As time goes by, I find myself more increasingly pondering how Jack Kirby worked as a writer/artist when he began working for Marvel in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Conventional wisdom has him working in those early days from scripts by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Robert Burns and then only later switching to the more self-propelled Marvel Method, when Stan Lee became to busy to write scripts. Kirby has always insisted that he always wrote his own stories, and others that worked with him through the years generally support his claim that he plotted and wrote most of the stories that he drew.
In an earlier blog post, I suggested that Kirby began working Marvel style in 1965 or thereabouts when he began to put margin notes on his pages as a guide to his scripter, usually Stan Lee. Now I am beginning to reconsider that notion.
Here is an example above from Thor #142 from 1967, a period most people consider to be well into the Marvel Method. One can clearly see Kirby’s copious notes in the margins of the page.
Kirby was also doing layouts for other artists prior to and during that period. Here is a rough layout below that the King did for Johnny Romita for 1966’s Daredevil#12, which the latter ended up not using. Romita did however use the bare bones of the plot that Kirby provided along with the layout, as can be seen in the extensive border notes throughout the page margins. Clearly, Stan Lee was already used to relying on Kirby to teach fledgling artists to plot stories for Lee to dialog. Prior to 1966, the process between Lee and Kirby is a bit more hazy.
However, one telling piece of evidence is the existence of five Incredible Hulk pages, circa 1962, that would have appeared in issue six of that comic. The story, related by Larry Lieber is that he was waiting outside of Stan Lee’s office at Marvel Comics when Kirby emerged. The King was carrying a handful of comic pages and was visibly upset. He then tore the pages in half and threw them in a trashcan, before storming out. Lieber retrieved the torn pages and saved them, realizing that they were valuable at that moment, if only to him as an admirer of Kirby. Lieber believed that Stan Lee had rejected the pages and that was the reason that Kirby had destroyed them in anger.
One of the most interesting aspects of this story is that several of the pages have what appear to be some notes scribbled by Lee. This suggests that Kirby was in the habit of supplying complete stories to Lee to dialog even as far back as 1962, except that in this case Kirby would bring in the stories personally in order to guide Lee in scripting them. Later on, Kirby would simply mail the completed pages with margin notes, making it unnecessary for him to make the trip into the city. As one can see, some of the remaining pages contain none of Lee’s writing, suggesting that he was in the process of taking notes notes when the disagreement ensued.
What is also very cool here is that one can very easily see the line where the pages were torn in half. These pages are one of the most compelling pieces of evidence that Kirby was plotting his stories prior to any involvement with Lee, at least as early as 1962, if not even before that period.
item 1-Thor 142, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Vince Coletta
Item 2-Daredevil layout Jack Kirby
Items 3-4 penciled Hulk pages by Jack Kirby owned by Larry Lieber
Thanks to Rand Hoppe and Patrick Ford