Danny Fingeroth’s Lee biography is an ambitious work, and adds some new information to the discussion. Since it’s a hagiography that pleases its target audience, it’s unreasonable to expect an impartial telling of history.
Fundamental omissions (their absence taints the history the book pretends to tell):
1 It was about the money. Kirby was not then, nor ever, allowed to be perceived as a writer, because Lee was taking the writing pay. Lee cultivated his following by convincing them that not only were they not weird for reading comics, they were smarter than readers of other comics. They were easily convinced that Lee’s teen humour dialogue was the ultimate in writing, and that Kirby wasn’t a writer. Now this belief is repeated without the need to verify it, and millions upon millions of people take it for fact without ever having read a comic dialogued by Lee.
2 Ditko and Kirby were witnesses to history. While Lee was writing the credit boxes, and when he started living up to his Cadence contract, Ditko and Kirby needed to be de-credited as well as discredited. Lee repeatedly said he didn’t know why they left (“I never did know why they left,” should always be read as, “I’m not at liberty to tell you why they left”). He responded to Kirby’s interview claims by suggesting Kirby was out of his mind. In the book and in general, contradictory statements of the two witnesses compared with the official version need to be explained away in terms of the witnesses’ own motivations.
For contesting Lee’s story, Kirby got to be labeled a heretic. People who bring up the fact that other stories exist are called “haters” (see the back cover). Kirby’s take on various events is acknowledged in the book with the admonition that he wasn’t consistent in what he said; his key testimony on critical points is simply ignored, while the credibility of Lee, Lee’s brother, and people who weren’t even there, remains unquestioned. Thus, as Lee would have wanted, some key Kirby and Ditko insights are simply absent. Roy Thomas said in his 1981 TCJ #61 interview, “I think Stan has pretty accurately outlined things, even though in hyperbolic terms, in books like the first Origins of Marvel Comics.” I would submit that Kirby’s interviews, along with Ditko’s Mini-History, tell a more accurate history of ‘60s Marvel.
Just a nice guy
Page 52: “affable, propeller-beanie-wearing… Perhaps Lee/Lieber hadn’t yet learned how to charm reporters.”
78: “Lee’s natural inclination to be friendly and welcoming”
Lee is portrayed as the man who got along with everyone, and Kirby and Ditko are the difficult ones. Fingeroth details the tragedy of Carl Burgos’ destruction of his life’s work in comics at his own hand (pp 165-6); Burgos blamed Lee. Wallace Wood and his “angry departure” are mentioned (155), but not Alex Toth, or Joe Orlando. Dick Ayers, in his graphical autobiography, revealed being smeared to the competition by the rumour of a nervous breakdown; Ayers blamed Lee. Herb Trimpe told us that when he was unceremoniously terminated by Marvel, he needed to sign away his right to badmouth Lee or the company in order to receive retirement benefits.
What is lost in Marvelous Life is the experience of Harvey and Adele Kurtzman (42), who in the ’40s and ‘50s knew Lee lorded it over his employees. Lost are the assessments of Al Jaffee and Gerry Conway, that Lee, although the master at being a pal to his readers, was socially awkward with, even (unintentionally?) cruel to his employees. Heart-warming Al Jaffee stories are included, but the circumstances of Jaffee’s departure are omitted. Mentioned is Joe Simon’s 1966 “The New Age of Comics” (161), but left out is a Joe Orlando-edited Angel and the Ape story (1968): they both portrayed Lee as the one who signed his name to other people’s work. The Dean Latimer review of the 1971 Carnegie Hall show is quoted, but not its portrayal of Lee as someone who spoke in superlatives while saying nothing.
Wood’s experience distills Kirby’s Marvel Method decade, and Ditko’s half decade, to a matter of months. On the cover of his first Marvel book he was touted like no other talent; he was plotting from the start, and made it clear to Lee that he wasn’t going to continue doing the writing while Lee took the writing pay. After finally being credited for writing, Wood was demoted to inker, and quit. In the credits and letters pages, he was then taunted like no other (except maybe Ditko, whom Lee called “the genius of the world” and “eccentric” after his departure). On 5 September 1978, John Hitchcock received a postcard from Wood that said, “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 one reason for living… I want to see that no-talent bum get his…”
Roy Thomas: The thing that was truest in that (earlier TCJ) 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.
Roy Thomas, interviewed by Rob Gustaveson, The Comics Journal #61, Winter Special 1981.
263: “Unlike Kirby and Ditko, [Romita and Buscema] seemed to enjoy their association with Lee and to admire and respect him…”
Romita and Buscema knew what they were getting into because the Marvel Method was already established by the time they were first subjected to it. Neither was a creator/writer like Ditko and Kirby, thus they weren’t submitting their creations and writing to have Lee to appropriate the credit.
BUSCEMA: Did I work at Marvel? I mean, I’m hearing stories I never heard. I don’t recall Stan jumping or dancing because we worked over the phone.
ROMITA: And you used to love the plots right?
BUSCEMA: I hated it.
Marvel Bullpen Reunion 2001, SDCC interview by Mark Evanier, Alter Ego #16, June 2002.
77: “There were rumors of ‘pay-to-play’ editorial kickbacks [at National] and elsewhere.”
90: “Before he’d burned his bridges at DC and returned to Timely, Kirby…”
The second statement needs elaboration. Kirby’s “falling out” at DC was over editor Schiff extorting an increased percentage on Sky Masters by threatening to withhold DC assignments. (Schiff’s eloquent gestures might be characterized these days as a “perfect” discussion.) Make no mistake, the Marvel Method was a kickback of the writing pay, which Lee’s “artists” relinquished after writing the story in order to receive further assignments. The book portrays Kirby as the difficult one because he chose to leave abusive relationships with people who were stealing from him. The men who paid Lee’s kickback did so, not because he was such an affable, welcoming guy or a great accumulator of talent, but because their options were limited. Even Romita, who’d once told wife Virginia to tell Lee to go to hell (65), didn’t return to Marvel until he was “let go” by DC (according to his 2010 deposition). The book words it that he was “left without steady work” (155).
Creation of the FF
Back in the real world, falsehoods were introduced into the Marvel narrative at the beginning of the Cadence era… the Justice League, Joan Lee, the “synopsis.” The book reports on all of them.
72: “Joan Lee would be instrumental in the legend… several years later”
By page 88, the tale has graduated from legend to fact.
The 1960’s Marvel hero era was championed by Jack Kirby pushing Martin Goodman to try heroes again since the moment he arrived in 1958. That it took 4 years is due to the resistance he was up against. The silly story about Stan’s wife being the impetus is creative history hogwash.
Michael J Vassallo, Marvel Method group, 27 December 2019.
Michael Vassallo: Does Stan, on his wife’s advice, finally do comic book stories like he wants to? (Having done a thousand Millie the Model, My Friend Irma, My Girl Pearl, Rusty, Lana, Tessie, Mitzi, Little Lenny, Little Lizzie, Nellie, Kathy, Ginch, Imp, Mrs. Lyons’ Cubs, Willie Lumpkin, et al stories, a smattering of recent westerns, and not a single superhero since 1942).
Does Stan (and Goodman), after constant pushing by Kirby, relent and see what he proposes? (Having already done the most visually exciting superheroes hits of the golden-age, co-invented the romance comics genre, produced some of the most respected genre comics of the genre age, Sky Masters, Challengers of the Unknown for DC, The Fly at Archie, bug powers via an “extract” for Harvey, two different previous Thors, untold powerful monsters, and a score of “ancient gods walking among men” stories).
Stan Lee (1922-2018) – The Timely Years, Timely-Atlas-Comics blog post.
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.
By email to Patrick Ford, 2018.
Kirby related the same experience to Gary Groth in 1989.
87: “Lee was about to resign…”
Let’s get real. Goodman was about to, and did, pull the plug. (No new Marvel product hit the stands during the month of October 1961. An even longer shutdown saw no comic books published from 27 October until 29 December the previous year.) Furniture was being moved, tears were spilled. Kirby presented his concepts to Goodman, Goodman approved one off the pile. At that point, as Larry Lieber himself once characterized it, Lee entered the picture. “When Stan saw that the strips had potential, he started writing them…”
Lieber in conversation with Thomas, Alter Ego #2 (1999).
94: “Assuming that Lee’s plot outline… was the template Kirby used… the synopsis”
Roy Thomas has thrown his reputation behind the so-called document, but Kirby called it “an outright lie.” This is one of the cases where Kirby’s statement on a subject has been omitted.
Like Fantastic Four, Challengers of the Unknown depicted the adventures of four people who form a team after surviving an air crash. The members of the Challengers had personality traits similar to the Fantastic Four. Pilot “Ace” Morgan, like the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards, was the decisive leader of his group. “Rocky” Ryan, like Benjamin Grimm, aka “The Thing,” was the group’s strongman. Daredevil “Red” Ryan was the resident firebrand, much like Johnny Storm. “Prof” Haley was, like Sue Storm, the bland and nondescript member of the group. The Challengers team, like the Fantastic Four, confronted science fiction enemies in a wide variety of fantastic settings.
Furthermore, in light of how important the new Fantastic Four comic was to the firm’s line, it seems implausible to me that Lee would suddenly change this working relationship and not first consult with Kirby on this new book, especially given Kirby’s decades of experience in the superhero genre (e.g. Captain America) and renowned ability to spontaneously and quickly generate so many publishable creations.
After Fantastic Four had been published and was a success, Lee produced a synopsis for the first story which he said was what he gave Kirby to work from. Kirby, however, consistently asserted that he never saw any kind of typed synopsis or treatment for the Fantastic Four.
Expert Report of Mark Evanier, expert witness on behalf of the defendants, Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al, submitted 4 November 2010.
90: Challengers is mentioned as an afterthought, as something with which people noticed similarities. Let’s put it in its historical context, a few pages earlier as part of the “slow but steady superhero revival.” Kirby’s Challengers was given its own title, escaping its Showcase tryout in fewer months than The Flash did. Kirby’s Challengers predated the JLA in the superhero revival by three years, and even without Kirby, was outselling JLA’s Brave and the Bold in 1960, when the JLA would have been around for Goodman to notice. The first JLA cover “paid homage” to Kirby’s Showcase #12 Challengers cover before the similarity was noticed between Kirby’s FF #1 cover and the first JLA cover.
Fingeroth states as fact the speculation that Challengers was co-created by Joe Simon: the Lee saga comes with the need to always portray Kirby as someone who didn’t write and didn’t create. Evanier wrote, “The first SHOWCASE issue of CHALLENGERS was produced out of the Simon-Kirby studio, before it had a publisher, and as with many Joe/Jack projects, it’s a little hard to tell where Simon leaves off and Kirby begins, at least with regard to the writing. Joe says he wrote it. Jack said he wrote it. My guess is they both wrote it. If you buy that, then it’s a question of whether you think co-writing the issue is enough to entitle Simon to co-creator credit. I would think so but it’s not as clear-cut as some other projects.” (Kirby-L, 19 Nov 1996.)
Rich Morrissey responded to Evanier at length. “As for the Challengers of the Unknown, Jack Schiff’s records show that Dave Wood came up with the idea and was paid for scripting the story. I can well believe, and writing style expert Martin O’Hearn has backed this up, that Jack Kirby completely rescripted the story when he drew it, and apparently DC has as well—to the point where they give Kirby sole credit for creating the Challengers, exclusive of Wood…
“But what, in that case, was Joe Simon’s involvement? I’ve never known it to be mentioned by any of the people involved with the title during Kirby’s lifetime, and Ben Oda’s lettering is only a natural result of his work with Kirby, just as Simon and Kirby’s letterer at Marvel on Captain America (Ferguson) came to DC with them when they changed employers in 1942.
“Martin’s comments on the script are telling: “‘What’s his name?’ ‘I’ll bet it’s a corker!’ And: ‘Exactly, sir! Witchcraft! Black magic! Sorcery! Some practiced it. Many feared it. But nobody ever laughed at it!’ Or: ‘Shades of Uncle Zeke’s chicken roost!’ You tell me: did those lines from SHOWCASE #6, the first Challengers story, come from the writer of The Demon or the writer of The Green Team? I guess Mark Evanier, figuring that it originated in the Simon/Kirby office, is working from a false conclusion: that Simon rather than Kirby was the writer there.” (Kirby-L, 24 Dec 1996.)
Goodman was probably aware of the success of Challengers, and had seen DC themselves imitate Challengers with Suicide Squad, Sea Devils, and the JLA. He was nudged into action by Kirby’s presentation, after he’d actually pulled the plug on the comics division; his renowned knowledge of the market may have determined which of Kirby’s concepts to audition first. The idea that Goodman would say, “I’ve taken measures to kill the comics division, let’s have a team of superheroes” is on par with Lee sneaking a hated spider character into a cancelled title, or Lee betting Goodman he could make a success of a war comic with a ridiculous name.
TNJ: After 10 issues of Captain America you left, didn’t you?
KIRBY: Yes, Joe and I went to work with DC. We did the Sandman and The Boy Commandos. We had one thing called the Newsboy Legion which was a pretty nice little strip. Before I left I created the Young Allies for Atlas which was a patriotic strip and actually was the first team strip – in other words four boys. Following that there was four anything. Four boys, four girls, four super villains or super heroes. It became kind of a team thing and it might have been a kind of primitive predecessor to The Fantastic Four. Even before I created the FF I created the Challengers, which…
TNJ: …is the same thing.
KIRBY: And if you notice the uniforms, they’re the same.
Kirby interviewed in 1969 by Mark Hebert, conducted early 1969, appeared in The Nostalgia Journal #30, November 1976, and #31, December 1976.
91: An attempt is made to put the discussion to rest using Mark Evanier’s words from King of Comics: “Among those who worked around them at the time, there was a unanimous view: Fantastic Four was created by Stan and Jack. No further division of credit seemed appropriate.”
By Chapter 21, Evanier is dismayed that Lee didn’t follow this in his deposition, instead doubling down and backtracking on any sharing of credit that may have slipped through in Origins. Evanier “felt that Lee had a responsibility to at least reiterate what he’d said in the past regarding Kirby having been instrumental in creating characters.” Mark’s alternate reality has room for a benevolent Lee but not Disney lawyers.
75: “In later years, Kirby would claim…”
89: Kirby’s version… “inconsistent across various tellings”
222: “…Kirby, who, like Lee, would change his reported recollections and feelings about events over the years…”
Kirby would also make these claims in earlier years. Fingeroth has taken someone else’s word that Kirby’s account was inconsistent. Except for guarding his words when Marvel was the source of his paycheque (late ’60s, 1975-8) Kirby was remarkably consistent because he didn’t need to remember an alternate story that had been concocted for him. See these Kirby Museum links, Interviews and Chronology.
Lee began demonizing Kirby in the 1980s, questioning how he could say the things he’d said in interviews, whether he’d lost his mind.
“I think Jack is really—I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to say anything against him. I think he is beginning to imagine things.”
Stan Lee interviewed by Jim Salicrup and David Anthony Kraft in Comics Interview #5, July 1983.
“I think he’s gone beyond of no return,” Lee said. “Some of the things he said, there is no way he could ever explain that to me. I would have to think he’s either lost his mind or he’s a very evil person.”
Steve Duin, “The Back Story on Stan Lee vs. Jack Kirby,” The Oregonian/OregonLive, 26 June 2011.
In 1998, in discussion with Thomas, Lee laughed off some of Kirby’s claims. This particular book about Stan Lee is governed by Lee’s stated disdain for Kirby’s truthfulness, avoiding some direct quotes from Kirby’s version, and stating multiple times without examples that it was inconsistent.
215: Lee “loudly blew the horn for everyone in his circle… Month after month of Lee telling Marvel’s readers how great Jack was… While Stan Lee had not given Jack Kirby his talent, and while Kirby had a wide and deep professional track record going back to the 1930s, the fact was that his current high-profile, living-legend status was the product of tireless and ceaseless promotion by the man who had been Stanley Martin Lieber.”
This is exactly backwards. It was Stan Lee the persona that would have ceased to exist in 1961 had Kirby not been given a crack at realizing his creations. Kirby would have continued in the industry, telling solid stories wherever he could find work, maybe not with a company of such a low calibre as Goodman’s comics operation. While parsing Lee’s horn-blowing and status giving, it’s important to note how often Lee referred to Kirby as anything other than an artist, or when Lee’s praise of Kirby’s creativity and plotting ability could be monetized by Kirby. The answer is… never. Jack Kirby was never given a plotting credit at Marvel from the time credits were instituted in 1962 until his departure in 1970. Lee credited himself as plotter on the first story with such a credit, one that was so obviously a Kirby plot. There were assorted other plot credits during that time, including Tommy and Jimmy Goodkind, apparently Lee’s neighbour’s kids, in Strange Tales #116. This despite the fact that Kirby was the primary plotter during those years, for his own stories as well as the stories he laid out for others.
Ditko’s Avenging Mind is given a fair amount of coverage in the book, but is dismissed for the wrong reason (discussed later). Ditko’s assessment of Lee’s crediting is explored in “Creative Crediting”: “All of these combinations of Stan’s credits of ‘Scripted by’, ‘Script and editing by’ and ‘Written by’, etc. are all claiming, implying, a full script by Lee. In using such terms and phrases as ‘Illustrated by’, ‘Art by’, ‘Artwork by’ and ‘Illustrations’ (in crediting me), all of which are factually, truthfully, incorrect identifications, Lee is claiming my artwork was done from his full script… Yet Lee never wrote a full script for me.”
This is followed by “He Giveth and He Taketh Away”: “Stan Lee started early with his self-serving, self-crediting writing and speaking style…”
244: Origins. “Lee was, to be sure, effusive in his compliments for Kirby and Ditko, but the narrative made it clear that it was Stan Lee who was the major creative force behind Marvel and its characters… not surprising given that his two most important collaborators had abandoned him and the company.”
Abandoned? Lee’s two most important collaborators had walked away from the man who, in this era of not calling a lie a lie, was appropriating their writing pay. He was effusive in his compliments for his artists, and Kirby and Ditko refused to be constrained by his demeaning terminology; his followers were and are taken in, but his unpaid writers saw through it.
323: Lee’s deposition… “While giving Kirby great praise… Lee” in his deposition!
Q. And this is — you talked about it before that artists were expected as part of their job to populate the story with characters?
STAN LEE: Oh. You see, if there’s a story where the hero goes, let’s say, to a nightclub, so I would say or whoever the writer is would say the hero goes to a nightclub, and he talks to this person, and then there’s a gun fight. Well, when the artist draws it, the artist has to draw other people in the nightclub. So the artist is always creating new characters. I mean, the artist might decide to have the character standing at the bar and draw a sexy-looking bartender, a female or an interesting looking bartender.
Videotaped Deposition of Stan Lee, 13 May 2010 (the first of two)
Lee credited his “artists” with “creating” a sexy-looking bartender character. As was his way, he “effusively” and with “great praise,” credited Kirby with nothing.
4 (Preface): And to a small group of comics fans and professionals, he was the most dastardly of villains, exploiting victimized artists who did all the real creative work, while he was just a lucky, slimy manipulator who was in the right place at the right time.
Was Lee in the right place at the right time? Absolutely. He was the promoter who made a connection with his readers. As the Sherman/Groth account indicates, Kirby was the predominant creator and plotter (and Ditko did the rest). Kirby, Ditko, and Wood were the early 1960s writers, with Lee adding the teen humour-style dialogue and restructuring stories to make them less literate (Kirby being the reader on the team). Despite the fact that so many of Lee’s pre-1961 characters had been female (Patsy, Linda, Millie, Kathy, et al), he used his power of dialogue to remove or re-interpret any agency or acts of heroism from women in Kirby’s stories.
Fingeroth reduces detractors of The Official Stan Lee Story (called “haters” on the back cover) to objects of amusement, unsurprising given the target audience. My objection is to the term “victimized artists.” Artist was the term used by Lee to remove credit from his writers and creator/writers. It’s time to put that lie to rest.
28: “according to Simon, Kirby always believed” Lee ratted them out.
Simon’s account of Kirby’s beliefs is not to be trusted. Simon always gave himself the starring creative role in his historical fiction.
29: “Lee was writing many of these stories as well as numerous superhero tales, in addition to editing the titles. At that point, energetic young man didn’t seem to have much if any editorial assistance.”
Nonsense. Not only was Lee not the only editor at the time, but Goodman was listed as the editor.
45: “Lee had amassed an enormous quantity of inventoried stories… Supposedly, when Goodman one day discovered all these pages in a closet… he was so infuriated he decided to fire everybody and burn off the excess.”
Patrick Ford, Marvel Method, 1 January 2020: The book does cast doubt of the “art in the closet” reason for firing the staff. However it fails to mention that Martin Goodman never said that was the reason. Stan Lee claims Martin Goodman said that. The fact is that Goodman would logically have been thrilled that the staff was producing so well that he had a large inventory built up. He should only have been annoyed if the staff was not producing enough rather than more than enough.
The more logical reason for getting rid of the staff was given by Al Jaffee who said it had to do with taxes and medical insurance.
The way Lee tells the story makes Lee appear to be the victim of his own largess. Good ol’ Stan buying even stuff that wasn’t good enough to print. Where in reality he wasn’t buying anything. The staff was punching a time clock. They were paid by the hour not by the page.
59: “While writing some superhero stories that year…”
Purposefully misleading: this follows a description of the failed superhero revival… Lee wrote none of them, and no other superhero stories that year.
64: Lieber… “was drawing—and possibly writing—romance comics”
It stands to reason that if Lieber was to be credited as the writer on Kirby’s stories, there’s no limit to the writing that can be attributed to him, even before he started writing.
76: “Though Larry started out writing romance scripts, eventually Lee would delegate the scripting of many of the Kirby-drawn monster stories to his brother to write.”
Many? In the absence of signatures, the word of the Lieber brothers is the only thing this claim has going for it. Not only did they not make the claim before 1995, neither of them even mentioned Lieber in that context, given a number of opportunities.
78: “So Lee kept working on other projects.”
Patrick Ford, Marvel Method, 27 December 2019: What is interesting to me is just about everything Lee tried was either a comic strip or something closely related to comics or panel cartoons. And yet a staple of Lee biographies is Lee contending for decades that he was ashamed of comics and yearned to escape the field.
If , as he says, Lee really aspired to write the great American novel why didn’t he make attempts to sell fiction to Goodman’s magazines or to other publishers ?
The bottom line is Jack Kirby, who also proposed loads of comic strips, wrote more fiction (at least three teleplays and a novel) than Stan Lee is known to have written.
Mark Mayerson, Marvel Method, 27 December 2019: The other thing about Lee’s outside projects is that they were all humorous. He wasn’t writing adventure or drama. He obviously felt that his strongest potential for outside sales was comedy. Yet, he’s celebrated for “creating” heroes and adventures when it was obviously not his strength.
Kirby, on the other hand, had done very little humor in his career. His work was all about heroes and adventure. Yet, somehow, Lee is the “creator” of the Marvel universe and Kirby was only the artist who drew up Lee’s ideas.
The truth is so obvious for anyone who bothers to look.
82: “Many of the stories were created in what would come to be called the “Marvel Method” of short plot discussion, followed by pencil art, followed by dialogue, and then inks and colors. That method would come to be the source of much controversy in Lee’s life.”
According to Mark Evanier’s description, it’s the way Kirby worked solo. To work with Lee, he wrote margin notes instead of balloons and captions.
83: “the Lee-Kirby team would try their hand at a new superhero—inked by Ditko—the magic-themed Dr. Droom.”
The story has no Lee signature. Judging by the finished work, Kirby and Ditko are the only ones we can be certain actually worked on it.
112: Spider-Man–”The closest to truth we have… either before or after Lee had decided to come up with an insect-derived, teenage superhero…”
Ditko ultimately wrote that he didn’t know who originated the ideas in Kirby’s 5-page story. Kirby and Ditko were in agreement, but Lee’s version denies that Ditko told him that Kirby’s story was similar to The Fly (also a Kirby story).
114: “Are we to infer from this that Ditko felt, that, while he and Stan might have cocreated the character, that Steve deserved the lion’s share of the credit?”
We are to infer nothing more than that Ditko wanted cocreator credit, and that Lee wasn’t going to give it to him without taking it away in the next breath.
116: “Interestingly, and mostly unnoticed by the general public, in his introduction to 2013’s The Art of Ditko…”
Lee credited Ditko as cocreator when no one was paying attention, why? It was a meaningless gesture, and given all the attention it deserved by Ditko.
116: The Avenging Mind: “Ditko seemed to simply believe that Lee was not credible, apparently because he did not share Ditko’s philosophical principles.”
This is utter nonsense: Ditko didn’t hold anyone up to his own principles. Lee was not credible because he had a history of making stuff up to steal credit from his creator/writers. Ditko had his number.
116, 117: “Ditko gave little, if any, weight to Stan’s contributions as scripter, editor, art director, and, yes, co-plotter for many of the Spider-Man stories they did together, before Lee agreed to give Ditko full plotting credit.” and “the early issues were most likely true collaborations…”
Stan Taylor proves convincingly that plots for the early issues came from combining plot elements from recent Kirby stories, so it’s safe to assume that they were contained in Kirby’s concept pages. Ditko’s description of a story conference with Lee mentions the need to repeatedly steer Lee away from hare-brained ideas. If Kirby plotted the early issues, and Ditko was sole plotter from about #14 onward, which are the issues for which Lee should get plot credit?
118: “It’s here that Lee’s life story really assumes a key part in the Spider-Man mythos“
Jameson grew out of Lee’s experience of menial jobs? Jameson is Ditko’s jab at Lee, in the same way that Lee was the inspiration for Kirby creations Ego, Maximus, Infant Terrible, …
125: “Thor… was birthed by Lee (plot), Lieber (script), and Kirby (pencils and probably plot input)”
The first Thor story was clearly a Kirby plot, containing recurring Kirby science fiction characters.
125: Ant Man—”Jewish creators Lee, Lieber, and Kirby?”
The origin story bears no Lee signature, so we can only be certain Kirby and Ayers were there at the time. Another explanation from the House of Lies holds that, for some reason, Lee didn’t sign all of his stories, but we know better.
126: Tales of Suspense #39. “The [Iron Man] origin story was by Lee, Lieber, and Don Heck.”
Kirby plot (recycled from his Green Arrow story), concept sketch-turned-cover, and possibly layouts. Kirby’s own origin story appears in the following issue, which suggests it was delayed for some reason.
126: “The words twas Steve’s idea leave unclear if Lee was referring to the character, the character’s origin, the series’ mystical motif, the plot to the first story, or some combination of those elements.”
Let’s see how we can re-interpret ’twas Steve’s idea. Ditko brought the character, and story, to Lee on spec.
127: Stupid origin stories you know aren’t true… “According to Lee, to prove that the Marvel ‘formula’ could work in any genre, he and Kirby came up with the World War II-set battle comic Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos, whose eponymous first issue was dated May 1963.”
Oops. John Severin (Kirby Collector #25) told of Kirby pitching the concept to him as a newspaper strip, pre-Marvel, near Columbus Circle. Creative input by Lee? Zero. Can we apply the credibility of Lee’s claim here to his other claims?
Created by Kirby, who at least knew what a mutant was (see Yellow Claw), and what a transistor wasn’t.
128: “…with the exception of Dr Strange and Spider-Man, all the characters emerged from some combination of the talents of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, with Larry Lieber contributing, although Larry has never claimed to have conceived or designed any of the characters.”
I see where this is going. Lieber never claimed to have written any of Kirby’s sf/fantasy stories before the ‘90s. He’s being held in reserve in case more evidence emerges that Kirby did any of the creating (such as when a page of original art surfaces with Kirby’s penciled dialogue in the balloons).
161: Herald Tribune article… “Lee felt terrible about it.”
Did Lee have it in him to feel terrible about it?
161: Herald Tribune article… “at least partly staged…”
A little knowledge of Nat Freedland might indicate that it was more than partly staged. Note that in January 1966, Lee was concealing from Freedland the fact, by criticizing him in the present tense, that Ditko had been gone for a month and a half.
166: Simon’s version of the 1966 lawsuit…
Taken from My Life in Comics, a work of historical fiction on par with Origins of Marvel Comics or Mair’s Excelsior! Simon should not be permitted to speak for Kirby’s motivation, because he was not present in any discussion between Kirby and Goodman, and it was Simon who was cutting Kirby out of the suit.
167: typo… “Lee and Kirby” should be “Simon and Kirby”
199: “it does seem that not getting to do the Surfer series was perceived as a significant slight by Kirby…”
It may be baffling, but it does seem that way,
Kirby interviewed on the Tim Skelly Show, WNUR radio, 14 May 1971.
What do you think the advantages are over at National?
The advantages? Well, I have a lot more leeway. I can think things out and do them my way, and know I get credit for the things I do. There were times at Marvel when I couldn’t say anything because it would be taken from me and put in another context, and it would be lost—all my connection with it would be severed. For instance, I created the Silver Surfer and Galactus and an army of other characters and my connection with them is lost. Therefore I just kept all the new ideas to myself.
This sounds like a problem…
You get to feel like a ghost.
204: PF&C purchase. “According to Lee, Goodman made him verbal promises…”
Earlier in the decade, also according to Lee, Goodman made promises to Kirby and Ditko that needed to be relayed by Lee, because Kirby and Ditko didn’t usually talk to Goodman. Did Goodman ever actually make verbal promises?
226: “Along with the intensity of his visuals and concepts, Kirby also provided idiosyncratic scripting in a style seemingly designed to be the opposite of Lee’s reader-friendly, narrative-clarifying, naturalistic word usage.”
A good book would compare examples of Kirby’s “idiosyncratic scripting” with examples of “Lee’s reader-friendly, narrative-clarifying, naturalistic word usage,” instead of just pretending this statement is true.
233: “A self-involved hustler and promoter, Flashman—once his toupee and fake beard were in place—looked exactly like Stan Lee of the era. Funky was a pathetic character, self-involved, leeching off a relative, willing to sell anyone out in service to himself and to the primary villain of Kirby’s Fourth World, Darkseid.”
Was this portrayal way off the mark, or incisive? Is it maybe the most accurate picture we’re ever likely to get of Lee from someone who knew him better than most other people in that context?
253: “If all he’d wanted was to pump out work for hire comics, he could have stayed at Marvel, where Stan Lee was, near the end of Kirby’s time there, pretty much giving him autonomy—and credit—anyway.”
This must be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read. See abusive situation above.
260: “There were rumors that staffers were deliberately printing a higher proportion of negative letters about Kirby’s titles than were actually received and were making fun of his output with nasty annotated pages of his comics pinned up on the office walls.”
Rumours? Stephen Bissette, John Morrow, and Mark Evanier are spreading those rumours as first-hand experience.
261: “Kirby had no intention of plotting stories for someone else to dialogue.”
Fingeroth understands something that seems to perpetually mystify Thomas.
290: TCJ interview: “Even staunch supporters of Kirby thought the interview was over the top, Kirby reviling Lee to a degree that he had never before publicly done.”
I suspect Fingeroth has been speaking to the wrong staunch Kirby supporters.
Neal Kirby: Though my opinion may be viewed by some as non-objective, I can say that my father spoke the truth in this (Gary Groth) interview. Stan Lee has the advantage since my father’s death in 1993 of being the last man standing.
He has been able to say, claim, invent whatever he wants without fear of rebuttal! Is it conceivable that Stan Lee, with little knowledge of mythology, much less Norse mythology could come up with the premise of Thor as a super hero? Isn’t it much more likely that my father, whose studio on Long Island was filled with books on history and mythology, of which his favorite was Norse mythology, would be much more likely to have created such a character? I could go on as such concerning almost all the Marvel characters. What bothers me the most, however, is that Stan Lee is rewriting history in his favor, and young people now are starting to view him as the lone creator of the Marvel characters. There have been many injustices in the 80+ years of comic book history; this without question is one of the greatest.
Comments section, “TCJ Archive: Jack Kirby Interview,” The Comics Journal website, 2 June 2011.
295-7: Ditko and Lee… “When they saw each other, both their faces lit up…”
DeFalco: Then Steve walked away, and I had one of those surreal moments where, as I’m walking down the hall with Stan, Stan says to me, “You know, Tommy, I’ve always been curious about this. Do you know why Steve quit?”
Mark Mayerson, Marvel Method, 30 December 2019: As editor and later publisher, Lee could have called Ditko at any time and asked Ditko directly. The fact that he didn’t means that either he knew or didn’t care enough to bother. His asking others why Ditko quit is nothing more than a cover-up, making Lee seem to be the injured party and not the cause.
309, 310: “Something had changed for Ditko. No longer was he the person who seven years earlier had exchanged hugs with Stan Lee. ”
Well, he was the same person, but like Kirby at the convention, his upbringing told him how to behave when meeting the boss who had refused to speak to him for over a year in a previous decade.
Lee was fired by Marvel on 30 July 1998. He was signed to a new contract in November.
308: “Lee’s friend, Batman cocreator Bob Kane”
Another credit thief, but at least Kane paid his uncredited creator/writers.
311, 324: Arthur Lieberman
Not much is mentioned about Lieberman, but it would be interesting to explore his involvement in Origins of Marvel Comics and the recruiting of Roy Thomas 24 years later.
311, 317: syndicated Spider-Man strip?
At the time of Lee’s death, Thomas said he’d been writing it for “17, 18 years.” Coupled with Jim Shooter’s claim that it was him who was writing it earlier, it’s not hard to conclude that Lee got paid for it ($125k per year according to one superseded contract) without actually writing it.
312: Uslan doesn’t have the remotest concept of how Kirby and Lee “collaborated.”
322: “the estate of Jack Kirby, through lawyer Marc Toberoff, filed suit against Disney”
Legal specifics are important, and presumably Disney’s legal proofreaders should have caught this egregious misstatement of fact. The Kirbys, through lawyer Marc Toberoff, filed for reassignment of the copyrights; they did not file suit against Disney. Disney filed suit against the Kirbys.
322: Lee’s testimony: “more or less, the history of the characters’ creation as recounted by him in his 1974 book, Origins of Marvel Comics.”
Much, much less, or the book wouldn’t be quoting Fingeroth’s interview with Mark Evanier.
352: “There was one key insight, though, that Stan Lee had that Kirby and Ditko did not. Lee came to see that, in the early 1960s, there was an audience of adult fans who had read comics as children and were still interested in them… maybe there was some way to reclaim those older readers, now in college or in the work world, to get them to help spread the idea that comics were cool or even relevant…”
Chris Tolworthy, Marvel Method, 31 December 2019: Lee’s insight was that he could turn adults into children: Tell them they are clever and brave and cool if they join the treehouse club. Kirby and Ditko were busy turning children into adults: teaching them values that would help them recognise funky flashmen and the harm they cause.
353: Lee: “I always wrote for myself.”
One only needs to look at a Kirby story restructured by Lee to know that Lee’s understanding of storytelling was dwarfed by Kirby’s; consequently Lee writing for himself meant dumbing down.
353: “Lee had the authority of an owner but the insecurity of a freelancer. He was still at the boss’s mercy—even though most of his colleagues saw him as the boss.”
Lee was always the boss to his “colleagues,” even if he needed to invoke Goodman’s name without Goodman’s knowledge.