Good things: what Stuf’ Said gets right

The book is full of great examples of John Morrow’s insight into Kirby’s side of the story. It’s unfortunate that it all gets tossed when a conclusion is deemed necessary.

Stuf’ Said p 17: There’s something Stan fails to mention in his 1998 response, which would lend credence to Jack’s account: That around this time, Marvel is closing its doors, exactly as Kirby states.

Although there was another imminent shutdown coinciding with Kirby’s 1958 arrival, Steve Sherman says Kirby told him this was 1961 (see p 19, below).

Kate Willaert: “One thing that really surprised me was October 1961. Marvel shipped an entire month’s worth of books in the last week of September 1961 (including Fantastic Four #2), and then published nothing in October. Four whole weeks of nothing.” 4

TheThingMasterworksPinup

20-22: (presentation art)

…and…

[Kirby] “I came in with presentations. I’m not gonna wait around for conferences. I said, ‘This is what you have to do.’ I came in with Spiderman, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. I didn’t fool around. I said, ‘You’ve got to do super-heroes.’ I took Spiderman from the Silver Spider—a script by Jack Oleck that we hadn’t used in Mainline. That’s what gave me the idea for Spiderman. I’ve still got that script .”

Very well described. Steve Sherman also mentioned the fact that Goodman was shutting down in 1961, borne out by the lack of product in October (after FF #2 was published).

Steve Sherman: ‘The thing is, if Joe Maneely hadn’t died, things would have been a lot different. I guess you can call it fate, destiny, random events, but Jack probably would have found something else. Yes it was early ’61 that Goodman was going to pull the plug. Don’t forget, the Marvel offices at the time were pretty small, so it wasn’t a big deal to close the office. I would guess that Goodman had not yet informed the printer or engravers, since that would have been bought ahead of time. I would guess that last issues of the books had been sent out. Jack couldn’t let them close. Jack had always been working on ideas for books. He was pretty well aware of what was being published. He always felt that “superhero” books would make a comeback. Since Goodman already had the pipeline going, it wasn’t too much to give it another shot, especially since it was Jack. He had come through before, so why not. As Jack told me, he came up with all of the titles at once. He called it a “blitzkrieg”. He felt if he put out a bunch of new books at once, it would make a splash. He had “FF”, “Spider-Man”, “The X-Men” and “Thor” and “Hulk”. You can believe it or not, but that’s what he told me.’ 5

34[36]: Does the omission, after Stan making sure he is credited for all those previous issues’ plots, indicate that Kirby is the uncredited plotter of #114? For that matter, knowing that Lee was always diligent about including his own credit line, does the lack of a specific “Plotted by” credit in a comic mean the plot was either only partially by Stan, or had no involvement by him at all?

38[41]: Kirby may’ve already been drawing Avengers #6 when Stan writes this, which would indicate Jack is handling the lion’s share of plotting.

Kirby was drawing his story for Strange Worlds #1 in 1958 when he resumed the lion’s share of the plotting. Prior to that he was simply assumed to be the writer of his work.

42[46]: Stan apparently has Don Heck plot Avengers #11, and then redraw the ending after he sees the pencils—because if Stan plotted it, wouldn’t he know ahead of time that it isn’t the real Spider-Man?

Yes.

43[47]: The first couple have credits for “Stan Lee, writer” and “Jack Kirby, illustrator”, but these are identical plots to the 1940s stories, for which Stan had no involvement—yet by default, he’s getting credit for plotting, due to the omission of any mention of the source material.

Captain America is not the exception.

95[103]: Examine this last comment by Lee, and compare it to any other occupation’s real-life workplace. What Stan’s saying here is, instead of hiring (and paying) another employee when he is too busy to do the work himself, he shifts part of his workload to other existing employees (i.e., the artists), but doesn’t pay them additionally for it. So effectively, Martin Goodman is getting extra employees for free, rather than having to hire new ones. This is a great deal for management, but lousy for the workers—it’s no wonder many of the artists come to resent this division of labor.

Nearly correct. Now give Lee the page rate for the writing he’s not doing, which was the motivation for starting the whole process. Effectively, Goodman is paying the same money, but the writing rate is going to the wrong person.

99[109]: Salt shaker: I’d assume, instead of being talked into it, Kirby insisted on dialoguing “The Inhumans,” so any plans he had for them wouldn’t be usurped, like his ideas for the Silver Surfer, Him, and Galactus had been.

Good call.

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109[119]: Funky Flashman.

Nice exercise, followed by some nice detective work in the second edition to determine what might have been the trigger. It goes without saying that the underlying reason is still treated in Stuf’ Said as the elephant in the room. With Mister Miracle #6, Kirby was the model of restraint after ten years subject to the Marvel Method.

116[128]: It makes for great promo copy, but historically, this is simply impossible. The idea that Stan is doing radio interviews about Marvel, prior to Journey into Mystery #83, seems rather far-fetched.

Good call. I think “impossible” outdoes “seems far-fetched.”

116[128]: Was the [Fourth World] series ended for financial reasons as they’ve said?
[Kirby] “No. No financial reasons involved. I can’t make a statement unless I make it in concert with those who make policy.”

This would be a good place to mention the changing market conditions, and Robert Beerbohm’s assertion (in TwoMorrows’ own Comic Book Artist) that The New Gods and The Forever People were targets of affidavit return fraud. This type of speculation involved independent distributors selling comics out the “back door” in “large lots” while being reported as destroyed. Not being a target, Mister Miracle was missed by Carmine Infantino’s hatchet. 6

120[132]: Lee continues to recount the early days of Marvel for the press, and hones his message…

Accurate description.

122[134]: This must be a bogus anecdote, since in 1960, Stan hadn’t been working on any super-heroes for some time. And the “Atlas Monsters” wouldn’t be what he is referring to, as they don’t have “superhuman powers.”

It’s good to point this out, but it’s not done nearly enough in Stuf’ Said.

138[151]: I’m objecting again here, as Lee isn’t fully addressing the issue. He’s completely avoiding any discussion of whether Marvel was about to close when Kirby arrived, and only focusing on the “crying” comment.

Lee’s response is rendered irrelevant by the fact that Kirby’s “blitz” in early 1961 was followed by a lapse in publication for the month of October.

144[158]: After re-reading it in chronological context with all I’ve documented up to this point, much of what Kirby says makes more sense to me now than it did when this was published in 1990, but some sections still seem exaggerated, and understandably bitter…

This is the “but” that vanishes in the last chapter: more needs to be said here. Morrow should have a better appreciation that more of the interview is simply the truth. Kirby is not a bitter or hateful man (see p 5 below, under Just Plain Wrong). The same standard of scrutiny should be applied to Lee’s words.

151[166]: And am I the only one who thinks this idea [Thor using his hammer for transport] is more likely to originate from Kirby than Lee?

No.

151[166]: So, is Lee a credit-hog, who takes any credit that isn’t nailed down, and will stop at nothing to keep others from getting any? He certainly was effusive in his praise for Kirby over the years:
[Lee] “Jack was one of the best artists in the business; one of the best artists I ever worked with.”
152[166]: But giving Kirby a compliment, and giving him equal credit for creating, are two very different things—and this is something that Lee often can’t often bring himself to do, especially in this later era.

This says it all: effusive in his praise, calling Kirby “one of the best artists,” “Lee always gave Kirby credit.” Yet as Ditko wrote in 2008 7, Lee was removing credit for the writing being done by “his artists” (for which he was also removing the page rate). Just to be clear, Lee was removing the writing pay for the work that was already done by his writer/artists, and then publicly providing them with a label that categorized them as artists who executed his ideas. Morrow’s “often” is spectacularly understated; he meant “ever.”

153[168]: I think it’s clear from the evidence presented in this book, that Kirby first developed a “Silver Spider”-based idea for a “Spiderman.” Kirby produced a presentation board with notes about the character. And Ditko’s certain that Stan showed him the first five pages of Jack’s original Spiderman story, which feature a different looking hero on the splash page than the one we know today. So let’s imagine how a similar interview with Kirby, being asked these same questions and adopting Lee’s attitude, might’ve gone…
Here’s a key factor: Kirby didn’t have the same attitude as Lee about it. He repeatedly gave Ditko credit in his comments over the years. It looks to me that Stan views any involvement after an initial idea in someone’s head, as superfluous to the “creation”—and if you take that reasoning to its logical conclusion, Lee would be superfluous in Spider-Man’s creation.

A nice touch. There’s a better case that Spider-Man was a Kirby-Ditko co-creation, and that Lee was the Baldo Smudge-like go-between.

Tuk made a similar observation regarding creation claims: “Both Lee and Kirby have described their version of how the Fantastic Four came about. We could examine their particular claims (see appendix 2) but we don’t even need to go that far. Whenever Lee talks about the origin of the Fantastic Four… [he] talks about himself for half the time. Then he talks about the surface details: these characters have superpowers. He then talks about what made them different in the most abstract way: they had real emotions and problems, but which emotions? Which problems? Why should a reader care? Now compare how Kirby describes what happened… note how Kirby talks about the underlying motivations, the feelings, what made each individual character different. Kirby knows what drives the characters as individuals, and hence where conflicts would arise. So who is more likely to have written these conflicts? Lee or Kirby?” 8

154[169]: Here’s my problem with this: If Lee wrote this synopsis before ever even mentioning the concept for the Fantastic Four to Jack as he’s claimed, how can he not be sure whose idea it was to originally keep Sue permanently invisible? It’s right there in Stan’s synopsis, so it has to be his idea if he hadn’t talked to Jack about it prior to writing it.

Exactly. Unfortunately Morrow’s skepticism doesn’t come across in other places in the book.

NEXT: Assumes facts not in evidence
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Footnotes

back 4 Kate Willaert, “Early Days of Marvel – Release Schedule,” kirbywithoutwords blog, 21 February 2016.

back 5 Steve Sherman by email to Patrick Ford, 2018.

back 6 Robert L. Beerbohm, “Secret Origins of the Direct Market,” Part One, Comic Book Artist #6, Fall 1999, and Part Two, Comic Book Artist #7, February 2000.

back 7 Steve Ditko, “He Giveth and He Taketh Away,” The Avenging Mind, © 2008 S. Ditko.

back 8 Tuk, The Case for Kirby, zak-site.com.

Good things: what Stuf’ Said gets right