Morrow waffles

Morrow has a number of opportunities to make a decisive call, but waffles to create a false equivalency between Lee’s “truth” and Kirby’s.

Stuf’ Said p 45[49]: By the time work begins on Amazing Spider-Man #25, Lee and Ditko stop speaking to each other, and Ditko deals only with Sol Brodsky when turning in his work.

They “stop speaking to each other”? As Morrow points out below this paragraph, Lee stops speaking to Ditko. Why the equivocation? Even Roy Thomas has portrayed it as one-sided.

Roy Thomas, Robert Kirkman’s “Secret History of Comics” Episode 1, 2017: “By the time I was there, Steve Ditko never came by the office except for a couple of minutes to drop something off, because Stan had decided that there was just no sense in the two of them speaking…”

Roy Thomas, Alter Ego #160, September 2019: “I learned no more, I recall, than that this impasse had come about because Stan and Steve had found they were arguing more and more about stories and the direction of the Spider-Man series. It never occurred to me to ask whose idea the no-speak situation had been; but of course, common sense dictated that it had to have been Stan’s decision. As editor, he was technically Ditko’s superior. Years later, in writings for his friend and partner Robin Snyder’s newsletter The Comics!, the artist confirmed that obvious assumption.”

63[69]: On January 9, the New York Herald Tribune article appears, causing a major rift in the Kirby/Lee relationship. Stan Lee receives an angry phone call this morning from Jack’s wife Roz Kirby, livid about her husband’s portrayal in the article. Every little jab or slight, real or perceived, up to this point could’ve played a role in this reaction.

“Every little jab or slight, real or perceived…” This is an extremely poor choice of words. Is it possible that Roz “perceived” that Lee was signing his name to her husband’s work, or just “imagined” that Lee was stealing his pay? Morrow joins Thomas in minimizing what was an impossible situation for the Kirbys.

126[139]: Kirby feels that there are staffers in the Marvel offices who have been intentionally trying to damage his work and reputation—due to professional jealousy, loyalty to Lee, or resentment over Kirby’s refusal to draw other writers’ scripts.

“Kirby feels”? Why is it necessary to add the qualification? It’s not just an impression Kirby had. Morrow knows, Mark Evanier knows, Robin Snyder knows (and wrote a letter about it). Morrow’s own experience with the malice of the Marvel “staffers” follows on page 127[140] in the book.

Mark Evanier, Kirby-L, the Jack Kirby Internet mailing list, 23 October 1996: Jack’s feelings about this work (and his concern about his letters pages trashing him, which someone else mentioned) will perhaps make more sense if you know that there was at least one editorial staffer at Marvel at the time who was quite vocal in his dislike of Kirby writing, and who felt HE should have the job of doing the dialogue. Jack told me that this guy would phone him up and say, “Well, your new issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA just arrived, Mr. Kirby, and the artwork is breathtaking but everyone here in the office [a gross exaggeration] agrees that the writing is shit. Your books are all bombing, too. The only way you can save your career is to have one of us take over doing the dialogue.” Or words to that effect.

Stephen Bissette, Jack Kirby! group, 10 Sep 2019: I can only imagine how demoralizing this must have been for Jack; I was freelancing at Marvel around this time, and it was heartbreaking to see with one’s own eyes various photocopies of Kirby’s work posted around the offices with “satiric” overdrawings and sarcastic written comments scrawled on them. The utter contempt for and jeering at Kirby’s work for the company was mortifying, and a stern lesson for a budding freelancer working to (maybe) get one’s foot in the door.

127[139]: Stan clearly says here that the writing takes place after the art is in his hands. So as I’ve been demonstrating throughout this book, the term “write” can have many different meanings when pertaining to comics.

Too subtle. There are only two definitions of “write,” the regular one and one you would invent if you were trying to steal someone’s writing pay.

129[141]: Here, Lee is inexplicably equating inkers, colorists, and letterers—who despite their talents, are all basic production people—with the penciler of the strip, who actually contributes to the creation of story and plot. Does this give us insight into his own valuation of anyone who’s not handling the writing end of a comic book?

The words “contributes to” don’t belong in this statement. Lee’s thought processes aren’t worth the scrutiny: he’s stealing.

154[169]: A major portion of Stan’s sworn testimony is kept out of the public record due to a Protective Order that Marvel’s legal team has put in place, and many of the missing pages are frustratingly right where Stan is getting into details about the creation of the Marvel characters that are associated with he and Kirby. Take that as you will.

We have a clear (unredacted) statement from Lee for each of the properties contested that Lee was the sole creator. It’s important to list these to dispense with the idea that he was going to be truthful under oath and back down from any claims mandated by the company. From Stan Lee’s depositions: 54

QUINN: Tell me to the best you can recall, how did the idea for the Fantastic Four come about, and who they were, and what was the back story with regard to the Fantastic Four.

A. Well, as I mentioned, Martin Goodman asked me to create a group of heroes because he found out that National Comics had a group that was selling well. So I went home, and I thought about it, and I – I wanted to make these different than the average comic book heroes.

Q. Let’s talk a little bit about the Spider-Man. How did the idea for Spider-Man come about?

A. Again, I was looking for – Martin said, “We’re doing pretty good. Let’s get some more characters.” So I was trying to think of something different.

Q. And could you tell us how The Incredible Hulk came about? What was your idea for him?

A. Well, same thing. I was trying to – it was my job to come up with new characters and to expand the line as much as I could. So I was trying to think again what can I do that’s different.

Q. Tell us about how Iron Man came about, how he was created, the back story with regard to Iron Man.

A. I will try to make it shorter. It was the same type of thing. I was looking for somebody new.

Q. And how Thor was created and what was your idea behind Thor.

A. Same thing. I was looking for something different and bigger than anything else.

Q. Daredevil. I want to hear about the lawyer.

A. Again I’m trying to think of what can I do that hasn’t been done. And it occurred to me –

Q. Keeping with our discussion, could you tell us about the creation of X-Men? How did that come about?

A. Again, Martin asked me for another team because the Fantastic Four had been doing well. And again I wanted to try something different.

Q. Who created Ant-Man?

A. What could I do that was different?

TJKC1cover
We’ve come a long way from this implicit nod to Kirby’s creations on the cover of TJKC #1.

155[169]: After a 186-page missing chunk of testimony, the deposition picks up with Stan discussing what appears to be his text for Origins of Marvel Comics, and possibly other books where he’s discussing the creation of the Marvel characters…

Note that Marvel redacted material that was detrimental to the brand, not testimony that corroborates their version. It’s important to mention that in 1974, possibly based on a company directive, Lee used Origins to take away credit for everything Kirby did but the art. In the 2010 deposition described above by Morrow, Lee clearly stated that when he wrote the book, he was only being magnanimous to suggest Kirby even did that much. It was a disclaimer to establish that any hint of a suggestion of Kirby creation that might be found in the book was an exaggeration based on Lee just being a great guy.

155[170]: So if they talked about the FF first, Jack then did sketches for Goodman to approve, and later Stan wrote the synopsis, nothing about this scenario is at odds with Lee’s answer. And that’s what seems most likely, and most logical, to have happened, at least to me.

Or, if Kirby wasn’t lying to Groth or Pitts or Eisner or Schwartz or Van Hise or Zimmerman or Steve Sherman, Lee was immobilized by his diminishing career prospects and Kirby stepped in to pitch the concepts out of whole cloth to Goodman.

James Van Hise (see also Good things, p 19) incorporating a Kirby interview into his article… 55

For many years, Stan Lee has taken sole credit for the creation of Marvel’s best-known characters. Lee underscored his claims in his book, Origins of Marvel Comics.

“That’s his version of it,” Kirby observes. “If he wants to say that, it’s his book. If I write my book, you’ll get my side of it. But I can tell you that my side of it is the real side–Stan Lee never created a character. In fact, if you look it up in Maurice Horn’s book, he was amazed, too. He was amazed at the kind of things that came out of Marvel after I got there and the fact that Stan Lee had never created a character before that. What has he created since? Nothing. I don’t think that Stan Lee cares about creating characters. That’s my professional opinion. But as far as writing the stories is concerned, he never wrote the stories–not mine anyway.

“I was a penciller and a storyteller and I insisted on doing my own writing. I always wrote my own story, no matter what it was. Nobody ever wrote a story for me. I created my own characters. I always did that. That was the whole point of comics for me. I created my own concepts and I enjoyed doing that.”

Lee rewrote Jack’s captions and word balloons when he brought the artwork into the office.

“Lee wouldn’t let me put the dialogue in. I wrote the story and made up the characters. I had to tell Stan Lee what the story was going to be. He didn’t know. Nobody’s ever seen Stan Lee write a story. I’ve never seen him write a story–not in front of me. Stan was an editor. I argued all the time about doing the word balloons, but I wasn’t allowed to do them. Stan Lee was editor, and his cousin was the publisher and I wasn’t going to argue with that…”

When Goodman gave Kirby a crack at the unused printing capacity pre-shutdown, then Lee got his name on the project (see p 22, under Lieber comes into his own).

158[173]: I may not like this explanation, but I don’t have any evidence to prove it’s wrong. So I have to give Stan a pass, like I gave Jack on his 1989 “Stan never wrote anything” comment.

This is more false equivalence: the red letters in Morrow’s book consistently represent untruth, often baldfaced enough to elicit a physical reaction. Evidence will eventually emerge to show that Kirby’s comment was based in truth; it should at least be given the same benefit of the doubt that’s always given to Lee’s tale about JLA sales. Morrow has shown the example of Glen Gold’s discovery (see p 86 under Lee was not a plotter). There’s also Melvin Shestack’s claim that Magazine Management writers were sometimes paid to dialogue the comics, and a statement by Roy Thomas in his TCJ interview (where Lee called Thomas “some guy”) that Kirby seems to have quoted word for word.

158[173]: I will say that, ignoring a few minor discrepancies, I found both men have been pretty consistent in their accounts over the years. So no, I don’t think either man is a liar by any stretch of the imagination.

“The Verdict” doesn’t follow from the rest of the book. Based on the evidence in Stuf’ Said, surely a judgment could be rendered on the content, not just the consistency, of Lee’s account. It seems like whenever it’s obvious Lee is lying, Morrow is ready to make the determination that Lee isn’t lying.

159[174]: Lee did it, because he genuinely believes he deserves the credit he is claiming, as seen through his own perception of his input being more important than Kirby’s or Ditko’s. Jack is also guilty of taking too much credit, even if it’s only in reaction to Lee’s grandstanding. You can argue what percentage of credit each man deserves, but they both deserve some of it, and neither deserves all of it.

I don’t think Lee genuinely believed it. I think he started by claiming an “innovation in production” that still doesn’t line up with the facts, to cover up his appropriation of the writing rate. Under Perfect Film the stakes grew higher as Lee became their perfect candidate to claim creatorship; on staff, his creations were the property of the company.

“Jack is also guilty of taking too much credit”? This statement is the most deserving in the book of the “egregious” label, but even amidst a relatively comprehensive collection of six decades of Lee’s misdirection, Morrow could only find against Kirby. TJKC is the wrong place to make this claim: Kirby asked for nothing more than recognition for what he’d done, which was create the properties and write the stories. Even Jerry Bails concluded Lee had fed him bogus information in the ‘60s: “Kirby should be advised to sign on the biggest legal guns and fight for the characters he created.” 56

159[174]: So if I have to render a verdict myself, what would it be? To me, the real guilty parties here are Martin Goodman and the “Marvel Method.” Without them, no injustice would’ve existed—and Goodman is the reason the “Marvel Method” started in the first place. Even as the books began selling well in the early 1960s, Goodman didn’t hire anyone to help Lee with the workload, so having artists involved in plotting became a necessity, and muddied the creative waters.

This is ridiculous. “Writing” half of eight monthly publications, Lee wasn’t busy. See Lee misrepresents, p 23.

Lee’s experiments in credits and credit boxes suggest that he was using them to influence Goodman’s cutting of paycheques, and that Goodman either didn’t know about Lee’s sleight-of-hand, or turned a blind eye. Both Kirby and Ditko admitted that they rarely spoke to Goodman; Goodman’s “promises” are another case where Lee’s story has become fact.

159[174]: Once the “Marvel Method” came into play, Kirby was always at someone else’s mercy in seeing his visions realized in the way he thought they should be done.

Kirby described the feeling to Tim Skelly: “you just couldn’t take the character anywhere. You could devote your time to a character, put a lot of insight into it, help it evolve and then lose all connection with it.” 57 The bigger issue, as he told Gary Groth, was the lack of credit and pay: because of Lee’s machinations these were inseparable, no matter how Thomas spins it.

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Footnotes

back 54 Stan Lee deposition, 13 May 2010 and 8 December 2010, Justia, Dockets & Filings, Second Circuit, New York, New York Southern District Court, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, Filing 65, Exhibit 1.

back 55 Kirby interviewed by James Van Hise, “A Talk with the King,” Comics Feature #44, May 1986.

back 56 Jerry Bails, “We the Undersigned,” The Comics Journal #105, February 1986.

back 57 Kirby interviewed by Tim Skelly, “The Great Electric Bird” show, WNUR-FM, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), 14 May 1971; later published in The Nostalgia Journal 27, Aug 1976.

Morrow waffles