The Verdict

Here’s an email from the Museum Facebook page, followed by a few of my comments:

 Mike Cagle: I’ll look forward to that interview. I’ve only seen a couple of quotes from it, including the one you mention her (which I sent to you not along ago). I think you’re preaching to the choir. Anyone who reads your blog knows that Kirby was a “writer” too, and the main source of a lot of the important Marvel ideas and many of the characters. The people you describe as lurking in their chat rooms and celebrating Lee’s genius and denigrating Kirby’s contribution – well, those people are just idiots. Don’t waste any more time worrying about them. That said, it’s quite possible that Stan was so bored and frustrated with comics that he sometimes thought of quitting, and it’s possible that his wife encouraged his daydream of doing something really different and innovative. I think it’s also possible, since Martin Goodman was aware of how successful DC’s new JLA comic was, that Lee, or Kirby, or Goodman, or all of them, thought of Challengers of the Unknown and thought it might be a good starting point for creating a new team. As for the two ideas, the non-costumes and the bickering: Yes, the FF got costumes, but they sometimes didn’t wear them, they were often shown in normal clothes, and importantly, they weren’t “different characters” when they wore different clothes – that is, they didn’t have “secret identities.” That idea came from the no-costume idea and it stuck (since it would have been hard to go back and make their identities secret). And that was something very unusual, if not totally new. And yes, in fiction, groups of friends or allies argue — but not typically in old superhero groups. Read the JLA from that time and you won’t see it — unless somebody’s mind has been taken over by a villain. So, if those two idea were Lee’s, they really are pretty important aspects of the FF. Probably Lee and Kirby discussed those things and they both thought they were good ideas. In the chaotic creative environment of early Marvel, it might have been hard to say exactly who came up with what idea – even later the same day, let alone years later. Ever worked on a project with someone (or a group) where ideas are being batted around? Even if two people are taking notes, they won’t tell exactly the same version. Both Lee and Kirby had done romance comics and “teen humor” comics, and I bet both of them felt that the superhero genre could be enlivened by a dose of those other genres. Stan was not a genius like I think Kirby was, but he was a smart guy and a competent writer – it would be surprising if he hadn’t contributed anything! Finally, about your friend — it’s probably not that he started lying about his wife. He probably started actually remembering things differently. That’s what happens. And so does Stan, to some extent, probably, actually remember things differently than he once described them. Plus, of course, I’m sure the lawyers have helped him see which version of history would be so much better for Marvel, and Disney. And that has probably colored his actual memory. Memory is a very slippery thing, and it’s influenced by self-interest. So there you go. The thing is, people reading your blog agree with you (or most of them mostly agree with you) and the people you seem to really want to talk to – the Stan Lee worshippers who think that he thought up everything all by himself – I doubt there are really many of them, and they’re ignorant just jerks (so who cares about them), and also, they aren’t reading your blog and they aren’t going to start … so maybe, stop writing for them? They’re not your audience. I know you want to grab them and shake some sense into them, but it’s not going to happen, and you know that.

Thanks for the email, Mike. It’s nice of you to share your thoughts on the subject. I’ll address a handful of your comments.

Re: Jack’s Critics

I think about 6 or 7 of some of the posts I wrote recently where I discussed the subject of Jack’s online critics have been taken off the site and are “under review.” I probably shouldn’t say more than that. All I can tell you is that… hmm… well, I guess probably better not say that either. I will say, hmm, no I better edit that out too. Haha. Uh, let’s see, uh… let’s just say if you are sick of reading about certain Kirby critics, you may get your wish and you won’t see too much of that here anymore. 😀

Which is cool with me, you all read the posts already, and nobody is going to be going through all 800 + posts in the archives here anyway, so I think it’s all much ado about nothing (although I do apologize to the director of the Kirby Museum if he has to waste a millisecond of his busy schedule dealing with complaints about this goofy weblog), and we have lots of other stuff to discuss other than Jack’s critics.

But.. I think I can maybe say one last thing about this: I have found dealing with Jack’s critics over the last 10 years, to quote Mr. Spock…

If this post disappears you’ll know something I said is under review.

Re: The Castle of Frankenstein Interview (1968)

Mike Cagle: I’ll look forward to that interview. I’ve only seen a couple of quotes from it, including the one you mention her e(which I sent to you not along ago).

Rand also has that quote on the Museum biography page. I guess Mark Evanier was the one that included it in the text. I recall reading it first on the original Kirby-l but I had never seen it myself on the printed page. I don’t think it is sourced specifically on the Museum site, so I wanted to read it for myself and provide the Museum with a hard copy to make sure the quote was accurate and the source was accurate.

Doug P. was nice enough to send it in. Kirby fans are the greatest. It’s amazing how many generous people out there take the time to send in scans of their treasures. Now the Castle of Frankenstein interview will be out there in the cyberverse so anyone talking about it can show people exactly where any quotes they pull from that article came from. One of my goals for an ideal Kirby Museum would be to see a fairly comprehensive collection of all the various Kirby and Lee interviews at a central Museum site, like this one.

Re: Preaching to the Choir

For me, when I surf the web sometimes I look for new voices discussing Jack Kirby. And I’m seeing that there are thousands of new people joining the online dialogue every day. That’s my target audience, not the choir. I’m constantly getting emails from people and seeing online comments from people who are saying, “Wow, I had no idea what really went on behind the scenes when these 60s Marvel characters were created, I thought Stan Lee created everything,” so honestly, although I love Jack’s fans to death, my target audience is the people who are new to this. I mean, I still hope Kirby historians and long-time Kirby fans share their opinions here — I’m trying to see if we can bring new voices into the conversation.

Also, I’m just reporting on what I find as I go through the process of learning about Jack. Kirby Dynamics is like my “I’m learning about Jack Kirby Diary.” I kind of came into all of this backwards. I know folks who have been fans of Jack since the 1950s; they have followed Jack’s career for over 70 years. Sadly some of these folks are no longer with us. I’ve met Kirby fans who grew up with his 60s stuff; they’ve followed Jack for 60 years. Hard to believe, right? 60 years studying Jack’s work. That’s a long time. I’ve met people who grew up with Jack’s 70s stuff; they’ve been Kirby fans for 50 years and they’ve followed Jack and his life the whole time. 50 years of knowledge on Kirby!

I haven’t met too many people who got into Jack in the 1980s. I can think of a couple. They’ve been Kirby fans for 50 years. Isn’t that hard to believe? The 80s seems like yesterday to me! Fans who got into Jack in the late-90s and beyond weren’t there at ground zero. They never talked to Jack or met Jack or were part of fandom when Jack was alive. They learn about Jack through secondary sources like blogs and chat forums. A lot of people learn about Jack in comments sections of Facebook pages like the Museum Facebook page. So you have a wide variety of folks out there who have followed Jack’s career some for as long as 70, 60, 50, 40, even 30 years.

When I was a kid in the late 1970s, I read some of the Marvel reprints, I got the 2001 mini-series from a flea market, and I had some other odds and ends of books by Kirby that I looked at from about 1977- 1985… and that was it for me and comics. The only thing I knew about Jack Kirby was what Lee wrote in his Origins (1974) book. I didn’t even look at a comic for 15 years after the mid-1980s– I was working my ass off and doing other things, mainly outdoors in Florida where looking at a comic book when I was living in paradise was incomprehensible. So I’ve only really been looking at Jack’s life and work for about 10 years (2002 – 2012). Which means I’m still learning. I’m still piecing information together.

One problem I found when I first started is that you can have two Kirby historians who have both been studying Jack for 40 years, and they both have an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject, but they vehemently disagree on certain subjects like “who created Spider-man” or “who created Fantastic Four” or “who wrote the 1960s stories.” So for me, I tried to weigh both sides of the argument and see if I could find out the answers for myself.

10 years later, I’ve made my decision. In the past I’ve been careful to label my comments on the Kirby/Lee creation debate and the Kirby/Lee authorship debate as “speculations.” Well the time has come for me to do my Judge Judy. I have to make a decision. Here it is.

I’m still willing to change my mind if anyone presents me with compelling evidence, but as of today, I’m going to go on record and say, based on hundreds of off-the-record conversations with Kirby fans, experts, and historians, and comics scholars; based on thousands of on-the-record conversations with Kirby fans, experts, and historians, and comics scholars; based on hundreds of conversations with Kirby associates; based on hundreds of conversations with Kirby art collectors; based on reading hundreds of articles, hundreds of interviews discussing Kirby and Lee; based on looking at the published books themselves; based on looking at thousands of scans of published Kirby art; based on examining patterns in the careers of both Kirby and Lee; based on examining hundreds of pieces of Jack Kirby original artwork, I’ve made my decision.

I’m no longer going to say I “suspect” Jack Kirby played a significant role in the creation of all the Marvel characters and I “suspect” Jack Kirby wrote most (if not all) of his 1960s stories with visuals and margin notes. I did that for 10 years until I could reach a conclusion. Now that I have, the word “suspect” will now be gone. Here’s my verdict:

Jack Kirby played a significant role in the creation of all the Marvel characters and Jack Kirby wrote most (if not all) of his 1960s stories with visuals and margin notes.

Now I know if this post is not “under review” and it’s still here, and you are still reading this, like Curly from the Three Stooges wacking himself in the head you are probably going, “Well, DUH! I mean we all, like, totally knew that already! What are you some kind of doofus or something?”

Well, yeah I am pretty much a moron, but mainly I wanted to try and be objective (even though I do love Jack’s art and I am a progressive pro-artist advocate which means I’m biased), and I wanted to really try and see if I could find the answer on my own, especially since so many Kirby historians argued about certain aspects of the creation and authorship debate. I’m at the point where I’m done speculating: I’m convinced Jack played a significant role in creating all of the 60s characters he worked on, and Jack was a writer on all the 60s stories he worked on.

If true, this is not news to anyone who has been following comics for 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, or 20 years, but the topic is new to many people, it was new to me in 2002, and today marks the end of this particular chapter in my search for the truth. Although, again, if someone wants to prove me wrong. Feel free.

Until then, this court is adjourned.