The Silver Lining – My Comments for Scott Edelman, Part 3

Here is another link sent in by Scott Edelman:

“Three cheers for, and long live, the King!”

Thanks again to Scott for sharing this stuff. It’s fun to get a glimpse behind the scenes at Marvel in the 1970s. Here’s a few comments from Scott at the end of his post.

Where are those letters columns designed to turn fans into a torch-bearing, pitchfork-wielding mob intent on storming the House of Ideas and demanding Kirby be fired? I just don’t see it.

And I’d like those who feel they do see it to back up their claims with some proof. Otherwise, all they’re doing is maligning folks like me who were doing their best to let readers have their say.

I don’t think I recall anyone claiming Marvel letter columns “were designed to turn fans into a torch-bearing, pitchfork-wielding mob intent on storming the House of Ideas and demanding Kirby be fired.” It sounds to me like 70s Marvel staffers did badmouth Jack verbally, so that rumor is probably true. And it sounds like Marvel staffers did post negative letters in Jack’s books, so that rumor is probably true (again I haven’t read any Marvel letters pages so I don’t know). Was this done maliciously by Marvel staffers who wanted to to try and fire Jack as a writer? If they had their way would these ambitious Marvel staffers have allowed Kirby to keep penciling comics, but did they want to take that writer paycheck away from Jack and his family, and have someone else (like themselves) write the text in Jack’s books, which means they would get Jack’s writer paycheck and they would get that important “Writer/Editor” credit? Scott seems to be suggesting that was not the case. It would be interesting to know what his associates from that era had to say.

Are we ever going to know what really motivated the Marvel staffers decisions? Probably not. I doubt someone is going to raise their hand, and come right out and say, “I wanted to get Jack fired as a writer. I wanted someone else to write Jack’s books. And if the job had been offered to me, I sure as hell wouldn’t have turned it down.” I suspect that is probably the truth for at least somebody who was working on staff at Marvel during the 1970s, but that’s pure speculation on my part. And based on the flat-out fierce contempt he expressed in his “Shame on you Captain America” article, it sure as heck sounds like if Jack had been fired as a writer and someone else had been paid to add captions to Jack’s books, Scott Edelman wouldn’t have had too much of a problem with that.

Anyway this is all much ado about nothing. Nobody is accusing anybody of “torch-bearing,” or “pitchfork-wielding” or of being a “mob intent on storming the House of Ideas and demanding Kirby be fired.” When people start hurling accusations that use lynch mob metaphors, clearly we are veering off-topic. Please try and keep things in perspective. We’re just geeks on the internet discussing rumors and discussing first person recollections of what took place at Marvel comics in the 1970s. This is not the Nazis vs. the Allies: it’s people discussing comic book history and interpreting various accounts of that history. Let’s agree to disagree and shake hands.

I always look for the silver lining.

I’m glad Marvel staffers verbally badmouthed Jack. I’m glad Marvel staffers printed negative fan letters about Jack. And I’m glad Jack got the @#$% out of that incredibly unhealthy situation at Marvel, and got a job in animation where he had health insurance and by all accounts his associates at that job were incredibly kind, gracious, and supportive of Jack. Getting that animation gig was probably the best thing that could have happened to Jack other than Martin Goodman giving Jack the royalties he promised him.

I love Jack’s 70s stuff. We’re damn lucky to have that material. In a perfect world Jack would have been retired, sitting by the beach spending time with his family, but the guy had to keep working to put food on the table, so I appreciate the hard work he put into those books If you don’t like Jack’s 70s text? Quit whining and go read Lee’s Thor babble.

Re: The Wrap-up

To take a step towards wrapping this thread up, let’s review: I remain stunned by the ferocity of former Marvel associate editor Scott Edelman’s scathing criticisms of Jack Kirby’s writing; I told Scott Edelman in a private email some of the rumors I’ve heard about Marvel staffers badmouthing Jack in the 1970s; Edelman said he had never heard any of those rumors before (although he admits he personally verbally badmouthed Jack); since then, he’s done some online reading of his own; he discovered the rumor about the “fake fan letters”; and he has sworn to dispel these rumors. I hope that Scott read Jim Shooter’s comments posted here yesterday and today which were sent in by some Kirby historians that discuss the letter columns; and I hope Scott will consider contacting folks like Jim Shooter or Tom Spurgeon via email if he want’s to dispel the “Marvel Myth” as he called it, and maybe they will be able to tell him what they know about the subject; plus several of Scott’s 70s Marvel associates are probably easy to access via email, and there are plenty of other great historians who might answer his questions.

I still hope Scott, as a fellow member of the fraternity of writers, will consider telling us what (if anything) he respects about Jack’s writing to balance out the vicious things he said about Jack’s work in his “Shame on You Captain America” article, but more than anything I hope Scott will consider shining the light of his writing talents on his memories of working at Marvel in the 1970s.

What was a typical work day like for an associate editor at Marvel in 1976? Do you show up at the office at 5:00 am? 9:00 am? Is it an 8 hour day? What was the atmosphere like? Was it hard work? Fun? I’d guess it would take maybe an hour or so to proofread one of Jack’s books, so what else would an associate editor do for the rest of the day? Go to meetings? Pitch story ideas? Proofread other books? Work with the writers and editors? How many fan letters did Scott have to read in a typical week? 100? 1000? Who were the other staffers who worked with Scott? What were they doing all day? Did they go to lunch and hang out? I think Scott met his wife working at Marvel. A love story! Did the Marvel staffers hang out at night and party? What was the scene like in New York City at the height of the disco craze?

To me the topics of Kirby, his text, and the letters columns are interesting, but if Scott has nothing further to add on that subject, I do hope maybe he’ll take a moment to discuss that period at Marvel — first-hand accounts like that can have tremendous value to comics historians in the future. And again, thanks to Scott for discussing this with us.