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.

1961

  • 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.

1962

  • 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.”

1963

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

1964

  • 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.”

1965

  • 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.

1966

  • 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).

1967

  • 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.

1968

  • 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.”

1969

  • 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.

1970

  • 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.

1971

  • 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.

1972

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

27 thoughts on “Key 1960s Moments

      1. Aaron Noble

        Wow! I see a whole different character there, which I have to admit is perhaps more interesting than the more generic-witch (still awesome) version that was published. What about the Thor pages that Roz thought were too good for Marvel, have you got those up your sleeve as well?

        Reply
        1. Kirk G

          I believe one of them is the full page Watcher in a space suit that has appeared as a solo piece. There’s also reports that Jack claimed he (had to) remove an entire sequence from the FF regarding the Watcher and used it over in Thor. This was probably part of the interrupted Galactus arc, as original pencils have surfaced that showed altered figures of the Watcher turned into Galactus. Mark Evanier might have better info on the other “withheld” pages Roz lobbied him to keep.

          Reply
          1. Rand Hoppe

            Yep, the Watcher in space suit that first appeared in the Kirby Unleashed portfolio would be something that was withheld.

            Withheld Watcher splash pencil art

      2. Kirk G

        Thank you, Randy. I agree, the alternative looking interpretation does speak of an “entirely different” character. I wonder how Jack would have envisioned that going down with HER in charge of Franklin?

        Reply
  1. Matt Larcombe

    I am 33 years old and have been a fan of comic books since I was 9. When I got into comics as a kid, Kirby was a legend whose work, however, I was largely unfamilair with and what I did see didn’t impress me — actually, I thought it looked quite goofy. Fast forward 15 years and I suddenly have access to much of The King’s work via reprints and am in awe. Kirby was the greatest pop artist ever, greater than Warhol or Lichtenstein by far. The man was a genuine demiurge.

    Reply
  2. patrick ford

    This piece contains the same error as the recent Mike Gartland piece.
    There are things we know about comic book history, and an amazingly large number of things we don’t know about comic book history. One thing which has joined the ranks of what we know, is Kirby did not have a contract with Marvel from 1956-1970.

    Reply
    1. Rand Hoppe

      Good one, Pat. You’re talking about the entries in 1966: January-February and 1968: Early this Year 1968, right? “contract” could easily be replaced with “terms” or “arrangement” to resolve your concern, no?

      Reply
      1. patrick ford

        It’s always been assumed there was a contract. I’m not sure where that came from. Mark Evanier mentions a contract in his book on Kirby, and has mentioned a contract in numerous articles and comments over the years. Kirby as far as I’ve read never mentions a contract.
        As it turns out we now know Kirby did not have a contract and neither did Stan Lee. In fact the evidence shows Lee did not have a contract until 1972, which contradicts Lee’s long standing story that Perfect Film wanted Lee under contract before finalizing the purchase of Marvel from Goodman. Which brings up another point. Books and articles should stop reporting Lee’s claim Perfect Film demanded he be under contract in 1968 as a fact. Absent the contract it’s likely Lee’s story is simply another of his self-aggrandizing stories.

        Reply
  3. Rand Hoppe

    John used this Marvel ad in the June 1965 issue of Newsdealer magazine as the basis for the sales figures in 1961-1964.

    Reply
  4. Anthony Lloyd

    Sad there was so much” politics” at marvel in the 60,s so much has been said about Kirby and Ditko’s departure it seems Lee was a tyrant (useful quality in editing) and Goodman was a very vindictive and greedy (hard headed business man) sad when you think the best two artists of that era ( in my opinion ) were both to leave within a few years of each other and work for other companies , but to be fair some of the work Ditko did at Charlton albeit short lived was in my opinion some of his best work , Gordiano gave him free rein with the stories which I shall cherish forever. In the case of Kirby the artwork was stunning although the stories were in my opinion similar to The Inhumans( New Gods ) and later The Eternals must admit did not read many comics in the 80′s and onwards so for me the 60,s was my” Golden Age” despite the “politics”

    Reply
  5. patrick ford

    Another of those “too good for Marvel” pieces was a drawing of Galactus which ended up as the front cover of the Gods Portfolio.
    The unaltered pencils were in the Marvelmania Portfolio and that drawing was reprinted in TJKC#3.

    Reply
  6. Stan Taylor

    Hi guys,
    Nice work but I have a few questions. Pat Ford essentially says that Kirby had no contract in the mid-sixties. But I have quotes from Kirby where he mentions a contract and how it was coming up for renewal. Is this a semantical debate or was there never any sort of contract?

    Has this “deposition” Kirby did for Marvel in the Joe Simon case ever been printed. I can’t conceive of anything Kirby could have said that would be detrimental to Joe’s case, but i could be wrong.

    I like the theory that Ego was inspired by Stan Lee. if only Kirby had drawn him more on model.

    Besides the 1966 cartoons, 1966 was a year full of Marvel using Kirby art to sell merchandise.

    Is there any evidence that Kirby supplied the idea behind Captain Marvel?

    Thanks
    Stan Taylor

    Reply
    1. patrick ford

      Stan, It seems that Kirby never had a contract with Marvel. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Kirby mention a contract, but I know Mark Evanier said in his book that Kirby’s contract had run out and he was looking to renew it at better terms.
      If Kirby did have a contract then neither Marvel nor the Kirby heirs were able to produce it for the recent lawsuit.
      A side note to this is Marvel was not able to produce a contract with Lee prior to 1971. It may be Lee’s often told tale of Perfect Film insisting Lee be under contract before closing on their deal to purchase Marvel is just another bit of Lee aggrandizement.
      Kirby’s declaration is available as part of the Disney v. Kirby heirs lawsuit.

      Joe Simon’s book THE COMIC BOOK MAKERS says on page 205 that in 1969 he engaged the law firm Freind & Reiskind and secured the copyright for the first ten issues of Captain America. He says the copyright office sent him certificates of copyright for the first ten issues.
      Simon is correct the copyright for Captain America became ripe for renewal in 1969. The first issue was published in 1941 and the first copyright term is 28 years. Simon also told Gary Groth in TCJ that he had the copyright to Captain America.
      These claims are more than a little curious. Simon sued (he says, and there is mention of an “action” in some related letters I’ve seen) Goodman in 1966 (State) and 1967 (Federal) court. Those dates do kind of fit with Kirby’s affidavit (1968) but do not fit the 1969 date when the copyright was up for renewal.
      Simon makes no mention of the 66-67 dates in his book and the implication is everything is following him being awarded the copyright in 1969.
      Obviously Simon could easily have gotten his dates mixed up, except the renewal could not have been awarded to him before 1969 because it was still protected by the original 28 year term.
      Simon proceeds on page 205 to say Kirby was called into Goodman’s office and told by Goodman that Simon wanted the copyright (the copyright Simon says he had?) and that Simon was going to cut Kirby out. Simon then says Kirby “bristled” when told this and agreed to side with Marvel. He then goes on to say what Kirby did not know was co-author he was entitled to half the copyright.
      There are a number of obvious problems with those comments by Simon. Most obviously Simon would not have been present at any meeting between Kirby and Goodman, so how would he know Kirby “bristled” or even that they met? Simon may be paraphrasing something said in a deposition by Goodman or Kirby, but he doesn’t say. Another problem is in his book as well as interviews Goodman has consistently said he alone created the Captain America character, and he did so before he began working for Goodman. That is likely what Simon said in his deposition in 1966, 1967, or 1969. Since Simon was the editor in chief at Timely he clearly was an employee and anything he created for Simon once he was on salary as an employee would be work-made-for-hire.

      Harry Mendryk and David Spurlock have mentioned having access to depositions they say are covered by a non-disclosure agreement and in his book Simon also says the various case related documents are subject to a non-disclosure agreement.
      I guess Simon had no trouble disclosing the documents to his fan/employees so they could question Kirby’s role, but then say they can’t really comment because of the non-disclosure agreement which Simon apparently violated by giving those fans access to the sealed documents. . Anyhow both Mendryk and Spurlock say the basis of Simon’s claim is he created Captain America before he was employed by Timely and without Kirby. Keep in mind the issue is the character Captain America. The first ten issues are simply the publications to which the copyright was attached. Based on this it gives the impression it was Simon’s intent to cut Kirby out, rather than include him. Kirby in Simon’s eyes was the co-author of Captain America #1-10, but not the co-creator of Captain America. In other words Simon is telling the same tale told by Stan Lee. He created the character and assigned it to Kirby on a work-for-hire basis.
      Simon goes on to describe (still page 205) the settlement payment:
      “I will tell you that part of the payment was made to me, part to my attorney—a much larger share than his legal fees would constitute. My attorney in turn, passed his payment on to me.”
      Simon then says three years later (1972, the date of Kirby’s assignment of rights to Marvel) he ran into Kirby. He says Kirby told him he had still been paid nothing. Simon ads that “eventually” Kirby was paid the small share which had been paid directly to Simon and that in this way Marvel saved a “substantial amount of money.”
      It sounds to me like Simon had two opportunities to tell KIrby he was being cheated, once in 1969 while Kirby was still at Marvel and perhaps not in a position to demand anything. And then again in 1972 when Kirby signed the assignment “under duress” at a time when he was under contract with DC and should have been free to act on the full amount owed him rather than signing the agreement where he apparently waived his rights in exchange for Marvel forgiving a $1000 debt.

      Simon’s story is very hard to believe. How could it be Simon sued Goodman in 66 and 67 and then Goodman failed to protect the copyright for Captain America #1-10 in 1969. And Simon says he was given “certificates of copyright” by the copyright office. Yet I posted here the other day on another thread the Kenyon and Kenyon copyright documents prepared by Simon and Kirby friend attorney Charles R. Brainard, and signed by Kirby. There are ten of those documents one per issue.

      Reply
      1. patrick ford

        Charles R. Brainard handled the copyright registration for Marvel in 1968-1969.

        http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2010cv00141/356975/66/16.html

        He probably came into possession of this photograph at that time. It seems somewhat unlikely he is the third man in the picture, but it certainly a possibility.The postcard was attached to Kirby’s 1966 affidavit.

        http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2010cv00141/356975/66/15.html

        https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http%3A%2F%2Fdocs.justia.com%2Fcases%2Ffederal%2Fdistrict-courts%2Fnew-york%2Fnysdce%2F1%3A2010cv00141%2F356975%2F66%2F15.pdf%3Fts%3D1376380861&chrome=true&docid=b573bd3fe4d2edc8be3c1a8069a9219c&a=bi&pagenumber=10&w=800

        Reply
  7. Mark Evanier

    Just noticed this: The Romita and Trimpe redraws on the Marvelmania Kirby posters were done before I ever got involved with Marvelmania, which occurred in July of 1969. So listing them for 1970 is wrong. That probably happened around May of ’69.

    Reply
  8. Stan Taylor

    Hi Pat,
    First, to you and all readers, I hope you had a joyous Thanksgiving holiday.
    You said;
    “..If Kirby did have a contract then neither Marvel nor the Kirby heirs were able to produce it for the recent lawsuit.

    The problem I have as one who must decide whether to delete this from a biography is that first you make a direct statement of position, yet in the next sentence you add on a modifier “If” that leaves room for doubt. So which is it?

    My recollection is that the contract was described not as an employment contract but rather as a “personal services contract that bound Kirby to Marvel or possibly Martin Goodman. This is a specific type contract that would not have been specific enough to describe the employment position. If this is true than neither side would have entered it into the record as it didn’t make the work description clear. It was way after the creative period alluded to in the case.

    Trying to make sense of Joe Simon’s claims is like trying to catch greased pigs-it ain’t gonna happen.
    There was a state action made first, but not for copyright ownership. It was a claim for damages and residuals for the merchandising of Captain America. I consider this a nuisance suit trying to get the merchandisers to pay up to avoid a lawsuit. This suit was later rolled over to the federal case that did include the copyright facets.

    The whole thing about Kirby working behind Simon’s back is ridiculous, it could have been avoided with a simple phone call. As one who has been involved in lawsuits i can assure you that when Simon first hired a lawyer to file a case, the lawyer asked for a list of people who could help, and one consisting of who could hurt the case. He would have asked for a list of all people involved in the creation of the property. The artist (Kirby) first among all. They would have contacted Kirby to get his statements to see if they helped or hurt before they actually sued Marvel. Just so they could be ready for any discrepancies. Joe was also wrong about Kirby being cut out since under the law Kirby couldn’t have been a part of the suit. He was a paid employee of Marvel at the time. Using Simon’s statements about the case is useless. In his book he laughs at Kirby signing some statement about giving up the rights into perpetuity, yet he ended up signing a similar statement to end the case. Trying to figure out just how Captain America came to be is impossible, Joe has told different stories throughout his career. Kirby for his part has never wavered. He has said that Goodman asked for a new character and he and Joe sat down and worked a new one up. This idea that Joe thought up the character, drew up an origin, and then put him on a shelf until an opportunity arose goes against his earlier statement that he came up with the idea and when Goodman accepted it he then went to find artists who could rush the character out and chose Al’s Avilson and Gabrielle, but changed his mind when Kirby said he could do it.

    How do we know that the assignment signed in 1972 had anything to do with paying off Kirby’s loan, and for paying Simon’s share to Kirby. Personally, since he was no longer working for Marvel he should have balled it up and thrown it away. Why did he do it?

    As to Joe Simon getting the rights to Captain America, I don’t care, but I do know that he couldn’t have done any better than Marvel has. Joe was so far passed his prime that he would have flopped trying to reboot the character. BUT.. I would have liked for him to take the case to court rather than settle out of court.

    I haven’t given my opinion on the latest court decision against the family. On the one hand I am sorry for the family, but on the other I totally understand the decision. From what I know of how he worked in 1961-4 it obviously fit the description of “work for hire” Now we can argue about the right or wrong of work for hire, but it is an accepted part of copyright and contract law. So if it is allowed by law, then there must be guidelines as to what is covered, and under the law, the work description at Marvel was clearly under those guidelines. Kirby was given jobs to draw by Marvel, they were free to edit, and change them as they saw fit, plus the pages were passed to others to finish. There was no evidence that Kirby ever on his own drew up stories and then took them in to sell on spec. There was never any evidence of Kirby working on his own and then offering the work to Marvel. Jack always said that the origin of the FF came about as a management fiat from Martin Goodman.

    Anyway, thanks for letting me spout off. and the best to all.

    Stan Taylor

    Reply
  9. patrick ford

    Stan, Disney/Marvel and the heirs agreed there was no contract 1958-1970. That is one of the undisputed facts of the case.

    I’m of the opinion all Simon’s actions were simply Simon looking for a quick settlement. I think it’s evident he and Marvel were on the same page since even after settling with Marvel in the past Simon came forward again before the release of the recent Captain America movie and got another settlement. I assume Marvel’s attitude would be, “Oh, It’s Joe Simon again, give him some money and he’ll go away.” It’s the cost efficient move .

    The court case involved Lee saying he alone created all the characters and plots and then bringing in Kirby to illustrate his ideas. No matter what Kirby contributed after that point Kirby is in the work for hire position.
    The heirs argument was that Kirby brought characters on spec to Lee (even the very idea of trying the super hero genre). Lee was free to either purchase (The FF, etc.) or reject (Kirby’s Captain Glory, later sold to Topps) these characters.
    The best possible evidence Kirby was the person bringing ideas to Lee would have to be the Kirby SPIDERMAN. There are a lot of people who back up Kirby’s claim he brought Lee the character based on Simon’s logo, the Oleck script, and the S&K character The Fly.
    Lee was asked about this and said Kirby never brought him a Spiderman character based on The Fly. Unfortunately Lee’s depositions are so heavily redacted due to a protective order granted to Disney/Marvel that we don’t know if he was asked follow up questions concerning what was in Kirby’s story. Since Lee says Kirby did not bring him a Spiderman based on The Fly that means Lee is either saying the Kirby Spiderman story was something like the AF #15 story, or Lee is saying that he (Lee) created the Spiderman version similar to The Fly. Lee did acknowledge Kirby created a Spiderman story, and claimed that Marvel paid him for those pages even though they were rejected.

    Reply
  10. Stan Taylor

    Him Pat,

    Still not convinced about the contract as I haven’t seen or read the part of the transcript of the trial to get the full context. The assumed contract was never meant to be a work contract.

    I don’t entirely feel that Joe’s clams were nuisance just to get a quick payoff.. He did have to take his last suit all the way to the appelate level. And I doubt Marvel took him so cavalierly. But he certainly used some nuisance ploys to help him.

    You wrote;
    The heirs argument was that Kirby brought characters on spec

    I agree, and this is where they lost the case. Even I don’t see any evidence of Kirby doing spec work for Marvel. There really wasn’t any competition that Kirby was offering these ideas to. They could never make a strong case for any spec creation. Nowhere did Kirby ever take any of his ideas to other companies (until 1970 DC) The Kirby’s never produced any product used to make a presentation to an editor. It was all done verbally during regular editorial meetings. There is a difference between creating a character and than offering it outright to a company and taking a hint from an editor and trying to flesh out a story based on editorial guidelines. All writers and artists tried to add in new concepts to make their stories more unique, this doesn’t make them the creators of the book.

    You are talking to the choir about Spider-Man. I have a whole chapter on the creation of Spider-Man and can’t find Lee or Ditko in much of it. But again the character was offered to Marvel; not sold.

    The biggest concern I have about the trial decision is that the judge relied too much on Lee’s unquestioned statements rather than letting these statements face questioning in a trial. He took out the adversarial facet of a trial.
    Best
    Stan

    Reply
    1. patrick ford

      Stan, It’s apparently not true that Kirby did not pitch characters to Lee without the aid of presentation art. Jim Shooter claims to have held in his hands Kirby’s presentation art for Spiderman.
      Neal and Susan Kirby described Kirby creating what sound like presentation drawings for Thor and the FF. Neal Kirby mentioned Kirby had at first drawn Thor with large horns on his helmet. Susan Kirby said her mom told her her dad was creating some new super heroes down in the basement. Susan said she she saw a drawing featuring three not four characters and her dad told her Susan Storm was named after her. You also have later presentation art for characters like The Black Panther and the Boomerang.
      My thinking is Kirby created presentation art to pitch new characters before they were approved and he was given an assignment. What happened to most of these is a mystery. Marvel may still have them, they may have been recycled as pin-ups in the early years.
      I do agree the heirs did not have much evidence to counter Lee’s testimony. And of course the best testimony would have been for Lee to say that Kirby brought him characters and offered them for sale to Marvel. Naturally Lee did exactly what I said he would do when I spoke about the lawsuit prior to Lee giving his depositions. Lee didn’t credit Kirby at all, and inn fact backtracked on old statements from the ’60s where he’d given Kirby some small bits of credit for character creation.
      It’s like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to Lee.

      Reply
    2. patrick ford

      BTW. Lee absolutely did face adversarial questioning. Marc Toberoff’s Dec. 2010 deposition of Lee ran over 300 pages and Lee was groaning about the number of exhibits near the end of it.
      Unfortunately the vast majority of Lee’s depositions is hid behind a protective order. If the case had gone to trail all that would have been made public and Lee would have faced further questioning. As things stand we will probably never know what is in the 100s of pages of Lee’s depositions which Disney/Marvel did not want made public.

      Reply
  11. Stan Taylor

    Hi Pat,
    I find your argument weak. Using 50 year old memories of children really stretches it. What Shooter saw was not presentation work but production work. Jack actually started drawing a story. I have seen no evidence of Jack making up a presentation to sell to Marvel. All i have eve seen is production work done after the go ahead was given. Even if you think that Coal Tiger was a presentation piece, the character was edited and changed before publication (thank god) If Jack was going it on spec, where were the paychecks for the property? Even Siegel and Shuster got $130. If you are doing something on spec than you are trying to sell the work, If one company refuses to buy, you take it to another company. Kirby never did this. Until 1970 ( and why he didn’t ask for the copyrights I’ll never know)
    Stan

    Reply
  12. patrick ford

    Stan, As oppossed to fifty year old memories of Stan Lee? Keep in mind 1961 was the year of Neal’s Bar Mitzvah and Susan Kirby was 15-16 years old.
    Shooter was quite specific that what he saw was not a story page.
    http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/03/my-short-lived-inking-career.html

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

    P.S. I must have seen that page when I was in Sol’s office and he was going through the rejects stack looking for pages for me to try inking. I don’t think I ever got to look through those pages again.

    P.P.S. Years later, 1986, I had occasion to talk with Jack at the San Diego Con. He insisted that he created Spider-Man. I told him that I’d spoken to Steve Ditko, Sol, and other people who were there at the time, including Stan, obviously, and that they all agreed that Steve’s version was the one that was used, though Jack did his version first. “

    Reply

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