It was an event that signaled a number of endings, some of them permanent. Three of the titles that contained Kirby’s monster stories had transitioned to superheroes, and he already had an origin story for the fourth. His remaining genre work was limited to two western books and a single romance title.
In late 1962, as detailed by Larry Lieber in his 2010 deposition,1 Kirby stormed out of a story conference with Lee and tore up pages of a Hulk story. The pages contain Lee’s notes and a character that resembled Lee.2 They could have been intended for The Incredible Hulk #6, which was published with a March cover date, but ran with a Steve Ditko story in place of Kirby’s.†
In Kirby’s titles that month…
- The Hulk: contained no Kirby content, the first issue since the title’s inception not entirely pencilled by Kirby.
- Journey Into Mystery: contained no Kirby story after 36 consecutive story appearances (from September 1959) in monthly and bi-monthly issues, including the first seven Thor stories. Kirby was also absent from five of the next six issues, with a story in the June issue and a full-time return in October incorporating Tales of Asgard.
- Tales to Astonish: no Kirby story after 31 consecutive issues (also dating back to September 1959), with a Kirby Ant Man installment in each of the previous six. During a hiatus consistent with the one on Journey Into Mystery, Kirby would return after three issues to introduce The Wasp in June and then did three issues with Giant-Man beginning in November. He then did nothing more until Ditko was stripped of the title in 1965.†
- Strange Tales: no Kirby story after he’d missed only one issue in a 39-issue stretch beginning in February 1959, with a Kirby Torch installment in each of the previous five. Kirby had four more Torch stories, including a Captain America tie-in and an X-Men tie-in, spread out over 23 monthly issues before introducing Nick Fury to the title.
- Rawhide Kid (April—there was no March issue): no Kirby story after 16 bi-monthly Kirby issues. February 1963 was his last regular issue with a 5-page story in June and 5 pages in December 1964.
- Tales of Suspense: Kirby’s obvious Iron Man origin story was swapped out for one he’d laid out for Don Heck. It appeared in the following issue, with two more Kirby stories in the following three issues. Kirby was then absent from the title until he began Captain America 15 months later.
Kirby’s work did appear in the March 1963 issues of:
- Two-Gun Kid: there were Kirby stories in eight of the last nine issues dating back to June 1960. This issue was his last.
- Love Romances: ninth consecutive issue containing at least one Kirby story. He had 7 pages this issue and 13 pages in the following issue, which would be his last.
- Fantastic Four (the only title where Kirby’s consecutive issue streak continued unbroken). His FF #12 story featured The Hulk in Marvel’s first Silver Age cross-over (tied with Kirby’s cover on that month’s Amazing Spider-Man #1).‡
The conventional wisdom says that Kirby and Lee got along famously until the Herald Tribune article in 1966, and that Lee had no warning that Kirby would ultimately quit. In 1962, Lee was just finding his way with the redirection of the writing pay and the consequences he could impose for not playing along. Regardless of whose initiative resulted in the dropped assignments, the page-tearing episode is evidence that Lee’s relationship with the freelance creative talent wasn’t the jovial operation he portrayed in the letters pages. From the start, the creator/writers bridled at the “freedom” the Marvel Method gave them to write without pay.
† In 1965, when Ditko demanded and received plotting credit, Lee relieved him of his regular assignment on The Hulk in Tales to Astonish and gave it to Kirby. Dave Rawlins: “I’d say the loss of the Hulk effectively wiped out any financial gain Ditko received via plotting credit for ASM and Doctor Strange, and then some.” 4
‡ Recent issues of the title may have contributed to the Hulk pages incident. Chris Tolworthy: ‘FF 9 is when Lee added credit boxes to claim he wrote it (previously it was just “Stan Lee and J Kirby”), and FF 10 and FF 11 can both be read as attacks on Lee. FF 10 is about Lee not having any ideas, then the villain pretends to be the good guy: they realise he is the villain because he is only interested in himself. And FF 11 has “the impossible man” who looks like Lee and acts like a kid playing pranks. When we put the dates together, it paints a very clear story: Lee steals the writing money; Kirby tells Lee exactly what he thinks; Lee punishes Kirby.’ 4
1 Larry Lieber deposition, 7 January 2011, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 4.
2 Jack Kirby Museum & Research Centre website, Two more unused Hulk pencil pages from 1962 surface!
3 Dave Rawlins, Marvel Method group, 13 February 2019.
4 Chris Tolworthy, Marvel Method group, 15 February 2019.