Author Archives: Rand Hoppe

About Rand Hoppe

Kirby Museum founder, trustee, director, curator.

Jack Kirby : A Life In Comics

(I was honored to have been asked by the folks at Comic-Con International: San Diego to write a Jack Kirby biography for their convention program this year. I expended it slightly, and it forms the main narrative of the Kirby Museum’s “Jack Kirby: 100 Years” pop up in NYC. – Rand.)

Creator • Storyteller • Visionary • Artist

Born and raised on the Lower East Side, Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) created or co-created some of the most enduring characters and stories in comics (Captain America, Avengers, Hulk, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Darkseid, among hundreds of others). In addition to revolutionizing such comic book genres as crime, war and superheroes, Kirby also co-invented romance comics with his partner Joe Simon. Kirby’s 1960s work with Marvel’s Stan Lee (who dubbed Kirby “King”) may be his most well-known. Another Kirby legacy is that he almost single handedly defined the visual language of comic books with his dynamic page layouts portraying exaggerated anatomy, heartfelt emotion, explosive movement, and cosmic wonder. Kirby died in 1994 at age 76. Evidence of his work and influence surrounds us today, not only in comics, but also in television and movies

In The Beginning…

In August of 1917, Rose and Ben Kurtzberg, two immigrants from Galicia in what what is now Poland welcomed their first born, Jacob. In the early 20th century, New York City’s Lower East Side was the most densely populated two square miles on the planet. Ben sewed pants in sweatshops. Rose did piecework at home when not raising her sons.

Lower East Side kids played in the streets, and fighting was a favorite pastime. Kirby’s gang, the Jewish kids of Suffolk St. would take on the Italian kids from another block, or the African-American kids from yet another block. Jake was small in stature, and once had to rescue his younger brother David from an attack by a rival gang. Jake recalled it happening in slow-motion, as if choreographing the whole fight in his head. Jake loved fighting so much that he once took a long subway trip to the Bronx to see if they fought any differently there.

Rose’s extended family were storytellers. Jake grew up hearing stories about demi-gods, werewolves, and vampires, learning about them long before they appeared in the movie theaters that were everywhere on the Lower East Side.  At 14 Jake found a science fiction pulp magazine in a rain drenched gutter. The image on the cover changed him forever. He took the magazine home, read it, and it fueled his interest in drawing. The stories in the magazine reminded him of the tales his mother and her friends told, but with new, hopeful, futuristic trappings. He began reading as much as he could, something he had to hide from his buddies, and took how-to-draw  books out from the library.

Jake met his “second father” Harry Slonaker around this time. Slonaker graduated from the Boys’ Brotherhood Republic in Chicago and was assigned to New York City to start one there. The BBR helped boys in the worst neighborhoods learn responsibility and useful skills, and it had its own rules, government, and even media. Jake took up boxing and became the cartoonist on the BBR newspaper, which he signed with the name “Jack”.

While Jack’s mother wasn’t going to let him follow neighborhood hero, actor John Garfield (nee Jacob Garfinkle), to Hollywood, his time as an office boy in a newspaper cartoonist’s office  showed him there was another way out of the ghetto. Most of his pals saw careers as  policemen, a politicians, or gangsters in their future.

Jack stayed less than a week in an art class at the Pratt Institute. Not only wasn’t he the kind of artist they wanted – he worked fast – but his father lost his job, and Jack dropped out of school entirely to find work.

After a brief stint as a newsboy, Jack found work at the Fleischer Brothers animation studio, working on Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons as an inbetweener, filling in the necessary number of drawings to complete the illusion of movement. Jack’s steady work allowed the Kurtzbergs to move from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn.

Jack’s time with the Fleischers was short lived. The environment reminded him too much of the sweatshops where his father worked, and the studio was relocating to Florida. He found work with some small newspaper syndicates, preparing his strips (Socko The Seadog, Your Health Comes First) at home on the kitchen table. One series, “The Romance Of Money” didn’t get syndicated, but was collected as a small pamphlet for savings banks as a giveaway. Arguably, The Romance Of Money is Jack’s first comic book.

Kirby Comic Books Begin!

With the success of Superman in 1938, there was a tremendous demand for new, original comic book content. Jack found his way to the Eisner-Iger Studio, preparing stories in a similar fashion to the single pages appearing in Sunday newspapers. Soon, he and his boss Will Eisner realized they were working in an entirely new, multi page art form. Eisner recalled one incident where Jack got in the faces of mobsters who were shaking down the studio for a towel service payment. The goons left.

Unfortunately, Jack came up against too much of that “sweatshop” approach again at Eisner-Iger, and soon found work as a staff artist in the office of Victor Fox, where he drew the first four weeks of the Blue Beetle newspaper strip. While at Fox, Jack hit it off with Joe Simon, and the two began collaborating on Blue Bolt. Simon & Kirby quickly produced Red Raven Comics for Martin Goodman at Timely, which contained a Comet Pierce story where Jack first signed his name as “Jack Kirby.”

Jack soon left Fox to work with Simon exclusively, and moved his family to a nicer apartment in Brooklyn. There, he met his upstairs neighbor, and future wife, Rosalind Goldstein.

Simon & Kirby produced Captain America, and the first cover featured the patriotic hero punching Adolf Hitler in the face. Published in late 1940, a year before the U.S.A. entered the war, the cover was a stark declaration of intent, and the book was a smash hit. Kirby’s choreographed action sequences were a main selling point. At one point, the Nazi-sympathizing group the American Bund were making threatening phone calls to the Simon & Kirby team. When they called again, Kirby went downstairs to confront them, but they weren’t there.

Also for Goodman, they took two superhero sidekicks, Bucky and Toro, teamed them with four non-super-powered kids and created the Young Allies, the first kid gang. While still on staff at Timely, Kirby, Simon, and several inkers produced Captain Marvel Adventures #1 for Fawcett, uncredited, over a weekend. It became one of the top sellers of its time.

The Simon & Kirby Team & WW2

The Simon & Kirby team had such success with Captain America and their Captain Marvel one-shot that when they discovered Goodman wasn’t paying them the agreed percentage of revenue, they quickly moved to National Comics, home of Superman. They revamped existing features Sandman and Manhunter, while Kirby’s youth inspired them to create the Boy Commandos and the Newsboy Legion. In 1942, the bickering Boy Commandos received their own title which was only outsold by National’s Superman and Batman comics. That same year, Jacob Kurtzberg legally changed his name to Jack Kirby, and married Rosalind.

In the midst of this success, World War II was looming. Jack was drafted into the infantry in June of 1943. In August 1944, Kirby arrived in Normandy, France and was sent to Verdun to join General Patton’s Army on its rapid offensive eastward. His division was sent to south of Metz to rid the area of German resistance. Taking advantage of Kirby’s drawing skill and his knowledge of the German dialect Yiddish, Kirby’s commander sent him into enemy territory to scout and draw up detailed maps.

Kirby’s war experiences were more brutal, horrifying, and violent than anything he experienced on the mean streets of the Lower East Side. His time in combat had a profound effect on him. Since storytelling was such a part of his personality, he shared war stories for the rest of his life. Eventually, Kirby contracted trench foot, and nearly needed both feet amputated. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Roz, at least, expressed that losing his drawing hand would have been much worse.

In January 1945, Kirby made his way back stateside to North Carolina and was honorably discharged in July with several honors including the Bronze Battle Star. In December 1945, Roz and Jack’s first child, Susan, was born.

After The War – The 1950s

With the war behind them, the Simon & Kirby team got back to work, producing the short-lived Stuntman and Boy Explorers for Al Harvey. But action heroes and kid gangs didn’t sell like they used to. Comic books had been popular with soldiers overseas, but now that they were home, they had more reading choices.

By 1947, the team was trying their hand at other genres; crime comics, funny animals, and teen humor. “True Romance” pulp magazines had been selling well to both teen and adult women for a while, so through Crestwood/Prize, Simon & Kirby’s Young Romance, the first romance comic, debuted that summer to great success. After two lucrative years producing romance comics and with growing families, the Kirbys and the Simons moved into houses across the street from each other in the suburbs of Long Island’s Nassau County.

In 1953, Simon & Kirby started their own publishing company – Mainline Comics. Unfortunately, the corrupt newsstand business was collapsing, and social forces that had been building for years came to a head with the publication of Fredric Wertham’s book, Seduction Of The Innocent, which claimed comic books were corrupting America’s children. Subsequently, horror and crime comics were chased off the market, and comic book creators were stigmatized. Comic book quality experienced a sharp decline, with all offerings assuredly safe for the youngest kids.

Eventually, Joe Simon left the team for more lucrative and secure work in advertising and marketing for political campaigns. Kirby brought the team’s Challengers of the Unknown to National (DC), and started working for Goodman (Atlas) again. He also worked up a number of comic strip proposals. Eventually, through a connection made by Jack Schiff, an editor at DC, Kirby, with writers Ed and Dave Wood, began a newspaper strip that capitalized on the nascent space race, Sky Masters Of The Space Force. With inking by Wallace Wood, the strips were beautiful.

Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding of the financial arrangement with Schiff, and what Schiff felt was Kirby’s using ideas from story conferences for Challengers Of The Unknown in Sky Masters, Schiff sued Kirby. Kirby lost. He continued the strip for a while, but the financial arrangement made it a losing proposition, so he quit. He’d also lost DC as a client.

Jack soon found more work under Atlas editor Stan Lee, mostly on monster and science fiction stories. Simon and Kirby teamed up briefly at Archie Comics on The Double Life of Private Strong and The Adventures of the Fly. Kirby even worked briefly for Classics Illustrated.

The Marvelous 1960s

Inspired by his success with starting Challengers Of The Unknown at DC, the slight success of the Archie heroes, and his son Neal’s interests, Kirby felt the time was again ripe for superheroes. Soon enough, Goodman and Lee saw what was happening at DC with the Justice League of America, and decided that Kirby was right. Lee had Kirby take one of his monster stories featuring some adventurers, and give them superpowers. Thus was born Marvel Comics as we know it, with The Fantastic Four.

Kirby’s vivid imagination, his heartfelt humanity, his love of science fiction and mythology, and his amazing dynamic visual storytelling all coalesced in his work for Lee and Marvel when he was in his 40s.

Kirby continued to pitch heroes. Lee had been publishing monster comics, so how about a monster as a lead character, the Hulk? A scientist from a previous story became Ant-Man. Mythology was one of Kirby’s favorites, so Norse god Thor came next. An urban hero who walked on walls came next, with Kirby bringing in a logo from the Simon & Kirby studio days in the early 1950s – Spiderman. Steve Ditko ended up with the assignment.

Next came Iron Man, with the origin drawn by Don Heck; Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, a grown up Boy Commandos; X-Men, a science fiction-based kid gang; and the Avengers, a bickering group of adult heroes. Kirby even had a hand in the creation of Daredevil, evoking his earlier Stuntman. In response to the assassination of President Kennedy, Lee and Kirby revived Captain America.

Marvel’s sales picked up. Lee’s snappy dialogue combined with Kirby’s stories, as well as the familiar, fan club-like tone of Marvel’s editorial copy kept the baby boomers reading comics into their teens and college years. Soon, Kirby was producing so many stories for Lee, that it became more expedient to eschew story conferences before the art was drawn. They’d briefly discuss the next issue, and Kirby would return with a fully drawn story, and describe to Lee what was happening. When even this became too time consuming, Kirby would include story notes on the edges of his artwork for Lee to use while preparing the dialogue script for the letterer.

In one notable example, Lee and Kirby had discussed having the antagonist be “The Big G” – a euphemism for God. Kirby knew that such a powerful, threatening force would be preceded by… a scout, whom he cosmically depicted as a surfer of the spaceways. Lee loved Kirby’s new character, and dubbed him the Silver Surfer. Audiences’ minds were blown.

Goodman started licensing Marvel characters out, which led  to Steve Ditko’s departure since Goodman wasn’t including him in licensing revenue. As a result, Lee tried to strengthen his relationship with Kirby, agreeing to a profile of he and Kirby by the NY Herald-Tribune. Unfortunately, the profile failed. The writer admired Lee’s P.T. Barnum-like chicanery, and denigrated Kirby’s appearance and manner. Upset, Kirby kept producing stories and characters for Lee, but not for long. On one Fantastic Four story where Kirby introduced a new character, Him, Lee ignored the notes, and changed Kirby’s theme. After that, Kirby only delivered stories containing already existing characters.

Full Rein

Kirby couldn’t stop creating new concepts, though. He just kept them to himself. When Goodman sold Marvel to Perfect Film, a more corporate entity, Kirby was stung by the new owner not wanting to negotiate a contract. Kirby felt the need to break out of his situation, so he moved his family to Southern California and began talking to Carmine Infantino at DC.

Infantino, a long ago Kirby protege who had successfully updated Batman for the readers brought in by the TV show, was rising in the editorial ranks. For DC to have an artist in the editorial office was unprecedented, and Infantino was looking to innovate. Once Jack Schiff retired, Infantino was free to bring Kirby aboard. Infantino had wanted Kirby to revamp Superman, but Kirby only took on the Jimmy Olsen series, adding an updated Newsboy Legion to the cast (Olsen was a newsboy, after all). Kirby pitched a new science fiction mythology that filled three ongoing series, but unlike his time at Marvel, he retained creative and editorial control, eventually bringing in California resident Mike Royer to provide inking and lettering.

The New Gods, Mister Miracle, and the Forever People, his “Fourth World” comics, were unfettered Kirby at the top of his game, making comics for everyone, not just kids or teenagers.

Unfortunately, the newsstand business was still corrupt, with distributors selling fan favorite comics like Kirby’s to comic dealers to sell at conventions without reporting those sales to the publishers. As a result, the sales reports for Kirby’s comics were disappointing. Infantino then asked Kirby for a horror comic, like the movies that were then in vogue, and a kids comic to capture the popularity of the Planet Of The Apes movie series. Jack delivered The Demon and Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth. Kamandi became Jack’s longest running series for DC. But as the end of his DC contract neared, Kirby was unsatisfied with his prospects there.

A Return to Marvel and Cartoons

In 1976, Kirby returned to Marvel and Captain America. He also created the Eternals, Machine Man, the Black Panther, Devil Dinosaur, and an adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the end of his two year deal, he worked with Lee on a Silver Surfer graphic novel in the hopes it would be turned into a rock musical movie.

In 1978 Kirby was commissioned by producer Barry Ira Geller to design the sets for a movie based on Roger Zelazny’s science fiction novel Lord Of Light. Geller’s idea was for the sets to act as a theme park called Science Fiction Land once shooting was complete. Royer inked the pieces to perfection. The movie and theme park weren’t to be

At this point. Kirby had enough of comic books, and found work in the production of television cartoons for children. He finished his contract with Marvel by storyboarding Fantastic Four cartoons. He designed characters, props, and situations for Ruby-Spears, sometimes for existing shows like the Kamandi-like Thundarr The Barbarian, but mostly for presentation pitches for new shows. Kirby made some of the best income of his life, and for the first time, even had health insurance benefits.

The Last Kirby Comic Books

In 1981, Kirby returned to comic books with the first issue of Captain Victory And The Galactic Rangers. Published by Pacific Comics, Captain Victory and Silver Star were the first Kirby comics that bypassed newsstands for the comic book “Direct Market”.

In 1983, while having a dinner with publisher Richard Kyle, Roz encouraged Kirby to change the subject from WW2, and tell a story about growing up on the Lower East Side. Kyle commissioned Kirby to draw “Street Code”, Kirby’s only explicitly autobiographical work.

To raise money for writer Steve Gerber’s lawsuit against Marvel over the rights to Howard The Duck, Kirby drew Gerber’s Destroyer Duck story pro bono. The comic was so successful, Kirby and Gerber would produce four more issues. After the last issues of Captain Victory and Silver Star, Kirby returned to DC to provide covers and editorial material for a new edition of  New Gods. Among other things, he also produced the graphic novel The Hunger Dogs, bringing his Fourth World saga to a close.

In 1984, the comics publishers were realizing that it was in their best interest to return the original art they had been warehousing for years to the artists. Marvel sent a brief release for the artwork to all the artists except Kirby. To him, they sent a four page document with excessive stipulations. Kirby tried to negotiate, but to no avail. His situation gained serious notice in the comics community, who put significant pressure on Marvel to return Kirby’s art as they had to other artists. In 1987 Marvel complied.

Jack and Roz celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1992 surrounded by family and friends. Kirby died the morning of February 6th, 1994 in his hilltop home in Thousand Oaks, California.

All this time, throughout their life together, Jack and Roz attended comic book conventions and welcomed fans into their home. They loved their fellow fans of comics, science fiction, mythology, romance, and action, encouraged them to live their own lives to the fullest, and to tell their own stories. The high profile of comics in our culture today is a testament to the Kirbys’ positive energy, love, and commitment.

Jack Kirby’s Steppenwolf – 1st Appearance

Below are adjusted scans of photocopies taken in the Kirby home of Jack Kirby’s pencil script and art containing the first appearance of Darkseid’s uncle, Steppenwolf. There he is in the first, upper left panel of page 2 of “The Pact!”, Kirby’s epic Fourth World/New Gods backstory published in New Gods #7. Steppenwolf attacks Izaya (a.k.a. High Father) and Avia in a moment of peace on New Genesis. Trouble ensues.

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Note that Kirby originally numbered the fifth page in the sequence “7”

Comic Book Apocalypse Gallery Tour by Charles Hatfield

Tom Kraft shot and edited this tour of “Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby” by its curator, Professor Charles Hatfield, for those of you who can’t get to Northridge in California’s San Fernando Valley before the show closes on October 10th. Taaru!

Jack Kirby’s Own Words: a chronology

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

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

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

1964

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

Mid-Late 1960s

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

1966

Jack Kirby, “Meet Jack Kirby,” Mighty Marvel Messenger #1. Later published as “Jack Kirby by Jack Kirby” in Marvel Age Annual #2, September 1986.

1967

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

1968

Sal Caputo and “The Kizer”, transcript published in Excelsior #1, 1968. Later published in “Excelsior Fanzine (1968) Kirby & Lee Interviews” on Kirby Dynamics, April 2012, and
as “Stan and Jack: Excelsior” in The Jack Kirby Collector #60, Winter 2013.

1969

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

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

Shel Dorf and fans, conducted 9 November 1969 in the Kirby home in Orange County, CA. Transcript published as “Speak The Language of the ’70s” in The Jack Kirby Collector #42, Spring 2005.

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

1970

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

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

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

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

1971

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

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

Lee Falk and Steve DeJarnatt, conducted at San Diego Comic-Con, edited transcript published as “May 1971 Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #67, Spring 2016.

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

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

1972

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

Jack Kirby, speech on 29 April 1972 at Vanderbilt University. Transcript published as “Kirby At College: The Transcript Of Jack’s Speech,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #5, May 1995.

various, symposium comments on 29 April 1972 at Vanderbilt University. Transcript of Kirby’s comments published as as “Kirby At College: Excerpt From The  Panel Discussion,” in The Jack Kirby Collector #5, May 1995. Later published, with more comments from other attendees, and more context, in Stan Lee: Conversations, 2007.

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

1973

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

1974

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

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

1975

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid 1970s

David Hamilton and Carl Taylor, conducted at San Diego Comic-Con. Transcript published as “Jack Kirby, Art Critic” in The Jack Kirby Collector #67, Spring 2016.

1976

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

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

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

NBC-News

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

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

1977

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

1978

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

Early 1980s

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

Robert Golub, Ilan Reuben, and Jason Zalk, telephonic interview, transcript published as “”Talking With” Jack Kirby” in Kidsday section, Newsday, 9 August 1979, later published in The Jack Kirby Collector #23, February 1999.

1982

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

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

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

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

1983

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

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

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

1984

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

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

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

Mid-to-late 1980s

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

1985

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

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

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

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

1986

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

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

Mark Evanier with Marv Wolfman, conducted at the Kirby home in Thousand Oaks, transcript published as “The King And I” in Amazing Heroes #100, August 1986

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

Sam Enriquez with Daniel Perez, transcript first published as “Trailblazer Of Comic Strips Still Drawing On His Talents” in the Valley section of the Los Angeles Times on 29 November 1986. Later published in four further editions of the LA Times.

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

1986/7

Leonard Pitts, Jr., conducted for a book titled “Conversations With The Comic Book Creators”. Transcript published as “1986/7 – Jack Kirby interview” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, August 2012. Later published as “1986 Kirby Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #66, Fall 2015.

1987

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

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

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

Comic-Book-Confidential_480

Ron Mann, video interview conducted at the Kirby’s Thousand Oaks, CA home, presented in documentary Comic Book Confidential, 1988.

Janet Bode, “A Comic Book Artist KO’d: Jack Kirby’s Six-Year Slugfest with Marvel,” Village Voice Vol 32 #49, 8 December 1987

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

1988

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

Jack Kirby, Self Portrait/Autobiography, National Cartoonist Society Album.

1989

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

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

Will Murray, transcribed and published as “Jack Kirby Remembers” in The Jack Kirby Collector $67,

1989-1992

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

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

1990

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

J. Michael Strazcynski and Larry DiTillio, radio interview conducted 13 April 1990, broadcast live on Mike Hodel’s Hour 25, KPFK FM, Los Angeles. Audio published as “Hour 25 1990” on the Kirby Museum’s YouTube channel, June 2012, Transcript published as “1990 April 13 – Jack Kirby Interview” on The Kirby Effect: The Journal of the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center, June 2012. Later published as “Hour 25 Interview” in The Jack Kirby Collector #68, Summer 2016.

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

Will Murray, excerpts published in “Project Captain America: Declassified,” Comics Scene #14, August 1990.

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

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

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

Early 1990s

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

1991

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

Claudio Piccinini, conducted at the Kirby’s home in Thousand Oaks, in August 1991 transcript published in Marvel Series Notiziario (MSN) (Italy), 1992 and later in Comics Interview #121, 1993.

1992

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

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

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

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

Mark Askwith, video interview conducted at 1992 San Diego Comic-Con. Excerpts broadcast on Prisoners of Gravity, TVOntario on 16 February 1994. Transcript published in 25th Annual San Diego Comic Convention program, 1994.

1993

Previews #?, January 1993.

Donna Whitney?, conducted March 1993. Transcript published as “Interview With The Creators,” in Phantom Force #0, March 1994.

Blair Kramer, conducted via telephone with Roz Kirby, as well. Transcript published as “Interview with Jack Kirby” in Comic Book Collector #5, May 1993.

Mark Voger. transcript published as “Living Legend” in Comics Scene Yearbook #2, 1993.

Mark Voger, transcript published as “The Comeback King” in Asbury Park Press, 16 May 1993

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

Chrissie Harper, conducted via telephone on 10 June 1993. Transcript published in JKQ Newsletter, 14 June 1993, Later published as “Opening Shots” in Jack Kirby Quarterly #15, 2008.

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

FullMoon-JackKirby

Charles Band?, video interview in Kirby’s studio in Thousand Oaks, CA. Published as “Jack Kirby Interview,” on Volume 5 of Charles Band’s Cinemaker DVD set, 2004, Monsters Gone Wild DVD, 2004, and via Full Moon Streaming.

Happening, November 1993.

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

Will Murray, excerpts published in “Secret City Secrets,” Comics Scene #34, 1993. Later published as “Los Secretos De La Ciudad Secreta” in Comics Scene #14  (Spain), 1993.

The Summer of Jack by Chuck Greaves

Posted in General.

Chuck Greaves recently reached out to the Kirby Museum to offer his October 2012 essay for re-posting here. Chuck is an accomplished writer of legal mysteries and literary fiction. Thank you, Chuck, not only for sharing the essay but also sending along the additional photos. – Rand Hoppe

For most Americans of a certain age, the summer of 1968 is viewed as a kind of dark chasm that yawned between the Summer of Love and the Summer of Woodstock. It was, after all, the summer of Martin, the summer of Bobby. Of My Lai and Biafra. It marked the rise of Nixon and the fall of Prague Spring.  It hosted the Chicago Convention.

For me, the dog days of 1968 evoke different memories, fonder memories, and none more enduring than the memory of my improbable audience with the King.

Iron Man, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four. It was these Ektachrome heroes of today’s CG cinema who formed the warp and weft of my boyhood narrative, their parallel universe of lantern-jawed heroes, buxom damsels and, of course, evil villains bent on world conquest the golden latchkey for a yearning pre-teen fettered to the terrestrial orthodoxy of 1960’s Levittown.

Captain America, the Avengers, the Mighty Thor, the Silver Surfer. Conflicted but righteous, misunderstood yet unerring, they and countless other pulp paladins all sprung fully-formed from the sharpened No. 2 pencil of one man, who today is acknowledged, posthumously, as the greatest pencil artist in comic book history. I’m speaking now of the King of Comics, Jack Kirby.

And all I wanted was his autograph.

It was in 1968, that tumultuous summer of my twelfth year, that my pal Jimmy and I hauled out the Nassau County phone book and started paging through the K’s. We’d reasoned that if Marvel Comics was headquartered on Madison Avenue, then some of the artists must surely ride the Long Island Railroad to work just like our fathers. Just like ordinary mortals.

We found several possibilities — Johns, Jacks and J’s — and I wrote to all of them, effusive in my adulation, and humble, or so I’d hoped, in my request for a signed photograph. I posted the letters and waited.

A week passed, two weeks. My attention, meanwhile, had wandered to the more prosaic diversions of a Levittown summer. The Village Green swimming pool. Curb-ball. Ringalevio. The not-yet-amazin’ Mets.

And then, all but forgotten, it suddenly arrived — a stiff manila envelope with artful block lettering. Inside was no photograph, however, but an original pencil drawing. The Thing, his arms bulging beneath a tight t-shirt, hunched over a drafting table, a word balloon suspended over his rocky brow. “Is this shot okay, Chuck?” he asked, the smoke from his stogie curled upward to form the magical number 4.

Jack Kirby pencil art 1968 Thing self-portrait for Chuck Greaves

A pencilled Jack Kirby Thing self-portrait sent to Chuck Greaves in 1968. Snapshot of the art in frame behind glass.

Jimmy was jealous. Jimmy was, in fact, beside himself. And Jimmy had a plan.

Over the phone, Mr. Kirby was gracious. Yes, he worked from his home. No, he enjoyed having visitors. Tomorrow? Sure, not a problem.

We lied to our parents, naturally, and set out after breakfast on our Sting-Rays for what would prove to be a half-day’s ride into uncharted territory. A suburban neighborhood, a modest home. We knocked. We waited. And Jack Kirby answered the door.

He was friendly, avuncular. He offered us Orange Crush and led us downstairs to the basement studio where he’d been working on a forthcoming issue of the Fantastic Four. The room was littered with monochrome panels of mutants and monsters, machinery and mayhem.

We watched him work. He patiently answered all of our inane questions. We hung. And in the end, after we’d wrung the last drops from our soda bottles, he offered to draw a picture for each of us.

My favorite that week was T’Challa, the Black Panther, Marvel’s first-ever African-American superhero, yet another of Kirby’s pioneering creations. He seemed surprised by my choice, and somehow pleased.

He took a clean sheet of paper. He sketched, he shaded, and in less than thirty seconds he’d confected an astonishing image. The Black Panther, tightly-muscled and perfectly proportioned, sprang forth from the page. Above his head, a word balloon declared, “Chuck, it’s great meeting you.”

1968 Jack Kirby Black Panther pencil sketch given to Chuck Greaves.

Black Panther pencil sketch drawn by Jack Kirby in his East Williston basement and given to Chuck Greaves in 1968. Snapshot of the art in frame behind glass.

Today, almost 45 years later, I still look at both drawings every day, since they hang on the wall of my home office. They’re totems, I suppose; paeans to innocence in turbulent times. And they’re tributes to a man whose genius continues, even in these trying times, to offer the same promise of magic and adventure to a new generation.

Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg, died in Thousand Oaks, California in 1994. He was 76 years young.

Jack, it was great meeting you.

Chuck Greaves, 1968.

Chuck Greaves in 1968.

Jack Kirby at San Diego Comic-Con 1971

In 1971, the San Diego Comic-Con was held at Muir College, University of California at San Diego, in La Jolla, CA. Wikipedia notes there were 800 attendees, and Alex Jay was one of them. Alex took some Kodak Instamatic photos of jack Kirby’s chalk talk, and kindly allowed us to share them.

Here are some close ups and filtered glimpses of the drawings from these photos:

Darkseid

Mr-Miracle

 

Thanks, Alex! Be sure to check out Alex’s blog Tenth letter of the Alphabet

Spider-man: The Case For Kirby – by Stan Taylor, 2003

Yesterday, I posted on the Museum’s home page the sad news that Stan Taylor had passed away on the 18th of December. I thought I’d pay him a little tribute by posting his Spider-man essay here, with thanks to his widow, Annabelle. – Rand

Who created Spider-Man? One of the great comic book fanboy debate topics — utterly fascinating because of the three distinct and passionate personalities involved, each having rabid fans ready to lay waste to any who would deny that their favorite was the true creative genius behind this pivotal character. Ultimately, of course, it’s a futile exercise of mental masturbation because we are powerless to do anything about it, even if we could prove it one way or the other. However, not being averse to masturbation, I am going to weigh in with my opinion.

A LITTLE HISTORY

Jack Kirby has stated clearly time and again that he created Spider-Man, most adamantly in an interview conducted by Will Eisner, and printed in issue #39 of Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine,. (Kitchen Sink Pub. Feb.1982). Kirby maintained his claim even when close friends and assistants advised him not to pursue it. Can he be believed? Well, his memory was spotty, and he has made other claims that have clearly been shown to be wrong. So as a witness, he leaves room for doubt.

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

The third person involved with the Spider-Man origin is Steve Ditko, and unfortunately, the little he has said about the creation of Spider-Man doesn’t help. His earliest mention simply states “Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist & spider signal.” (Steve Ditko-A Portrait Of The Master Comic Fan #2 1965) 25 years later, when Ditko finally expanded on his role, he made it clear that he had no knowledge of who did what prior to his getting the script from Stan Lee, and then he offered up a weird scenario where in Stan Lee’s script, there was a teenager with a magic ring, which transformed him into an adult hero, (Robin Snyder’s History of Comics) and it was Ditko who noticed the resemblance to Joe Simon’s, The Fly, and so it was changed into the now familiar spider bite origin.

A small point of interest concerning Ditko’s claim that it was he, who recognized a resemblance between the Stan’s first script, and The Fly. Steve specifically mentioned that he recalled The Fly as a product of Joe Simon, but did not connect Jack Kirby with The Fly, thus failing to also connect Kirby to Spider-Man. Yet nowhere in The Fly is Joe Simon’s name ever credited, but the art is easily identifiable as Jack Kirby’s. It seems very odd that a man who broke into the industry with the Simon and Kirby studio (even inking over Kirby on Capt. 3D) and who had been inking over Jack Kirby the last 2 years, could remember the work of an unlisted editor, but not that of an artist whose work he was most familiar with.

Three stories, with three variations that don’t quite connect. Kirby says it was all his, Lee claims it was all his, and Ditko, he says Stan gave him a script based on a Kirby character, that was then changed. Oh what a tangled web we weave. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Another point of interest that may account for some of why the story changes, has to do with how the copyright laws changed in 1976. As a result, all the artists working for Marvel in the 1960s were classified as freelancers, and since they were freelancers, they could possibly make future claims for termination of copyrights for any characters they created. (this is the same law that has allowed the Siegel family to claim partial rights to Superman, and Joe Simon to make a claim for Captain America) One way the companies might protect their claim is by showing that the characters and concepts were created by employees, and supplied to the artists. Since Stan Lee was technically the only employee of the three men involved, suddenly all characters in Marveldom were “his” sole creation, and the artists merely illustrated his tales.

But Spider-Man provided a unique problem, because Stan, in a speech at Vanderbilt College in 1972, related how Kirby had first provided a proposal for Spider-Man. Stan stated that after he looked it over, he had a different idea for the “look” of Spidey, and decided that he would offer it to Steve Ditko to draw. He didn’t mention any problem with Kirby’s concepts and plot. It is in later tellings – post copyright law change- that he would stress that Kirby’s proposal, though rejected, were still based his (Stan’s) original ideas.

Which brings us to the heart of the debate: Just what did Kirby propose, what was used or rejected, and where did these ideas come from. That first proposal has never surfaced, though Jim Shooter has mentioned seeing it at Marvel in the late ’70s. So what we are left with is the personal recollections of two men whose memories are hopeless, one of whom is now dead, and a third who won’t talk. The problem here is not that we don’t have eyewitness testimony, it’s that we have conflicting eyewitness testimony. The people involved disagree.

If we can’t rely on first-person testimony, what can we do? I think The Confessor, in Kurt Busiek’s Astro City said it best, “Look at the facts, look at the patterns, and look for what doesn’t fit. Base your deductions on that.”

Criminal detectives have other words for this: evidence, and modus operandi. We can do what historians, detectives, and scientists have always done: ignore the hearsay, mythology, and personal claims and look at the actual physical evidence, in this case, the original comic books, and contemporaneous documentary evidence from unbiased sources. Human behavior is repetitive, we all have our m.o, — our method of operation. It is this human trait that detectives use to narrow down the lists of suspects in any mystery.

It has been said, “an artist is someone who pounds the same nail over and over again.” All artists, graphic or literary, have patterns. They repeat aspects, concepts, a style of punctuation, a brush stroke, lines of musculature, anything that separates their style from the hundreds of others. When trying to identify an unknown artist, one can compare the piece in question with other contemporaneous works to match up these patterns. This method has been used to research everything from Shakespeare’s writings to the works of the Great Masters.

Can this be used on comic books? Yes, it can, and has. Martin O’Hearn is a noted comics historian who specializes in the identification of uncredited comic writers. He matches up subject, syntax, punctuation, themes and other identifiable patterns, and has had remarkable success in matching writers to their non-credited stories.

Likewise, Dr. Michael Vassallo, in his never-ending quest to index all Atlas/Timely Publications, spends endless hours comparing drawing and inking styles to identify unaccredited works of comic art. His goal of identifying the unlisted inker on Fantastic Four #1 & 2 has led him to amass a veritable mountain of inking examples to compare to the actual comic art. What he doesn’t do is blindly accept personal recollections or corporate identifications at face value. If he did, Dick Ayers or Artie Simek would be incorrectly credited with this work.

So this is how I approached the Spider-Man quandary. Rather than focusing on unprovable statements — by men with obvious agendas — made long after the creation of Spider-Man, I would examine their actual concurrent works to see if I could find a pattern of creation that matched up with the concepts, characters, and plot elements found in Amazing Fantasy #15, plus any physical evidence, and testimony from witnesses independent of the three men.

The eyewitness accounts are important, but only if it can be corroborated by the evidence, so where I do refer to a specific quote from Jack, Stan or Steve, it is not as a statement of fact, but rather as a clue that might lead me to some tangible bit of evidence that might lend credence to a claim.

I guess here is as good a time to explain the parameters of my debate. This debate is about which of the three men was most responsible for supplying the character, concepts and the plotting, for the creation known as Spider-Man, as presented in Amazing Fantasy #15. All credits for comic book creation derive solely from the first appearance of the character. Events and graphics in issues 2, 3, or 4 on may be important in the evolution of the character, but they have no bearing on creative rights. We are not debating who in history was the first to come up with a concept such as wall crawling, what we are talking about is who most likely supplied that concept for the title Spider-Man. And we are not debating who fleshed out the characters in later issues; we all acknowledge that Lee and Ditko went on to make Spider-Man uniquely identifiable. We also are not debating who drew the first issue, this was Steve Ditko, and that credit is not in doubt. The debate is who supplied the initial concepts to Marvel for the title and character that became known as Spider-Man.

After tracking down as many Kirby, Ditko, and Lee stories from the previous five years (I didn’t want to go too far back; if there was a pattern, it should manifest itself within a short period), I then broke down the characters and plot elements, to see if there were any that matched up with Spider-Man’s origin.

These are my findings. In all instances, as to the character and plotting, I was quickly able to find amazing similarities with the work of only one of the three men, Jack Kirby. And in the case of the character, not only did I find amazing pattern matches, I also found what I believe was a written template for Spider-Man that predates Amazing Fantasy #15, and leads directly to Jack Kirby. My research also has led me to come to the conclusion that Kirby’s connection to Spider-Man extended beyond that first issue.

THE CHARACTER

The basic concept of Spider-Man is simple, a hero, with the inherent physical powers of a spider- he can crawl up walls, and across ceilings, he has the proportional strength and agility of an arachnid. He has an extra sense that warns him of danger. He manufactures a web shooter that can be used for catching prey, and used as a means of mobility.

I could find no earlier character from either Lee or Ditko that had any resemblance to Spider-Man, none.

As to Jack Kirby, it didn’t take long to track down a pattern match for the physical aspects of Spider-Man, the surprising factor is just how similar the two characters are.

The very last costumed super-hero book that Kirby produced, prior to Marvel, featured an insect hero able to climb walls and ceilings; had super strength, the agility of a bug, and, amazingly, an extra sense that warned him of danger. In The Adventures of the Fly, (Archie Publications 1959,) Simon and Kirby introduced The Fly, a hero with the exact same insect derived powers that show up in Spidey. In fact, the only physical difference is that the Fly can fly. The most interesting aspect for me is the match-up of a “sixth sense” to warn of danger. While the other powers (wall climbing, etc.) might be considered generic to any insect, this warning sense is, as far as I know, something totally unique and beyond the norm of the natural attributes of insects. The addition of this unnatural extra sense showing up in both creations is just too coincidental.

It’s been said that the Devil’s in the details, and it’s these repeated small details that in my opinion, make the strongest case for Kirby being the concept man.

Does the physical similarity between The Fly and Spider-Man correspond and bolster any specific claims made by the three men?

Jack Kirby, in the interview published in Spirit Magazine #39 states that the basis for Spider-Man started with a character called the Silver Spider, an idea first suggested for Simon and Kirby’s own publishing house Mainline.

Yet Mainline never published a title called the Silver Spider, and Kirby stating this doesn’t make it true. Thanks to Greg Theakston’s tenacious research, and the publication of Pure Images#1, (Pure Imagination 1990) we finally got a chance to see and compare the original 1954 proposal of Joe Simon’s Silver Spider. The interesting thing about Silver Spider is that except for the name Spider in the title, there is absolutely no resemblance between Silver Spider, and Spider-Man. The Silver Spider does not have the inherent powers of a spider- he does not climb walls and ceilings, nor does he have an extra sense that can warn him of danger. (at least not in the original Oleck script, and drawn proposal by C.C. Beck) He did not have a web of any sort.

So at first glance, despite Kirby’s claim, there would seem to be no conceptual connection between the Silver Spider, and Spider-Man.

It was Joe Simon who provided the linkage between his Silver Spider, the Fly, and Spider-Man, and just what role Jack Kirby played.

When Archie Publications asked Joe Simon to produce some books for them in 1959, Joe called in Jack Kirby to help out. Joe suggested that they rework his earlier Silver Spider proposal into a character called The Fly. He handed over a file containing the initial Silver Spider proposal to Jack. The file also contained a rejected working logo, and an editorial memo, by Harvey Publications, rejecting the initial proposal — a memo that would inspire Kirby, and would play a compelling role, when later, Stan Lee would ask Jack for a new character; more on this memo shortly.

According to Joe, in The Comic Book Makers (Crestwood Publications, 1990) when Kirby asked him about specific powers for The Fly, Joe told him “Hey, let him walk up buildings, and let him fly if he wants to, It’s a free country. Take it home and pencil it in your immortal style.” Kirby did just this, and the result was The Fly.

Again, Joe saying The Fly evolved out of the Silver Spider proposal doesn’t make it true. It is when we compare the two stories that we see that the Fly’s origin gimmick is consistent with the Silver Spider’s. In both stories, the young protagonist (both named Tommy Troy) is a beleaguered orphan who gains his powers via a mystical ring that transforms him into an adult super hero. Yet the super hero character is different. Where the Silver Spider has no apparent powers except enhanced strength, and a great leaping ability, The Fly has been granted very specific powers; inherent insect abilities, (wall clinging, exceptional agility, a sixth sense and a stinger gun- none of which was in the initial Silver Spider proposal. It is this character evolution, supplied by Jack Kirby, that is the borrowed ingredient that later show up in Spider-Man.

So there is a pattern match that is consistent with Spider-Man and Kirby’s The Fly, and a paper trail that lends credence to Jack Kirby’s claims concerning the Silver Spider connection.

As an aside, Simon had rejected a working title “Spiderman” for his Silver Spider project, and showed a logo to Kirby, leaving little doubt as to which of the three people involved with Spider-Man would have been the one to supply that name

Yet nowhere in either the Fly, or the Silver Spider work up can be found a template for the concept of a web being used as a means of mobility, or as a way of capturing prey. Which brings me to a part of this history that has been overlooked, and in this area lies what I believe to be the only existing contemporaneous written evidence that shows undeniably where the concepts came from, and who brought the basic concept of Spider-Man to Marvel. This is what I consider to be the smoking gun, much like catching the crooks with the blueprint to the bank, and the vault combination.

After Joe Simon submitted his proposal for the Silver Spider to Harvey Publications for acceptance, Leon Harvey handed it over to a young editor by the name of Sid Jacobson for critiquing and approval. In two memos from 1954, addressed to Leon, Sid made it apparent that he was not happy with the proposal. “Strictly old hat” he says, stating that the concept is too generic, with nothing special to set it apart. In the second memo, Sid Jacobson takes the extra step of suggesting just what changes could be done to make this concept more interesting. These memos were in Joe Simon’s, Silver Spider file, they were unearthed, and originally published in Greg Theakston’s Pure Images #1 (Pure Imagination,1990) Here is the pertinent section of memorandum #2.

EDITORIAL MEMORANDUM #2

TO: LEON HARVEY February 23, 1954
FROM: SID JACOBSON
RE: SILVER SPIDER

Conclusions on character:

Physical appearance- The Silver Spider should be thought of as a human spider. All conclusions on his appearance should stem from the attributes of the spider. My first thought of the appearance of a human spider is a tall thin wiry person with long legs and arms. He should have a long bony face, being more sinister then handsome. The face of the Submariner comes to mind.

Powers: The powers of the human spider should pretty much correspond to the power of a spider. He therefore wouldn’t have the power of flight (author’s note: something hinted at in Simon’s proposal) but could accomplish great acrobatical tricks, an almost flight, by use of silken ropes that would enable him to swing ala Tarzan, or a Batman. The silken threads that the spider would use might come from a special liquid, from some part of his costume that would become silken threads in much the same way as the spider insect. These threads would also be used in making of a web, which could also be used as a net. The human spider might also have a “poison” to be used as a paralyzing agent.

Nemesis—His main nemesis should be a natural enemy of a spider—either The Fly, or Mr. D.D.T……

-end of memo-

There is no ambiguity, vagueness, or doubt; Sid Jacobson suggested that for the Silver Spider to work, it would have to become what we recognize as Spider-Man!

It appears as if Jack took some of Jacobson’s suggestion to heart when he cobbled together the character of The Fly, for he added the detail of inherent insect attributes, but his first specific use of the Spider motif shows up with the creation of The Fly’s arch nemesis. In an interesting reversal of Jacobson’s suggestion of “natural enemies”, Spider Spry, from Adventures Of The Fly #1 would have those long bony arms and legs, though Kirby gave him a bulbous head and torso. (more spider like) He easily walked up thin silken lines, and traps the Fly in a web-like net, and wears a colorful costume complete with a spider icon. More on this character later

Move forward three years, when Goodman decided to go the super-hero route; Kirby is asked to come up with another character, and now the parallels between the Spider-Man creation and the Jacobson memo become undeniable.

Spider-Man would have the natural instincts and powers of a spider; he could walk up walls, and ceilings. He would have the proportional strength, and agility of an arachnid. And more importantly, he could emit a silken thread that he could walk across, or use as a swing. His webbing, a synthesized liquid, which emanated from his costume, was also adaptable as a net in which to ensnare villains, all of this totally identical with the Jacobson memo.

The addition of the extra sense that warns of impending danger, first seen in the Fly, seems to have been an original Kirby item, since it was not present in either the Silver Spider proposal, or mentioned in the Jacobson memo

Evidence, and m.o.; a series of continuing pattern matches, plus a paper trail that leads directly to only Jack Kirby. What are the odds that Stan Lee, working alone, or in collaboration with Ditko, would come up with exactly the same title, the same set of powers and the same weapon?

Some may imply that if all Kirby did was rework a Simon project, shouldn’t Simon get the credit? To some extent I agree, but as I have shown, every facet of Spider-Man’s character, that matches up with The Fly, is an element that Kirby worked on or added to the Fly–nothing was taken from the Silver Spider except the original title, and that had been rejected by Simon. Simon, on his own, had never used the logo, or acted on Jacobson’s suggestions. Simon and Kirby was a partnership, when they broke up, all unused concepts were free game. But in any history of Spider-Man’s creation, in my opinion, both Joe Simon and Sid Jacobson certainly deserve a large footnote.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find any prior Lee or Ditko tales that might have been a template for the character of Spider-Man. None. Lee’s oft quoted statement that he had a long fascination with the pulp hero The Spider, may be true, but there are absolutely no resemblance in either origin, weapons, or powers between the two characters.

Ditko, for his part has acknowledged that the original concept was similar to The Fly, yet he says it was rejected, and changed because it was too identical to the Fly. So I tried to see where they might have changed the character. Try as I might, I could find nothing significantly different between the Fly and Spider-Man. Every unique power that Spidey possesses first shows up in the Fly. Why, if they recognized the similarity between the Fly and Spider-Man, didn’t Stan and Steve make some changes?

There are some specific detail differences, however, in these similar powers: The Fly’s super strength is never explained, it’s just a given. Spider-Man’s is specifically described as the “proportional strength” of a spider — a rather unique concept, (and surprisingly never used by any other insect inspired hero, i.e. Blue Beetle, Green Hornet, Tarantula ) and specific enough for me to try to track down to see if this might be an addition attributable to Lee or Ditko. But again, the only example I could find of any one of these three men giving a character the proportional strength of a bug prior to the creation of Spider-Man is found in a Kirby story. In Black Cat Mystic #60 (Harvey Publications, 1957), in a story entitled “The Ant Extract,” a meek scientist discovers a serum that gives him the proportional strength of an ant. Because of his new power, the scientist is feared and ostracized by authorities. (sounds vaguely familiar) Another small, but novel detail, that shows the evolution of the concept, and is traceable to Jack Kirby.

The mechanical weapon as first created by Kirby has been described by Steve Ditko as a web-shooting gun, and later modified by Ditko into a wrist-mounted web shooter. Again, not taking this quote as fact, my research found that the only pattern match to a costume emanated webbing, is found in the Jacobson memo that Kirby had.

There is another questionable aspect to Steve’s memory concerning the “web gun”. In Steve’s article “An Insider’s Part of Comic History” from Robin Snyder’s History of Comics (Vol. 1 #5 1990) he states, “ Kirby’s Spider-Man had a web gun, never seen in use.” Steve then goes on to describe what he remembers of the 5 page Kirby proposal. He says that the splash page was a “typical Kirby hero/action shot”, and the other four pages are an intro, involving a teenager and a mysterious scientist neighbor. Nowhere in the five pages are Spidey’s, powers and weapons ever shown or described, in fact, according to Ditko, there was no transformation into the hero at all. If this is true, then how does Steve know that he had a “web gun”, by his own words it was never shown or used?

Perhaps Kirby provided some design sketches or spot illos, but that would be in dispute with Ditko’s previous statement that the 5 pages were all he received of Kirby’s, Spidey proposal. Either way, the wrist shooter is a wonderful modification and a stroke of genius, but it is still just a modification–the actual idea of a mechanical web shooter, even by Ditko’s account, was Kirby’s.

In review: every unique physical aspect of the character we know as Spider-Man can be traced back to only one of the three men involved, Jack Kirby. Not only amazingly exact pattern matches, but also a written blueprint that only Kirby had seen. Evidence, and modus operandi. If the concept of Spider-Man was all that Kirby supplied, he deserves co-creator credits, but it doesn’t end there.

The next character is Peter Parker, and while he is Spider-Man, the role of the alter-ego is to present a sometimes opposing character to the heroes. It is this dichotomy that helps create tension and oftimes humor. It is this aspect that keeps the hero and the story grounded in some semblance of reality.

Peter’s character is portrayed as a nerdy, wallflower science whiz. Taunted by his peers for his lack of athletic prowess and social skills. He is rejected by the opposite sex.

Again after comparing the recent works of the three men, I was able to find a pattern match with only one of them, Jack Kirby.

In the late ’50s, Kirby was looking for work, his comic book work had dwindled and he thought of getting into the syndicated strips. One of the strips he proposed was titled CHIP HARDY. Chip was a college freshman on a science scholarship. A regular ‘boy wonder’ taunted the other kids. Moose Mulligan, the campus jock, teased young Chip about why he didn’t try out for football, instead of “hiding behind a mess of test tubes”. Other students followed suit and mocked the youngster, labeling all science majors as “squares”. Eventually, this taunting escalated into a physical confrontation between Moose and Hardy, with young Chip getting the better of it, mimicking exactly the character template and early relationship between Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, and the other school mates. While this strip was never published, Greg Theakston has published a few panels in the back of The Complete Sky Masters of the Space Force. (Pure Imagination, 2000)

Another amazing pattern match is to be found in Tales To Astonish #22, (Marvel Pub. Aug. 1961) in a tale titled “I Dared to Battle the Crawling Monster”, one of the many Kirby/Ayers monster stories, possibly dialogued by Larry Lieber. (unsigned by Lee)

The hero is a high school student, a dorky, bookwormish sort, laughed at by the jocks for his lack of athletic ability, and taunted by the girls. Typically, by the end of the story, it is the bookworm, not the jock who saves the world. Even the visuals of the lead character strongly resemble the Peter Parker character as shown in AF#15.

As to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, I could not find any earlier templates for the harassed, teen-age, academic style hero. None, and this, frankly surprised me.

There is one aspect of Peter Parker that was consistent to Stan Lee, and that is Peter’s personality. Besides being a science geek, (complete with pocket protector) Peter is shown to be somewhat angst-ridden; doubting of his own worth and unable to fit easily into society. His uneasiness with his new- found powers is atypical of Kirby’s heroes. This inner conflict, and sometimes, outer rage is pure Lee, it is this deeper human psychological aspect that Lee imbued into all of Marvel’s heroes. It is the difference between Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four, and Rocky Davis of the Challengers of the Unknown.

The villain of AF#15 is a colorless petty crook who has assaulted Spider-Man’s guardian-his uncle. His sole purpose is to create the crisis, which forces the hero into action. This match up is also found in the Fly’s origin. The Fly’s first use of his powers is to bring to justice, a petty crook who had assaulted Tommy’s guardian. This was both characters’ sole appearance.

As to the characters, are my findings beyond the norm at Marvel at the time? I don’t think so. That Kirby constantly evolved and morphed characters and concepts is not an astounding statement. His whole history at Marvel is filled with his taking prior concepts and reworking them to meet current needs.

Fantastic Four was just an evolution of Kirby’s team concept first shown in the Challengers of the Unknown, then transformed into a slightly different version for Sky Masters of the Space Force, and further refined in Three Rocketeers.

The Hulk is just another retelling of the radiation mutated beast story, first done by Jack in Blue Bolt in 1940, with the added in element about saving a young kid from a test blast taken directly from a Sky Masters story.

And Thor is nothing more than an updated version of the “god comes to Earth in times of need” theme, first done by Kirby in Hurricane. (Red Raven #1, Timely 1940) Added to a character, and plot gimmick from a recent Kirby drawn story, “The Magic Hammer”. (Tales of the Unexpected#16, DC Pub. Aug. 1957)

That Stan Lee would take these stock Kirby characters and give them distinct personalities, foibles, and conflicts, soap opera style melodramatic continuities, and hip dialogue is also not really in doubt.

That the character of Spider-Man as originally created was a Kirby concept is to me irrefutable, even without the Jacobson memos the patterns are obvious, with the letters it’s undeniable. There is also strong evidence that, the templates for Peter Parker’s maligned science whiz character, and some of the supporting cast was supplied by Jack Kirby.

The coincidences needed for Stan Lee or Steve Ditko to have come up with these exact elements, absent Jack Kirby, are astronomical. If this was all that Kirby provided to Stan Lee, he would deserve credit, but there is more to creating a character: One must also come up with a story line that showcases the new character, and it is here that the coincidences become positively mind boggling.

THE PLOT

The plot of Amazing Fantasy #15 is simple, yet unique: An orphaned teenage boy receives super-powers during a scientific experiment. After gaining his powers, a loved one is killed due to his inaction. This remorse leads him to vow to never let it happen again, thus becoming a hero.

Again, after cross checking stories by these three men, it became obvious that in structure and theme, the basic plot for Spidey’s origin came from one of the three persons involved: Jack Kirby.

The first plot element has to do with an orphaned, older teenager, who gets super powers via a scientific experiment, and this is intriguing. Even though I tried to approach this in an entirely objective manner, I still had some preconceived notions of both Kirby’s and Ditko’s proclivities. Many of these were shattered by my actual findings. One of these was that it was Ditko’s nature to use older troubled teenagers for his heroes, while it was Kirby’s nature to use younger kids.

So strong is Ditko’s aura surrounding Spider-Man that I just assumed that it was a Ditko trait, but I was not able to track down a single use of older orphaned teenagers, troubled or not, by Steve prior to Spidey.

What shocked me was how easy it was to find the template for the orphaned older teenaged hero, and a title that would provide key elements in piecing together the puzzle. Surprisingly, it was in a title by Jack Kirby.

In The Double Life of Private Strong, (Archie Publications 1959) (not coincidentally the companion title to The Fly) the hero, Lancelot Strong, aka The Shield, is an orphaned high school senior, and like Spider-Man, his surrogate parents were gentle, compassionate, and supportive. His powers were the result of a scientific experiment.

Around this same time, Kirby was also working on the proposed newspaper strip, Chip Hardy, with a teen-aged science whiz hero. In fact, from about 1959 on, just about all of Kirby’s youthful heroes would be older teenagers, and most orphaned. Johnny Storm, Rick Jones (both predating Peter Parker) and the X-Men all fit into this mold.

I could find nothing that matched in Ditko’s, or Lee’s, (sans Kirby) recent past.

The next element is very important: After gaining his powers, the hero loses a loved one due to his inaction, thus providing the impetus for becoming a hero. This may be the critical element that separates Spider-Man from almost all other heroes- and it’s right there in The Double Life of Private Strong. While rushing off to test his newfound powers against a rampaging alien monster, The Shield, (Lancelot Strong), in his teen exuberance, ignores and leaves his best friend Spud in harms way. After defeating the brute, the Shield returns to celebrate his triumph only to learn that the monster has killed Spud. The distraught Shield blames himself, and vows that it will never happen again. Similarly, Spider-man, in a moment of conceit and arrogance, ignores a thief, only to learn that that same thief would go on to kill his Uncle, which in turn, spurs him into action. He then vows that it will never happen again

So in one book, done less than three years before Spider-Man, Kirby used most of the critical plot elements that would show up a few years later in Spider-Man. Certainly Spider-Man’s is more melodramatic as one would expect from Stan’s dialogue, but the basic plot mirrors Private Strong. The panels where the boys mourn the loss of their loved ones are almost eerie in their similarities.

So going by pattern matches, it appears we have the hero and villain from the Fly combined with the origin outline of the Shield.

This cross-pollination of a character from one story, and a plot from another is classic Kirby. He had touches of genius, but during the late 1950’s to mid-sixties, his characters and plots were interchangeable. His storytelling was very formulaic. He had archetypal heroes, a small list of stock villains, and, a set selection of plots. He mixed and matched these regardless of genres. His approach to comics was sort of a Chinese take-out menu, one from column A and one from column B. Nothing became more apparent during my research. In legal lingo, Kirby was a chronic repeat offender. Kirby’s touches are repetitive and easily identifiable. This realization led to one of the more unexpected findings. It appears that Kirby did not cross match the Fly and the Shield one time; he did it twice, and both simultaneously. This pattern can also be found on the Mighty Thor

For Spider-Man, Kirby took the basic character traits (insect), and the villain (petty crook) from the Fly, and the origin gimmick (scientific, older teen), and the dramatic ending (mourning a lost friend) from the Shield.

For Thor, Kirby reversed himself, taking the origin element, (finding of a mystical artifact) and ending, (transformation back to hapless human) from the Fly, and the villain (rampaging aliens) from the Shield, plus adding in a hero from an earlier DC fantasy story. (Tales of the Unexpected #16)

Thor, and Spider-Man appeared on the stands simultaneously. Thor had the earlier story number.

Facts, and patterns says the Confessor, plus look for what doesn’t fit.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko say they rejected the original plot because of its similarity to The Fly, and created their own. The idea that they would reject one Kirby plot and then replace it with another Kirby plot makes no sense, it simply doesn’t fit. These two men had their own influences and patterns, and if they were to sit down and come up with an original origin, it would not have mirrored a recent Kirby plot, especially if they were specifically looking to avoid the appearance of a Kirby plot. It appears that Stan and Steve took Kirby’s plot, added in Peter’s personality, some of the supporting cast, and maybe the details involving the wrestler and show business, but the basic plot was all Kirby.

Is this use of a Kirby plot, in a book not drawn by Kirby, unusual for Marvel at the time? No! Iron Man’s origin, from Tales Of Suspense #39, uses a Kirby plot, first seen in a Green Arrow story from 1959. (“The War That Never Ended”, Adventure Comics 255) In both stories the hero is captured by an oriental army, and because of his specialty in weaponry, is forced to manufacture a weapon. The hero tricks his captors and creates a weapon that backfires on the enemy and foils their plans.) Yet Don Heck provided the artwork for Iron Man’s first adventure.

Similarly, the origin of Dr. Strange is a reworking of the origin of Dr. Droom from Amazing Adventures #1.(Atlas Pub. June 1961). In both stories an American medical doctor goes to Tibet, and after a series of tests, receives mystical powers from an ancient mage.

The idea that Kirby would plot the origin of a new character is the rule at Marvel in the early ’60s. It would actually be an anomaly if Kirby “hadn’t” provided the origin.

Again, I can’t remember another instance where comic historians have denied credit to the person who supplied the origin sequence.

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

The second Shield story involves the hero tracking down a Communist spy attempting to steal scientific secrets; the villain tries to escape in a submarine that the hero has to put out of action. This is also the plot of the Chameleon story, in Amazing Spider-Man #1

The villain as a master of disguise was used by Jack Kirby in the first, second, or third story of just about every series he did between 1956 and 1963. (I mentioned he was predictable) It is found in his first Green Arrow story, (Green Arrows of the World, Adventure Comics #250, DC Pub.1958) the second Yellow Claw story, (The Mystery of Cabin 361, Yellow Claw #2, Marvel 1958) the third Dr. Droom tale,

(Doctor Droom Meets Zemu, Amazing Adventures #2, Marvel 1961), the second Fantastic Four story, the second Ant-Man story, and the third Thor story, all preceding AS#1. The specific element of a villain impersonating a hero in order to infiltrate, and/or incriminate him in a crime is one that Kirby used often. Prior to Amazing Spider-Man #1, it can be found in Fighting American, (Three Coins in the Pushcart, Fighting American #7, Prize Comics, 1954) Green Arrow, (Adventure Comics #250) and most recently in Fantastic Four #2. This theme would also be used in the test appearance of Captain America in Strange Tales #114.

In the third Shield, and Spider-Man stories, we are introduced to the recurring pain-in-the-ass authority figure/ nemesis – the one who always gets hoisted on his own petard. A Kirby icon, dating back to Captain America. In both stories the adult child of that authority figure gets into a jam and needs the costumed hero to save him or her. In the Shield’s case, it’s the daughter of the general in charge of the base he is assigned to after being drafted. After she gets trapped in a runaway tank, the Shield must save her. In Spider-Man’s story, it’s the son of the editor of the newspaper who hires Peter Parker, and he is trapped in a runaway space capsule that Spider-Man must rescue. Even after saving their offspring, neither of the authoritarian figures considers the hero a particularly positive force, and both think the alter ego character is a bumbling idiot. In between the Shield, and Spider-Man, Kirby also used this gimmick in the Hulk.

What are the odds, if Kirby didn’t assist on the plots, that the first three Spider-Man stories would mirror the first three Shield stories? Wouldn’t one think that Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko would have their own plotting patterns? Astoundingly, the second issue of Amazing Spider-Man continues in this same vein.

The Vulture story from AS#2 is interesting because not only does it have plot elements from an earlier Kirby story, the bad guy is an exact duplicate of the villain from that same Kirby story. In the first Manhunter story, (Adventure Comics #73, DC Pub. 1942) Kirby introduced The Buzzard, who, in an uncanny parallel to the Vulture, is a skinny, stoop shouldered, hump-backed, beak nosed maniac, dressed in a green body suit with a feathered collar that encircles the neck. Both men have the power of flight, the Buzzard by flapping his cape, and the Vulture via mechanical wings, and a magnetic unit.

Both men’s schtick is to openly challenge the authorities and the media by boasting of their evil plans before they commit them. The Buzzard goes so far as to actually kill a reporter to deliver his message; the Vulture (in post code times) simply throws a rock through J. Jonahs’s window.

The Tinkerer story in AS#2, has a very interesting hook, a plot element where a radio is doctored and infiltrated into scientists and government officials’ houses in order to spy and/or control them. This is not some generic scheme, but a very detailed and specific plot element used by Jack Kirby several times. The earliest use is in Captain America #7, (Marvel Pub. Oct.1941) in a story titled “Horror Plays the Scales”. Kirby again used this element in a crime story from Headline Comics#24, (Prize Pub. May 1947) titled “Murder on a Wavelength”.

The alien aspect of this Spidey story appears adapted from a Kirby, Dr. Droom story. In his third story, (Doctor Droom Meets Zemu, Amazing Adventures #3, Marvel 1961) Droom is following a suspicious character and overhears a plan by aliens in which one will infiltrate humanity and lay the groundwork for an alien invasion. Spider-Man’s capture and escape method seem to be lifted from a Challengers of the Unknown story. (The Human Pets, Challengers of the Unknown #3, DC Pub.1958)

I could find no matching plots from Lee or Ditko. All of these stories are structured in typical Kirby style, with little characterization, all out action endings, devoid of any of the subtlety, pathos, or irony usually associated with Lee/Ditko offerings.

And it goes on this way for a few more stories. This similar plotting sequence is a lot like DNA testing, one or two match-ups doesn’t mean a thing, but the odds increase exponentially with each added matched item.

It’s a good time for me to mention something I call “Kirby’s silly science.” As identifiable as fingerprints, we all recognize it: scientific plot elements so ridiculous in their implausibility, yet so exciting visually, and conceptually, that it’s immediately acceptable. Mr. Fantastic, reaching up and catching a nuclear tipped Hunter missile in full flight, and throwing it miles away into the bay. The Submariner; in the freezing void of space, leapfrogging, from meteorite to meteorite, only to land on Dr. Doom’s spaceship, unstable molecules, and such.

The early Spider-Man stories were full of this pseudo-scientific stuff. In the story involving J. Jonah Jameson’s son trapped in the space capsule, we first see NASA trying to snare the disabled capsule in a net suspended from a parachute, when this fails, Spider-Man, straddling a jet, snares the space capsule with his web and rides it like a bucking bronco, completely overlooking the fact that space capsules orbit far above the range of a jet, and the extreme heat generated during re-entry would fry a human being, even one with Spider powers.

This feels like Kirby’s silly science to me; in fact, it is reminiscent of a scene in Sky Masters where they try to rescue an errant space capsule with a hook attached to a jet, combined with a satellite repair story, also found in Sky Masters.

Another facet of Kirby’s silly science, and plotting pattern, is the anti-climactic ending, where the scientist hero, in one panel, whips up some bit of gadgetry that defeats a villain who has been beating his brains out for the previous 15 pages.

Challengers of the Unknown’s Professor Haley was good at these instant cures, and the FF’s Reed Richards was the master, but early on, Peter Parker stood toe to toe with them. In the first Vulture story, from Amazing Spider-Man #2, after getting his hat handed to him, Peter Parker, based on nothing but a hunch, theorizes that the Vulture’s powers must be magnetic and whips up, in one panel, an anti-magnetic device with his handy dandy screwdriver. How Kirbyish can you get? Similar elements occur in the first Doc Ock, (a super acid) and the first Lizard story. (an antidote) This kid was good!

Compare this to the atmospheric, cerebral, and quietly ironic solutions and climaxes that Lee and Ditko specialized in on their sci-fi/horror tales of this period. This deus ex machina style ending is not part of their repertoire, it simply doesn’t fit.

To Kirby, scientists were scientists; he made no real distinction between the disciplines. In one story the hero was a physicist, the next a chemist, perhaps a biologist or a metallurgist, whatever was needed for the story. Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man, was equal part entomologist, chemist, cybernetician, and machinist. Reed Richards was master of all sciences, and Peter Parker, though a high school student, was equally as versatile. After receiving the spider powers, this kid went home and with his Mr. Wizard Home Chemistry Lab created a formula for a web, and the means to propel it. Then in the Vulture story he suddenly becomes a physics master, and invents an anti-magnetic device. In the Tinkerer tale, he is assisting an electronics genius, and up against the Lizard, Peter’s become an expert in serums and antidotes. This boy was truly amazing! It’s a shame he gave all that scientific ability up to become a news photographer. Kirby’s handiwork is all over the early stories.

Thankfully, these pseudo-science elements soon ended, and I’m thinking it happened when Jack stopped assisting Stan on Spider-Man plots, and Ditko took over.

So it seems clear that Kirby’s participation with Spider-Man extended further than just a rejected proposal. It appears that he not only created the character, he also assisted greatly in the origin and early story lines and added many early plot elements.

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

This brings me to a facet of Spider-Man I hadn’t mention before.

THE COSTUME

In all my debates concerning Ditko and Kirby, I had always assumed that when Kirby claimed he designed the costume, he was in error; in fact, this was always a sticking point with me. Recently, though, I have had reasons to wonder about that claim.

This particular debate point does not emanate from Kirby’s period of dissatisfaction with Marvel or Stan Lee. In that speech at Vanderbilt in 1972, Stan relates how during the late ‘60s, when asked, he could never remember who designed Spidey’s costume. He wasn’t sure if it was Jack or Steve. It was common for Kirby to design costumes for other artists’ characters, such as Iron Man for Don Heck. Heck is on record as saying that Kirby also designed many of the villains that appeared in Heck drawn books.

Then, there is this little quote from Foom Magazine #11, 1975. In the middle of an article about Kirby’s return to Marvel after his brief layover at DC, the author states, “It’s not generally known that it was Jack Kirby who designed Spider-Man’s costume.” This isn’t in a fanzine, it’s not a quote from an interview with Kirby, and it’s not in a reference book, it’s right there in an in-house publication of Marvel’s.

As with all quotes, I can’t guarantee it’s accuracy, but it seems that at least at that time (1975) the feeling at Marvel was that Kirby had designed the costume, and as mentioned earlier, Jim Shooter says the Kirby proposal was still around at that time.

Unlike the match between the Vulture, and the Buzzard, there is no direct similarity between Spider-Man’s costume, and any drawn previously by Ditko or Kirby. Yet there are some design patterns that do match up with earlier design work. If one places a drawing of Fighting American, (a Kirby hero) next to one of Spidey, and erases all of the small decorative details, leaving only the outline of the costume, a curious pattern emerges. Both characters have a dark color top, dissected in the front by a brighter colored midsection that begins narrow at the waist, and expands upward to the shoulders, where it then turns and runs down the arms, slicing the sleeves into two separate sections that ends at the gloves. On the back of the costumes, this two-color pattern continues back up the sleeves, and cuts across the shoulder blades. The facemasks both show a bold design around the eyes that sweep up and back.

Another small but aggravating item: Spider-Man has always been drawn with a strange looking spider icon on his back. Fact is, it doesn’t look like a spider so much as a tick or other small single-bodied insect. The spider drawn on the front of Spidey’s costume is much more accurate, showing a double sectioned body with the legs coming out of the torso section. Why would Ditko use such a different and inaccurate icon for the back of the costume? I can’t answer that question, but the spider on the back of the costume is remarkably similar to the spider icon that appears on the Kirby designed character Spider Spry from the Fly series. (yes, him again) What are the chances that two separate, and unique artists would choose such a similar, yet inaccurate depiction of a spider for a costume decoration?

For those that think I might be purposely ignoring elements that point to Ditko let me say that there ARE several design aspects that shout out Ditko.

First, the circular design with the webs radiating out from the center as seen in Spidey’s mask and the spider signal can be traced back to a cover sidebar used on the Charlton, horror/fantasy titles in 1958. While I have no proof that Ditko designed that sidebar, he certainly would have been familiar with it.

Secondly, and most convincing is something that was pointed out by the ever observant Simon Russell, from the kirby-l e-list. He observed that Steve Ditko rarely ever gave his characters visible belts and trunks, while Kirby always did. Is this born out by comparison? Very definitely!!

Most of Ditko’s early characters especially showed this trait. Captain Atom, Spider-Man, Vulture, Mysterio, and Kraven all have one-piece leggings unbroken by any hint of separate shorts. Kirby, on the other hand almost always gave his characters belts and shorts.

None of this is very convincing, so I looked to see if Kirby’s and Ditko’s words offered a clue, and if their memories stand up to actual research.

In his 1990 article, Steve Ditko says that he gave Spider-Man a full, facemask in order to hide Peter Parker’s boyish face, and to add mystery. This sounds quite logical, and it’s hard to prove or disprove, but, based on comparison, the idea of a full facemask is not in itself an identifiable pattern.

Kirby’s first hero, The Lone Rider, had a full, facemask, as did Manhunter from 1942. Iron Man, Black Panther, and Mister Miracle, etc. would follow. Many of Kirby’s villains had full, facemasks, the Red Skull and Dr. Doom chief among these.

On the other hand, Ditko’s Captain Atom, Dr, Strange, the Blue Beetle, all had half masks, or none at all. In fact, on Ditko’s other young super-heroes like the Hawk and Dove, he does not give them full facemasks, so the idea of a full covering mask is not a telltale pattern with either man.

Also from Ditko’s 1990 article, he states when he was designing the costume, he had to match the costume to the powers. “For example; a clinging power, so he wouldn’t have hard soles or boots…”

In the Pure Images #1 article, he expands “…. and since the character crawled walls, no soles were added to his feet.” Later Greg Theakston adds, “Ditko felt that hard soles on the boots wouldn’t be appropriate to a wall walking hero, and Kirby always draws the hard soles.”

These are interesting looks into how individual artists approach a creation, but in this specific case they are wrong factually, and conceptually.

Just 2 years earlier, Kirby had created a spidery character that was extremely agile, and could easily walk up silken lines. Spider Spry, of Fly fame, had “soft soled” booties that facilitated climbing. Looking at the actual record, it appears that Kirby almost always gave his nimble, agile type characters flexible footwear that would facilitate climbing and gripping. Besides Spider Spry; Toad, Cobra, and the Beast all had either soft soled shoes, or bare feet. Which brings me to my next observation.

Besides being wrong about Kirby’s tendencies, Ditko is wrong even as to his own design choices, for in the first 3 Spider-Man stories, Spidey IS shown with hard soles on his feet, in fact rippled style hard soles similar to those found on the Fly..

It may well be that sometime after the first 3 stories were done, Ditko decided that a crawling hero didn’t need hard soles, and so he changed them, but why claim that it was done specifically to differentiate between his and Kirby’s design choices? Unless the first 3 issues were somewhat based on Kirby’s designs.

So the few details that Ditko has provided don’t really help, in fact, they raise more questions since some are contradicted by actual comparison.

What about Kirby’s recollections?

Kirby has never, in my research, listed any specific details when he talked about “creating” the costume, but, thanks to Mike Gartland, (a frequent Kirby chronicler) I was able to track down an early unwitting mention.

In Excelsior #1, a fanzine from 1968, Kirby is being interviewed.

The writer asks, “Did you draw the Vision? If you did, do you remember the powers that he possessed, and could you tell us of these powers?”

Kirby responds, “I created the Vision as a feature of Marvel (Timely) comics. He was the forerunner of the SPIDER-MAN and Silver Surfer Eye. (Eds. Note: The huge pupil-less eyeballs both heroes possess.) If I remember correctly, his powers were of a mystic nature.”

So once again, we have Kirby, in this case unexpectedly, supplying a small detail concerning Spider-Man that is backed up by comparison, for the Vision, a mysterious hero from another plane did have white blank eyes.

He certainly wasn’t saying that Steve Ditko used the opaque eyes based upon Kirby’s earlier use of them with the Vision. This was in 1968, long before the debates about Spider-Man began. Why would Kirby offer up such an unsolicited tidbit while responding to a question about a totally different character if it wasn’t true?

Ditko, to my knowledge has never mentioned where the idea for the opaque eyes came from.

This Kirby quote; on its own, doesn’t prove anything, but it does add to the strange conflicting nature of the debate.

Lastly, it’s been mentioned that Kirby could never draw the Spider-Man costume correctly, which would be strange if he created it. This sounds plausible, but the fact is that Kirby did not draw Spider-Man all that much, and Kirby could never keep the details of any of his costumes straight. His inkers would spend hours making corrections on the costumes. Kirby was a penciller by nature, and little details such as the curl of a spider web was a detail that wasn’t important in the pencilling stage, it was simply hinted at. He had the same problem with Fighting American’s stripes and wing chest pattern, never getting it the same way twice. Look at the early issues of Thor, and note the costume differences.

By the way, Ditko had the same problem, he could never decide if the webbing detail on the costume curled up, or down. He sometimes had them going both directions on the same drawing, and, check out how different the spider icons on the costume front appear even in the same story.

All of these are fairly circumstantial, and if I was a betting man, I would guess that Spidey’s costume is a hybrid, mostly Ditko, with some Kirby bits taken from Kirby’s original proposal.

CONCLUSIONS

So much for my actual research, now let me speculate a little further. Here is how I think it went down.

In mid-1961, Martin Goodman noticed that the sales of the Atlas monster books were slowing down, and while looking for a replacement genre, he realized that DC seemed to be having some success with super-heroes. He decided that Marvel should take a hesitant step in that direction, and either he or Stan Lee talked to Jack Kirby, who had a 20-year history of creating super-heroes. They decided on a team concept with a twist, the characters would not always get along. Kirby went home and cobbled together a story using parts of his last 2 team series, the Challengers of the Unknown, and his recent syndicated strip Sky Masters of the Space Force, and he presented it to Stan Lee. Stan added in the personalities, the background details, the speech patterns, and Fantastic Four was born.

Seeing that the FF was selling but still a little wary of jumping full bore into the super-hero market, Stan next talked with Jack about using an Atlas-style monster as a hero. So Kirby went home, matched together an Atlas monster with a Sky Masters plot element dealing with a scientist saving a kid from a rocket blast, threw in his radiation-caused mutation concept he had used since Blue Bolt days, and you have the Hulk. Again Stan added in the soap opera, the personalities, the linear continuity, and the human aspects he specialized in.

Martin, seeing that both series were selling, decided to go balls to the wall into the super-hero genre, complete with costumes, secret identities, and all the trappings. Stan again went to Jack and asked him if he had any other concepts lying around. Kirby, doing just as he had with the FF – went back to the last two pure super-hero series he had worked on, took the character aspects from the Fly, plus elements suggested by Jacobson, mixed it in with the plot from the Shield, used the original title from the unused Simon proposal, et voila! Spider-Man!

It is possible, in fact probable, that when Kirby presented this proposal to Lee, Stan had some reservations because his vision of the character was a little different. It didn’t matter because Kirby wasn’t scheduled to draw this feature anyway—Stan, and the new artist could make the changes. They could flesh out, and add their own take on the characters–Kirby was too busy: He was drawing the FF and the Hulk full time, and besides Spider-Man, he had simultaneously worked up Thor. (using the same source material)

All this fits in with the very first account of how Spider-Man came to be. Remember, Stan said that Kirby was too busy and he (Lee) chose Steve Ditko to draw the feature after the concepts were done, and it fits in with Ditko’s first recollections. But does this fit in with what we know about how Marvel worked in the early 1960s?

I think it does. Marvel had a modus operandi also. Evidence shows that Kirby helped out on just about every new project, even the ones he didn’t draw. (origin plot, and costume design for Iron Man, splash page, cover and plot elements for Daredevil, etc.)

Why wouldn’t Jack be involved similarly in any Ditko projects? There were no separate fiefdoms at Marvel at this time. Kirby certainly helped out with the first two covers, he provided an advertising blurb in the first issue, he did a back-up story in #8. Jack did cover retouches and corrections. He also did a Spider-Man crossover story in Fantastic Four Annual #1 in the summer of 1963, and in Strange Tales Annual #2, Fall 1963, both of which appeared before AS#6. The Fantastic Four was intertwined with Spider-Man like no other Marvel series.

In the early days of Marvel, there was no sense of separate books; everyone contributed to every series. It’s amazing, but I don’t think coincidental, that every member of the bullpen was multifaceted: Lee would edit, write, and script; Leiber would pencil, ink, and write; Kirby would pencil, create, and plot; Ditko could pencil, ink, and plot, etc. There seems to have been a true all-for-one atmosphere early on in the bullpen. I actually think this is why these men were the ones picked when Stan Lee regrouped Atlas in 1959. It was this flexibility, and multi-talented nature that allowed Stan to create the Marvel method of storytelling.

So, to wrap up, we have the title of the series, which was likely contributed by Kirby. We have the main character of the series surely created by Kirby, with an assist to Sid Jacobson. And we have the origin, and first couple of stories, most likely plot assisted by Kirby. We may even have the costume based somewhat on a Kirby design. How much more does it take to deserve co-creative status?

Never the less, I am not on any campaign to get Kirby an official credit on Spider-Man. Ditko/Lee works just fine for me. Yet for historical purposes, I do believe that his contributions should be recognized.

So does this mean that Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko are lying? I don’t think so. I think this is an example where each one is telling the truth from their own perspective. Jack Kirby was a conceptualist, an idea man, he felt that creation was the coming up of new ideas. Stan Lee is a writer, he’s a word man, he naturally feels the act of creation starts with the fleshing out of the personality and giving voice to the character. And Steve is an artist, his idea of creation is the giving of form, and texture, and atmosphere to a shapeless thought. To thine own self be true, and I think they are.

In my opinion, Spider-Man is the classic example of a true collaboration, omit any one of the three men involved and you end up with a weaker, or non-existent creation.

If just Kirby and Lee had worked on the title, we would have invariably seen it head into the all-out adventure, or cosmic/mythic realms of Kirby’s other titles, thereby losing out on the gritty, earthiness Ditko added. If Lee and Ditko had created it from scratch, we would have had a hero more like the cerebral Dr. Strange, lacking the action/adventure facet that Kirby added. The combination helped eliminate the individual excesses, while keeping the best of each.

Just because Kirby’s participation ended quickly doesn’t detract from his role in the creation, without his character concepts, and strong action based foundation, Spider-Man might never have found that perfect mix of the psychological and physical aspects. Left to his own devices, Ditko’s characters and stories usually lack the testosterone based fun fantasies, that pure physicality, that the super hero genre demands. His characters thought too much, and acted too little.

And without Stan Lee, in my opinion, we would have been without the single most vital ingredient that made Spider-Man the most unique character in comics. Human frailty!!!

More than any other character he worked on, Stan identified with Peter Parker. His vision of the everyman as hero made Spidey the most conflicted, the most human, and the most unique hero ever created. His blueprint was the perfect recipe for a super hero in the post war era. It was an age when the common man, no longer felt in control of his own destiny. Spider-Man was not just fighting bad guys; he was fighting our doubts, our rages, and our feeling of helplessness. He, like most people, (especially the teens reading his books) was looking for his role in society, and was turned away at every stop. Stan Lee made Spider-Man one of us. This is why Spidey not only continued, he thrived, long after both Kirby and Ditko, no longer had any input.

Together we got the perfect blend of Kirby’s solid histrionics, Ditko’s philosophic atmospherics, and Lee’s melodramatic human voice.

It just don’t get any better folks.

Who created Spider-Man? There’s room for all three.

Stan Taylor

This article was very time and labor intensive, and I need to thank some people. First and foremost, Pat Hilger and M.I. for their unselfish access to their books. Greg Theakston for leading the way. Blake Bell for inspiring me and keeping me jazzed. And the Kirby-l and Ditko-l for their prodding and doubting natures.

— Stan Taylor

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. Mark Evanier says the note was prepared in the early 1980s at the request of the Kirbys’ legal team, with Jack speaking and Roz writing (Thanks, Pat).  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 contest 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

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