A few years ago, over at the Marvel Age of Comics Tumblr account, I did a string of posts over a period of three days analyzing the first three issues of FANTASTIC FOUR, the opening salvo of the Marvel renaissance of comics brought about by writer/editor Stan Lee and writer/artist Jack Kirby. With a number of events recently making me think about those posts–including the publication of the very fine STUF’ SAID by John Morrow of TwoMorrows–I’ve decided to update and expand on those earlier essays and post them here, where they’ll hopefully be easier to find.
For the past few decades, there’s been a lot of controversy concerning who contributed what to the early Marvel titles. Some believe that everything sprung from the mind of Stan Lee and that Jack Kirby was just the guy who drew the pictures. Others will tell you that Kirby originated everything and that Lee only signed the checks as well as putting his name undeservedly on the work. And every possible shade in-between. By and large, I really don’t believe that at this late date it is at all possible to separate the contributions of one man from those of the other on these stories–their success, in my opinion, is due to the fact that they were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, working in tandem.
That said, there are a number of odd things concerning the first three issues of FANTASTIC FOUR that bear looking at a little bit more closely. From what I can tell, based on my analysis, Lee and Kirby worked more closely together on these three comic books than perhaps anything else they did together. I’ll lay some of that case out to you all in the days to come. It’s also worth mentioning that, from what I can see, the Lee & Kirby collaboration went through at least three, possibly four, separate stages of development in which the manner these two giants interacted with one another and collaborated changed and evolved. In short, what we learn about these earliest issues of FANTASTIC FOUR doesn’t necessarily apply to other stories that they did later.
It’s also worth saying directly that I am speaking on this subject as simply a person interested in the history of comics, and not in any way as a representative of the Marvel Comics group or its parent organizations. All opinions on this subject are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Marvel as a whole.