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Jack Kirby: Behind the Lines Jack Kirby: Behind the Lines

“He is Awake — Must Carry Out Mission Programmed During War”

I hope you all had a happy holiday season, and I wish you all the best in 2014. This month let’s take a look at some of Jack’s Captain America art. As most of you know, Jack created “The First Avenger” with Joe Simon in Captain America Comics #1 (cover-dated March 1941). Kirby’s final monthly issue where he worked on the character was Captain America # 214 (Oct 1977). A pretty remarkable run on a single character although Jack didn’t work on the character for the entire 40-year period. It’s amazing to see how Jack’s style changed over the decades. I’ve said many times that it would be great if Marvel would honor Jack by putting all of his Captain America work together in one nice set of hardcover volumes in a box set — it would be a great way to highlight the evolution of Jack’s storytelling and it also would be a great way to show how Kirby expressed the middle of the 20th century through the eyes of the iconic patriot and freedom fighter Captain America, but clearly Marvel has no interest in promoting Jack Kirby although they spend billions of dollars promoting films featuring his creations.

These pages are from Captain America # 101 (May 1968). “When Wakes the Sleeper.”

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The original art scans are from the Jack Kirby Museum’s Digital Archive project at kirbymuseum.org . Unfortunately a lot of the margin notes were cut off during production so many are incomplete, especially the ones on the sides of the pages, but we can still make out some of Jack’s directions for Stan Lee. The inker on the book was Syd Shores. Opinions are mixed on the effectiveness of Shores on Kirby’s pencils — some think he did a solid job, others think his approach was a bit heavy-handed and obscured some of Jack’s vitality — I enjoyed reading the reprints of these books when I was a comic book fan buying the books off the stands at the local 7-11 in the late 1970s, so although I don’t think Shores did a brilliant job on these books, I like looking at different inkers interpret Jack’s art. I think Shores turned in a solid workmanlike performance and ultimately this is classic 1960s Kirby Captain America. There is a lot of great art in the book; we’ll  look at 3 pages.

Captain America # 101, page 6

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This page features a pretty standard flashback sequence. Lee prefaced the flashback sequence on the bottom corner of the previous page:

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Right in the middle of Jack’s story we have archetypal Lee propaganda. Totally unnecessary — it’s obvious the next page is a flashback explaining why the Red Skull is still alive. This type of aside is the equivalent of a runaway freight train slamming on the breaks — if there was any sense of real danger or real drama, that is erased by Lee.

Captain America # 101, page 6, panel 1

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Jack’s directions for Stan Lee: “Dawn for Red Skull when world thinks my sun has set.” Lee’s text mirrors Jack’s directions — the Skull announces his triumph will be glorious since the world thinks he’s dead. Stan just changes the words a bit. If Jack had dialogued this panel maybe he would have used the language in his directions for Lee, the concept of the dawn and the setting sun are a bit more profound than Lee’s straightforward, fairly standard bad guy text. Jack’s Skull is evil but has some level of sophistication and intellect, even eloquence. Lee’s captions turn him into a 1-dimensional bad guy constantly ranting and raving like the campy characters in the ’60s Batman TV show. You can see where Lee wrote the word balloons in blue-line pencil and he numbered them 1 and 2. He would type up his captions and give that to the letterer.

Note how Jack makes the Skull’s face distorted, emphasizing his evil. He’s literally twisted.

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Shores’ inking gives the face a three-dimensionality and the line variety and texture gives the image a bit of photorealism you don’t see in Jack’s pencils filtered through most of his other inkers, aside from Wallace Wood in the famous Skymasters dailies and Sundays. Here’s an example of Kirby/Wood from my old Kirby Dynamics weblog sent to me by a reader. Beautiful delineation of the machinery and note Wood’s distinctive shadows on the faces.

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Obviously Wood was a lot slicker than Shores, and Woody was considered a master craftsman as an inker, but I do think Shores was going for this type of effect over Kirby — less cartoony and drifting a bit towards photorealism — and in that sense I think Shores was successful although reactions to any artist or approach will be varied.

Captain America # 101, page 6, panel 2

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Jack’s directions for Stan Lee: “…atomic super sub where Cap America.” It looks like a sentence or two may have been cut off the top of this panel, it also appears Jack might have made a few more notes in the top right-hand corner. Stan’s captions mirror what we can read in Jack’s directions — the Skull says he was on an atomic sub and Captain America escaped to safety. This standard comics composition of a close-up of a face at the top of an image discussing a long shot makes it clear we are looking at a flashback, so that’s why I think Lee’s lengthy caption on the previous page was unnecessary from a storytelling perspective.

You can make out some blue line text in the word balloon so as he was reading Jack’s story for the first time, before he typed up the captions, Lee may have jotted down some ideas in the balloon. Notice in the margins the remainder of some arrows pointing to that dark area which is a paste-up. To the left, you can barely make out the vertical stabilizer of the craft in pencil under some white-out right over the vertical stabilizer in the paste-up, so Lee probably had someone photocopy the original image and lower it in the composition. Maybe he thought that improved the balance of the composition with the balloons.

Captain America # 101, page 6, panel 3

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In the final editing phase it looks like Lee had a staffer add quotations to the caption boxes. The first line of dialogue has white-out underneath so that was changed.

Beautiful example of Kirby-tech. The wonderful, colorful technology pouring out of Jack’s books must have been one of the big reasons fans loved his artwork. Shores does a nice job inking this.

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Unfortunately Jack’s notes are almost all cut off here. There’s really know way to try and decipher them. Suffice it to say it’s clear Jack gave Lee extensive directions for this panel.

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Captain America # 101, page 6, panel 4

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Great low angle view of the contemptible Red Skull, emphasizing his terror and panic. Again, Jack’s notes are cut off so I can’t make out what they say, maybe one of you comic book CSIs out there can hazard a guess. It’s worth noting that again Jack has written quite a bit there, but Lee doesn’t express much in the captions other than the Skull is in danger and trying to escape, and that’s obvious in the visual.

Here’s a close-up of the Skull’s face, his panic is almost comical — there is an ugly absurdity to evil, and a tremendous irony when a tyrant finds himself in danger. You can see Jack’s pencils to the left and right of the face so Shores tweaked the image a bit de-emphasizing the brow.

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Captain America # 101, page 6, panel 5

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Jack’s directions for Lee: “Skull finds small lead-lined escape cabin – there has to be…” The rest of Jack’s directions are gone. Lee mirrors Jack’s directions in his caption: the Skull (still talking to himself out loud as many comic book characters tend to do) announces to himself that he has found an escape capsule. Notice Lee made some changes to his text at the top, there is white-out under “I knew.” “I moved” is also a change.

Shores adds a lot of personality to the Skull on this page. Remember, this guy is a Nazi, the personification of pure evil.

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Captain America # 101, page 6, panel 6

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It’s a bit hard to make out these directions for Lee since the thin photocopy of the “continued after next page” image is taped to the page (it’s remarkable that any of these penciled fragments remain at all). It looks like Jack’s directions for Lee say: “Hatch (?) capsule drops from sub.” Stan’s caption mirrors this, although he calls the capsule an escape nodule. The notes on the right side of the page don’t look like Lee’s handwriting to me so that could be from one of the Marvel staffers. It appears there was a change made to the thought balloon bubbles to try and differentiate them from the bubbles around the submarine. You can also make out minor changes to the arrow (note the white-out) and to the caption box. You can also see Lee changed the first sentence — the previous text was highlighted in blue line, white-out was applied, and new text added.

Even if you are a harsh critic of Stan Lee, you have to give him credit for working on these stories. Obviously he had his staff make changes like this because he felt they made the books better, and Lee certainly deserved the paycheck and credit for his work as caption writer and editor, I just wish he would have made it clear how important Kirby was in the creation and writing process.

Not an overly spectacular series of images, but a nice example of Kirby using a page to give the reader a flashback sequence explaining a character’s past. Kirby’s visuals and margin notes explain the story to Stan Lee, then Lee follows Kirby’s directions and his text reflects Jack’s visuals. It may have been Lee’s idea to bring back the Red Skull character — Jack tended to enjoy creating new characters — if it was Lee’s idea, it could have been based on fan requests, so ironically resurrecting the Simon/Kirby Red Skull might not even have been Lee’s original idea. Most of you probably know the Red Skull character was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941). Just to give you a brief idea of how Jack’s style changed from the 1940s through the 1960s, here are pages 33, 34, and 38 from that book featuring the first appearance of Jack and Joe’s character.

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It’s important to remember when Simon and Kirby produced these stories, the world faced terrible danger from the conflict brewing in Europe, and the outcome was anything but certain. Jack and Joe themselves faced danger from Nazi sympathizers in the US who would have been very angry to see this type of anti-Nazi propaganda in 1941. There were a lot of isolationists and pro-Germans living in the country, so Jack and Joe were taking a risk producing this type of flagrant anti-Nazi propaganda, but history has shown they were in the right. Jack and Joe were already heroes fighting fascism and totalitarianism and they were just cartoonists.

From an artistic standpoint, notice how skinny Kirby’s characters are, reflecting the way depression era people looked during that time; Jack packs the pages with as many panels as he can squeeze in to give the reader maximum storytelling; and as Jack was so famous for, his characters literally jump off the pages and into the other panels. Even in the 1940s you could argue Kirby was one of the best action choreographers working in the comics medium, and as we’ve seen over the years, whether you like the action genre or not, Kirby-esque free-for-all fight scenes are the norm now in contemporary television, film, and video games.

To give you another look at Jack’s evolution of style, here is a 4 page sequence from Captain America # 212 (Aug 1977). As far as I’m aware, except for commission pieces, this was the last time Jack ever chronicled the adventures of the Red Skull. Inks by Mike Royer.

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Beautiful late-70s comics.

Let’s go back again to 1968. Captain America # 101, page 10

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Captain America # 101, page 10, Panel 1

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There’s not a whole lot to learn from this page in terms of comparing the margin notes to Lee’s captions. It’s all action, so no need for small talk from Jack. Jack’s directions for Lee for this panel are pretty simple: “Cap meets them first.” Brevity is appropriate here, not much to add to this image. Wonderful example of how Jack was constantly coming up with explosive action sequences. Cap begins the fight by hurtling himself into the crowd of thugs, a gun blast obscuring his face, Cap’s hand shoving a gunman’s hat down into his face, blinding him.

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Captain America # 101, page 10, Panel 2

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Kirby’s notes are chopped off here, but the image is pretty self-explanatory. Shores inking of the shadows gives the antagonist a real 3-dimensionality you don’t see in a lot of Jack’s work.

Captain America # 101, page 10, Panel 3

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Stan’s dialogue here is pretty good: Cap is being attacked by a bunch of guys used to ganging up on people. We can’t see Jack’s directions, but it’s clear there were only a few words.

Here’s a close-up of the face of that character getting smashed in the face so you can see the details of Shore’s inks; a lot of detail that gets lost in publication when the art is reduced in size. You can also see some notes by Lee were chopped off the side of the page.

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Captain America # 101, page 10, Panel 4

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Jack’s directions for Lee: “One guy still has a gun (?) takes shots (?)…” The rest of the notes are gone. Great example of Kirby choreographing a battle. In this panel the tide is turning against Cap. You see that kind of ebb and flow in any great fight sequence.

Captain America # 101, page 10, Panel 5

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Jack’s directions for Lee: “And immobilizes (?)…”

That’s the end of that battle, at least on this single page. Kind of strange how Lee has Captain America in panel 4 thinking about how he is worried whether he can beat the bad guys in a thought balloon, then Lee has Cap announce in a word balloon to the guy that he sure can try. Doesn’t really make any sense — how would the gunman have any idea what Captain America is talking about? But I guess it doesn’t really matter what someone is talking about when they are punching you in the face, and maybe Captain America likes to complete some of his thoughts out loud while fighting for his life – that’s Lee adding characterization to Steve Rogers. It’s one of those things no one probably ever noticed, if anyone really paid attention to the dialogue – I suspect the action is what made readers plop down their nickels for these books.

Captain America # 101, page 13

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Captain America # 101, page 13, Panel 1

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The first panel is a typically spectacular example of what I call a “Kirby entrance,” where a character makes a dramatic appearance in the story. Jack uses a little more than half the page to add emphasis to the introduction of yet another one of his ideas Stan Lee could claim he created and Marvel could exploit for as long as people are willing to support their product. The image features several Kirby motifs he used all the time, the speed lines blasting off the character giving the illusion of light and energy, the rubble and debris flying in all directions, and a gun wielding antagonist in the foreground.

Here’s a close-up of the Sleeper, another Kirby creation with a remarkably modern design.

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Jack’s directions for Stan Lee say: “Door flies off Sleeper’s container – he is awake, must carry out mission programmed during war.” Lee’s caption mirrors Jack’s directions; Lee tells the reader the character has been dormant for decades. Lee calls the container a crypt, although it’s probably more of a cocoon or a womb that was containing an organism waiting to be born. The rest of Lee’s captions are what I call Stan Lee STO, Lee stating the obvious: in the caption Lee tells the reader the crypt is torn apart and there is an explosion which is obvious; the first gunman tells us the Sleeper is awake, which is obvious; and it lives, which is pretty self-apparent; another character says to stop the Sleeper, which makes common sense (although most people would probably get out of the way); and the final Lee caption has the character with the gun saying he’s going to use the gun, which is what most crooks do when waving around a gun.

Some might think I’m being overly critical of Lee’s captions by calling it STO, but these types of Lee captions don’t really add anything to the story (except where the one gunman says they need to make the Sleeper wait for his master’s command). And this approach to writing dialogue for an action scene is understandable; what could Lee add to an action-packed panel like this? Should Lee have the characters talk about politics or sports? Of course not, that would detract from the power and flow of the images. The characters stating the obvious helps reinforce Jack’s visuals, it clarifies what Jack has going on in the artwork, and helps the story flow forward.

The important point I want to make here is that all of the captions in that panel are superfluous, that panel needs no dialogue at all because the action is clear. But Lee has to add some words to the panels or this isn’t a comic book — this would just be Kirby storyboards, which is in fact what they were before Lee added his captions. And I know much of this is common sense, but I want to emphasize this point again: Jack Kirby was the Principal (or Primary) Author of this story (he wrote the story first with visuals and directions for Lee). Lee was the Secondary Author (Lee added text based on Jack’s story and art). What I call “The Kirby/Lee Square Dance” is an incredibly non-traditional method of working, and the only reason Kirby/Lee worked like this was because Lee was Jack’s boss so Jack had no say in the matter. At the very least if any writer/artist worked this way in the present, you would hope they would have the integrity to make the division of labor clear in the credits.

Captain America # 101, page 13, panel 2

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Jack’s directions for Stan Lee: “Shots go thru Sleeper – he can control his density.” This is clear in the visual, but it probably does need a bit of clarification with some text, so Lee does that — he has one of the gunmen proclaim that his gunshot went through the Sleeper. Lee has the other gunman explain that the Sleeper can control his density, mirroring verbatim Jack’s directions.

Captain America # 101, page 13, panel 3

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Here’s a few close-ups of the explosion, I think the Kirby/Shores combination really works on these images. Gives you an idea of the ferocity of combat, and I think when you take bits and pieces of comics art like this and cut out the word balloons it shows that if you put a frame around images like this and hung them in a museum, if you could get a few billionaires to shell out millions of bucks for this material it would be considered fine art by the establishnent that could stand alongside the work of all the fine art masters. Not saying comics with word balloons aren’t art, just pointing out the only thing that really separates comics from fine art is the word balloons and sound effects.

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Jack’s directions for Stan Lee: “Suddenly hot blast occurs – takes his…” The rest of the notes are chopped off. The first word is hard to make out, but the last two words look like “…by surprise.” So the notes probably say ““Suddenly hot blast occurs – takes his (?) by surprise.” The word might be “guards” since Lee calls them that in the caption. As usual, Lee’s caption states the obvious – there is a blast that blows the gunman away, this is obvious from looking at the image.

This is “Marvel Method” folks. I know there will be those who will argue maybe Lee told Jack to do all of this over the phone in a verbal plot session, but unfortunately we’ll never know if that happened. What we do know is what we can see on these source documents: Jack is directing the movie with visuals and margin notes, Lee is almost like a movie reviewer reporting on what is happening in Kirby’s movie — Lee almost always has the characters and captions mirror Jack’s directions and clarify his visuals. So “Marvel Method” was not Lee coming up with these awesome stories and battle sequences alone, then Kirby was allowed to add an idea to Lee’s story here and there because Lee wanted to give his artists freedom to be creative. Marvel Method in the case of Kirby/Lee appears to be a system where Kirby came up with the bulk of the stories alone in the illustration phase, then Lee contributes an idea here and there in the captions, mainly to simply fill space. This may seem like a cynical interpretation of the source documents to some of you, and obviously this is only a theory — Lee may have jumped up on his desk and acted out this entire sequence for Kirby, Kirby memorized Lee’s performance, then regurgitated it verbatim in pencil, and Kirby even included directions in the margins in case Lee forgot his own “plot.” To me, common sense and observing a lot of these pages suggests the opposite.

These are not the most spectacular pages from Jack’s Captain America run, but they are another piece of the puzzle giving us a glimpse into the real “collaboration” taking place between Kirby and Lee. I think comparing the notes that survive to Lee’s text make it clear that this credit box at the beginning of this story is a bit misleading.

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Yes, in 1968, Kirby had won a small victory — Lee wasn’t crediting himself as the sole-writer of the stories and crediting Jack as merely the penciler any longer. As a temporary compromise, Lee came up with the “produced by” credit. But since Lee had credited himself as the sole-writer for half-a-decade, I have yet to meet a single person on planet Earth who thought this credit box meant Jack was writing the stories.

To wrap up this month’s column with an image that reflects Jack’s service to his country during the Second World War it’s tempting to continue showing his terrific Foxhole covers, but for today let’s look at what I think is one of Jack’s most brutal images depicting the ferocity of warfare. This is the 2-page spread from DCs Our Fighting Forces # 169 (Oct 1975), inked by Mike Royer.

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Incredibly violent stuff for a 1970s four-color comic on the spinner racks at the local drug store. Jack is often criticized for doing stories about superheroes — many comics intellectuals tend to look down on that genre — but with this image, Jack shows that he could tackle real issues like war and revolution. And Jack served in World War II so he witnessed this type of violence firsthand. Jack did superhero comics because it was his job, and I think he did them well, but he was more than capable of doing these types of stories showing readers the horror and bloodshed of warfare if a publisher had been interested in this type of material.

Here’s an unpublished Silver Surfer Graphic Novel (1977) 2-page spread that has the same composition as the Our Fighting Forces spread.

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Pretty safe to assume Lee rejected this because of its violence, especially the man with the woman on the bed about to bash her brains in. Marvel must have returned the penciled art to Jack (meaning Jack didn’t get paid for his work on this) and I guess Jack had Mike Royer ink it for the Jack Kirby Masterworks portfolio (1979).

I love the defiance of the guy pumping his fists at the firing squad. You see that same rebelliousness in the far right corner of the Our Fighting Forces spread. I think Jack would have done a lot more of this type of material if not for the Comics Code. This is one of Jack’s more powerful pages — its inclusion in the Silver Surfer Graphic Novel would have given that book an added level of realism; its omission was another example of the Kirby/Lee square dance resulting in a product that started off as pure Kirby and ended up being diluted after being filtered through Lee. The important thing to remember is that Jack’s style is so unique, his storytelling so direct and good, and his visuals are so dynamic, you can still see a tremendous amount of Kirby’s vision shining through regardless of who his collaborator was. And if you consider the quantity and quality of Jack’s entire body of work, even if you aren’t a fan of his stories or art, I hope as a fan of the comics medium, you can at least respect Jack Kirby the man for his work ethic and imagination.


71 Responses to “He is Awake — Must Carry Out Mission Programmed During War”

  1. Rob Barrett says:

    Thanks for the close look at Syd Shores’s inks on Jack’s pencils. I hadn’t really taken a close look at Shores’s work before, and I actually really like it–especially the panel where the escape pod drops out of the sub. Really interesting variation on Kirby Krackle there.

  2. Bill C says:

    I really liked Shores’ inking of Kirby on Captain America. His detailed brushwork adds a golden-age feeling to the artwork, not doubt partly due to his history with the feature, which was almost as long as Kirby’s.

  3. Bruce Simon says:

    I’ve seen a lot of these originals and, while I like some things about Syd Shores’ inks, he’s especially effective in those high contrast panels, there’s a lot of rushed work here. The Kirby -tech backgrounds especially are done freehand with what appears to be a ballpoint pen and then gone in with brush. Shores also overworks detail to the point that it becomes muddy in the final reproduction. It’s not the worst work I’ve seen on Jack’s pencils by a long shot, but I think it makes it look old fashioned and loses a lot of the sleekness of Jack’s work at the time, especially on Cap’s face.

  4. Mark Marderosian says:

    Thanks for posting this – I LOVE looking at hand-inking on bristol board with blue and black pencil underneath. The human hand at work.
    Agree with most postings – the panel with sub jettisoning into the water is great. You can feel the weight of it and nice sense of the water displacement.
    I too wish that the machinery was inked a bit more rigid. It’s inorganic metal and the approach should be less loose. But I do like the heavier detail because it brings it into that 1940′s look. It was a treat to read this when it first appeared because it was fun to see Mr. Kirby pencils inked with such variation from the Joe Sinnott or Chic Stone approach. Not better or worse, just a nice change of pace. High energy.

  5. Art Baxter says:

    The two page spread from the Surfer graphic novel may not have had to be redrawn for editorial reasons. In the book itself, the redrawn pages fall on page 61 (a right hand page) and 62 (a left hand page). The way the pages fell may have necessitated the change. The vignettes of the page are still present. The firing squad, the guy being run over are pretty much the same. The guy beating up a woman has been changed to him beating another guy in a similar fashion without the hand on the throat (it’s also a tighter cropped image on the revised page). The prisoners appear on the following page, also very similar to the above. The same page allows plenty of room for Ardina (Stan!) to speechify. The pencil spread certainly has more impact than the revised pages. It’s also possible Stan asked Jack to tune it down a bit while he was at it. Jack himself could also have had second thoughts.

    There are only two, two page spreads in the book and both are towards the end, pages 86 & 87 and 112 &113.

  6. Phil Larrabee says:

    “Here’s an unpublished… 2-page spread that has the same composition as the Our Fighting Forces spread.”

    Um, no, they are, at best, similar. Not in any way is it correct to say “same”.

    The first example has one panel spread over two pages. The second has four, of varying shapes. How is that “the same”? Both feature – within a panel – a scene of group assassination, but each is from a different perspective, and frankly are as similar to each other as they both are to Goya’s “Third of May 1808″.

    Words often have meanings based in observable reality.

    • Steibel says:

      Phil Larrabee says: “Um, no, they are, at best, similar. Not in any way is it correct to say ‘same.’”

      Sure. “Similar” would have been a better word. No two things are literally the “same,” not even identical twins. The compositions of the two depictions of the firing squad are similar. Goya may have been an inspiration, or a movie.

      • Phil Larrabee says:

        I just hate vague writing about visual art. It’s all too common, and it excuses lackadaisical observation and lazy artists. Kirby is worth the effort, even if he himself faked so much stuff.

  7. A few other things about the Surfer graphic novel:

    1. My recollection is that, as opposed to Kirby’s ’60s Marvel work, this was drawn from a full script by Stan Lee. After Kirby left Marvel in 1970, he refused to work with a writer unless it was on a full-script basis. Describing the book as “a product that started off as pure Kirby and ended up being diluted after being filtered through Lee” probably isn’t accurate.

    2. I’m not absolutely sure, but I don’t think Kirby did this book on a page-rate basis paid for by Marvel. The book was published by Simon & Schuster, and Lee and Kirby own the copyright. That suggests Marvel licensed the use of the Silver Surfer character to Lee and Kirby, and that S&S handled the payables on the book. Book publishers traditionally don’t pay page rates; they pay an advance against royalties. Advances are usually paid in three installments: the first after the signing of the contract, the second after the completed book is turned in, and the third when the book is published. If memory serves, Kirby treated this project as a sideline to the series work he was doing for Marvel at the time, and it took him two years to finish it. I would guess a contributing factor was that he didn’t have the same financial incentive to get it done, since an advance would most likely be a good deal less than what he would get on a one-time-payment page-rate basis. It’s worth looking into. Mark Evanier might know.

  8. patrick ford says:

    Rather than using border notes on the pages of penciled artwork Kirby sent Lee a typed script for the Silver Surfer graphic novel. A few people have copies of Kirby’s script and pages from it have been reproduced in a couple of different publications including a book called STAN LEE UNIVERSE.
    Lee then produced a typed dialogue script which I assume would have been sent to the letterer.
    Kirby also sent Lee correspondence along with his pages of artwork. A portion of a Kirby letter to Lee explaining his thinking concerning a sequence on page of the artwork, was published in an issue of THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR.

  9. patrick ford says:

    Here’s one instance of Evanier commenting concerning the book.

    “I don’t know how long it took to draw but it was a lot longer than Jack expected. Kirby actually wrote out a detailed plot outline, Stan okayed it, then Jack drew it and Stan wanted a lot of changes that deviated from the plot. So there were arguments there and ultimately, the changes were made but Jack didn’t agree with them. I think the two men just saw the character in such different ways, especially by then, that they were unable to collaborate efficiently.”

    • Allen Smith says:

      If Kirby’s vision of the Silver Surfer was compromised by Stan Lee, it wouldn’t have been the first time it happened. Who knows what Jack actually had in mind? It shows, once again, Stan Lee dominating the writing aspect, through the use of his dialogue and whatever changes he made in Kirby’s plot. And as usual, the quality has suffered because of it.

  10. Steibel says:

    Robert Stanley Martin says: “My recollection is that, as opposed to Kirby’s ’60s Marvel work, this was drawn from a full script by Stan Lee.

    Thanks for the comment. I hadn’t heard the anecdote about Stan Lee giving Jack Kirby a full script for the 1978 Silver Surfer graphic novel before. I don’t have a photographic memory so I might have missed that data. Any chance you could cite the source or give some links to several of the sources you saw talking about Lee giving Jack a full script for that book? I’d be more than happy to correct the article if you can give me that info. Thanks.

  11. Steibel says:

    Re: SS GN 1978

    Robert Stanley Martin says:” I’m not absolutely sure, but I don’t think Kirby did this book on a page-rate basis paid for by Marvel.”

    I’m not 100% certain Jack got paid by the page on the SS GN, but since Jack got paid by the page for most of his career, I figure it’s a safe assumption. If you’ve got a source suggesting Jack got some kind of lump sum for the Silver Surfer GN, I can correct the article. If Jack was paid a lump sum for all the art, I’m not sure why Simon and Shuster would have returned unused pages to him. Interesting theory though, maybe ask Mark Evanier. I certainly don’t want to put out incorrect info.

    • R. Fiore says:

      It’s probably a safer assumption that if the payment was via a contract with Simon & Schuster, there was a lump sum advance on a royalty based on sales, divided between the authors.

      • Steibel says:

        I don’t have access to Jack’s financial records and I’ve never seen Jack’s contract for that book, so I’m not sure how he got paid for the story. If anyone has access to that info or an article covering that info, I’ll be more than happy to add that to the article. Maybe I’ll do a whole article on the SS GN at some point. If Jack did get one lump sum and Lee rejected several pages (which each took Jack about 2-3 hours to draw), and Lee made Jack draw new pages, that wouldn’t have been a very fair deal for Jack. Par for the course.

      • R. Fiore says:

        It would be very unusual for a mainstream publisher to pay an author by the page. That might have happened that Marvel commissioned the book at a page rate and then marketed it to a publisher. If it was a conventional publishing contract with Lee and Kirby as authors with a stated share of the royalties, then the lump sum would be merely a payment up front of the royalties the book might earn, and there would be additional payments if it earned royalties in excess of the advance. The question would be what Marvel’s share was.

  12. patrick ford says:

    The rejected spread would almost certainly have come about after Kirby sent his script and penciled pages to Lee but before the finished pages were sent to Simon & Schuster.
    In the quote I supplied above Evanier described the conflict between Kirby and Lee over the changes Lee asked for.
    Another change asked for by Lee were the awkwardly inserted couple of pages involving the Surfer’s girl friend on his home planet. The girl friend was purely a Lee invention.

    • Allen Smith says:

      I’m going on the assumption that the lamer elements of the book, such as including the girl in the story, and the preachy portions, were Stan’s doing. What’s needed is a copy of Kirby’s original script so it could be compared to the finished version.

  13. Steibel says:

    If anyone is interested, here’s another unused 1978 SS GN page, click on the image and you can see it in HD.This is from the Kirby Masterworks Portfolio (1979) which means the art must have been immediately returned to Jack. I don’t think Jack got the published SS GN art back from Marvel until the 80s when they returned about 2000 out of the 10,000 or so pages he illustrated for “The House of Ideas.”

    http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/2010/06/11/unpublished-silver-surfer/

  14. patrick ford says:

    There is an excerpt from an article on the graphic novel at this link.
    http://issuu.com/twomorrows/docs/kirbycollector61preview/27

    The article also contains Kirby presentation drawing for the character Kirby called “The Devils Advocate.”
    Lee renamed the character “The Master of Guile.”

  15. patrick ford says:

    The Kirby script pages at that link are the larger formatted pages. The action is explained briefly and dialogue is suggested.
    Lee’s final dialogue script are the smaller pages which contain only dialogue, and have a lot of strike outs on them.

  16. patrick ford says:

    The article provides an excellent insight into the way Kirby created characters and plots before turning them over to Lee.
    As you see Kirby began with presentation drawings. In this instance Kirby takes care to say he created and character and indicates the date of creation.
    Kirby then delivered his finished art and story to Lee.

  17. Steibel says:

    A reader forwarded me this link to a blog article by Greg Theakston discussing the SS GN. Thanks to Greg for sharing this type of info over the years.

    http://gregtheakstonteasemag.blogspot.com/2011/06/last-leekirby-production.html

    In regards to the comment above that Lee gave Jack a full script, Theakson says, “When Jack turned in his pages to Stan, they were accompanied by a fully realized plot on paper. When Stan called for changes, Kirby was again displeased, but acted like a professional and complied. After all, a lot of money was being gambled.”

    Here’s the segment discussing Jack’s deal with Marvel and Simon and Shuster.

    Greg Theakston:

    Several months after the publication of the SURFER book, Kirby inquired about royalties and got this answer.

    September 13, 1979

    Robert Lloyd Rubinstein, Esq.
    Fleishman, Brown, Weston & Rohde
    433 North Camden Drive
    Beverly Hills, California 90210

    Dear Mr. Rubinstein:
    Your-letter of August 21, 1979 to Messrs. Galton and Lee of the Marvel Comics Group has been referred to me. For your information Simon and Schuster paid Marvel the entire $15,000 advance to Marvel; $7,500 was paid, in December 1976 and an additional $7,500 was paid in July 1978. Your letter is correct in stating that Marvel paid Mr. Kirby $2,250.00 in December 1976. Mr. Kirby has not received any additional money from this book (Marvel has not received any other money from Simon and Schuster for “The Silver Surfer” book) because when Mr. Kirby left Marvel’s employ he owed Marvel $5,865.00 worth of unfinished work. Prior to Mr. Kirby’s departure from Marvel he agreed that the money earned from the “Silver Surfer” book would be used by Marvel to offset his uncompleted work obligation. Even under your method of calculation, Mr. Kirby would be entitled to $4,500 from the “Silver Surfer” advances; thus, he would still owe Marvel $1,365.00.

    Very truly yours,
    Thea J. Kerman

    • R. Fiore says:

      Whoops, didn’t look down far enough. That makes sense as to what Marvel’s end of it was.

    • patrick ford says:

      In 1975 Kirby signed a three year contract with Marvel. The contract is public record because it was introduced as an exhibit when Disney sued the Kirby heirs. Kirby’s contract paid him $1,100 per week in exchange for (quoting) “13 pages of text and pencil art.” That works out to a hair less than $85 per page.
      As we can see in the letter from Marvel to Kirby’s attorney the royalty from Simon & Schuster was paid to Marvel and Marvel paid Kirby based on the salary he’d collected minus the number of pages he had not completed when he left Marvel in 1978. Kirby refused to sign a new contract with Marvel in 1978 due to the work-for-hire language included in Marvel contracts beginning in 1978. And due to the fact Kirby found working in the animation industry paid better and offered an excellent health insurance benefit paid for by the company. According to Mark Evanier Kirby had begun working in animation at the request of Marvel. Kirby was asked to create storyboards for the FANTASTIC FOUR animated series produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Although part of Warner communications in the early ’60s by 1978 DePatie-Freleng was owned by Marvel Entertainment, and is currently owned by Disney.
      According to Evanier when Marvel assigned Kirby to work on the series Kirby had to cut back on the number of pages he was producing for comic books so he dropped Captain America.

      EVANIER: “Jack was under a contract with Marvel that called for him to write and
      draw a certain number of pages per week. When Marvel wanted him to
      work on the F.F. show, they worked out a lower quota; that is, he cut
      back on his comic book work so he would have time to do the cartoon
      series. That meant he had to drop some books.

      He had just done the first issues of DEVIL DINOSAUR and MACHINE MAN
      (the latter replacing 2001 on his schedule) so they kept him on those.
      He had room on his schedule for one more. He was doing three other
      books at the time — BLACK PANTHER, CAPTAIN AMERICA and THE ETERNALS.
      If I am correctly interpreting a memo in Jack’s files, he was given the
      choice of which of the three to retain and he picked PANTHER.

      So he did give up CAPTAIN AMERICA because he had started doing the F.F.
      cartoon show.”

      This all suggests yet another instance of Marvel screwing Kirby. If Evanier is correct it seems Marvel ignored the understanding with Kirby as to his work for the animated series counting towards the number of pages he owed Marvel based on his salary.
      The SILVER SURFER story produced for the book is 99 pages long. It appears Kirby ended up being paid $25 a page for it because Marvel claimed Kirby owed them 65 pages because he dropped Captain America and went to work on the cartoon series at Marvel’s request. And in fact they mention by their thinking Kirby still owed them $1,365.00, which comes across as an implied threat.

      • 1. Based on things he’s written elsewhere, Patrick thinks it is significant that Disney sued the Kirby heirs rather than the heirs suing Disney. It isn’t. It’s a technicality. And it doesn’t reflect poorly on them at all. It would reflect poorly on them if they hadn’t sued.

        The case began when the Kirby heirs filed copyright termination notices for probably every company comic Kirby contributed to between 1958 and 1963 as well as every comic the Spider-Man character appeared in during that time. A federal district court and federal appeals court have since ruled that the Kirby heirs had no right to file those termination notices. In the view of the courts, the situation wasn’t the least bit ambiguous.

        Disney has a legal fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to protect company assets, and the only way they could do so in this instance was to 1) somehow convince the Kirby heirs to withdraw the termination notices via settlement, or 2) sue the Kirby heirs in order to get the notices declared invalid. A lawsuit was an all but foregone conclusion, and if the Kirbys didn’t know that going in, their lawyer didn’t do his job. Disney cannot voluntarily forfeit corporate assets worth millions of dollars without prompting fully justified shareholder lawsuits as a matter of course. Barring a settlement small enough not to incur shareholder ire, which wasn’t likely to happen, Disney had no choice under the law but to file suit. I have no doubt they would have done so regardless, but they really had no other option.

        2. Patrick writes, “Kirby refused to sign a new contract with Marvel in 1978 due to the work-for-hire language included in Marvel contracts beginning in 1978.” I would like to know where Kirby ever said this. All claims by Gary Groth and other TCJ writers to this effect can be traced back to an incompetently written and edited news article in TCJ 44 in which Kirby said no such thing. The article’s lede indicated that he refused to sign a new contract with Marvel in ’78 over the work-made-for-hire language, but the rest of the article doesn’t bear this out. Here is the relevant quote:

        He [Kirby] did not want to discuss the specific details of his complaints with the contract, saying only, “I don’t want to get tied down to a commitment.”

        In the statements of Kirby and those close to him, such as Evanier, he left Marvel largely because of the better compensation in animation. He also resented the disrespectful behavior towards him from a few Marvel junior editorial staffers whom Archie Goodwin was apparently unable to supervise. (Kirby turned in his last work less than two months after Shooter took over from Goodwin as editor-in-chief, so that’s pretty much all on Goodwin’s head.) According to Stan Lee’s statements at the time, he was no longer willing to let Kirby do the final script on his material, so that might have been a factor as well.

        I don’t know that Kirby ever had any problem with Marvel’s 1978 work-for-hire contract. I’m not even sure he was presented with it. Groth & company’s jumping to conclusions in that news article is the only indication that he was. Given the language of his ’75 contract, it would make more sense if Marvel had presented him with a revised renewal of that agreement. Under it, he was an employee of the company, not a freelancer. A w4h agreement wouldn’t have been necessary.

        3. Would Patrick or someone else please provide the direct quote from Mark Evanier that “Kirby had begun working in animation at the request of Marvel”? My notes indicate that Kirby’s initial employer in animation during the late ’70s was Hanna-Barbera, not DePatie-Freleng. The source for this was page 189 of Evanier’s Kirby: King of Comics.

        4. Judging from the attorney’s letter above, Marvel paid Kirby the full value of his 1975 contract despite Kirby not delivering about 117 pages (9 weeks of work) that he was obligated to provide. If anyone got screwed in this situation, it was Marvel, who paid for work that was never done.

        5. If Kirby and Marvel “agreed that the money earned from the ‘Silver Surfer’ book would be used by Marvel to offset his uncompleted work obligation,” it’s implicit that Marvel agreed to eat the balance owed if the book failed to generate royalties beyond the advance. It can take years for a book to sell in sufficient numbers to cover an advance, assuming it earns it back at all. Marvel’s lawyer is simply indicating the royalty amount necessary to fulfill Kirby’s obligation. If Patrick or anyone else knows of any effort on Marvel’s part to pursue Kirby for reimbursement, please share it. Otherwise, it’s quite irresponsible to accuse them of things they haven’t done.

      • Correction: As Patrick indicates below, Kirby would have owed Marvel 69 pages, not 117. I apologize for the error.

  18. Sock P. Uppet says:

    Always fun to have our time wasted reading silly comments by people who purport to “recollect” non-facts as if they were there when they weren’t or have any experience in the business when they don’t and who make claims about how contracts are “traditionally ” paid, again as if they have a clue about what they are talking about.

    • Allen Smith says:

      I don’t really see anyone’s comments as a waste of time. People can make whatever comments they want and it’s up to the reader to decide how much weight to give those comments. If one is concerned about wasted time, I guess most of American culture is largely a waste of time.

  19. Responding further, this little colloquy was anything but “wasted time.” It’s actually a fine demonstration of the value of comment threads in expanding the readers’ and even the author’s knowledge of the subject at hand. I noted a couple of statements by Steibel that were at odds to some extent with 1) my understanding of Kirby’s creative practice at the point of time in question, and 2) with my knowledge of book-publisher payment practices. My initial comment was never intended as any kind of last word on the subject; the purpose was to raise questions. The comments that followed explained in detail that this project was an exception to how Kirby worked at the time. We also have a much fuller understanding of the publishing deal under which the book was produced. If I hadn’t spoken up, we wouldn’t have gotten any of this. I am grateful for the information. I hope others are as well.

  20. One other thing. Mr. Romberger–um, Mr. Uppet–apparently takes exception to this statement:

    Book publishers traditionally don’t pay page rates; they pay an advance against royalties.

    Does anyone care to explain how this statement is erroneous? Or contrary to our friend, do I actually “have a clue” as to what I’m talking about?

  21. patrick ford says:

    I wrote “royalty” above. It should be “advance.”
    Interesting that if Marvel had published the book Kirby’s 99 pages at $85 per page would have accounted for $8,415, over one half of the advance.

    • R. Fiore says:

      Are you figuring in the $1,100 per week on that?

      • patrick ford says:

        The $1,100 per week was a salary based on Kirby supplying 13 pages of text and pencils per week. That works out to almost exactly $85 per page. I assume Marvel wanted language which defined the way Kirby was being paid for the 13 pages as a salary because being paid a salary defines Kirby as an employee. As an employee he would be creating work made for hire, although specific work for hire language was not used until 1978.
        Evanier says when Kirby was asked/assigned(?) to work on the animated FF cartoon his quota was reduced, and he dropped CAPTAIN AMERICA. It’s not clear if he was paid extra for the animation work or if it was covered by his salary.
        In any event Marvel says he owed them $5,865.00 for unfinished work. At $85 per page 69 pages comes to $5,865. So Kirby owed them 69 pages.
        So even if Kirby was paid for his animation work separately rather than as part of his salary and he did owe Marvel 69 pages he produced 99 pages for which he was paid $2,250. At his usual rate of $85 per page the 99 pages of the graphic novel would have come out to $8,415. So add the $5,865 for the pages Marvel says Kirby owed them and add to that the $2,250 Kirby was paid for the 99 pages and you get $8,115. So at a minimum it would seem Marvel owed Kirby $3oo.

      • 1. It doesn’t necessarily follow that because Kirby’s weekly quota was reduced, his overall contractual obligation was reduced as well. He could have still owed the same number of pages spread out over a longer period of time.

        2. This effort to argue that Marvel owed Kirby as opposed to Kirby owing Marvel is a bunch of sophistry. It’s clearly based on the false premise that, as with Kirby’s series work of the time, Kirby produced the book as Marvel’s employee, and it was governed by the same payment terms. Sorry, but Kirby was never Marvel’s employee with this project. He was a co-author in an author-publisher partnership. Marvel’s role appears to have been that they were acting as a broker between him, Lee, and Simon & Schuster. They seem to have been functioning pretty much the same way a literary agent does. There’s no indication that at any point Kirby forfeited his share of the copyright, or whatever stake he had in the prospective movie deal, or any potential royalties he would have been owed once his debt was paid off. If the book had stayed in print, the potential was there for him, and now his estate, to be making money from it to this day.

  22. Phil Larrabee says:

    30 years now you guys have been playing armchair lawyer for people you aren’t related to, hired by or profit from, while you could have spent that time writing about or discussing what really matters about Kirby’s work. His “legacy” at this point is little more than greedy heirs demanding unearned money and bickering fanboys sticking their toes in the door of history.

    • Nobody is having these discussions about Roy Thomas and John Buscema or Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams or Steve Gerber and Gene Colan. The reason is that there isn’t such a ridiculous discrepancy in their public profiles or the financial remuneration they received. The gap between Lee and Kirby in terms of fame and fortune is so enormous that, unfortunately, it overshadows everything else. Lee’s continued media presence is, for some Kirby partisans, like being poked with a sharp stick every time he turns up.

      Once Lee is dead, his profile will inevitably recede. But people are still arguing about the politics of the Hollywood blacklist and Jelly Roll Morton’s place in jazz history, so I think this is another way that Lee and Kirby are victims. Their work is bound up in the dispute over the size of their creative contributions and that may never be settled.

    • Michael Hill says:

      How are Kirby’s heirs different from Lee’s daughter? Being unable to benefit from the billions generated by your father’s creations makes you greedy?

  23. Steibel says:

    Mark Mayerson: “Nobody is having these discussions about Roy Thomas and John Buscema or Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams or Steve Gerber and Gene Colan. The reason is that there isn’t such a ridiculous discrepancy in their public profiles or the financial remuneration they received.”

    I think what you say is partially true, I’ve found that there are probably 1000s of comic book fans that do discuss Kirby because of the credit and remuneration issue — people argue about whether Jack’s estate should get even a tiny piece of the quadrillion dollar Marvel empire and some fans think he should get credit for his creations and a credit for being one of the writers on the books. Humans are always arguing about money and credit. Some of the first examples we have of human writing are about money and credit.

    But I think the reason people aren’t discussing people like Roy Thomas (and the other guys you mentioned) more often is because Kirby is an historically more important comics artist and creator. Not bashing someone like Roy Thomas who I’m sure has his fans (I read some of his Conan comics when I was 10-years-old) just saying Kirby was kinda’ on a different level than someone like Roy. Just the fact that our current American movie mythology is based on characters Kirby created means Kirby is relevant to our culture and he should be discussed. It would be a crime if someone wasn’t talking about Jack.

    And there are a million other reasons there are a handful of people on planet Earth who discuss Jack: I do it because I enjoy looking at his work. Simple as that. It’s fun. And I disagree with you that the Kirby/Lee work is “bound up in the dispute over the size of their creative contributions and that may never be settled.” I think Jack’s work transcends petty arguments about who-created-what, but at the same time the authorship debate is a genuine mystery, and some people love a good mystery — so I although I think future scholars will continue to examine the topic of who-created-what, ultimately it’s Jack’s art and Jack’s creations that will stand the test of time, although like the pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses, future generations may have no idea who created those characters, and those fictional characters may eventually be forgotten or assimilated into new pantheons of heroes. But we lived amongst the men and women who created these characters so we can still search for the truth before it is obscured by the sands of time.

    Phil Larrabee: “30 years now you guys have been playing armchair lawyer for people you aren’t related to, hired by or profit from, while you could have spent that time writing about or discussing what really matters about Kirby’s work. His “legacy” at this point is little more than greedy heirs demanding unearned money and bickering fanboys sticking their toes in the door of history.”

    For me, I’ve only been looking at Jack’s work for about 10 years. I’ve said this before so sorry to repeat myself: I remain amazed by comic book fans who always make this discussion personal. There is not a single word in that comment that contributes anything new to the historical discussion. This is another personal attack on Jack’s family and what the poster calls “bickering fanboys.” Why not contribute someting substantive to the discussion instead of attacking other fans of the comics medium? And as I said in the previous response, at least there is a discussion of Kirby online. Would you prefer we stop discussing him altogether? What subjects do we have your permission to discuss? The Super Bowl? I’ll say Denver 27, Seattle 21.

    My attitude is this: even if you hate Kirby or you hate his fans, at least some people are talking about the comics medium and comics history online — that’s one way to keep the medium alive and relevant. Kirby wasn’t god, but he was a good-heated, hard-working middle class guy that survived the depression and fought during the war and he has entertained billions of people with his art and ideas — instead of lashing out at his fans, share some of your knowledge of comics history, that’s the way to keep the medium worth talking about and worth working in.

  24. Billy Wiles says:

    There were a lot of isolationists and pro-Germans living in the country, so Jack and Joe were taking a risk producing this type of flagrant anti-Nazi propaganda, but history has shown they were in the right. Jack and Joe were already heroes fighting fascism and totalitarianism and they were just cartoonists.

    That description seems a little overblown. Nazi sympathizers in the United States by 1941 were a tiny, shunned minority whose few popular voices were considered potentially treasonous by most of the country. If Jack and Joe were in mortal or bodily peril from promoting anti-Nazi messages in media, they were well back in the line, behind nearly every newspaper editor in the country at the time. And in any case, isolationists were not likely to use anything but words to support their arguments.

    I do want to thank you for these interesting and informative articles and look forward to more of them in the future.

  25. george says:

    Steibel: “This is another personal attack on Jack’s family and what the poster calls “bickering fanboys.””

    Steibel posts an article that is supposedly about Kirby and Shores, but is really devoted to bashing Stan Lee in almost every paragraph. And, like most Kirby partisans, Steibel is very thin-skinned, flares up easily, and can’t abide any criticism of his writing. Or any criticism of his hero, Jack Kirby.

    If you’re not convinced that Jack was perfect and Stan was a louse, you’re attacking Jack, his fans and his family. If you disagree with the Kirby partisans posting here, you’re attacking Jack, his fans and his family. At least, that’s how Steibel and other members of the Kirby Kult see things.

  26. george says:

    Mark Mayerson said: “Once Lee is dead, his profile will inevitably recede.”

    Hey, Mark, where did you buy your crystal ball? Were they having a sale on them?

  27. george says:

    Allen Smith said: “I’m going on the assumption that the lamer elements of the book, such as including the girl in the story, and the preachy portions, were Stan’s doing.”

    Of course, there was NEVER anything lame in the comics that credited Kirby as the writer. They were all magnificent works of genius, right?

    Frankly, the Kirby who wrote his own dialogue reminds me of the George Lucas who created Jar Jar Binks. LAME!

  28. Steibel says:

    Steibel: “There were a lot of isolationists and pro-Germans living in the country, so Jack and Joe were taking a risk producing this type of flagrant anti-Nazi propaganda, but history has shown they were in the right. Jack and Joe were already heroes fighting fascism and totalitarianism and they were just cartoonists.”

    Billy Wiles: “That description seems a little overblown.”

    Probably a good point — Jack and Joe weren’t like James Bond dodging bullets in the streets of NY, but the image of Captain America punching Hitler in the face in 1941 was a pretty bold image; if the war had gone the other way the tide of history might have gone a lot different for men like Jack and Joe; and if Jack had been a POW when he was fighting over in Europe and the Nazis found out he illustrated that iconic cover, I doubt they would have treated him too kindly. To me that famous Cap # 1 cover is one of the images that stands right along side the famous Gadsen flag “don’t tread on me” image from the revolution. One has to wonder who will create the next image that will capture this American century, and will it be someone in comics?

    Thanks for checking out the article.

    • Allen Smith says:

      True, Rob, Kirby was on the front lines while Stan was lounging around in the states. Which really has nothing to do with the point of your post, but I hope it pisses off the True Believers.

  29. Michael Hill says:

    I am dismayed that the comments section of every one of Rob’s columns is used as an opportunity by a Marvel shill to disseminate the worst misinformation imaginable. Rob, I admire your restraint in appearing to give RSM the benefit of the doubt when addressing the stuff he makes up, but I think the better approach would be to question everything he writes (as he does with you). Kirby worked from Lee’s full script? It’s insignificant that Disney sued the Kirbys when they were in the middle of negotiating in good faith? These statements need to be denounced in the strongest terms.

    Bob, your diligence has not gone unnoticed by your Disney overlords. Winging its way to you as I write this is a coupon for 10% off the normal $300 fee for a photograph with your hero at a convention near you.

  30. george says:

    “The gap between Lee and Kirby in terms of fame and fortune is so enormous that, unfortunately, it overshadows everything else. Lee’s continued media presence is, for some Kirby partisans, like being poked with a sharp stick every time he turns up.”

    This obsession with creators’ “fame and fortune” seems unique to comics fandom. I’ve never heard a movie buff express outrage that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg make more money in a single year than John Ford or Orson Welles made in their entire careers, even though Ford and Welles were arguably more talented directors. Lucas and Spielberg’s peers — De Palma, Scorsese, Coppola, Friedkin, Bogdanovich, etc. — also never hit the jackpot like George and Steven did.

    But a lot of comics fans are seething with anger and resentment over the fact that Stan Lee became a millionaire, while Kirby and Ditko did not. In a fair and just world, Kirby and Ditko would have been very wealthy men. But, as John F. Kennedy said, “Life is not fair.” And all the venom directed at Stan Lee, by fanboys who have too much time on their hands, is not going to change that.

    • Oliver says:

      One reason movie buffs don’t get so outraged about the money is because, when it comes to Ford and Welles’ artistic and historical significance, in fact very little is “arguable” about their self-evident superiority.

      • patrick ford says:

        Not to mention the fact Lucas never claimed to have given Wells the idea Citizen Kane.

      • Have you read Pauline Kael’s essay “Raising Kane”? It led to a war of words among critics and film makers about whether Orson Welles was entitled to a screenplay credit on Citizen Kane and whether Welles or co-screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz was primarily responsible for the film’s accomplishments. It is very much in the vein of the Lee-Kirby debate.

      • patrick ford says:

        Mark, Yes I’ve read it. Lucas didn’t work on Kane. He wasn’t even born yet when the film was made.
        People who believe Kirby created the characters at Marvel and sold them to Lee resent Lee because Lee claims he created the copyrighted characters and assigned them to Kirby.
        Lee consistently describes Kirby as an illustrator whose role was limited to visualizing the ideas and characters Lee assigned to him.
        Lee’s snow job consists of things along this line.
        (imagine Stan Lee voice): “Well Jack was the greatest. He was probably the most creative guy ever. No one is as great as Jack. You know, I’m probably Jack’s biggest fan. No other artist brought MY ideas to life the way Jack did.”

    • There are definitely arguments among film fans and scholars about the relative contributions of writers and directors. How much of Frank Capra’s most well known films are due to screenwriter Robert Riskin? How much of certain Hitchcock films of the 1950s are due to screenwriter John Michael Hayes? Why are Budd Boetticher’s best westerns written by Burt Kennedy?

      And in jazz, there is a lot of discussion about the size of Duke Ellington’s contribution to the pieces that carry his name. Many of them contain key contributions by his band members who were rarely credited.

      Trying to unpack the contributions in any collaborative medium is difficult and when one contributor is lionized and the others are ignored, the discussion often gets heated. It isn’t only comics fans who are caught up in this.

  31. george says:

    Lucas and Spielberg routinely swiped shots from Ford, Welles and other directors. STAR WARS would not exist without Kurosawa’s THE HIDDEN FORTRESS. It also pilfers from TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. Most film buffs simply acknowledge this. They don’t get mad about it.

    The level of anger, bitterness and bile on comics-related sites is not to be found on sites devoted to other forms of pop culture. At least not ones that presume to be taken seriously. No, you only find this on comics sites (including the Journal site) and Ain’t It Cool News. Of course, fanboys have never been known for emotional maturity. But things seem to have gotten much worse in the last few years.

    ‘How much of Frank Capra’s most well known films are due to screenwriter Robert Riskin?”

    Probably quite a bit. But you can also ask why the Riskin-scripted films shot by other directors are not as good as the ones shot by Capra. I suspect Capra had a bit of input into those scripts — just as Stan Lee had input into the stories drawn by Jack Kirby, as did Joe Simon in earlier days.

    • R. Fiore says:

      Years ago the science fiction news magazine Locus published a story about a complaint by Lucasfilm against the makers of the original Battlestar Galacta, quoting Lucas’ attorneys on the importance of respecting the integrity of an artist’s original vision. Next issue there was a letter to the editor saying “I very much agree with the sentiment, but I must say I was surprised at the source.” It was signed Frank Herbert.

    • Mike Hunter says:

      ————————-
      george says:

      Lucas and Spielberg routinely swiped shots from Ford, Welles and other directors. STAR WARS would not exist without Kurosawa’s THE HIDDEN FORTRESS. It also pilfers from TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. Most film buffs simply acknowledge this. They don’t get mad about it.
      ————————-

      Maybe ’cause they’re aware that to any cineáste, it would be perfectly obvious that the staging, shooting, and editing of the “getting the awards” ceremony at the end of “Star Wars” was a take-off from a similar scene in Leni Reifenstahl’s film; just as Brian DePalma “quoted” the famous Odessa Steps sequence — from “Battleship Potemkin” — in his movie of “The Untouchables.”

      http://www.cracked.com/article_19826_6-iconic-scenes-ripped-off-from-lesser-known-movies.html

      It’s hardly the same thing as the “Lee claiming all the credit — and pay — for writing the comics that Jack Kirby actually did a substantial amount of the writing (plotting, descriptions of action and emotion, suggested dialogue) on.”

      Indeed, the comparison is so off-base it’s utterly ludicrous.

      —————————
      …Of course, fanboys have never been known for emotional maturity…
      —————————

      Well, if you’re a “fanboy,” how CAN you be emotionally mature? The repeated usage of “fanboys” here — in an issue that’s hardly of the “Which Robin had the most awesome costume ever?” level — reeks of right-wingers describing anyone opposed to, say, the invasion of Iraq as “America-hating liberals.”

      Funny, also, how it’s only comics and SF/fantasy buffs who are “fanboys”; not chaps like these here:

      http://thecoloradoobserver.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/cheesehead.jpg

      http://www.examiner.com/article/the-real-american-sporting-pastime-returns-go-ahead-and-argue-i-dare-you

    • Michael Hill says:

      “just as Stan Lee had input into the stories drawn by Jack Kirby, as did Joe Simon in earlier days.”

      Your proof of this statement comes solely from the words of two men who got to write the history of working with Jack Kirby. You continue to ignore the testimony of the man who said their input was less than they suggest.

      Jack Kirby was primarily a writer, not just the guy who drew the stories. Once you accept that, it allows you to see the claims of these three men in a new light, and wonder precisely why the other two guys needed to be there at all.

      • Scott Grammel says:

        Michael, read the Jack Kirby WRITTEN and drawn “This Is A Plot?” from Fantastic Four Annual #5 (November 1967) and tell me who I should believe: Kirby then, or Kirby later?

    • D.D. says:

      You’re actually arguing that people get in bigger fights over comics than over other parts of culture? Kid, people get stabbed over what bands they like.

  32. Chris Duffy says:

    How about this: Jack Kirby was cartoonist in a world of comic book editors, writers, pencilers, and inkers. A cartoonist (in the Segar/Herriman/ Tezuka, model) reinvents the world on the page. Let’s keep this thread going forever!

  33. george says:

    It’s interesting that so much bile is directed at Stan Lee and Marvel, while fans cut slack for DC and its editors of the ’60s … even though, from all accounts, Mort Weisinger and Robert Kanigher were MUCH more loathsome than Stan Lee, as bosses and people. They treated artists and writers with open contempt.

    I suspect it’s because Marvel had such a good reputation, as noble underdogs, for so long. Nobody expected anything good from DC’s management. Not after the way they treated Siegel, Shuster and Finger. But people did expect better from Marvel. It wasn’t until the Kirby original-art controversy that most fans realized Marvel was a for-profit business. Shocking!

    Fans also have little to say about Kirby’s clashes with Carmine Infantino at DC in the early ’70s, which prompted Kirby to go back to Marvel in 1975. It’s easier to beat up on Stan Lee.

    • D.D. says:

      Since nobody who backs Kirby actually cuts those DC editors any slack, no, that’s not interesting at all.

  34. george says:

    “Have you read Pauline Kael’s essay “Raising Kane”?”

    Kael’s essay has been thoroughly debunked by Peter Bogdanovich, among others. Her research (most of which she borrowed from someone else, without giving him credit) was not exactly credible.

    You can read Brian Kellow’s Kael biography, “A Life in the Dark,” for more about this.

  35. george says:

    D.D. said: “Since nobody who backs Kirby actually cuts those DC editors any slack, no, that’s not interesting at all.’

    Bullshit, D.D. The Kirby worshipers are obsessive in their hatred of Stan Lee, and constantly bash him, while maintaining silence on the DC editors.

  36. “Kind of strange how Lee has Captain America in panel 4 thinking about how he is worried whether he can beat the bad guys in a thought balloon, then Lee has Cap announce in a word balloon to the guy that he sure can try. Doesn’t really make any sense”

    It does make sense. He’s replying to the guard (“You can’t beat us all off!”). Perhaps an example of Lee using a narrative technique (dialogue and thought balloons running concurrently in the same scene) that was too sophisticated? Maybe he should have added more dialogue to the art in order to make it clearer. :)

  37. Mike Hunter says:

    ———————
    george says:

    It’s interesting that so much bile is directed at Stan Lee and Marvel, while fans cut slack for DC and its editors of the ’60s … even though, from all accounts, Mort Weisinger and Robert Kanigher were MUCH more loathsome than Stan Lee, as bosses and people. They treated artists and writers with open contempt.
    ———————-

    Indeed, due to many editors’ assholishness, the atmosphere at DC came across as loathsomely toxic and abusive. Many individual editors there making Stan Lee — for all his “Funky Flashman” credit-hogging and unfair money-grabbing (making artists come up with plots while he took all the money for writing) — come across like a saint.

    But there’s a pretty simple reason why the Lee/Kirby conflict acts like such a lighting rod for heated debate. Because, like lightning rods, Lee and Kirby tower above the competition, in fame for the former and achievement for the latter.

    Stan Lee might as well be Marvel comics, in the mind of most, even having being well paid to be a goodwill ambassador-at-large for the company. Can all of DC’s editors put together remotely touch his wealth and “in the public eye” fame, from “Stan’s Soapbox” to the various TV shows he’s appeared in and hosted? He’s even been the centerpiece of his own Con.

    And Jack Kirby not only created the visual “Marvel style,” which others were told to emulate, but he’s the “god” of American comic books, a brilliant, multigenre talent and cornucopia of inventiveness. Co-creator (at the very least) of countless characters who’ve raked in billions at the box office.

    In DC, the putrid behavior was spread among several editors; most acting honorably, thus muddying the moral picture. And the treatment accorded a large amount of creators — inescapable far lesser figures than Kirby (sorry, Joe Kubert) — likewise varied: some treated well, others shafted.

    This “complicatedness” of those situations at DC (hopefully such noxiousness is a thing of the past) makes it more difficult to take a simplistic, morally condemnatory attitude about that publisher’s actions. (Without going back to that primal, ancient situation with Superman’s creators. Even there, who knows who the individuals were at DC who were the “bad guys”? Damn few.)

    While, again, at Marvel the fight is mentally cut down to just two people. As with David and Goliath, Cain and Abel, the Lee/Kirby conflict is emotionally more dramatic and “digestible.”

    ————————
    I suspect it’s because Marvel had such a good reputation, as noble underdogs, for so long. Nobody expected anything good from DC’s management. Not after the way they treated Siegel, Shuster and Finger. But people did expect better from Marvel.
    ————————-

    Certainly Stan’s Soapbox, the MMMS and such made Marvel look more friendly, personable, and approachable. An “in club”; the “underdog” bit likewise helped.

    ————————-
    It wasn’t until the Kirby original-art controversy that most fans realized Marvel was a for-profit business. Shocking!
    ————————-

    It wasn’t that they were unaware that “Marvel was a for-profit business,” but that the company which fostered such a warm-hearted image (as opposed to DC’s monolithic, corporate impersonality) was capable of acting dishonorably; and towards its greatest and by far most important talent, yet.

    It is possible to be a for-profit business and treat people fairly and honestly, after all…

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