Kirby the Liar vs. Lee the Liar

Here’s an excerpt from an email I received discussing yesterday’s post on Jack’s 1975 interview.

If Kirby stated he did breakdowns for Iron Man and he did not do the breakdowns he is a LIER! How can you call Stan Lee a lier when Kirby lied too?

I’m sure many of you find it annoying that I keep repeating that we discussed this on the old Kirby-l, but I want to cite my source so I’m probably going to mention that forum many times in the future. That’s where I learned most of what I know about Jack Kirby. There were a lot of great Kirby experts on that forum who taught me a lot, so I feel it’s important to name that forum as a source for many of the things I discuss here. For the record, I don’t mention the old Kirby-l here so often because I’m bitter about being banned from the new Facebook Kirby-l by the individual who started that forum. As I’ve said, I consider that an honor — I have zero interest in hiding in a private Facebook chat forum. My goal is to discuss Kirby with the 7 billion citizens of planet earth.

We hashed this “Kirby the Liar vs. Lee the Liar” argument out many, many times on the old Kirby-l. This is a broad generalization, and obviously if anyone disagrees with me they can feel free to correct me in any number of different online forums, but based on my memory  of those debates, you tended to have two sides:

Stan’s fans: felt that Kirby and Lee were both liars so their lies kind of cancelled each other out. In fact Lee is just a showman entertaining us — Jack is the real liar — Jack was a bitter old man who consciously slandered sweet innocent Saint Stan with his terrible lies.

Jack’s fans: had a different take on this. Since the old Kirby-l is gone and I can’t pull quotes, I’ll give you my point of view:

In my opinion, Jack Kirby saying he did breakdowns for Iron Man is probably a mistake on Jack’s part. Jack was cranking out art, stories, and new characters like crazy at that time, so I think Jack got a fact wrong there. Jack definitely discussed Iron Man with Stan Lee; Jack may have pitched the character to Lee; Jack may have verbally pitched the costume design to Lee; Jack may have contributed significant story elements to the first Iron Man story; Jack may have even pitched the entire plot and story for the first Iron Man story to Lee; Jack designed the first Iron Man costume; Jack did the art for the first cover featuring Iron Man; and Jack may have even discussed the character with Don Heck or given him some guidance, so Jack was clearly heavily involved in the entire creation process for the Marvel Iron Man property.

So the question is: in addition to all of that, did Jack also do the breakdowns (pencil layouts) for that first Iron Man story? It doesn’t look like it to me, I don’t see Jack’s trademark dynamics in that story, but Heck’s style is so strong Heck might be obscuring some Kirby layouts. I’ve seen pages where Jack did the layouts for another artist where I would have had zero idea Jack had anything to do with that page of art except for the fact that he is either credited as the layout artist or you can see his margin notes on the original artwork, so it’s still possible Jack might have done some layouts.

I haven’t seen that first Iron Man story in years, but personally I don’t recall thinking Jack did the layouts. And the credits clearly say: “Art: Don Heck,” so in all honesty I’m not even sure what Don Heck was talking about. Were there people at Marvel and in fandom who felt Jack did layouts for that story? I never heard that before. I do recall some debate over whether Jack did the splash, but that doesn’t really look like Jack’s work to me.

Anybody ever seen the original art to this book? Obviously if there are (or are not) Kirby margin notes on it that would clear this up. Here’s page 9 – 10, I found surfing the web.

Doesn’t look like Jack’s work to me, so if I’m playing the role of Judge Judy, and I have to make a decision…

My decision is that Jack probably got that fact wrong. I don’t think Jack did the layouts. If I’m Judge Judy would I point my gavel at Jack and screech, “You sir, are a liar!” Probably not, I don’t think there is anything egregious, slanderous, or libelous about Jack thinking he did layouts on that book — he did just about everything else on it. And if Jack was alive and we could show him the art, he might say, “you know somethin’, maybe I did get that fact wrong and Don Heck drew that whole book. Oops, I made a mistake. My apologies to my friend Don Heck.” Sadly Jack is no longer with us.

So how does this relate to the “Kirby is a liar vs. the Lee is a liar” debate? As I’ve said many times in the past, I think you are talking about two totally different situations. It would be like comparing stealing a piece of candy from a store to robbing a bank.

Stan Lee has built his reputation, his career, and his fortune on lying about creating all of Jack’s 1960s characters alone. Did Jack build his reputation claiming in an obscure interview that he did breakdowns for Iron Man? Of course not. So I see no correlation whatsoever between the two.

I’m not giving Jack a pass if he consciously lied about doing the breakdowns for Iron Man. I’m sure Jack’s fiercest critics would argue Jack was trying to steal credit from Don Heck, and Jack was trying to damage Heck’s reputation by lying because that’s the kind of man Jack was — Jack critics contend Kirby was a vile evil man. I suspect, though, that Jack had tremendous respect for Don Heck: it was just that Jack was so heavily involved in the creation of Iron Man; Jack did quite a bit of Iron Man artwork himself; and he had done a lot of layouts for Heck and other artists — so I think Jack got that fact wrong. I suspect if Jack was still alive and we could show him the book itself he would probably correct his error.

Anybody out there ever watch Jeopardy?

Do you get every single question right every time? Of course not, people get facts wrong all the time. There is nothing malicious about it. We all make mistakes. No one has a perfect memory or tells every story 100% accurately. I don’t think it’s fair for Jack’s critics to pick a couple errors or a handful of “lies” Jack told at the very end of his life in a handful of interviews, and use that as an eraser to excuse the thousands of lies Stan Lee has spread in thousands of his interviews over the last 40 years

To me comparing Jack claiming he did the layouts for Iron man in one forgotten fanzine interview to Lee claiming he created all of Jack’s characters in thousands of multimedia interviews over the last four decades is like comparing a marble to a mountain.

Case dismissed…