As the 1970s turned into the 1980s, powerhouse artist and creative genius Jack Kirby was becoming increasingly disillusioned by the way the history of the creation of the Marvel characters was being recounted for the public. Beginning particularly with the publication of ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS in 1974, Kirby found his role in events diminished, reduced to being just a pair of hands who carried out the creative directive of editor and scripter Stan Lee. Kirby knew that he’d done a lot more than he was being given credit for–he had done the hands-on plotting for most of the stories he worked on with Lee, and many of the formative characters had started out from his ideas. Already in a contentious battle with Marvel over the return of his original artwork from the 1960s–Marvel’s legal team demanded that Kirby sign an onerous four-page document declaring that everything he had ever done for the firm had been done at the direction of Lee and/or Marvel founder Martin Goodman, and hat he held no claim to any of it. Even the artwork itself was classified as a “gift”, one that Marvel could rescind the rights to at any time. it was a document that Kirby felt that he could not sign.
Kirby began to become more vocal in his interviews in this period about his full role in those early Marvel days and the creations of the characters, beginning with one printed in Kitchen Sink Press’ THE SPIRIT Magazine #39 with his old boss, Will Eisner. At some point during this time, Kirby hand-wrote a summary of his perspective on the creations of the assorted Marvel characters. The particular date at which he did this is unknown, but it appears to have happened in the early 1980s.
Formulated in 1939 by myself & Joe Simon – Created in Joe’s apartment and submitted to “Atlas”
Published in 1941
FANTASTIC FOUR – HULK – SPIDERMAN –
THOR – SGT. FURY
When I arrived at Marvel in 1959 it was closing shop that very afternoon according to what was related to me by “Stan Lee”
The comic book dept. was another victim of the Dr. Wertham negative cycle & definitely was following in the wake of EC Comics. “The Gaines Publishing House”
In order to keep working I suggested to Stan Lee that to initiate a new line of Super Heroes he submit my ideas to Martin Goodman the publisher of Marvel
The line that I came up with was
“FANTASTIC FOUR” A team of Super Heroes
“THE HULK” Which was a spin-off of a single story that I did for “Marvel”
“SPIDERMAN” Grew from a different script called “The Silver Spider” which was written by Joe Simon’s brother-in-law Jack Oleck – who is now deceased
Joe was out of the field at that time & I utilized the “Silver Spider” script to create a single new character. This was given for development to Steve Ditko after I drew the first cover with the original costume
THOR quickly followed & was fleshed out with the character of the original legend
SGT. FURY, a mixture of the “Dirty Dozen”, James Bond & my own war experiences became another successful book
I created many costumes for new “Super Heroes” such as IRON MAN – ANT-MAN & created all related characters such as “SILVER SURFER” & GALACTUS – THE INHUMANS & many more which are included in the enclosed list.
To ensure sales I also did the writing which I was not credited for as “Stan Lee” wrote the credits for all of the books which I did not contest because of his relationship
with the publisher “Martin Goodman”
This was later changed to “Produced by “Stan Lee & Jack Kirby” in some of the books.
Although I was not allowed to write the balloon dialogue, the stories, the characters & the additional planning for teh scripts progress was strictly due to my own foresight & literary workmanship.
There were no scripts. I created the characters & wrote the stories in my own home & merely brought them into the office each month.
F.F. published 1961
The Hulk 1962
Spider Man 1962
Sgt. Fury 1963
37 thoughts on “Lee & Kirby: The Firsthand Account of Jack Kirby”
The people at Marvel were fools … to not just give Jack Kirby the creative space to do what he wanted … and follow his lead.
How really stupid of them …to treat Jack so wrongly… when he was the ‘engine house’ of the Comic Book Industry… and had led Marvel out of foreclosure… into the Muti-billion dollar Corporation that it was.
Large Corporations can never be counted on to do the right thing… Such an Historical Shame…
LikeLiked by 2 people
Wow, Jack was clearly pretty bitter and was either disappointed at his own lack of results at DC (4th World all cancelled within 18 months and quickly out of a job despite supposedly being Marvels ‘ideas man’ and reason for their success), and his work on his return to Marvel being pretty lacklustre too, (with even his Cap stories getting lambasted in the letters column), or he was away with the fairies at this point. I think probably a combination of the two: Off the top of my head:
He fails to mention he created Superman too – in a Jack Kirby Collector issue, one issue recounts how Jack claims to have created Superman.
Ditko’s recollection is very different to Jacks, and Ditko created the costume and first cover, but the cover was rejected by Stan and Jack did the second cover we now associate with AF 15
Jack said in another interview how he had the idea of The Hulk from seeing a woman lift a car from her trapped child (sounds more like the first episode of the tv show) which is quite different to Stans’ Jekyll and Hyde/Frankenstein mash up recollection, despite the early Hulk like story (Journey into Mystery 79).
Kirby never read the books after they went to print, so never knew just how much Stans writing added to the book – Romita mentions this in detail in an interview here when talking about Stan:
“Oh, he’s a con man, but he did deliver. Anyone who says he didn’t earn what he’s got is not reading the facts. Believe me, he earned everything he gets. That’s why I never begrudged him getting any of the credit, and as far as I’m concerned, he can have his name above any of my stuff, anytime he wants. Every time I took a story in to Stan—and if Jack were reading it, he’d have felt the same way—I had only partial faith in my picture story. I worked it out and I believed in the characters, but I was only half-sure it was going to work. I always had my misgivings. By the time Stan would write it, I’d start to look at that story and say, “Son of a gun, it’s almost as though I planned it,” and I’d believe a hundredfold more in that story after he wrote it than before—and if Jack would’ve allowed himself to, he would’ve had the same satisfaction. I sincerely believe that.”
Jacks writing left a lot to be desired, and even the likes of Neal Adams and Roy Thomas (amongst others) felt Jack needed someone like Stan to make the books work. I read Jacks 4th WOrld stuff back in the day and although the ideas were different, they really lacked something. No wonder a couple were cancelled within just 11 months. What happened to the Jack Kirby that was supposedly responsible for Marvels success?
As for shutting up shop in ’57:Joe Maneely had just died, and either Jack came to Stan looking for work or Stan approached Jack about a week later, either way, doesn’t sound like the place was closing down. In an interview with the Kirby Collector, they asked Gil Kane “Did Jack save Marvel at that time?” Kane replies:
“He certainly helped. First of all I don’t think it would have been possible without Stan, because in the late 50s, Jack was doing all that monster stuff – and believe me, that didn’t make a difference in sales. That just barely kept them afloat. It wasn’t until they started doing the super-hero stuff that sales started to improve. Stan had a lot to do with the characterisation which was appropriate for the time. It was fresh and filled with mock irreverence. And that’s not Jack, that was Stan. Of course Jack was doing superb work” Doesn’t sound like Jack was saving it.
The FF1 script that Roy Thomas saw before anyone was wondering or cared about who created what etc, was written on the same paper stock and same typewriter that Stan was using when the Marvel universe was being created, so wasn’t written after the fact.
From Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics, the Untold Story.: Joe SImon approached jack asking him why he said that Spider-man was their idea, and Jack said he did it ‘to put food on the table’ (a common theme for jack).
Joe SInnott mentions that before the hero period, most of the work they did was from scripts, which is in keeping with the FF script, but of course we know how that changed as things took off.
Romita and many other Marvel Bullpen all recount how Stan was plotting/co plotting the books, jumping on desks etc. Even Flo Steinberg mentions that as even though she wasn’t in the office she heard it going on. Romita mentions how Stan and Jack plotted the FF together while he was in the back of the car listening.
If Stan wanted all the credit for everything, why did he say how Jack created the Silver Surfer, and that Dr Strange “Twas Steve’s idea” or mention the Marvel Method?
I believe that it was Stan that started giving the artists and inkers etc credit in the books long before the likes of DC etc ever did, so it could be said that no one would have even known who the artists were if not for Stan (other than perhaps the odd names you’d see at the bottom of the splash page). Stan even mentions how the Marvel Method involved the artists etc, and how good Jack was – even giving him the name King which most people wouldn’t disagree with.
Stan was definitely liable to take more credit than perhaps he was due at times, but when you read interviews with the majority of the bullpen, they certainly give Stan more than his due. In fact, in Lee & Kirby: The Wonder Years, the author says this towards the end:
“So here’s the paradox: all the Lee-bashing Kirby-centric zealots who claim that Stan practically rode Jack’s coattails to fame and fortune *weren’t there at the time*. All the Marvel insiders that we interviewed – who *were* there – are quite adamant that the “Anti-Stan” legions have a warped sense of reality.
There are plenty of other things but that’s just off of the top of my head. I like to think they (Lee, Kirby, Ditko) were creative dynamos that together produced the amazing comics we saw during their time together, and none could replicate that magic on their own.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Kirby failed to mention he created Superman? I assume to suggest that Kirby’s recollection of things is less that perfect. Your post fails to mention Stan Lee’s version of how Captain America was created. Stan Lee’s less than perfect recollection circa the 1940s. Enjoy:
Too often this discussion has been trivialized to mean Kirby bashing vs Stan Lee bashing. Which is entirely missing the point. In the history of Comics Stan Lee is a god among men. One of the top ten most important and influential person to work in the industry. His contributions were critical to the success of Marvel Comics.
The debate of Kirby vs Lee isn’t about that. It’s a debate about Intellectual Property: Who creates it, who is given credit for it, and how profits from that creation should be divided. There is no way a rational individual, no matter how much they may love Stan Lee as a writer, can suggest Jack Kirby was ‘merely’ the illustrator of these stories. That he was simply a hired wrist who made visual the ideas that came from another person’s mind. Although many comic book credits list him as exactly that. Just the guy who drew the pencils. Followed by some guy who did the lettering. And so on.
Bottom line, Jack Kirby was brilliant at creating Intellectual Properties. He deserved more credit for it. And he deserved more financial compensation.
For his pencils, he was well paid.
Yes I’ve seen that – created in 1947 as I recall when consumers cared even less about who wrote or drew the books (until Stan gave them visible credit and promotion on the splash page in 60s Marvel Comics), and as Simon and Kirby had left under a cloud because they had been working with the competition (which was against the rules), I can’t see Stan using their names as he would be promoting the completion rather than the company he worked for. This book seemed to be ignored for over 50 years until the ‘Kirby did everything’ mentality came along and now it’s used as ‘proof’ that Lee is some kind of evil doer.
I don’t think anyone ‘in the know’ thinks Jack was ‘just’ an illustrator and he clearly was more than that, in the same way that Stan wasn’t just a writer (he was also editor and art director amongst other things) – Stan had gone to great lengths to promote Jack, in the comics, often giving him co credit in the books (produced by Lee and Kirby kinda thing), calling him ‘The King’ and saying what a creative genius he was – and plenty of comments from Stan saying things such as just giving Jack the faintest outline would be enough, and how the Silver Surfer was a complete surprise to him when the artwork came back – he was probably responsible for building up Jack and his fanbase – clearly in those instances, Jack had more input and creativity, but that wasn’t how it happened all the time and it doesn’t mean of course that Stan had no input or creativity of his own – plenty of evidence to the contrary, especially when you speak to people who were actually there.
Remember Stans comments regarding Dr Strange? Stan goes on to say this:
“… The first story is nothing great, but maybe we can make something of him”.
Ditko seems to take umbridge to that remark, and later comments on it in one of his articles to the effect of “Stan thinks he’s the only one with ideas”, which clearly shows that Ditko gives Stan credit for ideas and creativity.
Don’t forget, Marvel/Atlas/Timely was a company that copied and printed what was popular at the time, whether it be westerns, romance horror etc, so how would heroes be Kirby’s idea when the success of the JLA is what drove the creation of the FF etc at Marvel after Goodman told Stan to go and create a SUper Hero team to compete with the JLA? The golf course story seems to tie in better with what was happening at the time than Jacks. Jack was just doing the monster stories a that time, and it was Goodman that was telling Stan what direction to go in.
Jacks issues were really with Marvel, not Stan, and that’s evident in the depositions for the Marvel vs Kirby legal dispute.
Jack was well paid (and I think that was down to Stan), but they were both just employees and neither entitled to character ownership or shared profits – they were just workers for hire and they had to sign away any rights to get their pay cheques (mentioned in the Marvel vs Kirby depositions). If Jack was entitled to financial compensation etc for his involvement in those creations, then so was Stan and others from the Bullpen. But that’s not how it works unfortunately, and people like Gary Friedrich have been sued and made bankrupt over his claim of being the creator of Ghost rider:
If Jack deserved more, then so did everyone back then.
“Simon and Kirby had left under a cloud because they had been working with the competition” Their big issue was that Goodman had committed to royalty payments, then welched, so they left. Or so I’ve seen it recounted.
No, the Julius Schwartz books gave credits for stories before FF #1, but not consistently.
“I read Jacks 4th WOrld stuff back in the day and although the ideas were different, they really lacked something. No wonder a couple were cancelled within just 11 months. What happened to the Jack Kirby that was supposedly responsible for Marvels success?”
Disagree with you, at least as far as New Gods and Mr. Miracle (and even Forever People had some powerful stuff). And from most of what I’ve read, the issue wasn’t that they tanked, it was that DC expected Kirby’s name to sell stratospheric numbers and they didn’t. Certainly they had no qualms about keeping him around for Kamandi and The Demon (and I’m glad — Kamandi is a remarkable bit of work). Having Stan on the books would certainly have improved Kirby’s dialog though.
I think if Jacks ability was as good as he had been claiming, the books would have sold better. I know some people liked his 4th world stuff, but not many did, and according to Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino, each issue sold less than the one before it, so it was definitely a sales issue.(why cancel any books if they are making money?). Kamandi was my favourite too (and commercially the most successful it seems), but it was a kind of Planet of the Apes rip off and didn’t have the same appeal as the Marvel books. I loved Kirby’s art and bought his books just for that, even though I wasn’t enjoying reading them. I could look at Kirby’s work all day long without fatigue. His uninked pencils in particular are amazing.
No question it was Planet of the Apes derived, but Kirby did such a good job with it. Part of it is that Kamandi’s surprisingly realistic — his abilities and achievements are exceptional for a teenager in that situation, but not superhuman. And where post-Kirby stories often took a monster-of-the-week approach, Kirby managed to make his various civilizations feel they had an independent existence before Kamandi came along and went back to it after (“Yeah, I met this weird animal today, talked almost like he was intelligent … so honey, what’s for dinner?”
Oh yeah, the cover for Kamandi #1 is based off the most iconic Apes image with the Statue of Liberty. But the series itself is a great example of taking inspiration from what’s popular at the time, and then going off in a different direction. Like Superman “inspired” Captain Marvel (Shazam), but then CM evolved into a very different character. Here, having entirely different animal civilizations in the world, rather than just apes, reworks the idea in a major way. Kamandi’s whole world is much more interesting than the Apes. The latter, when you get down to it, is mostly a pretty generic low-tech place once you get past the gimmick that different primates are sapient.
Still, I can’t see it being a decades-long blockbuster, though maybe it could have endured longer with more support. If has still been around by the time _Maus_ came out, there was potential there.
It’s confusing because the issue of “credit/co-creator” has many overlapping meanings, quite a few related to copyright law, and such law is a very complicated topic in itself. Stan Lee tried to dance around this over the years, talking up his promotional efforts which were indeed better than the standard industry practices, while downplaying his role as a Company Man in legal disputes. Or to put in a phrase: God Emperor King Kirby, The Most Amazing Stupendous Talented Artist The World Has Every Seen (and who gets paid a flat fee for art pages accepted after any corrections, and not a penny from anything else).
To be fair Seth, Stan was also salaried and was editor, writer, art director, creator, co creator, etc etc. and wasn’t getting extra for the creation/co-creation either Romita ended up doing the corrections rather than Jack as he was always in the office (he said he wasn’t disciplined enough to work from home so wanted to work in the office), and it was the same there for everyone, not just Jack in that respect. Stan was ensuring the books were as good as possible before they went out.
I don’t think there was any copyright law involved with respect to what you’re saying here because Stan and Jack (and others) were employees creating content for their employer who owned everything they created, so it didn’t matter who created what as far as they were concerned. Do you have examples of Stan dancing around with respect to that as you’ve suggested?,
[comment retry, without links since they seem to have caused it to be considered spam]
Gary, these issues are basically what the Marvel v. Kirby lawsuit was all about. There’s a good copyright law overview about it on the copyhype blog. We’re now seeing a similar dispute with the estate of Steve Ditko and the rights to the characters he created.
You can take the position that Marvel was in the right, but it’s not correct to assert that there was no reasonable legal copyright dispute on Kirby’s side, even if he didn’t prevail.
And that feeds into Stan Lee’s credit dance. He can praise Kirby to the skies for being a great artist, but the more he gives him conceptual credit, the more that’d be viewed as weakening Marvel’s legal position. Thus, as a Company Man, he can’t do that. One can see this throughout his testimony if you want to read it:
[Google for source, I guess]
“He got the highest because I considered him our best artist.”
“In the 60s, the ideas for the new characters originated with me
because that was my responsibility. … So it was my responsibility
to come up with such a team. And I dreamed up the Fantastic Four, and
I wrote a brief outline. And at that time, you know, I gave that to
Jack Kirby, who did a wonderful job on it.”
Over and over, it’s basically, he did a wonderful amazing fantastic job, with what I thought up.
The moment there was a hint of a dispute (way predating the actual lawsuit), Lee would have been carefully instructed by company lawyers as to what he was allowed to say, and what he should absolutely never say. And as a Company Man, he was never going to deviate from the company line.
This is just a general reply to a few comments that were (I think) aimed at me, not just you Seth.
The trouble with some of the anti Stan comments from other (sometimes bitter) artists, is they are few and almost in isolation, but used as if they were the norm and set a precedent, like a kind of ‘gotcha’. We don’t see people from the 60s bullpen that were actually there backing up Jacks or those or comments as if it was the norm – the opposite in fact, and most of it and the associated ‘stories’ etc come from fans who weren’t there and want to paint Stan as the villain. Stan even corroborates Ditkos’ comments regarding plotting (I think we all know he was, it was no secret) with the concern that sales may start to slip, and Stan was clearly unhappy with that arrangement – if that was the norm why would he even comment about it? He was giving equal billing to Jack and praising him to high heaven but never had any issues there (because it was a collaboration with Jack, not so with Ditko and Stan was concerned with sales). When you read the comments and interviews from the rest of the Bullpen who were there, they are all praising Stan – plenty of books and video interviews to back that up (and none saying Jack was doing everything which should tell you something about the reality of the situation), so there are far more corroborated stories giving Stan credit for what went on than Jack (did any Bullpen confirm what Jack said over what Stan said?), which is why I tend to lean more towards Stan than Jack, and why I think Jack was just bitter and chancing his luck. Only he and his followers believe him it seems, certainly not the people who were there. Romita and Thomas for example say the opposite and defend Stan over Jack.
According to the likes for Roy Thomas etc, it was pretty much a given that if you were going to work at Marvel you were going to have to work to the ‘Marvel Method’, but not everyone (like Wally Wood) were able to do that, so were always going to struggle – pre hero stuff was nearly always done from a script (as per my earlier Sinnott link) and sometimes scripts would be recycled.. Post hero was different of course as this was pretty much all new (and characterisations were all Stan according to Gil Kane. He certainly didn’t say it was anything to do with Jack).
Jack wasn’t a Saint – if you read Dick Ayers pictorial autobiography, Jack stole some work from him more than once. Jacks ‘food on the table’ mantra meant he would say and do whatever was needed to get work, and there are other examples of that (included in my earlier replies). Jack also said he created Superman don’t forget. Do you beleive that too?
Stan did tend to take more credit that he was due (see my earlier posts), but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t doing what everyone said he was doing. He was in charge of what went in the books and everything was under Stans control. No one could do anything without it going through Stan. How could it? Steranko once told me that he started giving his work to Stan very late so that Stan couldn’t make corrections. but even Steranko has conceded that when he did, Stan changed it for the better (like the red Shield logo on the B&W cover of No4 IIRC which Steranko wanted entirely B&W).
As for who owned what, it seemed pretty clear (and I’m repeating myself yet again) – you were working for a company as a work for hire and no matter what you created the company owned it (See the Gary Friedrich Ghost Rider example I posted earlier too). The cheques they signed when getting their wages said as much and the signature confirmed it – either you accepted those terms or you didn’t get paid. It was all at the deposition. No need to dance around with respect to legal matters..
I read Kirby’s 4th world stuff hot off the presses back in the day, and I have tried reading it again since (I don’t have my originals but I have the collections), and it’s still hard work – not a patch on what Stan was doing. No wonder it bombed. Like I said before, even Neal Adams (amongst others) is on video suggesting that it seemed Jack needed Stan. It seems that the people in the industry all have a similar point of view – Jacks writing wasn’t the best and Stan was the real deal. That’s not my opinion, that’s the opinion of those who were actually there. I’m pretty sure if jacks accounts were actually true we’d be hearing a different story from many different people who were around at the time, but we don’t/didn’t. Instead we here hear made up stories and conjecture on the behalf of Jack. People need to read more accounts from the people that were there, than from those that weren’t, rather than blindly believe stuff with no evidence or third part corroboration that fits their narrative.
With respect to the comments re the Silver Surfer – it was cancelled at the same times as Dr Strange and Shield was as I recall – that’s life but other books were doing great (while none of Jacks were), and given that Stan was pretty much running the entire company it’s no surprise not everything went to plan,. Buscema preferred working from a script to some degree according to his daughter (so he wasn’t writing anything). The first run of The Hulk was cancelled after just six issues but was later revived – some things don’t always appeal to people and sell well and that’s the nature of the beast. I personally liked those 18 surfer issues and six Hulk issues but I’m not everyone. Jacks books had some good ideas but clearly people weren’t buying them. Even the revived books haven’t done that well so it seems there is a limited outlet for them. Starlins Death of the New Gods wasn’t bad and I think he said it was done so it could be restarted in a new direction or or something. I spoke and asked him about it back in 2009.
Jack must have had told Infantino he was the ideas man etc and solely responsible for Marvels success and that was why he was hired. It seems pretty clear that he wasn’t because if all the ideas were Jacks and the Marvel success was all down to him, he would have taken that success with him and Marvel would have died on it’s feet after say, 11 months while DCs books rocketed to Marvel levels, but it didn’t happen. Clearly the success wasn’t jack by himself, and Marvel carried on without him. He ended up going back with his tail between his legs, but of course he needed to put food on the table….
As Romita said from my earlier link and quote: “Anyone who says he (Stan) didn’t earn what he’s got is not reading the facts. Believe me, he earned everything he gets.” Read the link for more info, Those are the facts.
And this (again) from ‘Lee & Kirby: The Wonder years’ which I think speaks volumes:
“So here’s the paradox: all the Lee-bashing Kirby-centric zealots who claim that Stan practically rode Jack’s coattails to fame and fortune *weren’t there at the time*. All the Marvel insiders that we interviewed – who *were* there – are quite adamant that the “Anti-Stan” legions have a warped sense of reality.”
It seems that the anti Stan mob have to ignore any positive comments about Stan from the people who were actually there for their arguments to hold any water at all. It’s a similar kind of mind set to the flat earthers.
When I first read Jack Kirby’s account in his famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) interview with the Comics Journal, I felt it was most likely that he was probably just bitter.
But over the years, I’ve become more and more inclined to believe that a good chunk of what he’s saying has a ring of truth — mainly because there’s so many other Stan Lee collaborators who have said essentially the same thing. They would go into those story meeting sessions and would have to generate most of the ideas and plot. So I’m led to think — “What’s more likely, all these guys are lying and only Stan is telling the truth? Or the reverse?”
And then I think about how Stan hadn’t created a significant property for the first twenty years of his comics career while Jack (and Joe Simon) created hits like Captain America, Newsboy Legion, Boy Commandoes, the Romance genre etc. And while Jack’s post-1970 work wasn’t as successful as his work with Stan — what new hit properties did Stan come up with after 1970 that weren’t derivatives like She-Hulk or Spider-Woman? I mean, DC has been using Darkseid and his lieutenants as their arch-villain in just about every major media tie-in since Super Powers in the early 80s… is anyone using Ravage 2099 or Stripperella?
I absolutely believe that Stan is critical to Marvel’s success, he’s the greatest EIC ever and I really think his dialogue and strong characterization was terrific and integral in their success. The warmth, the humor, the personality, etc. he put into those balloons is a huge reason for Marvel’s success. But I don’t think I can believe his version of events that reduced his collaborators to a set of hands drawing his fantastic ideas.
Anyway, here’s those other accounts:
STAN GOLDBERG: “Jack would sit there at lunch, and tell us these great ideas about what he was going to do next. It was like the ideas were bursting from every pore of his body. It was very interesting because he was a fountain of ideas. Stan would drive me home and we’d plot our stories in the car. I’d say to Stan, “How’s this? Millie loses her job.” He’d say, “Great! Give me 25 pages.” And that took him off the hook.
One time I was in Stan’s office and I told him, “I don’t have another plot.” Stan got out of his chair and walked over to me, looked me in the face, and said very seriously, “I don’t ever want to hear you say you can’t think of another plot.” Then he walked back and sat down in his chair. He didn’t think he needed to tell me anything more.
Jim Amash: Sounds like you were doing most of the writing then.
Well, I was.”
JOE ORLANDO: “He really didn’t seem to have any ideas, but we worked out a plot, and he sent me the synopsis. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. In one line, Stan indicated that he wanted a three-page fight sequence, in a garage, or whatever. Nothing else. So I called and asked him what I should do. He said, ‘You know, throw some tires around, do something with some oil, make it up as you go.’ Well, that didn’t help.”
DICK AYERS / BARRY PEARL: “Dick told us how Stan called him one day and said, “I can’t think of a story for Sgt. Fury #23. We won’t have an issue unless you think of something!”
A worried Dick could not sleep that night and kept Lindy awake too. They talked about story after story until, in the middle of the night, Lindy came up with the idea of the Howlers saving a nun and her young charges. Dick said, ‘Stan will never go for that, he wants nothing about religion… But I’ll ask him.’
When Dick did, Stan said, ‘What a great idea, I’ll use it.’ So they put together a terrific story. When Dick’s finished pages were shown to him, he saw the credits where he was only listed as artist. He went to Stan’s office and asked if he could also be listed as co-plotter. Stan yelled, ‘Since when did you develop an ego? Get out of here!’”
WALLY WOOD: “I enjoyed working with Stan on DAREDEVIL but for one thing. I had to make up the whole story. He was being paid for writing and I was being paid for drawing but he didn’t have any ideas. I’d go in for a plotting session and we’d just stare at each other until I came up with a storyline. I felt that I was writing the book but not being paid for writing.
I persuaded him to let me write one by myself since I was doing 99% of the writing already. I wrote it, handed it in and he said it was hopeless. He said he’d have to rewrite it all and write the next issue himself. […] Then I saw it when it came out and he’d changed five words, less than an editor usually changes. I think that was the last straw.”
“Stan was the scripter, but I was coming up with most of the ideas. It finally got to the point where I told him that if he was the writer, he’d have to come up with the plots. So, we just sat across the desk from one another in silence.”
STEVE DITKO: “I was publicly credited as plotter only starting with issue #26. The lifting sequence is in issue #33. The fact is we had no story or idea discussion about some Spider-man books even before issue #26 up to when I left the book.
Stan never knew what was in my plotted stories until I took in the penciled story, the cover, my script and Sol Brodsky took the material from me and took it all into Stan’s office, so I had to leave without seeing or talking to Stan.”
“Lee started out early with his self-serving, self-claiming, self-gratifying style, of giving credit and then undercutting the giving by taking away or claiming most or all of the credit.”
” I mean, DC has been using Darkseid and his lieutenants as their arch-villain in just about every major media tie-in since Super Powers in the early 80s… is anyone using Ravage 2099 or Stripperella?”
In Keith Giffen’s words, DC editors pass around Darkseid like a bong.
I can play that game :o)
I often see that argument used as if it proves anything, but the trouble with that comparison is those characters as written by Jack weren’t successful at all back in the day, and he was supposed to be at his creative peak then – New Gods and Forever People only lasted for 11 issues and were cancelled due to declining sales, whereas Ravage was written 20 years later by an older less capable Stan and still lasted 22 issues longer (33 issues) What was Jack creating in 1992?, So we could say that even then Stan was creating more successful books than Jack was.
In the two years after Jack left in 1970 and before Stan stopped writing, Stan and Marvel were doing just fine and Spider-Man continued to be their top seller, even without Ditko. Seems Stan was doing better than Jack then too, and that is a better comparison as it’s the same time frame. I guess we could wax lyrical about Steve’s successes after he left Marvel too.
Some years ago I wrote an article for The Jack Kirby Collector that now seems forgotten, in which I tried to pry apart various steps in Jack Kirby’s return to Timely/Atlas, called “When Jacob Met Stanley”. Kirby returned twice, one in 1957, when he was without work because Harvey had shot down their ‘horror’ version of Black Cat after he and Joe Simon had just landed there (for a full year, a simple fact no comic historians seems to have noticed). He left again when he got work from DC. As Gary states, he returned again after the Atlas Implosion. I too made the suggestion (based on information we can get from the various job numbers and Dick Ayers notes about delivering certain stories) that it was equally possible that Kirby came in looking for work or was asked to come in by Stan. Since than, Michael Vassallo has convinced me that it must have been Stan who called Kirby and Ditko on the Monday after the Saturday Maneely died. Don Heck was called as well and it is his recollection of that, which makes it probable. Eventhough Kirby has always said he ‘saved the company” in fact, he was mainly assigned western, war and romance stories to fill in the gaps left by Maneely’s death. So it seems Stan was just going ahead with the post implosion plans to slowly crawl back with a reduced number of titles. Kirby may have suggested not to scrap the ‘horror’ titles and turn them into science fiction instead, using the monster craze as a temple – but it takes a year before the first regular monster stories appear.
This is in contrast with Kirby’s own account of Captain America in the copyright trial for the character. Kirby said in the 60s that Cap was created in the Marvel offices. In this he said he created Cap with Joe at his house. With his story changing from time to time, I’m not ready to give Kirby all the credit the same way I would never give Stan all of the credit for creating Marvel.
In fairness, a detail like whether it was in his house or in the offices could easily slip by, even if everything else were accurate.
Agreed. Definitely a lot of collaboration involved all round and memories of the details aren’t going to be good, because just like following the previous fashion trends of what was selling well at the time, like westerns. romance, horror etc, this was just the latest trend that was going to get them by until the next popular thing came along, and in this case was triggered by the success of the JLA. No one knew Stan and co were going to change comics forever, so why would anyone make any effort to specifically remember anything? It was just another day on the farm.
It seems to me that Stan seemed to have a different approach to fans and the media – the comments to fans etc were pretty consistent (hence why I tend to believe Stan more than Jack, especially when it’s backed up by others from the bullpen), but with the media it tended to be more for promotion. That has been twisted out of all proportion by some and it’s a shame that people want to make out Stan as a bad guy. Stan took Kirby back twice – the first time after Jack and Joe Simon left after being found to be working for the competition, and again after Jack had been fired from DC when his 4th world books failed. Despite the Funky Flashman nonsense, Stan still gave hid friend work and let him do everything (editing, plotting, writing, drawing), despite Roy Thomas suggesting otherwise (and looking at Jacks solo work, Roy was right). I think Stan treated jack far better than Jack treated Stan.
“I think Stan treated jack far better than Jack treated Stan.”
sycophantic and delusional to a fault.
“sycophantic and delusional to a fault.” Actually, that would be the Kirby zealots.
Mark Alexanders book ‘Lee & Kirby: The Wonder Years’ is a nice balanced work of the two and the first 102 issues of the FF. It’s very telling that on page 154 he says:
“So here’s the paradox: all the Lee-bashing Kirby-centric zealots who claim that Stan practically rode Jacks coattails to fame and fortune *weren’t there at the time*. All the Marvel insiders that we interviewed – who *were* there – are quite adamant that the “Anti-Stan” legions have a warped view of reality”.
Also, if you read this John Romita interview, he goes into detail about how he worked with Stan, and how Stan and Jack would go over plots together etc. One comment he makes is this:
CBA: Stan is a well-loved guy, and he takes a lot of heat, but he’s also a showman and he has that hyperbole.
John: “Oh, he’s a con man, but he did deliver. Anyone who says he didn’t earn what he’s got is not reading the facts. Believe me, he earned everything he gets. That’s why I never begrudged him getting any of the credit, and as far as I’m concerned, he can have his name above any of my stuff, anytime he wants. Every time I took a story in to Stan—and if Jack were reading it, he’d have felt the same way—I had only partial faith in my picture story. I worked it out and I believed in the characters, but I was only half-sure it was going to work. I always had my misgivings. By the time Stan would write it, I’d start to look at that story and say, “Son of a gun, it’s almost as though I planned it,” and I’d believe a hundredfold more in that story after he wrote it than before—and if Jack would’ve allowed himself to, he would’ve had the same satisfaction. I sincerely believe that.
I think Stan deserves everything he gets. Everyone complains, including me sometimes. I used to say, “I do the work, and Stan cashes the checks.” [laughter] It was only a half joke, but it’s the kind of a grumble you do when you’re tired.”
John Romita also says that Stan’s way of working is what saved comics:
At the 2009 NYCC when they asked Dick Ayers at the Silver Age panel who was the most creative person he’d ever worked with, he said Stan Lee.
Quite often in interviews when people would make suggestions that it was all Jack to people who were actually there, the answer would be one that disagreed. For example, the Jack Kirby Collector asked Gil Kane a question, and this was his reply:
TJKC: Jack Kirby said he saved the company when he arrived in 1957, do you believe that?
GK: “He certainly helped. First of all I don’t think it would have been possible without Stan because in the late 50s, Jack was doing all that monster stuff – and believe me, that didn’t make a difference in sales, That just barely kept them afloat. It wasn’t until they started the super-hero stuff that sales started to improve. Stan had a lot do with the characterisation which was appropriate for the time; it was fresh and filled with mock irreverence. And that’s not Jack, that was Stan. Of course Jack was doing superb work”.
So, going on all the accounts from people who were actually there, I’d be inclined to take Jack and his zealots point of view with a pinch of salt. Jack after all, was all about ‘putting food on the table’ and often didn’t care how he did that (Sean Howe’s book Marvel Comics the Untold Story has examples too, and one is how Joe Simon asked Jack why he said he created Spider-Man, which wasn’t true, but the answer was ‘to put food on the table). There are examples of him taking work from other artists like Dick Ayers (read his pictorial bio), so Jack wasn’t exactly squeaky clean himself.
But for some strange reason, people seem to want to paint Jack as the creator in any given situating simply because they want it to be true, and not because it is, and take it away from Stan, usually without any evidence.
Stan was pretty good to Jack and gave him all the aggrandization and promotion he could in the comics. That doesn’t sound like he was being mean to Jack, yet Jack pretty much said that Stan did nothing which clearly wasn’t true and nobody in the bullpen has ever backed up any of those claims. Quite the opposite in fact.
Small mistake in the transcription: you have:
“In order to keep working I suggested to Stan Lee that to initiate a new line of Super Heroes
He submitted my ideas to Martin Goodman the publisher of Marvel” –as though Kirby had lost the thread of one sentence & started another. In fact it’s a single grammatical sentence: “In order to keep working I suggested to Stan Lee that to initiate a new line of Super Heroes he SUBMIT [my emphasis] my ideas to Martin Goodman the publisher of Marvel.” The difference in meaning is subtle but significant. Kirby is asserting agency over the whole process: not just giving the proposals to Stan for Stan’s consideration, but persuading Stan to be his envoy to the decision maker.
Good catch. Fixed.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Whatever Jack may have contributed to conceiving Sgt. Fury, it definitely wasn’t inspired by The Dirty Dozen as that came about four years later.
Fair point, with a possible explanation: the 1965 novel was based on a (probably apocraphal, but definitely well-circulated) story told to the author as true by the filmmaker Russ Meyer, a combat cameraman in WW2. Very possible Kirby knew the story as well, so the movie was just a consolidation of previous army lore.
Okay, i guess that’s possible. Though if so, it didn’t make Fury stick out from any other war book.
Does anyone know the story Kirby was referring to which spun off into the Hulk?
Looks to me as if Kirby was playing his opening gambit in a process of haggling. Sometimes you get nothing for being modest.
Predictable comments as usual in regards to Kirby, his attitude, his work, his right to ownership of his creations, etc. For one thing, it’s complete and utter crap that he “needed” Stan Lee to have a “hit”. (because the be-all, end-all of a work’s success is how much it sells, right? What a pigheaded attitude)
To that one guy here and plenty more of you out there who share the “Jack needed Stan” perspective, have any of you even revisited these comics, both the Marvels you recall fondly and the DC Kirby series that felt off-putting and lacking, since you were young? Here I am, 30 years old and really looking at this old stuff for the first time and I gotta say, the Stan Lee scripted books come off as very condescending, empty, pretentious, repetitive. The complete opposite of his claim that he respected the audience’s intelligence. What he did to the story in Fantastic Four #66-67 is a telling example of this sort of thing, how it needed a clear cut villain, generic mad scientists who wanted to conquer the world, when that was never Kirby’s intention. How is that not insulting? How is that writing for an adult audience, which those old Marvel books were supposedly being catered to?
And here’s another thing, what about that Silver Surfer series? That lasted for just 18 issues, not much more or less than most of Kirby’s post-60s books, but when does that ever come up as an example of Stan Lee having the same kind of “failure”? And Kirby is the one who needed his hand held and somebody else scripting to be successful?
Kirby doing his own scripting, I have found, has actual subtlety in it, believe it or not, and remains exciting, genuinely thought-provoking, considered. The best of his work (eg. New Gods, many Kamandi issues, what I’ve read so far of his run on The Losers) also makes the lesser work stand out more, free of another editor’s influence/tampering. I’m not so blind that I think everything Kirby did is gold, absolutely not. The Demon as a whole was a rather underwhelming read, while the second half of Mister Miracle feels so deflated. But that just makes me cherish his work as a whole even more. A disheartened Kirby is a still an honest and human Kirby. I see very little of that in Stan Lee.
He didn’t need Stan. He needed Martin Goodman. Certainly factually, because he was not a publisher, but also in his own mind – since like most creators at that time he felt dat doing it yourself was not an option. And having lost at least a million in his previous attempt to do it himself, who can blame him.
Tom Brevoort, god bless you! Love your blog and so grateful for it!
IMO, I have always thought that it’s just so stupid that people haggle haggle haggle over a past they were not involved in, when even people that were involved or nearby still only can offer their experience which can still be accurate only to a degree. These were all human beings, they all contributed. Appreciate their best, which for what was intended to be transitory entertainment for 8 year olds has withstood the test of time and has only grown in importance. I was not there, I was not someone who had to feed my family, I was not someone who had to struggle to produce constantly. What is so hard about just giving props to everybody involved who all had not EVERY gift, but specific gifts that when joined together produced in its own way creativity as important as other enduring literature, music, art, etc.
Thank you for letting me think that my thoughts are SO meaningful to others! 🙂