Assumes facts not in evidence

Stuf’ Said p 4: Lee’s m.o. was giving characters “hang-ups,” like Iron Man’s weak heart, Daredevil’s blindness, Spider-Man’s—well, acne, heartburn, post-nasal drip, allergies, chronic halitosis, and a dozen other maladies, depending on what Stan Lee interview you were reading.

“Lee’s m.o.”: this statement assumes facts not supported by the evidence. In this case, Lee says it’s his m.o.: Kirby had squabbling teammates in The Newsboy Legion, Boy Commandos, Boys’ Ranch, The Three Rocketeers, and Challengers of the Unknown; the science involved tells us Iron Man’s weak heart was undoubtedly built into Kirby’s concept pages/origin story; Daredevil’s blindness was introduced by Bill Everett; and it’s easily proven that the emphasis on non-action scenes in Amazing Spider-Man was supplied by Steve Ditko.

Ditko wrote that Lee wanted more costumed fighting and less interaction of Peter Parker at school: “Stan Lee did not like my playing up the school context, of using panels with Peter Parker (PP) being involved with his classmates. He wanted Spider-man (S-m) to get into action as fast and as often as possible. Stan rightly believed that the costumed hero is what the comic book is all about–a costumed hero in action. But PP/S-m, a teenage hero, should be seen, understood, in his teenage context, environment. His normal (non-hero) life can’t just be shown in some brief transitional sequences between a number of hero/villain clashes.” 9

Much like Susan Kirby’s “Sue Storm” story covered by Morrow (Stuf’ Said p 21), Wendy Everett told Blake Bell that her dad added Daredevil’s blindness because his daughter was legally blind. After the claim was brought to his attention, Morrow seemingly grudgingly included it as a possibility in the second edition [37]: “although in real life, the daughter of the new strip’s artist Bill Everett is legally blind, so it may’ve evolved from that.” (Blindness remains on Lee’s list of creations at the start of the book.)

Lee further made it known to and through his readers that he was the one who instilled humanity in the characters and made them individuals with his dialogue, but this is laughable. Lee was the great homogenizer: his male hero dialogue is interchangeable between titles. You can verify this by reading it aloud.

KIRBY’S CONTRIBUTION

4: As the 1960s wore on, Jack was doing more of the work, via the “Marvel Method,” where the “artist” was responsible for much/most/all of the plotting and pacing of the stories, while the “writer” concentrated on the words in the caption boxes and balloons, after the drawn pages were completed and the story totally fleshed out.

Kirby maintained that he worked this way from the start; what evolved was his method of conveying his written story to Lee. Prior to margin notes, Kirby wrote in the balloons or explained the pages in detail to Lee in person (necessitating Lee’s margin notes). He instituted margin notes to avoid face-to-face story conferences when the situation became intolerable. Lee encouraged the idea that margin notes marked his decision to give Kirby “free rein” because it gave Lee unlimited credit for the writing up to that point.

LEE’S PERSONALITY

5: From the start of his career, Lee’s personality won people over. Co-workers mostly adored him while he spent two decades cranking out unremarkable stories for Marvel, beginning in 1941. But until Kirby and Ditko arrived in the late 1950s, there were no notable characters created by him, super-hero or otherwise.

“Lee’s personality won people over”: Morrow has given us the Disnified version of Lee. Contrary to this depiction, Lee’s personality did not win him any friends at work.

Paul Wardle: “Harvey Kurtzman claimed that Lee would return his original art to him (strips such as Hey! Look! that Timely published in the 1940s) only after drawing a big ‘X’ through them with a black grease pencil. He also said Lee would sit on top of a filing cabinet and force the employees to bow to him on their way to work. Stan was reportedly an ‘enfant terrible’ in those days, having been promoted when still a teenager by publisher Martin Goodman after the departure of Simon and Kirby.” 10 Rick Veitch accurately captured this side of Lee with his Funky-like portrayal of the team Stanley Burr and Jack Curtis in Boy Maximortal #1.

Boy Maximortal
Stanley Burr in Rick Veitch’s Boy Maximortal #1.

Wallace Wood (years with Lee: 1964-65): 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. 11

52[56] Wallace Wood: “I want the credit (and the money) for everything I do! And I resent guys like Stan Lee more than I can say! He’s my reason for living… I want to see that no-talent bum get his…” (Sometime between 1976–1981: Wallace Wood’s letter to John Hitchcock)

Gerry Conway: Stan has always had that quality of kindly insensitivity. I think he’s basically a nice guy, he wants to be a nice guy, he does want to be nice to his employees, but I don’t think he’s terribly sensitive. If he is made aware of you as an individual, he’ll probably be very nice, but making him aware of you as an individual is the problem. He’s kind of self-centered in that regard… 12

John Romita: Around 1957 was when Stan and I were at our lowest ebb in our relationship. In the last year, he cut my rate every time I turned in a story. He was not even talking to me then… 13

Roy Thomas (1965- ): “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…” 14

Wood, Romita, and Ditko all cited Lee’s silent treatment. Ditko wrote 50 years after the fact that it’s what drove him away.

John Romita: So I called up Zena Brody, the romance editor at DC—she was a nice girl and a pretty good editor, too—and told her I couldn’t do any more for her, and she was very upset. She said, “Gee, I was counting on you.” She was talking about doing a steady series with me. I told her, “I’m sorry, but Stan Lee is giving me the bulk of my work.” She said, “We’ll try to get you more work.” But I said, “I have to decide now because I can’t gamble. If you can’t give me the work Stan is giving me, then I’ll be out.” And then, six months later, he let me go through his secretary… when it came time that he ran out of money and had to shut down, or cut down to the bone, I had done two or three days’ work, ruling up the pages, lettering the balloons, and blocking in the figures on a story—and here comes a call from his assistant… and she says, “John, I have to tell you that Stan says to stop work on the Western book because we’re going to cut down on a lot of titles.” I said to her, “Well, I spent three days on it. I’d like to get $100 for the work, to tide me over.” She said, “Okay, I’ll mention it to Stan.” I never heard another word about the money, and I told Virginia, “If Stan Lee ever calls, tell him to go to hell.” [laughs] And that was the last work I did for him until 1965… 13

Michael J Vassallo, Snyder-Ditko Appreciation Society (group), 22 September 2018: I’ve probably spoken to as many ex-creative staff from the 1940’s and 1950’s than anyone has. The preponderance of the attitudes was that Stan was a lord-it-over type boss. That’s not my opinion, it’s what I got from others. Sure some say “Stan was great”, but more said he was not. Numerous accounts exist of Stan pretending to fire people in the 1940’s and then saying he was only joking. Read Cal Massey’s interview where he relates how Stan would sing “massas in the cold, cold ground” when he (an African American) would come up to pick up a script. There’s Stan telling Jaffee to watch his ass because some new artist was possibly going to replace him (Jaffee quit on the spot). It goes on and on. Things like that. They far outweigh the better stories about Stan. Things like that are black and white. No opinions or guessing or interpolation is needed.

Jim Amash interviewed Cal Massey (1951-57) for Alter Ego #105, October 2011.

MASSEY: I walked into the room and Stan Lee said, “Massey’s in the cold, cold ground.” I sat down, and he said, “Messy Massey.” Then I got up and started to leave, when Stan asked me where I was going. I said, “I thought New York had grown past this sort of thing. Have a nice day.” Then, Stan said, “Massey, get your ass back here. How many stories can you turn out a month?” Of course, after that, he could say anything to me. [mutual laughter]

JA: Explain to me the “Massey’s in the cold, cold ground” reference.

MASSEY: Stan was making a play on the lyrics of a song from the South that was written during slavery times, and I didn’t like it. He explained that to me, saying, “I just wanted to see what kind of character you had.”

Jim Amash interviewing Al Jaffee (1942-56). 15

JA: Stan Goldberg told me he was let go at the end of 1949, too. This is the way I understand it: every week, somebody was let go, and eventually everyone was let go. It was building up to a mass firing. Rudy Lapick is sure of the date because he got married in May 1948, and when he came back from his honeymoon, he discovered he was out of a job… What made it tough for Rudy is that he said Stan used to come up to him and, as a joke, say, “You’re fired.” He didn’t like being teased like that.

JAFFEE: Oh, Stan teased people like that all the time. I liked Stan and we got along pretty well, but it’s like a marriage. You like certain things about the person you’re with, and you’re not crazy about other things. Stan toyed with people, including me, without realizing that underlings get very scared when someone they depend on for their living is joking about things that may affect the way they make their living. But I would have to put it in a certain context. I don’t think Stan ever did anything to be cruel. It was just his sense of humor; he wanted to get a rise out of you, that’s all. If Stan were apprised of the fact that the person’s feelings were hurt, he would instantly say, “Oh, gee, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”

JA: I’m sure of that. But it’s one thing if the staffers tease you, and another if the boss does…

JAFFEE: […] Stan was always half-joking, but sometimes people would take it the wrong way and think he was making fun of them, or shaking them up, or trying to get them to worry about shaping up, because he would make a joke. In this instance, his joke was, “Al, you’d better look to your laurels. Look what someone just did as a sample.” Someone had just done a sample for Patsy Walker, and he showed it to me. It was a beautiful piece of work. Stan continued in that vein, “Well, you know, you’re going to have to measure up to this stuff.” The guy he was talking about eventually ended up being one of his top artists. I said, “Stan, I don’t want this to sound bad or anything, but I think you ought to give one of my books to this guy.” I was dead-tired and a little bit angry. Then I said, “Why don’t you give this guy the book I just brought in? I have to go now. I’m very tired.” I gave Stan the pages and drove home. When I got home, my wife said that Stan called, and was sorry and didn’t mean what he’d said—that it was just sort-of a joke that went wrong. I called Stan and said, “I think I’ve had it with doing Patsy Walker anyway. I’m finished with Patsy Walker.” [Jaffee quit.]

Daniel Keyes (1952-55): “Well, Stan was tall, skinny. And the shyest person I had ever met up until that time. He would not talk to anyone. He’d hole up in his back office… That shyness. He was very supercilious. He was way above all of us. I think Martin Goodman looked down on him. I intuited that. So I think, in a sense, Stan kicked people below him.” 16

Jim Amash interviewing Jack Katz (1953-55). 17

JA: What was Stan like?

KATZ: Extremely efficient, cold, indifferent, and unmoving.

JA: That’s very unlike the image we all have of Stan.

KATZ: He had a serious attitude, almost arrogant.

Roy Thomas: The thing that was truest in that article was the analysis that Marvel has had a tendency in recent years to be very vindictive toward people who leave it to work for the competition. They go far beyond any kind of professional reaction. Stan generally has reasonably good and humane instincts, but once in a while he’ll just decide that if somebody does something, he’s never going to work for Marvel again. He did this with Len, and with Gerry, though to date he’s never said it about me. 18

65[71]: After this sees print, that summer, Burgos’ daughter sees her father destroy everything he has pertaining to his comic book career.

Susan Burgos: “I never saw his collection until the day he threw it all out… there was a whole pile of stuff in the yard… I got the impression that he either lost the case or something else had happened pertaining to it… I grew up believing that he came up with this fabulous idea, and that Stan Lee took it from him.”

Stan Lee to Nat Freedland, New York Herald Tribune, 9 January 1966: “Ditko thinks he’s the genius of the world,” and, “He just drops off the finished pages with notes at the margins and I fill in the dialogue.” [Ditko didn’t use margin notes, and he was already gone at the time of this interview.]

Stan Lee, speech, Princeton University, March 1966: Now we just lost the artist that does “Doc Strange,” Steve Ditko, who also does Spider-Man. [audience gasps and hisses] I feel as badly about it as you do. He’s a very… peculiar guy. [audience laughs] He’s a great talent, but he’s a little eccentric. Anyway, I haven’t spoken to this guy for over a year. He mails in the work, and I write the stories, and that’s the way he liked to work it. One day he just phoned and he said “That’ll be it.”

Note that Lee had altered the story in just two months: Ditko, having quit before the January interview, was getting increasingly difficult to work with, despite no longer being there. Lee then deputized Romita, who’d never spoken to Ditko, to spread the message that Ditko had been difficult. By 1975, Ditko would go from “peculiar and eccentric” (rich coming from Lee but endearing to his fans), to being Hitler to Lee’s Chamberlain (see p 118 under Lee misrepresents).

Dick Ayers received similar treatment. 19

Ayers

From the ‘40s until the early ‘70s, people had Lee’s number. See the Dean Latimer review (p 112 under Further Information).

TURNING POINT!

5: Then suddenly, groundbreaking new series and characters started appearing from 1961–1965, due to an epiphany he had (brought on by the urging of his wife).

“the urging of his wife” leading to “groundbreaking new series and characters”: The Cadence Industries propaganda machine swung into action with Lee as its front man. The FF creation stories began shortly after the acquisition of Marvel, designed to deflect attention from the inconvenient presence of the FF precursor at DC, Challengers of the Unknown.

Lee: Personally, I was bored. I had 20 years of writing and editing comics behind me. Twenty years of “Take that, you rat!” and “So, you wanna play, huh?” Twenty years of worrying whether a sentence or phrase might be over the head of an eight-year-old reader. Twenty years of trying to think like a child. And then an off-hand remark by my wife caused a revolution in comics tantamount to the invention of the wheel. Eighteen simple words, electrifying in their eloquence and their portent for the future. Each momentous syllable is engraved in my memory:

“When are you going to stop writing for kids and write stories that you yourself would enjoy reading?”

It was a casual question, posed in a casual way, but it really rocked me. It made me suddenly realize that I had never actually written anything for myself. For two unsatisfying decades I’d been selling myself short, sublimating any literary ability I might have in a painful effort to write down to the level of drooling juveniles and semicretins.

“Nevermore!” I shouted. “Nevermore will I fashion my tales for the nameless, faceless ‘them’ out there. Henceforth, I will write for an audience of one; an audience I should have no trouble pleasing, for I certainly know what turns me on.” 20

Lee: “The top sellers varied from month to month, in cycles. Romance books, mystery books. We followed the trend. When war books were big, we put out war books. Then one day my wife came to me and said, ‘You’ve got to stop kidding yourself. This is your work. You’ve got to put yourself into it.’ So I did.” 21

Citing the latter quote, Morrow himself revealed the key to the timing of these stories:

108[118]: This [1971] article also contains the first instance I’ve found of Stan giving credit to his wife Joan for pushing him to put more of himself into his comics work.

Jason Goodman framed the story differently…

“Stan Lee said he was gonna quit. This one is easiest to disprove with evidence and even Stans own words. In the early 70s Stan’s story was that Miss Joan said ‘when will you realize this is permanent’ not ‘do it your own way’.” 22

After noting the problem with the timing of the Joan Lee story, Morrow admitted it as evidence.

Lee: Be that as it may, Martin mentioned that he had noticed one of the titles published by National Comics seemed to be selling better than most. It was a book called The Justice League of America and was composed of a team of superheroes. Well, we didn’t need a house to fall on us. “If The Justice League is selling,” spake he, “why don’t we put out a comic book that features a team of superheroes?” 23

124[136]: [Lee] “He said to me, ‘You know, Stan, I found out that DC Comics has a book called the Justice League, and it’s selling pretty well. Maybe we ought to do a book with a lot of superheroes.’”

As with the Joan Lee item, it’s instructive to look for a mention of the JLA story predating the early ‘70s when Lee and his ghostwriters were preparing Origins of Marvel Comics: there are none. The TwoMorrows book, The Stan Lee Universe, collects a number of Lee interviews, but has only a single mention of the JLA story: the Jay Maeder interview, purportedly from Comics Feature in 1974 (also printed in Alter Ego #74), the same year the tale appeared in Origins. It is perhaps a strange circumstance that the Maeder interview also contains a version of the Joan Lee story, one much closer to the way Jason Goodman would relate it decades later:

Lee: …my wife said to me one day, Stan, when are you gonna realize this is permanent? And instead of looking to do something sensational in some other field, why don’t you make something sensational about what you’re doing? I mean, you’re writing, you are creating…do something really good.

Back on p 19 in the second edition, Morrow has prefaced the section on Kirby’s “blitz” story with yet another Lee JLA quote. In both editions, he cleverly displayed the cover of The Brave and the Bold #28 (first appearance of the JLA) on the same page as that of FF #1. Morrow is slyly suggesting, as early ‘70s Marvel re-historians would have you believe, that one was the inspiration for the other. Left out is the one that predates both by more than two years, the one that those historians were trying to suppress: the obvious inspiration for the B&B cover, and the direct antecedent to the Fantastic Four.

Showcase12Challs

The more obvious reality is that the inspiration for the Fantastic Four was the Challengers of the Unknown rather than the JLA, and Lee’s mid-career revival was inspired, not by his wife, but by Jack Kirby.

SCRIPTS

15: JOE SINNOTT: “…He did full scripts for every story he wrote during the 1950s until the Comics Code Authority pushed the comic book industry into near bankruptcy and oblivion. He really is a prodigious, tireless worker.”

Sinnott’s statement is at odds with the evidence which suggests Lee trafficked in the scripts of others but didn’t write them himself. The Atlas Tales website lists credits for Lee, signed and/or speculative, and Michael Vassallo has extensively catalogued Lee’s writing.

Michael J. Vassallo, The Marvel Method group, 7 May 2019: “My discussion with Joe [Sinnott] this weekend included me telling him that all the stories Stan Lee gave him from the pile of scripts on Lee’s desk were written by other writers, not Stan himself. Joe didn’t even realize this, as didn’t Bernie Krigstein, who assumed those tepid post-code fantasy stories he drew, were Stan’s, just because Stan handed them out.”

KEYES: At first I just edited them. Writers would come in. I would bring the synopses in to Stan. He would choose a number of them, but I was the front man. I would sit up front. I would deal with the script writers, the artists. They would bring the stuff to me. I would bring them back to Stan. I was a go-between. Eventually, I started writing them. And I was pretty good at it… We worked our asses off. I’d get the synopses. I’d read them, and select a number, bring them to Stan. He would then weed them out again. He had a regular stable, so we gave preference to those. Usually, they were all written by the same writers…

WM: Stan Lee is today considered one of the great comic book writers. Was he writing many comics in those days?

KEYES: Not to my knowledge. He edited, I guess. He was a businessman, as far as I was concerned. And a shy businessman is almost an oxymoron. I’ve never thought of Stan as a writer at all. So that surprises me. Of course, he might have been turning in comics for a few extra bucks, doing it under pen names so that Martin Goodman wouldn’t know about it. I never thought of Stan as a writer. He says that he created Spider-Man. I never thought of him as a creative person. It could be that one of the writers created it and sent in a synopsis. And it got picked up. But of course he’s become a multi-millionaire for that stuff. 24

Steve Ditko: “Lee never wrote a full script for any work I did at Marvel.” 25

BlackMagic4p11

PLOT OUTLINES

27[28]: Kirby draws Fantastic Four #8 this month, working from a partial synopsis for the first 13 pages which is known to exist; Lee sends it to fan Jerry Bails in late 1963, and it appears in his fanzine Capa Alpha #2. But the Puppet Master ending is an almost exact copy of a 1951 Black Magic #4 story Kirby drew titled “Voodoo on Tenth Avenue.” So Kirby is heavily involved in at least the plotting of #8’s final chapter, if not the entire book.

Assumes facts not in evidence. Late 1963 puts it over a year after the fact. Kirby cannot be determined to have “worked from a partial plot outline” simply because one is known to exist: why give it a free pass? The FF #8 “synopsis” is an even bigger fraud than that for FF #1 (see p 69 below): the one for the origin may have been re-purposed in the ‘90s but this one, whether written immediately after the story conference or immediately before mailing, was used to misrepresent the writing process to Bails. Yes, Kirby plotted the entire book because Lee was not someone who plotted stories for Kirby.

37[40]: Over the November 28 Thanksgiving holiday, Roy Thomas sees the partial plot synopsis for Fantastic Four #8 (typed circa April 1962) at Jerry Bails’ home. Stan Lee had recently sent it to him (probably on November 18, as a handwritten cover letter from that date exists saying, “Jerry, so where’s our trophy? The FF”). This is the issue that features an ending nearly identical to a 1954 Kirby Black Magic story.

“typed circa April 1962” assumes facts not in evidence. “Roy Thomas sees the partial plot synopsis for Fantastic Four #8 at Jerry Bails’ home.” Where, when, and with whom Thomas encountered the item is undoubtedly cemented in his memory because of other events that week, but what does it prove?

Thomas having seen the “partial plot synopsis” in person proves:

  • it was typed before it was mailed to Bails, and presumably on or before the 18th.
  • it was mailed over a year after FF #8’s publication date (9th August 1962).
  • it was typed no later than 28th November 1963, when Thomas saw it.

Thomas having seen the “partial plot synopsis” in person does not prove:

  • Lee typed it before Bails requested it.
  • Lee typed it before a story conference with Kirby. *
  • Lee typed it.
  • Kirby ever saw it.

* the recurring event where Kirby maintained he typically imparted a story to Lee.

The existence of the plot outlines doesn’t automatically indicate proof of creation, or pre-pencilling plotting. They’re only seen or found in Lee’s desk or office rather than in Kirby’s possession (where they’d be expected given their stated purpose), but location aside, there’s still nothing to indicate that Lee typed anything before Kirby gave him the plot. Like any of the typed notes ever mentioned by Lee, Thomas, or Flo Steinberg, they are at best the record of story conferences (see also p 66 below). At worst they’re after-the-fact fabrications.

The end of the story is missing from #8’s outline, which is convenient because as Morrow noted, the ending is verifiably all Kirby. Thomas offers abundant explanations for this. He later suggests (p 69[75]) that Stuf’ Said readers can play at home by filling in their own explanation for the #1 outline’s logical deficiencies. He cautions against falling for the obvious and most likely answer.

64[70]: Stan Lee goes on his first-ever vacation (likely needing a break after the loss of Ditko, and the stress with Kirby over the New York Herald Tribune article), and leaves Kirby to both draw and dialogue the S.H.I.E.L.D. story for Strange Tales #148 after plotting the story together. Lee noted in an interview: [Lee] “I [did] a little editing later, but it was [Kirby’s] story.”

81[87]: Discussing the 1966 Strange Tales #148 story Kirby dialogued: [Lee] “We had both plotted that out before I left, but he put the copy in on that one…”

“after plotting the story together” assumes facts not in evidence. Lee wasn’t a plotter. “We had both plotted that out before I left” means they had a story conference, which means the plotting was done by the usual plotter.

Richard Kyle: “By the way, in discussing just what Jack did and what Stan did, no one seems to refer to that SHIELD story in Strange Tales #148, mentioned by the San Diego panel in another connection. In an editorial, Lee mentions specifically that Jack was going to write the story while Stan took a vacation. I recall turning to the story, wondering if it would be different from the regular SHIELD yarns, and being a little surprised that it read the same as the others—which I had believed Lee wrote… By that time, I realized that Lee was simply a dialogue writer, not a story writer…” 26

69[75]: [Roy 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.”

On this page Morrow gives Thomas carte blanche to defend the FF #1 plot; he also lays out a couple of issues he has with the document, here and on p 156[169]. The year after the above interview, even before Lee signed his new contract, Thomas was persuaded to walk back his cynicism. Neither Lee nor Thomas is known to have addressed the issue of chapter breaks in plot outlines.

FF PLOT TIMELINE

1963: Lee sends plot outline of #8 to Bails, and leads Bails to believe he “writes a one-page synopsis of an entire FF story.” 27

“Late-1960s”: in 1998, Thomas says this is when he saw the FF #1 outline in Lee’s office (he has since revised it to 1966, the date Morrow cites). Coincidentally, PF&C acquired Marvel in 1968 and needed proof of ownership of the properties; on p 69[75] Morrow calls this coincidence a conspiracy theory.

1974: Lee writes that he wrote a “detailed first synopsis” to present his revolutionary creation to Kirby.

1991: in FF #358, Marvel prints what’s later described as the retyped version of the #1 outline, in response to Kirby’s TCJ interview that was published the previous year.

1998 (see Lieber comes into his own, below): the #1 “actual document” is reproduced in Alter Ego v2#2, provided as a photocopy by Lee, by mail.

Steve Webb, Snyder-Ditko Appreciation Society (group), 12 September 2019: If the document had existed when Goodman sold the company, it would have been introduced then. If it had existed when Kirby was presented with the special waiver to get his art back in 1985, it would have been produced then. If it had existed when Kirby gave the most blunt of his TCJ interviews in the early 90s, it would have been introduced then.

69[75]: [Mark Evanier] “[FF #1] feels an awful lot more like Jack’s earlier work than anything that Stan had done to that date. So I find it very difficult to believe…”

If not Evanier’s, then Kirby’s should be the last word on the subject:

GROTH: Stan says he conceptualized virtually everything in The Fantastic Four – that he came up with all the characters. And then he said that he wrote a detailed synopsis for Jack to follow.

ROZ KIRBY: I’ve never seen anything.

KIRBY: I’ve never seen it, and of course I would say that’s an outright lie. 28

Strangely the TCJ quote (above) doesn’t appear in Stuf’ Said.

66[72]: Above is Stan Lee’s plot synopsis for stories Kirby would’ve been starting around March 1966… You have to assume this was given to Jack, prior to him beginning work on any of these stories, and it’s fascinating to see how he took these basic ideas, and built multi-issue arcs out of them—great stories, but they aren’t regarded as his most pivotal work.

Or, and there’s just as much evidence to support this hypothesis, you could “have to assume” that Lee took notes of Kirby plots and had someone type them. (More circumstantial evidence even, because multiple witnesses—including Lee—describe notes being taken, by Thomas and Steinberg, for example, during non-Kirby story conferences.)

Morrow takes a page out of Thomas’ book: the proof that Lee’s “synopsis” came first is in describing what Kirby did with it. Clearly Lee did the synopsis “prior to [Kirby] beginning work on any of these stories” (a phrase that looks like it was shoehorned into the sentence by a lawyer), but oh, look at the wonderful things Kirby did with Lee’s basic ideas, only proving that Lee’s ideas came first. With no evidence to support Morrow’s sequence of events, “you have to assume.”

95[103]: Gene Colan: “Stan had taken on a huge writing load because the company had, a few years earlier, been having financial problems, and he decided to write most of his scripts. But he didn’t have time to sit down and type out a full-blown script, so he would dictate it to me over the telephone, and I would record it with a tape recorder or a wire recorder.”

Lee was provably less busy than before the financial problems. In addition, Gene Colan is not Jack Kirby and is thus disqualified from having his recollection applied to Kirby’s experience with Lee.

ART DIRECTOR

102[112]: Romita will eventually assume the role of Marvel’s art director, but Lee at this time has someone else in mind…

Assumes facts not in evidence. The most accurate statement that could be made here is that decades later Lee claimed he had Kirby in mind. Romita says it’s an honorary title rather than a paid position (see below). Is it necessary even to say anything else to put this fantasy to rest?

102[112]: [Lee] “The one thing I remember and felt bad about when Jack left, was that I had been thinking about—and maybe I even talked to him about it—that I wanted to make Jack my partner in a sense; I wanted him to be the art director and I thought that he could serve in that function and I would serve as the editor.”

Aside from the litany of reasons Kirby could never be art director, this quote needs to be accompanied by the immediate rebuttal from Thomas:

Roy: Also, with Jack being in California, there would have been a geographical problem. 29

Morrow’s mild suggestion that Kirby wouldn’t have been interested treats the alleged incident as though it actually happened. The story should have been dismissed for what it was, a fabrication.

SPURGEON: Another thing that’s unclear to me when I’m tracking your career: at what point did you officially become an art director?

ROMITA: [laughs] It was never official. It was a handshake. It was so unofficial that Stan used to be paid as art director. I never got a penny for being art director.

SPURGEON: That’s not a very good arrangement at all.

ROMITA: I used to say that Stan would give titles instead of salary increases. He would call a person an assistant editor, but not give them a raise. He used to give us nicknames instead of raises. [laughter] That’s why I got so many nicknames. 30

116[128]: On the creation of the Fantastic Four, Origins of Marvel Comics gives what could be Stan’s most accurate, concise account ever of the sequence of events: [Lee] “After kicking it around with Martin and Jack for a while, I decided to call our quaint quartet The Fantastic Four. I wrote a detailed first synopsis for Jack to follow, and the rest is history.”

“most accurate”? Assumes facts not in evidence. While Roy Thomas seems to forget the existence of this quote (see Lieber comes into his own, p 69), Lee is denying the existence of Kirby’s concept sketches. Morrow has been definite up to this point about the concept art, so why not call Lee out at this point for revising history?

LEE’S CONTRIBUTION

159[174]: At the very least, without Lee’s input and sometimes reining in Kirby’s most outlandish ideas, the Marvel books wouldn’t have sold, Jack would have been looking for work elsewhere, and we’d have never gotten far enough along to see a “Galactus Trilogy” or Black Panther debut to argue about.

Morrow is repeating a myth here. The most that can be said about Lee’s contribution is that things might not have been as successful without his “voice” in the comics and his promotion in the text pages. As Tuk shows repeatedly, Lee’s “reining in” amounted to the destruction of solid storytelling by someone who didn’t understand it. He also shows that Lee “collaborating” with Kirby yielded sales numbers to match Kirby’s immediate pre-Marvel figures, and surmises Kirby would have had respectable sales numbers in the ’60s with or without Lee’s involvement. Kirby saw it as his job to make sales, and he knew how to do it using his storytelling skills; as he proved by clumsily dismantling a lot of those stories, Lee was just throwing stuff against the wall.

RoadBlock

“Lee’s input.”

Darrell Epp, The Marvel Method group, 20 May 2019: “ONE gene colan draws a road block. TWO lee forcibly inserts a caption box that says, “That is a road block!” THREE lee tricks millions he’s a writer, and not just a writer, but america’s own mythmaker, what a sweet scam.”

Patrick Ford, same discussion: “Not only, ‘It’s a roadblock (sic).’ Also, ‘A barricade thrown across the road.’ Lee does this constantly. More often than any writer I can think of. This was described in the early ’60s by Jerry Bails who wrote that Lee’s Marvel Method writing consisted of Lee describing the action which was already evident to the reader, and making wisecracks. Perhaps the most succinct description of Lee’s writing ever. And done prior to Lee being canonized.

Jerry Bails: Captions must be limited largely to describing the action in the box, and dialogue must consist mainly of wisecracks, both of which can be added directly to the pencilled drawings. 31

In TJKC #66, John Morrow and Shane Foley showed Kirby’s script and Lee’s resulting dialogue for a page of the 1978 Silver Surfer graphic novel. Here’s page 20, panel 5.

SSGNP20p5KirbyScript
Kirby’s script.
SSGNP20p5LeeScript
Lee’s script.

Michael J Vassallo, Marvel Method group, 2 September 2019: This pretty much in a nutshell sums up the “Marvel Method” that can be extrapolated backwards to the vast majority of silver age Marvel. The advantage here is we have both Jack’s original art with notes, Jack’s typed detailed notes accompanying the art, and Stan’s minimal contribution. All three for the world to see.

Patrick Ford, same discussion: Note how Lee undercuts Kirby’s intent. Kirby says the Surfer’s eye blazes with a steady flame. Lee writes that the spark begins to die.

Dave Rawlins, Marvel Method group, 10 September 2019: Stan Lee’s attitude displayed in his description of what set Marvel Comics apart reveals a serious disconnect with the intentions and goals of Ditko and Kirby. While they were creating comics aimed at young readers they strove to tell serious adventure tales. Lee would have us believe it was all a put on, a pop-art production, if you will. I suppose it WAS a put on for him.

NEXT: Just Plain Wrong
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Footnotes

back 9 Steve Ditko, A Mini-History, Part 11, The Comics, v14 n6, © 2003 S. Ditko.

back 10 Paul Wardle, “The Two Faces of Stan Lee,” The Comics Journal #181, October 1995.

back 11 Mark Evanier’s interview with Wallace Wood as posted to Kirby-L, the Jack Kirby Internet mailing list, 5 July 1997.

back 12 Gerry Conway interviewed by Rob Gustaveson, The Comics Journal #69, December 1981.

back 13 John Romita interviewed by Roy Thomas, “John Romita and All That Jazz,” Alter Ego #9, July 2001.

back 14 Roy Thomas, Robert Kirkman’s “Secret History of Comics” Episode 1, 2017

back 15 Al Jaffee, interview with Jim Amash, published in Alter Ego #35, April 2004.

back 16 Daniel Keyes interviewed by Will Murray, Alter Ego #13, March 2002.

back 17 Jack Katz, interviewed by Jim Amash, Alter Ego #92, March 2010.

back 18 Roy Thomas, interviewed by Rob Gustaveson, The Comics Journal #61, Winter Special 1981.

back 19 Dick Ayers, The Dick Ayers Story, Volume 2, 2005.

back 20 Stan Lee, “How I Invented Spider-Man,” Quest Magazine, July/August 1977.

back 21 Saul Braun, “Shazam! Here Comes Captain Relevant,” The New York Times, 2 May 1971.

back 22 Jason Goodman, grandson, 27 December 2018, tcj.com comments.

back 23 Stan Lee, Origins of Marvel Comics, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1974.

back 24 Daniel Keyes interviewed by Will Murray, Alter Ego #13, March 2002.

back 25 Steve Ditko, “He Giveth and He Taketh Away,” The Avenging Mind, © 2008 S. Ditko.

back 26 Richard Kyle, letter to the editor, The Jack Kirby Collector #13, December 1996.

back 27 Jerry Bails, K-a CAPA alpha #2, November 1964.

back 28 Jack Kirby interviewed by Gary Groth, conducted in the summer of 1989, The Comics Journal #134, February 1990.h

back 29 “Stan the Man & Roy the Boy,” A Conversation Between Stan Lee and Roy Thomas, Comic Book Artist #2, Summer 1998.

back 30 John Romita interviewed by Tom Spurgeon, 2002, posted at comicsreporter.com, 10 August 2012.

back 31 Jerry Bails, K-a CAPA alpha #2, November 1964.

Assumes facts not in evidence