman and the Challengers of the Unknown.
  • July (September cover date): Super Powers (series two) #1 is published, with pencils only by Kirby.
  • July: The Kirbys’ legal dispute with Marvel over the ownership of original artwork plays out publicly, in the first of several issues of The Comics Journal to bring public awareness to the issue. Issue #105 (February 1986) is pivotal in its coverage of the situation.
  • August 2: Kirby appears on a panel at the San Diego Comic-Con with Jim Starlin, Greg Theakston, and Gary Groth, to discuss the situation of Marvel Comics not returning his original artwork.
  • December (February 1986 cover date): Super Powers (series two) #6 is published, featuring Kirby’s final penciled story in comics.

1986

  • New World Entertainment acquires Marvel Comics.
  • Heroes Against Hunger is published by DC Comics to benefit famine relief, featuring a 2-page sequence donated by Jack.
  • August: The Comics Journal #110 includes a petition signed by numerous industry professionals, appealing to Marvel Comics to give Kirby back his original art.
  • August 3: Kirby appears on a panel at the San Diego Comic-Con with Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Marv Wolfman, and Gary Groth, to discuss the situation with Marvel Comics and the return of his original artwork. Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter was in the audience, and spoke briefly from the floor to clarify Marvel’s position.
  • September: Marvel Age Annual #2 is published, reprinting a ½-page text piece by Kirby titled, “Jack Kirby by Jack Kirby,” reprinted from the Merry Marvel Messenger newsletter of 1966.

1987

  • Kirby appears on Ken Viola’s Masters of Comic Book Art documentary, offering many fans their first chance to actually hear and see Kirby speak about comics.
  • January (March cover date): Last of the Viking Heroes #1 is published by Genesis West, featuring a Kirby cover.
  • Pure Imagination publishes Jack Kirby’s Heroes & Villains, reprinting the Valentine’s Day pencil sketchbook Jack drew for his wife Roz in the late 1970s.
  • Summer: Kirby is inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
  • Summer: Under pressure from comics creators and the fan community, Marvel Comics sends Kirby the standard form other artists signed, and upon Jack signing it, finally returns approximately 2,100 of the estimated 13,000 pages Kirby drew for the company.
  • August (October cover date): Kirby’s half of a “jam” cover with Murphy Anderson for DC’s Secret Origins #19 sees print.
  • November: Marvel begins their hardcover Marvel Masterworks collection of early Lee/Kirby stories.

1988

  • December (February 1989 cover date): Action Comics Weekly #638 is published, featuring a Kirby Demon cover—his last new work for DC.

1989

  • Monster Masterworks Vol. 1 is published, featuring “Monsters of the Shifty Fifties,” a text piece written by Kirby.
  • Marvel publishes a collection of Simon & Kirby’s Fighting American, including a two-page introduction by Kirby.
  • Glen Kolleda releases a pewter sculpture based on Kirby’s “Jacob And The Angel” drawing. It comes with a print of Jack’s illustration; a second sculpture and print (Beast Rider) was planned, but never produced.

1990

  • February: The Comics Journal #134 (left) is published, featuring a controversial interview with Kirby, including derogatory comments about Stan Lee, and Jack’s own involvement in the creation of Spider-Man.
  • May: Robin Snyder’s fanzine The Comics Vol. 1, #5 prints a 4-page essay/rebuttal by Steve Ditko entitled “Jack Kirby’s Spider-Man,” giving Ditko’s recollection of what Kirby’s involvement on Spider-Man was prior to Ditko taking over. It includes a Ditko sketch of what Kirby’s version looked like.
  • November: Kirby’s 1983 “Street Code” story finally sees print in Richard Kyle’s Argosy magazine, Vol. 3, #2.
  • December: Marvel Age #95 is published, featuring “Birth of a Legend,” an interview with Kirby (as well as a separate interview with Joe Simon) to commemorate Captain America’s 50th anniversary.

1992

  • January: Marvel publishes a collection of Simon & Kirby’s Boys’ Ranch, including a two-page introduction by Kirby.
  • The Art of Jack Kirby is published. Jack and author Ray Wyman conduct a book tour from November 7-December 12, at five stores in California and Tucson, Arizona.

1993

  • January 22: Kirby appears in a cameo as himself, on the shortlived Bob Newhart sitcom Bob (below).
  • February (April cover date): Topps Comics begins publishing their “Kirbyverse” titles—Bombast, Captain Glory, Night Glider, and Jack Kirby’s Secret City Saga—based on unused Kirby concepts from the 1970s. They also publish Satan’s Six #1, which includes a previously unpublished 8-page Kirby sequence from the ’70s.
  • March 14: Jack and Ray Wyman appear at Comics & Comix in Palo Alto, California to promote The Art of Jack Kirby. A lengthy fan video of Jack’s appearance exists.
  • September (December cover date): Phantom Force #1 is published by Image Comics. The Image founders form a sort of solidarity around Kirby.
  • October (January cover date): Monster Menace #2 is published, featuring a ½-page text piece by Kirby titled “Jack Kirby, Atlas Comics and Monsters”—Kirby’s final work of any kind for Marvel.

1994

  • January (April cover date): Phantom Force #2 is published—Kirby’s final comic book work published during his lifetime.
  • February 6: Kirby dies at his home in Thousand Oaks, California at age 77.
  • March 4: Comics Buyer’s Guide #1059 begins coverage of Kirby’s passing, including the first part of a revealing personal recollection by Mark Evanier.
  • Dr. Mark Miller starts an industry petition to persuade Marvel Comics to credit Kirby on his creations. His behind-the-scenes discussions with Marvel’s Terry Stewart would play a role in Marvel granting a pension to Jack’s wife Roz in September 1995, which lasted until her death on December 22, 1997.
  • June 18: Sotheby’s Auction House auctions Kirby cover recreations produced prior to his death.
  • July: A 9-page excerpt from Kirby’s unfinished novel The Horde is published in Galaxy Magazine #4. To date, two others excerpts have been published: in David Copperfield’s anthology Tales of the Impossible (1995), and the anthology book Front Lines (2008)
  • Summer: Chrissie Harper publishes Jack Kirby Quarterly #1 in the United Kingdom.
  • September: John Morrow publishes The Jack Kirby Collector #1.