The Kirby/Lee Cone of Silence

At least Stan does admit here that he did discuss Thor with Jack at one point during the initial creation  process in the quote below. That seems to be about as much credit Stan is willing to give Jack in terms of the actual genesis (the first issue appearance) of the initial major 60s Marvel concepts like Thor, Hulk, FF, X-Men, Iron Man, Avengers, Spider-Man, FF, etc.

Here’s a longer excerpt on Thor. This is from:

20th Century Danny Boy: “Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al – Stan Lee Speaks,” Posted by Dan Best

Q. And how Thor was created and what was your idea behind Thor.

STAN LEE: Same thing. I was looking for something different and bigger than anything else. And I figured what could be bigger than a god? Well, people were pretty much into the Roman and the Greek gods by then, and I thought the Norse gods might be good. And I liked the sound of the name Thor and Asgaard and the Twilight of the Gods’ Ragnarok and all of that.

And Jack was very much into that, more so than me. So when I told Jack about that, he was really thrilled. And we got together, and we did Thor the same way.

Q. And what was the idea behind Thor? What was his deal?

STAN LEE: I wanted him to be —

MR. TOBEROFF: Excuse me. Objection. Vague and ambiguous.

Q. You can answer.

STAN LEE: I wanted him to be the son of Odin, who is the King of the Gods, like Jupiter. And I wanted him to have an evil brother, Loki. And just like the Fantastic Four were always fighting Dr. Doom, and Spider-Man was usually fighting the Green Goblin, I figured Loki would be the big villain. He’s Thor’s half brother. He’s jealous of Thor. He has enchantment powers. So in a way he’s a good foe. Thor has strength, but Loki is like a magician and can do all kind of things. So that seemed good to me.

And then Thor had a girlfriend from legend called Sif, S-I-F. And I would have her involved in the stories and have jealousy.

And then I wanted some comedy relief, so it wasn’t — I don’t think it was until the strip had been going for a while, but I decided there were threeguys. I called them The Warriors 3 that I wanted to include, a very fat guy named Volstag, The Voluminous Volstag, I called him, who acts like a real hero. “Come on, let’s go get them.” But when the fights start, he’s cowardly and always holds back.

Another guy like Errol Flynn called Fandralthe Dashing. And a guy like Charles Bronson in Death Wish. I think I called him Hogan the Grim. And the three of them, Fandral the Dashing, Hogan the Grim, and Volstagthe Voluminous I thought they could be Thor’s friends, and they would provide comedy relief. And I’m happy to see they’re using them in the movie, I think.

And it was something that we both enjoyed doing very much. And Jack was wonderful with the costumes that he gave them. I mean, nobody could have drawn costumes like he gave them.

Q. The character Thor, how did — what idea did you have to come up to give him his powers?

STAN LEE: Well, he had —

Q. What was the back story?

MR. TOBEROFF: Assumes facts.

STAN LEE: Oh, yeah. He had mainly a hammer, an enchanted hammer. The back story was I decided to make him a guy here on Earth, Dr. — I forgot his name. But whatever his name was, he was lame and he walked with a cane. And for some reason he went to Norway, and there he — I think — the Stone-Men from Saturn or somewhere. Some aliens who were stone men had landed in Norway and they wanted to kill our doctor.

And he rushes into a cave somewhere to hide from them. And they’re coming toward him, but he sees a hammer in the ground, and some kind of a sign that said –I don’t remember the exact wording, but, Whoever is worthy would be able to lift this hammer, sort of like the King Arthur legend. And he grabs the hammer, and he’s able to lift it up.

And it seems that destiny had prepared that for him over the centuries. The minute it lifts it up, he turns into The Thunder God Thor, and wielding the hammer he takes care of the Stone-Men. And then he can always become Dr. Don Blake. That was his name. I believe Don Blake. If he hits the hammer on the ground, it turns back into the cane that he always had because he was lame. He walked with a cane as Don Blake, Dr. Don Blake.

So he’s a surgeon, who walks with a cane, but when he hits the cane on the ground, he turns into the mighty Thor, God of Thunder. And that was the idea.

I read this very quickly, and don’t have time now to really pick it apart. But based on my initial reading, ultimately this material is somewhat disappointing. Lee admits Jack created some supporting characters earlier, but which ones? Why not ask Lee?

I’ve joked before that Stan’s version of the story reminds me of the gag from the old Get Smart TV show where the cone of silence pops out of the ceiling preventing anything from the outside world from coming in. Lee invented all the major Marvel characters all by himself under his personal cone of silence that made sure absolutely no ideas from Jack Kirby could enter, and from there Lee created the the Marvel universe — alone. Then, after those first issues, Lee cut Jack loose to do as he pleased.

Stan’s testimony just doesn’t pass the common sense test. Doesn’t it make more sense that Kirby/Lee collaborated on all these characters and initial concepts throughout the entire process? Then over time Lee developed a simple backstory where he could tell people that all the key elements were all his ideas? Not accusing Stan of lying or misremembering, just pointing out that he might be wrong. Maybe Jack did contribute certain elements to something like the first appearance of Thor and Lee simply forgot or doesn’t want to muddy the waters. Maybe Stan is so used to saying “I” when he talks about the creation of the characters, he forgets the correct word is probably “we” — Jack and Stan together.

At the very least, Lee’s testimony clearly indicates Jack played a huge role in the creation of the stories themselves — I’ve said many times before that Kirby was Lee’s uncredited ghostwriter: telling stories with visuals/liner notes; designing costumes, etc.; then Lee added dialogue — but I suppose there will always be a debate as to who deserves the bulk of the credit for actually coming up with the initial ideas. My vote is for Kirby/Lee together, and of course it’s entirely possible Jack may have pitched many of these iconic concepts to Stan, meaning you could argue Kirby was the prime creative force in the Kirby/Lee collaboration on the 60s Marvel characters.