FF # 1 Synopsis: Authentic?

Above is a re-typed version of the FF # 1 synopsis. As Lee mentions in his introduction, the original XXXs are left in, as well as typos such as “change change that gimmick.” Lee says the reason behind this is, “to give historians of the future a totally accurate representation” of “the fateful document exactly as written.”

This was published in Fantastic Four #358 (1991), celebrating the 30th Anniversary issue of the Fantastic Four. Nothing like Lee celebrating the anniversary of FF by presenting a document he feels proves he created FF alone. Nice gesture towards Jack and his family on your part, Stan.

The scans are not great, they are from: comicbookresources.com and appear in an article by Brian Cronin called “Comic Book Legends Revealed.” If anyone has better scans, please send them in. If you can make out the text, Lee writes of this document, “It is, as you can see, the original synopsis I wrote after dreaming up the concept of our frivolous little foursome.”

I know I keep dragging this series out, but people keep making interesting observations and asking valid questions, so let me address a couple other things before I wrap-up the series on Lee and FF # 1. Let’s briefly touch on the authenticy of the FF # 1 synopis.

Re: FF # 1 Synopsis: Authentic?

I honestly don’t know much about the history behind the FF # 1 synopsis document. I didn’t follow comics at all from about 1985 through 2000, so I missed a lot of things you all know about. For example, when was the FF # 1 synopsis discovered? Specifically the date and year? One of the Kirby Museum Face Book members mentioned it was found by a specific Marvel staffer in the Marvel offices around the 1980s? But I’d like more details, and maybe a source if the discovery of this document has been written about. I’d be curious to know who found the synopsis and what the circumstances were behind the discovery. Was it published anywhere else before 1991? And how did such an historically important document suddenly show up out of nowhere? Was it in a secret compartment in Stan’s old desk or something?

How does a document from 1961 suddenly show up 20 – 30 years later? Any other discoveries of 40-year-old Lee synopses in Marvel file cabinets? Did Marvel leak the document, perhaps to try and prove Lee created the FF property? Is the FF # 1 synopsis a copy or is it the original type-written document? And if we really wanted to go CSI on that thing: did it come from Lee’s typewriter? Are Jack’s fingerprints on it? Can we carbon date it and see when the document was produced? Where is it now? The “Smithsonian” as Lee joked in his introduction to the document?

Some have suggested the document is a forgery. At this website you can see the author Brian Cronin discussed the subject, and former Kirby assistant Steve Sherman commented: “I asked Jack about that synopsis. He told me that it was written way after FF #1 was published. I believe him.”

So obviously when this thing emerged there must have been a little bit of controversy about it. Here’s my guess as to what we’re dealing with here. And to repeat, I’m guessing here. I throw out speculations sometimes with the hopes of learning more about something.

First of all, I suspect Jack either didn’t remember seeing this document, or he may never have seen it at all (which would explain why it was still at Marvel, it’s unlikely Jack would have taken it home to read, and brought it back). So I think that’s why Jack said it was written after FF # 1 was published. Since Jack had no recollection of reading it he was probably assuming it must be a fake, and based on his dealings with Marvel he probably had grown to expect this type of revisionist history from them so I think he understandably assumed the worse.

We also have to understand Jack and Lee tend to use the word “writing” and “written” differently. They define it differently. Meaning Jack and Lee could have written the origin and come up with the core FF characters together in phase one, and then in phase two Lee “wrote” the synopsis. So maybe that is what Jack meant? Maybe he meant the document was written after he and Lee wrote the story together in phase one? There were two writing phases: phase one where Lee and Kirby wrote the origin story together, and phase two where Lee typed up what they had discussed.

And remember the FF # 1 synopsis only was supposed to cover about 10 pages of story. The published FF # 1 book is 25 pages long!

Or was the FF synopsis “written after FF # 1 was published?” I have to be honest, I don’t think that makes sense. Why would Lee type that up after publication? Why would Lee fake a document where he pretends he had no idea what to do with any of the characters and pretend to ask Jack questions?

Or why would someone else type that up after publication? I mean, if someone is going to forge a document supposedly proving Lee created FF alone, why put so many ideas in the document that didn’t make it into the published FF # 1 story? And why not include the hundreds of story elements that are in the published FF # 1 story but not in the synopsis? This would be a seriously bizarre conspiracy if someone faked the FF # 1 synopsis to try and prove Lee created FF.

So maybe Jack was overreacting, but mainly I wonder if Jack meant to say the FF synopsis was written after the initial story conference where he and Lee agreed on the characters and powers and the origin. That’s what I think happened. I do think this document is legitimate, I think it’s an agreed-upon list of characters, an agreed-upon origin, and then Lee brainstorming. I just don’t think Jack remembered seeing it, or he may not have seen it at all. I would guess it must have been frustrating for Jack to see Stan Lee once again claiming he created FF, especially by showing off a document Jack did not recall ever seeing, and that might have been the motivation for him saying it must have been written after FF # 1 was published.

One of my big questions about where this document fits in the whole process is this: I  don’t understand why Lee would hand this document to Jack in 1961. Just discuss it face to face with him. Clearly Lee had questions for Jack as he mentions in his synopsis. Ask Jack as he’s standing there. Why does Lee need to have Jack  read this then tell Lee whether he thinks the Invisible Girls should strip naked to get invisible or not,  Lee could easily just come right out and ask him. Maybe this synopsis was just some notes Lee made for himself, and at Lee’s desk Lee refereed to this document and they bounced ideas around, then Jack went home and told the story with visuals?

On the other hand, what if this was the “story” Lee handed Jack? What if Jack took the original 3 1/2 page document home and he was the one who had to write the rest of the entire story with visuals? Or did Lee give Jack an FF synopsis Part 2 with the Mole Man story? Lee does not mention that in his court testimony – he only mentions the single FF # 1 synopsis.

And seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee doesn’t remember writing the FF # 1 synopsis document, he just had to answer questions about it because he was in a court of law. It was a classic situation of Lee claiming he wrote it in that 1991 Marvel reprint, so he had to defend it.

As I mentioned before, there are tantalizing clues in the FF # 1 synopsis that raise several questions concerning the creation process Lee probably had never thought about when he signed off on that document in 1991 — questions he probably felt he would never have to address — but Lee was forced to address them when prepping his testimony with the Disney/Marvel lawyers. The questions being: If Stan Lee created FF alone, and wrote FF# 1 alone (1) Why are there so many ideas in the synopsis that did not make it into FF # 1? (2) Why are there so many story elements in the FF synopsis Lee needs to ask Kirby questions about? (3) And where is the rest of the story? Out of the 25 pages of FF # 1, the Lee FF # 1 synopsis contains about 5 – 6 pages of content that actually made it into the story. That means Jack Kirby may have had to write about 20 pages of the first issue of FF # 1 using visuals.

So here is my guess if asked about the authenticity of the original 1961 FF # 1 synopsis: I think the 1961 FF # 1 synopsis was either notes Lee used to verbally give Jack some ideas for FF #1, or Lee did indeed give Jack a copy of the FF # 1 synopsis and this was the “plot” Jack worked from. Jack just doesn’t remember it, and Jack was offended Marvel and Stan Lee used this document to try and prove once more Stan Lee was the sole-creator of the Fantastic Four characters and the sole-writer of the first Fantastic Four story.

Obviously we’ll never know for sure what went on between Kirby and Lee, but the interesting thing here is that the FF # 1 synopsis was entered into evidence in the 2011 Disney/Marvel vs. Kirby court hearings, so Lee is on the record under oath testifying about it. In a court of law, Lee claimed he wrote the FF # 1 synopsis, and Lee is on the record commenting on it, so for the purposes of analyzing the published version of FF # 1, I think we can at the very least compare this document Lee says he wrote — the FF # 1 synopsis — to the published FF # 1 comic and gain some insights into how Lee defines “creation.”