Category Archives: General

Discovery at Snake River – again?

Tom Morehouse is one of Jack Kirby’s biggest fans and scholars. He built a significant collection, a.k.a. his Kirby Krypt, which contained every one of Kirby’s U.S. published works (note the past tense, he sold it years ago), and continues to study Kirby’s work.

Tom recently reached out and asked “What was the name of the Australian ‘Snake River’ comic, again? Because I think I found it.” I reminded him it was “Showdown at Snake River“, and we talked more. Turns out he’d asked an auction seller about a Black Rider story that was listed in a comic they were selling. They replied it was titled “Guns Roar at Snake River!’ and sent along a low quality snapshot.

Low res, indeed!

And there it was. A Kirby splash for a previously unknown Black Rider story! The circular lower left panel was a big clue.

Cover to Black Rider #21, dated March 1954. Art by Syd Shores with Carl Burgos and color by Stan Goldberg

Some background: the first Black Rider comic book series published by Timely/Atlas/Marvel publisher Martin Goodman started with #8 dated March 1950. Publication took a hiatus between issues #18, January 1952, and #19, November 1953. Then, its name was changed to Western Tales of Black Rider with issue #28, dated May 1955, and ran until #31, dated November 1955. Jack Kirby was not involved in any of these comics. (Thanks GCD!)

Cover to Black Rider vol 2 #1, dated September 1957.
Art by John Severin and color by Stan Goldberg.

However, two years later Goodman started a new quarterly Black Rider series, dated September 1957. With a beautiful cover by John Severin, the issue contained three Black Rider stories across nineteen pages by Jack Kirby, the seven page “The Legend of the Black Rider!”, the six page “Duel at Dawn”, the six page “Treachery at Hangman’s Bridge!”, a four page story by Bob Powell, and a text story with illustrations by Gene Colan.

Title splash pages for the three Black Rider stories in vol 2 #1, dated September 1957.

The second issue… well, there was no second issue, but it appears one was planned because Goodman published three more Jack Kirby Black Rider stories totaling fourteen pages. The four page “Trouble in Leadville!” appeared in Gunsmoke Western #47, dated July 1958, the five page “The Raiders Strike!’ appeared in Gunsmoke Western #51, dated March 1959, and the five page “Meeting at Midnight!” appeared in Kid Colt, Outlaw #86, dated September 1959.

Title splash pages for the three Black Rider stories published later in the U.S..

Tom found the Black Rider “Snake River” story in Giant Western Gunfighters #4, from Horwitz Publishing. After receiving it, he graciously lent it for scanning and indexing. The comic is a mixture of Goodman-published stories, but interestingly, contains five 5 page stories, including the Black Rider, that have not been found to be published in the U.S..

Cover to Giant Western Gunfighters #4. Published by Horwitz publications, 1958. Art by Maurice Bramley.

Splash pages to the four other stories that do not appear to have been published in the U.S.

Ok, enough background – here’s the new discovery!

Yes, We have better scans… 🙂

Time to call in some art Identifying experts! Harry Mendryk, Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, and Nick Caputo all agree that the pencil art is all Kirby, while Doc V. and Nick agree that the inking is by George Klein. The lettering is still in question. Alex Jay suggests Joe Rosen, and Nick Caputo suggests Ray Holloway. If you have any thoughts, please share!

It’s somewhat interesting that two recent Kirby western story discoveries have “Snake River” in the title, and are inked by George Klein, who is now acknowledged as the inker of Fantastic Four #1. Quite a coincidence that Kirby sold both Snake River stories to Goodman’s editor Stan Lee, but neither were published in the US.

A hearty hail of gratitude to Tom Morehouse for continuing to do the deep dive! And many thanks to Harry, Nick, Doc V., and Alex for their help.

Fantastic Four house ad from Hulk #1

Posted in General and tagged

Marvel recently used a piece of Kirby art for one of the multiple covers of its new Fantastic Four #1. We scanned the original art back in 2011 for our Digital Archive, and thought we’d show what is possible with an archival quality scan.
Above is what the art looks like. But using some photo editing adjustment tools, we can see some interesting items…

.. all kinds of pencil under-drawings: Sue in a different position, Reed’s neck and arm(s?) stretching in loops. In fact, it looks like the incongruous lump on the Thing’s right shoulder may have originally been Reed’s hand. The hand lettering looks like Stan Lee’s.

Here’s what the ad looked like in Hulk #1 in 1962.

And the 2018 “Hidden Gem” FF#1 cover

Davy Crockett, Frontiersman: Hiding In Plain Sight!

In August of 2012, we published a re-worked  translation of Jean Depelley’s article about Jack Kirby’s ghosting of the Davy Crockett, Frontiersman comic strip. What was notable about the article, originally published in French earlier that March, was that Jean and Bernard Joubert found evidence that the work was, in fact, a comic strip reworked to comic book size in Marvelman (UK) , and digest size in Zoom (France).

Samples and cover from Marvelman 230

Examples and covers from Zoom 15/Zoom Album 4  – 1968

Since then, Hans Kiesel sent the Museum an email in late 2015, letting us know that he and fellow comics researchers in Germany found a Crockett Sunday strip in black and white translated into German that was obviously by Kirby. Hans also included a mention from Allan Holtz’ Strippers Guide stating that Kirby had ghosted two Sundays. I continued, on-and-off, researching the strip, along with Kirby’s Blue Beetle daily strips in the 1940s, on the internet without any results regarding Davy Crockett.

In early 2018, however, meticulous comics researcher Michael J. Vassallo, also known as “Doc. V”, shared on Facebook and his blog the color version of the same Sunday strip we’d had in German. Doc. V had embarked on an ambitious project involving scanning and cataloging the Sunday comics sections of the New York Daily News. Finding the strip in a big NY newspaper felt somewhat ironic after I’d scoured obscure daily newspapers on This raised the question, though, “Did the daily strips also run in the NY Daily News?”

The Kirby Museum has had a pleasant relationship with collector, scholar and collage artist Tom Morehouse since our formation in 2005. In fact, Tom allowed us to scan his copies of the Crockett reprints in Marvelman in 2011 (see above). Since I’m comfortable researching newspaper microfilm at the New York Public Library – you know, the big one with the lions in front on 42nd St. &  5th Ave – Tom suggested we go there together and look at the Daily News microfilm. And, voila!

Kirby ghosted three weeks of daily strips from January 14th through February 2nd.

But what about that other Sunday strip? Well, on one of the Facebook comics groups where Doc V. shared his discovery, Mark Evanier mentioned that the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum has a large collection of comic strips. I dove into their search engine, and found that they did, indeed, have both Sunday strips, courtesy of the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection of Bill Blackbeard.

Courtesy of Bill Blackbeard’s San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University

And, it seems it is complete: three weeks of dailies, and two color Sundays.

It wouldn’t be right to end this article without mentioning Matthew Gore. You see, Matt posted Crockett scans from Marvelman #231 on his website all the way back in 2002! Can anyone provide reasonable guesses when the Marvelman issues 231, 232 & 233 were published? Seems that information is currently unavailable.

Hopefully, I’ll provide some comparisons between the versions, showing how the art was extended for the different formats in France and the UK.

Jack Kirby : A Life In Comics

(I was honored to have been asked by the folks at Comic-Con International: San Diego to write a Jack Kirby biography for their convention program this year. I expanded it slightly, and it forms the main narrative of the Kirby Museum’s “Jack Kirby: 100 Years” pop up in NYC. – Rand.)

Creator • Storyteller • Visionary • Artist

Born and raised on the Lower East Side, Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) created or co-created some of the most enduring characters and stories in comics (Captain America, Avengers, Hulk, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Darkseid, among hundreds of others). In addition to revolutionizing such comic book genres as crime, war and superheroes, Kirby also co-invented romance comics with his partner Joe Simon. Kirby’s 1960s work with Marvel’s Stan Lee (who dubbed Kirby “King”) may be his most well-known. Another Kirby legacy is that he almost single handedly defined the visual language of comic books with his dynamic page layouts portraying exaggerated anatomy, heartfelt emotion, explosive movement, and cosmic wonder. Kirby died in 1994 at age 76. Evidence of his work and influence surrounds us today, not only in comics, but also in television and movies

In The Beginning…

In August of 1917, Rose and Ben Kurtzberg, two immigrants from Galicia in what what is now Poland welcomed their first born, Jacob. In the early 20th century, New York City’s Lower East Side was the most densely populated two square miles on the planet. Ben sewed pants in sweatshops. Rose did piecework at home when not raising her sons.

Lower East Side kids played in the streets, and fighting was a favorite pastime. Kirby’s gang, the Jewish kids of Suffolk St. would take on the Italian kids from another block, or the African-American kids from yet another block. Jake was small in stature, and once had to rescue his younger brother David from an attack by a rival gang. Jake recalled it happening in slow-motion, as if choreographing the whole fight in his head. Jake loved fighting so much that he once took a long subway trip to the Bronx to see if they fought any differently there.

Rose’s extended family were storytellers. Jake grew up hearing stories about demi-gods, werewolves, and vampires, learning about them long before they appeared in the movie theaters that were everywhere on the Lower East Side.  At 14 Jake found a science fiction pulp magazine in a rain drenched gutter. The image on the cover changed him forever. He took the magazine home, read it, and it fueled his interest in drawing. The stories in the magazine reminded him of the tales his mother and her friends told, but with new, hopeful, futuristic trappings. He began reading as much as he could, something he had to hide from his buddies, and took how-to-draw  books out from the library.

Jake met his “second father” Harry Slonaker around this time. Slonaker graduated from the Boys’ Brotherhood Republic in Chicago and was assigned to New York City to start one there. The BBR helped boys in the worst neighborhoods learn responsibility and useful skills, and it had its own rules, government, and even media. Jake took up boxing and became the cartoonist on the BBR newspaper, which he signed with the name “Jack”.

While Jack’s mother wasn’t going to let him follow neighborhood hero, actor John Garfield (nee Jacob Garfinkle), to Hollywood, his time as an office boy in a newspaper cartoonist’s office  showed him there was another way out of the ghetto. Most of his pals saw careers as  policemen, a politicians, or gangsters in their future.

Jack stayed less than a week in an art class at the Pratt Institute. Not only wasn’t he the kind of artist they wanted – he worked fast – but his father lost his job, and Jack dropped out of school entirely to find work.

After a brief stint as a newsboy, Jack found work at the Fleischer Brothers animation studio, working on Popeye and Betty Boop cartoons as an inbetweener, filling in the necessary number of drawings to complete the illusion of movement. Jack’s steady work allowed the Kurtzbergs to move from the Lower East Side to Brooklyn.

Jack’s time with the Fleischers was short lived. The environment reminded him too much of the sweatshops where his father worked, and the studio was relocating to Florida. He found work with some small newspaper syndicates, preparing his strips (Socko The Seadog, Your Health Comes First) at home on the kitchen table. One series, “The Romance Of Money” didn’t get syndicated, but was collected as a small pamphlet for savings banks as a giveaway. Arguably, The Romance Of Money is Jack’s first comic book.

Kirby Comic Books Begin!

With the success of Superman in 1938, there was a tremendous demand for new, original comic book content. Jack found his way to the Eisner-Iger Studio, preparing stories in a similar fashion to the single pages appearing in Sunday newspapers. Soon, he and his boss Will Eisner realized they were working in an entirely new, multi page art form. Eisner recalled one incident where Jack got in the faces of mobsters who were shaking down the studio for a towel service payment. The goons left.

Unfortunately, Jack came up against too much of that “sweatshop” approach again at Eisner-Iger, and soon found work as a staff artist in the office of Victor Fox, where he drew the first four weeks of the Blue Beetle newspaper strip. While at Fox, Jack hit it off with Joe Simon, and the two began collaborating on Blue Bolt. Simon & Kirby quickly produced Red Raven Comics for Martin Goodman at Timely, which contained a Comet Pierce story where Jack first signed his name as “Jack Kirby.”

Jack soon left Fox to work with Simon exclusively, and moved his family to a nicer apartment in Brooklyn. There, he met his upstairs neighbor, and future wife, Rosalind Goldstein.

Simon & Kirby produced Captain America, and the first cover featured the patriotic hero punching Adolf Hitler in the face. Published in late 1940, a year before the U.S.A. entered the war, the cover was a stark declaration of intent, and the book was a smash hit. Kirby’s choreographed action sequences were a main selling point. At one point, the Nazi-sympathizing group the American Bund were making threatening phone calls to the Simon & Kirby team. When they called again, Kirby went downstairs to confront them, but they weren’t there.

Also for Goodman, they took two superhero sidekicks, Bucky and Toro, teamed them with four non-super-powered kids and created the Young Allies, the first kid gang. While still on staff at Timely, Kirby, Simon, and several inkers produced Captain Marvel Adventures #1 for Fawcett, uncredited, over a weekend. It became one of the top sellers of its time.

The Simon & Kirby Team & WW2

The Simon & Kirby team had such success with Captain America and their Captain Marvel one-shot that when they discovered Goodman wasn’t paying them the agreed percentage of revenue, they quickly moved to National Comics, home of Superman. They revamped existing features Sandman and Manhunter, while Kirby’s youth inspired them to create the Boy Commandos and the Newsboy Legion. In 1942, the bickering Boy Commandos received their own title which was only outsold by National’s Superman and Batman comics. That same year, Jacob Kurtzberg legally changed his name to Jack Kirby, and married Rosalind.

In the midst of this success, World War II was looming. Jack was drafted into the infantry in June of 1943. In August 1944, Kirby arrived in Normandy, France and was sent to Verdun to join General Patton’s Army on its rapid offensive eastward. His division was sent to south of Metz to rid the area of German resistance. Taking advantage of Kirby’s drawing skill and his knowledge of the German dialect Yiddish, Kirby’s commander sent him into enemy territory to scout and draw up detailed maps.

Kirby’s war experiences were more brutal, horrifying, and violent than anything he experienced on the mean streets of the Lower East Side. His time in combat had a profound effect on him. Since storytelling was such a part of his personality, he shared war stories for the rest of his life. Eventually, Kirby contracted trench foot, and nearly needed both feet amputated. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Roz, at least, expressed that losing his drawing hand would have been much worse.

In January 1945, Kirby made his way back stateside to North Carolina and was honorably discharged in July with several honors including the Bronze Battle Star. In December 1945, Roz and Jack’s first child, Susan, was born.

After The War – The 1950s

With the war behind them, the Simon & Kirby team got back to work, producing the short-lived Stuntman and Boy Explorers for Al Harvey. But action heroes and kid gangs didn’t sell like they used to. Comic books had been popular with soldiers overseas, but now that they were home, they had more reading choices.

By 1947, the team was trying their hand at other genres; crime comics, funny animals, and teen humor. “True Romance” pulp magazines had been selling well to both teen and adult women for a while, so through Crestwood/Prize, Simon & Kirby’s Young Romance, the first romance comic, debuted that summer to great success. After two lucrative years producing romance comics and with growing families, the Kirbys and the Simons moved into houses across the street from each other in the suburbs of Long Island’s Nassau County.

In 1953, Simon & Kirby started their own publishing company – Mainline Comics. Unfortunately, the corrupt newsstand business was collapsing, and social forces that had been building for years came to a head with the publication of Fredric Wertham’s book, Seduction Of The Innocent, which claimed comic books were corrupting America’s children. Subsequently, horror and crime comics were chased off the market, and comic book creators were stigmatized. Comic book quality experienced a sharp decline, with all offerings assuredly safe for the youngest kids.

Eventually, Joe Simon left the team for more lucrative and secure work in advertising and marketing for political campaigns. Kirby brought the team’s Challengers of the Unknown to National (DC), and started working for Goodman (Atlas) again. He also worked up a number of comic strip proposals. Eventually, through a connection made by Jack Schiff, an editor at DC, Kirby, with writers Ed and Dave Wood, began a newspaper strip that capitalized on the nascent space race, Sky Masters Of The Space Force. With inking by Wallace Wood, the strips were beautiful.

Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding of the financial arrangement with Schiff, and what Schiff felt was Kirby’s using ideas from story conferences for Challengers Of The Unknown in Sky Masters, Schiff sued Kirby. Kirby lost. He continued the strip for a while, but the financial arrangement made it a losing proposition, so he quit. He’d also lost DC as a client.

Jack soon found more work under Atlas editor Stan Lee, mostly on monster and science fiction stories. Simon and Kirby teamed up briefly at Archie Comics on The Double Life of Private Strong and The Adventures of the Fly. Kirby even worked briefly for Classics Illustrated.

The Marvelous 1960s

Inspired by his success with starting Challengers Of The Unknown at DC, the slight success of the Archie heroes, and his son Neal’s interests, Kirby felt the time was again ripe for superheroes. Soon enough, Goodman and Lee saw what was happening at DC with the Justice League of America, and decided that Kirby was right. Lee had Kirby take one of his monster stories featuring some adventurers, and give them superpowers. Thus was born Marvel Comics as we know it, with The Fantastic Four.

Kirby’s vivid imagination, his heartfelt humanity, his love of science fiction and mythology, and his amazing dynamic visual storytelling all coalesced in his work for Lee and Marvel when he was in his 40s.

Kirby continued to pitch heroes. Lee had been publishing monster comics, so how about a monster as a lead character, the Hulk? A scientist from a previous story became Ant-Man. Mythology was one of Kirby’s favorites, so Norse god Thor came next. An urban hero who walked on walls came next, with Kirby bringing in a logo from the Simon & Kirby studio days in the early 1950s – Spiderman. Steve Ditko ended up with the assignment.

Next came Iron Man, with the origin drawn by Don Heck; Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, a grown up Boy Commandos; X-Men, a science fiction-based kid gang; and the Avengers, a bickering group of adult heroes. Kirby even had a hand in the creation of Daredevil, evoking his earlier Stuntman. In response to the assassination of President Kennedy, Lee and Kirby revived Captain America.

Marvel’s sales picked up. Lee’s snappy dialogue combined with Kirby’s stories, as well as the familiar, fan club-like tone of Marvel’s editorial copy kept the baby boomers reading comics into their teens and college years. Soon, Kirby was producing so many stories for Lee, that it became more expedient to eschew story conferences before the art was drawn. They’d briefly discuss the next issue, and Kirby would return with a fully drawn story, and describe to Lee what was happening. When even this became too time consuming, Kirby would include story notes on the edges of his artwork for Lee to use while preparing the dialogue script for the letterer.

In one notable example, Lee and Kirby had discussed having the antagonist be “The Big G” – a euphemism for God. Kirby knew that such a powerful, threatening force would be preceded by… a scout, whom he cosmically depicted as a surfer of the spaceways. Lee loved Kirby’s new character, and dubbed him the Silver Surfer. Audiences’ minds were blown.

Goodman started licensing Marvel characters out, which led  to Steve Ditko’s departure since Goodman wasn’t including him in licensing revenue. As a result, Lee tried to strengthen his relationship with Kirby, agreeing to a profile of he and Kirby by the NY Herald-Tribune. Unfortunately, the profile failed. The writer admired Lee’s P.T. Barnum-like chicanery, and denigrated Kirby’s appearance and manner. Upset, Kirby kept producing stories and characters for Lee, but not for long. On one Fantastic Four story where Kirby introduced a new character, Him, Lee ignored the notes, and changed Kirby’s theme. After that, Kirby only delivered stories containing already existing characters.

Full Rein

Kirby couldn’t stop creating new concepts, though. He just kept them to himself. When Goodman sold Marvel to Perfect Film, a more corporate entity, Kirby was stung by the new owner not wanting to negotiate a contract. Kirby felt the need to break out of his situation, so he moved his family to Southern California and began talking to Carmine Infantino at DC.

Infantino, a long ago Kirby protege who had successfully updated Batman for the readers brought in by the TV show, was rising in the editorial ranks. For DC to have an artist in the editorial office was unprecedented, and Infantino was looking to innovate. Once Jack Schiff retired, Infantino was free to bring Kirby aboard. Infantino had wanted Kirby to revamp Superman, but Kirby only took on the Jimmy Olsen series, adding an updated Newsboy Legion to the cast (Olsen was a newsboy, after all). Kirby pitched a new science fiction mythology that filled three ongoing series, but unlike his time at Marvel, he retained creative and editorial control, eventually bringing in California resident Mike Royer to provide inking and lettering.

The New Gods, Mister Miracle, and the Forever People, his “Fourth World” comics, were unfettered Kirby at the top of his game, making comics for everyone, not just kids or teenagers.

Unfortunately, the newsstand business was still corrupt, with distributors selling fan favorite comics like Kirby’s to comic dealers to sell at conventions without reporting those sales to the publishers. As a result, the sales reports for Kirby’s comics were disappointing. Infantino then asked Kirby for a horror comic, like the movies that were then in vogue, and a kids comic to capture the popularity of the Planet Of The Apes movie series. Jack delivered The Demon and Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth. Kamandi became Jack’s longest running series for DC. But as the end of his DC contract neared, Kirby was unsatisfied with his prospects there.

A Return to Marvel and Cartoons

In 1976, Kirby returned to Marvel and Captain America. He also created the Eternals, Machine Man, the Black Panther, Devil Dinosaur, and an adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the end of his two year deal, he worked with Lee on a Silver Surfer graphic novel in the hopes it would be turned into a rock musical movie.

In 1978 Kirby was commissioned by producer Barry Ira Geller to design the sets for a movie based on Roger Zelazny’s science fiction novel Lord Of Light. Geller’s idea was for the sets to act as a theme park called Science Fiction Land once shooting was complete. Royer inked the pieces to perfection. The movie and theme park weren’t to be

At this point. Kirby had enough of comic books, and found work in the production of television cartoons for children. He finished his contract with Marvel by storyboarding Fantastic Four cartoons. He designed characters, props, and situations for Ruby-Spears, sometimes for existing shows like the Kamandi-like Thundarr The Barbarian, but mostly for presentation pitches for new shows. Kirby made some of the best income of his life, and for the first time, even had health insurance benefits.

The Last Kirby Comic Books

In 1981, Kirby returned to comic books with the first issue of Captain Victory And The Galactic Rangers. Published by Pacific Comics, Captain Victory and Silver Star were the first Kirby comics that bypassed newsstands for the comic book “Direct Market”.

In 1983, while having a dinner with publisher Richard Kyle, Roz encouraged Kirby to change the subject from WW2, and tell a story about growing up on the Lower East Side. Kyle commissioned Kirby to draw “Street Code”, Kirby’s only explicitly autobiographical work.

To raise money for writer Steve Gerber’s lawsuit against Marvel over the rights to Howard The Duck, Kirby drew Gerber’s Destroyer Duck story pro bono. The comic was so successful, Kirby and Gerber would produce four more issues. After the last issues of Captain Victory and Silver Star, Kirby returned to DC to provide covers and editorial material for a new edition of  New Gods. Among other things, he also produced the graphic novel The Hunger Dogs, bringing his Fourth World saga to a close.

In 1984, the comics publishers were realizing that it was in their best interest to return the original art they had been warehousing for years to the artists. Marvel sent a brief release for the artwork to all the artists except Kirby. To him, they sent a four page document with excessive stipulations. Kirby tried to negotiate, but to no avail. His situation gained serious notice in the comics community, who put significant pressure on Marvel to return Kirby’s art as they had to other artists. In 1987 Marvel complied.

Jack and Roz celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1992 surrounded by family and friends. Kirby died the morning of February 6th, 1994 in his hilltop home in Thousand Oaks, California.

All this time, throughout their life together, Jack and Roz attended comic book conventions and welcomed fans into their home. They loved their fellow fans of comics, science fiction, mythology, romance, and action, encouraged them to live their own lives to the fullest, and to tell their own stories. The high profile of comics in our culture today is a testament to the Kirbys’ positive energy, love, and commitment.

Jack Kirby’s Steppenwolf – 1st Appearance

Below are adjusted scans of photocopies taken in the Kirby home of Jack Kirby’s pencil script and art containing the first appearance of Darkseid’s uncle, Steppenwolf. There he is in the first, upper left panel of page 2 of “The Pact!”, Kirby’s epic Fourth World/New Gods backstory published in New Gods #7. Steppenwolf attacks Izaya (a.k.a. High Father) and Avia in a moment of peace on New Genesis. Trouble ensues.





Note that Kirby originally numbered the fifth page in the sequence “7”

The Summer of Jack by Chuck Greaves

Posted in General.

Chuck Greaves recently reached out to the Kirby Museum to offer his October 2012 essay for re-posting here. Chuck is an accomplished writer of legal mysteries and literary fiction. Thank you, Chuck, not only for sharing the essay but also sending along the additional photos. – Rand Hoppe

For most Americans of a certain age, the summer of 1968 is viewed as a kind of dark chasm that yawned between the Summer of Love and the Summer of Woodstock. It was, after all, the summer of Martin, the summer of Bobby. Of My Lai and Biafra. It marked the rise of Nixon and the fall of Prague Spring.  It hosted the Chicago Convention.

For me, the dog days of 1968 evoke different memories, fonder memories, and none more enduring than the memory of my improbable audience with the King.

Iron Man, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four. It was these Ektachrome heroes of today’s CG cinema who formed the warp and weft of my boyhood narrative, their parallel universe of lantern-jawed heroes, buxom damsels and, of course, evil villains bent on world conquest the golden latchkey for a yearning pre-teen fettered to the terrestrial orthodoxy of 1960’s Levittown.

Captain America, the Avengers, the Mighty Thor, the Silver Surfer. Conflicted but righteous, misunderstood yet unerring, they and countless other pulp paladins all sprung fully-formed from the sharpened No. 2 pencil of one man, who today is acknowledged, posthumously, as the greatest pencil artist in comic book history. I’m speaking now of the King of Comics, Jack Kirby.

And all I wanted was his autograph.

It was in 1968, that tumultuous summer of my twelfth year, that my pal Jimmy and I hauled out the Nassau County phone book and started paging through the K’s. We’d reasoned that if Marvel Comics was headquartered on Madison Avenue, then some of the artists must surely ride the Long Island Railroad to work just like our fathers. Just like ordinary mortals.

We found several possibilities — Johns, Jacks and J’s — and I wrote to all of them, effusive in my adulation, and humble, or so I’d hoped, in my request for a signed photograph. I posted the letters and waited.

A week passed, two weeks. My attention, meanwhile, had wandered to the more prosaic diversions of a Levittown summer. The Village Green swimming pool. Curb-ball. Ringalevio. The not-yet-amazin’ Mets.

And then, all but forgotten, it suddenly arrived — a stiff manila envelope with artful block lettering. Inside was no photograph, however, but an original pencil drawing. The Thing, his arms bulging beneath a tight t-shirt, hunched over a drafting table, a word balloon suspended over his rocky brow. “Is this shot okay, Chuck?” he asked, the smoke from his stogie curled upward to form the magical number 4.

Jack Kirby pencil art 1968 Thing self-portrait for Chuck Greaves

A pencilled Jack Kirby Thing self-portrait sent to Chuck Greaves in 1968. Snapshot of the art in frame behind glass.

Jimmy was jealous. Jimmy was, in fact, beside himself. And Jimmy had a plan.

Over the phone, Mr. Kirby was gracious. Yes, he worked from his home. No, he enjoyed having visitors. Tomorrow? Sure, not a problem.

We lied to our parents, naturally, and set out after breakfast on our Sting-Rays for what would prove to be a half-day’s ride into uncharted territory. A suburban neighborhood, a modest home. We knocked. We waited. And Jack Kirby answered the door.

He was friendly, avuncular. He offered us Orange Crush and led us downstairs to the basement studio where he’d been working on a forthcoming issue of the Fantastic Four. The room was littered with monochrome panels of mutants and monsters, machinery and mayhem.

We watched him work. He patiently answered all of our inane questions. We hung. And in the end, after we’d wrung the last drops from our soda bottles, he offered to draw a picture for each of us.

My favorite that week was T’Challa, the Black Panther, Marvel’s first-ever African-American superhero, yet another of Kirby’s pioneering creations. He seemed surprised by my choice, and somehow pleased.

He took a clean sheet of paper. He sketched, he shaded, and in less than thirty seconds he’d confected an astonishing image. The Black Panther, tightly-muscled and perfectly proportioned, sprang forth from the page. Above his head, a word balloon declared, “Chuck, it’s great meeting you.”

1968 Jack Kirby Black Panther pencil sketch given to Chuck Greaves.

Black Panther pencil sketch drawn by Jack Kirby in his East Williston basement and given to Chuck Greaves in 1968. Snapshot of the art in frame behind glass.

Today, almost 45 years later, I still look at both drawings every day, since they hang on the wall of my home office. They’re totems, I suppose; paeans to innocence in turbulent times. And they’re tributes to a man whose genius continues, even in these trying times, to offer the same promise of magic and adventure to a new generation.

Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg, died in Thousand Oaks, California in 1994. He was 76 years young.

Jack, it was great meeting you.

Chuck Greaves, 1968.

Chuck Greaves in 1968.

Key Late Career Moments

This timeline was first published in TwoMorrows Publishing’s Spring 2014 The Jack Kirby Collector 63. Many thanks to John Morrow for allowing us to publish it here. Suggestions or corrections are welcome, please use the comments section below. –  Rand

Continuing our look at key moments in Jack’s life and career from TJKC #60 (which covered Marvel in the 1960s) and #62 (which covered 1970-1975), we present this timeline of key moments that affected Kirby’s tenure after he left DC Comics in 1975. Of invaluable help were Richard Kolkman (who sent me an extensive list to begin work from), Eric Nolen-Weathington, Ray Wyman, Tom Kraft, Glen Gold, and Rand Hoppe, as well as Mark Evanier’s book KIRBY: King of Comics and Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.

This isn’t a complete list of every important date in Kirby’s later career history, but should hit most of the main ones. Please send us additions and corrections. Next issue, I’ll work on pivotal moments in Jack’s 1940s-1950s career with Joe Simon.

My rule of thumb: Cover dates were generally two-three months later than the date the book appeared on the stands, and six months ahead of when Kirby was working on the stories, so I’ve assembled the timeline according to those adjusted dates—not the cover dates—to set it as close as possible to real-time.

Early 1970s

  • May 30, 1972: Kirby signs an agreement with Marvel, effectively relinquishing any claim he might have to the copyright on Captain America. This document is used against Joe Simon’s efforts to secure the copyright on Captain America Comics #1-10.
  • Late 1972: Rocket’s Blast Comic Collector #94 features an erroneous newsflash titled “Kirby Leaves DC,” which speculates what might happen if Kirby returned to Marvel. The article creates quite a stir in fandom.
  • Summer 1974: Neal Kirby asks Roy Thomas to meet the Kirbys for coffee at the San Diego Comic-Con, to determine Marvel’s possible interest in having Jack return. Roy tells Jack he and Stan would be glad to have him back.


  • Early 1975: It is presumed that Kirby talks with Stan Lee regarding the possibility of Kirby returning to Marvel.
  • February 20: Longtime Marvel letterer Arthur “Artie” Simek dies.
  • March 18: Kirby visits the Marvel offices for the first time since his departure in 1970. The visit takes place on the Monday before the 1975 Mighty Marvel Con (March 22–24). Marie Severin spots Kirby going into Stan’s office, and yells down the Marvel halls, “Kirby’s back!”
  • March 24: Kirby signs a three-year contract with Marvel (valid through April 30, 1978), and appears at the Mighty Marvel Con held at the Hotel Commodore in New York City. Kirby stuns MMC attendees with the announcement of his return, and in regards to what he will be doing for Marvel, Kirby says, “It’ll electrocute you in the mind!”
  • May: Barry Alfonso’s fanzine Mysticogryfil #2 features an interview with Kirby.
  • May 25: Wings’ album Venus and Mars featuring the song “Magneto and Titanium Man,” is released (the cover of the 45 rpm single is shown above, which featured re-purposed non-Kirby art from Marvel).
  • June 2: Menomonee Falls Gazette V4, #181 features an interview with Kirby.
  • July: Mediascene #15 features a preview article entitled “The King Returns.”
  • August (October cover date): The Marvel Comics Bullpen page announces, “The King is Back! ’Nuff said!” and lists his future projects as 2001, Captain America, and a giant Silver Surfer book.
  • September (November cover date): New Kirby covers hit the stands: Fantastic Four #164, Invaders #3, Iron Man #80, Ka-Zar #12, Marvel Premiere #26 (featuring Hercules), Marvel Super-Heroes #54 (featuring Hulk), Marvel Two-in- One #12 (guest-starring Iron Man), and Thor #241.
  • September: Captain America #192 features a next issue promo with art by Kirby and Frank Giacoia (next page, top).
  • September: FOOM #11 features a preview of 2001: A Space Odyssey, cover art for Captain America #193 and #194, and “Kirby Speaks,” an interview with Kirby.
  • September: Kirby ignores editorial pleas to integrate the rest of the Marvel Universe into his Captain America series.
  • November (January 1976 cover date): Captain America #193 is published, beginning the “Madbomb” storyline, which is timed to end on America’s bicentennial.
  • November 15: Jack completes the first draft of his Silver Star screenplay.
  • December: FOOM #12 features preview art for an “Ikaris the Eternal” series, later to be renamed The Eternals.


  • January (March coer date): The Bullpen Bulletins page features the blurb, “Who Is He?” with an image of Ikaris.
  • February (April cover date): Kamandi #40, featuring the last of Kirby’s 1970s art for DC, is published.
  • February: The Comic Reader #127 announces a new Marvel series Return of the Gods (ie. The Eternals) along with Kirby’s cover art for the first issue.
  • May (July cover date): Bullpen Bulletins page announces The Prisoner. According to Mediascene (Nov.–Dec. 1977), Marvel’s Prisoner series began as a proposal by editor Marv Wolfman, followed by a Steve Englehart and Gil Kane effort which Stan Lee rejected. Lee then gave the series to Kirby to write and pencil. Kirby penciled one 17-page issue, which was partially inked by Mike Royer, before Lee cancelled the project altogether.
  • May (July cover date): Eternals #1 published.
  • June (August cover date): Captain America #200 is published.
  • June 8: The treasury sized Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles is published.
  • June 22: Kirby and his family meet Paul and Linda McCartney backstage at a Wings concert at the L.A. Forum via Gary Sherman. Kirby gives McCartney a drawing of Magneto (referencing McCartney’s song) to commemorate the occasion.
  • July (September cover date): Bullpen Bulletin page announces that Roy Thomas is to join “Marvel West” along with Kirby and Mike Royer.
  • July: The Marvel Treasury Special 2001: A Space Odyssey movie adaptation is released.
  • August (October cover date): Hulk Annual #5 is published. The story features a bevy of Jack’s Atlas-era monsters, such as Groot, Titan, and Goom, with a new cover by Kirby.
  • September (November cover date): Fantastic Four #176 is published featuring a Kirby/Joe Sinnott cover with Impossible Man. Kirby, along with the Marvel Bullpen, appears as a character in the George PĂŠrez-drawn story inside.
  • October (December cover date): 2001: A Space Odyssey #1 (a new ongoing series) is published.
  • Late October-Early November: Kirby visits Lucca, Italy as Guest of Honor at the Lucca Comic Art Festival, his first international comics convention appearance.
  • November (January 1977 cover date): Black Panther #1 is published. As with his Captain America stories, Kirby isolates the title from the rest of the Marvel Universe.
  • December: FOOM #16 features a preview of the Marvel 1977 Calendar, featuring artwork by Kirby.


  • January: “Stan’s Soapbox” announces the Silver Surfer graphic novel is to be written by Lee and drawn by Kirby.
  • February 1: Kirby submits his art for The Prisoner.
  • March (May cover date): Marvel Two-in-One #27 is released, featuring a Kirby/Sinnott cover with Deathlok.
  • March 14: Kirby hands in concept art and plot concept for the Silver Surfer graphic novel to “Stanley” Lee, and Lee begins scripting.
  • May (July cover date): 2001 #8 is published, introducing Mister Machine. Ideal Toys, having rights to the name, convinces Marvel to rename the character, 75 and Kirby re-dubs him “Machine Man” in the first issue of his solo series.
  • May (July cover date): “Bullpen Bulletins” announces an adaptation of the forthcoming Star Wars movie, which would open to general audiences on May 17. Though not known at the time, Star Wars would feature themes and characters remarkably similar to Kirby’s Fourth World series.
  • May 12: The Star Wars movie premieres.
  • May 20: Kirby works on concept art for Devil Dinosaur under the working title Devil Dinosaur of the Phantom Planet. An earlier working title was Reptar, King of the Dinosaurs.
  • June (August cover date): Eternals #14 is published, featuring a cosmic-powered Hulk, in a feeble nod to tying the series to the Marvel Universe.
  • July (September cover date): 2001 #10 is published, announcing Machine Man will receive his own title.
  • August (October cover date): Captain America #214 is published, marking the final issue of Kirby’s run.
  • October: Pizzazz #1 features a page of Kirby artwork for “2001 Compute-a-Code”. It is the only published artwork Larry Lieber would ink over Kirby pencils.
  • November (January 1978 cover date): Eternals #19, the final issue of the series, is published.
  • November 19: Longtime Marvel production staffer and occasional Kirby inker “Jumbo” John Verpoorten dies at age 37.


  • February (April cover date): Machine Man #1 and Devil Dinosaur #1 are
  • Early 1978: DePatie-Freleng begins development of a Fantastic Four half-hour cartoon to air in 1979, with Kirby drawing storyboards.
  • Spring: FOOM #21 introduces H.E.R.B.I.E. (earlier named Charlie and Z-Z-1-2-3), a robot member of the Fantastic Four team designed by Kirby for the DePatie-Freling FF cartoon. The rights to Human Torch were tied up with another production company, so DePatie-Freleng used H.E.R.B.I.E. as a stand-in.
  • March: Ballantine Books publishes Sorcerers: A Collection of Fantasy Art, featuring an essay by Kirby, showcasing several unpublished pieces of his personal art.
  • April: The Comics Journal #39 features an article titled, “From Dinosaurs to Rockets: Kirby Strikes Out Again.” The article—along with letters printed in the Marvel letters’ pages and petty cruelty from members of the Marvel Bullpen staff—adds to Kirby’s growing discontent.
  • April 30: Kirby’s contract with Marvel expires and he decides not to renew it, and instead focuses on his animation career.
  • Late Spring: Kirby begins development on Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers, including concept art and co-writing a screenplay with Steve Sherman.
  • July: Kirby begins working on concept art for The Lord of Light movie and theme park (based on Roger Zelazny’s novel of the same name). This artwork would later be used as part of a real-life CIA operation to rescue kidnapped diplomats, as depicted in the 2012 film Argo.
  • August (October cover date): What If? #11 is published. Written and penciled by Kirby, the story, titled “What if the Fantastic Four Were the Original Marvel Bullpen?” features Kirby, Stan Lee, Sol Brodsky, and Flo Steinberg as the FF.
  • August: The Comics Journal #41 features an article titled, “Kirby Quits Comics.”
  • September (November cover date): Fantastic Four #200 is published, the cover of which being Kirby’s final work on the FF in comics.
  • October (December cover date): Machine Man #9 and Devil Dinosaur #9 are published—Kirby’s last ongoing series work for Marvel.
  • Fall: The Silver Surfer graphic novel is published by Simon & Schuster. Kirby and Lee share the copyright.
  • Late 1978: Development begins on the unrealized “Jack Kirby Comics” line of titles: Bruce Lee; Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers; Reptar, King of the Dinosaurs; Satan’s Six; Silver Star (based on the existing screenplay co-written with Steve Sherman); and Thunder Foot.


  • Kirby produces an unfinished 224-page version of his novel The Horde, which is edited by Janet Berliner.
  • The Jack Kirby Masterworks portfolio is published by Privateer Press.
  • January: The Marvel 1979 Calendar features a Kirby Hulk drawing inked by Joe Sinnott. It is Kirby’s final published artwork for Marvel.
  • Early 1979: Stan Lee options the Silver Surfer graphic novel movie rights to producer Lee Kramer. The film is set to have a $25 million budget, with Olivia Newton-John attached to play the role of Ardina (as related in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, pg. 215).
  • Kirby appears in a cameo role on the Incredible Hulk TV series as a police sketch artist.
  • June (August cover date): Fantastic Four #209 is published, introducing the Kirby-designed H.E.R.B.I.E. to comics.
  • September 2 (through January 13, 1980): Kirby’s adaptation of Walt Disney’s film The Black Hole appears in Sunday newspapers across America, and is later translated for foreign publications as well.


  • Kirby continues working as a storyboard and concept artist in the animation industry, particularly for Ruby-Spears Productions on Thundarr The Barbarian (example shown below). Kirby receives some of the best pay of his career, and for the first time, health insurance benefits.
  • October 11: The first episode of Thundarr The Barbarian airs, starting a highly successful syndication run for the series.


  • September (November cover date): Captain Victory and His Galactic Rangers #1 is published through Pacific Comics.
  • September (November cover date): Fantastic Four #236—the 20th anniversary issue—is published. Kirby demands the removal of his name from the cover, citing unauthorized use of his Fantastic Four storyboards inside for nefarious “celebratory purposes.”
  • Kirby works with Steve Gerber on the unused Roxie’s Raiders newspaper strip, comic book, and animated series for Ruby-Spears.


  • Battle For A 3-D World is published, with Kirby pencils, Mike Thibodeaux inks, and 3-D conversion by Ray Zone. The 3-D glasses that come with the comic state “Kirby: King of the Comics,” which is later misconstrued by Johnny Carson when he uses a pair as a prop on The Tonight Show, and inadvertently insults Jack on the air. He publicly apologizes to Jack on-air two weeks later.
  • January (March cover date): Destroyer Duck #1, featuring Kirby pencils, is published in an effort to raise money for Steve Gerber’s lawsuit against Marvel for the rights to Howard the Duck. Kirby also donates the cover art for the F.O.O.G. (Friends of Old Gerber) benefit portfolio.
  • January (March cover date): Kirby’s unpublished 1975 story for DC’s Sandman #7 is finally published in Best of DC Digest #22. It had previously only appeared, for copyright purposes, in DC’s Summer 1978 in-house ashcan inventory book Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, of which only 35 copies were produced by photocopying.
  • October 28: Kirby is interviewed on the TV show Entertainment Tonight by Catherine Mann.
  • December (February 1983 cover date): Silver Star #1 is published by Pacific Comics, based on Jack’s 1975 concept.


  • Kirby is commissioned by Richard Kyle to draw the autobiographical story “Street Code”.
  • February: Will Eisner’s “Shop Talk” interview with Kirby is published in Spirit magazine #39, featuring controversial comments by Kirby.
  • October (December cover date): Destroyer Duck #5 (Kirby’s final issue) is published. Pacific Comics would publish one additional issue, without Kirby art.
  • November (January 1984  cover date): Captain Victory #13 and Silver Star #6 (the final issues) are published.


  • April (June cover date): New Gods reprint #1 is published, beginning a full reprinting of the 11 original New Gods issues.
  • May (July cover date): Super Powers #1 (first series) is published by DC Comics, featuring a Kirby cover, and Jack’s plotting (Kirby plots and draws only covers for #1-4). Jack agrees to tackle this series, in appreciation for DC retroactively making him eligible for royalties on the creation of the New Gods characters that appear in the Super Powers toy line.
  • August: Kirby receives a 4-page legal document from Marvel Comics, drafted especially for him, that contains numerous excessive stipulations around the possible return of his 1960s artwork—including denying him the ability to sell the artwork, and with no guarantee of how many pages he would receive if he did sign the document. Kirby refuses to sign, and attempts to negotiate behind-the-scenes with Marvel, with no success.
  • September (November cover date): New Gods reprint #6 is published, containing the new story “Even Gods Must Die” which attempts to bridge the narrative between the original New Gods #11, and Jack’s upcoming Hunger Dogs graphic novel.
  • September (November cover date): Super Powers #5 is published, the final issue of the first series, featuring Kirby plot, cover, and full pencils.


  • The Hunger Dogs graphic novel is published, giving Kirby a chance to put a pseudo-ending to his New Gods saga.
  • February (April cover date): Who’s Who #2 is published by DC Comics—the first of numerous issues to feature single-page illustrations by Kirby, of his DC characters.
  • March 6: A Cannon Films ad in Variety magazine erroneously credits Stan Lee as the creator of Captain America. The Kirbys’ attorney contacts Marvel Comics about the error.
  • June (August cover date): DC Comics Presents #84 is published, featuringa Kirby-drawn story teaming Superman and the Challengers of the Unknown.
  • July (September cover date): Super Powers (series two) #1 is published, with pencils only by Kirby.
  • July: The Kirbys’ legal dispute with Marvel over the ownership of original artwork plays out publicly, in the first of several issues of The Comics Journal to bring public awareness to the issue. Issue #105 (February 1986) is pivotal in its coverage of the situation.
  • August 2: Kirby appears on a panel at the San Diego Comic-Con with Jim Starlin, Greg Theakston, and Gary Groth, to discuss the situation of Marvel Comics not returning his original artwork.
  • December (February 1986 cover date): Super Powers (series two) #6 is published, featuring Kirby’s final penciled story in comics.


  • New World Entertainment acquires Marvel Comics.
  • Heroes Against Hunger is published by DC Comics to benefit famine relief, featuring a 2-page sequence donated by Jack.
  • August: The Comics Journal #110 includes a petition signed by numerous industry professionals, appealing to Marvel Comics to give Kirby back his original art.
  • August 3: Kirby appears on a panel at the San Diego Comic-Con with Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Marv Wolfman, and Gary Groth, to discuss the situation with Marvel Comics and the return of his original artwork. Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter was in the audience, and spoke briefly from the floor to clarify Marvel’s position.
  • September: Marvel Age Annual #2 is published, reprinting a ½-page text piece by Kirby titled, “Jack Kirby by Jack Kirby,” reprinted from the Merry Marvel Messenger newsletter of 1966.


  • Kirby appears on Ken Viola’s Masters of Comic Book Art documentary, offering many fans their first chance to actually hear and see Kirby speak about comics.
  • January (March cover date): Last of the Viking Heroes #1 is published by Genesis West, featuring a Kirby cover.
  • Pure Imagination publishes Jack Kirby’s Heroes & Villains, reprinting the Valentine’s Day pencil sketchbook Jack drew for his wife Roz in the late 1970s.
  • Summer: Kirby is inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
  • Summer: Under pressure from comics creators and the fan community, Marvel Comics sends Kirby the standard form other artists signed, and upon Jack signing it, finally returns approximately 2,100 of the estimated 13,000 pages Kirby drew for the company.
  • August (October cover date): Kirby’s half of a “jam” cover with Murphy Anderson for DC’s Secret Origins #19 sees print.
  • November: Marvel begins their hardcover Marvel Masterworks collection of early Lee/Kirby stories.


  • December (February 1989 cover date): Action Comics Weekly #638 is published, featuring a Kirby Demon cover—his last new work for DC.


  • Monster Masterworks Vol. 1 is published, featuring “Monsters of the Shifty Fifties,” a text piece written by Kirby.
  • Marvel publishes a collection of Simon & Kirby’s Fighting American, including a two-page introduction by Kirby.
  • Glen Kolleda releases a pewter sculpture based on Kirby’s “Jacob And The Angel” drawing. It comes with a print of Jack’s illustration; a second sculpture and print (Beast Rider) was planned, but never produced.


  • February: The Comics Journal #134 (left) is published, featuring a controversial interview with Kirby, including derogatory comments about Stan Lee, and Jack’s own involvement in the creation of Spider-Man.
  • May: Robin Snyder’s fanzine The Comics Vol. 1, #5 prints a 4-page essay/rebuttal by Steve Ditko entitled “Jack Kirby’s Spider-Man,” giving Ditko’s recollection of what Kirby’s involvement on Spider-Man was prior to Ditko taking over. It includes a Ditko sketch of what Kirby’s version looked like.
  • November: Kirby’s 1983 “Street Code” story finally sees print in Richard Kyle’s Argosy magazine, Vol. 3, #2.
  • December: Marvel Age #95 is published, featuring “Birth of a Legend,” an interview with Kirby (as well as a separate interview with Joe Simon) to commemorate Captain America’s 50th anniversary.


  • January: Marvel publishes a collection of Simon & Kirby’s Boys’ Ranch, including a two-page introduction by Kirby.
  • The Art of Jack Kirby is published. Jack and author Ray Wyman conduct a book tour from November 7-December 12, at five stores in California and Tucson, Arizona.


  • January 22: Kirby appears in a cameo as himself, on the shortlived Bob Newhart sitcom Bob (below).
  • February (April cover date): Topps Comics begins publishing their “Kirbyverse” titles—Bombast, Captain Glory, Night Glider, and Jack Kirby’s Secret City Saga—based on unused Kirby concepts from the 1970s. They also publish Satan’s Six #1, which includes a previously unpublished 8-page Kirby sequence from the ’70s.
  • March 14: Jack and Ray Wyman appear at Comics & Comix in Palo Alto, California to promote The Art of Jack Kirby. A lengthy fan video of Jack’s appearance exists.
  • September (December cover date): Phantom Force #1 is published by Image Comics. The Image founders form a sort of solidarity around Kirby.
  • October (January cover date): Monster Menace #2 is published, featuring a ½-page text piece by Kirby titled “Jack Kirby, Atlas Comics and Monsters”—Kirby’s final work of any kind for Marvel.


  • January (April cover date): Phantom Force #2 is published—Kirby’s final comic book work published during his lifetime.
  • February 6: Kirby dies at his home in Thousand Oaks, California at age 77.
  • March 4: Comics Buyer’s Guide #1059 begins coverage of Kirby’s passing, including the first part of a revealing personal recollection by Mark Evanier.
  • Dr. Mark Miller starts an industry petition to persuade Marvel Comics to credit Kirby on his creations. His behind-the-scenes discussions with Marvel’s Terry Stewart would play a role in Marvel granting a pension to Jack’s wife Roz in September 1995, which lasted until her death on December 22, 1997.
  • June 18: Sotheby’s Auction House auctions Kirby cover recreations produced prior to his death.
  • July: A 9-page excerpt from Kirby’s unfinished novel The Horde is published in Galaxy Magazine #4. To date, two others excerpts have been published: in David Copperfield’s anthology Tales of the Impossible (1995), and the anthology book Front Lines (2008)
  • Summer: Chrissie Harper publishes Jack Kirby Quarterly #1 in the United Kingdom.
  • September: John Morrow publishes The Jack Kirby Collector #1.

Key 1970s DC Moments

This timeline was first published in TwoMorrows Publishing’s Winter 2013 The Jack Kirby Collector 62. Many thanks to John Morrow for allowing us to publish it here. Be sure to read the Key 1960s Moments timeline, as well. Suggestions or corrections are welcome, please use the comments section below. –  Rand

Continuing our look at key moments in Jack’s life and career from TJKC #59 (which covered Marvel in the 1960s), we present this timeline of key moments that affected Kirby’s tenure at DC Comics in the 1970s. Of invaluable help were Rand Hoppe, past research by Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman, and of course, the “X” list of Jack’s DC production numbers (an updated version is shown elsewhere in this issue).

This isn’t a complete list of every important date in Kirby’s DC 1970s history, but should hit most of the main ones. Please send us additions and corrections. Next issue, I’ll work on pivotal moments in Jack’s return to Marvel in the 1970s and beyond.

My rule of thumb: Cover dates were generally two-three months later than the date the book appeared on the stands, and six months ahead of when Kirby was working on the stories, so I’ve assembled the timeline according to those adjusted dates—not the cover dates—to set it as close as possible to real-time.


  • Kinney National Company buys DC Comics, and Carmine Infantino is appointed Art Director. He initiates the era of “artist as editor,” bringing new talent and ideas in. Also, editor Jack Schiff retires from DC Comics, opening the door for Kirby to possibly return.


  • January: The Kirby family moves to California, taking a loan from Martin Goodman.
  • Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman become acquainted with Kirby through working on Marvelmania projects, and Mike Royer inks his first Kirby piece.
  • Kirby meets with Carmine Infantino at a Los Angeles hotel to discuss the possibility of joining DC Comics, and Mort Weisinger retires from DC Comics, removing the last obstacle for Kirby returning.


  • January: Kirby receives a “onerous” contract from Perfect Film to continue working at Marvel Comics, telling him “take it or leave it.”
  • February: Carmine Infantino signs Kirby to a DC contract.
  • Early March: Kirby turns in Fantastic Four #102, his final story for Marvel, and resigns. On March 12, Don and Maggie Thompson publish an “Extra” edition of their fanzine Newfangles announcing Kirby is leaving Marvel. That Spring, Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman become Jack’s official assistants.
  • May-June: “The Great One Is Coming!” ad appears in various DC comics, trumpeting “The Boom Tube,” but does not mention Kirby by name.
  • July (September cover date): The “Stan’s Soapbox” in Marvel’s comics tells of Jack’s resignation from Marvel, and Jimmy Olsen #132’s letter column announces Kirby will start in the following issue.
  • Summer: “Kirby is coming” blurb appears in various DC comics. Also, Kirby’s three new core books are mentioned (with bullet art) in the 1970 San Diego Comic-Con program book.
  • August (October cover date): Jimmy Olsen #133 published with Kirby’s first work for DC Comics.
  • October (December cover date): “The Magic of Kirby” house ads appear in DC comics, heralding the first issues of Forever People, New Gods, and Mister Miracle.
  • November (January 1971 cover date): Kirby stories in Amazing Adventures #4 and Tower of Shadows #4 published by Marvel, the same month as Jimmy Olsen #135 at DC Comics.
  • December (February 1971 cover date): Forever People #1 and New Gods #1 published at DC Comics.


  • January (March cover date): Marvel’s Fantastic Four #108 published from Jack’s original rejected FF #102 story, the same month that DC Comics publishes Mister Miracle #1 and Jimmy Olsen #136.
  • January 31: Kirby and Infantino are interviewed for Comics & Crypt fanzine in the DC offices, during Jack’s trip back to New York City. Around this time, Carmine Infantino is promoted to publisher of DC Comics.
  • May (July cover date): Lois Lane #111 is published, with a non-Kirby story that used his Fourth World concepts. Also, while drawing the end of Mister Miracle #5, Kirby conceives the idea of Stan Lee as “Funky Flashman” for #6.
  • Mid 1971: After discovering inker Vince Colletta has been showing Fourth World pages around Marvel’s offices before publication, and being shown how Colletta omits details in the inking, Kirby insists on Mike Royer as inker. Mike starts with New Gods #5, Mister Miracle #5, and Forever People #6.
  • June (August cover date): DC publishes Super DC Giant S-25, with 1950s reprints of Kirby’s Challengers of the Unknown, and a new cover and text feature by Kirby. Also, Carmine Infantino raises cover prices to 25¢ and includes Golden Age Simon & Kirby reprints in the back of Kirby’s Fourth World issues. One month after matching the increase, Marvel undercuts DC by dropping their cover prices to 20¢.
  • June 15 and July 15: In The Days of the Mob #1 and Spirit World #1 published, but receive nebulous ads (left) and spotty distribution. Months later, ads for both books would appear in DC comics, offering unsold copies to readers by mail.
  • October: Kirby draws his final issue of Jimmy Olsen (#148). Around this time, Kirby conjures up the idea for The Demon to replace Jimmy Olsen on his schedule.
  • November (January cover date): Mister Miracle #6 published, with unflattering caricatures of Stan Lee as “Funky Flashman” and Roy Thomas as “Houseroy,” burning bridges at Marvel.
  • December (February cover date): New Gods #7 is published, with the pivotal Fourth World story “The Pact.”
  • December: Carmine Infantino instructs Kirby to add Deadman to Forever People #9-10, in an attempt to boost sales. The covers of Forever People #9 and New Gods #9 downplay the lead characters, in what seems to be an attempt to make the covers look more like mystery titles, which were selling well.


  • January (March cover date): DC runs ads for the Kirby Unleashed portfolio in its comics.
  • February (April cover date): Jimmy Olsen #148, Kirby’s final issue, is published.
  • March: Kirby is told by Carmine Infantino that due to under-performing sales, DC will be canceling New Gods and Forever People, and that he must move Mister Miracle away from its Fourth World ties. Kirby hurriedly switches gears and swaps his planned stories for Mister Miracle #9 (“The Mister Miracle To Be”) and #10, so he gets his “Himon” story into print. It’s too late to alter the “next issue” blurb in #8’s letter column (right) to reflect the change.
  • April: Kirby draws his final issues of New Gods and Forever People.
  • April (June cover date): Jimmy Olsen #150 is published, with a non-Kirby Newsboy Legion back-up story featuring Angry Charlie.
  • May-June (July-August cover dates): DC finally gives in to sales pressure, and drops its cover prices to 20¢ to match Marvel Comics.
  • May (July cover date): Mister Miracle #9 published, with the story “Himon”. Also, Kirby stories planned for the unpublished Spirit World #2 begin appearing in Weird Mystery Tales and Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion.
  • June: After Martin Goodman calls in Jack’s 1969 loan, Kirby “under duress” signs a copyright agreement with Marvel. Also, Demon #1 is published.
  • July (September cover date): Jimmy Olsen #152 is published, with a non-Kirby wrap-up to the Morgan Edge clone saga, and a guest appearance by Darkseid and other Kirby Olsen characters. Also, Mister Miracle #10 is published, in an abrupt departure from the Fourth World. Jack keeps the title “The Mister Miracle To Be”, but the story has nothing to do with Scott Free’s early days.
  • August (October cover date): New Gods #11 and Forever People #11 (the final issues) and Kamandi #1 are published.


  • July (September cover date): Boy Commandos #1 is published, reprinting Golden Age stories.
  • August: After being notified that Mister Miracle will be cancelled, Kirby draws a final issue that brings back Fourth World characters.
  • September: Kirby considers returning to Marvel, but can’t get out of his DC contract.
  • September (November cover date): DC begins publishing reprints of Simon & Kirby’s
    Black Magic comics of the 1950s, working with Joe Simon as editor.
  • Fall: Kirby begins work on OMAC #1 (it wouldn’t be published till almost a year later),
    and Sandman #1, briefly reuniting with Joe Simon.
  • December (February cover date): Mister Miracle #18, the final issue, is published.


  • April: Kirby starts work on the Losers story in Our Fighting Forces #151, the first of a
    dozen war stories he would chronicle for that title.
  • May (July cover date): One story (“Murder Inc.”) from the unpublished In The Days Of
    The Mob #2 appears in Amazing World of DC Comics #1.
  • May 7: Kirby creates Atlas, who would debut in First Issue Special #1 several months
  • July (September cover date): OMAC #1 published.
  • September: Origins of Marvel Comics by Stan Lee is published, featuring Stan’s account of the creation of the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, and Doctor Strange.


  • February (April cover date): First Issue Special #1 is published, featuring Kirby’s Atlas.
  • March 24: Kirby signs a contract to return to Marvel Comics, but must continue working for DC to finish out his contract with the company.
  • April: Knowing Jack is leaving, DC brings in Gerry Conway as editor on Kamandi #34 to indoctrinate him to the series, eventually making him full writer/editor on Kamandi #38-40, Jack’s last three issues. DC would no longer commission covers by Kirby for any further titles he drew from this point on, undoubtedly to lessen readers’ association of Kirby with DC on newsstands.
  • May (July cover date): Justice Inc. #2 is published, with Kirby art and Denny O’Neil
  • June (August cover date): Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #3 is published, with
    Kirby art and Denny O’Neil script. Also, First Issue Special #5 is published, with
    Kirby’s revamped Manhunter, but DC created a cover from Kirby’s flopped splash
    page, rather than commission a new one.
  • July 1975: First Issue Special #6 is published, featuring the Dingbats of Danger
    Street #1 story, a year-and-a-half after Kirby drew it. His completed stories for
    Dingbats #2 and #3 remain unpublished to this day.
  • September (November cover date): OMAC #8, the final issue, is published, with a
    reworked last panel bringing the series to an abrupt end, instead of Kirby’s
    planned conclusion to the OMAC #7-8 continued story.
  • October: Son of Origins of Marvel Comics by Stan Lee is published, giving Stan’s accounts of the creation of the X-Men, Iron Man, The Avengers, Daredevil, Nick Fury, the Watcher, and the Silver Surfer.
  • November (January cover date): Captain America #193 is published, marking Kirby’s return to Marvel.
  • December (February cover date): Kobra #1 is published by DC, heavily altered, and with an Ernie Chua cover.


  • February (April cover date): First Issue Special #13 (right) is published, a non-Kirby “Return of the New Gods” tryout. No mention of Kirby is made in the New Gods history article. This issue was published concurrently with Kamandi #40, Kirby’s final issue and last work for DC in the 1970s. Carmine Infantino is fired as publisher of DC Comics in early 1976, and Jenette Kahn is made publisher. Plans are made to include Kirby’s unpublished Sandman #7 story in Kamandi #60, but that title gets cancelled in the “DC Implosion”, and Sandman #7 is finally published in The Best of DC #22 (1982).


  • April (July cover date): New Gods #12 published after a review of sales reports by DC’s new management of the Kirby issues and First Issue Special #13 showed it was a title worth reviving. The cover is drawn by Al Milgrom in a very Kirbyesque style.

Jack Kirby at San Diego Comic-Con 1971

In 1971, the San Diego Comic-Con was held at Muir College, University of California at San Diego, in La Jolla, CA. Wikipedia notes there were 800 attendees, and Alex Jay was one of them. Alex took some Kodak Instamatic photos of jack Kirby’s chalk talk, and kindly allowed us to share them.

Here are some close ups and filtered glimpses of the drawings from these photos:




Thanks, Alex! Be sure to check out Alex’s blog Tenth letter of the Alphabet

Spider-man: The Case For Kirby – by Stan Taylor, 2003

Yesterday, I posted on the Museum’s home page the sad news that Stan Taylor had passed away on the 18th of December. I thought I’d pay him a little tribute by posting his Spider-man essay here, with thanks to his widow, Annabelle. – Rand

Who created Spider-Man? One of the great comic book fanboy debate topics — utterly fascinating because of the three distinct and passionate personalities involved, each having rabid fans ready to lay waste to any who would deny that their favorite was the true creative genius behind this pivotal character. Ultimately, of course, it’s a futile exercise of mental masturbation because we are powerless to do anything about it, even if we could prove it one way or the other. However, not being averse to masturbation, I am going to weigh in with my opinion.


Jack Kirby has stated clearly time and again that he created Spider-Man, most adamantly in an interview conducted by Will Eisner, and printed in issue #39 of Will Eisner’s Spirit Magazine,. (Kitchen Sink Pub. Feb.1982). Kirby maintained his claim even when close friends and assistants advised him not to pursue it. Can he be believed? Well, his memory was spotty, and he has made other claims that have clearly been shown to be wrong. So as a witness, he leaves room for doubt.

Stan Lee says “all the concepts were mine” (Village Voice, Vol.32 #49, Dec. 1987). It is his contention that he singly produced a script, offered it to Jack Kirby, and when he didn’t like the look of Kirby’s rendition, he then offered it to Steve Ditko. Can he be believed? Not really. Stan would go so far (or stoop so low!) as to claim that a minor character named The Living Eraser from Tales to Astonish #49 was his creation This character, had the dubious distinction of being able to wave people out of existence with a swipe of his hand. “I got a big kick out of it when I dreamed up that idea,” Lee is quoted as saying (Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, pg. 97). He then further embellishes this tale by stating how hard it was to come up with an explanation for this power. The fact is, this ignoble power and explanation, first appear in a Jack Kirby story from Black Cat Mystic #59 (Harvey Publications, Sept. 1957). If Lee will take credit for an obvious minor Kirby creation such as The Living Eraser, which nobody cares about, then he certainly would take credit for another’s creation that has become the company’s cash cow.

The third person involved with the Spider-Man origin is Steve Ditko, and unfortunately, the little he has said about the creation of Spider-Man doesn’t help. His earliest mention simply states “Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist & spider signal.” (Steve Ditko-A Portrait Of The Master Comic Fan #2 1965) 25 years later, when Ditko finally expanded on his role, he made it clear that he had no knowledge of who did what prior to his getting the script from Stan Lee, and then he offered up a weird scenario where in Stan Lee’s script, there was a teenager with a magic ring, which transformed him into an adult hero, (Robin Snyder’s History of Comics) and it was Ditko who noticed the resemblance to Joe Simon’s, The Fly, and so it was changed into the now familiar spider bite origin.

A small point of interest concerning Ditko’s claim that it was he, who recognized a resemblance between the Stan’s first script, and The Fly. Steve specifically mentioned that he recalled The Fly as a product of Joe Simon, but did not connect Jack Kirby with The Fly, thus failing to also connect Kirby to Spider-Man. Yet nowhere in The Fly is Joe Simon’s name ever credited, but the art is easily identifiable as Jack Kirby’s. It seems very odd that a man who broke into the industry with the Simon and Kirby studio (even inking over Kirby on Capt. 3D) and who had been inking over Jack Kirby the last 2 years, could remember the work of an unlisted editor, but not that of an artist whose work he was most familiar with.

Three stories, with three variations that don’t quite connect. Kirby says it was all his, Lee claims it was all his, and Ditko, he says Stan gave him a script based on a Kirby character, that was then changed. Oh what a tangled web we weave. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Another point of interest that may account for some of why the story changes, has to do with how the copyright laws changed in 1976. As a result, all the artists working for Marvel in the 1960s were classified as freelancers, and since they were freelancers, they could possibly make future claims for termination of copyrights for any characters they created. (this is the same law that has allowed the Siegel family to claim partial rights to Superman, and Joe Simon to make a claim for Captain America) One way the companies might protect their claim is by showing that the characters and concepts were created by employees, and supplied to the artists. Since Stan Lee was technically the only employee of the three men involved, suddenly all characters in Marveldom were “his” sole creation, and the artists merely illustrated his tales.

But Spider-Man provided a unique problem, because Stan, in a speech at Vanderbilt College in 1972, related how Kirby had first provided a proposal for Spider-Man. Stan stated that after he looked it over, he had a different idea for the “look” of Spidey, and decided that he would offer it to Steve Ditko to draw. He didn’t mention any problem with Kirby’s concepts and plot. It is in later tellings – post copyright law change- that he would stress that Kirby’s proposal, though rejected, were still based his (Stan’s) original ideas.

Which brings us to the heart of the debate: Just what did Kirby propose, what was used or rejected, and where did these ideas come from. That first proposal has never surfaced, though Jim Shooter has mentioned seeing it at Marvel in the late ’70s. So what we are left with is the personal recollections of two men whose memories are hopeless, one of whom is now dead, and a third who won’t talk. The problem here is not that we don’t have eyewitness testimony, it’s that we have conflicting eyewitness testimony. The people involved disagree.

If we can’t rely on first-person testimony, what can we do? I think The Confessor, in Kurt Busiek’s Astro City said it best, “Look at the facts, look at the patterns, and look for what doesn’t fit. Base your deductions on that.”

Criminal detectives have other words for this: evidence, and modus operandi. We can do what historians, detectives, and scientists have always done: ignore the hearsay, mythology, and personal claims and look at the actual physical evidence, in this case, the original comic books, and contemporaneous documentary evidence from unbiased sources. Human behavior is repetitive, we all have our m.o, — our method of operation. It is this human trait that detectives use to narrow down the lists of suspects in any mystery.

It has been said, “an artist is someone who pounds the same nail over and over again.” All artists, graphic or literary, have patterns. They repeat aspects, concepts, a style of punctuation, a brush stroke, lines of musculature, anything that separates their style from the hundreds of others. When trying to identify an unknown artist, one can compare the piece in question with other contemporaneous works to match up these patterns. This method has been used to research everything from Shakespeare’s writings to the works of the Great Masters.

Can this be used on comic books? Yes, it can, and has. Martin O’Hearn is a noted comics historian who specializes in the identification of uncredited comic writers. He matches up subject, syntax, punctuation, themes and other identifiable patterns, and has had remarkable success in matching writers to their non-credited stories.

Likewise, Dr. Michael Vassallo, in his never-ending quest to index all Atlas/Timely Publications, spends endless hours comparing drawing and inking styles to identify unaccredited works of comic art. His goal of identifying the unlisted inker on Fantastic Four #1 & 2 has led him to amass a veritable mountain of inking examples to compare to the actual comic art. What he doesn’t do is blindly accept personal recollections or corporate identifications at face value. If he did, Dick Ayers or Artie Simek would be incorrectly credited with this work.

So this is how I approached the Spider-Man quandary. Rather than focusing on unprovable statements — by men with obvious agendas — made long after the creation of Spider-Man, I would examine their actual concurrent works to see if I could find a pattern of creation that matched up with the concepts, characters, and plot elements found in Amazing Fantasy #15, plus any physical evidence, and testimony from witnesses independent of the three men.

The eyewitness accounts are important, but only if it can be corroborated by the evidence, so where I do refer to a specific quote from Jack, Stan or Steve, it is not as a statement of fact, but rather as a clue that might lead me to some tangible bit of evidence that might lend credence to a claim.

I guess here is as good a time to explain the parameters of my debate. This debate is about which of the three men was most responsible for supplying the character, concepts and the plotting, for the creation known as Spider-Man, as presented in Amazing Fantasy #15. All credits for comic book creation derive solely from the first appearance of the character. Events and graphics in issues 2, 3, or 4 on may be important in the evolution of the character, but they have no bearing on creative rights. We are not debating who in history was the first to come up with a concept such as wall crawling, what we are talking about is who most likely supplied that concept for the title Spider-Man. And we are not debating who fleshed out the characters in later issues; we all acknowledge that Lee and Ditko went on to make Spider-Man uniquely identifiable. We also are not debating who drew the first issue, this was Steve Ditko, and that credit is not in doubt. The debate is who supplied the initial concepts to Marvel for the title and character that became known as Spider-Man.

After tracking down as many Kirby, Ditko, and Lee stories from the previous five years (I didn’t want to go too far back; if there was a pattern, it should manifest itself within a short period), I then broke down the characters and plot elements, to see if there were any that matched up with Spider-Man’s origin.

These are my findings. In all instances, as to the character and plotting, I was quickly able to find amazing similarities with the work of only one of the three men, Jack Kirby. And in the case of the character, not only did I find amazing pattern matches, I also found what I believe was a written template for Spider-Man that predates Amazing Fantasy #15, and leads directly to Jack Kirby. My research also has led me to come to the conclusion that Kirby’s connection to Spider-Man extended beyond that first issue.


The basic concept of Spider-Man is simple, a hero, with the inherent physical powers of a spider- he can crawl up walls, and across ceilings, he has the proportional strength and agility of an arachnid. He has an extra sense that warns him of danger. He manufactures a web shooter that can be used for catching prey, and used as a means of mobility.

I could find no earlier character from either Lee or Ditko that had any resemblance to Spider-Man, none.

As to Jack Kirby, it didn’t take long to track down a pattern match for the physical aspects of Spider-Man, the surprising factor is just how similar the two characters are.

The very last costumed super-hero book that Kirby produced, prior to Marvel, featured an insect hero able to climb walls and ceilings; had super strength, the agility of a bug, and, amazingly, an extra sense that warned him of danger. In The Adventures of the Fly, (Archie Publications 1959,) Simon and Kirby introduced The Fly, a hero with the exact same insect derived powers that show up in Spidey. In fact, the only physical difference is that the Fly can fly. The most interesting aspect for me is the match-up of a “sixth sense” to warn of danger. While the other powers (wall climbing, etc.) might be considered generic to any insect, this warning sense is, as far as I know, something totally unique and beyond the norm of the natural attributes of insects. The addition of this unnatural extra sense showing up in both creations is just too coincidental.

It’s been said that the Devil’s in the details, and it’s these repeated small details that in my opinion, make the strongest case for Kirby being the concept man.

Does the physical similarity between The Fly and Spider-Man correspond and bolster any specific claims made by the three men?

Jack Kirby, in the interview published in Spirit Magazine #39 states that the basis for Spider-Man started with a character called the Silver Spider, an idea first suggested for Simon and Kirby’s own publishing house Mainline.

Yet Mainline never published a title called the Silver Spider, and Kirby stating this doesn’t make it true. Thanks to Greg Theakston’s tenacious research, and the publication of Pure Images#1, (Pure Imagination 1990) we finally got a chance to see and compare the original 1954 proposal of Joe Simon’s Silver Spider. The interesting thing about Silver Spider is that except for the name Spider in the title, there is absolutely no resemblance between Silver Spider, and Spider-Man. The Silver Spider does not have the inherent powers of a spider- he does not climb walls and ceilings, nor does he have an extra sense that can warn him of danger. (at least not in the original Oleck script, and drawn proposal by C.C. Beck) He did not have a web of any sort.

So at first glance, despite Kirby’s claim, there would seem to be no conceptual connection between the Silver Spider, and Spider-Man.

It was Joe Simon who provided the linkage between his Silver Spider, the Fly, and Spider-Man, and just what role Jack Kirby played.

When Archie Publications asked Joe Simon to produce some books for them in 1959, Joe called in Jack Kirby to help out. Joe suggested that they rework his earlier Silver Spider proposal into a character called The Fly. He handed over a file containing the initial Silver Spider proposal to Jack. The file also contained a rejected working logo, and an editorial memo, by Harvey Publications, rejecting the initial proposal — a memo that would inspire Kirby, and would play a compelling role, when later, Stan Lee would ask Jack for a new character; more on this memo shortly.

According to Joe, in The Comic Book Makers (Crestwood Publications, 1990) when Kirby asked him about specific powers for The Fly, Joe told him “Hey, let him walk up buildings, and let him fly if he wants to, It’s a free country. Take it home and pencil it in your immortal style.” Kirby did just this, and the result was The Fly.

Again, Joe saying The Fly evolved out of the Silver Spider proposal doesn’t make it true. It is when we compare the two stories that we see that the Fly’s origin gimmick is consistent with the Silver Spider’s. In both stories, the young protagonist (both named Tommy Troy) is a beleaguered orphan who gains his powers via a mystical ring that transforms him into an adult super hero. Yet the super hero character is different. Where the Silver Spider has no apparent powers except enhanced strength, and a great leaping ability, The Fly has been granted very specific powers; inherent insect abilities, (wall clinging, exceptional agility, a sixth sense and a stinger gun- none of which was in the initial Silver Spider proposal. It is this character evolution, supplied by Jack Kirby, that is the borrowed ingredient that later show up in Spider-Man.

So there is a pattern match that is consistent with Spider-Man and Kirby’s The Fly, and a paper trail that lends credence to Jack Kirby’s claims concerning the Silver Spider connection.

As an aside, Simon had rejected a working title “Spiderman” for his Silver Spider project, and showed a logo to Kirby, leaving little doubt as to which of the three people involved with Spider-Man would have been the one to supply that name

Yet nowhere in either the Fly, or the Silver Spider work up can be found a template for the concept of a web being used as a means of mobility, or as a way of capturing prey. Which brings me to a part of this history that has been overlooked, and in this area lies what I believe to be the only existing contemporaneous written evidence that shows undeniably where the concepts came from, and who brought the basic concept of Spider-Man to Marvel. This is what I consider to be the smoking gun, much like catching the crooks with the blueprint to the bank, and the vault combination.

After Joe Simon submitted his proposal for the Silver Spider to Harvey Publications for acceptance, Leon Harvey handed it over to a young editor by the name of Sid Jacobson for critiquing and approval. In two memos from 1954, addressed to Leon, Sid made it apparent that he was not happy with the proposal. “Strictly old hat” he says, stating that the concept is too generic, with nothing special to set it apart. In the second memo, Sid Jacobson takes the extra step of suggesting just what changes could be done to make this concept more interesting. These memos were in Joe Simon’s, Silver Spider file, they were unearthed, and originally published in Greg Theakston’s Pure Images #1 (Pure Imagination,1990) Here is the pertinent section of memorandum #2.


TO: LEON HARVEY February 23, 1954

Conclusions on character:

Physical appearance- The Silver Spider should be thought of as a human spider. All conclusions on his appearance should stem from the attributes of the spider. My first thought of the appearance of a human spider is a tall thin wiry person with long legs and arms. He should have a long bony face, being more sinister then handsome. The face of the Submariner comes to mind.

Powers: The powers of the human spider should pretty much correspond to the power of a spider. He therefore wouldn’t have the power of flight (author’s note: something hinted at in Simon’s proposal) but could accomplish great acrobatical tricks, an almost flight, by use of silken ropes that would enable him to swing ala Tarzan, or a Batman. The silken threads that the spider would use might come from a special liquid, from some part of his costume that would become silken threads in much the same way as the spider insect. These threads would also be used in making of a web, which could also be used as a net. The human spider might also have a “poison” to be used as a paralyzing agent.

Nemesis—His main nemesis should be a natural enemy of a spider—either The Fly, or Mr. D.D.T……

-end of memo-

There is no ambiguity, vagueness, or doubt; Sid Jacobson suggested that for the Silver Spider to work, it would have to become what we recognize as Spider-Man!

It appears as if Jack took some of Jacobson’s suggestion to heart when he cobbled together the character of The Fly, for he added the detail of inherent insect attributes, but his first specific use of the Spider motif shows up with the creation of The Fly’s arch nemesis. In an interesting reversal of Jacobson’s suggestion of “natural enemies”, Spider Spry, from Adventures Of The Fly #1 would have those long bony arms and legs, though Kirby gave him a bulbous head and torso. (more spider like) He easily walked up thin silken lines, and traps the Fly in a web-like net, and wears a colorful costume complete with a spider icon. More on this character later

Move forward three years, when Goodman decided to go the super-hero route; Kirby is asked to come up with another character, and now the parallels between the Spider-Man creation and the Jacobson memo become undeniable.

Spider-Man would have the natural instincts and powers of a spider; he could walk up walls, and ceilings. He would have the proportional strength, and agility of an arachnid. And more importantly, he could emit a silken thread that he could walk across, or use as a swing. His webbing, a synthesized liquid, which emanated from his costume, was also adaptable as a net in which to ensnare villains, all of this totally identical with the Jacobson memo.

The addition of the extra sense that warns of impending danger, first seen in the Fly, seems to have been an original Kirby item, since it was not present in either the Silver Spider proposal, or mentioned in the Jacobson memo

Evidence, and m.o.; a series of continuing pattern matches, plus a paper trail that leads directly to only Jack Kirby. What are the odds that Stan Lee, working alone, or in collaboration with Ditko, would come up with exactly the same title, the same set of powers and the same weapon?

Some may imply that if all Kirby did was rework a Simon project, shouldn’t Simon get the credit? To some extent I agree, but as I have shown, every facet of Spider-Man’s character, that matches up with The Fly, is an element that Kirby worked on or added to the Fly–nothing was taken from the Silver Spider except the original title, and that had been rejected by Simon. Simon, on his own, had never used the logo, or acted on Jacobson’s suggestions. Simon and Kirby was a partnership, when they broke up, all unused concepts were free game. But in any history of Spider-Man’s creation, in my opinion, both Joe Simon and Sid Jacobson certainly deserve a large footnote.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find any prior Lee or Ditko tales that might have been a template for the character of Spider-Man. None. Lee’s oft quoted statement that he had a long fascination with the pulp hero The Spider, may be true, but there are absolutely no resemblance in either origin, weapons, or powers between the two characters.

Ditko, for his part has acknowledged that the original concept was similar to The Fly, yet he says it was rejected, and changed because it was too identical to the Fly. So I tried to see where they might have changed the character. Try as I might, I could find nothing significantly different between the Fly and Spider-Man. Every unique power that Spidey possesses first shows up in the Fly. Why, if they recognized the similarity between the Fly and Spider-Man, didn’t Stan and Steve make some changes?

There are some specific detail differences, however, in these similar powers: The Fly’s super strength is never explained, it’s just a given. Spider-Man’s is specifically described as the “proportional strength” of a spider — a rather unique concept, (and surprisingly never used by any other insect inspired hero, i.e. Blue Beetle, Green Hornet, Tarantula ) and specific enough for me to try to track down to see if this might be an addition attributable to Lee or Ditko. But again, the only example I could find of any one of these three men giving a character the proportional strength of a bug prior to the creation of Spider-Man is found in a Kirby story. In Black Cat Mystic #60 (Harvey Publications, 1957), in a story entitled “The Ant Extract,” a meek scientist discovers a serum that gives him the proportional strength of an ant. Because of his new power, the scientist is feared and ostracized by authorities. (sounds vaguely familiar) Another small, but novel detail, that shows the evolution of the concept, and is traceable to Jack Kirby.

The mechanical weapon as first created by Kirby has been described by Steve Ditko as a web-shooting gun, and later modified by Ditko into a wrist-mounted web shooter. Again, not taking this quote as fact, my research found that the only pattern match to a costume emanated webbing, is found in the Jacobson memo that Kirby had.

There is another questionable aspect to Steve’s memory concerning the “web gun”. In Steve’s article “An Insider’s Part of Comic History” from Robin Snyder’s History of Comics (Vol. 1 #5 1990) he states, “ Kirby’s Spider-Man had a web gun, never seen in use.” Steve then goes on to describe what he remembers of the 5 page Kirby proposal. He says that the splash page was a “typical Kirby hero/action shot”, and the other four pages are an intro, involving a teenager and a mysterious scientist neighbor. Nowhere in the five pages are Spidey’s, powers and weapons ever shown or described, in fact, according to Ditko, there was no transformation into the hero at all. If this is true, then how does Steve know that he had a “web gun”, by his own words it was never shown or used?

Perhaps Kirby provided some design sketches or spot illos, but that would be in dispute with Ditko’s previous statement that the 5 pages were all he received of Kirby’s, Spidey proposal. Either way, the wrist shooter is a wonderful modification and a stroke of genius, but it is still just a modification–the actual idea of a mechanical web shooter, even by Ditko’s account, was Kirby’s.

In review: every unique physical aspect of the character we know as Spider-Man can be traced back to only one of the three men involved, Jack Kirby. Not only amazingly exact pattern matches, but also a written blueprint that only Kirby had seen. Evidence, and modus operandi. If the concept of Spider-Man was all that Kirby supplied, he deserves co-creator credits, but it doesn’t end there.

The next character is Peter Parker, and while he is Spider-Man, the role of the alter-ego is to present a sometimes opposing character to the heroes. It is this dichotomy that helps create tension and oftimes humor. It is this aspect that keeps the hero and the story grounded in some semblance of reality.

Peter’s character is portrayed as a nerdy, wallflower science whiz. Taunted by his peers for his lack of athletic prowess and social skills. He is rejected by the opposite sex.

Again after comparing the recent works of the three men, I was able to find a pattern match with only one of them, Jack Kirby.

In the late ’50s, Kirby was looking for work, his comic book work had dwindled and he thought of getting into the syndicated strips. One of the strips he proposed was titled CHIP HARDY. Chip was a college freshman on a science scholarship. A regular ‘boy wonder’ taunted the other kids. Moose Mulligan, the campus jock, teased young Chip about why he didn’t try out for football, instead of “hiding behind a mess of test tubes”. Other students followed suit and mocked the youngster, labeling all science majors as “squares”. Eventually, this taunting escalated into a physical confrontation between Moose and Hardy, with young Chip getting the better of it, mimicking exactly the character template and early relationship between Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, and the other school mates. While this strip was never published, Greg Theakston has published a few panels in the back of The Complete Sky Masters of the Space Force. (Pure Imagination, 2000)

Another amazing pattern match is to be found in Tales To Astonish #22, (Marvel Pub. Aug. 1961) in a tale titled “I Dared to Battle the Crawling Monster”, one of the many Kirby/Ayers monster stories, possibly dialogued by Larry Lieber. (unsigned by Lee)

The hero is a high school student, a dorky, bookwormish sort, laughed at by the jocks for his lack of athletic ability, and taunted by the girls. Typically, by the end of the story, it is the bookworm, not the jock who saves the world. Even the visuals of the lead character strongly resemble the Peter Parker character as shown in AF#15.

As to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, I could not find any earlier templates for the harassed, teen-age, academic style hero. None, and this, frankly surprised me.

There is one aspect of Peter Parker that was consistent to Stan Lee, and that is Peter’s personality. Besides being a science geek, (complete with pocket protector) Peter is shown to be somewhat angst-ridden; doubting of his own worth and unable to fit easily into society. His uneasiness with his new- found powers is atypical of Kirby’s heroes. This inner conflict, and sometimes, outer rage is pure Lee, it is this deeper human psychological aspect that Lee imbued into all of Marvel’s heroes. It is the difference between Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four, and Rocky Davis of the Challengers of the Unknown.

The villain of AF#15 is a colorless petty crook who has assaulted Spider-Man’s guardian-his uncle. His sole purpose is to create the crisis, which forces the hero into action. This match up is also found in the Fly’s origin. The Fly’s first use of his powers is to bring to justice, a petty crook who had assaulted Tommy’s guardian. This was both characters’ sole appearance.

As to the characters, are my findings beyond the norm at Marvel at the time? I don’t think so. That Kirby constantly evolved and morphed characters and concepts is not an astounding statement. His whole history at Marvel is filled with his taking prior concepts and reworking them to meet current needs.

Fantastic Four was just an evolution of Kirby’s team concept first shown in the Challengers of the Unknown, then transformed into a slightly different version for Sky Masters of the Space Force, and further refined in Three Rocketeers.

The Hulk is just another retelling of the radiation mutated beast story, first done by Jack in Blue Bolt in 1940, with the added in element about saving a young kid from a test blast taken directly from a Sky Masters story.

And Thor is nothing more than an updated version of the “god comes to Earth in times of need” theme, first done by Kirby in Hurricane. (Red Raven #1, Timely 1940) Added to a character, and plot gimmick from a recent Kirby drawn story, “The Magic Hammer”. (Tales of the Unexpected#16, DC Pub. Aug. 1957)

That Stan Lee would take these stock Kirby characters and give them distinct personalities, foibles, and conflicts, soap opera style melodramatic continuities, and hip dialogue is also not really in doubt.

That the character of Spider-Man as originally created was a Kirby concept is to me irrefutable, even without the Jacobson memos the patterns are obvious, with the letters it’s undeniable. There is also strong evidence that, the templates for Peter Parker’s maligned science whiz character, and some of the supporting cast was supplied by Jack Kirby.

The coincidences needed for Stan Lee or Steve Ditko to have come up with these exact elements, absent Jack Kirby, are astronomical. If this was all that Kirby provided to Stan Lee, he would deserve credit, but there is more to creating a character: One must also come up with a story line that showcases the new character, and it is here that the coincidences become positively mind boggling.


The plot of Amazing Fantasy #15 is simple, yet unique: An orphaned teenage boy receives super-powers during a scientific experiment. After gaining his powers, a loved one is killed due to his inaction. This remorse leads him to vow to never let it happen again, thus becoming a hero.

Again, after cross checking stories by these three men, it became obvious that in structure and theme, the basic plot for Spidey’s origin came from one of the three persons involved: Jack Kirby.

The first plot element has to do with an orphaned, older teenager, who gets super powers via a scientific experiment, and this is intriguing. Even though I tried to approach this in an entirely objective manner, I still had some preconceived notions of both Kirby’s and Ditko’s proclivities. Many of these were shattered by my actual findings. One of these was that it was Ditko’s nature to use older troubled teenagers for his heroes, while it was Kirby’s nature to use younger kids.

So strong is Ditko’s aura surrounding Spider-Man that I just assumed that it was a Ditko trait, but I was not able to track down a single use of older orphaned teenagers, troubled or not, by Steve prior to Spidey.

What shocked me was how easy it was to find the template for the orphaned older teenaged hero, and a title that would provide key elements in piecing together the puzzle. Surprisingly, it was in a title by Jack Kirby.

In The Double Life of Private Strong, (Archie Publications 1959) (not coincidentally the companion title to The Fly) the hero, Lancelot Strong, aka The Shield, is an orphaned high school senior, and like Spider-Man, his surrogate parents were gentle, compassionate, and supportive. His powers were the result of a scientific experiment.

Around this same time, Kirby was also working on the proposed newspaper strip, Chip Hardy, with a teen-aged science whiz hero. In fact, from about 1959 on, just about all of Kirby’s youthful heroes would be older teenagers, and most orphaned. Johnny Storm, Rick Jones (both predating Peter Parker) and the X-Men all fit into this mold.

I could find nothing that matched in Ditko’s, or Lee’s, (sans Kirby) recent past.

The next element is very important: After gaining his powers, the hero loses a loved one due to his inaction, thus providing the impetus for becoming a hero. This may be the critical element that separates Spider-Man from almost all other heroes- and it’s right there in The Double Life of Private Strong. While rushing off to test his newfound powers against a rampaging alien monster, The Shield, (Lancelot Strong), in his teen exuberance, ignores and leaves his best friend Spud in harms way. After defeating the brute, the Shield returns to celebrate his triumph only to learn that the monster has killed Spud. The distraught Shield blames himself, and vows that it will never happen again. Similarly, Spider-man, in a moment of conceit and arrogance, ignores a thief, only to learn that that same thief would go on to kill his Uncle, which in turn, spurs him into action. He then vows that it will never happen again

So in one book, done less than three years before Spider-Man, Kirby used most of the critical plot elements that would show up a few years later in Spider-Man. Certainly Spider-Man’s is more melodramatic as one would expect from Stan’s dialogue, but the basic plot mirrors Private Strong. The panels where the boys mourn the loss of their loved ones are almost eerie in their similarities.

So going by pattern matches, it appears we have the hero and villain from the Fly combined with the origin outline of the Shield.

This cross-pollination of a character from one story, and a plot from another is classic Kirby. He had touches of genius, but during the late 1950’s to mid-sixties, his characters and plots were interchangeable. His storytelling was very formulaic. He had archetypal heroes, a small list of stock villains, and, a set selection of plots. He mixed and matched these regardless of genres. His approach to comics was sort of a Chinese take-out menu, one from column A and one from column B. Nothing became more apparent during my research. In legal lingo, Kirby was a chronic repeat offender. Kirby’s touches are repetitive and easily identifiable. This realization led to one of the more unexpected findings. It appears that Kirby did not cross match the Fly and the Shield one time; he did it twice, and both simultaneously. This pattern can also be found on the Mighty Thor

For Spider-Man, Kirby took the basic character traits (insect), and the villain (petty crook) from the Fly, and the origin gimmick (scientific, older teen), and the dramatic ending (mourning a lost friend) from the Shield.

For Thor, Kirby reversed himself, taking the origin element, (finding of a mystical artifact) and ending, (transformation back to hapless human) from the Fly, and the villain (rampaging aliens) from the Shield, plus adding in a hero from an earlier DC fantasy story. (Tales of the Unexpected #16)

Thor, and Spider-Man appeared on the stands simultaneously. Thor had the earlier story number.

Facts, and patterns says the Confessor, plus look for what doesn’t fit.

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko say they rejected the original plot because of its similarity to The Fly, and created their own. The idea that they would reject one Kirby plot and then replace it with another Kirby plot makes no sense, it simply doesn’t fit. These two men had their own influences and patterns, and if they were to sit down and come up with an original origin, it would not have mirrored a recent Kirby plot, especially if they were specifically looking to avoid the appearance of a Kirby plot. It appears that Stan and Steve took Kirby’s plot, added in Peter’s personality, some of the supporting cast, and maybe the details involving the wrestler and show business, but the basic plot was all Kirby.

Is this use of a Kirby plot, in a book not drawn by Kirby, unusual for Marvel at the time? No! Iron Man’s origin, from Tales Of Suspense #39, uses a Kirby plot, first seen in a Green Arrow story from 1959. (“The War That Never Ended”, Adventure Comics 255) In both stories the hero is captured by an oriental army, and because of his specialty in weaponry, is forced to manufacture a weapon. The hero tricks his captors and creates a weapon that backfires on the enemy and foils their plans.) Yet Don Heck provided the artwork for Iron Man’s first adventure.

Similarly, the origin of Dr. Strange is a reworking of the origin of Dr. Droom from Amazing Adventures #1.(Atlas Pub. June 1961). In both stories an American medical doctor goes to Tibet, and after a series of tests, receives mystical powers from an ancient mage.

The idea that Kirby would plot the origin of a new character is the rule at Marvel in the early ’60s. It would actually be an anomaly if Kirby “hadn’t” provided the origin.

Again, I can’t remember another instance where comic historians have denied credit to the person who supplied the origin sequence.

But it doesn’t stop there, for while I was cross-referencing the plots to see if any matched up with AF #15, I noticed another striking coincidence, and this staggered me! Not only does it appear that Kirby provided the plot for AF #15, it appears that he also assisted in plotting some of the following Spidey stories. The second and third Spider-Man stories have plot elements taken directly from the second and third Private Strong stories. That’s correct; the first three Spidey stories mirror the first three Shield stories.

The second Shield story involves the hero tracking down a Communist spy attempting to steal scientific secrets; the villain tries to escape in a submarine that the hero has to put out of action. This is also the plot of the Chameleon story, in Amazing Spider-Man #1

The villain as a master of disguise was used by Jack Kirby in the first, second, or third story of just about every series he did between 1956 and 1963. (I mentioned he was predictable) It is found in his first Green Arrow story, (Green Arrows of the World, Adventure Comics #250, DC Pub.1958) the second Yellow Claw story, (The Mystery of Cabin 361, Yellow Claw #2, Marvel 1958) the third Dr. Droom tale,

(Doctor Droom Meets Zemu, Amazing Adventures #2, Marvel 1961), the second Fantastic Four story, the second Ant-Man story, and the third Thor story, all preceding AS#1. The specific element of a villain impersonating a hero in order to infiltrate, and/or incriminate him in a crime is one that Kirby used often. Prior to Amazing Spider-Man #1, it can be found in Fighting American, (Three Coins in the Pushcart, Fighting American #7, Prize Comics, 1954) Green Arrow, (Adventure Comics #250) and most recently in Fantastic Four #2. This theme would also be used in the test appearance of Captain America in Strange Tales #114.

In the third Shield, and Spider-Man stories, we are introduced to the recurring pain-in-the-ass authority figure/ nemesis – the one who always gets hoisted on his own petard. A Kirby icon, dating back to Captain America. In both stories the adult child of that authority figure gets into a jam and needs the costumed hero to save him or her. In the Shield’s case, it’s the daughter of the general in charge of the base he is assigned to after being drafted. After she gets trapped in a runaway tank, the Shield must save her. In Spider-Man’s story, it’s the son of the editor of the newspaper who hires Peter Parker, and he is trapped in a runaway space capsule that Spider-Man must rescue. Even after saving their offspring, neither of the authoritarian figures considers the hero a particularly positive force, and both think the alter ego character is a bumbling idiot. In between the Shield, and Spider-Man, Kirby also used this gimmick in the Hulk.

What are the odds, if Kirby didn’t assist on the plots, that the first three Spider-Man stories would mirror the first three Shield stories? Wouldn’t one think that Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko would have their own plotting patterns? Astoundingly, the second issue of Amazing Spider-Man continues in this same vein.

The Vulture story from AS#2 is interesting because not only does it have plot elements from an earlier Kirby story, the bad guy is an exact duplicate of the villain from that same Kirby story. In the first Manhunter story, (Adventure Comics #73, DC Pub. 1942) Kirby introduced The Buzzard, who, in an uncanny parallel to the Vulture, is a skinny, stoop shouldered, hump-backed, beak nosed maniac, dressed in a green body suit with a feathered collar that encircles the neck. Both men have the power of flight, the Buzzard by flapping his cape, and the Vulture via mechanical wings, and a magnetic unit.

Both men’s schtick is to openly challenge the authorities and the media by boasting of their evil plans before they commit them. The Buzzard goes so far as to actually kill a reporter to deliver his message; the Vulture (in post code times) simply throws a rock through J. Jonahs’s window.

The Tinkerer story in AS#2, has a very interesting hook, a plot element where a radio is doctored and infiltrated into scientists and government officials’ houses in order to spy and/or control them. This is not some generic scheme, but a very detailed and specific plot element used by Jack Kirby several times. The earliest use is in Captain America #7, (Marvel Pub. Oct.1941) in a story titled “Horror Plays the Scales”. Kirby again used this element in a crime story from Headline Comics#24, (Prize Pub. May 1947) titled “Murder on a Wavelength”.

The alien aspect of this Spidey story appears adapted from a Kirby, Dr. Droom story. In his third story, (Doctor Droom Meets Zemu, Amazing Adventures #3, Marvel 1961) Droom is following a suspicious character and overhears a plan by aliens in which one will infiltrate humanity and lay the groundwork for an alien invasion. Spider-Man’s capture and escape method seem to be lifted from a Challengers of the Unknown story. (The Human Pets, Challengers of the Unknown #3, DC Pub.1958)

I could find no matching plots from Lee or Ditko. All of these stories are structured in typical Kirby style, with little characterization, all out action endings, devoid of any of the subtlety, pathos, or irony usually associated with Lee/Ditko offerings.

And it goes on this way for a few more stories. This similar plotting sequence is a lot like DNA testing, one or two match-ups doesn’t mean a thing, but the odds increase exponentially with each added matched item.

It’s a good time for me to mention something I call “Kirby’s silly science.” As identifiable as fingerprints, we all recognize it: scientific plot elements so ridiculous in their implausibility, yet so exciting visually, and conceptually, that it’s immediately acceptable. Mr. Fantastic, reaching up and catching a nuclear tipped Hunter missile in full flight, and throwing it miles away into the bay. The Submariner; in the freezing void of space, leapfrogging, from meteorite to meteorite, only to land on Dr. Doom’s spaceship, unstable molecules, and such.

The early Spider-Man stories were full of this pseudo-scientific stuff. In the story involving J. Jonah Jameson’s son trapped in the space capsule, we first see NASA trying to snare the disabled capsule in a net suspended from a parachute, when this fails, Spider-Man, straddling a jet, snares the space capsule with his web and rides it like a bucking bronco, completely overlooking the fact that space capsules orbit far above the range of a jet, and the extreme heat generated during re-entry would fry a human being, even one with Spider powers.

This feels like Kirby’s silly science to me; in fact, it is reminiscent of a scene in Sky Masters where they try to rescue an errant space capsule with a hook attached to a jet, combined with a satellite repair story, also found in Sky Masters.

Another facet of Kirby’s silly science, and plotting pattern, is the anti-climactic ending, where the scientist hero, in one panel, whips up some bit of gadgetry that defeats a villain who has been beating his brains out for the previous 15 pages.

Challengers of the Unknown’s Professor Haley was good at these instant cures, and the FF’s Reed Richards was the master, but early on, Peter Parker stood toe to toe with them. In the first Vulture story, from Amazing Spider-Man #2, after getting his hat handed to him, Peter Parker, based on nothing but a hunch, theorizes that the Vulture’s powers must be magnetic and whips up, in one panel, an anti-magnetic device with his handy dandy screwdriver. How Kirbyish can you get? Similar elements occur in the first Doc Ock, (a super acid) and the first Lizard story. (an antidote) This kid was good!

Compare this to the atmospheric, cerebral, and quietly ironic solutions and climaxes that Lee and Ditko specialized in on their sci-fi/horror tales of this period. This deus ex machina style ending is not part of their repertoire, it simply doesn’t fit.

To Kirby, scientists were scientists; he made no real distinction between the disciplines. In one story the hero was a physicist, the next a chemist, perhaps a biologist or a metallurgist, whatever was needed for the story. Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man, was equal part entomologist, chemist, cybernetician, and machinist. Reed Richards was master of all sciences, and Peter Parker, though a high school student, was equally as versatile. After receiving the spider powers, this kid went home and with his Mr. Wizard Home Chemistry Lab created a formula for a web, and the means to propel it. Then in the Vulture story he suddenly becomes a physics master, and invents an anti-magnetic device. In the Tinkerer tale, he is assisting an electronics genius, and up against the Lizard, Peter’s become an expert in serums and antidotes. This boy was truly amazing! It’s a shame he gave all that scientific ability up to become a news photographer. Kirby’s handiwork is all over the early stories.

Thankfully, these pseudo-science elements soon ended, and I’m thinking it happened when Jack stopped assisting Stan on Spider-Man plots, and Ditko took over.

So it seems clear that Kirby’s participation with Spider-Man extended further than just a rejected proposal. It appears that he not only created the character, he also assisted greatly in the origin and early story lines and added many early plot elements.

Again, is this out of character? No. Kirby helped Stan with the plotting of several characters even when not specifically drawing them. The plot to the origin of Iron Man , several of the early Thor stories, and some of the Torch stories from Strange Tales, not drawn by Kirby, have unmistakable Kirby supplied villains, plots, and dramatic elements. Daredevil showed some early Kirby involvement. Why wouldn’t Kirby assist Stan on Spider-Man? The early Marvel titles and characters were never considered private domains. Stan certainly had no compunction about Kirby doing the first 2 covers, or a back up story.

This brings me to a facet of Spider-Man I hadn’t mention before.


In all my debates concerning Ditko and Kirby, I had always assumed that when Kirby claimed he designed the costume, he was in error; in fact, this was always a sticking point with me. Recently, though, I have had reasons to wonder about that claim.

This particular debate point does not emanate from Kirby’s period of dissatisfaction with Marvel or Stan Lee. In that speech at Vanderbilt in 1972, Stan relates how during the late ‘60s, when asked, he could never remember who designed Spidey’s costume. He wasn’t sure if it was Jack or Steve. It was common for Kirby to design costumes for other artists’ characters, such as Iron Man for Don Heck. Heck is on record as saying that Kirby also designed many of the villains that appeared in Heck drawn books.

Then, there is this little quote from Foom Magazine #11, 1975. In the middle of an article about Kirby’s return to Marvel after his brief layover at DC, the author states, “It’s not generally known that it was Jack Kirby who designed Spider-Man’s costume.” This isn’t in a fanzine, it’s not a quote from an interview with Kirby, and it’s not in a reference book, it’s right there in an in-house publication of Marvel’s.

As with all quotes, I can’t guarantee it’s accuracy, but it seems that at least at that time (1975) the feeling at Marvel was that Kirby had designed the costume, and as mentioned earlier, Jim Shooter says the Kirby proposal was still around at that time.

Unlike the match between the Vulture, and the Buzzard, there is no direct similarity between Spider-Man’s costume, and any drawn previously by Ditko or Kirby. Yet there are some design patterns that do match up with earlier design work. If one places a drawing of Fighting American, (a Kirby hero) next to one of Spidey, and erases all of the small decorative details, leaving only the outline of the costume, a curious pattern emerges. Both characters have a dark color top, dissected in the front by a brighter colored midsection that begins narrow at the waist, and expands upward to the shoulders, where it then turns and runs down the arms, slicing the sleeves into two separate sections that ends at the gloves. On the back of the costumes, this two-color pattern continues back up the sleeves, and cuts across the shoulder blades. The facemasks both show a bold design around the eyes that sweep up and back.

Another small but aggravating item: Spider-Man has always been drawn with a strange looking spider icon on his back. Fact is, it doesn’t look like a spider so much as a tick or other small single-bodied insect. The spider drawn on the front of Spidey’s costume is much more accurate, showing a double sectioned body with the legs coming out of the torso section. Why would Ditko use such a different and inaccurate icon for the back of the costume? I can’t answer that question, but the spider on the back of the costume is remarkably similar to the spider icon that appears on the Kirby designed character Spider Spry from the Fly series. (yes, him again) What are the chances that two separate, and unique artists would choose such a similar, yet inaccurate depiction of a spider for a costume decoration?

For those that think I might be purposely ignoring elements that point to Ditko let me say that there ARE several design aspects that shout out Ditko.

First, the circular design with the webs radiating out from the center as seen in Spidey’s mask and the spider signal can be traced back to a cover sidebar used on the Charlton, horror/fantasy titles in 1958. While I have no proof that Ditko designed that sidebar, he certainly would have been familiar with it.

Secondly, and most convincing is something that was pointed out by the ever observant Simon Russell, from the kirby-l e-list. He observed that Steve Ditko rarely ever gave his characters visible belts and trunks, while Kirby always did. Is this born out by comparison? Very definitely!!

Most of Ditko’s early characters especially showed this trait. Captain Atom, Spider-Man, Vulture, Mysterio, and Kraven all have one-piece leggings unbroken by any hint of separate shorts. Kirby, on the other hand almost always gave his characters belts and shorts.

None of this is very convincing, so I looked to see if Kirby’s and Ditko’s words offered a clue, and if their memories stand up to actual research.

In his 1990 article, Steve Ditko says that he gave Spider-Man a full, facemask in order to hide Peter Parker’s boyish face, and to add mystery. This sounds quite logical, and it’s hard to prove or disprove, but, based on comparison, the idea of a full facemask is not in itself an identifiable pattern.

Kirby’s first hero, The Lone Rider, had a full, facemask, as did Manhunter from 1942. Iron Man, Black Panther, and Mister Miracle, etc. would follow. Many of Kirby’s villains had full, facemasks, the Red Skull and Dr. Doom chief among these.

On the other hand, Ditko’s Captain Atom, Dr, Strange, the Blue Beetle, all had half masks, or none at all. In fact, on Ditko’s other young super-heroes like the Hawk and Dove, he does not give them full facemasks, so the idea of a full covering mask is not a telltale pattern with either man.

Also from Ditko’s 1990 article, he states when he was designing the costume, he had to match the costume to the powers. “For example; a clinging power, so he wouldn’t have hard soles or boots…”

In the Pure Images #1 article, he expands “…. and since the character crawled walls, no soles were added to his feet.” Later Greg Theakston adds, “Ditko felt that hard soles on the boots wouldn’t be appropriate to a wall walking hero, and Kirby always draws the hard soles.”

These are interesting looks into how individual artists approach a creation, but in this specific case they are wrong factually, and conceptually.

Just 2 years earlier, Kirby had created a spidery character that was extremely agile, and could easily walk up silken lines. Spider Spry, of Fly fame, had “soft soled” booties that facilitated climbing. Looking at the actual record, it appears that Kirby almost always gave his nimble, agile type characters flexible footwear that would facilitate climbing and gripping. Besides Spider Spry; Toad, Cobra, and the Beast all had either soft soled shoes, or bare feet. Which brings me to my next observation.

Besides being wrong about Kirby’s tendencies, Ditko is wrong even as to his own design choices, for in the first 3 Spider-Man stories, Spidey IS shown with hard soles on his feet, in fact rippled style hard soles similar to those found on the Fly..

It may well be that sometime after the first 3 stories were done, Ditko decided that a crawling hero didn’t need hard soles, and so he changed them, but why claim that it was done specifically to differentiate between his and Kirby’s design choices? Unless the first 3 issues were somewhat based on Kirby’s designs.

So the few details that Ditko has provided don’t really help, in fact, they raise more questions since some are contradicted by actual comparison.

What about Kirby’s recollections?

Kirby has never, in my research, listed any specific details when he talked about “creating” the costume, but, thanks to Mike Gartland, (a frequent Kirby chronicler) I was able to track down an early unwitting mention.

In Excelsior #1, a fanzine from 1968, Kirby is being interviewed.

The writer asks, “Did you draw the Vision? If you did, do you remember the powers that he possessed, and could you tell us of these powers?”

Kirby responds, “I created the Vision as a feature of Marvel (Timely) comics. He was the forerunner of the SPIDER-MAN and Silver Surfer Eye. (Eds. Note: The huge pupil-less eyeballs both heroes possess.) If I remember correctly, his powers were of a mystic nature.”

So once again, we have Kirby, in this case unexpectedly, supplying a small detail concerning Spider-Man that is backed up by comparison, for the Vision, a mysterious hero from another plane did have white blank eyes.

He certainly wasn’t saying that Steve Ditko used the opaque eyes based upon Kirby’s earlier use of them with the Vision. This was in 1968, long before the debates about Spider-Man began. Why would Kirby offer up such an unsolicited tidbit while responding to a question about a totally different character if it wasn’t true?

Ditko, to my knowledge has never mentioned where the idea for the opaque eyes came from.

This Kirby quote; on its own, doesn’t prove anything, but it does add to the strange conflicting nature of the debate.

Lastly, it’s been mentioned that Kirby could never draw the Spider-Man costume correctly, which would be strange if he created it. This sounds plausible, but the fact is that Kirby did not draw Spider-Man all that much, and Kirby could never keep the details of any of his costumes straight. His inkers would spend hours making corrections on the costumes. Kirby was a penciller by nature, and little details such as the curl of a spider web was a detail that wasn’t important in the pencilling stage, it was simply hinted at. He had the same problem with Fighting American’s stripes and wing chest pattern, never getting it the same way twice. Look at the early issues of Thor, and note the costume differences.

By the way, Ditko had the same problem, he could never decide if the webbing detail on the costume curled up, or down. He sometimes had them going both directions on the same drawing, and, check out how different the spider icons on the costume front appear even in the same story.

All of these are fairly circumstantial, and if I was a betting man, I would guess that Spidey’s costume is a hybrid, mostly Ditko, with some Kirby bits taken from Kirby’s original proposal.


So much for my actual research, now let me speculate a little further. Here is how I think it went down.

In mid-1961, Martin Goodman noticed that the sales of the Atlas monster books were slowing down, and while looking for a replacement genre, he realized that DC seemed to be having some success with super-heroes. He decided that Marvel should take a hesitant step in that direction, and either he or Stan Lee talked to Jack Kirby, who had a 20-year history of creating super-heroes. They decided on a team concept with a twist, the characters would not always get along. Kirby went home and cobbled together a story using parts of his last 2 team series, the Challengers of the Unknown, and his recent syndicated strip Sky Masters of the Space Force, and he presented it to Stan Lee. Stan added in the personalities, the background details, the speech patterns, and Fantastic Four was born.

Seeing that the FF was selling but still a little wary of jumping full bore into the super-hero market, Stan next talked with Jack about using an Atlas-style monster as a hero. So Kirby went home, matched together an Atlas monster with a Sky Masters plot element dealing with a scientist saving a kid from a rocket blast, threw in his radiation-caused mutation concept he had used since Blue Bolt days, and you have the Hulk. Again Stan added in the soap opera, the personalities, the linear continuity, and the human aspects he specialized in.

Martin, seeing that both series were selling, decided to go balls to the wall into the super-hero genre, complete with costumes, secret identities, and all the trappings. Stan again went to Jack and asked him if he had any other concepts lying around. Kirby, doing just as he had with the FF – went back to the last two pure super-hero series he had worked on, took the character aspects from the Fly, plus elements suggested by Jacobson, mixed it in with the plot from the Shield, used the original title from the unused Simon proposal, et voila! Spider-Man!

It is possible, in fact probable, that when Kirby presented this proposal to Lee, Stan had some reservations because his vision of the character was a little different. It didn’t matter because Kirby wasn’t scheduled to draw this feature anyway—Stan, and the new artist could make the changes. They could flesh out, and add their own take on the characters–Kirby was too busy: He was drawing the FF and the Hulk full time, and besides Spider-Man, he had simultaneously worked up Thor. (using the same source material)

All this fits in with the very first account of how Spider-Man came to be. Remember, Stan said that Kirby was too busy and he (Lee) chose Steve Ditko to draw the feature after the concepts were done, and it fits in with Ditko’s first recollections. But does this fit in with what we know about how Marvel worked in the early 1960s?

I think it does. Marvel had a modus operandi also. Evidence shows that Kirby helped out on just about every new project, even the ones he didn’t draw. (origin plot, and costume design for Iron Man, splash page, cover and plot elements for Daredevil, etc.)

Why wouldn’t Jack be involved similarly in any Ditko projects? There were no separate fiefdoms at Marvel at this time. Kirby certainly helped out with the first two covers, he provided an advertising blurb in the first issue, he did a back-up story in #8. Jack did cover retouches and corrections. He also did a Spider-Man crossover story in Fantastic Four Annual #1 in the summer of 1963, and in Strange Tales Annual #2, Fall 1963, both of which appeared before AS#6. The Fantastic Four was intertwined with Spider-Man like no other Marvel series.

In the early days of Marvel, there was no sense of separate books; everyone contributed to every series. It’s amazing, but I don’t think coincidental, that every member of the bullpen was multifaceted: Lee would edit, write, and script; Leiber would pencil, ink, and write; Kirby would pencil, create, and plot; Ditko could pencil, ink, and plot, etc. There seems to have been a true all-for-one atmosphere early on in the bullpen. I actually think this is why these men were the ones picked when Stan Lee regrouped Atlas in 1959. It was this flexibility, and multi-talented nature that allowed Stan to create the Marvel method of storytelling.

So, to wrap up, we have the title of the series, which was likely contributed by Kirby. We have the main character of the series surely created by Kirby, with an assist to Sid Jacobson. And we have the origin, and first couple of stories, most likely plot assisted by Kirby. We may even have the costume based somewhat on a Kirby design. How much more does it take to deserve co-creative status?

Never the less, I am not on any campaign to get Kirby an official credit on Spider-Man. Ditko/Lee works just fine for me. Yet for historical purposes, I do believe that his contributions should be recognized.

So does this mean that Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko are lying? I don’t think so. I think this is an example where each one is telling the truth from their own perspective. Jack Kirby was a conceptualist, an idea man, he felt that creation was the coming up of new ideas. Stan Lee is a writer, he’s a word man, he naturally feels the act of creation starts with the fleshing out of the personality and giving voice to the character. And Steve is an artist, his idea of creation is the giving of form, and texture, and atmosphere to a shapeless thought. To thine own self be true, and I think they are.

In my opinion, Spider-Man is the classic example of a true collaboration, omit any one of the three men involved and you end up with a weaker, or non-existent creation.

If just Kirby and Lee had worked on the title, we would have invariably seen it head into the all-out adventure, or cosmic/mythic realms of Kirby’s other titles, thereby losing out on the gritty, earthiness Ditko added. If Lee and Ditko had created it from scratch, we would have had a hero more like the cerebral Dr. Strange, lacking the action/adventure facet that Kirby added. The combination helped eliminate the individual excesses, while keeping the best of each.

Just because Kirby’s participation ended quickly doesn’t detract from his role in the creation, without his character concepts, and strong action based foundation, Spider-Man might never have found that perfect mix of the psychological and physical aspects. Left to his own devices, Ditko’s characters and stories usually lack the testosterone based fun fantasies, that pure physicality, that the super hero genre demands. His characters thought too much, and acted too little.

And without Stan Lee, in my opinion, we would have been without the single most vital ingredient that made Spider-Man the most unique character in comics. Human frailty!!!

More than any other character he worked on, Stan identified with Peter Parker. His vision of the everyman as hero made Spidey the most conflicted, the most human, and the most unique hero ever created. His blueprint was the perfect recipe for a super hero in the post war era. It was an age when the common man, no longer felt in control of his own destiny. Spider-Man was not just fighting bad guys; he was fighting our doubts, our rages, and our feeling of helplessness. He, like most people, (especially the teens reading his books) was looking for his role in society, and was turned away at every stop. Stan Lee made Spider-Man one of us. This is why Spidey not only continued, he thrived, long after both Kirby and Ditko, no longer had any input.

Together we got the perfect blend of Kirby’s solid histrionics, Ditko’s philosophic atmospherics, and Lee’s melodramatic human voice.

It just don’t get any better folks.

Who created Spider-Man? There’s room for all three.

Stan Taylor

This article was very time and labor intensive, and I need to thank some people. First and foremost, Pat Hilger and M.I. for their unselfish access to their books. Greg Theakston for leading the way. Blake Bell for inspiring me and keeping me jazzed. And the Kirby-l and Ditko-l for their prodding and doubting natures.

— Stan Taylor