A note from Jack Kirby

What follows is a transcription of the undated note written by Jack Kirby that was used as evidence in the – thankfully now settled – legal action between Disney/Marvel and the Kirby heirs. Scans below! – Rand

Captain America

Formulated in 1939 by myself + Joe Simon in Joe’s apartment _ submitted to “Atlas”
Published in 1941

Fantastic Four – Hulk – Spiderman – Thor – Sgt. Fury

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.

The line that I came up with was

“Fantastic Four” a team of Super Heroes

“The Hulk” – which was a spin off of a single story I did for Marvel

“Spiderman” grew from a different script called “The Silver Spider” which was written by Joe Simon’s brother-in-law, Jack Oleck, who is now deceased.

Joe was out of the field at that time + I utilized the “Silver Spider” script to create a single new character. This was given for development to Steve Ditko after I drew the first cover with the original costume.

Thor quickly followed + was fleshed out with the character of the original legend.

Sgt. Fury a mixture of the “Dirty Dozen”, James Bond + my own war experiences became another successful book.

I created many costumes for new “Super Heroes” such as Iron Man, Ant Man + created all related characters such as “Silver Surfer” Galactus – The Inhumans + many more which are included in the enclosed list.

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

This was later changed to “Produced by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby” in some of the books.
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.

FF published 1961
The Hulk 1962
Thor 1962
Spider Man 1962
Sgt. Fury 1963

– Jack Kirby

Key 1960s Moments

This timeline was first published in TwoMorrows Publishing’s Winter 2013 The Jack Kirby Collector 60. Many thanks to John Morrow for allowing us to publish it here. Suggestions or corrections are welcome, please use the comments section below. –  Rand

There were many key moments at Marvel in the 1960s, but the first one that really sent shockwaves through fandom (and Marvel) was the 1966 departure of Steve Ditko from the company. Don’t you suppose that got Stan to thinking, “Gee, what if I lose Jack Kirby, too?” Shortly thereafter, in an odd twist, Stan began occasionally letting Jack script a few stories here and there in the latter 1960s. Was that an effort on Stan’s part to keep him happy at the company?

To clarify the chronology of events in my mind, I decided to prepare this timeline of key moments that affected Marvel, and Lee and Kirby’s relationship in the 1960s. Of invaluable help were Rand Hoppe, past research by Mark Evanier and Pat Ford online, as well as online excerpts from Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (I plan to read the full book soon).

This isn’t a complete list of every important date in Marvel’s 1960s history, but hopefully hits most of the key ones. I’m sure I’ve left some out, and more will come to light in the future, so please send us additions and corrections. I plan to update it, and continue the timeline into the 1970s and beyond.

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 more closely to real-time.


  • This year: Marvel sells 18,700,000 copies of its comics.
  • February 25: Final Sky Masters daily strip sees print.
  • April-May: Fantastic Four #1 conceived by Lee and Kirby, and drawn by Kirby.
  • August 8 (November cover date): FF #1 goes on sale.


  • This year: Marvel sells 19,740,000 copies of its comics. 1158 Kirby pages are published (most in a single year).
  • June (August cover date): Amazing Fantasy #15 published, featuring Ditko’s Spider-Man, after Kirby’s original version was rejected.
  • November (January 1963 cover date): FF #10 features the first appearance of Lee and Kirby in a comic. On the letters page, Stan tells readers to drop the formal “Dear Editor” salutation in letters, and to instead address them to “Dear Stan and Jack.”


  • This year: Marvel sells 22,530,000 copies of its comics.


  • This year: Marvel sells 27,709,000 copies of its comics, with an expectation of 32,000,000 for 1965, showing a nearly 50% increase in 3 years. 102 Kirby covers are published (most in a single year).
  • Also this year: Martin Goodman becomes worried about Stan’s popularity and the control he has over the Marvel line, and pressures him to have other writers handle some of the stories. Stan develops “writer’s test” using four Kirby pages from FF Annual #2, with the balloons whited-out.
  • May (July/Summer cover dates): FF Annual #2, FF #28, and Avengers #6 are published. Original art for these issues are the earliest pages to show Kirby’s handwriting in the margin notes, but all these issues also feature Chic Stone as the inker for the first time, so it’s unclear if Kirby included notes prior to these, and other inkers simply erased Jack’s notes when they erased the pencil art after inking.
  • September: Addams Family and Munsters television series debut (influences Kirby’s creation of the Inhumans later).
  • October (December cover date): Stan hypes Wallace Wood on the cover of Daredevil #5.
  • December (February cover date): FF #35 published, with first ad for MMMS fan club, using Kirby art to sell $1 memberships and, later, promotional products. Flo Steinberg has said, “Nobody expected the fan-club to be so big. There were thousands of letters and dollar bills flying around all over the place. We were throwing them at each other.”


  • Early this year: Marvel’s reacts to news of an impending Batman TV series, and of new publishers jumping on the super-hero bandwagon due to their success, as Martin Goodman tells Stan to add more books, to keep Marvel from getting crowded off newsstands. Soon thereafter, Lee and Kirby develop the Inhumans and Black Panther (originally named Coal Tiger)—both of which feature a character visually similar to Batman—but DC controlled Marvel’s distribution, and wouldn’t allow the new books to be added to Marvel’s output (they were eventually included in the FF).
  • January (March cover date): Tales of Suspense #63 published, the first of several reworks of 1940s S&K Cap stories (with no mention of Simon).
  • This year and next: Kirby assigned to do layouts for Hulk series in Tales to Astonish, Captain America in Tales of Suspense, Nick Fury in Strange Tales, for Don Heck on Avengers, and for Werner Roth on X-Men. He came to view this as doing the majority of the storytelling, for only a fraction of the pay.
  • March (May cover date): Charlton’s Mysteries of Unexplored Worlds #46 published, featuring Son of Vulcan (influenced by Marvel’s Thor).
  • April (June cover date): Charlton begins reprinting Captain Atom adventures in Strange Suspense Stories #75, and renames the title Captain Atom with #78 in October (December 1965 cover date), the first of its Action Hero line.
  • June (August cover date): Spider-Man T-shirt first offered for sale in Spider-Man #27.
  • Summer: FF Annual #3 published, with Stan and Jack appearing in the story together at Reed and Sue’s wedding.
  • July (September cover date): Stan hypes Wallace Wood’s inking of “Don’s drawings” on the cover of Avengers #20.
  • August (October cover date): Daredevil #10 is published, wherein Wallace Wood fought for and received the writing credit from Stan Lee.
  • September (November cover date): Jack introduces the Inhumans in FF #44.
  • September (November cover date): Tower Comics’ T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 (featuring art by Wallace Wood), and Archie’s Mighty Crusaders #1, are published. Wallace Wood had just left Marvel over creative differences with Stan Lee. Kirby and Wood were contemporaries who were known to speak to each other fairly regularly.
  • October (December cover date): Modeling with Millie #44 is published, featuring Roy Thomas’ first Marvel writing work.
  • November (January 1966 cover date): Daredevil #12 published, with Kirby assigned to do layouts for John Romita, and to design the villain The Plunderer.
  • December 1965: Interview with Nat Freedland for New York Herald Tribune article takes place, where Stan is giving art direction to Sol Brodsky about a page from FF #50, page 8, which was apparently in production at that time.


  • This year: Joe Simon sues Marvel in state court, and then in 1967 in federal court, claiming that Captain America was his creation and that he was entitled to the renewal on the copyright registration. Carl Burgos does likewise over his creation The Human Torch.
  • January 9: NY Herald Tribune article appears, which greatly offends Kirby, and possibly Ditko. In it, Stan also says,

    “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 so much over plot lines I told him to start making up his own stories. He won’t let anybody 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.”

    FF #48 (March cover date) goes on sale the same month, with first appearance of Galactus and the Silver Surfer (a character Stan has said he knew nothing about until Kirby turned in the pages with him on them).

  • January 12: Batman TV series debuts as a mid-season replacement.
  • January to February: After months of not directly communicating with Stan, Ditko turns in Spider-man #38 and resigns. He asks Kirby to join him on a walkout to pressure Marvel into better terms, and Kirby initially agrees, but backs out due to concerns over supporting his family. (This comes per Robert Beerbohm’s conversations with Jack)
  • February (April cover date): Myron Fass’ Captain Marvel #1 is published (the character who splits apart into pieces) and co-opts both the famous 1940s character’s name, and the name of Martin Goodman’s company in an attempt to cause market confusion. It’s drawn by Carl Burgos, creator of the Human Torch for Goodman in the 1940s.
  • April (June cover date): Fantasy Masterpieces #3 published, featuring the first of a series of Simon & Kirby 1940s Captain America Comics reprints, with Joe Simon’s credit line removed.
  • May (July cover date): Tales to Astonish #81 published, featuring Kirby’s documented design for the villain Boomerang. Also, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #6 is published by Tower Comics, featuring art by both Wallace Wood and Steve Ditko.
  • May (July cover date): FF #52 published, with the Black Panther’s debut, and includes an announcement that Ditko is leaving Marvel. The real-life Black Panther organization wouldn’t officially be formed until October 1966, but shortly before this issue went into production, news article were published (as early as January) about a Black Panther logo being used by an organization in Alabama.
  • This year: Kirby stops doing most layouts for other artists. This is the point his work begins to reach its 1960s peak, as he has more time to devote to his own stories. Also, Kirby draws the first of his Fourth World concept drawings, but doesn’t show them to Marvel.
  • Mid-1966: Lancer paperbacks are released, reprinting Kirby Fantastic Four, Thor, and Hulk stories. (The Fantastic Four book quotes the 1966 New York Herald-Tribune article.) Also, Donruss’ Marvel Super-Heroes set of 66 trading cards released, using Kirby art (both presumably unpaid).
  • June: Stan takes a train trip to Florida on his first-ever vacation, and lets Jack script the S.H.I.E.L.D. story in Strange Tales #148 (September 1966) after plotting the story together. Stan noted in an interview, “I [did] a little editing later, but it was [Jack’s] story.” Stan also assigned Roy Thomas to script the Tales To Astonish #82 (August 1966) Iron Man/Sub-Mariner fight, but Roy gives Jack all the credit for the plot.
  • Summer: Fantastic Four Special #4 is released, featuring the original Human Torch battling the FF’s Torch. Carl Burgos’ daughter sees her father destroy all his old Timely Comics, as a reaction to the FF Special story, and/or losing his bid to reclaim the copyright on the Human Torch.
  • July 12: Goodman convinces Kirby to sign a deposition against Joe Simon in the Captain America copyright case, siding with Marvel, with the promise of receiving whatever Simon gets in any settlement.
  • July: Martin Goodman offers Myron Fass $6000 for the copyright on his Captain Marvel; Fass refuses.
  • August (October cover date): Joe Simon releases Fighting American #1 and The Spirit #1 at Harvey Comics, featuring reprints and new material. Simon also oversees the first of the Harvey Thriller line of new super-hero comics for Harvey.
  • August (October cover date): Thor #133 published, which at Jack’s insistence, is the first to include the joint credit “A Stan Lee—Jack Kirby Production” (in the “Tales of Asgard” story) instead of separate credits for Stan as “Writer” and Jack as “Artist.” Future Thor issues would continue this. This issue also features the debut of a balding, bearded “Ego, the Living Planet”; perhaps a subtle shot at Stan? FF #55 is also published with Marvel t-shirt and poster ads, using Kirby art to sell merchandise (presumably unpaid).
  • September 1: Marvel Super-Heroes cartoon debuts, with no payment to Kirby for reuse of art. Robert Lawrence of Gantray-Lawrence accompanies Stan Lee on a wildly popular college lecture circuit tour to promote it. A September Esquire article mentions Stan speaking at Princeton, Bard and NYU, and that Marvel had sold 50,000 t-shirts and 30,000 sweat-shirts.
  • September (November cover date): FF #56 published, with “Produced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby” credit instead of separate listings for Writer and Artist.
  • October (December cover date): FF #57 published, with back cover ad for the Marvel Aurora model kits, featuring Kirby art of Hulk and Captain America (presumably unpaid).
  • December (February 1967 cover date): Strange Tales #153 published, with Kirby’s final layouts for another artist (in this case, Steranko).


  • February (April cover date): Strange Tales #155 is published, with Steranko’s first writing credit.
  • July (September cover date): Thor #144 published, without its original Kirby cover, which was rejected by Stan. This issue’s “Tales of Asgard” back-up is entitled “The Beginning of the End”. Stan has often said that Kirby was mostly responsible for these stories, as he knew the Norse legends better than Stan.
  • August (October cover date): FF #67 published, with last part of “Him” story, and heavy characterization changes to Kirby’s characters by Stan. (This was the last issue drawn on large-size art.) Also, the final “Tales of Asgard” back-up in Thor #145 is published, titled “The End,” possibly alluding to discontent on Jack’s part.
  • September 9: First of 20 Fantastic Four cartoons airs, using Lee/Kirby FF issues as the basis for each story (presumably unpaid). Also, America’s Best TV Comics is published in conjunction with ABC-TV, with Kirby story reprint (presumably unpaid).
  • September (November cover date): Stan includes the note “Jack, you’re still the greatest” on a pin-up in FF Special #5 pin-up, which was published shortly after the “Him” story in FF #66-67 that upset Jack. Stan apparently tosses Jack a bone by letting him write the 3-page “This is a plot?” throwaway story in the issue, and had Jack draw a solo Silver Surfer/Quasimodo story as well—perhaps as a peace offering, since Jack wasn’t happy with the way the Surfer was being handled. Inhumans backups  also begin in Thor #146, likely made from previously created Inhumans stories that weren’t published.
  • October (December cover date): Marvel Super-Heroes #12 is published, with the debut of Marvel’s Captain Marvel (Mar-vell). Kirby felt this idea came from an offhand conversation he’d had in the offices, for which he wasn’t credited.
  • This year: New ads were printed that announced a “Nifty New Membership Kit” for the MMMS, including new merchandise for sale with Kirby artwork.


  • Early this year: Kirby begins, unsuccessfully, trying to negotiate better terms with Martin Goodman.
  • March-June (May-August cover dates): FF #74-77 published, with Jack leading to a climax and jumping-off point on the Silver Surfer storyline, possibly preparing to work on his own Silver Surfer book.
  • April (June cover date): Beware the Creeper #1 by Steve Ditko is published by DC Comics.
  • May 22: Kirby takes a $2000 loan from Martin Goodman to finance his family’s upcoming move to California, to live in a better climate for his daughter’s asthma. Around this time, Bill Everett also takes a “loan” from Goodman, which was an off the record agreement that Everett wouldn’t sue over Sub-Mariner copyrights, so as not to hurt the sale of Marvel to Perfect Film.
  • June (August cover date): Silver Surfer #1 published the same month as FF #77: John Buscema is assigned to draw the solo title, apparently without Jack’s knowledge. Kirby feels his character has been taken away from him.
  • July: Sale of Marvel Comics to Perfect Film is finalized. Perfect Film is “over running the company” by September 1968, even though Martin Goodman is retained as publisher.
  • August 31: Kirby repays half of the loan from Goodman.
  • This year: Stan Lee interview is published in Castle of Frankenstein #12, wherein Stan says of Jack, “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.”


  • January: Kirby family moves from New York to California, further distancing Jack from the Marvel offices.
  • This year: Marvelmania fan club established, selling merchandise with Kirby artwork on it. However, Kirby was paid to produce new material, although he reportedly didn’t receive full payment for it before Marvelmania went bankrupt.
  • This year: Joe Simon signs a Settlement Agreement with Marvel over Captain America for a payment of $3750. Less than $1000 was paid directly to Simon, with the rest secretly being funneled to him through his attorney, per Marvel’s wishes. Marvel does this so they can pay Kirby only the smaller amount that Simon got directly.
  • March (May cover date): Stan apologizes in his Soapbox that the Inhumans title he said was coming out, isn’t.
  • July-September (September-November cover date): Thor #168-170 published, with altered Galactus origin story and other editorial changes. Issue #169, released in August, has an inordinate amount of unused pages, suggesting almost an entire issue was rejected by Stan.
  • This year: Kirby withholds full-page splashes from Thor, replacing them with supposedly lesser pages, presumably at wife Roz’s urging (“They’re too good for them…”).
  • November (January 1970 cover date): Kirby withholds original design of Agatha Harkness for FF #94, as too good for them, as well.
  • December: Jack goes to New York to try to negotiate a new deal with Marvel/Perfect Film, unsuccessfully. He agrees to write and draw two full-length Inhumans issues, and to draw the first issue of a new Ka-Zar book, and goes home and completes them.
  • Late 1969-early 1970: Kirby meets with Carmine Infantino to show New Gods presentation pieces, and discuss the possibility of coming to DC Comics.


  • This year: Kirby’s Hulk and Spider-Man posters for Marvelmania are replaced with versions by Herb Trimpe and John Romita, respectively, so all the Marvelmania materials won’t be dependent on Kirby’s signature style.
  • January: Kirby receives an “onerous” contract from Perfect Film to continue working at Marvel, telling him “take it or leave it.”
  • Late January: Kirby is told to split his two Inhumans and one Ka-Zar story into 10-pagers, which are eventually used in Amazing Adventures and Astonishing Tales split-books.
  • February: Kirby draws Silver Surfer #18, in an attempt to save the book from cancellation with a new direction. Kirby also draws the “Janus” story intended for FF #102, but Stan rejects the entire story—it was eventually published in FF #108, after Jack had moved to DC Comics. Also this month, Chamber of Darkness #4 is published, with “The Monster” scripted by Kirby. It originally features Kirby and Lee in cameos, but Stan makes major editorial changes that require extensive redrawing by Kirby.
  • Early March: Kirby draws the published version of FF #102, his final story for Marvel. After mailing in the pages, he phones Stan and resigns.
  • March 12: Don and Maggie Thompson publish an unprecedented “Extra” edition of their fanzine Newfangles announcing Kirby is leaving Marvel.
  • April (June cover date): Chamber of Darkness #5 published, with the story “And Fear Shall Follow” scripted by Kirby.
  • June (August cover date): Amazing Adventures #1 is published from Jack’s split apart solo books, with Kirby drawing and scripting The Inhumans, and featuring Black Bolt out of character with a thought balloon for one panel. Also, Astonishing Tales #1 is published from Kirby’s split apart solo book, featuring Ka-Zar, with script by Stan Lee and art by Kirby. It also features a second Dr. Doom solo story, by Wallace Wood, returning to Marvel Comics.
  • July (September cover date): Silver Surfer #18 is published, with Inhumans guest-starring. With Kirby gone, Marvel cancels the book after this issue. Also, FF #102 is published, Jack’s last issue.
  • July (September cover date): Amazing Adventures #2 published, with Kirby drawing and scripting The Inhumans, includes “Stan’s Soapbox” announcing Jack’s resignation from Marvel.
  • August (October cover date): Jimmy Olsen #133 published with Kirby’s first work for DC Comics.
  • August (October cover date): Astonishing Tales #2 published, featuring Ka-Zar, script by Roy Thomas (other than Iron Man/Subby battle in Tales To Astonish #82, this may be the first non-Stan Marvel scripting for Kirby). Includes some major non-Kirby redraws on Ka-Zar figures.
  • September (November cover date): Amazing Adventures #3 published, with Kirby’s Inhumans.
  • November (January 1971 cover date): Kirby stories in Amazing Adventures #4 and Tower of Shadows #4 published by Marvel, the same month as Jimmy Olsen #135 at DC Comics.
  • December (February 1971 cover date): Forever People #1 and New Gods #1 published at DC Comics.


  • January (March cover date): FF #108 published from Jack’s original rejected FF #102 story, the same month that DC Comics publishes Mister Miracle #1 and Jimmy Olsen #136.


  • June: After Martin Goodman calls in the rest of his loan, Kirby “under duress” signs a copyright agreement with Marvel.

The Deceptions of Argo

For the 2013 Best Picture Oscar-winner Argo, Jack Kirby’s Lord of Light artwork was omitted and his crucial role in the CIA’s rescue plot was downplayed and distorted, but that is only a part of the problem with the film.

…History cannot be swept clean like a blackboard, clean so that “we” might inscribe our own future there and impose our own form of life for these lesser people to follow.
—Edward Said

“ARGO – The Rescue of the Canadian Six” (artist unattributed)---CIA’s Intelligence Art Gallery

“ARGO – The Rescue of the Canadian Six” (artist unattributed)—CIA’s Intelligence Art Gallery

Ben Affleck’s film Argo embodies the racism that Western governments display towards the peoples and governments of the East that Edward Said described in his groundbreaking study, Orientalism. Argo re-envisions for dramatic effect a covert escapade that occurred at the same time as the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979: a joint USA/Canadian operation in which CIA operatives disguised six American diplomats as a movie crew to rescue them from where they were hiding in Iran in the homes of Canadian diplomats. For this successful mission, the CIA implemented an elaborate deception that appropriated a proposed film adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s Hugo award-winning novel Lord of Light, which featured a spectacular series of set designs drawn by famed comic book artist Jack Kirby and inked by that artist’s most faithful and accomplished finisher, Michael Royer.

Due to the inherently covert nature of the operations of the Central Intelligence Agency, the events surrounding the rescue are still enmeshed in a web of misinformation, apart from what the agency released in 1997 when it declassified the mission. The film Argo furthers confusion through the imposition of familiar devices of suspenseful storytelling. Argo is constructed as an entertaining adventure narrative, but the production condescends to depict a generic Middle Eastern world. The film achieves a degree of tension, but along the way, it alters many details and adds major narrative elements in order to amplify the drama, most of which also either demonize, infantilize or otherwise provide a derogatory impression of the Iranian people. It valorizes an American ideology, minimizes the crucial Canadian contribution to the saving of American lives and changes key points about the original film proposal for “Lord of Light.”

Dissemination is celebrated throughout Argo. The covert deceptions of the CIA are presented as appropriately linked to the fictions of Hollywood. The second half resembles an “Indiana Jones” epic as it deviates from actual events to show how the clever, resourceful and decent Westerners outwit the primitive and gullible heathen Easterners. Even the depiction of the hero is a predictable example of Hollywood racism: the film’s Caucasian director, Ben Affleck, dies his hair and wears a beard to portray Antonio Mendez, the ingenious Hispanic CIA agent who accomplished the operation.


Oddly, Argo begins well. The faux-documentary introduction gives an accurate if abbreviated account of the suffering of the Iranian people under the corrupt excesses of Shah Mohammad Rezā Pahlavī. In 1953, England’s MI6 and the CIA deposed Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, who had nationalized the country’s oil, removing it from British control. Subsequently the Shah of Iran was placed in power and became known for his conspicuously extravagant lifestyle, while his people starved. The violent methods of control of his regime, including the torture and murder of his opponents, resulted in his overthrow in January of 1979 by Islamic fundamentalists, led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. When the Shah travelled to America to seek cancer treatment, Iranians demanded his extradition. On November 4 1979, Iranian students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans as hostages, a violation of international diplomatic law. The students accused the embassy staff of being CIA operatives and justifiably so: Mendez confirmed that at least one of the hostages held in the US embassy was a CIA agent I .

However, in the film the straightforward account of the reasons behind the Islamic Revolution is directly followed by clichéd views of mobs of enraged and insensible rioters, images that align with the Orientalist view of Eastern society which Said details, that is “…always shown in large numbers,” and represents “…mass rage and misery, or irrational (hence hopelessly eccentric) gestures. Lurking behind all of these images is the menace of jihad” (287).

There are many scenes throughout the film that depict crowds, in the airport and on the street, as masses of alien “others,” either suspicious, fearful or enraged. The images of roiling crowds imply threats to America that are presented as an illogical, irrational mob. The depictions suggest that any and all members of Middle Eastern culture will react with a surfeit of emotion. The threat to the West is therefore amplified because it does not operate within systems of American logic. It is counter to the rational aims of governing Christian principles.

The violations of diplomatic immunity in the Iran Hostage Crisis were labeled by the United States as “terrorism” and used to justify whatever actions Western powers subsequently took against Iran, including the imposition of crippling sanctions. “Diplomatic immunity” refers to reciprocal policies that are customarily held between governments, to ensure that at all times, including times of conflict, diplomatic personnel can be free of prosecution under the host country’s laws and that they may travel freely between countries in their pursuit of diplomacy.

Subsequently to the embassy takeover, thirteen of the African American and/or female hostages were released, but the remaining 52 hostages were held for 444 days. Not included in the film, but certainly part of the political climate at the time were several failed attempts at resolving the protracted crisis, including the disastrous “Operation Eagle Claw,” in which eight servicemen and several aircraft were lost, that were believed to have caused President Jimmy Carter’s loss of the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. It is also documented that Republicans prolonged the hostage negotiations in order to affect the outcome of the election, a subterfuge called the “October Surprise.” The hostages were finally released through an accord brokered by Algeria on January 20 1981, the day after Reagan was sworn into office.

On the same day that the hostages were seized, November 4 1979, six diplomats escaped from the U.S. embassy through the back door and were hidden in the residences of two Canadians, ambassador Ken Taylor and diplomat John Sheardown. Over the following months, Canadian and American officials considered various means of delivering the six “houseguests” safely from danger. Finally, on January 28 1980, the six fugitives were spirited out of Iran in the guise of a film crew visiting the country scouting for locations, accompanied by CIA operative Mendez and his colleague “Julio.” The film Argo supposedly dramatizes this basic narrative.

The movie proposal that the CIA appropriated to be the subject of their bogus production was Lord of Light, an ambitious project that allegedly fell into stasis after it hit some legal snags. Mendez has stated that the Lord of Light was a “defunct production” when John Chambers gave the CIA the script, but actually its problems began at the same time that the CIA made their use of the materials. The promotion for Lord of Light appeared in the trade papers The Hollywood Reporter and Variety in November of 1979, as the Iran Hostage Crisis began. A month later in December of 1979, the same Hollywood periodicals showed ads and articles about the CIA’s proposed production, renamed “Argo,” and their front company “Studio Six.” After the CIA’s mission began, Lord of Light foundered.

According to producer Barry Geller, he began work on the Lord of Light project in 1977 to capitalize on Hollywood’s new-found interest in science fiction epics, due to the recent success of Star Wars. On his website, the self-described “time traveler” says that his purpose was “to bring attention to our extraordinary mental powers just as Star Wars brought recognition of life in the galaxy.” Geller wrote the screenplay as an adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s Hugo award-winning novel and he hired comic book innovator Jack Kirby to do conceptual drawings for the film’s set, the structures of which would also perform double duty as a science fiction-themed amusement park. Geller claims he gathered a brain trust for the massive and complex undertaking that included architects R. Buckminster Fuller and Paolo Soleri, video game pioneer Gary Gygax, author Ray Bradbury and Oscar-winning film makeup artist John Chambers. It is known that Chambers occasionally used his skills to aid the CIA.

In a scene that was widely shown and celebrated in the promotional push for Affleck’s movie, Geller is portrayed as a sleazy Hollywood huckster, Max Klein (played by Richard Kind) who is coldly swindled out of the rights to his manuscript by the slick and condescending producer Lester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin), under the auspices of Mendez and the CIA. In contrast to the depiction, Geller says there was no interchange between himself and anyone connected with the CIA, other than Chambers, and that at the time, he was unaware of the makeup artist’s intelligence connections. Geller says that Chambers simply provided his script and graphics to the CIA for their purposes, without permission.

Geller’s project has problems with credibility, too. It seems unlikely that a film production could afford the resources to build any sets to the safety specifications and requirements necessary for a family theme park. Movie sets are typically built to be facades, properly viewed only from the vantage of the camera and meant to last for only as long as needed for the film production. For this reason the amusement park is implausible. Geller claims it would have featured not only user-friendly versions of the huge and elaborate buildings and vehicles designed by Kirby, but also massive revolving holographic projections (technology that scarcely existed at the time II ) and a floating half-mile-high geodesic dome.

A scene in Argo that deviates significantly from actual events is the one that depicts a promotional press event in Hollywood arranged by the CIA where actors in costume do a reading of the script for “Argo.” a scene dramatically cross-cut with shots of the hostages taken in the U.S. embassy tortured by being forced to face a bogus firing squad. This misrepresents the actual press event that was held by Geller in Aurora, Colorado in November 1979 announcing a funding drive for the “Science Fiction Land” amusement park, with football player/actor Rosey Grier, Geller’s second in command Jerry Schafer, Chambers and Kirby in attendance. The land deals for the site of the park in Colorado and the legal proceedings that accompanied them landed Schafer and some Colorado politicians in prison. Some journalists who reported on the Science Fiction Land debacle for the local Colorado press continue to depict Schafer and Geller both equally as con-men III. But by literally every other account, Geller was cleared of charges and he denies knowledge of the CIA’s use of his proposal before he heard of the declassified mission when a PBS television show First Person aired a segment about Mendez in 2001.

Geller’s explanation for the failure of his initial proposal for Lord of Light and the theme park raises some flags:

We got to the point where someone put down the first $10 million, which was in the bank, and I’d optioned 1,000 acres of land in Colorado for the park. That’s when the government stopped everything. I was in the process of talking to directors and scientists, and the money was there. It was something that….it had the attention of many, many people and it was just unfortunate (Morrow, 25).

It would seem that “the government” had ample reasons to derail Geller’s plans. Whatever the feasablity of his proposal, the enmeshing of his project in a legal morass cleared the way for the CIA’s usage of his promotional materials. The idea that Lord of Light was undermined by a deliberate subterfuge on the part of the intelligence agency is supported by the documented involvement of John Chambers in both of the concurrent uses of the materials by Geller and the CIA and by the proximity of the promotional timeframes.


The importance of the artwork in the planning and execution of the CIA’s rescue mission cannot be overstated. Kirby’s original drawings were so impressive that they gave the operatives and the escapees confidence that the plan was plausible. Everyone involved believed Kirby’s art would convince the Iranians of the project’s legitimacy and further, it was drawn within stringent Islamic cultural rules of what may be depicted according to religious law. All of these considerations were set aside when the needs of the Argo filmmakers to satisfy an American audience were at odds with the appearance of the actual drawings. Further, how much involvement and knowledge that Kirby actually had of the CIA’s plan, at the time or at any rate, before it was declassified, is unclear.

According to Geller, in 1978 he hired Kirby, a famous and prolific comic book artist noted for his incredibly inventive imagination as well as for his speed, to do a series of conceptual architecture drawings that would serve as the basis for both the film sets and the design of the theme park. In a career that spanned a half-century, Kirby created many comics characters that in recent years have been featured in films that have grossed more than $7 billion. Although Kirby has often been credited as a creator of these properties in the films, his heirs receive no compensation. Corporations own the characters Kirby initiated as a freelancer. His Marvel heroes such as The Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Thor, SHIELD, etc. are owned by Disney and his DC Comics 4th World/New Gods are owned by Time/Warner, the parent corporation of Warner Brothers, the producers of Argo. For this reason, one would have thought that it was in Time/Warner’s interest to promote the brilliant WWII veteran Kirby as a significant contributor to this patriotic mission. But, no.

At first, Affleck’s Argo production did seek  to use Kirby’s actual drawings in the film. Randolph Hoppe, curator of the Jack Kirby Museum explains:

The Kirby Museum was originally contacted late in June 2011 by Warner Brothers’ Permissions & Clearances staff, who were urgently asking for permission for the Lord of Light images. I pointed them to Barry Geller’s email address. A week and a half later, I was contacted by a producer of the movie who told me the Lord of Light images weren’t going to be used as they “didn’t read well on screen.”

Kirby’s actual large signature images are not shown in Affleck’s film. Instead, the film shows banal storyboards drawn by other artists. Kirby’s drawings, though, have other factors that made them essential to the plot: they seem calculated to appeal to an Islamic sensibility. They are ornate and linear without modeling, the human figurative presence in the art is minimized and flattened and most of the drawings are done from the vantage point of an overhead “minaret view,” in a manner remarkably similar to ancient Islamic tapestries IV ). According to Geller, he rejected only one of Kirby’s pieces: a watercolor entitled “The Streets of Heaven,” which depicts a majestically ascending Godlike figure, shown from a ground level vantage. Otherwise, Kirby’s drawings are much more appropriate viewing for Muslims such as the Iranian airport security guards seen at the end of the film than the more figurative storyboards used in the movie, which are instead calculated to signify to American audiences who are familiar with Star Wars.

Kirby’s images are indeed complex and appropriate for the Iranian audience, but since his art might have needed explanation of the nature of its intended impact on Islamic viewers, rather than tax the short attention spans of the American audience, the producers say they opted for simpler, more easily identifiable visuals. The drawings used on screen do not resemble Kirby’s work in any way; rather they are spare, crudely rendered sketches. Still, the art figures so prominently in the film that its impact on the characters seems to be in inverse proportion to its quality. In Mendez’s account and as depicted in the film, his idea of using a fake movie production crew to extract the hiding diplomats didn’t seem feasible until the agents hit on the Lord of Light promotion package. Kirby’s work is impressively well done and suits the purposes of the CIA exactly. It is clear that the artwork added greatly to the credibility of the film proposal, for Geller’s purposes and for the CIA administrators who approved the rescue mission, the personnel charged with accomplishing it and the diplomats who had to participate in their own rescue, whether or not the Iranians saw it.

It is not clear why Affleck’s production completely diverges from the historical record to show the CIA hiring Kirby, and further, it shows the artist being coached by an operative to make the backgrounds of his drawings more exotic. It is alleged that footage was shot of “Kirby” adding minarets and domes to his “storyboards” so they would be more convincing to the Islamic security forces, a scene that was left on the cutting-room floor. Actor “Christian Christian” said that he was cast as a “hand double” for Michael Parks, the actor hired to play “Kirby” onscreen. Christian claims that wrinkles and age spots were applied to his hands several times and he was filmed drawing additions to the “storyboards” (Richards (in a comment below the online article)). Such scenes display ignorance of Kirby’s working process, since he would not have amended his drawings in such a way, but would probably have had to re-pencil the relevant portions and then pass the amendments along to inker Mike Royer to complete and incorporate into the final images.

Hoppe says that he was again contacted by Argo’s set decorating department in August 2011:

…they said they’d arranged with the Kirby estate to use Kirby’s name and work, and were looking for items to use on the set of the Kirby home. I showed them some work via the web and never heard from them again. Kirby’s home was not used, the IMDB listing of the actress who’d been cast as Jack’s wife Roz Kirby was changed to “Office Manager.”

These reversals may have come about because the rights to Kirby’s drawings are owned by Barry Geller, rather than the Kirby family and an agreement with Geller was not made. The alteration in the circumstances of Kirby’s employment may be a liberty on the part of Affleck’s production; on the other hand, it might not. The multitalented Kirby worked for U.S. military intelligence in World War II; he functioned as a reconnaissance artist used to sketch out the positions of Axis forces on the front lines in France. Other cartoonists of Kirby’s generation who were in the services, such as Alexander Toth and Will Eisner, kept contacts in military circles and later made their talents available to the government when needed V ). Kirby passed away in 1994 without clarifying his role in the Lord of Light/Argo events and evidence that he knew of Mendez’s plan remains anecdotal. Kirby’s friend and biographer Ray Wyman claimed to the author that several years before the death of Kirby’s wife Rosalind in 1998, Geller told her about the CIA’s plot. Wyman said, “John Chamber’s name had been bandied about…How would Barry have known that the CIA was involved, since the thing wasn’t revealed until 1997?” (Romberger & Van Cook, 17). Wyman also reported that he saw the “Argo” poster made by the CIA at the Kirby home in a closet, and said that Kirby told him of other incidents that indicated that he had fans in the CIA.

If Barry Geller’s account is true, he was a hapless victim of circumstance, or even of a fraudulent persecution by the government so they could appropriate his proposal—but any which way, the closeness in time of the two usages of the materials is troubling. It might be considered that to date we must rely on only Geller’s account of the initiation of the Lord of Light/Science Fiction Land projects and for the timeline of when the drawings were actually completed. It could be speculated that the art may have been done closer to the time of the Iran crisis—-and that if, as the movie depicts, Kirby was actually hired by the CIA, or even by Geller acting as some sort of a CIA proxy, it could have been because of not only the quality of his imagination, but also his speed. Kirby certainly was able to produce drawings of such complexity to order very rapidly and his inker Mike Royer was likewise quick and prolific. As well, Kirby oddly worded his statement in the promotional package that Geller assembled to secure funding: “I believe that this film and the way we are conceiving it could contribute to saving the world” (Morrow, 27). This is a heady claim for a sci-fi film, connected theme park or not. But in the end, perhaps it is better for Kirby’s reputation that his work was left out of Argo, because the movie is so tainted by racism.


Some of the changes made to the account of the rescue by Affleck’s production seem done for the purposes of storytelling expediency, such as that the fact that the “houseguests” were actually split into two groups that hid in several Canadian diplomats’ residences was altered to being only one group hiding with Taylor. Argo also eliminates the second CIA operative, “Julio” and adds the contrived character of producer Lester Siegel, one supposes for reasons of streamlining, or to move the story along. However, other alterations are more disturbing.

Most of the representations of the events in Iran shown in the second half of the movie are fictitious. There is a long and extremely fraught sequence where officials from the Iranian department of film development call Mendez and demand that the fake production crew meet with them in a public marketplace for the purposes of witnessing their scouting for locations. What follows are is a tense series of scenes where Mendez’s van filled with the six vulnerable masqueraders encounters a fundamentalist street demonstration. When he is unable to back up because there is another mob coalescing behind them, Mendez drives the van through the center of the angry group of shouting demonstrators, who shake the vehicle and hammer on the windows. They miraculously pass through, shaken but unharmed. They go on to meet with the Iranian officials  and then they are shown to be terribly fearful as they walk through the marketplace. When one of the party, in trying to stay in character, inadvertently takes polaroids of an older man without his permission, the group are threatened with violence by a crowd. How they escape is not explained. However, the point is moot because these scenes are created for theatrical effect. The film’s fictional status is frequently at odds with its pseudo-documentary staging. Both the advertising and the promotional materials surrounding the film give the strong implication of truth, of the unmediated narration of historical events and the valorization of American actions in the execution of the operation.

The climactic scenes of Argo are comprised of more tension-building sequences that have little or nothing to do with actual events. In fact, there was no reversal of the go-ahead to proceed with the mission at the 11th hour, which the stoic Mendez had to hide from the group; there was no incommunicado Presidential press secretary and no withholding of ticket authorization by the president until the last possible minute. According to Mendez’s declassified report, other than that he overslept by a half an hour on the day they were to leave Iran, there was no holdup at all: reservations were secured and tickets had been purchased well in advance. Nor was the L.A. “Studio Six” office foolishly and prematurely closed by the CIA before the mission was accomplished. These incidents were invented to pile on dramatic suspense.

Further and importantly, the immigration officers did not check to make sure that the exiting “film crew” had matching white and yellow forms and the security forces did not pull the band of escapees into a side room to check their cover story. In Mendez’s account on the CIA’s website, he says that no one looked at Kirby’s artwork: “the Iranian official at the checkpoint could not have cared less.” No soldiers had to have the narrative of the “Argo” proposal explained to them and nobody called the “Studio Six” offices to confirm Mendez’s claims. Nor did Iranian soldiers attack Swedish Air hostesses or throw other female passerbys around the terminal, raid the airport traffic controller’s tower or drive their jeeps and police cars at breakneck speed after the departing aircraft. These scenes, which depict frightening Iranian/Arab security forces and the abuse of women, are intended to alienate the American audience from the demonized enemy. Within the logic of the Hollywood movie there must be bad guys and good guys, there are no shades of grey. The characters must be easily identifiable. The problem with this theatrical logic when applied to the dramatization of historical events is that ideological positions become polarized into moral oppositions. These in turn seamlessly validate the audience desire to be on the side of the righteous.

The urban landscape of Iran is shown to be barbaric and forbidding, a land where vehicles burn on the streets and men are lynched from construction cranes in intersections. The film imbeds overt indicators of racism, as when Mendez says at the beginning, “If these people can read or add…pretty soon they will figure out they are six short of a full deck.” Later, the official at the Iranian “office of communication” asks Mendez if he is seeking to represent “the exotic orient—snake charmers.” As well, he responds amenably to Mendez’s mistaken exit salutation of “salaam” which is the Eastern equivalent of “hello.” Affleck plays the urbane Mendez as if he is sophisticated enough to be aware of local etiquette, but does not care enough to respect his adversary. He does not care to learn their language, despite his engagement with their culture. The movie Mendez views Iran (which prior to its Islamic Revolution was an ultramodern society) to be as Said describes the American view of the East: “backward, degenerate, uncivilized and retarded…analyzed not as citizens, or even people, but as problems to be solved or confined or—as colonial powers openly coveted their territory—taken over” (207). The cumulative effect of the repetition of negative stereotypes and representations of the citizenry as unruly mobs of less intelligent people seems to justify the need for them to be treated as “problems to be solved.” In Argo, the real life drama can also be unraveled by the superior wits and courage of the American forces. For the audience who experience this onscreen conundrum, since the stakes are never any higher than the cinematic depiction of the past, the outcome confirms their self-belief in their intellectual superiority as members of the victorious team, as if by right.

According to Mendez’s account, when he first met “the six,” they had managed to keep their spirits high and were excited to be part of his scenario. He briefly mentions that one of them had some initial reservations, but hastens to say that any discomfort was rapidly dispelled by his manner and various means he had at his disposal to put them at their ease. In the film, the balker is revealed to be “houseguest” Joe Stafford, but his fearfulness is exaggerated so that he is shown to have protracted reservations throughout the process. He doubts Mendez’s commitment and honesty; he holds back on learning his cover identity until the last minute; he refuses to join them on the outing to the market. To placate Stafford, Mendez reveals his real name and relates a few personal details, after which Stafford relents and climbs into the van. Thereafter, he is no longer negative about the plan, but in the end he violates the restrictions Mendez made on their cover story and endangers them all by speaking Farsi to the suspicious security forces at the airport, to enact the narrative of the storyboard to them. This action, however, ends up saving the day. And then finally, in the plane as they realize that they succeeded in escaping, Stafford comes to Mendez to offer a belated handshake—but, these scenes too are all fabricated.

It is these final, false scenes which comprise the most racist aspects of Affleck’s film. The head of airport security is shown as stereotypically rude and chauvinistic Mid-Easterner; a swarthy, popeyed and aggressive man who makes a guttural interrogation of Mendez’s band. This character, designated in the credits as “Azizi Checkpoint #3” and portrayed by Farshad Farahat, exemplifies the Orientalist view described by Said and seen in the media as:

associated either with lechery or bloodthirsty dishonesty. He appears as an oversized degenerate, capable, it is true, of cleverly devious intrigues, but essentially sadistic, treacherous, low…The Arab leader…can often be seen snarling at the captured Western hero and the blond girl….“my men are going to kill you, but—they like to amuse themselves before.” He leers suggestively as he speaks (286-287).

Said’s comments are made explicit in the way Argo depicts how “Azizi Checkpoint #3” inquires if the woman depicted in a skintight outfit in the painted “Argo” ad in the issue of Variety proffered by the group (no such painted ad ever was created) is escaping “houseguest” Cora Lijek. Even when told that she is not, he persists in a lewd and suggestive manner.

By the demands of their cover story as Canadians, none of the escapees are supposed to be able to understand anything but English or French, but in order to placate the security officer, the multilingual Stafford uses pidgeon Farsi to tell him a narrative for the proposed film in a patronizing manner. In reality, Kirby’s artwork would not have sustained the narrative that Stafford describes, which was invented for this version of “Argo.” However, in the film, Stafford pulls out the storyboards and boils the plot of the ostensible film down into simplistic terms that he thinks the security officer will understand, which the English-speaking viewer reads in subtitles:

Alien villains have taken over the hero’s planet. They fight for their families and take back the city. The villains know he is the chosen one, so they kidnap his son in the spice market. So he and his wife storm the castle…the people are inspired to join him. They are farmers but they learn to fight. And the king of the aliens is destroyed when the people find their courage.

Stafford’s ploy seems to be working and the enactment degenerates further as he gestures with his hands in swooping movements, while verbally making childlike sounds of swooshing rockets, zapping raygun beams and explosions that evoke the universally-recognized soundtrack of Star Wars. After this display, “Azizi Checkpoint #3” turns out to speak and understand English after all, but presumably because he and his fellows warm to the reference to “farmers,” he allows the group to proceed. By hiding that he is multilingual, he reflects the “cleverly devious” image of the Easterner cited by Said. Then, Mendez gifts the younger members of the security detail with a few of the storyboards, who proceed to make childlike noises of a space battle, in imitation of Stafford’s infantilizing but successful presentation. None too soon, the group boards the plane, but Affleck amps the suspense with a superfluous chase scene that is reminiscent of the climax of a cheap B-movie set in a banana republic.

Edward Said’s assessment of the overall agenda of the American mission in the Middle Eastern world, as indicated in the quote used above as an epigraph, remains valid. The deceptions of Argo ensure that the American audience can relate to the film, but they have a greater resonance than just that of a stimulating entertainment. Widely viewed and praised mainstream films such as Argo affect public opinion, they influence public acceptance of the foreign policy decisions of whatever U.S. administration is in charge at any given time. The awarding of high honors, an anointment at the Oscars that was introduced by no less of a personage than the First Lady, to a film that displays so many instances of misinformation about a culture that we do not appreciate or understand, does not contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflict. As Argo was made and released and as it won its Oscars, the United States was engaged in a dangerous exchange with Iran about its nuclear capabilities. Affleck’s film, even though about a situation decades in the past, has been promoted, disseminated and honored in such a way that it has influenced the American public’s perception of Iran and the rest of the Middle East and so, it has beyond a doubt continued to promote negative attitudes towards our current engagement with that region of the world.


Thanks to Marguerite Van Cook and Professor Giancarlo Lombardi of CUNY Graduate Center.



I. Mendez wrote in his account of the escape on the CIA site: “The Iranians, moreover, had embarrassed the US by finding a pair of OTS-produced foreign passports in the US Embassy that had been issued to two CIA officers posted in Tehran. One of these officers was among the hostages being held in the Embassy.”

II. The most advanced technology for displaying holograms at the time is described thus:

In 1976 Victor Komar and his colleagues at the All-Union Cinema and Photographic Research Institute (NIFKI), U.S.S.R., developed a prototype for a projected holographic movie. Images were recorded with a pulsed holographic camera at about 20 frames per second. The developed film was projected onto a holographic screen that focused the dimensional image out to several points in the audience. Two or three people could see a 47 second movie in full dimension without glasses. Kormar’s plan to scale up the process for a 20 to 30 minute film for an audience of 200 – 300 people never materialized.

—-Source: http://www.holophile.com/history.htm

This does not account for a huge exterior display at the top of a building that would be visible from all points around it, such as the one above the “Brahma’s Supremacy” structure that Geller describes in the interview I conducted with him.

III. A 2012 article on Denver Westword entitled “Science Fiction Land could have been Aurora’s biggest tourist trap, if its backers weren’t crooks” by Melanie Asmar ignores the fact of Geller’s exoneration to claim that:

Schafer and Geller’s lies soon caught up with them. On December 14, 1979, the Rocky reported that Schafer had been arrested for securities fraud. Local authorities claimed that he and Geller had “convinced an immigrant who speaks only broken English to give them his life savings — $50,000 — to help finance the park,” the Rocky reported. An arrest warrant had been issued for Geller too, but he’d “left the country.”

—-Source: http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2012/04/science_fiction_land_aurora.php

IV. A good part of my limited understanding of the permissible imagery parameters of Islamic art is gleaned from Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name Is Red (Trans. Erdag M. Goknar. New York: Vintage International, 1989), where he explains that in ancient Islamic illuminations, a linear quality and flattened perspective are used to satisfy a religiously ordained requirement of flatness, a two-dimensionality imposed so art would not presume to God’s view, seen as sacrilegious in the full-perspective and chiaroscuro realism of European art. This is further elaborated upon in Aniconism and Figural Representation in Islamic Art by Terry Allen:

The traditional Muslim theological objection to images, which may have been observed more in the breach than in ordinary life, was eventually codified in a quite rigid form and extended to the depiction of all animate beings. It is captured in the prediction that “on the Day of Judgement the punishment of hell will be meted out to the painter, and he will be called upon to breathe life into the forms that he has fashioned; but he cannot breathe life into anything…. In fashioning the form of a being that has life, the painter is usurping the creative function” of God.

—Source: http://www.sonic.net/~tallen/palmtree/fe2.htm

Most of Kirby’s Lord of Light drawings simulate the elevated “minaret view” that is standard in Islamic illuminations, described in the Wikipedia page on Islamic art as:

…a birds-eye view where a very carefully depicted background of hilly landscape or palace buildings rises up to leave only a small area of sky. The figures are arranged in different planes on the background, with recession (distance from the viewer) indicated by placing more distant figures higher up in the space, but at essentially the same size.

—Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_art

V. For information about Toth’s post-service work for the Armed Forces in the 1970s, see Genius Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth. Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell. San Diego: IDW Publishing, 2012, pages 192-196. Eisner’s decades of work for the U.S. Army are documented in PS Magazine: The Best of The Preventive Maintenance Monthly. Will Eisner. New York: Abrams Comic Arts, 2011.



Argo. Dir. Ben Affleck. Perf. Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin. Warner Brothers, 2012. DVD.

Geller, Barry Ira. “The CIA, the Lord of Light Project and Science Fiction Land.” Lord of Light. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.lordoflight.com/cia.html.

Hoppe, Randolph. “Argo/Lord of Light.” Message to the author. 22 May 2013. E-mail.

Mendez, Antonio J. “A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood.” Central Intelligence Agency, 14 April 2007. Web. 18 May 2013. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/winter99-00/art1.html.

Morrow, John. “Seeking the Lord of Light: Interview with Barry Ira Geller.” The Jack Kirby Collector #11. July 1996. Print.

Richards, Ron. “Jack Kirby, ARGO & Jim Lee: A Hollywood Legend.”  iFanboy: 23 October 2012. Web. 22 May 2013. http://ifanboy.com/articles/jack-kirby-argo-jim-lee-a-hollywood-legend/.

Romberger, James and Marguerite Van Cook. “Kirby, the CIA and the Lord of Light: Interview With Barry Ira Geller” & “Eyewash: About Argo.” Comic Art Forum #2, Winter 2003. http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/effect/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2013/02/LordOfLight-RombergerVanCook2002_sm.pdf.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vantage Books, 1979. Print.

The Myth of the Jolly King

In a recent article in TIME magazine, author Graeme McMillan noted, “At his peak, Kirby created popular culture as we know it today. So many of the ideas and characters that fill today have been shaped in some basic, important way by Kirby’s work… Decades earlier than they happened, Jack Kirby drew the 21st century.” 1

While articles such as this bring to light to the general audience the outstanding accomplishments of Jack Kirby, there continues to be a plethora of misinformation regarding his achievements. Here are a few of the myths that get repeated again and again.

1. Stan Lee made Jack Kirby famous by listing “Jolly Jack” in the credits in the 1960s.

Like so many generations before and since, my own aging baby boomers believe the world begins and ends with them. The reality is Kirby was one half of the best-paid, best-known team in comic books beginning the 1940s. And they consistently received a splash page credit throughout the 40s and 50s. According to comic book historian Jon B. Cooke, “The “Simon & Kirby” brand was the most recognizable art credit amongst avid readers during the 1940s, perhaps second only to “Walt Disney,” and certainly rivaled the Superman Stamp of “Siegel & Shuster.” 2

Fortunately for us, publishers such as Titan, Fantagraphics and Yoe Books are correcting this misconception by reprinting the earlier Simon and Kirby Studio work.

2. Kirby was primarily a penciller.

In fact Kirby was a storyteller who wrote his own scripts from the beginning of his career. As noted by writer and cartoonist Michael Neno, “The proof is in the pudding. All anyone who’s familiar with Jack’s ’70s work has to do is read a lot of the comics Jack drew in the ’40s and ’50s. Those attributes of his ’70s writing were always a part of his writing, though a bit more latent. Just as Jack’s stylistic artistic tics and methods became more pronounced as the decades went on, so with Jack’s writing. He didn’t lose a writing ability, but his writing style did change over a long span of time. From his “Your Health Comes First” newspaper strip in 1938 (using home remedies and tips Jack had learned from his mother) to the potently emotional and hard-edged “Captain Victory” in 1981, Jack wrote, to one extent or another, most of what crossed his desk and much of the dialogue in his Simon and Kirby days is his dialogue.”

Indeed, witnesses to those early days concur. Simon and Kirby writers Kim Aamodt and Walter Geier, in respective interviews with Jim Amash in Alter Ego both stated as much.

Aamodt: “I really sweated out plots, unlike Jack Kirby. Jack just ignited and came out with ideas, and Joe’d just kind of nod his head in agreement. Jack’s face looked so energized when he was plotting that it seemed as if sparks were flying off him. Joe was on the ground, and Jack was on cloud nine. Jack was more of the artist type; he had great instincts.”

Geier: “Jack Kirby was great about that; he always came up with the plots. Jack had a fertile mind. …Jack was the idea man. Joe didn’t talk much. He could come up with decent plots, but it was usually very sketchy stuff. A lot of times Joe would say, “Awww…you figure out the ending.” Jack would give me the ending, because he was good at figuring out stories. It was not hard to work with Jack. They were Jack’s plots. I just supplied the dialogue.” 3

Likewise Gil Kane so noted, in an interview with Gary Groth in The Comics Journal.

Kane: “Simon was business-like. He did all the handling, all the talking, he did all the standing. Jack was always sitting and working. Jack would take the scripts and he’d either write them or re-write them. Jack was simply a workhorse who never sweated. It just came to him. Simon was a nice guy who was much more realistically attuned to the world.

Joe was involved in the creative process and he was the one who made all the deals. He didn’t writeit was Jack who wrote. Jack would either write a script or get one and adjust it as he saw.” 4

This tradition continued at Marvel in the 1960s. According to Archie artist and Marvel colorist Stan Goldberg, “Jack would sit there at lunch, and tell us 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 interesting because he was a fountain of ideas.” 5

Kirby biographer and former assistant Mark Evanier further elaborates, “He didn’t care if people said “ooh, what neat pictures!” That held no joy for him. He wanted them to say “What a great story!” 6

3. Lee and Kirby were the Lennon and McCartney of comics.

While this analogy is used ad nauseam, nothing could be further from the truth. John Lennon and Paul McCartney were teenage friends and band mates who grew up together in Liverpool. Over they years they collaborated on hundreds of songs, sitting side by side, as is typical of songwriting teams.

Jack Kirby was a freelancer who worked at home during the Marvel years. The recent court ruling notwithstanding (which hopefully will be overturned), Kirby was an independent contractor. The myth of the Marvel Bullpen, propagated by Lee in his “Stan’s Soapbox” on the letters page, simply did not exist. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Lee worked on his own in the Marvel offices, and was later joined by Sol Brodsky as production manager. All other artists, writers, inkers, letterers worked freelance elsewhere, until later that decade. Kirby never joined them.

According to Kirby himself, “There were no scripts. I created the characters and wrote the stories in my own home and merely brought them into the office each month.” 7

As evidenced by the research of comics historian Mike Gartland in his ingoing series “A Failure to Communicate” in The Jack Kirby Collector (Twomorrows Publishing) and here on the Kirby Museum site, the work Kirby and Lee did was often at odds with one another, a far cry from Lennon/McCartney.

4. Jack Kirby inked very little of his own work.

For years the assumption was that Joe Simon inked Kirby in the 1940’s and 50’s at S&K. Through the rediscovery of that work a different story emerges. Kirby inked much of his own work over those decades, and continued to do so at DC in the mid-50s. This changed in the 1960s due to the extremely high demand for Kirby to supply plots and pencils at Marvel.

In an interview with Amash, S&K artist Jack Katz describes the inking instruction he received from Kirby. “He showed me how to apply all of that to figures and objects. He said, “You have to make it three-dimensional. What you do is, make sure you have black areas behind a line, always a dark behind a line. It could be feathered. If you bring the light in on the right hand side, you have to make sure the opposite side is carefully outlined. If you want to show real drama, you have a light source from the top, so the eyes and mouth are in shadow, If you want to make a real ghoul…and he turned the page over, and drew a face, he showed me how the light from underneath highlights the bone structure. He showed me how to vary textures, he’d say “curtains should look delicate.” He showed me how to do that with a brush.” 8

Special thanks to Patrick Ford, Michael Neno and Rand Hoppe.


1. Jack Kirby Is The Most Important Artist You Might Not Have Heard Of: The artist who created so many of Marvel’s superheroes cast a big shadow on the world we live in today, By Graeme McMillan. Time Magazine, August 15, 2013.

2. Comic Book Creator #1, spring 2013, Kirby’s Kingdom: The Commerce of Dreams by Jon. B. Cooke.

3. Alter Ego #30, November 2003, interviews by Jim Amash with Kim Aamodt and Walter Geier.

4. The Comics Journal #38, February 1978, interview by Gary Groth.

5. Alter Ego #18, October 2002, interview by Jim Amash.

6. Jack Kirby “The King”, DVD extra on “De Superman à Spider-man – L’Aventure des Super Héros” by Michel Viotte.

7. Handwritten letter by Jack Kirby entered into evidence in the Disney Vs. Kirby Heirs court case, Marvel Characters, Inc. v. Kirby, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 11-3333.

8. Alter Ego #92, March 2010, interview by Jim Amash.

a half hour with Jack Kirby – 14 March 1993

Today would have been Jack Kirby’s 96th birthday, and in addition to the Kirby-Vision portrait gallery that Jason Garrattley’s posted, I’m offering this half hour video of Jack talking with fans at Comics & Comix, in Palo Alto, California in 1993.

Ray Wyman, Jr. says in the YouTube comments:

This was one of four stops we made to promote “The Art of Jack Kirby .” We rented a passenger van and hoofed it around the old fashioned way. The roadtrip crew also included Roz, myself, Catherine Hohlfeld, and Rob Crane. Thanks for the share. Really terrific memories.

Jerry Boyd recounted the day in an article titled “An Afternoon With Jack”, published in Twomorrows Publishing’s Spring 2003 The Jack Kirby Collector 38.

Comics & Comix flyer

How Could He Not Know?

A Failure To Communicate – Part Seven

Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. Captions on the illustrations are written by John Morrow. – Rand

Part Seven was first published in TwoMorrows’ Summer 2002 Jack Kirby Collector 36.

Detail from Fantastic Four #99 (June 1970), featuring the Inhumans (probably in an effort to reintroduce them to readers before they spun off into Amazing Adventures #1).

“Kirby is leaving Marvel.” Stan Lee passed this information on to the Marvel readership in one of his Bullpen Bulletins editorials, and with his usual glib self-deprecating charm reassured the Marvelites that, although Jack would be seeking his fortunes elsewhere, the best was yet to come. Young readers had no reason to doubt Lee; sales were still going up along much of the Marvel line, and by 1970 the foundation of the “Marvel Zombie” had been laid, as many unsuspecting readers robotically swallowed Lee’s flip preachings. Besides, Lee was still there, and Lee was the man, the creator, the innovator; Lee was Marvel, right? Professionals, hardcore fandom, and industry insiders knew better; they knew that, although Stan was indispensible, this just wasn’t another artist leaving—this was the foundation to the “House of Ideas,” and with a foundation gone, can a “house” stand for long?

As we’ve read in previous articles, Jack had reached a point by 1967 where he was fed up with Marvel, particularly with Goodman and Lee. He had seen his concepts and creations exploited and taken credit for by individuals who promised him much but delivered little or nothing. Goodman was becoming even more wealthy on mass marketing and merchandising the Marvel creations; whereas Lee continued to take credit for characters and concepts he had virtually no input on save to dialogue after the lion’s share of the plot and story had been fleshed out and drawn by the artist. Steve Ditko allegedly left for these selfsame reasons a year before, suggesting to Jack to leave as well, but Jack was still under contract and was still being promised incentives. By the end of ’67, however, Jack realized that outside of an increase in his page rate and contracts that were begun but never finished, he’d been shortchanged again by Goodman and Lee, his contract was coming to an end, and it was time to decide. Stay or go, but if he left, go where? As strange as it seemed, unbeknownst to Jack (or Stan for that matter), television would play an indirect pivotal role in Jack’s decision.

By the end of ’67, due to the tremendous success of the Batman TV show, investors began looking to comic book companies as reasonably good investments. Both Marvel and DC had good sales and had been in the business under the same publishers for decades. DC went first, being purchased by Kinney National, then Marvel was sold to Perfect Film and Chemical. In both instances, publishers Goodman and Liebowitz remained temporarily (approximately four years) as publishers to see through a smooth transition and pave the way for their successors. Lee of course was first in line at Marvel, but at DC things were changing that would eventually help smooth the way for Lee to lose his most valuable asset. During the ’67-’68 period many of the “old guard” of DC’s writers and editors were either retiring, looking elsewhere, or simply being let go. The end result would be that the new editorial structure at DC would be composed of their former artists, with one of their premier artists—Carmine Infantino— taking the helm as editorial director. Carmine knew about Marvel what industry insiders knew for years: That it was creatively driven by its artists, and he wanted to bring that to DC. That wasn’t all he wanted to bring to DC. He had heard that Jack wasn’t happy with his present situation, and what better way to dent the competition than to get their main gun and fire it back at them?

Panels from Fantastic Four #100 (July 1970). Reed erroneously states that only the Puppet Master is capable of making such androids, when he should’ve said it was the Thinker. Since they’d just done a Thinker story in FF #96, it’s an even sloppier mistake.

Panels from Fantastic Four #100 (July 1970). Reed erroneously states that only the Puppet Master is capable of making such androids, when he should’ve said it was the Thinker. Since they’d just done a Thinker story in FF #96, it’s an even sloppier mistake.

Meanwhile at Marvel, Jack had heard about the sale of the company (in late ’68) and both welcomed and dreaded it. He’d hoped that this might give him someone other than Goodman to deal with, but these were corporate investors who knew nothing about the comic book industry and even less about Jack. Lee was nervous as well; he now had more than Goodman to please and might have to prove his worth all over again. By this time Jack’s contract had expired and he was working page-rate, story to story. Despite his attempts to renegotiate for another contract, Jack was either rebuffed or put on hold (indefinitely); he knew he wasn’t going to see any percentage of merchandising or creative control of his work or even proper credit for it, but despite all that, Jack still would’ve stayed with Marvel if they’d only given him the thing that had always been most important to him: A promise of financial security.

More than anything else in his life, Jack had the constant need to make sure he could support his family. Family was everything to him; during this very time, Jack began taking steps to move out of New York where he’d lived all his life, and go to live in California (about as far removed from NY living as one could get), all for the sake of his family. Within the Marvel family however, Jack was becoming more and more isolated; Infantino had met with Jack during this time (while Jack was still in New York) and discussions began about Jack joining another kind of family.

While all of the aforementioned was going on, Stan was beginning to think of greener pastures. The success of the Marvel line had brought him the notoriety and recognition he so desperately sought during the years before the likes of a Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko came his way. Surprisingly, before his association with Jack and Steve which led to the Marvel successes, he languished for two decades pumping out average, topical, saleable plots and scripts for the Timely/Atlas books—but now by the mid-Sixties, he was being recognized by the general public as the creator of all these great characters and concepts. Contrary to what many may think about Lee hogging credit for himself, this may not have been all of Stan’s doing as it most definitely was in the company’s best interest to have one of their employees recognized as creator of the line, rather than a freelancer who might someday leave and try to take some of the creations with him. With the general—and some of the comic bookreading— public believing all of these great ideas came from Stan, offers began to come his way. Artists and Directors were asking to work with him. Colleges were approaching him to lecture to aspiring students on how to create. Newspapers and magazines were asking him for interviews and articles. Stan was finally reaching the point where he realized that his newfound status might be the ticket out of comics and into the big time. As Stan courted his celebrity, he began to slowly relinquish his scripting chores on various Marvel titles one by one.

(next page) Jack’s margin notes from FF #97 (April 1970) show he intended the Lagoon Creature—Jack named him “Eddie”—to speak, but Stan ignored it.

Jack’s margin notes from FF #97 (April 1970) show he intended the Lagoon Creature—Jack named him “Eddie”—to speak, but Stan ignored it.

Shortly before the Marvel purchase by Perfect Film, the title line was expanded; the characters showcased in the “split” books—Tales to Astonish, Tales of Suspense, and Strange Tales—were each given their own respective books, not to mention new titles being created like Captain Marvel, Captain Savage and Combat Kelly, and Not Brand Echh. Lee did the majority of the scripting (towards the end, some editing only) on the split books up until their transition, after which he left virtually all of them, handing the scripting reins over to guys like Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Archie Goodwin, Arnold Drake, and others. He edited only, saving his scripting hand for Daredevil (which he left in March ’69), Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Thor, and Captain America. Lee also had plans to script the upcoming Spider-Man b-&-w magazine, a mentioned Inhumans book, and of course the Silver Surfer. Of the five titles Lee was still scripting, Kirby was drawing three of them: FF, Cap and Thor. One wonders why Lee never relinquished scripting the titles on which he “collaborated” with Kirby. Some speculated that, since Jack was doing the lion’s share of the work on those books with little or no input from Lee, and all Stan had to do was dialogue and edit an already fleshed-out story, it was less work for him than with less experienced artists—but the longer they seemed to be working together, Jack grew more and more frustrated with Lee; their collaborations began to become more like grudging co-operations, with each man trying to put their own plotting into stories that were meant to be agreed upon. The new Surfer book was a particularly stinging slap in Jack’s face; since many believe that Jack could’ve asked for and gotten any title in the Marvel line to work on, and this title was not mentioned or offered to him, it was pretty obvious to him that he wasn’t wanted on it (or his take on the character, at least). Jack had mentioned to Lee his wanting a writing or at least a plotting credit, but getting Lee to give a writing credit to any artist was a difficult task (shockingly, Steranko, a virtual nobody at that time, somehow got Lee to acquiesce after doing only two issues worth of work—another slap in Jack’s face). Jack was situated in California by 1969, even more isolated from Marvel than he had been in previous years, with Stan only talking to him if he had to. The stories Jack worked on that last year for Thor and Fantastic Four (he left Cap in early ’69) were among the most mundane of his run—decent for any other artist, but downright common for Kirby. The lack of collaborating is pretty evident at this stage as there are myriad examples of Stan’s dialogue looking like it makes no sense whatsoever when coupled with Jack’s illustration. Fans thought he and Lee were slipping, but it wasn’t so much slipping on Jack’s part as it was waiting.

Splash page from Astonishing Tales #1 (August 1970).

Splash page from Astonishing Tales #1 (August 1970).

During his last year on Thor, Jack seemed to be preoccupied with getting the origin of Galactus in print. He saw what Lee did to his Surfer and didn’t want the same fate to befall his other great cosmic creation. In FF he seems to have his final fun doing a gangster homage in his last four-part storyline. The rest of the year for the respective books feature retreads of old plots and old foes, and some new ones. Thor introduces Kronin Krask, the Crypto Man, and the Thermal Man; Fantastic Four came in with the Monacle and the Lagoon Creature. The fact that Goodman decreed that there be an end to continued stories for a while didn’t help the situation, as suspense and action then had to be crammed in or reduced. Although it wasn’t showing, Jack was arguably at his artistic height and these restrictions didn’t become so apparent until he left (once he got to DC, it’s almost like Jack’s art exploded out of these confines). Some speculate that towards the end of their association, these last new characters were probably from the plots that Kirby got from Lee, because it was reported that Jack was asking Stan to come up with the plots by this time; but upon reviewing original art from these stories, there is nothing to indicate any difference in the way they had always worked, so it’s entirely possible that Jack came up with them. Of the new characters introduced, only one—Agatha Harkness— would be utilized by Lee as a recurring character. By that time one would think that that was not Jack’s intention, however. It would be the last example of Stan using his editorial savvy to get something marketable out of one of Jack’s “throwaway” characters. Still working without a contract or any type of reassurance for job security, Jack was still doing work for Marvel, good work, but it wasn’t his best work. Some thought Jack was burning out; quite the contrary, he was just burning.

Final panels from Jack’s last issues of Fantastic Four (#102, Sept. 1970) and Thor (#179, August 1970), showing messages of war and hope.

Final panels from Jack’s last issues of Fantastic Four (#102, Sept. 1970) and Thor (#179, August 1970), showing messages of war and hope.

While Marvel refused to talk to Jack, Carmine was ready to listen. He went to California to continue his quest to lure Kirby from the competition. The fact that Jack was on the West Coast meant little to either publisher, although it was unusual at that time for any comic book personnel to not work out of the New York area. Only an artist of Jack’s stature could get away with working clear across the country, working by phone and mail almost exclusively. Carmine asked Jack what would it take to get him for DC. Foremost in Jack’s mind was a contract that would ensure continued financial security, but he wasn’t about to leave out the “little things” that Marvel refused to give him: A writing credit (in fact to write his own books), editorial control (remembering what happened to the Surfer and Him—to name only two—Jack wasn’t going to see his creations stolen from him or twisted into something different ever again), and a percentage of any merchandising from any characters he created. This was a hefty request for its day, but Carmine wanted Kirby at DC; it would be the coup of his editorial career, but he had to get the OK from the new bosses. Leibowitz was “old school” and requests like these were usually shot down, just as they were by his contemporary Goodman, but there was one difference: Goodman promised and reneged, and to Jack that was not very nice!

Final page from Silver Surfer #18, a book that must’ve been particularly galling for Jack to draw. Kirby was initially snubbed for the art chores on the book, and the series floundered for seventeen issues. Then Stan Lee called in Kirby to try to course-correct the book for inker Herb Trimpe to take over with #19, but the series was cancelled with this issue.

Final page from Silver Surfer #18, a book that must’ve been particularly galling for Jack to draw. Kirby was initially snubbed for the art chores on the book, and the series floundered for seventeen issues. Then Stan Lee called in Kirby to try to course-correct the book for inker Herb Trimpe to take over with #19, but the series was cancelled with this issue.

While negotiations continued, Jack got a few final surprises from Lee. Jack was asked to do the stories for the Inhumans in a new anthology (split) book, Amazing Adventures. The Inhumans was a book that originally Stan wanted Jack to put out years earlier, but it never made it to the schedule (some believe that the “Inhumans” back-up stories in Thor were the aforementioned book split-up, with other short “Inhumans” stories added until the back-ups were stopped completely). The surprise was that Jack would get a writing credit for the stories he did. Was this appeasement on Lee’s part, or was this the only way Stan could get Jack to do these stories (in which case, the surprise was on Stan)? Probably the former, as Stan could’ve simply gotten another artist for the book, but unlike the Surfer, Stan wanted Jack’s particular input on the characters he (Jack) created (in a 1968 fanzine, when asked directly, Jack states that he created the Inhumans). Jack also contributed “Ka-Zar” stories for Astonishing Tales, scripted by Roy Thomas, and did what would be the final story/issue for Lee’s failed Surfer comic. Kirby must have looked upon this particular job with mixed emotions to say the least (the last page says it all). The Fantastic Four’s one-hundredth issue, alleged to have been scheduled as a giant-sized story, was truncated to a miserable nineteen pages, a sad epitaph for one of Jack’s greatest series. Reportedly Jack finally got those plots he asked Lee for, in the last couple of FF stories. Jack continued to grind ’em out but, with the return of Infantino, Jack would now, finally (with Marvel anyway), grind to a halt. Jack’s requests were acceptable and it was time to sign. Up to the last minute, Jack waited, hoping he could come to some agreement with Goodman and the new owners at Marvel, but he was just another artist to them. Stan knew his worth, but also knew he wasn’t going to go to bat for him. He was worried enough about his own future with the company, and thought Jack was just disgruntled over the credits and some of the stories; he’d get over it. He was wrong!

Pencils from Astonishing Tales #166 (July 1969), featuring “Him”; like the Silver Surfer, he was another character Jack felt was changed from the direction he had planned for the character.

Pencils from Thor  #166 (July 1969), featuring “Him”; like the Silver Surfer, he was another character Jack felt was changed from the direction he had planned for the character.

The day Jack signed his contract with DC he called Stan and told him he had his last work for Marvel. Stan was indeed surprised for, although he knew Jack was unhappy, he never thought he’d leave. The last Thor and FF stories Jack worked on had themes of hope and war in the respective last panels; one can only wonder about the irony of it all.

What happened after Jack left has been discussed by many. Kirby was gone but sales continued to rise; was it because the new creative teams produced better stories? Hardly! Sales continued to rise on Spider-Man after Ditko left in ’66 also; sales continued to rise on almost all the Marvel books. Stories had little to do with it; it was impetus fueled by Marvel fanatics if anything.

Lee went on without Jack for approximately two years. He stopped scripting Thor one year after Jack’s departure, and finally stopped scripting Spider- Man and Fantastic Four a year after that. Stan went on to become publisher, then president of Marvel, publishing book after book on the Marvel heroes based on his “crazy ideas.” It’s reported that the copies of these books that Jack had were edited by Kirby with a pair of scissors, cutting out falsities, thereby reducing many pages to Swiss cheese. Once at a convention, a fan asked Jack if he’d sign one of the Lee books. Seeing that Lee already signed it, Jack said to the fan that he’d sign his name in ratio to his contributions as opposed to Lee’s; Jack’s signature was five times larger.

Kronin Krask, one of the forgettable villains that populated Kirby’s books his last year at Marvel. Was he Jack’s idea or Stan’s? This page is from Thor #172 (Jan. 1970).

Kronin Krask, one of the forgettable villains that populated Kirby’s books his last year at Marvel. Was he Jack’s idea or Stan’s? This page is from Thor #172 (Jan. 1970).

To this day Lee credits his artists as the most creative people he ever worked with; what they created, however, you rarely hear from Stan. As recently as his new autobiography, Stan continues to relate how Marvel came about, always using the collective “we.” He’ll graciously acknowledge the likes of Kirby and Ditko as two of the best artists he ever worked with, but according to Stan, the “ideas” came from him; they only fleshed them out. (At this point I’d recommend subscribing to Robin Snyder’s The Comics where Steve Ditko is giving his side to the Lee/Ditko “collaborations.”) As far as any problems with Jack, in a recently released DVD with Kevin Smith, all Stan can relate is that Jack was unhappy about some form Marvel wanted him to sign to get his originals back (this happened with Jack in the mid-’80s). For some reason Stan believes Jack blamed him for this problem (Jack didn’t), and that’s all Stan would say about any problems with Kirby—no mention of why Jack left Marvel.

In a 1977 interview, when asked why he embellishes his answers to the point of not really giving the answer, Stan responded in so many words that the public wasn’t interested in boring tales, even if they were the truth. Since he admired Shakespeare so, I think that the best line that suits Stan would be from Measure for Measure: “It oft falls out, To have what we would have, We speak not what we mean.” So the greatest team in the Silver Age of comics was no more. Jack’s heart left Marvel long before his person; a long last year that stretched out over several. In later years, Jack cited why he felt he had to leave, but just as with Ditko (and Wood for that matter), Stan will tell you how he doesn’t know why Jack left. He knew Jack was unhappy, he knew Jack was working with no contract, he knew Goodman reneged on promises made; but he doesn’t know why Jack left. It seemed any artist who contributed significantly to the creation of the Marvel super-heroes had a failure to communicate and eventual falling-out with Lee, but he doesn’t know why!

How could he not know?


While Jack filled in for John Buscema on Silver Surfer #18, Big John took a stab at Thor in issue #178 (July 1970). After Kirby left, Neal Adams drew two issues, and then Buscema became the series’ regular artist.


Jack Kirby and Carmine Infantino Interview – 31 January 1971

First published in 1971’s Comic & Crypt No. 5, this interview is presented here through the courtesy of Manny “Lunch” Maris – Rand

This interview was conducted on January 31st, 1971, in the offices of National Periodical Publications. We were fortunate in getting this interview which might never have taken place without the help of Emanuel Maris, John Shike, and Marc Bilgrey. Thanks very much.

The interview is more of a casual discussion, which is exactly what took place; just the four of us sitting in Carmine’s office talking with him and Jack Kirby. – Mark Sigal

Comic&Crypt: How did you both get your start in comics?

Carmine Infantino: I got into comics the same way Jack did; we were kids of the depression. Now you gentlemen don’t know the depression, or what it was about. It was a period when you starved; your family starved. There wasn’t enough food to go around. This was an outlet for us, a field open to us, and like those who went into prizefighting, we went into comics .

Jack Kirby: I feel the minority people had a lot of drive and went to entertainment or anywhere energy was involved.

C&C: Who did you start off with first?

Infantino: We both started off with Harry Chellan (Chesler – Rand) many years ago. He was a packager – used to package comics, and he used to cheat you like crazy. You were lucky to get paid at the end of the week. It was more fortunate then, as there was time to begin. Now you either have it or you don’t. But then there were always little outfits where you could begin, learn, and grow.

Kirby: Back then I worked for FAMOUS FUNNIES and I did cowboy stories for one of my earlier jobs. I also was with-­

Infantino: Yeah! He started that way, and you got nothing for it, but you didn’t care. It was a chance to work, a chance to draw, and that’s all we cared about.

C&C: Were you in a group of independent artists who sold their stories to the publishers?

Infantino: No, I worked for Harry for a while; then I went to QUALITY erasing pages and doing backgrounds. Those were the days of Lou Fine and Reed Crandall on BLACKHAWK, and the genius Jack Cole started on PLASTIC MAN. I used to erase pages all summer just to get a break to start, and that was the beginning.

C&C: You seem to be best known for STRANGE and the FLASH. Which did you enjoy the most?

Infantino: To tell the truth, I did not like doing wssterns, or, strangely enough, the FLASH. As for STRANGE, I enjoyed him at first, but I really liked the ELONGATED NAN. I’m sure this goes for you too Jack; the ones you’re beet known for aren’t the ones you like best.

Kirby: The ones I began weren’t the well-known ones. I began MANHUNTER and MR. SCARLET, which just faded out. Every strip I did was a challenge, as I’m sure it was to Carmine, but I fell what Carmine is trying to say, is that he especially liked one thing but we couldn’t always do that. We did what they gave us to do.

Infantino: I could never do a sci-­fi story the way he could.

C&C: But your speed concepts and futuristic cities were amazing.

Infantino: Did you see the ones he did?

C&C: But you’re two different types of artists. You can’t-­

Infantino: This isn’t what I’m trying to say. This is not what I enjoyed the most. I enjoyed the ELONGATED MAN because of the satire in there. Well, let me say something. Back in the early days there was quite a lot wrong with my drawing and every once in a while I would go up to this fellow in the city. We’d talk and he’d help me. But the most important thing he helped me do was think, and I feel his was one of the best around. When I went up there, he used to stop his work and look at my stuff and give me suggestions. That person was Jack.

Kirby: Well I’m not going to take credit for that. Carmine was and is a fine artist, but back then Joe Simon and I used to have an apartment up there. All the guys got together and I think we helped each other actually. That was the main purpose back then as none of us had a school; we became each others’ school. There were things that Carmine knew that I didn’t. It was an exchange and that’s basically how artist’s learned back then. We took standards from each other.

C&C: Just what was your relationship with Joe Simon? How did it start?

Kirby: It started the same way all things did in the industry. Some guys gravitated to each other and Joe Simon and I met, liked each other, and decided to work together.

C&C: In a lot of your books, you started the sort of panel within a narrative. How did you get the idea for that?

Infantino: The reason that was done was because we wanted to get as much motion as possible going, so that when you put that little box in with the silhouette of the batter pulling his bat back; in the next panel you had the follow-through which kept ths flow of motion.

C&C: But how did you get the idea? was it a brainstorm of yours or what?

Infantino: Well, Julie Schwartz, the editor at the time, told me to go home and make this book look different.

C&C: Did you enjoy doing that particular series?

Infantino: Yes I did. Maybe it was the sports angle to it. I could design stadiums and futuristic basketball arenas, and the story line made you think. Every book was a challenge.

Kirby: I think you hit on the right gimmick. I feel that sports books are the toughest books to do. To do it in the first place is a challenge. To do it effectively was an achievement of some kind. I never had the opportunity to do it but I still feel that it would be a challenge.

Infantino: I must have pencilled a page a day on that stuff. That’s how rough it was because you had to make sure the action followed through. If you didn’t, the thing didn’t work. It looked terrible. The bat was back and on the next panel, the ball connected. Then the ball moved out. The thing I enjoyed most was when somebody said I want it different.

C&C: We’ve noticed that some comics are featuring covers by you. Do you ever feel like getting back to the drawing board?

Infantino: Jack, do you want to answer that for me?

Kirby: Well, I feel essentially Carmine will always have the urge as anyone involved in a creative activity does. I think it’s a matter of circumstances and if Carmine had the opportunity and the time…

C&C: What led you into becoming Editorial Director?

Infantino: An accident. I was drawing here. I think I was drawing the BATMAN and DEADMAN. It was during that story that the second guy at MARVEL was slaughtering NATIONAL. I think his name was Kirby or something, and the gentleman who happened to be in charge at the time asked me if I would care to stop in and help re-organize. We discussed it and I finally did. I thought it would be interesting.

C&C: Well you tried the new trend books. They failed but I had them all and I thought they had possibilities, especially BATLASH.

Infantino: In BATLASH what bothered me the most was that I wrote it. I plotted every one of them and Sergio took it from there and wrote them down. Then Denny would dialogue them later.

C&C: When a friend of mine met Mr. Weisinger, he was told by him not to go into comics; that it was a dying field. He told him rather to go into painting, and to get out of comics. (This was about five years ago – MS)

Kirby: You should have told him not I’m to knock anything he hasn’t tried.

C&C: Was that the type of attitude that was around then?

Infantino: No. I think it was a personal attitude.

C&C: Has the atmosphere changed? Are new ideas welcome?

Kirby: It’s a different company today. If a company feels that there is an essential need somewhere they get the right executive to fill that need. In othsr words, to expedite that need. You use that need to revitalize the company. Comics are in a transition, as far as I see it. I think this is the most interesting time for comics.

C&C: How long have you had the idea for the NEW GODS?

Kirby: Well, I guess for several years it’s probably been in the back of my mind, but I’ve never sat down and worked it out though I’ve always known it’s been there.

C&C: Do FOREVER PEOPLE come from the same place as the NEW GODS?

Kirby: Yes, but they don’t call the things you see the same things that I do. In other words, I would say great or swell, and you guys would say cool. It’s not New Genesis to them, it’s Supertown. That’s how they see it. There is, though, a lot more to it than that and I think you guys are going to find it pretty interesting.

C&C: According to the sales, the superhero book is on the rocks.

Kirby: I pay attention to the sales occasionally only because I plot the books, and sometimes the sales are my only link with the fans. I feel that the superhero surf is going somewhere. What I’m trying to do is follow its exact trail; that’s my job. I want to entertain you guys and find something new for you – if not just for you, for myself – the challenge of my job is to keep me from getting bored. I feel that if I would want to buy my own book, I have met that challenge.

C&C: The themes in NEW GODS and FOREVER PEOPLE are expansions of the old themes from MARVEL. It seems that you had more ideas, but they wouldn’t let you continue with them.

Kirby: That’s more or less true. It’s not that I was cramped, but there were limitations which stopped me from going on. Over here I have the chance to go beyond them; I feel. that whatever story there is to this “gods” business, the “new” Gods or the “old” Gods, I feel. that there is a story to them. I feel that there was an actual replacement of the “old” Gods by new ones which are relevant to what we see and hear. In other words, Thor may have been great in medieval times, but I feel, somehow, that we have transcended. Once it had a certain glamour, but now we need a new kind of glamour. Not that it isn’t fantastic, but we don’t see it in the same light anymore. I think we see things differently, the same things with an altered interpretation. You know what Thor looked like, what Mercury looked like, what Zeus looked like, and all the rest of them. It’s like everything that’s done and seen. What I’m trying to do is show the things that haven’t been done or seen.

Kirby: We have our “new” GOD today – technology. A new way at looking at things that I have got to represent. How do I represent that new technology? I’ve got Metron. How do I represent the kind of feelings we have today? Maybe some of us are analyzing ourselves, trying to find out why we’re a violent society and how we could be nonviolent, so we all become Orion. Why do these feelings live like that inside of us? Not only do we associate ourselves with them, but these are conflicts. But why do we have conflicts like that inside of us? So we try to analyze it, just like Orion does. That’s what the GODS are. They are just representations of ourselves. At that time, you take a crummy Viking, remove the glamour, and what the heck was he? Some poor guy in bear skins, who never took a bath. He had a beard with lice in it and he says: “Look at me, I’m a really cruddy object.” And I felt the same way. The GI’s feel the same way sometimes when they’re sitting in some hole but suddenly he says: “What the heck am I doing? What am I a symbol of?” And then he begins to idealize the version of all the bravery that goes into the fight. Maybe he begins to see himself as Thor and his captain as Odin. Then he sees what he’s fighting for. He sees why he’s in that hole, why he’s in the dirt, why he’s dressed in that stupid uniform. It’s not only functional – it’s symbolic of what he is; he comes into a whole new world and he feels pretty good about it. That’s what it’s all about. To make everything we see and know around and in us, and give it some meaning.

Kirby:  And the GODS are nothing more than that. They are making us see some value in us and we have ­ we have that value. So in order to express that value, we make “new” GODS. We can’t be Thor. We can’t be Odin, anymore. We’re not a bunch of guys running around in bear skins; we’re guys that wear spacesuits and surgeon’s masks. A surgeon is godlike because he handles life and death. If you want to idealize him that’s the way to do it. A nuclear physicist is Metron. A mathematician is Metron. A guy who works a projection booth in a theater is Metron. He’s involved in technology. We’re trying to know everything and we’ve got the equipment to do it. That’s where Metron’s chair comes in. It’s one of our gadgets. That damn chair can do anything!

C&C: There is so much meaning in the strip. I read it and I enjoyed it but I couldn’t place all these things into it, but it’s there.

Kirby: It’s there because I’m trying to interpret us. Nothing more than that. I’m trying to interpret what we’re in. What kind of times we live in. And we should have these versions. I can see this guy in a spacesuit. There is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to go to Mars. Maybe in ’75. Because we can do it. The materials are there. They’ll be common. And to put it all in one word that’s Metron. And New Genesis. You name it. That’s New York or Chicago; just an idealized version of that. It’s the city.

C&C: Did you ever mention this to MARVEL?

Kirby: No. I was involved in what I was doing there and I feel that this would never have fit into what they were doing. This is a whole new interpretation and it cannot be told with shields and swords; it must be done with what we know and deal with what we worry about.

C&C: So was THOR; when it came out as a mythology in the olden times it was relevant and real to the people then, because people were using the same things: swords, shields, etc.

Kirby: Yes, THOR was very real to the guy in the middle ages and not only that if you think about it; THOR was a religion as well. THOR is not a comic book story – Norse mythology was a religion, just as Greek mythology was. I was being superficial when I did THOR and if I showed it to a guy who was really involved with it he would tell me it wasn’t good enough.

C&C: Why?

Kirby: Suppose I was to make an interpretation of things you really believed in. It would be weak because those things are on such a grandiose scale, I can’t draw them.

C&C: Who would you classify as your favorite artist?

Kirby: Well, I like them all, especially if they have their own distinct style. Neal Adams is one, Steve Ditko is another.

C&C: And your favorite comic work being done now?

Kirby: I like anything that is trying to do something different. Anything that tries to put new life into the strip, or upgrade the medium is doing a good job.

C&C: Who thought of the Black & White books?

Kirby: I don’t know how these things start. They start with everybody. It might have been in your mind, too!

Infantino: No. It was in yours. It is a completely new approach to the visual medium. It will be composed of photographs, drawings, and writing. It’s very different.

C&C: Isn’t it something like Gil Kane’s BLACK MARK book?

Infantino: Nothing like that at all! This will be large-sized book – with black and white material.

C&C: How big are you going on this? About 150,000?

Infantino: No. Much more,

C&C: That is what happened to SAVAGE TALES. They only printed 150,000 had they were hard to get. Neal Adams told me that MARVEL dished out quite a bit of money because they were trying for a quality effect. They spent $6,000 instead of the usual $3,000. I don’t know if it’s true or not.

Infantino: I’m going to tell you to look at Jack’s books and make up your own mind.

C&C: With the BLACK & WHITE books, are you trying for an adult market?

Kirby: I am trying for a universal market. It’s going to be rational for the adults and exciting for the kids. In other words, if an adult picks it up and he analyzes it as an adult should, he might find it interesting whereas the kids will have the costumes, the action, the strange atmosphere which I think every strip needs. Fantasy is interesting because it is a projection, an idealized version of everything we see and hear. I think that is what makes it interesting. For instance, if you see a tank I’ve drawn, or a car, it could never work, but it’s an interesting looking object. If you want to analyze my machines, they may be nothing more than a fantastic typewriter or a pencil sharpener.

Infantino: This is the beginning for comics. Only comics not as you know them. This is a whole new world; that’s why I’m here. That’s why Jack is here. On June 15th, the first book we were talking about comes out. July 15, the second will be coming out. We’re doing our own thing. Jack wouldn’t be here if we were doing what everyone else is doing.

C&C: Some comics, like SUPERBOY don’t have the same flexibility, or even attempt it. As long as they sell.

Kirby: They are not made for a universal market. They are not aiming for my market.

Infantino: First of all, the SUPERBOY and LOIS LANE books. LOIS LANE is made for the “girl” market. SUPERBOY is the same thing. It’s at another level, though. You don’t mesa around with a book like SUPERBOY, which is selling over 500,000. That’s not saying what will do tomorrow. I don’t know. Jack will develop his own line of books. It will have Jack’s stamp. We have some other stamps. You’ll buy these or you won’t. But to turn out one stamp in a company I can’t feel is very good.

C&C: Did you like Gray Morrow on EL DIABLO?

Infantino: No, I did not like his artwork. I told him I didn’t. That does not mean that Gray is not a talented man. I thought that Gray should be on other things that he could do well.

C&C: What did you think of his work on WITCHING HOUR?

Infantino: Beautiful. That’s Gray’s field.

C&C: Are you considering making the new books monthly?

Infantino: I don’t know. If Jack’s books turn monthly, can Jack do all of the work by himself? I’m not going to ruin him. I’m not going to spread this guy so far that it’ll destroy him. And I won’t let anybody else do his characters. Nobody touches his characters! He knows what he’s doing with them.

Kirby: SILVER SURFER was taken out of my hands. I originated it because I had a reason for the SILVER SURFER. Nobody else had a reason for him; I knew the SILVER SURFER. Nobody else did.

Infantino: Jimmy Steranko was offered the FANTASTIC FOUR but he turned it down. He said he wouldn’t presume to follow Kirby.

C&C: Let’s say in ten years from now the same thing happens at NATIONAL that happened at MARVEL, where your books are selling very well and all of a sudden Jack Kirby says he wants to retire.

Infantino: Then I wouldn’t presume to do those books, because nobody could do them as well.

C&C: You’d drop them?

Infantino: Yes. Wouldn’t it be better for us to drop them then for the books to die themselves?

C&C: How could somebody like MARVEL drop the FANTASTIC FOUR?

Infantino: It’s going to die anyway.

C&C: I know.

Infantino: Would you rather die at your zenith or at your low end? Fir>st of all, he’s not going to retire in ten years anyway; I wouldn’t let him.

Kirby: Second of all, I think that even if I did retire, the comics would continue with the same feeling.

Infantino: He is planning to develop people for these books in case the need comes. He wants people developed to follow his thinking.

C&C: Who got the idea for the Neal Adams GREEN LANTERN book? The sales are dropping. I know they went up and now they’re dropping a little bit. I don’t know how true it is.

Infantino: Who said that?

C&C: Neal Adams. I heard that you are keeping it for prestige. I’d like to know how it got started.

Infantino: The GREEN LANTERN was ready to be turned out when we were told to drop it. Even though I wanted a few more issues. I said to Julie: “There’s something you wanted to try.” I want this book as different as you could possibly make it. We sat down with Denny and came out with it. The book was slowly rising. It went real high at one point. Then it sagged off again. If this book can give to us the public relations, if it can take this business and give us the solid citizen reputation it should have not been considered junk, as it used to be. It will be worth everything we are putting into it.

C&C: Now about your latest race between Superman and the Flash. In all your comics, the final page is the one that decides whom is the fastest. Now I’m not really interested in who is faster. But why did you cop out again in the ending? I bought both issues and after reading the second book I ripped it up.

Infantino: Why?

C&C: Because I found Flash and Superman crawling with both their legs broken, and yet Flash crawled faster than Su­perman, and pulled the lever that saved the universe. Which proved that Flash can crawl faster than Superman. Why the cop out?

Infantino: Wait. Let me tell you something. Let’s be very realistic. Superman is the ultimate of everything. Now ask yourselves, logically, who could win? Well that’s just it. We don’t know Superman’s limits. He just never’ gets tired. By the way, I thought it was a cute ending: these two guys are so beaten up, yet the race was the important thing, and the Flash did win. There’a no doubt about it.

C&C: On the cover you stated in one blurb this time there had to be a winner.

Infantino: But there was a winner, wasn’t there? I thought this one was the best of the series and honest. Now maybe I’m wrong. That’s why Jack’s here. Denny, Julie, and him. There are some concepts coming with more edge than SUPERMAN that you won’t believe. We can’t give out the information just yet. It’s going to be a thing he’s always wanted to do in the comic business.

C&C: Well, it’s getting late and we’ve taken up enough of your time, and besides we’ve run out of questions to ask you.

Infantino: It’s been strictly our pleasure.

C&C: Thanks very much to both of you.

Due to the fact that this interview was conducted over six months ago, some of the material has become dated, but was still included because we felt that it reflected Jack Kirby’s and Carmine Infantino’s opinions and would prove interesting to the fans.

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More Kirby and McCartney

The Kirby Museum was proud to have received some photos from then-Trustee Lisa Kirby of the 1976 backstage meeting of Paul McCartney and Jack Kirby.

Unfortunately, there are some that believe that McCartney hired Kirby to produce the artwork that appeared on stage during the performance of “Magneto & Titanium Man” during that tour.


This is the same artwork that was used as a record sleeve:


I found the sources for this image:

So, there you have it. The source images are, from left to right, by George Tuska & Mike Esposito from Iron Man 22 (February 1970, on sale December 1969) , George Tuska & John Tartaglione from X-Men 91 (December 1974, on sale October 1974) and Sal Buscema & Joe Staton from Avengers 130 (December 1974, on sale October 1974).

Any of these three comics may very well have been some of those that kept McCartney “from going bonkers” by “keeping their kids entertained”1 in Jamaica while he was writing, as McCartney described the genesis of the song. The “Venus and Mars” album on which the song appears was recorded November 1974 – March 19752. Or the comics just may have been those available to the artist who pulled the backdrop together.

1 – Sherman, Steve, “Jack Meets Paul McCartney” The Jack Kirby Collector 8, p17, TwoMorrows Publishing, January 1996

2 – Madinger, Chip & Easter, Mark “Eight Arms to Hold You” p201, 44.1 Productions LP, 2000

Discovery at Snake River!

Posted in General.

In late September 2012, Luca Dolcini sent the Kirby Museum an e-mail00c query regarding a 25-page Kirby western story he found in an Italian comicbook called “La Legge Del West.” Luca and his fellows on the Blue-Area of the Moon Marvel Continuity Resource could not find an original American printing. Sending along some snapshots of the pages, “Partitia Finale A Snake River!” looked like Kirby’s work, but the job number O-253 in the first panel, while matching the style of Goodman/Lee/Atlas’ numbering,  was unknown to both Greg Gatlin’s AtlasTales.com and the Grand Comics Database’s Comics.org. GCD lists O-254 on a story with a publication date of August 1958. Luca mentioned that the main character was the “Silver Kid”, but none of the Silver Kid comics on Comics.org provided any obvious linkage to this story. Was it an unused “Black Rider” story?


Responding to my query on the Timely-Atlas discussion group, Michael Vassallo identified George Klein as the inker since the telltale Klein corona is evident in some backgrounds. Michael also pointed out that according to its US publication history, the Goodman/Lee office did not publish any stories 25 pages long until 1961’s Fantastic Four #1 (which some index as two stories of 13 and 12 pages). It’s interesting that Klein is attached to both of these stories.

Showdown at Snake River - Front Cover

After a while, Luca found an Australian version of the non-Kirby cover with the title “Showdown At Snake River!” in James Zanotto’s AusReprints.com database. Kevin Patrick of the blog Comics Down Under, responded to a query that, as luck would have it, the Rare  Books Collection at Monash University Library in Melbourne, Australia, where he studies, had a copy of Horwitz Publications’ “Showdown At Snake River!” and sent scans.

The story, a perfectly good one, doesn’t contain any splash pages. The title is only in the top third tier of the first page, and there aren’t any chapters. Could “Showdown…” have been produced for the foreign market? Considering the relatively recent discovery of Kirby’s ghost work on the Davy Crockett, Frontiersman daily strip being printed in comic book form in the UK and France, the story’s lack of splashes and—other than the title tier—all pages having only six panels, could it be a re-worked comic strip? Kirby Collector editor/publisher (and Kirby Museum Trustee) John Morrow pointed out that some of the panel sizes are irregular—which is not something that Kirby would do in that era—so perhaps some cutting and pasting was done.

Australian pages

In his last e-mail, Luca wrote that “La Legge Del West” was published in July 1959. He also found the story printed in strip form, with two panels per page, published in 1962 in Collana della Prateria #6—Pericolo!. There was a second “La Legge Del West” comicbook with the same cover artwork, only this time including the signature of John Severin, published in the early 1970s, but it did not contain “Partita…” If anyone can date the Horwitz “Showdown…”, or find the origin of the Severin cover art, or have any other information to share regarding this fascinating discovery, please post here, or contact me at the Kirby Museum.


Early 1970s “Le Legge Del West” does not contain “Partita Finale A Snake River!”