My Discussion with Greg Theakston on FF # 1, Part 2

Here’s Greg Theakston’s reply to my email yesterday. I could argue with just about every point Greg makes here, but I’ve been debating Greg on this subject for years now and clearly he’s a man that’s not going to budge an unstable molecule on this, so I’ll give him the last word today, although I’m sure I’ll reference his theories as I wrap up this brief mini-series on FF # 1. Thanks again for answering my questions, Greg.

I went ahead and left the email in it’s original format. I would’ve corrected my typos as I did in yesterday’s post, but Greg’s jokes about my typing wouldn’t make any sense without them, so I left the email as is. There should be a little bar at the bottom of Greg’s email where you can adjust the page width if the text goes too far to the right.

From: Greg Theakston
To : Robert Steibel
Subject : Re: Question (Jack Kirby)
Date : Thu, Mar 29, 2012 01:10 AM

>Hi Greg, do you mind if I post this at Kirby Dynamics tomorrow? I
>plan to discuss Ff # 1 more this week and this post would fit in

	Investigate your story, then report it. this seems a bit last minute                  

>If you do have a problem, please LMK, I'd appreciate it.

	See above.

>While I'm at it I always wanted to ask you: would you be interested
>in doing a phone interview with me in the future about Kirby for
>Kirby Dynamics. If not no problem, just thought I'd ask.

	Sure. I had the pleasure of living through it so it is my
obligation to report what I remember.

>Hi Greg,
>I'd like to post this at Kirby Dynamics tonight, because I only have so much
>time in the day, and I don't want to type this out and waste it in a private
>members-only forum.

	So you want me to type it for you.

>  I only used a few of your quotes.

	Dude, this shit is gold. Use all of it!

>If you have a problem with
>me doing that just let me know and I'll change your exact words to

	I don't trust you to paraphrase me.

>First of all, thanks for answering my questions and for sharing your research.
>As I've told you many times before, I have a lot of respect for you and I
>consider you to be one of the best Kirby Historians (and comic historians) on
>the planet.

	Sorry, it's a bit loud in here. Can you repeat that?

>I do humbly disagree with you about the creation of FF because unless you can
>provide some hard evidence (a document, a memo, or a quote from an interview)
>that proves some of your various theories behind the creation of FF, in my
>opinion some of you rconclusions are just that -- theories.

	Well, yes. I present it as I see it. If I convince you or
don't we still have theories in these matters. Convincing theories
carry weight.

>You're a great comic historian, your books are full of well-researched

	Again, it's way too loud in here.

>  but on this topic, I think you are giving us a lot of assumptions.

	No, you make assumptions. FF #1 was Goodman's first
feature-length book in twelve or thirteen years. Lee's too. First
pairing with Kirby on developing this kind of thing. While it is an
important book that doesn't make it a good one.
	I was talking to Detective #27 about this last night.
	It was the first time Lee got to write the great American
novel, in comic book terms.
	None of this is assumption in context.

>I'd like to ask you some follow up questions based on our conversation on
>ditkokirby last night, if you don't mind.
>(1) Do you have any evidence (a document, a memo, or a quote from an
>that proves Martin Goodman told Stan Lee to give him a book-length comic book,
>and the result of that was FF # 1? Or is this your theory? It's a logical
>theory, because you say book-length comics was not the norm for Goodman/Lee at
>that time, but if you don't have any hard evidence it's just your theory.

	My hard evidence is a copy of FF #1.

>(2) You mention "Stan was at the end of his rope" around the time of FF #

	Because Stan wanted to be famous and remembered and wasn't,
almost two decades after he got there. Seriously, how much do you
know about Stan Lee?

>  Lee had a great job working for his relative Martin Goodman.

	WAHHH!  See above.

>  He was able to
>give his brother Larry work.

	At a magnificent publishing powerhouse of eight books a month.

>  And Jack Kirby walked in the door full of ideas.
>Why would Lee suddenly want to quit getting a regular paycheck in
>1961 and write
>a novel at this point?

	Because he wanted to be famous and remembered. Marvel kind of
saved him the trouble.

>  Do you really think his wife would support Lee giving up
>his income so that he could try and write this novel?

	No, she just told him that if this was the end he should at
least give it his best shot.

>  Where would they get money
>for food and for rent?


>If Lee wanted to write a novel, why not do like everybody
>else, set aside 2 - 4 hours at night and work on the novel?

	You kick out fifteen comics a week, deal with hundreds of
creators, take orders from Goodman, and ride the train for an hour
two ways five days four times a month in a profession that will suck
the life out of you. Are you a trust-fund kid?

>Sure, maybe Lee wanted to quit comic books because he was ashamed of doing 20
>years of Archie and EC rip-off material, but I do not believe that was the
>inspiration for FF # 1.

	I've given deep thought to what you have presented
(documents, memos, interviews, etc.) I'm about to be persuaded.

>  I also don't understand why you think Lee wanted to use
>FF # 1 to impressed his boss or his wife or why Lee would feel compelled to do
>so with FF # 1.

	See above.

>Also, Lee told the exact same

	"exact same" is redundant. It's "Spider-Man."

>story about wanting to quit comics and reinvent
>the superhero genre in his "How I Invented Spider-man" article.
>Spider-man came
>out 9 months after FF # 1 and by this point weren't the Marvel books becoming
>more successful? Why would Lee quit then?

	I'm thinking that you don't remember what you read.
	What next? Your theory?

>Here's my theory:

	Okay, in court, this is called "leading the witness." You ask
my opinion but feel compelled to tell my yours first. Groth did that
with Kirby.

>  I think this story is fiction. Stan made this story up to give
>the creation of properties like FF and Spider-man some drama.

	How much do you know about the state of the market in 1961?

>  Some pizzazz. In
>reality, it was just another day at the office for Lee.

	Do you have any memos, documents, interviews, etc. to support
your assumption?

>  He worked with Kirby on
>these stories and Jack played a significant role in coming up with the main
>characters and Jack contributed significant story elements to the
>final product.

	Yes, after Stan created it.

>(3) You mentioned "Goodman had asked for a super-hero book with no costumes.
>That idea defies Kirby's take on heroes." Do you have any evidence
>(a document,
>a memo, or a quote from an interview) that proves Martin Goodman told Stan Lee
>to give him a comic book, featuring superheroes without costumes? Or is this
>your theory?

	See above.
	Way above.
	You keep asking me the same questions.

>(4) You wrote of FF # 1: "A whole lot of stuff went on before the idea hit
>Kirby's hands and I believe that Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four."
>I replied: "The synopsis makes it look like Lee needed a lot of help
>and he got
>it from Jack."
>You responded" Yes, and in stating so you infer that Lee created it."
>I disagree.

	Yes you do. Lee created it and needed a lot of help to fix it.

>I don't think Lee giving Jack a synopsis proves Lee created Ff alone
>or that Lee created FF first. I think the synopsis proves Lee and Jack were
>working together on FF, therefore they both created FF together. Jack may have
>even pitched some of the ideas to Lee before the FF synopsis.

	These are the parts where while being interviewed I get to
say, "I think..." and not make assumptions.

>(5) Another reason you mentioned for you theory that Lee created FF alone was:
>"the first issue sucks so badly."

	I'd be hard pressed to come up with another Kirby  first
issue that sucked so badly.

>I replied: "Greg, is this the foundation for your theory Lee created FF alone?
>Because you personally think FF # 1 'sucks?' What kind of comic book
>is that?"
>Your response was: "I know when Jack is jazzed on a job and this was a
>decade-long low point. If you don't think FF #1 sucks I can't help any more."
>I disagree totally. I think FF # 1 is a masterpiece

	Unless it was you before, this may be the first time I've
ever read that.

>  and it is one of the most
>important comics in the history of the medium.

	Detective #27 stuck me with the tab.

>  I contend that thinking FF # 1
>sucks is a personal opinion, not evidence proving Lee created FF alone.

	If it walks like a duck.

>(6) You also mentioned "Kirby didn't care" about his work on FF # 1. You
>that it was "probably his worst work in years."

	You asked this with question #5.
	See above.

>Again, I think this is your opinion, not a fact proving Lee created FF alone.

	Dude, you asked my opinion.
	How long is this thing going to go on?

>(7) You also wrote: FF "...was a chance to do something new and a
>lot of time to
>do it. Also, this is the first instance of Stan having Jack launch a book and
>you would expect more from Jack if he'd had a hand in the concept."
>Looking at the FF synopsis, it is true that at this phase of the story, Lee's
>suggestions are not very strong. Lee's FF has a superhero who can stretch, but
>it hurts; a female superhero who has to strip totally naked to be invisible; a
>flame superhero character that only can burn for 5 minutes, and can only burn
>ropes; and a monster superhero who lusts after his best friend's girlfriend.
>Fortunately Jack (or Lee made) changes resulting in what i and many FF fans
>think is a very dynamic team of four complimenary heroes.

	It's called, "concept development."

>Sometimes that's the mark of a great creator, Greg. Taking something
>like Lee's
>synopsis that is full of weak ideas,

	Hang on. So Lee is the creator?

>  and making the concept work despite that --
>I think FF # 1 proves Jack did a great job of that, and I suggest
>the impact of
>that book on the history of the medium supports my theory.

	Now you're just making assumptions.
	And leading the witness.

>AI don't think the fact that you personally feel Jack did not do a good job on
>FF # 1 proves Stan Lee created FF

	Hitler had a nation behind him. Didn't make them right either.

>, plus Jack did a great job taking Lee's
>synopsis, throwing out all of the bad ideas,

	Thank God you convinced yourself that Stan created the FF.

>  and turning that synopsis into a
>compelling comic book. We also have to keep in mind that in the same way you
>think Lee created FF alone, it is also possible Jack pitched the idea of four
>elemental astronauts/adventureres traveling into outer space and being
>transformed into heroes to Stan Lee.

	Goodman told Stan what he wanted, Lee told the talent. Martin
was producing eight comics a month, knew what was selling, and wasn't
much interested in what Lee had to suggest. Much less the "grunts."

>In fact, to address a point earlier, I'd argue the FF do have costumes. They
>wore those purble jumpsuits and the blue baseball caps.

	Could you repeat the question in a manner that I can understand?

>Wasn't it the readers
>who wanted a costume like Super-man

	Pretty certain that they wanted different costumes.
	Also, it's "Superman."

>  with some kind of logo,

	Pretty sure FF #1 wouldn't have made it to the stands without one.

>  so that's why Lee
>had Sol Brodsky design the "4" logo?

	Logo is on the cover. Emblem is on the chest.
	No, Stan changed his mind and Brodsky developed it into the "4."

>Anyway, I hope you don't mind me posting this on Kirby Dynamics. I think you
>raise some valid points, I'd like for your opinion to be out there
>so that other
>people can think about the points you've raised. And if you would
>answer some of
>these questions, that would be great.

	See above.

>  I realize you are busy so I thank you for
>taking the time to discuss this with me.
>You may well be right about this, I just don't think you've presented enough
>hard vidence to convince me Lee created the FF 100% alone. Unless you can give
>us some new evidence, I based just on the FF # 1 synopsis, I think Jack Kirby
>helped Stan Lee create the FF and Kirby helped Lee write the origin story.