Unpublished Fantastic Four Pencils

Some unpublished Fantastic Four pencils, most of which ended up cannibalized in FF # 108.

As far as I’m aware this is the only entire story Jack ever turned into Stan Lee where Lee rejected the entire book. I recall Lee saying at some point over the years that he thought the book was “undialogueable” (if that’s even a word) or something along those lines, I don’t have Lee’s exact quote. This led many Marvel fans and comics fans to believe maybe Jack had turned in a poor effort; many fans assumed  maybe Jack was bitter and angry as he left Marvel in 1970, so he gave Lee a poor, unusable story that made no sense: a comic without any margin notes where Lee would be forced to figure out Jack’s story on his own.

I’ve also read that at this point Jack may have demanded Lee give him a full written story or even some semblance of a script since Jack wasn’t getting a writer credit, so Lee gave him this tale then somehow Kirby botched it — failing to deliver an acceptable translation of his Fearless Leader’s vision. I personally suspect Jack wrote this story himself — if Lee had given Jack a type-written script, Jack’s liner-notes would have been unnecessary and superfluous — obviously Jack could have had Lee refer to his own copy of his own script instead of supplying liner notes re-explaining the action.

And I’ve heard other scenarios as to why Lee rejected this Kirby masterpiece wholesale, but all of this is speculation since only one person — Stan Lee — knows why he turned down an entire Kirby story. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure what took place here, but one thing is for sure, it’s pretty clear from looking at this unpublished piece of FF art that you can see Jack was telling a very straightforward and professional story — Jack included extensive margin notes, and looking at these fragments it’s obvious to me that the story made sense, which leads me to believe Lee may have rejected this story for other reasons.

 

My best guess is that possibly Stan Lee wanted to make it very clear to Jack that he (Stan Lee) was the boss, and if Jack didn’t start acting more like a team player — for example by turning in new characters again — there would be consequences. Maybe Lee wanted to show Jack how lucky he had been to have so much freedom over the last decade; Lee could’ve rejected any of his stories at any time, but Lee allowed Jack tremendous Leeway (if you’ll excuse the pun) and creative freedom to tell whatever type of story he wanted and go wherever his imagination led him.

Of course this freedom came at a price: Jack received no writer credit on books where he clearly came up the story and new characters on his own, plus Lee was beginning his life-long propaganda campaign where he would take sole-credit for creating all of Jack’s 1960s characters, so Jack had to make a change — he was about to leave Marvel — and I think all of these factors — the Kirby/Lee tug-of-war taking place — was the real basis for this story being turned down by editor Lee. It also may be that Lee could have caught wind that Jack was leaving Marvel and this was some kind of punishment. Who knows, Lee’s apologists say Lee simply hated Jack’s story and that’s that.

Either way, it’s certainly crystal clear that this story was indeed “dialogueable” and rejecting a Kirby masterpiece wholesale makes no common sense especially considering the crushing deadlines Jack worked under. In fact, for Stan Lee to even suggest Jack turned in a half-hearted effort is a fairly rude suggestion, considering Jack never missed a deadline the entire time he worked for Lee/Goodman, and frequently Jack would bail other artists out of deadline jams to help Lee keep books on time.

Ironically, years later, Lee would miraculously figure out how to add captions to this art and Marvel would release the collected pieces of this book as the so-called “Lost FF book.” I was glad to see Sinnott finally add his beautiful inks to that art, and glad to hear Jack’s family finally got a few bucks from Marvel, but more than anything, I think this art literally symbolizes the breaking apart of the Kirby/Lee collaboration, and when you see that Jack put in what looks like 100% of his time and talent into this book, I think it raises questions as to why Lee really rejected this entire story.