Kirby Forever!

Here’s a great email from George Zadorozny. It’s so wonderful to read a piece of well-researched comics scholarship like this. Fantasic work. A big thank you to George, for sharing this with all of us. I hope all of you will pass quotes like this around when you see people discussing the Kirby/Lee authorship debate. I used several of these yesterday in my little piece of satire, so thanks again to George.

From: George Zadorozny

Dear Mr. Steibel:

Like you I want to see Jack Kirby become justly famous and celebrated as the primary co-creator of the ’60s Marvel Universe. In addition to the excerpt from Comic Book Marketplace that you re-posted in “Kirby Dynamics” from my posting in The Huffington Post, here are some more words from Stan demonstrating Jack’s primacy.

1. Here’s quite an admission in the Marvel Bullpen Bulletin for–apparently–March 1966, which I presume was written by Stan, and at any rate was published by Marvel, of course:

“It isn’t generally known, but many of our merry Marvel artists are also talented story men in their own right! For example, all Stan has to do with the pro’s like JACK ‘KING’ KIRBY, dazzlin’ DON HECK, and darlin’ DICK AYERS is give them the germ of an idea, and they make up all the details as they go along, drawing and plotting out the story. Then, our leader simply takes the finished drawings and adds all the dialogue and captions! Sounds complicated? Maybe it is, but it’s another reason why no one else can bring you that old Marvel magic!” [Emphasis added.]

This is the most thoroughgoing Marvel-published admission of Jack’s towering primacy as to the creation of the Kirby/Lee stories that I have yet seen.

Sources: (scroll down to March 1966 page)


(Note that according to Wikipedia’s “Bullpen Bulletins” article, this “March 1966” Bullpen Bulletin reproduced on an Internet site might actually have been published in comics cover-dated February 1966. Specifically, the Wikipedia article says in its closing “External References” section that “[a]s of April 4, 2008, dates given are off by one month: the Dec. 1966 listing is for Nov. 1966 comics, etc.; see ‘The Mighty Marvel Checklist’ in each for date confirmation.”)

2. There is a 2008 book called Marvel Chronicle. It appears to be a Marvel-published book, given that it is copyrighted by a company called Marvel Characters, Inc. The book contains some further statements conceding the overwhelming primacy of Jack Kirby in the creation of the Kirby/Lee stories.

First, on page 144, the book states that Kirby, “together with editor Stan Lee, had created scores of characters.”

Second, in the foreword by Stan Lee, Stan states that with regard to Kirby and other artists, ” . . . I merely gave a brief outline of each story [to e.g. Kirby and Ditko] . . . they would then draw the actual strip without any further instructions from me.” [Emphasis added.] Stan also says the Marvel characters likely would never have become so successful without the “incredible contributions of the superbly talented artists with whom I worked . . . It was truly a collaborative effort . . . .”

Here’s the link to the book:

The ISBN of the edition I looked at is 978-0756641238.

3. You might also want to look at a book called The Art of Ditko, in which Stan Lee, in the introduction, gives extraordinary credit to Ditko, stating that some time into Ditko’s run on Spider-Man, Ditko was practically plotting the stories all by himself. This could be a fruitful starting point of questioning re, wasn’t it much the same with Jack Kirby?

Here’s the link to the Ditko book:

4. Finally, here is the complete version of what Stan said about Jack in Comic Book Marketplace in 1998:

“BOB [Brodsky, interviewer]: Jack Kirby?

“STAN: When you talk about Kirby you really run out of superlatives. Jack was a writer as well as an artist (as many of the legends were). He was incredibly imaginative and he did his most important writing with his drawing. When I say that I mean if I gave Jack a very brief idea of what I wanted for a story, he would run with it.

“I could say ‘Jack in this next story, I think I’d like to have Dr. Doom kidnap Sue Storm and bring her to Liberia [obviously Stan meant Latveria], then the Fantastic Four have to go after her and in the end Dr. Doom may promise that he won’t hurt Sue if they do something, and Reed says OK I agree, and the Thing would say how can you trust him, and Reed would say despite all of his faults Doom is a man of honor, he would never lie.’

“I would discuss the idea with Jack like that and that was all I had to do. And then Jack would go home and he would draw the story and he would add a million elements that I hadn’t told him about, so he was really writing in pictures and dreaming up ideas along the way.

“And then when I did write the copy (the words, the dialogue and the captions) it was such a joy because all I had to do was look at the illustration that Jack had done and each picture gave me a thousand new ideas. Jack never did a dull panel. Every drawing of his contained an expression [in] the characters’ face that almost told me what kind of dialogue to write. Jack could get more drama into a few lines than any artist I knew. His imagination and the things he came up with were wonderful . . . and on top of that, he was fast!

“I don’t know how anybody could have been that good and that fast . . . [veers off into a brief discussion of artist Joe Maneely].

“But back to to Jack Kirby . . . when Jack drew, you had the feeling that Jack had the entire drawing in his mind and when he put the pencil on the paper he was just ‘tracing’ what he already had in his mind. Most artists would draw a circle for the head and a circle for the body and then they’d start filling it in, but Jack would just start with the head and he would draw it and every line was there right from the start. He didn’t make little rough drawings first . . . it was the most eerie feeling watching him draw–you felt he was tracing what was already in his head. Jack Kirby . . . he was the most dependable artist in the world, he never missed a deadline. He never did a bad job . . . all his jobs were great.

“It’s hard to talk about Jack without sounding as if you’re exaggerating because that’s how good he was.”

–Comic Book Marketplace magazine, # 61, July 1998, pages 48-49.

5. Further proof of Jack’s creative primacy is this: many original or photocopied ’60s Marvel art pages exist where Jack writes notes in the margins to Stan, telling Stan what is going on. Guided by these, Stan would then add the dialogue and the captions. Marvel itself has published some of these pages.

6. I love the wonderful dialogue and captioning that Stan wrote, but Stan’s own words, quoted above, show that Jack Kirby was indeed the primary co-creator of the ’60s Marvel Universe. In all justice, then, Jack should be at least as well known and celebrated as Stan, and should be getting top billing in the Marvel movies based on his work, which is almost all of the movies, definitely including THE AVENGERS.

And even if the law does not require prominent credit to Jack and additional compensation for Jack’s surviving family, fundamental decency does. In Stan’s own stirring and justly celebrated words, “With great power there must also come . . . great responsibility!” Marvel/Disney, reaping astonishing wealth from Kirby’s work, is ethically required to live up to those words, and Stan should be doing everything he can to have Marvel/Disney do so. Surely he is not without great power here.

And all of us who love Jack’s work and who ever gained surging, thrilling hope and inspiration and vision from it–we too, together, have the same great power and great responsibility, to do all we can to have Jack Kirby’s name shine brightly and brilliantly as does his artistic legacy, forever. Let us all dedicate ourselves deeply to achieving this great goal.

One simple way to do this is to to re-post the above wherever doing so would advance the Kirby cause, and also to send it to critics and reporters who state or imply that Stan Lee alone created the ’60s Marvel Universe (as did the Washington Post’s film critic in her recent review of The Avengers). Stan was indispensable of course, but so, of course, was Jack, and now is the time to heap just and due honors upon this great, great storyteller for his stunning, splendid, visionary achievement.

Kirby forever!


George Zadorozny