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.