Lieber comes into his own

In 1998, Stan Lee was fired, then re-signed by Marvel; it was the same year he began fighting back against Kirby’s TCJ interview. His accomplices were Roy Thomas and Alter Ego/Comic Book Artist. Some new threads were introduced into the narrative, including Larry Lieber.

At current count, Lieber scripting for Kirby on the monster books was first mentioned in 1995: thirty-five years after the fact, the surprise addition of Lieber to the non-existent credits is so compelling that John Morrow will build a narrative out of it (see p 19 under Just Plain Wrong). Lee and Lieber are given the benefit of the doubt.

Stuf’ Said 18: Larry Lieber: “I remember Jack Kirby was usually doing the lead story, and Don Heck was there. Ditko used to do the story at the end of the books, and later he and Stan did Amazing Adult Fantasy. At the time I had a room in Tudor City, and I was writing stories for Jack to draw. Jack was so fast, and I was learning to write.

“I remember that Kirby was so fast he could draw faster than I was writing! Stan would say to me, ‘Jack needs another script!’”

Questions raised by Lieber’s 1999 interview comments:

  • Did the end product benefit from Kirby being supplied Lieber’s scripts?
  • Did Kirby receive the scripts? Did he receive them before or after he pencilled a story?
  • Was Lieber keeping up with Kirby’s output while writing full scripts so soon after learning to write?
  • Was Lee busy enough to have to devise the Marvel Method if his brother was writing full scripts for Kirby? (no… see p 23 under Lee misrepresents.)

Lieber’s 1975 Atlas bio doesn’t mention monster stories.

LieberAtlasBio

Lieber’s 1975 Atlas bio does contain this: “…Stan himself (who taught me that dialogue is more important that captions, and pay vouchers are more important than either).”

22: [Lieber] “When Stan saw that the strips had potential, he started writing them, and he was working with Jack. Then, I think he was doing so much that he found it was better—and also, when you’re working with a guy like Jack—Jack was very creative, and wanted to put a lot of things into it. Jack always welcomed doing it, I’d imagine, to some extent.”

Is there a germ of truth in Lieber’s statement? First the falsehoods or misinformed speculation:

  • “[Lee] was doing so much”;
  • “Jack always welcomed doing it, I’d imagine”.

Here’s the kicker: Lee started “writing” the strips when he saw that they had potential. In May 1961, he found a dent in his income when the Willie Lumpkin newspaper strip was cancelled and Goodman pulled the plug on the comics operation. Kirby proposed his character blitz. Lee saw Kirby’s writing pay and considered the “potential” of making it his own. Before he saw the potential, he hadn’t started “writing them.”

25[26]: Of course, the existence of a full script by Lieber, doesn’t mean Kirby and Lee don’t first have a creative conference, before Stan gives Larry a plot.

The absence of any script by Lieber doesn’t mean he wasn’t writing full scripts for somebody, but Lieber getting a plot from Lee generally indicates Lee recently had a story conference with Kirby.

28[30]: There are no credits listed in Strange Tales #101–102, and #103–105 lists “Plot: Stan Lee • Script: Larry Lieber • Art: Jack Kirby.” Stan is never one to omit his own credit, so the blatant inconsistency probably isn’t his doing. This means either Larry Lieber and/or Jack Kirby plotted and dialogued those first two Strange Tales episodes—and frankly, the lame explanation that appears in #106, which is plotted by Stan and dialogued by Lieber, feels like it is awkwardly shoehorned in at the last minute.

Lee’s best plots are dispensed after a story conference with Kirby. Lieber already admitted he’s not a plotter (see p 19, Lee was not a plotter).

69[75]: [Thomas] “…I saw Stan’s plot for Fantastic Four #1, but even Stan would never claim for sure that he and Jack hadn’t talked the idea over before he wrote this.”

The quote is dated 1997 but was published in early 1998. It was the year Lee signed his new contract, and Thomas and Lee took their fresh remembrances to the pages of Comic Book Artist. Morrow already pointed out that Lee claimed precisely what Thomas said he never would…

155[169]: Based only on [the portrayal of Sue Storm in the plot outline], they must’ve talked out the idea first.

…and he really doesn’t hold with any of Thomas’ FF #1 plot outline nonsense. Morrow wrote on p 22 that [in the presentation art scenario], “the FF synopsis is historically irrelevant in determining who does what in creating the FF.”

149[163]: At a time when most people slow down or retire, Lee’s own journey seems to be just getting started. In 1998, he signs a contract making him Chairman Emeritus of Marvel Comics for life.

TURNING POINT!

This truly does mark a turning point. Thomas’ remark about the FF #1 synopsis, published earlier that year in TJKC (see p 69 above) didn’t go unnoticed, and he was brought on board to help combat the forces of (the now dead) Kirby’s TCJ interview.

Lee was given the space in Alter Ego to rebut the Thomas synopsis statement using the same precise wording, and the pair staged an “interview” to lay out the agreed-upon story. (The “interview” is said to have been recorded in May, while Lee was fired on or about 30 July as part of Marvel’s bankruptcy proceedings.) Coincidentally, Thomas would soon be appointed writer of the Spider-Man newspaper strip, at which point he presumably had to sign the Marvel employment agreement. Herb Trimpe mentioned such an agreement in his NYT article, in which he agreed not to badmouth the company or Lee in exchange for his severance benefits.

At the same time, the decision was made to go public with the fact that Larry Lieber wrote full scripts for the Kirby monster stories which had been problematic for this scenario. From this moment forward, Thomas would never be more certain of the authenticity of a document as he is of any synopsis Lee might turn up.

NEXT: Morrow waffles
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Lieber comes into his own