Author Archives: Mike Gartland

How Could He Not Know?

A Failure To Communicate – Part Seven

Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. Captions on the illustrations are written by John Morrow. – Rand

Part Seven was first published in TwoMorrows’ Summer 2002 Jack Kirby Collector 36.

Detail from Fantastic Four #99 (June 1970), featuring the Inhumans (probably in an effort to reintroduce them to readers before they spun off into Amazing Adventures #1).

“Kirby is leaving Marvel.” Stan Lee passed this information on to the Marvel readership in one of his Bullpen Bulletins editorials, and with his usual glib self-deprecating charm reassured the Marvelites that, although Jack would be seeking his fortunes elsewhere, the best was yet to come. Young readers had no reason to doubt Lee; sales were still going up along much of the Marvel line, and by 1970 the foundation of the “Marvel Zombie” had been laid, as many unsuspecting readers robotically swallowed Lee’s flip preachings. Besides, Lee was still there, and Lee was the man, the creator, the innovator; Lee was Marvel, right? Professionals, hardcore fandom, and industry insiders knew better; they knew that, although Stan was indispensible, this just wasn’t another artist leaving—this was the foundation to the “House of Ideas,” and with a foundation gone, can a “house” stand for long?

As we’ve read in previous articles, Jack had reached a point by 1967 where he was fed up with Marvel, particularly with Goodman and Lee. He had seen his concepts and creations exploited and taken credit for by individuals who promised him much but delivered little or nothing. Goodman was becoming even more wealthy on mass marketing and merchandising the Marvel creations; whereas Lee continued to take credit for characters and concepts he had virtually no input on save to dialogue after the lion’s share of the plot and story had been fleshed out and drawn by the artist. Steve Ditko allegedly left for these selfsame reasons a year before, suggesting to Jack to leave as well, but Jack was still under contract and was still being promised incentives. By the end of ’67, however, Jack realized that outside of an increase in his page rate and contracts that were begun but never finished, he’d been shortchanged again by Goodman and Lee, his contract was coming to an end, and it was time to decide. Stay or go, but if he left, go where? As strange as it seemed, unbeknownst to Jack (or Stan for that matter), television would play an indirect pivotal role in Jack’s decision.

By the end of ’67, due to the tremendous success of the Batman TV show, investors began looking to comic book companies as reasonably good investments. Both Marvel and DC had good sales and had been in the business under the same publishers for decades. DC went first, being purchased by Kinney National, then Marvel was sold to Perfect Film and Chemical. In both instances, publishers Goodman and Liebowitz remained temporarily (approximately four years) as publishers to see through a smooth transition and pave the way for their successors. Lee of course was first in line at Marvel, but at DC things were changing that would eventually help smooth the way for Lee to lose his most valuable asset. During the ’67-’68 period many of the “old guard” of DC’s writers and editors were either retiring, looking elsewhere, or simply being let go. The end result would be that the new editorial structure at DC would be composed of their former artists, with one of their premier artists—Carmine Infantino— taking the helm as editorial director. Carmine knew about Marvel what industry insiders knew for years: That it was creatively driven by its artists, and he wanted to bring that to DC. That wasn’t all he wanted to bring to DC. He had heard that Jack wasn’t happy with his present situation, and what better way to dent the competition than to get their main gun and fire it back at them?

Panels from Fantastic Four #100 (July 1970). Reed erroneously states that only the Puppet Master is capable of making such androids, when he should’ve said it was the Thinker. Since they’d just done a Thinker story in FF #96, it’s an even sloppier mistake.

Panels from Fantastic Four #100 (July 1970). Reed erroneously states that only the Puppet Master is capable of making such androids, when he should’ve said it was the Thinker. Since they’d just done a Thinker story in FF #96, it’s an even sloppier mistake.

Meanwhile at Marvel, Jack had heard about the sale of the company (in late ’68) and both welcomed and dreaded it. He’d hoped that this might give him someone other than Goodman to deal with, but these were corporate investors who knew nothing about the comic book industry and even less about Jack. Lee was nervous as well; he now had more than Goodman to please and might have to prove his worth all over again. By this time Jack’s contract had expired and he was working page-rate, story to story. Despite his attempts to renegotiate for another contract, Jack was either rebuffed or put on hold (indefinitely); he knew he wasn’t going to see any percentage of merchandising or creative control of his work or even proper credit for it, but despite all that, Jack still would’ve stayed with Marvel if they’d only given him the thing that had always been most important to him: A promise of financial security.

More than anything else in his life, Jack had the constant need to make sure he could support his family. Family was everything to him; during this very time, Jack began taking steps to move out of New York where he’d lived all his life, and go to live in California (about as far removed from NY living as one could get), all for the sake of his family. Within the Marvel family however, Jack was becoming more and more isolated; Infantino had met with Jack during this time (while Jack was still in New York) and discussions began about Jack joining another kind of family.

While all of the aforementioned was going on, Stan was beginning to think of greener pastures. The success of the Marvel line had brought him the notoriety and recognition he so desperately sought during the years before the likes of a Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko came his way. Surprisingly, before his association with Jack and Steve which led to the Marvel successes, he languished for two decades pumping out average, topical, saleable plots and scripts for the Timely/Atlas books—but now by the mid-Sixties, he was being recognized by the general public as the creator of all these great characters and concepts. Contrary to what many may think about Lee hogging credit for himself, this may not have been all of Stan’s doing as it most definitely was in the company’s best interest to have one of their employees recognized as creator of the line, rather than a freelancer who might someday leave and try to take some of the creations with him. With the general—and some of the comic bookreading— public believing all of these great ideas came from Stan, offers began to come his way. Artists and Directors were asking to work with him. Colleges were approaching him to lecture to aspiring students on how to create. Newspapers and magazines were asking him for interviews and articles. Stan was finally reaching the point where he realized that his newfound status might be the ticket out of comics and into the big time. As Stan courted his celebrity, he began to slowly relinquish his scripting chores on various Marvel titles one by one.

(next page) Jack’s margin notes from FF #97 (April 1970) show he intended the Lagoon Creature—Jack named him “Eddie”—to speak, but Stan ignored it.

Jack’s margin notes from FF #97 (April 1970) show he intended the Lagoon Creature—Jack named him “Eddie”—to speak, but Stan ignored it.

Shortly before the Marvel purchase by Perfect Film, the title line was expanded; the characters showcased in the “split” books—Tales to Astonish, Tales of Suspense, and Strange Tales—were each given their own respective books, not to mention new titles being created like Captain Marvel, Captain Savage and Combat Kelly, and Not Brand Echh. Lee did the majority of the scripting (towards the end, some editing only) on the split books up until their transition, after which he left virtually all of them, handing the scripting reins over to guys like Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Archie Goodwin, Arnold Drake, and others. He edited only, saving his scripting hand for Daredevil (which he left in March ’69), Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Thor, and Captain America. Lee also had plans to script the upcoming Spider-Man b-&-w magazine, a mentioned Inhumans book, and of course the Silver Surfer. Of the five titles Lee was still scripting, Kirby was drawing three of them: FF, Cap and Thor. One wonders why Lee never relinquished scripting the titles on which he “collaborated” with Kirby. Some speculated that, since Jack was doing the lion’s share of the work on those books with little or no input from Lee, and all Stan had to do was dialogue and edit an already fleshed-out story, it was less work for him than with less experienced artists—but the longer they seemed to be working together, Jack grew more and more frustrated with Lee; their collaborations began to become more like grudging co-operations, with each man trying to put their own plotting into stories that were meant to be agreed upon. The new Surfer book was a particularly stinging slap in Jack’s face; since many believe that Jack could’ve asked for and gotten any title in the Marvel line to work on, and this title was not mentioned or offered to him, it was pretty obvious to him that he wasn’t wanted on it (or his take on the character, at least). Jack had mentioned to Lee his wanting a writing or at least a plotting credit, but getting Lee to give a writing credit to any artist was a difficult task (shockingly, Steranko, a virtual nobody at that time, somehow got Lee to acquiesce after doing only two issues worth of work—another slap in Jack’s face). Jack was situated in California by 1969, even more isolated from Marvel than he had been in previous years, with Stan only talking to him if he had to. The stories Jack worked on that last year for Thor and Fantastic Four (he left Cap in early ’69) were among the most mundane of his run—decent for any other artist, but downright common for Kirby. The lack of collaborating is pretty evident at this stage as there are myriad examples of Stan’s dialogue looking like it makes no sense whatsoever when coupled with Jack’s illustration. Fans thought he and Lee were slipping, but it wasn’t so much slipping on Jack’s part as it was waiting.

Splash page from Astonishing Tales #1 (August 1970).

Splash page from Astonishing Tales #1 (August 1970).

During his last year on Thor, Jack seemed to be preoccupied with getting the origin of Galactus in print. He saw what Lee did to his Surfer and didn’t want the same fate to befall his other great cosmic creation. In FF he seems to have his final fun doing a gangster homage in his last four-part storyline. The rest of the year for the respective books feature retreads of old plots and old foes, and some new ones. Thor introduces Kronin Krask, the Crypto Man, and the Thermal Man; Fantastic Four came in with the Monacle and the Lagoon Creature. The fact that Goodman decreed that there be an end to continued stories for a while didn’t help the situation, as suspense and action then had to be crammed in or reduced. Although it wasn’t showing, Jack was arguably at his artistic height and these restrictions didn’t become so apparent until he left (once he got to DC, it’s almost like Jack’s art exploded out of these confines). Some speculate that towards the end of their association, these last new characters were probably from the plots that Kirby got from Lee, because it was reported that Jack was asking Stan to come up with the plots by this time; but upon reviewing original art from these stories, there is nothing to indicate any difference in the way they had always worked, so it’s entirely possible that Jack came up with them. Of the new characters introduced, only one—Agatha Harkness— would be utilized by Lee as a recurring character. By that time one would think that that was not Jack’s intention, however. It would be the last example of Stan using his editorial savvy to get something marketable out of one of Jack’s “throwaway” characters. Still working without a contract or any type of reassurance for job security, Jack was still doing work for Marvel, good work, but it wasn’t his best work. Some thought Jack was burning out; quite the contrary, he was just burning.

Final panels from Jack’s last issues of Fantastic Four (#102, Sept. 1970) and Thor (#179, August 1970), showing messages of war and hope.

Final panels from Jack’s last issues of Fantastic Four (#102, Sept. 1970) and Thor (#179, August 1970), showing messages of war and hope.

While Marvel refused to talk to Jack, Carmine was ready to listen. He went to California to continue his quest to lure Kirby from the competition. The fact that Jack was on the West Coast meant little to either publisher, although it was unusual at that time for any comic book personnel to not work out of the New York area. Only an artist of Jack’s stature could get away with working clear across the country, working by phone and mail almost exclusively. Carmine asked Jack what would it take to get him for DC. Foremost in Jack’s mind was a contract that would ensure continued financial security, but he wasn’t about to leave out the “little things” that Marvel refused to give him: A writing credit (in fact to write his own books), editorial control (remembering what happened to the Surfer and Him—to name only two—Jack wasn’t going to see his creations stolen from him or twisted into something different ever again), and a percentage of any merchandising from any characters he created. This was a hefty request for its day, but Carmine wanted Kirby at DC; it would be the coup of his editorial career, but he had to get the OK from the new bosses. Leibowitz was “old school” and requests like these were usually shot down, just as they were by his contemporary Goodman, but there was one difference: Goodman promised and reneged, and to Jack that was not very nice!

Final page from Silver Surfer #18, a book that must’ve been particularly galling for Jack to draw. Kirby was initially snubbed for the art chores on the book, and the series floundered for seventeen issues. Then Stan Lee called in Kirby to try to course-correct the book for inker Herb Trimpe to take over with #19, but the series was cancelled with this issue.

Final page from Silver Surfer #18, a book that must’ve been particularly galling for Jack to draw. Kirby was initially snubbed for the art chores on the book, and the series floundered for seventeen issues. Then Stan Lee called in Kirby to try to course-correct the book for inker Herb Trimpe to take over with #19, but the series was cancelled with this issue.

While negotiations continued, Jack got a few final surprises from Lee. Jack was asked to do the stories for the Inhumans in a new anthology (split) book, Amazing Adventures. The Inhumans was a book that originally Stan wanted Jack to put out years earlier, but it never made it to the schedule (some believe that the “Inhumans” back-up stories in Thor were the aforementioned book split-up, with other short “Inhumans” stories added until the back-ups were stopped completely). The surprise was that Jack would get a writing credit for the stories he did. Was this appeasement on Lee’s part, or was this the only way Stan could get Jack to do these stories (in which case, the surprise was on Stan)? Probably the former, as Stan could’ve simply gotten another artist for the book, but unlike the Surfer, Stan wanted Jack’s particular input on the characters he (Jack) created (in a 1968 fanzine, when asked directly, Jack states that he created the Inhumans). Jack also contributed “Ka-Zar” stories for Astonishing Tales, scripted by Roy Thomas, and did what would be the final story/issue for Lee’s failed Surfer comic. Kirby must have looked upon this particular job with mixed emotions to say the least (the last page says it all). The Fantastic Four’s one-hundredth issue, alleged to have been scheduled as a giant-sized story, was truncated to a miserable nineteen pages, a sad epitaph for one of Jack’s greatest series. Reportedly Jack finally got those plots he asked Lee for, in the last couple of FF stories. Jack continued to grind ’em out but, with the return of Infantino, Jack would now, finally (with Marvel anyway), grind to a halt. Jack’s requests were acceptable and it was time to sign. Up to the last minute, Jack waited, hoping he could come to some agreement with Goodman and the new owners at Marvel, but he was just another artist to them. Stan knew his worth, but also knew he wasn’t going to go to bat for him. He was worried enough about his own future with the company, and thought Jack was just disgruntled over the credits and some of the stories; he’d get over it. He was wrong!

Pencils from Astonishing Tales #166 (July 1969), featuring “Him”; like the Silver Surfer, he was another character Jack felt was changed from the direction he had planned for the character.

Pencils from Thor  #166 (July 1969), featuring “Him”; like the Silver Surfer, he was another character Jack felt was changed from the direction he had planned for the character.

The day Jack signed his contract with DC he called Stan and told him he had his last work for Marvel. Stan was indeed surprised for, although he knew Jack was unhappy, he never thought he’d leave. The last Thor and FF stories Jack worked on had themes of hope and war in the respective last panels; one can only wonder about the irony of it all.

What happened after Jack left has been discussed by many. Kirby was gone but sales continued to rise; was it because the new creative teams produced better stories? Hardly! Sales continued to rise on Spider-Man after Ditko left in ’66 also; sales continued to rise on almost all the Marvel books. Stories had little to do with it; it was impetus fueled by Marvel fanatics if anything.

Lee went on without Jack for approximately two years. He stopped scripting Thor one year after Jack’s departure, and finally stopped scripting Spider- Man and Fantastic Four a year after that. Stan went on to become publisher, then president of Marvel, publishing book after book on the Marvel heroes based on his “crazy ideas.” It’s reported that the copies of these books that Jack had were edited by Kirby with a pair of scissors, cutting out falsities, thereby reducing many pages to Swiss cheese. Once at a convention, a fan asked Jack if he’d sign one of the Lee books. Seeing that Lee already signed it, Jack said to the fan that he’d sign his name in ratio to his contributions as opposed to Lee’s; Jack’s signature was five times larger.

Kronin Krask, one of the forgettable villains that populated Kirby’s books his last year at Marvel. Was he Jack’s idea or Stan’s? This page is from Thor #172 (Jan. 1970).

Kronin Krask, one of the forgettable villains that populated Kirby’s books his last year at Marvel. Was he Jack’s idea or Stan’s? This page is from Thor #172 (Jan. 1970).

To this day Lee credits his artists as the most creative people he ever worked with; what they created, however, you rarely hear from Stan. As recently as his new autobiography, Stan continues to relate how Marvel came about, always using the collective “we.” He’ll graciously acknowledge the likes of Kirby and Ditko as two of the best artists he ever worked with, but according to Stan, the “ideas” came from him; they only fleshed them out. (At this point I’d recommend subscribing to Robin Snyder’s The Comics where Steve Ditko is giving his side to the Lee/Ditko “collaborations.”) As far as any problems with Jack, in a recently released DVD with Kevin Smith, all Stan can relate is that Jack was unhappy about some form Marvel wanted him to sign to get his originals back (this happened with Jack in the mid-’80s). For some reason Stan believes Jack blamed him for this problem (Jack didn’t), and that’s all Stan would say about any problems with Kirby—no mention of why Jack left Marvel.

In a 1977 interview, when asked why he embellishes his answers to the point of not really giving the answer, Stan responded in so many words that the public wasn’t interested in boring tales, even if they were the truth. Since he admired Shakespeare so, I think that the best line that suits Stan would be from Measure for Measure: “It oft falls out, To have what we would have, We speak not what we mean.” So the greatest team in the Silver Age of comics was no more. Jack’s heart left Marvel long before his person; a long last year that stretched out over several. In later years, Jack cited why he felt he had to leave, but just as with Ditko (and Wood for that matter), Stan will tell you how he doesn’t know why Jack left. He knew Jack was unhappy, he knew Jack was working with no contract, he knew Goodman reneged on promises made; but he doesn’t know why Jack left. It seemed any artist who contributed significantly to the creation of the Marvel super-heroes had a failure to communicate and eventual falling-out with Lee, but he doesn’t know why!

How could he not know?


While Jack filled in for John Buscema on Silver Surfer #18, Big John took a stab at Thor in issue #178 (July 1970). After Kirby left, Neal Adams drew two issues, and then Buscema became the series’ regular artist.


The Best Laid (Out) Plans…

A Failure To Communicate – Part Six

Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. Captions on the illustrations are written by John Morrow. – Rand

Part Six was first published in TwoMorrows’ August 2000 Jack Kirby Collector 29.

“Less is More.” Never thought about it, really; just another catchy phrase used by advertising people to try and convince you to buy something—that you were getting something special. What could it mean? Well, I guess it could mean something like concentrated fabric softener, or if a seller was trying to convince a buyer that their “new reduced-size” product was just as good as the previous size (except the price remained the same, or was increased, of course). But it wasn’t until I began to research the layout work that Jack Kirby did for Marvel in the Sixties that I realized what it also could mean.

Jack’s margin notes from Avengers #14; layouts by Kirby, pencils by Heck, inks by Chic Stone. Jack was brought back in to set the tone and direction for the series, even though he stopped being the regular penciler on it with #8.

Personnel-wise, Marvel was in a state of flux by the mid-Sixties. Due to the tremendous increase in popularity of the new Marvel line, Stan Lee was in constant search for creative people to help lessen the load; he was also seeking inroads to release new titles while under distribution restrictions. By 1965 books that originally showcased one super-hero found themselves sharing with another; or were dropped totally in favor of a new series. Storylines began to change to a multi-issue, serialistic format. New artists were introduced; some stayed, others didn’t, or stayed but in a different capacity, such as inking, coloring, or production. The artists who were to pencil these books had to be indoctrinated to the “Marvel method” of story production. Due to the pressing deadlines, and foreseeing that some might have problems conforming in so limited a time, Lee decided that the best course to take would be for someone to work with these artists who could help them learn to work “Marvel method.” Well, who better than the one who unknowingly created it, Jack Kirby?

To digress for a moment, it is my opinion that the “Marvel method” was not so much a creation as it was an advantageous development. Lee states in a 1977 interview that it came about in the Sixties, but in a more recent interview with Roy Thomas in Alter Ego, Roy convinces Lee that it must have occurred earlier, during the pre-hero monster era. This makes more sense as it coincides with the return of Kirby to Marvel on a regular basis. In my opinion, once Lee realized that Kirby needed little or no prompting to get a good saleable story out of him, he gave Jack the leeway (no pun intended) to develop characters and concepts that an otherwise full script would have restrained. When Lee also realized that he could adapt that type of collaboration with others, and get better stories from them (and free himself from writing scripts), the “Marvel method” was born.

Original art from X-Men #12 showing Jack’s margin notes and layouts, with Toth pencils and Colletta inks.

Chronologically, the precursor of Jack doing layouts might have been as early as 1963. Up until that time, most of the new super-hero line was pure Kirby/Lee, but by the cover date of March 1963, there is only one book, Fantastic Four, with Kirby art produced. On that month, all the other titles drawn by Kirby up until then are handed over to the other resident artists. The Hulk went to Ditko, Strange Tales went to Ayers (which made sense since he was probably even more experienced at drawing Torch stories than Kirby). Journey Into Mystery tried out with Al Hartley (but settled better with Joe Sinnott), and Don Heck jumped in with both feet, premiering his super-hero drawing abilities with Ant-Man in Astonish and a new feature called Iron Man in Suspense (actually, Iron Man was to premiere earlier, but that’s another story). This was the first attempt to have others continue the Kirby/Lee technique, but many of the stories showed the lack of something (or someone). Of course while this was going on, Jack was not idle; he was behind the scenes drawing and developing, in conjunction with Stan, what would become The Avengers, The X-Men, Sgt. Fury, FF Annual #1 and Strange Tales Annual #2. Up front he continued to draw the monthly FF adventures, a Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, or Torch story here and there, and the cover art for almost the complete line.

Margin notes from Avengers #16.

When Sgt. Fury, The Avengers, and The X-Men premiere, the process begins to repeat itself. Kirby draws approximately the first year of stories and then another artist comes in to continue; but unlike the earlier non-Kirby period, Jack doesn’t leave entirely. We now finally come to 1965; there are more titles to draw than ever before, and unlike two years previous, Stan cannot resort to his resident artists to fill in because they already have their hands full drawing books. Enter the freelancers; some were old friends of Stan from the Timely/Atlas days, some were from competitor companies, some were talented newcomers; but none were experienced at drawing stories “Marvel method.” It is during this time and for this reason that Jack is persuaded to do layouts to help these “new” artists.

Jack is first credited with layouts in Avengers #14 (cover-dated March 1965), but of course this should not infer that Jack didn’t influence plots or artwork for other artists prior to this. There is an excellent article in the Jack Kirby Quarterly by Nigel Kitching which covers Kirby contributing art “help” on stories where his name doesn’t appear, like Avengers #9-13. On copies of the original art to Avengers #14 there is evidence of Jack’s border notes similar to the type we covered on the Journey into Mystery #111 article in TJKC #26, but this particular issue seemed to have many hands in it; Lee, Ivey, Heck, Stone, et. al. Jack also lays out the stories to Avengers #15 and #16, by which time his border notes become much more expansive and descriptive. These three issues appear to be Jack’s “dry run” at leaving pencil and story layouts for other artists to follow.

Jack’s notes here show the involvement he had in helping determine the personalities and motivations of the characters.

By May/June 1965 Jack has finished with layouts on The Avengers and with penciling on The X-Men (issue #11 was his last as artist), but he has picked up “The Hulk” in Tales to Astonish (#68). Up until that time, Steve Ditko was drawing and co-plotting the stories. Mark Evanier related to me that it was Ditko who originally pitched the idea of giving The Hulk a series to Lee; perhaps it was Lee who suggested putting The Hulk in the Goblin story in Spider-Man #14 (cover-dated July 1964) that alerted Ditko that the character was being shuffled around looking for a home. Ditko therefore made the suggestion which led to The Hulk series beginning in Astonish #60 (cover-dated October 1964, after Lee and Dick Ayers indoctrinated Astonish readers to The Hulk in Astonish #59). After leaving the Hulk series, the very next month in Spider-Man, Ditko begins receiving a (long-delayed) co-plotting credit (he doesn’t receive co-plotting credit on “Dr. Strange” until two months later); coincidence? Ditko’s problems with Marvel were growing—but back to Jack.

Mike Gartland’s lightboxed version of Kirby’s original design for the Juggernaut, which was still visible in blue pencil under a pasted-up stat of the final panel of X-Men #12 (right). Since Jack didn’t tend to use blue pencil, this suggests that Alex Toth also worked on the original Juggernaut figure.

Between June and August 1965, Jack co-plots and draws the Hulk stories for Astonish #68-70 and begins doing layouts—similar to the Avengers stories—for The X-Men; he also adds plot and pencils to help Stan launch the new “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” series in Strange Tales. With The X-Men, Jack leaves layouts and border notes for Alex Toth, in what may have been his “try-out” issue. This is not to say that Toth was new to the field; he was an accomplished draftsman long before this, but working “Marvel method” may not have been his cup of tea. He leaves after only one issue, a shame really. By the way, this particular issue (X-Men #12) is of interest not only for the obvious introduction of The Juggernaut; on the originals Kirby layed-out, The Juggernaut was originally intended to look different, with a flat helmet (à la the Atlas Black Knight), a waist apron similar to Galactus’, and spikes on the breastplate. Obviously someone thought him a little too lethal (or ridiculous) looking and asked for changes. Also it is my opinion that in keeping with the ‘Origin of Professor X’ storyline, Jack intended for Cain Marko (The Juggernaut) to be the cause of Professor X becoming crippled. Although I’ve yet to verify this through the original art, the powerful images on pages 12 and 13 seem to confirm this, and the fact that Jack probably came up with the name Cain Marko (“the mark of Cain”) would fit into the brother vs. brother plot. Stan almost always used alliterative names on characters he was writing. Stan of course would have had to change the “Marko cripples Professor X” plot since he knew he had previously established this in an earlier issue of X-Men (#9) using the villain Lucifer. In reviewing the border notes to the originals from X-Men #9 it is apparent that the crippling of Xavier at Lucifer’s hands was not part of the original plot; there are no border notes by Jack pertaining to the incident, and the notes in the borders by Lee pertaining to it are written over erased Kirby notes. Also there is evidence of Wite-Out correction on word balloons in which the incident is added. So it would seem as though Lee added the crippling plot after the story was handed in, which is why Jack probably didn’t know about it, or remember it if Lee informed him of it; which makes me wonder how much collaboration Kirby and Lee were doing on The X-Men to begin with. (And for those who want to point out that Xavier appears later on walking with Marko in the Korean flashback, you’ll notice by examining the art that there is no evidence that the other soldier was meant to be Xavier in the first place.) Enough with the tangents, back to the story.

Original art from Tales of Suspense #72. As plotlines got more involved, Kirby began leaving longer, almost paragraph-length notes with his layouts.

It is on the books cover-dated September 1965 that Jack is firmly established as layout artist. Jack begins in tandem plotting and leaving pencil layouts for Strange Tales, Astonish, X-Men, and Suspense (Jack was co-plotting and drawing the Captain America series in Suspense up until that point). He is also co-plotting and doing pencils for Thor and FF, plus cover art for the line. On examples of original art, Jack’s border notes begin to become almost paragraph-length, leaving detailed descriptions and brief dialogue for the resident artist. Jack (and maybe even Stan) wasn’t sure who would be drawing what story at any given month, so these notes were not directed at any of the artists’ abilities. Seasoned veterans to Marvel, like Ayers and Heck, probably only referred to them for the plot or occasional panel dynamics. It was the “new guys” coming in that all of these layouts were for.

With each title Jack was laying out, Stan tried introducing one of the “new” guys as artist. That was, after all, part of the whole idea behind bringing Jack in on this project. Plots were worked out between Kirby and Lee, Jack would then flesh out the story with varying degrees of pencil work, accompanying the pencils with border directions. The artist would follow this lead, in Stan’s hope that he would add his own technique and flair to the finished art. Lee would then add dialogue and captions and make any last-minute editorial changes. This time period in Marvel marks the beginning of the artistic second wave; we’ll take them one at a time.

Note how Jack sets-up the Hulk’s motivations in these notes from Astonish #73.

After Alex Toth left X-Men, Werner Roth, an old friend of Stan’s from the Atlas days (1950-57) came back under the pseudonym Jay Gavin. Moonlighting from his romance work at DC, Roth adapted readily and within six months was working “Marvel method” with Roy Thomas as the regular artist on the title and stayed with it for almost two years. Kirby is credited with layouts on issues #12-17, although it is possible that he stayed on in one capacity or another until Roy came on in issue #20. From the onset, Jack was more devoted to this title than the others he helped launch at the same time and didn’t seem to leave it creatively until another writer came on. Two of the X-Men’s most memorable foes, The Juggernaut and The Sentinels, were created by Jack during this period.

As stated previously, Jack came in on “The Hulk” in Tales To Astonish #68; after drawing the first three chapters he begins doing layouts for Mickey Demeo. Demeo is one of the more recognized pseudonyms in Marvel mythos; the artist’s real name is even more recognized throughout all of comicdom: Mike Esposito. Esposito is one-half of the legendary team of Andru & Esposito, as recognized and loved as Simon & Kirby to many. As with many from DC at that time, Mike took a false name (the Demeo was his then-wife’s maiden name). According to Esposito, Jack’s layouts looked like rough sketches and you had to pull them together as best you could. Sometimes the Kirby layout pencils were defined enough that Mike could draw over them in ink (as opposed to penciling over the layout, then inking it). This may help to explain why, in so many of the stories in the various titles layed-out by Jack, the Kirby look comes through even over another artist’s work. Jack almost always did more defined pencils on the splash and would occasionally pencil a panel here or there. Esposito stays on to pencil a few issues, alternating with Bob Powell, but then opts to ink rather than pencil. In the interim, Gil Kane sneaks in for his first try at “Marvel method,” penciling one story under the pen-name of Scott Edwards. John Romita also comes in for one issue, then “The Hulk” settles down with Bill Everett until issue #84 when he and Jack leave the series. Jack actually was credited with layouts up until issue #83, but #84 credits many Marvel hands so it’s possible he was in on it. Jack stayed with this title for 17 issues; there was only one other title in which he would stay on longer as layout artist. It happened to be the new kid on the block.

In addition to layouts for other pencilers, Jack provided tighter pencils for Giacoia to ink in Strange Tales #141.

Anyone from my generation knows about the James Bond series of the Sixties and the plethora of spin-offs that it gave birth to. Stan, ever commercial, ever topical, naturally jumped onto this bandwagon. He and Jack came up with “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”; this series showcased all of the crazy high-tech gadgetry and far-out scientific concepts that made the secret agent genre popular and Jack was already known for. Stan also resolved the problem of bringing Sgt. Fury into the current Marvel timeline by making him the secret agent in the series (Jack and Stan lightly touched on a present-day Fury in the pages of FF #21, as an operative of the C.I.A., but this brought him back in ernest as a regular Marvel character). Jack penciled the first story in Strange Tales #135 (Aug. ’65), but as with the Hulk series in Astonish, he stops doing full pencils and begins doing layouts with the issue cover-dated Sept. ’65. And with this new title would come another “new” artist.

Bob Powell’s uninked pencils over Kirby layouts for Tales To Astonish #74, from stats in Jack’s files. Marvel sent these to help Jack maintain continuity between issues—which shows how directly involved he was with the plotting.

John Severin was hardly “new” to the medium, well known for his work with EC, Harvey Kurtzman, Mad, and especially Cracked magazine; his association with Marvel dated, like Roth, from the Fifties when he did mostly westerns for Stan. Although his work showed promise, like Esposito, he didn’t stay long as penciler. After three issues Severin was gone; he ironically goes back in time with Fury, ending up inking Dick Ayers’ pencils on the Sgt. Fury book. After Severin leaves, the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” book becomes a virtual revolving door of interim pencilers; it appeared that whoever was free for an assignment or wanted to try out was given a shot. Sinnott, Giacoia, Esposito, Purcell, and even Ogden Whitney of Skyman/ACG fame pitched in for an installment. The dependable Don Heck did a few issues; and John Buscema came back to Marvel in the pages of a “S.H.I.E.L.D.” book. Buscema was also one of Stan’s “friends of the Fifties” group; Buscema likes to relate the story of how, when given the Kirby layouts to the story, he erased them all and drew the book his way. John’s words from The Art of John Buscema: “It was ‘Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, and I didn’t pencil it. Jack Kirby broke it down. That’s how much confidence Stan had in me. He had Jack Kirby break it down, and I penciled it over, and repenciled the whole thing. I erased every panel and redrew it, because I couldn’t draw like Kirby… and it came out pathetic.” As has been noted on other occasions, Stan never wanted his other artists to draw like Kirby, but to learn his abilities at dynamic storytelling, which is probably why with the border notes/directions, Jack was requested to do the pencil layouts. After Buscema, with issue #151, “S.H.I.E.L.D.” finally settles down with an artist who not only stays with it, and is a newcomer, but happens to be perfect for the book.

One of Dick Ayers’ Daredevil tryout pages, before John Romita got the strip, working over Kirby layouts.

Jim Steranko cut his comic art teeth at Harvey, but found fame at Marvel. Like Kirby, his art had a cinematic technique, and more importantly, he executed the “pop art/psychedelic”” style into his then-current work, blending perfectly with the secret agent “camp” look; unlike Kirby, his style was sleek and polished, which also contributed to a better look for this particular series. Steranko would become the definitive artist for “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D,” and even though his total work for Marvel would end up being less than thirty issues, it was a testament to his talent that it would be enough to ensure his fame. What is also of interest is that, within three months of his first story, by Strange Tales #154, Steranko begins being credited as writer of the series, making him the first regular artist/writer at Marvel. As with X-Men, it appears that Kirby stays with this title until a new regular writer takes over, and as with X-Men, Stan relinquishes the “writing” credit and only edits the book thereafter. Jack does layouts on “Nick Fury” for 18 months, longer than any other series in which he is credited as layout artist; and seeing as how there seemed to be no regular artist on the series until the arrival of Steranko, it is to Jack’s credit that he was able to maintain story quality throughout.

Kirby was often called upon to make art corrections on other artists’ work. Don Heck’s original Cap figure is visible under this one, presumably redrawn by Kirby for this Tales of Suspense #58 panel.

Since Jack only did layouts on two issues of Daredevil, some would say why even bring it up? There’s an interesting story behind it; Daredevil was, up until that time, in the creative hands of Wally Wood, who made the character more dynamic, visually stunning, and marketable than he ever was previously. Wood was, however, slated to begin work on the new “Sub- Mariner” series debuting in Astonish #70, which is probably why the character last appeared in Daredevil (#7). The Daredevil book was being handled by Wood associate Bob Powell, who was preserving the Wood “look.” In the interim, however, Wood had a huge disagreement with Lee and refused to do any more stories (note: although Daredevil #10 is cover-dated Oct. ’65—two months after Astonish #70—since it was a bi-monthly, it was possible that it was drawn around the same time). By the cover date of Dec. ’65, Wood was gone, and Powell with him. Stan was initially going to bring in Dick Ayers to take over the book, but really didn’t want to take Dick away from his other drawing assignments; as Dick was preparing some pages for the Daredevil book (of which he still has a few), enter John Romita. Romita had just returned to Marvel, having known Stan from the “Timely” days; previous to his return he was grinding out romance work for DC. Stan immediately gave John the Daredevil assignment, but unlike Ayers, John was not used to working Marvel method, so… enter Jack Kirby. Jack layed-out issues #12-13, and by #14 Romita was well on his way, staying on the title until issue #19 when he leaves in order to take over the artistic seat in Spider-Man.

With the “Captain America” series in Tales of Suspense, Jack follows the same program. He was the resident co-plotter and artist from its inception in issue #59 (cover-dated Nov. ’64), until issue #69 when he begins doing layouts. Issue #69 is cover-dated Sept. ’65, just as was Astonish #71 and Strange Tales #136; was this more than just coincidence? (And just as with the Hulk story in Astonish #59, Stan introduces Suspense readers to Cap in a pre-series story in Suspense #58, drawn by Heck, with Kirby art corrections interspersed.) The “new” artist for this series was the indomitable George Tuska. Tuska was well known throughout the industry, drawing every genre imaginable for every known comic book publisher; always on the move, he rarely stayed with any one company exclusively. After issue #69, which was handled by Ayers, Tuska comes in as artist and does his usual yeomanly work for five issues, then he’s on the move again, leaving Marvel for Tower. After another fill-in by dependable Dick Ayers, the series brings in John Romita for two issues, then goes back to Jack doing full pencils by issue #78. Jack stays with the series, co-plotting and penciling until issue #86, then leaves for five issues (Suspense #86 is cover-dated Feb. ’67, the same time he left Strange Tales at #153). Why he left is unclear, but by Feb. ’67, Jack was definitely done with doing layouts.

In addition to Jack’s margin notes, notice how Cyclops’ hand was repositioned in the published version of this panel from X-Men #12. Good call!

For two years Jack did layout work for Marvel; for completists, the breakdown went something like this:

  • March 1965-May 1965: Avengers #14, #15, & #16
  • July 1965-March 1966: X-Men #12-17
  • September 1965-May 1966: Tales of Suspense (Captain America) #69-77
  • September 1965-September 1966: Tales to Astonish (Hulk) #71-83
  • September 1965-February 1967: Strange Tales (Nick Fury) #136-153
  • January 1966-February 1966: Daredevil #12 & #13

A good example of Stan dialoguing almost verbatim from Jack’s notes, from Tales To Astonish #73.

And these represent only credited layouts; it’s very possible that Jack had story input on one or two issues after he left, until the writer following him either picked up his thread or established his own. With only two exceptions—Avengers #16 and Suspense #77—Jack leaves all of his last layed-out stories open for the writer and artist following to conclude. Even the two exceptions are hardly that, since Avengers #16 leaves the plot thread of the search for The Hulk which is in the following issue (and which also vaguely ties in with the Hulk story in Astonish #69 using Kirby paste-ups), and the Suspense (Cap) storyline is continued by Kirby himself with issue #78. If the aforementioned stories give the appearance of my giving credit to Kirby as writer, it is only in the non-conventional sense, as it is my opinion that the plots and stories at this point were coming from Jack. These layed-out stories coincide with the same period of time when Jack was developing the interwoven plotlines in FF and Thor, along with the introduction of new characters and concepts there. Jack begins doing layouts in ernest at about the same time as the continuing stories of FF #38-up and Thor #116-up are running. The border notes on all of Jack’s stories become more involved and detailed at this point, indicating that he is leaving more direction and being left more on his own than in the earlier years. Stan was there, to be sure, with plot input, editorial corrections, dialogue, and captions. Stan was credited as “writer,” but at this point he was leaving no written synopsis, plot, or script for Jack to follow. Most of the time there were story conferences, and Stan likes to relate how he would only have to give “the germ of an idea” to his collaborator and send him off; with Kirby he once mentioned that even this wasn’t necessary. “Sometimes Jack would tell me what the next story would be,” he once opined. He also referred to Jack as a “conceptualizer,” which, by definition, implies the act of forming notions, ideas, or concepts; and even the ones not originated by Jack were being passed through him for input if time permitted. With this in view it is my opinion that, although they probably worked more closely in the earlier years, with the expansion of the line occupying more of Lee’s time and the previously mentioned changes in how the stories were being done, the majority of the plots and stories on the books Kirby was involved in were probably coming from Jack. In discussing this topic with several of the artists working on the layout books, more than one mentioned that Jack’s border notes were being left for the writer of the dialogue, not the artist. Stan, in an unpublished interview, stated that he couldn’t understand how Jack could say that he (Jack) was doing the writing; well, there are many examples of Jack’s border notes being used by Lee for both dialogue and descriptive purposes (and of course, there are examples of Lee disregarding said notes, sometimes to much better effect). So if co-plotting, dialogue, and captions make Stan the “writer,” I’d have to add that, since Jack co-plotted, broke down, drew (or layed-out), and left writing directions, that made him the “storyteller”; something Jack liked to refer to himself as anyway.

More of Jack’s margin notes, this time from X-Men #14. Kirby layouts, Werner Roth finishes, Colletta inks.

As time went on, Jack was becoming more and more dissatisfied with doing layouts for Marvel. It was mentioned in earlier articles how during this ’65-’67 period, Jack noticed that Stan was getting the lion’s share of the publicity and recognition for all of the characters and concepts that they originally developed together. Others, such as Ditko and Wood, also voiced their dislike of the fact that now, thanks to the “Marvel method,” the artist may have more creative freedom with the stories (to the extent of sometimes doing them virtually solo), but they weren’t receiving any sort of writing credit. The artist would do 75% of the work, but only be paid the standard page rate for penciling; Lee, on the other hand, would be paid for writing, editing, and dialoguing a story Already fleshed out and drawn. This is not to say that Lee didn’t earn his pay, but the “Marvel method” proved that the stories were at the least co-written where people like Kirby, Ditko, and Wood were concerned; but credit arguments concerning Stan are hardly a new topic.

Detail from Avengers #16. Jack may have done tighter layouts here, as much of his style shows through Ayers’ finishes.

Aside from credits, one topic which Stan strongly supported was a better pay rate for the people working with him. This is where many have come to realize that Martin Goodman was more involved with the new Marvel than had been previously mentioned. One of the main reasons that so many of the artists and inkers that came to Marvel in the mid-Sixties didn’t stay long was because of the terrible pay rates. Although Marvel was becoming financially successful after decades of stagnation, Goodman would not put more money into the comic book division of his holdings; only after the cajoling and sometimes begging of Lee would Goodman relent. He also was eternally pessimistic concerning concepts, often telling Stan to cancel books before the first sales figures would come in (as he did with Hulk and Spider-Man); if not for Stan, they would never have gotten off the ground and their popularity realized. Goodman was also ambivalent about talent. It didn’t bother him if an artist quit; to him they were replaceable commodities. Stan knew where the talent was and must have become increasingly discouraged to not have the financial backing to lure them away. Artists who would come to Marvel during this layout period were offered as much as 30 dollars a page, provided that they penciled and inked it; some were offered less. Joe Sinnott relates the story of how, when he inked the historic FF #5, he was paid seven dollars a page for inks; had he been paid more he may have stayed on and the history of comic art might have been changed. Marvel was notorious for having among the lowest rates in the business, and Goodman tried his best to keep them that way (good business savvy, but terrible on morale).

Another example of Jack’s lengthy margin notes, from X-Men #16.

Jack, of course, received a better rate as a penciler, but never as much as he was promised or felt he deserved. The layout work he did just added insult to injury, as Jack was only paid 25% of his usual page rate; near the end it may have been moved up to around a third, but he still felt it was terrible pay. He felt that he was receiving one fourth of the money for what he considered the important three fourths of the penciler’s job. And as with FF and Thor during this period, it also increased the number of comics per month where Jack was contributing story ideas and plots to comics that were published with sole writer credit going to Lee. Jack announced several times that he didn’t want to do layouts any longer, but was persuaded to do a few more, to help out artists who were new to the “Marvel method” of doing comics; and then a few more and a few more until he finally issued an ultimatum that he would not do any more. This is probably why, although the layout work begins at virtually the same time, it doesn’t end abruptly, but rather peters out. Within eight months of the last story Jack lays out, he comes to the conclusion that he’s given enough ideas to “The House of Ideas,” and because of a failure to communicate, rides out the wave until something better comes along—but the secession of creativity is anti-climactic, as it becomes apparent over the years that what he’s left them is enough to sustain them for decades; and he is yet to receive his proper recognition in the company by the company… shame!

(We’d like to thank Dick Ayers, Mike Esposito, Mark Evanier, Richard Howell, John Romita, Joe Sinnott, Clem So, Chic Stone, and George Tuska for supplying information pertinent to the writing of this article.)

An Inference of Influence

A Failure to Communicate – Interlude

Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. Captions on the illustrations are written by John Morrow. – Rand

Interlude was first published in TwoMorrows’ April 2000 Jack Kirby Collector 28.

While others write about Kirby’s influence in this issue, I’d like to discuss some of the contributions of the one professional who influenced Kirby in a myriad of ways, and quite arguably brought him towards his greatest recognition: Stan Lee.

Well, think about it; although Stan may not have been an influence to Jack in the artistic or storytelling sense, his effect on Kirby’s work at Marvel, for good or bad, is present in virtually every issue of every title Jack worked on. The majority of the effects were obviously good, as reflected in the love we share for their combined work.

A good catch (and a little venting of frustration) by Stan on this FF #90 page. His notes to Sol Brodsky about the way Jack drew Alicia’s eyes: “Fix Alicia’s pupils, Sol — She’s blind! If only J.K. were consistent.”

Although many throughout fandom speculate that Jack was the concept or “ideas” man behind the “House of Ideas,” it must be noted, however true, that Stan was the one asking for those concepts and ideas, especially during those critical early years. Stan is therefore rightly recognized as the father of the Marvel Universe, being a seminal influence behind not only Jack, but all areas of production. Stan was a creative midwife, periodically provoking Jack to bear down and push. This is not to say that Stan didn’t have ideas of his own, but one of his strengths was knowing how to utilize the creative talents of others. Stan’s input into the creation of Marvel’s earliest and most famous characters should not be disputed.

When Goodman wanted to start up a super-hero line again, he went to Lee and Lee went to Kirby—not anyone else at Marvel— to come up with a book. Many cite the similarities between the FF and Jack’s Challengers and use this hypothesis to say that most of the idea for the FF came from Jack, but Lee’s influence is obvious from the two most colorful characters, the Torch and the Thing. It’s a pretty safe bet to assume that Stan would want a monster-like character, in keeping with the then-popular line of monster-related books that they were putting out. The inclusion of the Torch was definitely Lee’s input; it was all Jack could do to keep Stan from bringing back other Golden Age heroes for that book, and convince him to go with new characters. Stan still showed his love of the old guard by reviving the Sub-Mariner, and giving the “new” Torch his own title as soon as he could.

Bringing back old characters was not to Stan’s detriment; if not for him, we of the Baby Boomers would never have enjoyed the likes of the Torch, Namor, or ironically Cap. Jack, being progressively creative, almost certainly wouldn’t have gone into the past and saved these great characters. Thanks to Stan reviving him, Captain America is more popular and recognized today than he ever would’ve been had he remained buried among the WWII relics. Also thanks to his reprinting of Golden Age stories early on, Stan became the first to re-introduce a new generation to the works of Simon & Kirby, Carl Burgos, and especially Bill Everett.

Page 14 pencils from Thor #144. It appears Jack came up with the somewhat out-of-character subplot of Balder being secretly in love with Sif. Stan went along with it for that issue, but wisely never followed up on it.

The Hulk, Thor, and Spider-Man were the next triumvirate that Kirby came to co-develop when Stan asked Jack for ideas. As with the Thing, Stan most likely asked for a character like the Hulk. In earlier pre-hero Marvel stories, every now and then a monster would make a re-appearance, perhaps in response to fans or positive sales. Based on this, Stan may have wanted to try a series with the same monster in the lead; but maybe it came too late. The Hulk was pretty obvious as far as a monster tie-in was concerned, and maybe this was one of the reasons that initially, he didn’t succeed. There were a lot of monster stories already ingested by Marvel readers and, compared to books like FF and Thor, the Hulk was just another monster, not super-hero, book. Thor was discussed previously; Jack’s love of mythology fed this title for years, with Stan’s humanistic take on gods giving it the vitality to keep going.

Jack jotted this down on the back of one of his statted pages from FF #46. Was it a note taken during a phone plotting session with Stan, or Jack’s own idea for a subplot?

Ironically it is Spider-Man, Jack’s failed concept, that becomes Stan’s magnum opus and Marvel’s greatest success. Spider-Man, more than any other character, is a testament to the control that Stan had in the development of Marvel’s heroes. Stan may not have developed these characters artistically, but he knew what he wanted, and none of them would exist as they do today if not for his influence and input. And no, I didn’t forget Ant-Man, but he also was discussed in a previous issue; I also didn’t forget that one should never mention the development of Spider-Man without acknowledging the immense input and talent of Steve Ditko. (As an interesting footnote, the rejected Spider-Man origin, where a kid finds an object that gives him his powers, may have been re-vamped and used in the origin for Thor, showing how close in time these two characters were being developed by Jack & Stan.)

As reported in the letter column of TJKC 27, Jack’s handwritten dialogue is visible in the balloons (not the margins) of the original art from Strange Tales #103, leaving the question of whether Kirby, Lee, or Lieber wrote the original dialogue for this story.

You would not have seen FF #12 or Spider-Man #1 as they exist today if not for Stan. Well, so what, you ask? The same could be said for any Marvel issue at that time. What I’m trying to point out here is not only Stan’s influence on the finished product, but the initialization of cross-marketing the characters between titles. This laid down the basis for a definitive point of reference between the characters’ individual plots in their own titles, interwoven occasionally with the other books, backed up with references in current books to previously published “back issue” stories; thus establishing a “timeline” that all of the super-hero books followed. All of this is known today as “continuity.” Stan established it, it tied the Marvel Universe together, it was wonderful, and boy, does the current Marvel ever need it today.

Stan was able to maintain all of this continuity because he not only plotted and wrote some of the various stories, but was editor as well. Unlike DC’s method of several editors to oversee their titles, Stan was the sole editor for anything produced at Marvel. He was able to stay on top of the expanse of titles due to his acceptance of the “Marvel method” of writing, whereby the artist became a collaborator in the development of the story. This method of writing was established when Kirby returned Marvel in the late ’50s, but was cemented in as the recognized standard procedure once the super-hero line became established, and due to the adaptability of the other talented artists at Marvel at that time—namely Ayers, Ditko, and Heck. Thanks to the Marvel method and an assist in scripting from his brother Larry, Stan was free of the tedious and lengthy task of writing full scripts, while at the same time allowing his staff to interject fresh ideas into sometimes timeworn plots.

Another example of Stan’s important influence as an editor: This panel from FF #89 features a Romita face on the Human Torch. The reason is clear from Stan’s note: “Change face–he looks like Reed–he should be Johnny!”

The Marvel method became a proving ground for artists seeking a new approach to their work. Some could or would not work this way; others adapted readily and are recognized today as the unsung storytellers at Marvel. After Stan’s “fantastic four” of Kirby, Ditko, Ayers, and Heck, artists like Romita, Buscema, Sinnott, Severin, Everett, Colan, Roth, Tuska, and Trimpe became stalwarts to Marvel fans everywhere. Along with editing plots, scripts, and dialogue, Stan edited the art as well. For someone who wasn’t an artist, he became respected by many who were for his acumen on how to render a story for the greatest impact on the reader. A big tip of the hat must be given to Sol Brodsky as well, who handled many of the production and editing assignments when Stan became swamped; truly a man who deserves more recognition than he receives.

Holy Marvel Minutiae! The back of another FF #46 stat shows Kirby’s handwritten directions to what looks to be a lunch meeting with Stan. Does anyone know if the Sewane Club still exists?

This leads to another of Stan’s attributes: Rather than a company of seasoned professionals who dealt with their patrons accordingly, Lee acknowledged that Marvel was a “nuthouse,” filled with zanies doing their darndest to satisfy you, the fan, and enticing you to be a part of it. To this extent he debuted “the Bullpen,” a bunch of flawed humanity that was usually making mistakes, generally having a good time, and always open to suggestion. Stan, in listing credits and establishing a page devoted to the goings-on at the Bullpen, introduced the reader to virtually everyone who worked at Marvel at one time or another. Even the office workers and staff were mentioned in the books; to this day fans seek out Flo Steinberg. Readers might never have known that draftsmen like John Severin, Paul Reinman, Chic Stone, George Roussos, and Joe Sinnott worked at Marvel had Stan not given a credit line to inkers, something never done on a regular basis anywhere; and giving credit to letterers was unheard of, but what Silver Age Marvel fan doesn’t know who Artie Simek or Sam Rosen were? As a matter of fact, some of Stan’s funniest writings were at his letterers’ expense. Stan would generally have the letterer be the butt of an alliterative list of quips, after introducing himself, the artist, and the inker; and what gives the humor an ironic twist is that the letterer would be forced to letter in the quip. It was all in good fun.

Now before you go writing off your letters about these things existing in previous companies like Fawcett, EC, or DC, I’m not saying that Stan was the first to do such things, but to his credit he did them in such a way, and expanded upon them to such an extent, that fans everywhere attribute continuity, letters pages, a bullpen, credits, and crossovers to Marvel.

Stan even paid close attention to lettering. This FF #89 panel includes STan’s note to Sol Brodsky: “Lettering too stiff–Get some black dots and stuff in… (rest is illegible).”

This is perhaps Stan’s greatest talent: To take something done previously and give it his own twist, thereby enlivening it to appear fresh and innovative. Stan was vitality incarnate; this permeated each and every book. He showed it to you, made you believe in it, and want to share in it. Stan gleaned the best from other publishers and through irreverence and humor, made you think that it could only come from Marvel.

But what, do you ask, was his influence on Kirby? Simply put, Stan was both the ignition and brakes to the creative engine that was Jack Kirby. Stan could both feed ideas to, and take plots from Jack, turn Jack loose and then clean up the excess, saving what was needed for publication. If there was too much good material in one story, Stan would have Jack stretch it out or save it for future use. Kirby’s creativity had to be properly controlled or his plots, concepts, and characters would run roughshod over each other, becoming jumbled, smothered, or forgotten. Jack needed a strong editor, which is why many cite his best work as coming from his relationships with Stan and Joe Simon. Although Jack’s Fourth World storylines are excellent in their conception and design, it would’ve flowed better had he employed such an editor, in my opinion. Stan managed to keep Jack’s stories from becoming disconcerting.

Jack appears to be jotting down notes for his Toys For Tots poster during a phone call with Stan. This was on the back of stats from Thor #152.

That last word can be used in that context, but that brings me to another of Stan’s talents: A word that you don’t see everyday, or may have to look up; the use of words, the turning of a phrase, the allocation of alliteration; in short, this guy could write. No one before or since has ever dialogued comics like Stan. His use of colorful, melodramatic flowing phrase sent fans by the ton scurrying for their dictionaries and thesauruses; and I’m not only talking about ten-year-olds, but college kids as well. How many of us were indirectly introduced to the great writers of yesteryear because, unknown to us, Stan would paraphrase their works into his stories; remember “Oh Wasp, Where Is Thy Sting?” (Tales To Astonish #69)? What a catchy title; camp, but catchy; but I notice it still sticks in my brain after 30+ years.

These panels from FF #61 show numerous Lee notes for corrections, particularly to John Romita to redraw Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. Stan was extremely influential in maintaining a consistent look for the characters.

But camp was what the Sixties comics were all about, and Stan rode the crest till the end. He kept a keen eye on what was topical and never lost contact with the fans. He found out what was “in” and utilized it to sell the books; remember Marvel “Pop-Art” Productions? Although it was one of Stan’s attempts that didn’t catch on, he was always trying new venues and never stopped. He knew how to sell the product without looking like a corporate employee. Stan was hip, he was in; and this is why he is looked upon today by so many fans with reverence and respect. Stan grew up with us, was one of the first adults that seemed to understand us kids; he treated us with respect, made us feel like we were a part of something cool and happening. He is as much a beloved cultural icon to us as Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, Mickey Mantle, or Aurora models. The fortunate thing for us though, is that Stan’s still here, still fabricating, still bombastic, still alliterative, still humorous, still controversial, still Stan.

Submitted For Your Approval…

A Failure To Communicate – Part Five

Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. Captions on the illustrations are written by John Morrow. – Rand

Part Five was first published in TwoMorrows’ November 1999 Jack Kirby Collector 26.

There’s been some response during the course of my writing the “Failure to Communicate” articles that I was being unfair to Stan Lee. Several people have written to TJKC expressing their disappointment in our trying to take credit away from Stan, reminding us of Lee’s contributions, his superior writing skills (comparing it with Jack’s solo work yet again) etc., and citing that, just because Jack left a few border notes, it doesn’t necessarily mean he had anything to do with writing the stories—he was in on the plotting, but Lee was the writer. And of course there’s the old favorite critique of every research writer: “You don’t know because you weren’t there.” (By the way, there was a much larger percentage of letters approving of the articles, for which we say “thanks.”)

Splash page from Journey Into Mystery #111 (Dec. 1964):
Cobra’s lower arm was erased and re-positioned.

Rather than going into a lengthy explanation concerning my opinions of the Kirby/Lee creative process, I thought it would be far more enlightening and entertaining to let the stories try and speak for themselves; thereby giving the reader an example of how a typical Kirby/Lee plot was finalized before printing. In the next few articles I will be showcasing Kirby/Lee stories from various books that they have worked on, the stories to be determined by what original complete stories I can find; I will document whatever is on the original art and print it verbatim for the reader to see. It should not only give us a glimpse into the creative process of a Marvel comic, but reveal the seldom-seen editorial changes made by Stan (and of course, whatever notes Jack left for assist).

Page four, panel two: One of many panels that were used in the limited animation Gantray-Lawrence Marvel cartoons of the 1960s.

In keeping with the theme of this issue, I decided to start with a Thor story from 1964. Whereas some will attest that the Thor stories from 1966-on were pretty much Kirby directing the storylines, this story comes from a time when many believe that Jack and Stan were plotting together, or Stan was creating the plots solo. The story is from Journey into Mystery #111, the second half of a two-parter. The synopsis is: In the previous issue, Loki had increased the power of two of Thor’s arch-enemies, The Cobra and Mr. Hyde. Loki also reveals to them that, in abducting the nurse Jane Foster, they will gain the advantage over Thor. They kidnap her and take her to a specially-prepared house of traps; when Thor arrives and begins battling, Jane becomes mortally wounded. Thor suspends time around the house in order to keep her from dying; with her safe for the time being, he turns to confront his adversaries….

Below are the border notes left by Jack, broken down panel-by-panel; some have been cropped off by the printer, some have been rubbed off from handling. Also, any changes made by Stan will be revealed. Notes followed by a “X” mean that the rest was cut off or not legible. Where no panels are mentioned, no notes exist or were legible. Grab your copy of JIM #111 and enjoy!

(NOTE: This story was approved by the Comics Code Authority on 7/13/64, which puts Jack drawing it in June 1964. Throughout the book, Chic Stone’s bold thick ink brush lines are actually greyish on the originals; the faces stand out as denser black because they were apparently inked separately with a pen.)


Splash: Thor battling Cobra and Hyde X (Note: Cobra’s right arm was erased and re-positioned.)

Page two, panel one; notice how Thor has two right hands!


Panel 1: Cobra and Hyde twice as powerful as they used to be (My note: Thor has two right hands)

Panel 3: With these tactics Thor X

Panel 4: Thor causes wind to blow X (Note: In word balloon, the phrase “—lash out with savage fury” was originally different; only the word “villain” can be made out beneath)


Panel 1: Thor grabs girl and bolts down corridor.

Panel 2: Traps spring up everywhere.

Panel 5: Hammer strikes invisible beam X

Panel 6: Heavy concrete block comes X


Panel 1: Room has been cleared of danger–Thor makes girl comfortable

Panel 2: Thinks situation over

Panel 4: X caution X

Panel 5: Rock tossed in remains X

Panel 6: Odin watches X

Page five, panel three; Kirby intended this to be Thor’s mother, but Lee ignored his intent.


Panel 1: Notices how hard Thor battles for girl’s life—Balder offering to soothe Odin with song

Panel 3: X thinks back X

Panel 4: Thinks of gorgeous goddess–Thor’s mother

Panel 5: Loki breaks in X


Panel 1: Meanwhile Thor comes out to mop up villains

Panel 2: Cobra is too fast–Hyde is closing in

Panel 4: Thor wants to take on the better one first

Panel 5: Both think they are more X

Panel 6: Hyde grabs cobra–ME X


Panel 1: Cobra doesn’t like his attitude

Panel 2: Hurls Hyde

Panel 3: Thor X him back

Panel 4: Cobra hurls X

Panel 5: Thor’s hammer X


Panel 1: Cobra leaps like crazy but missiles catch up with him

Panel 2: He leaps up vent as missiles blow into gas

Panel 3: Meanwhile Hyde attacks Thor

Panel 4: Gas reaches Hyde X

Panel 5: Hyde smashes thru corridor X

Panel 6: Thor throws hammer X


Panel 1: Meanwhile Odin decides to help girl

Panel 2: Gives message to Loki to deliver to healer who lives beyond badlands

Panel 4: Don’t trust X you rat X I’ll take message

Panel 5: Balder rides off across badlands

Panel 6: He’ll never make it–Thor’s girl will die

PAGE 10:

Panel 1: Badlands get rough–One slip and into flaming lake (Note: the word balloon in this panel was originally the word balloon in the next panel, but Stan moved it over)

Panel 2: More danger–Balder sees something that makes him draw sword

Panel 3: Thor pursues Hyde X

Panel 4: Hyde turns on Thor

Panel 5: Meanwhile pushes X

Page eleven, panel six; It was Jack’s idea to mention the Iron Man tie-in here.

PAGE 11:

Panel 1: Thor flips Hyde into ray (Note: Stan’s original caption for this panel read: “Meanwhile back on Earth, Thor’s own battle continues without let-up”)

Panel 2: Hyde stiff as a board (Note: in upper corner is notation “Chic Stone—ST-3-1899”)

Panel 3: Thor props him up X now just X

Panel 4: Slams wall to expose X

Panel 5: Association with Iron Man X

Panel 6: Rewires circuits to X

PAGE 12:

Panel 1: Restores wiring

Panel 2: High tingly effect courses thru circuits of entire house

Panel 3: Cobra, still slithering thru interior is reached byjazzed up effect

Panel 4: Cobra X duress X stop

Panel 5: Comes out X (Note: Stan changes the word “help” in balloon to “Hyde”)

Panel 6: Too weak to escape X

Panel 7: Cobra and Hyde ready for X (Note: the name Hyde in word balloon was originally something else, but cannot be made out)

Page thirteen, panel two; as proof of Thor’s love for her, Jack would’ve had him stay with Jane in the time warp for all eternity rather than have her die.

PAGE 13:

Panel 1: She’s still in bad shape, but house is in time warp so she’s still alive

Panel 2: If Thor lifts time warp she will die–They may have to stay together in time warp for all eternity together

Panel 3: X his touch is death X

Panel 4: Phantom is creature of a X

Panel 5: So Balder makes his sword X

Page fourteen, panel two; note the similarity of Jack’s note to Stan’s dialogue.

PAGE 14:

Panel 1: Comes to forest of sleep–plants give off gas

Panel 2: Covers horse’s head with cape and with superb stamina Balder just about staggers thru

Panel 3: X of swords X

Panel 4: X cape X flat rocks X hooves X

Panel 5: Reaches moving mountains X

Panel 6: Makes it to healer X

PAGE 15:

Panel 1: Thor must lift time warp–it’s a helluva way for the girl X

Panel 2: It’s better that she take the risk of dying–He can become Blake and try to save her

Panel 4: Hammer breaks warp X

Panel 5: No sooner does warp X

Panel 6: Medicine vial X

Panel 7: Medicine is X

PAGE 16:

Panel 1: Warp is lifted–only seconds to save girl

Panel 2: Take this, kid

Panel 3: X sword X

Panel 5: X balder X

Panel 6: Girl opens eyes X

Panel 7: Thanks X

Panel 8: Thor and gal walk X

What conclusions can one draw from this? Obviously something was in the process of changing, since only months before on other originals there are no Kirby notes at all. In the photocopies of Jack’s pencils from JIM #101 (previously seen in TJKC #14 and #18), no notes are visible; and since these are photocopies of pencil art, one would assume that if pencil notes were there, then they’d be viewable. Also, on other pages of original art from pre-1964, no notes are found (other than editorial notes left by Stan). So sometime during 1964 Jack begins the process of leaving notes in the borders of the artwork. Why? Were these to help remind Lee of a story they plotted weeks previously, or guide him through a story he had little input on?

In other books not drawn by Jack, where he is credited as “layout” artist, also from this time (64-65), he leaves even more detailed border notes. Why? Is he laying out art, plot, story, or what; and for whom— the artist or the writer or both? Some speculate that Jack may have just left border notes on the books he drew, having gotten into the habit after leaving notes on his “layout” books; but this JIM #111 story predates his layout books. It’s also well documented that, as time went on, on future stories Jack’s notes become even lengthier, describing characters and events in much more detail.

In future issues we’ll see other examples—judge for yourself what or who’s unfair (and to whom)!

The Last Straw?

A Failure To Communicate – Part Four

Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. Captions on the illustrations are written by John Morrow. – Rand Part Four was first published in TwoMorrows’ April 1999 Jack Kirby Collector 24.

It’s the Summer of 1967, arguably the height of the ’60s. Among some of the things occurring (or “happening” as it was referred to then): Expo ’67 was in full swing, Sgt. Pepper was the album to ingest and discuss, the Arabs & Israelis experienced a bloody six-day war, there were race riots in Detroit that were just as bloody, and Vietnam kept rolling along, with Summer protests and young people dying. Definitely a time of turmoil for many, which brings us to… Marvel Comics?? Well, some will say turmoil is turmoil; and facts are facts; and A is A; and what has this to do with Kirby & Lee? Well… During that Summer of ’67, on the stands was the latest new adventure of Marvel’s then flagship title: The Fantastic Four. In June and July issues #66 and 67 premiered “The Mystery of The Human Beehive.” By this time, readers were so used to seeing new and inventive creations and situations in the pages of FF every month, they were almost becoming jaded. What no one realized at that time was, with this story, readers were taking in what would be the virtual end of an incredibly productive run.

A new Kirby character about to be born in “When Opens The Cocoon.”
First published in Marvel Comics’ October 1967 Fantastic Four 67′.

As we have seen in previous articles, during this time at Marvel Jack Kirby was becoming more and more disenchanted with his position with the Company and his working relationship with Stan Lee. Over the previous twelve months Jack witnessed Marvel receive a great deal of publicity; articles in newspapers and magazines hailing Lee for his new and innovative style, and how the readership wondered how Lee “came up” with characters like the Hulk, Thor, and Spider-Man, among others. Jack was also having his share of business battles with Goodman, a man who never understood Kirby’s value to the Company (Lee, to his credit, did), concerning his contract and his wanting to earn the most he could—and Jack was tired of submitting stories with his margin notes for direction, being either changed or ignored by Lee (by this time Kirby felt in control of the storylines, and felt that Stan should be following his margin notations when he dialogued those stories). This latest installment in FF #66 and 67 would become yet another dispute that would eventually help contribute to the end of Kirby’s creative generosity.

“Him” returns to do battle in “A God Berserk!
First published in Marvel Comics’ July 1969 The Mighty Thor 166.

Readers familiar with the storyline will remember that Alicia Masters was abducted in issue #65 (the usual plotteaser so often utilized by Jack to entice readers to “stay tuned” for the next issue) and taken to the mysterious “Citadel of Science” in which “The Human Beehive” exists. Technicians and scientists gathered together in secret to perform the most awesome of experiments: The creation of a perfect human being. The experiment grows more quickly than anticipated, however, and escapes without anyone being able to get a look at “him” due to the energy he radiates. They therefore need Alicia’s talents to sculpt a representation of “him.” The scientists unfortunately (and of course) harbor a secret from Alicia. In the next issue we learn that the scientists are creating this perfect human as the forerunner of an entire supreme race, to be dominated by the scientists in order to fulfill their dreams of world conquest. They will create the ultimate army that will conquer the world for their masters. The scientists refer to each other as “mad,” “greedy,” and “murderous.” Fortunately, the FF arrive in time to rescue Alicia, just as the supreme human is emerging from his “cocoon.” After the FF and Alicia have departed, the being, known throughout the storyline only as “Him” confronts his creators. He explains that Earth is not yet ready for him, and that he knows of his creators’ evil intent; he therefore will leave the planet, at the same time destroying the evil scientists, thereby rendering mankind a great unknown favor. After spouting a few more cliches, “Him” is gone. That’s how the story read; that wasn’t, however, how the story was written.

The return of “Him” in Thor 166 is one of many instances of Jack reusing established characters rather than creating new ones. While they still made for interesting stories, few ground-breaking concepts emerged from Kirby’s work after Fantastic Four 67.

As stated previously, the Sixties was a time of turmoil; there were more social changes occurring than had been seen in decades. Movements, philosophies, and even religions were being born in this decade, or were at least reaching public awareness. One of these movements would play an interesting role in Silver Age Marvel history. The philosophy of Objectivism was developed by its discoverer, Ayn Rand, in the late Fifties, gaining strength in the early-to-mid-Sixties. Explaining the fundamentals of Objectivism would, unfortunately, take up too much space here and I admit that I am not versed in it well enough to do it justice. So, with apologies to Objectivists and those more learned, please refer to the information below obtained from


Objectivismanswers the questions posed in the five main branches of philosophy as Plato defined them which are:

  1. Metaphysics: The nature of the Universe which man has to deal with.
  2. Epistemology: The means by which he has to deal with it, ie. the means of acquiring knowledge.
  3. Ethics: The standards by which he is to choose his goals and values in regards to his own life and character.
  4. Politics: The standards by which he is to choose his goals and values in regard to society.
  5. Esthetics: The means of concretizing this view.

Objectivismanswers these branches thusly (again summarized):

  1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality. Reality exists as an objective absolute; facts are facts independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears. (This is the famous “A is A” axiom.) Thus Objectivism rejects any belief in the supernatural—and any claim that individuals or groups create their own reality.
  2. Epistemology: Reason. Reason, the conceptual faculty, is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses. Reason is man’s only means of acquiring knowledge. Thus Objectivism rejects mysticism and skepticism.
  3. Ethics: Self-interest. Man is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake; neither sacrificing himself to others nor others to himself. Thus Objectivism rejects any form of altruism—the claim that normality consists in living for others or society.
  4. Politics: Laissez-faire Capitalism. The only social system that bars physical force from human relationships. No man or group has the right to initiate the use of physical force against others. Man has the right to use physical force only in self-defense and ONLY against those who initiate its use. Thus Objectivism rejects any form of collectivism, such as fascism or socialism. Men must deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.
  5. Esthetics: Romantic Realism (does not apply to this article) Objectivism also rejects any form of determinism, the belief that man is a victim of forces beyond his control (such as God, fate, upbringing, genes, or economic conditions).


According to Mark Evanier (based on conversations he had with Kirby), Jack originally intended for this storyline to represent his take on the Objectivist philosophy. What Jack had read of Ayn Rand and had explained to him had gotten him to thinking about the philosophy and its pitfalls (some, of course, will dispute that there are pitfalls in it and that is their right), which led him to do a story about it. Jack probably did not consciously think, “Here’s my answer to Ayn Rand”; his primary goal was, as always, to just write a good story. But in Jack’s original story, the scientists are well-intentioned, with no evil plans. They are attempting to create a being totally self-sufficient, intellectually self-reliant; not encumbered by superstition, fear, or doubt; in short, a being based on Rand’s absolutes. Of course such a being would be totally intolerant of those who created him; a truly Objectivistic being would not cope with the flaws in others.

In Jack’s original story, the scientists weren’t evil.

In the first part of the story, the scientists attack the being in an attempt to control him. This violates one of the doctrines of Objectivism; also, the scientists are conducting this experiment for the benefit or betterment of mankind—another violation. The being destroys his creators at the end of the story not to help mankind, but because in his eyes they are evil; no matter how well-intentioned, they tried to destroy him. He is allowed to act in his own self-defense; remember, in the eyes of the Objectivist there is no gray area between good and evil. On the other hand, Jack simply may have wanted to show on that last page the vast difference between Altruism and Objectivism; the scientists, thinking of their fellow man, create a totally self-interested being who, of course, uncaringly destroys them because they don’t meet with his criteria. Whatever the case, according to Evanier, when Stan received the first part of this storyline, he felt that changes had to be made. Perhaps he found its content too negative to a given philosophy, politically-based, or simply confusing to him. Stan didn’t notice any villain in the story and almost always felt that every story had to have a bad guy, so he had to come up with one. He could only choose between the being or the scientists and it was simplicity to just go the “Mad Scientist/Sympathetic Creature” route; it worked for Frankenstein, right? During these years Stan would have photostats shot of Jack’s artwork, to be sent back to Jack so that he could remember his plot continuities in these multi-part stories of his. These photostats would have Stan’s dialogue intact to show Jack how Stan was interpreting the stories. When Jack received the photostats to issue #66, the first part, he wasn’t pleased at all. His storyline had been corrupted; the entire reason for the story had been gutted, replaced with a standard comic book plot; and he was now (due to the fact that this issue was going to print) forced to change the rest of his story to support Lee’s version. Jack may have intended for this story to be longer, but after seeing this, the story would be ended with the next issue. The story that Jack wanted: “Create a superior human and he just might find you inferior enough to get rid of,” became through Lee another “bad guys try to take over world and get their comeuppance” story. Creatively, Jack had reached another impasse with Lee. It was no longer as it was when they worked together just a few years previous, where they would have long plot discussions and the stories were kept simple. As Marvel began to grow in scope, the workload for Lee became more and more involved; what with editing stories and art, Stan also had to help write stories for practically every title, working with many other artists—not to mention business meetings and publicity appearances. As read in the now-famous (or “infamous”) interview of Stan for the magazine Castle of Frankenstein, Stan gave little input to Jack concerning stories during this time, having full confidence in Jack’s ability to continue coming up with new characters and situations. Jack was on his own, communicating plots with Lee briefly, with Stan not knowing what was coming up in the next issue on many occasions. Unfortunately, Stan considered Jack’s input on these stories as “plots,” whereas Jack thought of them as “stories,” meaning that he, Jack, was the writer, not Stan. As Jack was left more and more to his own devices, he found it more and more intolerable to accept the changes that Lee would make to his stories, and throughout the whole thing, take credit as the writer of these stories. They were growing apart, and in more or less different directions.

More from Thor 166.

Their collaborations clicked best when they worked on hero vs. villain (or hero vs. hero), single-story, human frailty, Earth-bound plots; but now Jack’s stories were becoming very complicated plots, continuing over several issues, involving ideas and concepts touching on mythology, space, science, religion, philosophy, and politics. The scope was becoming grander and grander. Stan shined when he wrote about the human condition, but Jack was now reaching for the stars and what was beyond humanity. With the conclusion of this story (and while this was by no means the main reason, it was a biggie— but there were apparently dozens of other reasons), Jack decides that he has given enough new characters, devices, and situations to Marvel. He had seen one after another of his creations and/or stories changed against his wishes or taken away from him. He didn’t really want to stay at Marvel anymore, but at this particular time there weren’t any avenues open to him that would offer him any better working conditions; so he figured he’d have to make the most of it. He just wouldn’t give them anything new anymore, or at least anything that was to him substantial. Lest anyone doubt the creative input from Kirby, from November ’65 to November ’67—two years where Jack was pretty much doing the stories on his own, plus plotting for other books that he wasn’t drawing—from the imagination of this man came: Black Bolt, Gorgon, Crystal, Triton, Karnak, Lockjaw, Galactus, The Silver Surfer, Wyatt Wingfoot, The Black Panther, Klaw, Sub-Space (later dubbed The Negative Zone), Blastaar, The Sentry, The Supreme Intelligence, The Kree, Ronan, Him, Psycho-Man, Hercules, Pluto, Zeus and the Greek Pantheon, Tana Nile and The Space Colonizers, The Black Galaxy, Ego the Bioverse, The High Evolutionary, Wundagore and The New-Men, The Man- Beast, Ulik, Orikal, The Growing Man, Replicus, The Enchanters, The Three Sleepers, Batroc, A.I.M., The Cosmic Cube, The Adaptoid (who later becomes The Super- Adaptoid), Modok, Mentallo, The Fixer, The Demon Druid, The Sentinels, and The Mimic. This is not complete as secondary creations such as The Seeker, Prester John, The Tumbler and others weren’t mentioned; but they all premiered within the two-year period.

Lee’s dialogue gets Kirby’s scientists “mad.”

After November ’67, for the last three years that Jack worked for Marvel, you get the exact opposite; many secondary characters, but very few memorable ones. In FF, the only character of note after November ’67 is Annihilus. In Thor you have Mangog and possibly The Wrecker. In Cap you could consider Dr. Faustus and The Exiles. Jack does some good work with some of the classic characters like Dr. Doom, the Mole Man, and Galactus among others. Even the “Him” character is brought back in Thor #165 and 166 in a pretty standard Kirby slugfest. (It’s interesting to note that throughout the story, Jack refers to the character as “Cocoon Man”; perhaps Jack objected to the “Him” name?) In any event it’s pretty obvious where “The House of Ideas” got their “ideas” from; but now the “house” was being put under creative foreclosure; towards the end, it was said (but unsubstantiated) that Jack was asking Stan to come up with “ideas” for the stories, which is why you have characters like The Monocle, the Crypto-Man, and a retread of The Creature from the Black Lagoon in the last few Lee/Kirby issues.

Many pundits believed that the creative spark was waning, but Jack was merely biding his time until something better came along. New and exciting characters were still being created by Jack, but Marvel wouldn’t get them. The New Gods was a concept nurturing within Kirby’s brain while he was still at Marvel; but because of a failure to communicate, it would always remain a tale of “what might have been.”

(Our thanks to Mark Evanier for background information for this article.)

The final scene from Fantastic Four 67; a rather abrupt ending to what might have been Jack’s last great concept at Marvel in the 1960s.

Rough Surfing

A Failure To Communicate – Part Three

Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. Captions on the illustrations are written by John Morrow. – Rand

Part Three was first published in TwoMorrows’ February 1999 Jack Kirby Collector 23.

In the last article in this series, we read how Galactus first appeared on the scene in Fantastic Four #48’s “The Coming Of Galactus!”, and that after he left he wasn’t supposed to return for a very long time. Perhaps this was why, at the end of that story, a reminder of the mysteries of the Universe was left behind: The Silver Surfer. To Jack this was just another plot thread, to be picked up and used for future stories and adventures; he had no idea at the time of the importance of what he had created. Stan Lee, however, found out soon enough through fan response; the Surfer was sensational.

Initial splash original art for Fantastic Four 74, May 1968.

The Surfer must rank among Kirby’s greatest creations; but believe it or not, Jack’s Surfer was short-lived, lasting about two-and a- half years. One must come to understand that there were actually two Surfers: The version Jack created and the one Lee “re-created.” Many are familiar with the often-repeated story of how Lee was presented with the penciled pages to FF#48 only to be surprised by the new character in the story. (Apparently when Jack discussed the plot with Stan he either neglected, or hadn’t yet thought of, the inclusion of the Surfer.) Roy Thomas was present when this occurred and it is he we have to thank for honestly relating a true story that Marvel historians can be sure of. Had Roy not been there and told the tale to readers, in my opinion the Surfer would have become yet another Kirby creation forever mired in the “co-created” ambiguousness associated with the “Lee/Kirby” creations.

Jack’s Surfer can only be seen in issues of Fantastic Four. We first become aware of the nature of the character in FF #49’s “If This Be Doomsday!”, of which we are again fortunate to have copies of the undiluted pencils. The Surfer is “alien” in every respect, except for the obvious (and understandable) fact that he speaks English. He knows and understands nothing of the Earth or humanity other than they are to be absorbed for Galactus. His credo is “energy is all”; mankind is merely Organic Energy to be converted— to be used constructively or destructively. This was the basis for Jack’s Surfer: A creature of pure energy, formed for exploration and war. According to the Conservation of Energy Law: “Energy can be converted (changed in form), but it cannot be created nor destroyed”; hence the Surfer was “formed,” not created by Galactus, as an extension of the giant, most likely.

“If This Be Doomsday!”
Pencil story art by Jack Kirby, dialogue/captions by Stan Lee, lettering art by Sam Rosen
First published in Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four 49, April 1966
(Also featured in the previous article)

In FF#49 we see Jack’s Surfer in his original function, converting everything around him into energy; and as we can see from Jack’s liner notes, had Alicia not reached something inside him in time, she too would have been converted—a little something left out of the published story. It was Jack’s original intention for the Surfer to enter mankind as a blank slate, absorbing a new lesson about the human condition with every subsequent adventure. This becomes obvious from the early Fantastic Four/Surfer stories: In FF#49 and FF #50’s “The Startling Saga Of The Silver Surfer!”, he learns that life (any life) is precious. In FF #55’s “When Strikes The Silver Surfer!”, he learns about human emotions (through the Thing’s jealousy). In #57-61, he experiences human treachery. Each of these stories is a learning experience for the Surfer, and a reflection on us.

Of course, Stan was on these stories with Jack, with much enthusiasm I might add. We see, according to the Nat Freedland article reprinted in The Jack Kirby Collector #18, that Stan was already working out future Surfer-related plots with Jack while the artwork to FF#50 was still on the board, unpublished. Those plotting sessions became the basis for the story in FF#55 and somewhat touching on #57’s “Enter, Doctor Doom!”. Stan was enchanted with the character; he saw that fan response was so great that the Surfer had the potential to be a moneymaker for Marvel. Stan very much wanted to put out a book on the Surfer, especially while the character was hot. Unfortunately, due to publishing limitations put upon Marvel at the time, there was no room on the schedule; a book would have to wait, for now.

The stories between FF#48 and FF #61’s “Where Stalks The Sandman?” are peppered with either Surfer stories or cameos. It is with the Surfer’s return in FF#55 that Lee begins to have the Surfer espouse his philosophy to the masses. Using timeworn literary and Biblical cliches, the character becomes the comic book version of Billy Graham. Lee realized early on that fans reacted positively to the purity of the character; this made him a conduit to the young adult, college-age audience that was a vital part of Marvel’s readership at that time. It was also Kirby’s rendering of the Surfer as a noble majestic being that helps bring this dialogue off.

Fantastic Four #74, page 6. Kirby had the Torch hide the Surfer from Galactus.
In the published book, no mention of it.

After experiencing a plethora of human emotions and states, by FF#61 —approximately a year after his first appearance—the Surfer turns his back on mankind; and Kirby, ever progressive, turns his back on the Surfer temporarily, while pursuing yet newer creations and adventures. Stan, through the fans, never gets too far away from the character and sees to it that the fans are kept satisfied with Surfer appearances, while at the same time being careful not to overexpose the character. Of course during this time fans just couldn’t get enough anyway. Approximately three months after FF#61 the Surfer makes his first appearance in a non-FF book. Stan writes him into a Hulk story in Tales to Astonish #92-93, drawn by Marie Severin. A few months after that, the Surfer gets his first solo story, “The Peerless Power Of The Silver Surfer”, in the pages of FF Annual #5 in, perhaps, a testing of the waters towards a possible series. Stan was growing impatient about getting the Surfer his own book.

By the time the Surfer reappears in FF #72’s “Where Soars The Silver Surfer”, new avenues have opened up at Marvel. The company was changing hands and distribution was finally expanding. The characters who shared the Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and Strange Tales comics were being given their own books and new titles were finally being discussed for launching—the Surfer book probably among them. Jack wanted to be a part of the Surfer series; it must have stunned him to discover that the Surfer book was already being produced, with Stan writing the origin story and John Buscema as the series’ artist. Needless to say Jack was hurt; it wasn’t the first time and unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last. Jack was preparing to put the Surfer’s origin down himself, and the stories beginning with FF#72 probably would have led into it; now it would be lost to us forever.

Lee glossed over Jack’s “Cosmic Shield” in FF #74.

Some conjecture that Stan may have been keeping Jack off the book so he would have free rein to plot and write the character as he saw fit. A more practical reason may have been that, at the time, Jack was plotting and drawing three full books already: Fantastic Four, Thor, and the newly-expanded Captain America. There was also an Inhumans book that Stan wanted produced, and since Stan obviously enjoyed writing the Surfer more, would’ve deferred the plotting of that book to Kirby. (Jack apparently had been penciled-in for a planned Inhumans book, which was teased to readers in a Bullpen page. One interesting question is whether, when Jack did the Inhumans stories that appear in the back of the Thor books, or for Amazing Adventures, were those pages planned for the new book?) In any event, Jack was annoyed; but with new bosses in the company.—and Jack, ever mindful of supporting his family—he didn’t rock the boat. In what was probably doubly disheartening, Stan apparently asked Jack to do the Surfer story that runs through FF #74-77, helping to kick off the new series. With two exceptions, after FF #77’s “Shall Earth Endure?”, Jack— for whatever reason—doesn’t draw the Surfer anywhere, anymore.

Stan’s take on the Surfer’s origins are almost directly opposite of what Jack had intended. Jack had the Surfer as an alien who progressively learns to become human; Stan turns the story on its ear and has the Surfer as a human who becomes an alien. True, Stan’s origin depicts the Surfer as a being from another planet, but the character is human in every other respect. In writing his origin, Stan throws away all the alien aspects of the character that initially made him so appealing to readers; in fact, as early as “When Strikes The Silver Surfer!”, Stan, through dialogue, represents the Surfer as a being with a silvery coating protecting his body, thereby implying that he initially may not have always been as he appears. Upon learning about Lee’s origin for the Surfer, Jack disavowed any relation to the character. That wasn’t his Surfer, as far as he was concerned.

FF #76, page 14. Kirby takes time to explain that Reed will section off the cabin of their craft so Ben can exit; Lee omits any reference to it.

The Silver Surfer book was successful, but not for very long; after the first issue or two sales began to drop. It appears that the stories were originally intended to be standard 20-page editions, but with Martin Goodman wanting to fill the racks with books of varying price points, the comic became a 25¢ forty-pager (the company was also experimenting with a black-&-white Spider-Man magazine-size comic at the time as well). This meant not only that a book was twice the price of a regular comic, but that standard stories had to be stretched out to twice as many pages, and still hold the readers’ interest. Lee’s writing was well over-the-top dramatically on this book—so much so that many readers were turned off. In making the character human, he became just another angst-ridden Lee super-hero. Although his message was sincere, readers didn’t care to see this once-noble character on his knees with his hands raised in supplication, crying and bemoaning his fate and man’s inhumanity to man in every issue. Lee took his inspired messages from the Surfer/Fantastic Four stories and beat them to death in the Surfer book.

After several issues things were looking bleak for the Surfer mag. According to John Buscema in an interview in The Jack Kirby Collector #18, Stan told him he didn’t know what to do with the book anymore; he had lost the direction of the character. The direction of the Surfer always had been with his creator, Jack Kirby, and Stan would now call upon him to help fix this situation. It is evident from this example that, although the Kirby/Lee books were a collaborative effort, it was Kirby who was the driving force behind the team. Without Kirby, the books he and Lee pioneered were mediocre at best. It is also interesting to note that, after Kirby left Marvel, Lee lasted for about two years on the Lee/Kirby books—about the same time it took him to run out of ideas on the Surfer mag.

FF #76, page 20. Kirby’s notes show he used the Surfer to get rid of the Indestructible, but Lee ignores this, and there is no explanation in the published book of why the Indestructible disappears.

It was decided Herb Trimpe would draw the book, after inking a lead-in story penciled by Jack. This is why the last issue (#18) sports a cover by Trimpe and not Kirby; one would think a Kirby cover would’ve attracted more readers. (The book was to be retitled The Savage Silver Surfer with #19; for the record, the decision to terminate before the Trimpe stories appeared was based on earlier sales, not on Jack’s one issue.) The fact was that Jack didn’t want to have anything to do with the book. It was ironically insulting and irritating to him to be called upon to help save the Surfer at this time. Jack knew he would be leaving Marvel soon and that this story would probably be one of his last. The last two pages of the story may, therefore, be very prophetic. The Surfer was fed up with man and Jack was fed up with Marvel; before he left his creation, they both shared a catharsis. With this issue, the Surfer was left alone; Stan refused to let anyone else use the character for a long time. Others would eventually write the Surfer into guest appearances in various books, but there would be no more Surfer stories, no more inspiration. The Surfer would remain in creative limbo while his “soul” was working at another company.

By 1978, Jack was back at Marvel, finishing up an unpleasant stay. Unlike the Sixties, this time it only took Jack two years to get fed up. To complete his contract with Marvel, he was required to submit a certain amount of pages in a given time frame, and he wanted to complete that as quickly as possible. Once again the Surfer helps his father out. Marvel was touting the character as a saleable commodity to the media. Hollywood responded and a movie project was announced. An offer was made to Jack and Stan to re-unite on a Surfer story. Jack decided to do the book because it was assured to him that the story he and Lee came up with would be copyrighted as theirs alone. Also Jack wanted to make sure his name stayed with his character and did not become “lost” (like it did when a movie poster featuring Captain America listed Lee as creator of the character). It also helped him meet his contractual obligations with Marvel, page-wise. If the book was successful, a possible adaptation of the story to the big screen might be considered; all of this really boiled down to Jack, once again, trying to earn the most he could for his family.

Since the book was considered as a possible vehicle for the movie, the story was kept apart from the general continuity of the comics, with no references to other Surfer-related stories or characters. Jack submitted a fully-typewritten plot along with his pencils for Stan to dialogue. Stan wanted changes made and Jack balked, but as usual, grudgingly gave in. This is why the story reads unevenly and loses impact. This was the last time Kirby would work with Lee in comics; one need not wonder why.

Throughout FF #76, Kirby’s notes show he fully intended the Indestructible to speak. It seems strange that the usually verbose Lee purposely rendered this character mute.

Jack once said in a published interview about why he stopped creating for Marvel: “When I would create something (ie. A character), they would take it away from me and I would lose all association with it.” It is ironic that of all the creations attributed to the Kirby/Lee team, the Silver Surfer—the one character universally acknowledged as Jack’s creation—would be so dominated and changed by Lee into a character no longer acknowledged by his creator. Time would be kinder to Jack’s Surfer in the pages of Fantastic Four than to Lee’s Surfer in the failed first series. Two men with distinctly different versions of the same character end up creating two characters. With no malice on either side, and good intentions gone awry, the Silver Surfer turns out to be the prime example of a failure to communicate.

(Special thanks to Mark Evanier for providing background information for this article.)


A Failure To Communicate – Part Two

Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. – Rand

Part Two was first published in TwoMorrows’ December 1998 Jack Kirby Collector 22.

What can be written about Galactus that hasn’t been expressed already by historians far more informed and eloquent than I? But let’s start off within the context of the theme of The Jack Kirby Collector 22: Is he a villain? By textbook definition he is not; he’s more of an adversary or antagonist, and given the previous opponents superheroes had faced up to his appearance, he represents either the ultimate adversary or antagonistic overkill — take your pick!

Original art, “And Now, Galactus!” page 13,
Pencil story art by Jack Kirby, dialogue by Stan Lee, ink art by Vince Colletta, lettering art by Sam Rosen
first published in Marvel Comics’ The Mighty Thor 160, January 1969.
Scan from the Kirby Museum’s Original Art Digital Archive.

Galactus is a prime example of the thinking man’s opponent; i.e. an adversary that is so powerful it quickly becomes apparent that physical opposition will do no good in subduing him. A plan has to be devised or a way found to defeat him. In earlier stories for Marvel, Jack played with the notion of an alien visitor of enormous power, but they were more or less misguided (Impossible Man or Infant Terrible), or they posed no threat to mankind (the Stranger). Galactus, on the other hand, is not misguided — quite the contrary; because of his very reason for being, he poses the ultimate threat to mankind.

In interviews, Jack would say that “Galactus was God”; I always wondered if Jack really meant God. Granted, Galactus was definitely a “god” but surely not The God. To speculate, perhaps Jack was saying that if super-heroes were ever to face God, Galactus would be about as great an adversary as they could encounter. Superheroes have faced aliens before, and powerful ones too; but it was the way Jack interpreted Galactus to the reader that made him the first space god. How he was introduced made all the difference to the history of comics. His coming is heralded by not one, but two powerful aliens before he even arrives, telling the reader in essence that this was not your typical visiting alien menace; this is the menace; this is IT!

Jack introduced Galactus in Fantastic Four #48’s “The Coming Of Galactus!”; the second half of the book is utilized to prepare readers for his arrival, which culminates with the last page. This gives you an idea of what Jack was thinking about; devoting half an issue just to prepare the reader was saying something about this character. Things really get moving with #49’s “If This Be Doomsday!” and we are very fortunate to have these uninked pencils from that historic story. As opposed to Part One of A Failure To Communicate, there is no failure to communicate between Kirby and Lee on this storyline. Stan followed Jack’s direction without making major changes, and the story flows beautifully because Lee stuck to Kirby’s plotting — and let there be no mistake about who plotted and paced this story. Despite whatever input Stan might or might not’ve had at the conceptual phase, these margin notes show the action and dramatic impact of this pivotal episode in Marvel’s history begin with Kirby. But while Jack was the “father” of Galactus, we shall see — to his credit — Lee may have been his savior.

“If This Be Doomsday!”
Pencil story art by Jack Kirby, dialogue/captions by Stan Lee, lettering art by Sam Rosen
First published in Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four 49, April 1966.

As far as Silver Age Marvel history is concerned, there is the period before Galactus, and the period after. With the introduction of this character, Jack entered into a period of cosmic creativity; granted he was always creating technological wonderment, but now he was incorporating the Universe in many of his ideas. After Galactus came Sub- Space, the Kree, the Colonizers, Ego the Living Planet; even the Trolls in Thor had Orikal — a powerful alien — in their company. It was space-age mythology fathered by Kirby, and Kirby’s new “Zeus” was Galactus.

Jack has said that after creating Galactus he had to “step back from him.” According to historian Mark Evanier, Kirby never meant for Galactus to be a recurring menace à la Dr. Doom. He might use him again, but only sparingly, so as to maintain the awesome nature of the character. Needless to say, Galactus became an immediate hit with the readers of the time. Ever in touch with the fan base, Lee undoubtedly heard their pleas for his return. According to Evanier, after prompting from Stan, Jack brought Galactus back in not only Fantastic Four, but Thor as well. So thanks to Lee (and the fans), we have more great Kirby Galactus stories and art than probably would have existed otherwise.

Before returning Galactus to the FF, Jack added a small cameo to his Thor/Ego story in The Mighty Thor #134’s “The People Breeders!”; just as Thor leaves the Black Galaxy (where Ego dwells) we see the great Galactus appear. He is scanning the Black Galaxy, whetting our appetite for a Galactus/Ego confrontation. Jack then “steps back” from Galactus, not using him again until Lee requests a Galactus story in FF. Jack eventually returns to the Galactus/Ego “seed” he planted in Thor #160’s “And Now, Galactus!”, more than two years later, finally bringing his classic mythological figures and space god together for several stories. The Ego story leads to an “Origin of Galactus” plotline that eventually culminates in Thor #169’s “The Awesome Answer!”.

Jack touches on the origin story in Thor #162’s “Galactus Is Born!” but then leaves it, not returning to it until #168’s “Galactus Found!”. It is unclear why this is so; Evanier feels that Jack definitely wanted to pen the origin of this character. But there was, by this time, a failure to communicate with Lee, who may have had his own ideas of the character’s beginnings. As seen in TwoMorrows’ February 1977 The Jack Kirby Collector 14, when the Galactus sequence was completed, there were many unused pages left over, but none of them pertained to the origin part of the storyline itself; so Jack was at least able to put an origin in before “losing” the character to someone else — or leaving Marvel, which he did less than a year later. (It’s still unclear how much of the published origin was Jack’s idea, and how much was Stan’s.)

At the end of the unpublished pages from the origin sequence, Kirby was going to have Galactus battle alongside Thor; perhaps Jack scrapped the idea, or Stan (wisely) rejected it, thinking that it would lead to the character’s denigration (which, as we have seen from subsequent stories after Jack left — and overuse of the character it probably would have). In my opinion, to this day no one has yet been able to capture the awesome nature of Galactus as well as his creator, Jack Kirby.

What made Galactus so riveting a character? From the outset, everyone who knows of him before he appears is rendered in characterizations of fear, dread, and awe: The Skrulls, the Watcher (whom we already knew to be an extremely powerful character), and even after Galactus appears, the Surfer as well. In the uninked splash to “If This Be Doomsday!” we see how awestruck the FF are — much moreso than in the inked version. Most telling was the reaction of the everyday people scattered throughout the storyline. This was indeed the coming of a god — Kirby’s god — and it terrified plenty.

Pencil art with dialog/captions and lettering next to first publication, “If This Be Doomsday!” page 1
Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four 49, April 1966

What made Galactus so terrifying? Was it his power? The fact that he could destroy the entire planet? Probably in part but what made him terrifying to me was more psychological: The fact that Galactus did not even recognize that man existed, or cared if he existed, or needed to exist; the fact that Galactus made man look at himself and say “I kill what I need (or want) to survive; not bothering to rationalize if what I kill has a right to live.” Heck, we don’t worry about a carrot’s right to life, so when we realize that we are as little to Galactus as a carrot is to us, it’s enough to scare the hell out of you — not so much when you read it as a kid, ironically. Only as “rational” adults do we realize how scary this concept is. And the topper is you can’t condemn him without condemning yourself. So in the end we see man as an extension of God; but in the long run Galactus — God — is an extension of man. Galactus is man, pushed to the ultimate degree; a terrifying concept indeed!

A Failure To Communicate – Part One

Thanks to Mike Gartland and John Morrow, The Kirby Effect is offering Mike’s “A Failure To Communicate” series from The Jack Kirby Collector. – Rand

Part One was first published in TwoMorrows’ October 1998 Jack Kirby Collector 21.

This started out simply enough; I was reading FF Annual #3’s “Bedlam At The Baxter Building!” when I noticed on page 2 that Doctor Doom wasn’t using his hands to operate his machine. The owner of the original art was nice enough to send me a copy and upon viewing, my suspicions were confirmed. Kirby’s margin notes had Doom still recovering from his battle with the Thing in FF #40’s “The Battle Of The Baxter Building!”, so he couldn’t fully use his hands yet. To Kirby, this was the reason Doom used a machine to attempt to ruin the wedding. Lee, however, ignored this totally in favor of high drama, thereby changing Kirby’s reasoning for Doom’s motive. Thus Lee has Doom using the machine as a grand gesture of revenge and contempt; Kirby had him use it because he couldn’t attack the FF personally.

detail, “The Battle Of The Baxter Building!”, page 20,
first publication, Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four 40, July 1965

Original art detail, “Bedlam At The Baxter Building!” page 2,
first publication in Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four Annual 3,1965.

There are many examples of art and dialogue not meshing correctly in the Kirby/Lee books. Some may cite the “Marvel Method” of producing the books as the reason. There are small examples in the early years, becoming more noticeable in the books produced between ’64-’70, books where Kirby was pretty much plotting the stories on his own. This also helps to explain why there are so many more Kirby margin notes on the art from this period. Once Kirby had his story established on paper, he sent it to Lee, who as editor and dialogue writer would keep what he considered essential (or couldn’t change because the accompanying visuals were too obvious to alter through dialogue) and change what he wished for reasons of drama, continuity, or whatever his intention was at the time.

With this in mind, we begin a series of articles showcasing stories and/or separate examples of art and words not mixing correctly; or one man’s view of the story differing from the other’s. We are not attempting to prove that either man was right or wrong, or deserved more credit than the other; it is simply an ongoing dissertation of facts that will be presented for you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions from. Of course, we hope you enjoy it as well.

Before going further, I would advise you to read four pages from “The Reason Why!” by Kirby/Lee. First read it using Jack’s margin notes only, as this is how Kirby intended the story to go and how Lee received it before making changes. Then go over the story again, this time reading Lee’s dialogue. Then if you wish, go back to this article where my opinions are. I want the reader to draw their own conclusions before reading mine.

That Would Be Inhuman!

Jack’s Inhumans pretty much seemed to be one of his evolving creations. It began with one character, Medusa, eventually segueing into the Inhumans about a year later, finally leading to their origins about two years later. Although Jack did give a brief one page semi-origin in FF #46’s “Those Who Would Destroy Us!”, he would eventually expand on this to give a more detailed origin after the creation of one of his other races—the Kree—connecting the two races through story. Jack introduced his take on the Inhumans in the back-up story section of Thor (although there’s evidence to suggest that Jack originally did one long story for the first issue of a proposed 1960s Inhumans comic, and when it was shelved, the story was split up to make these Thor back-ups). The story printed here was originally published in Thor #147 and is part of Jack’s multi-part Inhumans origin story.

“Those Who Would Destroy Us!”, page 18,
first publication, Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four 46, January 1966

As his margin notes bear out, Jack intended for the Inhumans to be already fully aware of their origins. They know that they are advanced humans, descended from the Kree (through technology). They knew what the Sentry was and have dealt with it before. The Kree experiment that changed humans began to go awry when the advanced race separated themselves, rather than develop along with the non-advanced races. They also began conducting dangerous, forbidden experiments. This brings the Sentry, who comes to warn them of the risk and danger, and attempts to halt it, but he arrives too late. Upon this realization, the Sentry warns them that they will be shunned by their fellow man; in essence they are no longer human but have made themselves In-human. As far as the Sentry is concerned, this was a failed Kree experiment.

Lee, for whatever reason, changes the basics of the story. The Sentry is unknown to the Inhumans; it is he who informs them of their link to the Kree for the first time. It was the Kree who separated the race from the other races. The Sentry is there to observe for the Kree. He witnesses the results of the advanced race’s experiments and is pleased; dubbing them Inhumans, he considers the Kree experiment to be successful.

Thus for the sake of drama (or vanity?), Lee turns a tale of foreboding into a success for the greater glory of the advancement of mankind. Where Kirby’s Sentry warns, Lee’s encourages—two takes on one story. Was it that important to change the meaning of Jack’s story simply for the sake of optimistic drama? You be the judge. If anything, it clearly shows two people “collaborating” in different directions!