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

“I’m Gonna Open Sealed Door to Negative Zone!”

Thanks to several readers for calling my attention to five Kirby pencil photostats from Fantastic Four # 61 (Apr 1967) that were recently sold at the Heritage Auction website. Every one of these FF # 61 pages have a lot of interesting things to discuss, especially the page where Lee had John Romita add Peter Parker and Mary Jane to Jack’s story/art, but since I don’t want to infringe on Marvel’s copyright of the material we’ll only look at two pages. Let’s dive right in. Here’s a full scan of both pages back to back. Large-size photostats of Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #61, penciled pages 18 and 19 (Marvel, 1967).

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I’m going to show the individual panels again later in the column next to the published artwork, but I’d like to do a little group participation experiment with you first. Let’s go ahead and look at an enlarged scan of each Kirby penciled panel one-by-one in sequence (I broke one horizontal panel in half so each image has the same size). When Stan Lee received this entire 20-page story (plus the cover) this is how the art would have looked to him before he added text to Jack’s story – first Stan would read Jack’s entire book (looking at Jack’s art and referring to Jack’s directions in the margins to get the gist of the entire book) then in the next phase Lee would go back and add his own text to Kirby’s story. You can see when these photostats were made Lee had already completed that phase of the process – notice where Lee added empty word balloons. The letterer would have worked off a Lee type-written script and filled in those spots.

I encourage you to look at Jack’s artwork and read Jack’s notes for yourself; think about how you would add text to this imagery if you were the “Guest Editor of the Week” when this book was published in 1967. Or better yet, imagine Marvel is reprinting this material in 2014 and you won a contest and have been selected to add the captions to the story for a nice pile of money. Reflect on how long it takes you to come up with the captions for each panel, and you can compare your own ideas to Lee’s text later.

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Okay, let’s compare those individual Kirby pencil images to the published artwork inked by the legendary Joe Sinnott. I’m going to describe the image first since that is what Jack did first — Kirby added his directions in the margins for Lee after the visuals were completed.

Fantastic Four # 61, page 17, panel 1

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Kirby image: the Sandman is being bombarded by a barrage of the Human Torch’s flame. Sandman is knocked backwards.

There is a prodigious amount of Kirby crackle in this frame, and a lot more throughout the entire sequence (some comics historians refer to the effect as “Kirby krackle”).  Jack started using that effect a lot during this period, and as you can see Sinnott’s supreme craftsmanship and specifically Joe’s decision to delineate much of the Kirby crackle with perfect circles makes the effect remarkably dynamic. Notice the wonderful contrast of this image – an almost equal mix of dark and light.

Jack’s directions for Stan Lee: “Sandman dodges but can’t for long — he press button on belt.”

Lee’s text: mirrors Jack’s directions. The Sandman speaking out loud says, “Maybe I can’t dodge your firey attack…” and Lee has the Sandman verbally express that he is pressing a button on his costume.

Lee idea: You can see where Lee added the sound effect “click!” on the penciled image. The sound effects are Lee contributions.

Fantastic Four # 61, page 17, panel 2

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Kirby image: the Sandman is encased in a frozen cocoon.

Terrific line variety: the pencilwork on the body representing what looks like snow; thin lines representing the swirling clouds of smoke; scratchy blotches symbolize sizzling power pouring off the Sandman; speed lines shoot off in all directions. A bit of this energy is lost in the inking phase, especially the directionality of the lines since Sinnott inks the energy in all black. In the bottom of the image there is a perfect example of how Joe Sinnott changes what I’ll call Kirby splotches into Kirby crackle – in the pencil phase there are only a few circles and rough patches, after the inking phase there are hundreds of circles and sketchy areas are in all-black.

Kirby’s directions for Stan Lee: “Chemicals cause him to freeze – sand mixed with liquid nitrogen – when flame hits it – it gives off poison vapors.”

Lee’s text: once again mirrors Jack’s directions. The Sandman says his costume is releasing “liquid nitrogen” and that when flame is mixed with his “sandy molecules” this will cause him to “freeze” releasing “poisonous vapors.” There are six Kirby concepts there: (1) chemicals are released by Sandman’s costume, (2) resulting in freezing, (3) then when chemicals are mixed with sand, (4) mixed with liquid nitrogen, (5) and when hit by flame, (6) they release poison vapor. “Kirby physics,” and all six of these story elements made it into Lee’s caption.

Lee idea: Lee adds in the first caption that Sandman’s Frightful Four cohort the Wizard added that particular gadget to the costume as a perfect means to stop the Torch. Relatively minor revelation since Sandman had mentioned the Wizard’s connection to the costume in page 9 of the story, but this is an example of Lee possibly adding a new story element to Jack’s story (unless Kirby had already said the Wizard designed certain elements of the costume in an earlier margin note we don’t access to). Mercifully, Lee doesn’t add a sound effect to this panel.

And how wonderfully creative is that whole concept of the chemicals and flame, mixed with sand and liquid nitrogen, freezing Sandman, and releasing the poison gas that blasts the FF. This is the type of thing that made Jack’s 60s comics so much fun – every single panel has a new surprise. Jack’s ideas are unpredictable, innovative, at times totally unconventional, and even wacky. Kirby comics in the 60s were a roller coaster ride through a fun house. And they still are: as I’m working on this article breaking down only two pages of Kirby art, I’m struck by how these pages are jam-packed with ideas. There was a reason the Marvel comics line took off like a rocket when Jack came onboard in the 1960s. And if wasn’t Forbush Man.

Fantastic Four # 61, page 17, panel 3

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Kirby image: we cut to Reed and Johnny getting slammed by the poison gas released by the Sandman’s costume. Both of them clutch their throats, chocking, gasping for air. Jack’s decision to use parallel lines to silhouette the figures and symbolize the inescapable, smothering gas is very effective — another example of clever line variety to visually express a story element.

Kirby’s directions for Stan Lee: “Johnny and Reed overcome / Reed must save them or die.”

Lee’s text: This is our first example of what I call “Lee STO” — “Lee Stating the Obvious.” The Torch says his flame is out and he can’t breathe, which is obvious – the caption is a mirror reflection of the image. And I don’t mean “Lee STO” to be an offensive term (not like “STD” or something), I could call it “Comics STO” because a large amount of text from 60s comics reiterates what is in the image, but Lee in particular is a comic book writer who tended to state the obvious a lot on Kirby’s work, And you could argue he did that because it works — that way the text doesn’t interfere with the momentum of the images all working together to drive the story forward.

In Reed’s word balloon you have more comics STO dialogue: Sandman “isn’t affected” by the poison gas (I would hope not, poisoning himself would be a pretty dumb move) and they have “…to do something or — it’s over!” (they are being drenched in poison gas, obviously they have to do something). In my opinion most comics STO dialogue and STO captions are there to fill space; it’s there to make readers linger on a comic book page for a few minutes so they feel like they got their money’s worth. In this type of STO dialogue we don’t learn anything about character and it doesn’t necessarily further the story, but STO dialogue does keep things going without confusing the reader or distracting them from Jack’s imagery, and in that sense Lee does his job.

Fantastic Four # 61, page 17, panel 4

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Kirby image: Johnny is overcome by the poison gas and collapsing. Reed struggles to turn a giant lock that will open a massive metal door. Notice how Jack uses speed lines that start on the left side of the image and radiate to the right upwards and downwards (this effect is lost a bit in the inking phase), drawing your eye towards the door — therein lies salvation (if only temporarily). The Torch is falling down and Reed reaching up along with those speed lines direct the eye towards that gateway to the negative zone, first introduced in Fantastic Four # 51 (Jun 1966), and as a reader once you turn the page, it’s as if you’ve opened the door yourself…

Kirby’s directions for Stan Lee: “He yells grab something Johnny – hold on fast – I’m gonna open sealed door to negative zone.”

Lee’s text mirrors Jack’s directions: Reed says he’s “got to open the door to the negative zone,” and he tells Johnny to “grab one of the pipes nearby.”

Lee idea: Reed addresses Sue who is out of the frame. Lee adds another new facet to that panel: he has the Torch say, “But — you always warned us — told us — never to open it!” Although a relatively minor plot point, that is a new addition to Jack’s story. So as you see Lee does add little new bits and pieces to Jack’s story/art. I’ve described this in the past as Lee adding a few ornaments to a Kirby Christmas tree that has already been almost completely decorated.

Fantastic Four # 62, page 18, panel 1

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Kirby image: the Torch is caught in a vortex. What I call “Kirby debris” is flying all over the room, and it’s being sucked towards the negative zone. Terrific composition: notice how the debris is evenly spaced all around the Torch, great example of “Kirby controlled chaos.” Also notice how Lee tries to position the balloons in a way that doesn’t cover up too much of Jack’s art.

Kirby’s directions for Stan Lee: “Suddenly green light fills room – a roaring gale draws gas – and everything else in room toward light.”

I love Jack’s “roaring gale,” line — that would have been a nice addition to a caption for this image. The idea of the green light is also a nice addition to the sequence, it creates the feeling of transition into a new realm.

Unfortunately I have a hard time reading Lee’s handwritten text in the pencil phase that you can see under Jack’s directions. If there are any Stan Lee historians out there, if you can translate Stan’s first note to Sol Brodsky, I’m sure we’d all appreciate it. I can read the second note where Lee wrote “Sol copy,” in the circle but the rest of that is indecipherable to me.

Addendum: Thanks to a reader for this translation of Lee’s note: “Stan G Green cast to all this.” The reader added, “Stan Goldberg was colouring a lot of Marvel titles at the time, so it might be addressed to him.”

Lee adds a lot of text to the panel in the lettering phase. Which is a shame — it diminishes the impact of Jack’s composition by filling up about a fifth of the image with that long caption box. Covering the Torch’s hand was unnecessary, Lee could have easily cut a sentence out of that box, especially the first two lines. But I suppose it was necessary to let the reader know what direction the energy is moving in. Again, Lee’s text mirrors Jack’s directions: Lee mentions the green light (which the colorist implements), and the fact that “the gas and everything else” are being drawn to a light source. All story elements in Jack’s notes.

Lee idea: Reed out of frame telling Sue and Johnny to grab onto something. Having Reed address Sue out-of-fame is a Lee contribution to the story not specifically in Jack’s directions. Big thumbs up to Stan for not cluttering this image up with an invasive sound effect.

Fantastic Four # 62, page 18, panel 2

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Kirby image: a close-up image of Johnny Storm screaming while being bombarded by hundreds of pieces of debris flying through the air. Terrific image by Kirby; the whole world flying to pieces.

Kirby’s directions for Stan Lee: “Torch grabs a hand hold on pipe – as room is being ripped apart – debris hits him from all sides.”

It’s fun to see Kirby himself calling his famous “Kirby Debris” debris.

Lee idea: Stan’s text in the previous panel was very effective in helping to transition into this panel — Johnny turns to his left and grabs the pipe as Reed directed. This is a perfect example of Lee “filling in the blank” so to speak. He looked at Jack’s art, saw the Human Torch character change direction and grab onto a pipe, Lee figured out a way to add dialogue to that story element reflecting the action. The first caption is STO dialogue, but I do like the “We’ve unleashed something much more dangerous than the Sandman!” line. That’s a great way to add more drama to the sequence.

One additional observation about the art: notice how Sinnott adds trademark Kirby squiggles to the left side of that pipe and to that piece of debris.

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You can see a few other examples of Joe adding squiggles to Kirby pencils on these two pages, notably on the lock to the negative zone. Great example of the symbiosis between penciler and inker: Joe using elements of Jack’s own unique style to add detail to the artwork. One has to wonder how much of a role Joe played in the evolution of Jack’s famous squiggles. This method of depicting shiny metal is a technique many comics artists have gone on to use over the years.

Fantastic Four # 62, page 18, panel 3

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Kirby image: in this image the Sandman is bathed by a heavy dose of quintessential late-60s “Kirby energy.” Again, in the pencil phase the Kirby crackle is kind of sketchy — it’s Sinnott that gives the crackle the famous polka-dot sheen that has become a superhero comics motif used by hundreds of cartoonists over the years (especially at Marvel).

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Because of Sinnott’s importance in the process, I call this symmetrical crackle “Kirby/Sinnott crackle.” Mike Royer in particular made good use of this technique in Jack’s 1970s work. Here is a Kirby Dynamics article where I discuss Kirby’s “crackle” in more detail: Kirby Crackle.

Kirby’s directions for Stan Lee: “Strange unleashed forces thunder and flash around Sandman / Reed isn’t seen.”

Lee’s text: Not a whole lot of relevant substance to the captions, but from a story perspective the Sandman does mention he made his feet like “sandy anchors” to hold himself in place. I think this is an effective addition to Jack’s story — a clever way to fill space, which after all is Stan’s main job here: to give the readers some words to chew on which will make this a visual/textual reading experience. In these action sequences, Stan’s job is to stay out of the way of the story which is thundering ahead like a freight train in warp drive.

Fantastic Four # 62, page 18, panel 4

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Kirby image: a close-up of the Sandman screaming, surrounded by cosmic crackle. The contrast makes it look like the character is on fire, consumed by energy.

Kirby’s directions for Stan Lee: “Sandman yells with fright as the yawning unknown pulls him toward it.“

I love the line “yawning unknown.”

Lee text: relatively STO dialogue — a typical 60s comic book character talking out loud to himself. Stan does have Sandman mention the “force is getting stronger,” but that’s pretty obvious, this whole sequence has been building and building and building. Jack is conducting a great comics symphony in this FF # 61 book, and I guess you could consider Lee, Sinnott, the letterer and colorist members of the orchestra.

Fantastic Four # 62, page 18, panel 5

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Kirby image: Sandman decides it’s time to split so he leaps out the window. Glass shatters in all directions.

Great abrupt end to the battle — the Sandman simply quits and runs away. This image reminds me of an old silent comedy film, the cowardly bad guy turns tail and heads for ze hills — all you can see is his back and a dust trail. The action moving from left-to-right draws the reader up and away, out, and onto the next page.

Kirby’s directions for Stan Lee: “He spots only window in room – and plunges through it to escape.”

Notice it looks like Lee practiced writing “KLASH,” then “KLL” at the bottom of the page. Then if you look closely you can barely make out where Lee added the sound effect “KLLASH!” on Jack’s art. And how totally unnecessary is that sound effect; why cover up Sandman with that text? It’s amazing to me how arbitrary Lee’s sound effects are — why add  a sound effect to this image but not the others? I guess we can be grateful every panel in the book doesn’t have a big red “BTOOM!” covering up Jack’s art.

Lee’s text: I think the addition of that long caption is unfortunate. Instead of a dramatic image of Sandman in the center of the comic book frame crashing through the entire window frame, we get lengthy Lee STO — a totally unnecessary self-explanatory piece of text that tells us nothing we can’t infer from Jack’s illustration, mainly it disrupts Jack’s original composition. The single “The window – I made it!” caption would have made that panel far more dynamic.

It probably took Jack between 4 to 6 hours to write and illustrate these two pages (maybe more because there is a tremendous amount of detail in that art), it may have taken Stan Lee a maximum 10 minutes to add captions to that art. Try it yourself on the blank pages. I timed myself once and it took me about two minutes per page to add STO captions to a Kirby action page (talking head scenes take a bit longer).

Let’s do a report card and briefly break down who did what on these pages so it’s easy to see the whole process in one space. Before I do that, I realize there will be those who will say, “Well, maybe Lee gave Jack a plot for this story. Maybe Lee said, ‘Hey Jack, for FF # 61: have FF fight Sandman and Reed gets sucked into the negative zone,’ so Lee deserves a plot credit for each image.” The problem is that we don’t know if Lee gave Jack a “plot” for this story so all we can report on is what we do know (and I realize this is subjective, so feel free to try this at home if you disagree with my analysis).

Note: For the record, I find it highly unlikely Lee jumped up on his desk and acted out Sandman pushing a button on his new costume that released chemicals and liquid nitrogen that when mixed with sand and flame froze his body and released poison gas. Plus Jack would have had to either have a photographic memory or very good shorthand skills to follow Lee’s directions verbatim, so I will assume almost all (if not all) of the major story elements in this story originated on Jack’s drawing board.

Fantastic Four # 61 (1967), page 17, Pencils/Published Art Story Breakdown

Kirby: Sandman is hit by Torch’s flame

Kirby: Sandman hits a button on his belt

Lee: The Wizard previously gave Sandman a gizmo to defeat Torch

Kirby: Sandman’s costume releases chemicals

Kirby: The chemicals cause Sandman to freeze

Kirby: The Torch blasts Sandman with more flame

Kirby: The sand is mixed with liquid nitrogen

Kirby: When hit by flame, the result is poisonous gas

Kirby: Reed and Johnny are hit by poison gas

Kirby: Gas puts out Torch’s flame

Kirby: Reed and Johnny gasp for air

Lee: Reed tells Sue to hold on

Kirby: Reed tells Johnny to grab something

Kirby: Johnny is collapsing

Kirby: Reed tries to unlock portal to negative zone to escape gas

Lee: Johnny says Reed warned them never to open that door

Fantastic Four # 61 (1967), page 18, Pencils/Published Art Story Breakdown

Kirby: The portal to the negative zone is opened

Kirby: Green light fills the room

Kirby: A roaring gale sucks out poison gas

Kirby: Everything in the room is sucked towards the light

Kirby: The Torch is bombarded by debris

Lee: Reed tells Johnny to hold on

Lee: Johnny says he can’t hold on

Lee: Reed tells Johnny to reach to his left

Kirby: The Torch grabs a pipe

Kirby: Debris hits the Torch from all sides

Lee: The Torch says they have unleashed something dangerous

Kirby: Strange forces thunder around Sandman

Lee: Sandman makes his feet like anchors

Kirby: Sandman yells with fright

Kirby: Sandman spots a window and jumps out

I tend to hate when people breakdown the Kirby/Lee collaboration by percentages, but here’s my conclusion: I suspect every single idea in the illustration phase came from Kirby. If Lee did tell him to have FF fight Sandman, in my opinion that’s a job assignment not a “plot.” And we can’t prove that idea came from Lee anyway. The only thing Lee really adds to these two pages is the idea the Reed is constantly telling everybody to hold onto something (as if they don’t already know to do that). Lee does add certain elements in the dialoguing phase — for example he adds that the Wizard created the liquid nitrogen gadget, Lee added that the Sandman made his feet like anchors, and Lee added elements like the sound effects, so I’m going to give these two pages a breakdown of:

FF # 61, pages 17 and 18, Story Credit

Kirby: 95%

Lee: 5%

I know, I know, 100s of True Believer heads just exploded. Yes, I realize what I’m saying is considered blasphemous — trust me, I have mountains of hate mail from “Your Generalissimo’s Brave Brigadiers” (as Lee now calls himself and his fans) condemning me to hell for this kind of credit breakdown. But am I wrong? Maybe Kirby: 90%, and Lee: 10% is more fair? I know most fans want a 50%/50% credit designation (which is generous towards Kirby considering Lee gives himself 100% of the credit for creating all the major 60s Marvel characters), but how on Earth does Lee deserve anything close to 50% of the credit on a story like this?

And I’m not talking about the “overall impact” Lee gave the books with his Bullpen Bulletins (where he endlessly promoted himself), his letters pages (where he endlessly promoted himself), his college lectures (where he endlessly promoted himself), and his interviews (where he endlessly promoted himself). I’m talking about giving fair and accurate credit to each man for this single story. For these two pages, in my opinion, Jack should have gotten paid 95% of Lee’s writer check, and he should have been clearly credited as a writer on this story.

If you have a problem with that 95% – 5% Kirby/Lee story credit and want to start a flame war with me — be careful because I might have to push a button on my belt and release chemicals that when mixed with the flame, liquid nitrogen, and the sand on my skin, will freeze me and create poisonous gas which will no doubt knock you out unless you have access to a nearby negative zone. And if you disagree with my percentages, you’re in good company: Stan Lee gave himself 100% of the writer’s paycheck for stories like these. He also paid himself as the editor and art director. To quote the Gershwin tune, that’s nice work if you can get it.

One final thing: if you agree with my story breakdown, the official scorecard would be Kirby: 23 and Stan Lee: 8. That means 23 concepts came from Kirby, 8 from Lee (and remember Lee’s concepts were based on Jack’s images/directions). If you want to break down the credit based on those numbers it would be Kirby 65% and Lee 35%. I’m sure many of you out there might think that is a more reasonable split because the words are important, and the writer of those words should be fairly credited and compenstated for his/her labor. The main point I want to make is that Jack got 0% of the writer credit for these stories and 0% of Lee’s writer paycheck. It’s only because of the existence of the margin notes that more and more comics fans are beginning to learn that Kirby played an extremely significant role in writing every single one of his 1960s stories.

That’s it for those two pages — pretty solid examples of the Kirby/Lee working relationship. Jack gave Lee two pages featuring dramatic, exciting, innovate illustrations along with clear directions; Lee followed Jack’s directions verbatim, occasionally adding a minor new element to the story to fill space. Lee’s text tends to be generic, it states the obvious and doesn’t interfere with Jack’s story; Jack’s visuals are explosive, overflowing with living energy, and classic examples of late-1960s Kirby cosmic comic art storytelling.

It’s important to also acknowledge the incredible inking by Joe Sinnott on these pages. I know there are a few fans out there who feel Sinnott sanitized Jack’s pencils a bit, but speaking for myself, I am in awe of the perfectionism and artistic integrity Joe Sinnott brought to the table on Kirby’s Fantastic Four series (and really everything Joe has ever worked on). You can argue Jack’s pure pencils have more dynamism, but you have to admire Joe for putting 100% into embellishing Jack’s pencils. Joe does a particularly good job nailing every single pencil line, he leaves virtually nothing out and every line is carefully crafted. I think the Kirby/Sinnott Fantastic Four artwork represents a high point in the history of comics — not the only high point, but certainly one of them, and just these two random pages capture the power Kirby and Sinnott were able to generate with a pencil and a brush. I bet if I took this comic book outside, opened it up and set it down with the interior pages facing the hood of my car, the Kirby/Sinnott energy pouring out of this story would charge my car battery. It might make the engine explode.

We’ll close off this episode of Jack Kirby: Behind the Lines with another iconic image reflecting Jack’s service to his country, and the service of all the veterans who served in the Second World War as well as all of our brave servicemen and women. This is a rare example of Jack doing a pure piece of homage. I suppose some might say Jack plagiarized the image, but I think it’s pretty iconic so given Jack’s track record for creativity I sincerely doubt Jack stole this composition because he was out of ideas. My guess is that maybe he thought this was a powerful or haunting image so he did his own version of it. Or maybe Jack just needed to beat a crushing deadline, either way, this is a classic World War II comic book cover, illustrated by Jack Kirby, based on the iconic image “High Visibility Wrap” by Joesph Hirsch, Foxhole # 1 (1954).

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Here’s a unique piece from the Heritage Auction website:

Foxhole # 1 Cover Progressive Color Proof Production Art (Mainline, 1954).

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Description: “Color separation sheets include seven sheets with the full color cover, line art, and CMYK breakdowns, all stapled at the top in a binder from Progressive Proofs Photo Engraving company. Overall size of the entire presentation measures 10″ x 14″ and the outer folder has some stains, edge wear, and small tears. The color seps have some very minor stains and a margin piece out of one page. From the Joe Simon Estate.”

I wish we could see the whole package sheet by sheet — if the owner of this material is out there, if you would consider scanning all the pages I will publish them here in a future column.

The TwoMorrows Jack Kirby Checklist says Jack penciled and inked this cover. Jack may also have added the colors.

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286 Responses to “I’m Gonna Open Sealed Door to Negative Zone!”

  1. Bill says:

    I really don’t think Marvel would mind if you showed all four pages. Have you considered asking them? I wonder what the basic plot was that Lee provided Kirby with?

  2. Peter Sattler says:

    Hi Rob,

    Since you seem to be responding in part to my comment on your last essay, I’ll chime in here.

    What evidence do you have to say that Joesph Hirsch’s painting was “iconic” when Jack swiped it? (As far as I know, it had been reproduced in a fairly limited number of magazines and papers.) Your words imply that Kirby though it would be fairly clear that he was giving an appreciative nod to a fellow artist. I currently doubt that — and even the best, most fulsomely imaginative artists drew “inspiration” from other people’s work. So why not call a swipe a swipe?

    (This is completely separate from the FF stuff.)

    Peter

  3. Steibel says:

    Bill: “I really don’t think Marvel would mind if you showed all four pages. Have you considered asking them?”

    Sometimes it’s better not to tug on Superman’s cape. For now I try and look at a maximum of 3 pages from a 20 page story. Fair use is a complex subject I don’t want to get into here and now.

    Bill: “I wonder what the basic plot was that Lee provided Kirby with?”

    Lee may not have given Jack any plot at all, or he may have acted out the entire book panel by panel and Jack memorized Lee’s performance. We will never know.

    We do know what Jack did in the illustration phase as the Principal Author of the story and what we know what Lee added to those illustrations as the Secondary Author. And as I mention in the article, if Lee did tell Jack, “Hey Jackson, this month have the FF fight Sandman!” I don’t consider the a “plot” I consider that a job assignment.

  4. Steibel says:

    Peter: “What evidence do you have to say that Joesph Hirsch’s painting was ‘iconic’ when Jack swiped it? (As far as I know, it had been reproduced in a fairly limited number of magazines and papers.)”

    Was the image was as “iconic” as an image of the statue of liberty? I doubt it. I do suspect it was a well-known image. If it was not then maybe instead of “iconic” I should have used another adjective.

    Peter “Your words imply that Kirby though it would be fairly clear that he was giving an appreciative nod to a fellow artist.”

    I suggested homage as a possibility because Jack rarely flagrantly copied an image in his career. He didn’t need to. That actually would have slowed him down. I’m implying the image was homage, I’m suggesting it. I certainly don’t know why Jack used that image, as I said in the article he may have just been trying to beat a deadline.

    Peter: “I currently doubt that — and even the best, most fulsomely imaginative artists drew ‘inspiration’ from other people’s work. So why not call a swipe a swipe?”

    I didn’t think to add the term “swipe” to the article. Of course it was a “swipe.”

    I’m wondering why out of about 40,000 pages of art, maybe 200,000 images, was that one of the only images Jack ever swiped outright. My suggestion is that Jack may have found Hirch’s image powerful so that was a piece of homage.

  5. This was a wonderful article Rob, I suspect the move from KM to TCJ has geven you a renewed enthusiasm and sense of purpose!

    While I agree with you that Sinnott was a great partner and en essential part of the formula for 60s FF stories, and while I tend to enjoy the distinct look each of the classic inkers brought to Jack’s art, in my opinion nothing beats the raw power of his pencilled pages. It is a shame printing technology back then was not sensitive enough to reproduce them as is. I wonder if there are enough Hi-Def reproductions of his original pencilled pages out there to produce an “Artist’s Edition” book in the style IDW has popularized recently. I have the “Graphite Editions” Twomorrows has published, which are great for what they are, but I would love to take a good close look at Jack’s pencils!

    Another thing, even though I mostly do enjoy Stan’s dialogue (I think he did a great job giving personality to the characters through dialogue, especially compared to other scripters from the era), I think Jack’s margin notes were perfectly eloquent, and the briefer, unobtrussive descriptions gave the art a much more dynamic flow. Page 18 in particular, with its 4-panel grid and its block of texts describing the action, reminded me of Prince Valiant!

  6. Shining Knight says:

    Does Stan Lee’s first note on page 18 panel 1 say “Stan G Green cast to all this”? Stan Goldberg was colouring a lot of Marvel titles at the time, so it might be addressed to him.

  7. Steibel says:

    GUIDO-VISIóN: “…while I tend to enjoy the distinct look each of the classic inkers brought to Jack’s art, in my opinion nothing beats the raw power of his pencilled pages. It is a shame printing technology back then was not sensitive enough to reproduce them as is. I wonder if there are enough Hi-Def reproductions of his original pencilled pages out there to produce an “Artist’s Edition” book in the style IDW has popularized recently. I have the “Graphite Editions” Twomorrows has published, which are great for what they are, but I would love to take a good close look at Jack’s pencils!”

    Thanks for the comments. John Morrow and Twomorrows have done a great job with The Jack Kirby Collector, I woudn’t be surprised if John does publish images like these penciled pages in color in the future. They are very powerful. I also hope more pages like these surface; who knows what else is out there.

  8. Steibel says:

    Shining Knight says: “Does Stan Lee’s first note on page 18 panel 1 say ‘Stan G Green cast to all this?’ Stan Goldberg was colouring a lot of Marvel titles at the time, so it might be addressed to him.”

    I think you nailed it. Great job and thanks. I’m going to add this to the article. If you want me to add your real name, let me know here or via email and I’ll put it in. If not I’ll just say “thanks to a reader” and add the your translation.

  9. Steibel says:

    I spelled the name wrong in that comment. It’s Joesph Hirsch.

    Joseph Hirsch (1910-1981)

    Here’s a website with a brief retrospective of his work:

    http://www.history.navy.mil/ac/artist/h/hirsch/hirsch1.htm

  10. Given the historical importance and monetary value original art has acquired, it’s kind of mind-boggling to realize they were basically using them as work sheets back then, isn’t it?

  11. Bill says:

    Thanks for the confirmation that Hirsch’s painting was not well-known in 1954.

    “Drawn from the Army’s rarely seen collection of more than 15,000 paintings and sketches, this world-debut exhibition showcases the artistic response of soldiers from World War I through the present day. ” – http://constitutioncenter.org/experience/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/art-of-the-american-soldier/

  12. Rob Barrett says:

    While I heartily concur with your overall thesis, I’d like to give Stan a few more percentage points. Jack’s notes for page 18 / panel 4 call Sandman “yelling with fright.” There’s a touch of this in Stan’s dialogue: “Can’t fight it.” But I’d say that Stan adds a note of desperate defiance with “But it won’t get me!” That’s not a lot of characterization, but it is a modicum of it: Stan’s Sandman has a bit more (ahem) grit than Jack’s. It’s certainly not STO in the way that much of the rest of the dialogue is STO.

    Having made that small point in Stan’s favor, I’ll once again agree that this is essentially Jack’s comic, with Joe Sinnott as the second most important collaborator, Stan as the third, and Stan Goldberg as the fourth. I’ll be sending this URL to my comics class: we just finished a unit on the FF.

  13. Steibel says:

    Bill: “Thanks for the confirmation that Hirsch’s painting was not well-known in 1954.”

    I’d have to find a time travel machine and go back to 1954 and interview 1000s of Americans to find out if the Hirsch image was “well known” to people. The image may have been well known to artists like Jack, it may have been a topic of conversation in some circles, or it may have simply been a random image he had in his swipe file,

    To repeat: Jack rarely copied entire images verbatim. Jack was more than capable of drawing a soldier wearing a bandage, so my guess is that Jack found the Hirsch image particularly powerful, — he intentionally used that image as a form of homage. Instead of doing a Kirby version of a man wearing a bandage, Jack specifically used Hirsch’s image. And it worked as homage, we’re talking about the Hirsch image here at TCJ today in 2013. If Jack does his own version of a man in a bandage, we would not be.

    If the suggestion here is that Jack plagiarized the image, I think that is silly. I think Jack chose to copy the image specifically to make it clear that the Hirsch image was the influence for his cover. He could have changed any number of details to make this image his own. There’s a difference between swiping an image because you lack the ability to draw it yourself and swiping an image so that your reader will know the source if they have seen it.

    The main point I wanted to make is that it was very rare for Jack to do copy a piece of artwork and insert it into his own work, so the image may have had special meaning to him. I find the Hirsch image very haunting. Jack actually lived through the experience so who knows what it meant to him.

    And of course Jack told a whole story on the Foxhole cover, that image of the face was just one aspect of the overall composition.

    Thanks for sharing the link to the Art of the American Soldier exhibit.

  14. patrick ford says:

    The quote is referring to the original art, not reproductions of the paintings.
    It’s highly likely Kirby saw a reproduction of the painting in a popular magazine.
    Obviously the original image served as inspiration for Kirby’s cover. Kirby’s cover contains a lot of elements not present in the original image. I probably used reference for the M-3 “grease gun” as well.

  15. patrick ford says:

    Kirby may have had access to the painting via this book :

    Neurosurgery: Surgery In World War II Volume 1 . The series is part of the official history of the Medical Department, US Army. The Hirsch watercolor first appeared as the frontispiece in that book.
    Kirby may have seen the book when he was asked to do a series of drawings depicting various injuries while he was recovering from his own injuries. Joe Simon described some of these drawings in his book THE COMIC BOOK MAKERS.

  16. Chris Duffy says:

    Communicating via notes and markups on the boards was a very efficient way for pencilers, colorists, and letterers to communicate with each other. I love seeing it. It was still very common when I worked at DC in the 90s–I wonder if it has survived into the digital age? Anyone know?

  17. Bill says:

    The first and most accessible pre-Internet place to see the painting (along with 136 other war-related paintings) was a book published in 1945 titled MEN WITHOUT GUNS. (You can read the entire book for free at http://archive.org/details/MenWithoutGunsAbbottPaintings)

    Been doing searches of the various 1945 to 1954 pop mags but have yet to find the Abbot corporation commissioned painting.

  18. Mike Hill says:

    Bill, I think you’re being facetious, but all evidence suggests that the initial input by Lee on the story was when Kirby brought in the finished pages and explained the issue’s plot, and was told to redraw some of the pages.

  19. Kelly says:

    You hit it right on the head. Stan Lee gets way too much credit for ” creating” the Marvel universe.
    Poor Jack gets almost no credit. It’s funny when Jack left Marvel Stan stopped “creating” new characters while Jack brought a whole slew of new creations to DC. The proff is in the pudding as they say.

  20. RichYan33 says:

    It’s bad enough that Reed has the entrance to the Negative Zone in a sky scraper in Manhattan but it’s down right irresponsable that there’s a very breakable window right next to it.

  21. Jon Holt says:

    Hi Rob,

    I enjoyed this week’s article quite a bit. One of the great things about doing a close reading like this is that it just shows how interpretations can vary. You’ve overall convinced me that the percentages are close to what you suggest (maybe 90%/10%).

    I do think though that when Lee adds the characterization or plot points (beyond the “STOs”), he does help the story out quite a bit. Another thing: I disagree with you about how obtrusive the sound effects are. That’s one of the things I miss in comics these days — no one has the guts or the skills to really make a comic sound cinematic. “Click!” for a kid reader (and this oversized one) is pretty cool.

    To help you test your thesis out, I’d like to issue you a challenge. Why not look at a non-action sequence from FF — something really boring and talky — and see how the Lee/Kirby balance shakes out? By simply picking on 2-3 pages of action sequences, you’re setting up a Straw Man argument: we’re all probably going to agree with you that Lee didn’t do much (or didn’t have to do much) to embellish a Kirby fight scene. It would be easy to fault him for not writing enough (or planning enough) to earn his 2, 3 paychecks for this fight scene. But what about a soap opera moment — one where the characters show interior struggle — no punches or crackle allowed?

    Thanks again for a stimulating essay, -jon

  22. Steibel says:

    Jon Holt: “To help you test your thesis out, I’d like to issue you a challenge. Why not look at a non-action sequence from FF — something really boring and talky — and see how the Lee/Kirby balance shakes out?”

    Hi Jon. I definitely plan on doing that. I strongly suspect that in talking head sequences we will see Lee contributing significantly more story elements than he does in an action sequence. I mentioned in the article that when I timed myself adding text to Kirby stories the talking head sequences do take longer than action sequences. I can add STO text to a fight scene in about 2 minutes, a talking head page took me about 10 minutes (I suspect Lee was probably faster).

    I wasn’t trying to stack the deck against Lee by focusing on those 2 action pages, it just happened that they surfaced recently so I figured they’d be a nice springboard to dive into the subject. Mainly I chose those 2 pages because the are full of explosive Kirby energy and I wanted to enlarge the pencil images so you all could see the power of Jack’s pencils.

    I’ll touch on a few of the other points you made (like the sound effects) in the next column. Thanks for checking out the article and thanks for the feedback. I absolutely will take up your challenge in the future. In fact I’ll probably touch on that too in the next column.

  23. Steibel says:

    Rob Barrett: “While I heartily concur with your overall thesis, I’d like to give Stan a few more percentage points. Jack’s notes for page 18 / panel 4 call Sandman “yelling with fright.” There’s a touch of this in Stan’s dialogue: “Can’t fight it.” But I’d say that Stan adds a note of desperate defiance with “But it won’t get me!” That’s not a lot of characterization, but it is a modicum of it: Stan’s Sandman has a bit more (ahem) grit than Jack’s. It’s certainly not STO in the way that much of the rest of the dialogue is STO.”

    Thanks for making this point and it is a good one. That should probably be a point for Lee. You could really argue that almost any piece of Lee dialogue adds something “new” to the mix, so there will probably always be some examples like this where a piece of Lee text could be considered a specific story element worth mentioning. It’s a subjective process — I want to be fair to Lee, but I don’t want to give him a credit for every sentence. I’ll have to continue to work on as fair and balanced an approach I can come up with for future articles.

    Rob Barrett: “Having made that small point in Stan’s favor, I’ll once again agree that this is essentially Jack’s comic, with Joe Sinnott as the second most important collaborator, Stan as the third, and Stan Goldberg as the fourth. I’ll be sending this URL to my comics class: we just finished a unit on the FF.”

    I agree with you about the huge importance of the role Sinnott played in making Jack’s FF books transcendent. Also thanks to you and the other reader for pointing out that colorist Stan Goldberg also played an important role in the finished product.

  24. george says:

    “It probably took Jack between 4 to 6 hours to write and illustrate these two pages (maybe more because there is a tremendous amount of detail in that art), it may have taken Stan Lee a maximum 10 minutes to add captions to that art.”

    Then it must have taken Kirby 30 seconds to write all the dialogue and captions for the comic books he is credited with writing (New Gods, Forever People, etc). Sorry, but Kirby was AWFUL as a writer of dialogue. And his characterizations were cardboard and one-dimensional.

    I love Kirby, but I don’t worship him as an infallible god.

  25. george says:

    “Stan Lee gets way too much credit for ” creating” the Marvel universe. Poor Jack gets almost no credit. It’s funny when Jack left Marvel Stan stopped “creating” new characters while Jack brought a whole slew of new creations to DC.”

    And Jack’s DC creations were cancelled in a few years. They didn’t sell. Obviously, Stan added something to the comics that Kirby couldn’t provide when he worked solo. Things like giving the characters personalities and emotions.

    I don’t worship Stan Lee, but it’s sad that some people feel the only way to build up Kirby is to tear down Lee.

  26. Mike Hill says:

    It’s much more sad that there are people who think Lee deserves the place to which he elevated himself at the expense of all the people who worked for him.

  27. don’t take this the wrong way — i’m as Team Kirby as the next guy — but where are all these fans of stan lee that folks like you and patrick ford keep tilting at? it seems like the entire internet more or less agrees with you. but then again, i never thought vince colletta would have defenders, either, until i met one, so maybe i’m just going to the wrong parties.

    ps: phooey on joe sinnott

  28. Mike Hill says:

    Admittedly, Jack’s dialogue is an acquired taste, or simply a cut above the comprehension of the lowest common denominator to which Stan pandered, the drooling juveniles and semicretins, as he called his readers.

  29. Mike Hill says:

    Jones, it seems you’ve led a sheltered life. Outside the realm of TCJ, try posting something positive about Kirby and watch swarms of ’60s Marvel fans rush out of the woodwork to put him down. Why, you can see it here in the contributions of Bill and RSM. “Never let a pro-Kirby comment stand uncontested; no, not even for a minute.”

  30. patrick ford says:

    I’d give Lee a lot more than a few points. When it comes to the published stories he’d have to get close to 75 or 80 percent. Of course in my view Lee’s contribution was entirely negative.
    The sum isn’t greater than the parts when one of the numbers is a negative number.
    I’d use something like this.
    10 + (-7.5) = 2.5
    Or to put it another way. Michael Jackson had a face. Later on he had a different face. What percentage did plastic surgery contribute to the second face? A lot right? It was a huge contribution wasn’t it?

  31. Kirk G says:

    This sequence scared the BeJesus out of me when I was a kid, cause both Reed and Johnny seemed so desparately scared of the suction behind that door. I was on the edge of my seat. And when Ben gives the final line, “He’s gone”, I was convinced it was the death sentence for Reed!

  32. This is the problem with the Kourageous Kirby Keyboard Krusaders. If you so much as write a sentence that even slightly goes against the grain of their idolatry, they focus on that to the exclusion of all else. When discussing Kirby’s work with Stan Lee, I have always treated Kirby as the dominant contributor by far, as can be seen in comments such as this. In terms of aesthetic evalustion, I have always said that Kirby at his best is perhaps the most accomplished visual stylist in the history of adventure comics, and one of the few cartoonists whose visual achievements rate with the better contemporary fine artists, as can be seen here and here. But none of that matters to them.

    If you refuse to discuss certain things in terms of their paradigms, or challenge what they say–and much of what they say, particularly as it relates to business matters, is at best debatable and at worst fantasyland–you’re therefore putting Kirby down. My sin is that I’m not flattering their perspective. Their problem with me has really nothing to do with Kirby; it’s all about them and their fragile egos. As far as they’re concerned, you can’t admire Kirby unless you’re also trashing Lee, Marvel, Carmine Infantino, or whoever else the enemy of the day happens to be. I reject that. I also reject the notion that you can’t be an admirer of Kirby if you see him as a human being and acknowledge that he had imperfections and bad days just like everybody else.

  33. The latter two links in the comment above are going to the parent post rather than the comments. The second link should go here:

    http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2013/03/dwyck-whats-the-story/#comment-67736

    The third link should go here:

    http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2012/06/james-romberger-and-robert-stanley-martin-on-gaiman-and-the-art-in-sandman/#comment-48138

  34. Steibel says:

    Robert Stanley Martin: “…the problem with the Kourageous Kirby Keyboard Krusaders. If you so much as write a sentence that even slightly goes against the grain of their idolatry, they focus on that to the exclusion of all else.”

    I remain shocked by the fact that there are so many comic book fans out there who constantly make the study of Kirby and comics personal. I don’t understand why individuals feel the need to make up derogatory terms about Jack’s fans that start with “ks.” It’s insulting to Jack’s memory, it’s insulting to Jack’s associates, it’s insulting to Jack’s friends, it’s insulting to Kirby students and Kirby scholars, it’s insulting to Jack’s family — it’s insulting to anybody who cares about Jack’s life and work. It’s also insulting to anyone with any common sense. It’s ignorant.

    It’s just embarassing to read this kind of stuff. This is the type of rhetoric I recall from Kindergarten when we would make up stupid names for each other based on the first letter of our first names. I was “Stable Steibel Stupid Stump.” My god, we were 5-years-old when we behaved like this. Shame on any grown adult demonizing Jacks’s fans by writing “Kourageous Kirby Keyboard Krusaders” in internet comments sections.

    My request over the years has been a simple one: instead of attacking Jack’s fans, Jack’s friends, Jack’s family, Jack’s associates, Kirby scholars, Kirby students, and all the other 100s of people I’ve met over the years who have dignity and integrity by calling them idiotic phrases that start with “ks” — why not address the history itself. Why not discuss the Kirby/Lee authorship debate without hurling insults at individuals.

    If you disagree with any of the statements in my article, or if you disagree with statments made in the comments sections, why not address the facts, not the individuals who are sharing the facts?

  35. patrick ford says:

    The trouble with Merry Marvel Marching Society types is they can’t imagine a person being a fan of Kirby and not a fan of Lee or Marvel, or DC for that matter.
    The other thing they like to do is construct straw-man positions they can apply to fans of Kirby’s work.
    The fact is I have no problem with people who enjoy Lee’s writing or Marvel comics in whole or in part. They probably have little or any interest in the type of comics I enjoy reading (mostly old newspaper strips).
    I don’t follow Marvel or DC comics. It’s just not the kind of comics material I’m interested in. As a result I don’t have any contact with Marvel or DC fans except in the context of Kirby’s work.
    The reason I follow Kirby work is between 1970 and 1974 I began reading his material and still enjoy it to this day. I read the Silver Age Marvel stories at the same time I was reading Kirby’s ’70s work. Marvel was publishing many reprints at that time. There may have been more reprinted Marvel material around than the new stories being published by DC.
    Is it truly necessary that a person who enjoys Kirby’s ’70s and ’80s work also enjoy The Hulk and The Flash? Is there some kind of law which says I have to keep up with Marvel or DC when I’m not a fan of the stuff they publish? My interest in Kirby is an anomaly. It would be kind of ridiculous if a person had to pretend they enjoy something they don’t like wouldn’t it?

    As for business related issues; I’ve got no interest in what the editor or publisher want. My sympathies always are on the side of the creative people.

  36. Steibel says:

    george: “Obviously, Stan added something to the comics that Kirby couldn’t provide when he worked solo. Things like giving the characters personalities and emotions.”

    I’ve heard this argument before 1000 times, my question has always been this: can you please give us examples. Give us examples where Lee gave the characters personality and emotion. That way we can discuss what you are refering to. We can also look at the image and see if Lee based his text on Jack’s art, maybe we can find the original art — Lee’s text may have been based on Jack’s directions in the margins.

    Can you also give us examples of what you call “solo” Kirby where you feel there is a lack of personality or emotion in the material. Instead of making broad generalizations why not give us specific examples that prove your theory that “obviously, Stan added something to the comics that Kirby couldn’t provide when he worked solo.”

  37. Steibel says:

    george: “I don’t worship Stan Lee, but it’s sad that some people feel the only way to build up Kirby is to tear down Lee.”

    I’ve also heard this argument a 1000 times. But it makes absolutely no sense. Imagine if John Lennon claimed he wrote the song “Yesterday” by himself. If I study the song, then based on my research I reported that I think Paul McCartney wrote the song — am I “building up Paul to tear down John?” Of course not, I’m sharing research.

  38. patrick ford says:

    Lee’s has spent 50 years tearing down Kirby. Lee has been so successful at tearing down Kirby that Lee is a celebrity appearing in movies and recognized by millions of people. A federal judge in the Stan Lee Media v. Disney lawsuit described Lee as a “comic book artist.”
    Thousands of fans stand in line to pay Lee $50 for his autograph at various comic book conventions.

    There is a quarterly magazine called THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR which sells 800 copies per issue.

    Let me know when there is some sign Lee is being torn down.

  39. Allen Smith says:

    No reason to be sorry, George, but the idea that Kirby’s dialogue was terrible sounds like you are parroting what others have said, and is a matter of taste in any case. My taste tells me that Stan Lee could write slick dialogue at times, but that the content of that dialogue was utterly trite and banal. ‘Nuff said, effendi? I mean, Stan’s level of talent made him perfect for those comedic (?) photo magazines he wrote captions for, like Monsters to Laugh With, and his writing on the superhero stories never rose above obvious banalities. But, he was slick, give him that, but meaningless.

  40. An example of constructing a straw man would be characterizing me as a MMMS type or otherwise a fan of mainstream superhero comics in general. It’s not the first time you’ve pulled this, either, whether it’s on other threads on this site or when you were posting comments at Hooded Utilitarian under the handle “Holly Cita.” And perhaps you’re coming by this honestly: your intellect is just too limited to deal with the fact that I don’t fit the paradigms you’ve constructed of people who disagree with you, so you just try to shoehorn me into them.

    Neil Gaiman is an example of someone who likes Kirby’s work a great deal but doesn’t care for Lee’s scripting. However, Gaiman doesn’t feel the need to compulsively turn discussions of Kirby’s work into Stan Lee bashfests. This is what you do pretty much ALL the time. The same is true of James Romberger, Arlen Schumer, Henry Kujawa, Allen Smith, Michael Hill, James Robert Smith, and a handful of others who’ve basically infested every online forum discussing Kirby’s work.

    I don’t feel any admiration for Stan Lee. However, this relentless demonization of him is unfair, obnoxious, and ultimately repellent. I remember Frank Santoro noting that new readers stay away from Kirby because of the “baggage” of “too many experts.”I have to wonder if part of that is their seeing all this hatred and ugliness that invariably accompanies discussions of his work and deciding they have more pleasant ways of spending their time.

    As for business issues, you seem pretty obsessed with them. The litigations are about business issues, first, last, and always. And insisting on seeing author-publisher conflicts in terms of a good v. bad paradigm, where the authors are always good and the publishers are always bad, is just profoundly stupid.

  41. Robert–

    Please refer to the list of people in my second paragraph in response to Patrick as people who insist on turning discussions of Kirby “personal.”

    I actually enjoyed your article until you launched into the anti-Lee polemic. It’s not that I disagree with the specific points. Based on what Stan Lee has said in his deposition and elsewhere, I don’t think even he would disagree with those all that much, although I have little doubt he’d resent your tone. It’s just getting really tiresome to see a discussion of Kirby’s work inevitably get turned into an attack on Lee. I reach a certain point and then I go, “Oh, this again” and start skipping ahead. I’ve seen these arguments so many times at this point that I could probably write that section of the article for you without too much trouble. I actually like polemical writing, but the anti-Lee spiel is getting really stale.

    I am not referring to Kirby associates, scholars, or fans with the quadruple-K label. I’m referring to a specific (and I believe very small) minority of highly vocal fans who insist on treating Kirby as St. Jack the Martyr of Marvel and so on, as well as turning every discussion of him into a series of attacks on his collaborators, editors, and publishers. That is not most Kirby associates, scholars, and fans.

    There really is no Lee-Kirby authorship “debate.” The basic points have been made ad nauseum, and virtually all of them can be taken from Lee’s own statements. Kirby and the other artists did all the heavy lifting in terms of structure and execution. Going over it again at length is just reinventing the wheel at this point.

  42. patrick ford says:

    So you’re not a mainstream reader or a fan of Lee.
    I get it. You’re “fair and balanced.”
    I suppose the fact you are “fair and balanced” makes you the perfect person to write a three part essay on Jim Shooter. No doubt your “fair and balanced” sources at Marvel are a great help to you in your efforts.

  43. patrick ford says:

    Apparently RSM has never read Rob Steibel’s column at the Kirby Museum.

  44. patrick ford says:

    “There really is no Lee-Kirby authorship “debate.” The basic points have been made ad nauseum, and virtually all of them can be taken from Lee’s own statements”

    Seriously? Is this some kind of joke? There is a massive debate. Do you really not know what the debate is? Funny as well all the basic points can be taken from Lee’s statements. Not from Kirby’s statements; no from Lee’s statements.
    Just in case you don’t know. The dispute is Lee says he created every copyrighted character 1958-1963 before ever speaking to Kirby. He also says he gave ever basic plot to Kirby between 1958 and even after that.
    Kirby says he created the characters and plots and presented them to Lee.
    You apparently think Lee created the basic characters and plots and gave them to Kirby.
    I believe Kirby created the characters and plots and pitched them to Lee.
    That’s the dispute. And it’s a really big dispute.

  45. A few other things.

    Ad hominem is very useful when characterizing jerks of a particular type. I suppose I could refer to Patrick Ford and so on as absurdly overbearing, self-righteous, obsessive-compulsive loudmouths on the subject of Kirby and related topics, but calling them the Kourageous Kirby Keyboard Krusaders strikes me as more succinct way of making that point. I also like wordplay, for what it’s worth.

    I’m perfectly willing to argue facts and have done so on many occasions. What prompted my initial comment on the thread was Michael Hill’s reference to me as a Marvel fan who attacks Kirby as a matter of course. While I’m willing to grant that his mischaracterization was due to a limited familiarity with what I’ve written, I have no patience with it coming from anyone whose behavior fits the quadruple-K label.

    I’ve had to put up with vicious mischaracterizations of myself and my writing from Patrick Ford and James Romberger in particular for years now, and not just on this topic. Just this past weekend, I discovered the Coward Patrick Ford was taking advantage of the mechanics of Facebook blocking to keep me from seeing his smears of me on a Jack Kirby FB forum. Now I’m not faulting you for not being aware of this history, but you now know. If I get my back up in response to these jerks and these sorts of references to me, it’s because I’ve had a long history of dealing with it, and I have no patience with it anymore.

    My apologies to everyone else for the formatting of the above comment. I forgot to close the link.

  46. patrick ford says:

    Hey, If it’s any consolation I’d block you here if I could.

  47. Frank Santoro says:

    This thread is like that Chester Brown comic “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop”.
    http://beefknuckles.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/the-man-who-couldnt-stop.jpg

  48. patrick ford says:

    RSM, What was it you said about “The strawberries” ? The clicking sound of the ball bearings made it difficult to make out.

  49. Robert Steibel’s article above has nothing to do with the character-creation debate. The relevant aspects have to do with who deserves to be considered the primary writer on this particular FF scene. Lee has always been upfront that Kirby was the main force behind the stories at the point where this one was created. Here’s a relevant exchange from his deposition:

    Q: In the article on the first page, and I will just read it to you, it says, Mr. Thomas writes, “[…] when I had gone to work for him in July 1965, I had learned that he was increasingly dispensing with written synopses with Marvel artists, often working merely from brief conversations in person or over the phone.”

    Lee: That’s right.

    Q: And is he referring to what you previously testified how the Marvel method came about?

    Lee: Yes. And you see also these artists were so good, and I had worked with them for so long, that I knew what I could expect from them. And I think they knew what I expected, and what I meant when I would give them a few words explaining a story. It’s like two comedians who had been a team on stage for a long time, and they could anticipate what each other was going to say. That I couldn’t have done this with an artist I just met, you know, that I had never worked with. But I had worked with these people for so long. We knew each other, and we could work where I’d give them a few words, and they could go ahead and come up with the written drawn story. [My emphasis].

    In 1968, Lee said this in his Castle of Frankenstein interview with Ted White:

    Some artists, such as Jack Kirby need no plot at all […] He may tell me [the plot]. And then he goes home and does it. […] He just about makes up the plots for these stories. All I do is a little editing.”

    I think that covers the story discussed in the article. That’s why I don’t think Lee would disagree with the substance of the above article’s allocation of credit in this instance.

    The character-creation subject is an entirely different matter. It’s basically a he-said/he-said situation, and the truth is really unknowable as to who had the initial spark for this character or that one. Beyond that, Lee is openly of the view that if he came up with as little as a single-sentence/single-clause description of a character, he should be considered the creator of it. One can dispute that premise, but the only place one ends up is the cartoonist who did the initial execution should be considered the co-creator. That’s just semantics. It’s all been covered, there’s no place further to go with it, and that’s been the case for a long, long time.

    As for this story, Kirby didn’t create Sandman. Lee and Steve Ditko did. Or maybe Kirby did create him. After all, his children attempted to terminate and claim Marvel’s copyright to the initial Spider-Man story featuring the character. Also, according to Mark Evanier, Kirby didn’t like working with other people’s characters and only did so under pressure from the publisher, and as Kirby never created a story from input from Lee, that’s additional evidence that Sandman started with him, too. Additionally, according to Evanier, Kirby was always 100% consistent with his actions. For example, he would never publicly brag about his income, so he could have never been the source of that information in a newspaper article in which he posed for a photographer sitting on the deck of his swimming pool while smoking a cigar with all the connotations of pride in oneself as a financial success that that carries.

  50. I like several mainstream superhero comics. I’d even consider myself a fan of several, although I would never put any of their creators on a pedestal where I was of the view that they could do no wrong and could only be wronged. I have little patience for idolatry.

    If you have any issue with the specifics of what I’ve written about Shooter, I’ll be glad to read what you have to say. You can post under your own name, or Holly Cita, or Mr. Ed, or any handle you want as long as you stick to the same one in the thread.

    With that first article, no one has yet been able to dispute its points in any significant way that holds up to scrutiny. Frankly, no one has much tried. I take that as proof that those points were right. If I was wrong, I don’t think I’d ever stop hearing about it.

    Your bringing up that project here is an obvious appeal to prejudices on the part of those reading. It’s the behavior of a demagogue, not someone who values reasoned discussion. You want to compare me to Fox News? It seems like you’re the one who’s borrowing their playbook.

  51. Steibel says:

    Re: “The Quadruple-K”

    Mr. Martin, it’s nice to meet you in cyberspace. I don’t think we’ve chatted before unless you used a pseudonym in our conversations. If we have not met before, how are you? It’s nice to meet you. I take it you must be passionate about comic books. Thanks for commenting on my article. Do you like to be called, Bob, Robert, Mr. Martin?

    I see you’ve made a lot of comments tonight about individuals who have nothing to do with the subject of the Kirby/Lee authorship debate tonight, so you’ll have to pardon me for not specifically commenting on those — your views on other comic book fans have nothing to do with the subject of my article: Kirby/Lee. If you have personal beef with other comic book fans, why not email them personally instead of acting like a Kindergartner in the comments secion of this article. Thanks.

    I will address your comments about the article from one of your comments. The one you made in all blue. I don’t have time to go through all the other ones. I look forward to reading your answers to my questions. Can you do me a favor and please answer them in a new comment at the bottom of the comments section — when people answer comments in the body of comments sections they get lost. I’ll number my questions so you don’t accidentally miss any.

    Robert Stanley Martin: “I actually enjoyed your article until you launched into the anti-Lee polemic.”

    I’m glad you liked the article. It was fun to write. Thanks again for checking it out.

    (1) Question: What did you like about the article? You claim I “launched into the anti-Lee polemic.” Can you please tell me where I launched into anti-Lee polemic, and specifically which quotes do you define as anti-Lee polemic?

    Robert Stanley Martin: “It’s not that I disagree with the specific points. Based on what Stan Lee has said in his deposition and elsewhere, I don’t think even he would disagree with those all that much.”

    (2) Question: What points in my article do you think Stan Lee would agree with? Can you pull quotes that show Lee agrees with me? I’d love to see those.

    Robert Stanley Martin: “…I have little doubt he’d resent your tone.”

    (3) Question: Where specifically was my “tone” something you seem to think Stan Lee would “resent?” And how do you know what Lee would think about my tone — have you read any articles on the type of tone Lee resents or does not resent? Please share any quotes you have on that. Gracias.

    Robert Stanley Martin: “It’s just getting really tiresome to see a discussion of Kirby’s work inevitably get turned into an attack on Lee.”

    (4) Where exactly did I “attack” Lee? Can you show me all the attacks? Are there 10 attacks? 100?

    Robert Stanley Martin: “I’ve seen these arguments so many times at this point that I could probably write that section of the article for you without too much trouble.”

    (5) Why don’t you do that. That’s the great thing about internet comments sections. Instead of attacking other comic book fans, why not show us specific Lee interviews and Lee quotes that back up your assertions? Right now I’m not even sure what your thesis is. You seen to be mainly attacking other comic book fans. You claim, “I could probably write that section of the article for you without too much trouble.” Go for it bro’, who’s stoppin’ you?

    Robert Stanley Martin: I actually like polemical writing, but the anti-Lee spiel is getting really stale.

    (6) So you enjoyed the article, but you also find it stale? Where did it get stale? The first sentence? Where is it “polemical” in the article? Is there any chance you could be more specific?

    Robert Stanley Martin: “I am not referring to Kirby associates, scholars, or fans with the quadruple-K label. I’m referring to a specific (and I believe very small) minority of highly vocal fans who insist on treating Kirby as St. Jack the Martyr of Marvel and so on.”

    (7) Who are you accusing of calling Jack Kirby “St. Jack?” For the record: I have never once seen anyone write that before today. Did you just make that up? And who specifically are you referring to as “The Quadruple-K” as you call it. Am I considered “Quadruple-K?” What criteria makes one “Quadruple-K?” Is there a “Quintuple-K?” If you go to Pentuple, Sextuple, and Octuplo-K are you going to spell those with Ks as well? You realize that calling people “Quadruple-K” makes you sound silly, right? Foolish? Borderline crazy? And I mean no offense, I’m just wondering, do you think calling comic book fans in internet comments sections “Quadruple-Ks” is normal, sane behavior? Or do you think you’re being inventive?

    Robert Stanley Martin: “There really is no Lee-Kirby authorship “debate.”

    (8) Are you saying that since you say there is no debate, then there is no debate? Are you claiming to be in charge of all global debates or just comic book debates? Instead of declaring an end to the Kirby/Lee debate, why not declare peace in the Middle East, that would be better for planet earth. Comic books are fun to talk about, war is hell.

    Robert Stanley Martin: “The basic points have been made ad nauseum, and virtually all of them can be taken from Lee’s own statements.”

    (9) Great. There’s plenty of people out there who may be new to the debate. Please share. If you want to carry the Stan Lee banner, or if you want to educate us, please give us a synopsis of the Kirby/Lee authorship debate here using “statements” from Lee. Show us the Lee quotes that back up the statements in my article or show us quotes that refute my article. Thanks. The subject is new to probably 6.5 billion people. Just because you find it “tiresome” doesn’t mean they will. Share your wisdom.

    Robert Stanley Martin: “Kirby and the other artists did all the heavy lifting in terms of structure and execution.”

    (10) I agree with this. No question on that one. And as I showed in the article, in addition to obviously being in charge of the “structure and execution,” Jack also wrote the story with visuals and margin notes, and Lee tended to mirror Jack’s directions in his text. Jack did about 90% of the work on the story. The average man on the street doesn’t know that.

    To wrap up: I hope you consider me “Quadruple-K.” I’m always looking for new accomplishments. Why don’t you spell it “Kwadruple-K?” That might make you seem more creative.

  52. I agree with Frank Santoro, and I’m going to bow out as I’m contributing to the problem I’m complaining about. However, Robert can click here for the Lee quotes in case he missed them.

    Thanks to the administrator for fixing the formatting.

  53. Steibel says:

    You didn’t answer a single one of my questions. Silence speaks volumes.

    “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” — Abraham Lincoln

  54. Steibel says:

    One interesting thing to add about the Lincoln quote I mentioned above: in all likelihood, Lincoln never actually said that. In a 1950 speech Douglas MacArthur attributed the quote to Lincoln. You can see it on page 18 here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=sfJEP29EXXMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=macarthur+wisom&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YApNUoWMB4r89QSiuYGQDg&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=macarthur%20wisom&f=false

    Since we have no specific evidence Lincoln ever said that, the line probably came from this poem. Just another example of how the real history is usually hidden underneath several layers of propaganda.

    Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850–1919)

    To sin by silence, when we should protest,
    Makes cowards out of men. The human race
    Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
    Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
    The inquisition yet would serve the law,
    And guillotines decide our least disputes.
    The few who dare, must speak and speak again
    To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
    No vested power in this great day and land
    Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
    Loud disapproval of existing ills;
    May criticise oppression and condemn
    The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
    That let the children and childbearers toil
    To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

    Therefore I do protest against the boast
    Of independence in this mighty land.
    Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
    Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
    Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
    Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
    Until the mother bears no burden, save
    The precious one beneath her heart, until
    God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
    And given back to labor, let no man
    Call this the land of freedom.

    ELLA WHEELER WILCOX, “Protest,” Poems of Problems, pp. 154–55 (1914).

  55. “it seems you’ve led a sheltered life”

    I’m still living in my parents’ internet basement

  56. James says:

    I hadn’t commented to this post, one of Rob’s best to date, until now. I would prefer to continue to abstain, but, hark: I hear the rattling of balls in a jar.

  57. Jeet Heer says:

    To concentrate on the actual issues at hand rather than the giant digression of a comment thread: this 1966 memo from Dennis O’Neil when he worked for Marvel seems relevant: http://seanhowe.tumblr.com/post/62996301434/letter-from-1966-marvel-comics-staffer-to-fan

  58. Steibel says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Jeet. That’s a remarkable document.

  59. patrick ford says:

    Here is the way Kirby described working with Lee. This interview is from early 1971.
    https://scontent-a-atl.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/1378556_375063659293646_1757103201_n.jpg

  60. steven samuels says:

    “And Jack’s DC creations were cancelled in a few years. They didn’t sell.”

    At least some of them sold. Just not to the level that the suits were expecting. Jenette Kahn and Dick Giordano in the early 80s looked back at the “New Gods” sales figures; they weren’t as bad as the legend had it.

    Then there was the little problem of the Mob being involved in magazine distribution. For obvious reasons that made reliable sales figures in at least some cases a little hard to come by.

    I’m not one to defend Kirby’s wince-inducing dialogue, but it doesn’t seem like he was trying to be commercial with his seventies work. Between his Marvel and DC work it might be a little bit of apples & oranges, commercially speaking.

  61. Always wondered how the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man would have ended up if their respective creators (Kirby, Ditko) had brought their character ideas and plots to say….Charlton, or DC. Would they be nearly as famous as they are now? Probably not. I mean, can anyone imagine Joe Gill or somebody dialoguing those books? Kirby, of course, deserves full credit, but Stan Lee was probably the best editor ever.

  62. Chris Duffy says:

    Great stuff! Thanks, Jeet!

  63. Allen Smith says:

    Of course, Kirby had his bad days. The problem in crediting Kirby fairly necessarily involves taking credit away from Lee, as Lee claims to have created everything and the artists were just doing what they were directed to by him.
    So, in telling what we think is the truth, it comes out as Lee bashing. Of course, it’s nothing of the sort, it’s just telling the truth as we see it. As far as idolatry is concerned, it seems to me that fans who say, or write, that Lee saved the comics industry, as I’ve seen them do (go to some threads in places like the Marvel Masterworks board, for example, to see what I mean) are the ones guilty of idolatry. The same fans who seem to always complain that Kirby’s solo writing efforts would have been so much better had they been written by Lee. The same ones who think Kirby was suffering from dementia, but when told about Lee’s lapses of memory will just say, that’s Stan for you. Y’know what? Lee’s had his bad days too. A whole bunch of them if you look at his writing.

  64. Allen Smith says:

    I’m not sure that, aside from filling the Marvel coffers, it matters whether the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man are famous or not. It’s the work itself that is the most important, although of course the publishers wouldn’t feel that way, they are in business to make money obviously. Just as long as the books made enough money to remain in publication, it wouldn’t matter to me how famous Spider-Man or the FF were. The question would be, would the quality of the work be good enough to
    keep me interested? On that level, I place Joe Gill at least at the same level as Stan Lee, in many ways better as Gill apparently did his own writing. Of course, that would be damning Gill with faint praise, if you get my drift.

  65. I see what you’re saying Allen. I too, am more concerned with the quality of the books over sales. So that being said, which is the better read, ultimately? The Fantastic Four (with Kirby and Lee) or the Fourth World material for DC. Personally, I’d give the FF stuff a slight edge over the DC material.

  66. Allen Smith says:

    I’d say that they are roughly equal. The issues of the FF where Kirby cuts loose with his far out science fictiony concepts are pretty good. The Fourth World stories, where Kirby did all of the writing, had their own appeal with classic stories like the Pact, The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin, and the story of Himon. Fewer soap opera elements in the Kirby written stories, which to my taste is better than what we saw in many of the FF stories. The FF stories did have a bit more humor, which was tolerable in small doses.

  67. Chris Duffy says:

    Allen’s listed the best stories in the 4th World books and the ones that soar above anything Kirby did with Lee or by himself after. The New Gods/4th World books are about ideas in conflict. There’s drama, heft, and a sense the author has a personal stake in the themes. The FF work (and keep in mind, I’m a huge fan!) feels like a pantomime in comparison.
    Sorry, I get excited about this stuff!

  68. Jeet Heer says:

    Completely agree with Chris Duffy above. Kirby worked on a lot of comics (either solo or in collaboration) but the 4th World stories are the absolute peak of his work. I’ll admit those comics are strange — which might explain their relative lack of popular success — but to me the strangeness is a good thing. They are among the few commercial comics ever done that have the quirky visionary individuality of the best underground and alternative comics.

  69. patrick ford says:

    In my opinion the Marvel material is weak. This was my feeling when I first read the Silver Age Marvel stories in the early ’70s, and later when I’ve had some reason to reread any of it my initial feelings have been amplified.
    As a teenager in 1970-1974 when I was reading the Marvel stuff and Kirby’s DC stories side by side it was clear to me there was not only a big difference in tone, but the Marvel stories were disjointed and filled with plot holes.
    Year later when I read articles by Mike Gartland it became apparent what the problem was. There was the story which Kirby wrote and sold to Lee. And there was the story which ended up in the published comic books. Lee rewrote Kirby’s stories to such an extent that they are no longer the same story. Kirby tended to write stories which in part served as parables. In instance after instance Lee removed Kirby’s intent entirely.
    There is also the issue of Lee’s omnipresent voice. If a person enjoys the Stan Lee persona I assume they are comforted by it. His voice is present at every moment of a story. Not only is every character Lee, but he’s there interjecting personal messages like a DJ, or tour guide. This even extends to instances where during a battle of some sort Lee will insert an odd caption instructing the reader to marvel at the action. He’s like a sports announcer who would talk over the roar of the crowd as the camera showed as ball going over a fence, the batter clenching his fist in satisfaction as he drops his bat, the pitcher grimacing looking up at the heavens.
    It all comes down to an appreciation of Lee’s persona. If a person enjoys the company of that character, if they like the characters jokes, and find his interjections and personality entertaining they enjoy the presence of the guide.
    If a person does not find the Stan Lee persona entertaining the presence of that voice is a grating distraction.

  70. Mike Hill says:

    In combination with the pencils, Kirby’s margin notes put the lie to the idea of Lee being the author of distinct characters. It’s all there in the art… the body language, the visual humour. Jack was writing to an audience of one, Stan, but often the fewer words of dialogue he used in the margin notes were better.

    Conversely, he needed to painstakingly describe to Stan what was going on in the story. Stan mistakenly converted the superfluous narration, there solely for the purpose of preventing him from screwing it up as he was wont to do, into unnecessary expository dialogue for readers like him who couldn’t take cues from the art.

  71. Scott Grammel says:

    So many of these “Aha! We’ve got him now!” moments stem from a stupefyingly simple-minded (hi, Pat) idea of how artistic collaborations actually work. Just the other day, listening to a commentary track on The Empire Strikes Back, the director Irvin Kershner talked about filming a scene and asking for dialogue help from anyone and everyone (in the end, they winged it and Harrison Ford’s improvised on-the-spot line was used) — but no one denigrated Leigh Brackett’s or Lawrence Kashdan’s screenplay credits. Similarly, I heard not long ago that the famous “Attica! Attica!” scene from Dog Day Afternoon was suggested by one of the assistant directors — but anyone using that knowledge to undermine either Sidney Lumet’s directorial accomplishment or the screenwriter’s would most likely be viewed as an errant twit.

    We certainly don’t see anyone out here denying Kirby’s art credits based on Lee’s having asked for changes in those initial covers and pages (which, of those I’ve seen, have always struck me as clear and decisive improvements).

  72. James says:

    What is ignored by those that revile we who speak up against Kirby’s deliberate disenfranchisement by Marvel and Stan Lee is that Lee does very, very well indeed. In the eyes of the greater American public, Stan Lee is THE creator of Marvel and for this he is afforded more than a million dollars per year, he does walk-ons in all the films and he is often listed as a producer in addition to his (co-)creator credit. He doesn’t actually ever give anything away—he milks his fans for over a hundred dollars every time he signs a comic or shakes a hand and even thinks so highly of himself that he is marketing a cologne. He is featured on several TV shows of his own including the new “Fangasm” and is a guest on countless others—and, he puts out countless books with his name on them—-even ones supposedly telling artists how to draw, although he couldn’t draw anything to save his life. In short, Lee has what remains of his wretched life by the balls, but in order to maintain this plateau he still felt the need to ensure that no one else could get a piece of that multibillion dollar pie and so he testified falsely against his collaborators in court, claiming that he alone generated the most significant aspects of the character properties in question, and his testimony was held by that judge to have value above all others, thereby ensuring that the Kirby family would continue to receive not a penny of anything generated by the properties that even the most oblivious face-fronter admits were at least partly of Kirby’s doing. This is who supposedly needs defending against a virtual handful of discontents.

  73. george says:

    “In short, Lee has what remains of his wretched life by the balls …”

    Hey, James, Stan refused to give you an autograph once, right?

    I’ll admit that Stan’s role in creating the Marvel Universe has been overstated. But Jack Kirby gave interviews (most notoriously in TCJ) in which he claimed to have created everything at Marvel — including Spider-Man — all by himself, with no help from anyone. He also claimed he wrote all the stories. I don’t buy Kirby’s overblown claims, either.

    Kirby’s most enduring work was done in collaboration, first with Joe Simon and then with Stan Lee. When he tried to do it all himself (as in the 1970s), he floundered, and his books didn’t last long.

  74. george says:

    “Admittedly, Jack’s dialogue is an acquired taste, or simply a cut above the comprehension of the lowest common denominator to which Stan pandered, the drooling juveniles and semicretins, as he called his readers.”

    When Kirby returned to Marvel in 1975, Roy Thomas gave Stan Lee one piece of advice: “Don’t let him write.”

    Stan ignored Roy’s advice. He let Jack write. Kirby’s Capt. America stories of the late ’70s are entertaining and underrated (even though the dialogue is painful at times, and there’s virtually no characterization; Steve Rogers is just a one-dimensional good guy). The rest? Black Panther, Devil Dinosaur, etc? Worthless crud.

  75. george says:

    george: “Obviously, Stan added something to the comics that Kirby couldn’t provide when he worked solo. Things like giving the characters personalities and emotions.”

    “I’ve heard this argument before 1000 times, my question has always been this: can you please give us examples.”

    Check out Challengers of the Unknown, 1957-59. This Kirby-created series has often mentioned as a forerunner of the Fantastic Four. But the Challengers have no personalities. They have the same speech patterns. They’re so bland and interchangeable , the only way to tell them apart is by hair color. And that’s lost in the black and white Showcase reprints. (Kirby is given credit as writer on some of the stories in the Showcase book.)

    You wont’ find any nuanced characterization in Kirby’s Green Arrow stories from the same period. They’re strictly comics for little kids.

    Then turn to the FF, where Stan Lee was writing the dialogue. Stan gave each member of the FF a distinct personality and a distinct manner of speaking. That didn’t come from Kirby.

    I’ll go along with what Gerard Jones wrote in “The Comic Book Heroes”: That Kirby probably created most of the characters and designed their costumes, and did the bulk of the plotting, while Lee wrote all the captions and dialogue and provided most of the emotional nuance.

    In other words, Stan provided the characterization and personalities that kept these characters from being true-blue good guys (like DC’s heroes in the Silver Age). The personalities are what made readers come back each month.

  76. patrick ford says:

    Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed a lot of talk about, “The endless Lee/Kirby debate.”
    The usual implication is the issue has been debated to death and there is nothing more to say. That’s only true as far as debating the AARP wing of the MMMS. Yes, there is nothing more pointless than responding to people who have been going over the same points for decades.

    To assume the topic is spent is to assume every person who might read this forum, or another forum has a set in stone opinion. If I thought only people who read Marvel comics as kids in the ’60s were interested in the topic I wouldn’t bother with it. I would like to think with the current level of interest in the Disney/Marvel properties there are people who are curious, and who have not formed an opinion. Many of these people might well have never heard of Jack Kirby. I would assume almost all of them have heard of Stan Lee.

  77. Scott Grammel says:

    If you think Stan Lee has been over-compensated by Marvel over the years — in comparison to Kirby — for his contributions to that company’s success, I think few on here would find much to argue about. If, on the other hand, you try to minimize his irreplaceable contributions at every turn in order to, I don’t know, balance out the scales in some way, well, then some of us may feel compelled to respond.

    Oh, and I’m with Jones on this one (though, admittedly, it took many years to get there): phooey on Joe Sinnott.

  78. Scott Grammel says:

    Because of these damned online arguments, I found myself spending way too much time reading various relevant interviews, documents, etc. the other night, and I found Stan’s brief Fantastic Four origin synopsis extremely interesting and highly persuasive, while, on the other hand, I found Kirby’s “I saw a woman lift a car off a baby” story of why he created the Hulk to be the most preposterous thing I’d read in a long time.

  79. George Bush (not that one) says:
  80. Chris Duffy says:

    They aren’t worthless crud to everyone. I quite enjoy Kirby’s Black Panther run. At least the first 6 issues or so are a playful adventure/romp. Machine Man kept my interest as a young reader. The Eternals’ high points make for excellent rereading, especially the annual. Most issues of 2001 are more ambitious than anything else being put out by Marvel at the time except maybe Howard the Duck. His writing actually dates better than a lot of the Marvel writing from the same period. Does Jack Kirby’s writing from this period grate on your nerves? REad an issue out loud. Then read an issue of Stan’s Silver Surfer or Marv Wolfman’s Fantastic Four out loud. See which you get sick of quicker. I’m not saying Kirby will come out on top for you, but he does for me!

  81. Steibel says:

    Scott Grammel: “…I found myself spending way too much time reading various relevant interviews, documents, etc. the other night, and I found Stan’s brief Fantastic Four origin synopsis extremely interesting and highly persuasive.”

    I agree that Lee’s “FF Synopses” is interesting but what exactly did you find “highly persuasive” about it, and what exactly did it persuade you of?

    I plan on taking a close look at that document in a future column here in the near future; in the meantime here was a satirical Kirby Dynamics series I did where I conducted a mock interview with Smilin’ Stan (The Man) Lee where Stan and I went through his FF synopses in detail. There were a lot of tangents along the way I didn’t include below (and remember this is satire, I didn’t really expect Lee to answer real questions) but these are the main posts.

    My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 1

    http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/2012/03/25/my-interview-questions-for-stan-lee-part-1/

    My Interview Questions for Stan Lee, Part 2

    http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/2012/03/27/7994/

    My Interview Questions for Stan Lee Part 3: Chapter Breaks

    http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/2012/04/07/my-interview-questions-for-stan-lee-part-3-page-count/

    My Interview Questions For Stan Lee. Part 4.1

    http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/2012/04/20/my-interview-questions-for-stan-lee-part-4-1/

    My Interview Questions For Stan Lee. Part 4.2

    http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/2012/04/21/my-interview-questions-for-stan-lee-part-4-1-2/

    My Interview Questions For Stan Lee. Part 4.3

    http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/2012/04/26/my-interview-questions-for-stan-lee-part-4-3/

    My Interview Questions For Stan Lee. Part 4.4

    http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/2012/04/27/my-interview-questions-for-stan-lee-part-4-2/

  82. Chris Duffy says:

    Stan was funnier. Stan was chummier with the reader. I LOVE reading his Thing. Stan invented Marvel comics and gave exposure to the artists that benefitted them and advanced Stan’s career.

    But if you think Jack’s “Green Arrow” series was for little kids (how is this bad?), then aren’t Marvel Comics arguably just for kids who think they aren’t kids anymore? (Soap opera, angst, big sci fi concepts). I’d say Jack’s comics for DC and after are the work of a man engaging the world around him–what it might all mean, and where it’s headed. They are, oddly enough, comics for grownups…weird ones, for sure. But more adult than almost anything else going from Marvel and DC at the time.

    But I agree readers usually come back for personalities, a sense of familiarity, and amusement. I don’t want to take away that from Stan’s accomplishments! He knew what people wanted but he didn’t really know what stories were important to tell.

  83. Mike Hill says:

    Scott, if you read Lee’s outrageous claims from his 2010 deposition and find them highly persuasive, instead of the most preposterous things you’ve ever read, then there’s nothing left to discuss. If this is not the case, then what would lead you to believe anything he has ever claimed?

  84. Scott Grammel says:

    The news story itself prompts more than a few tough questions (some addressed in the comments), but my doubt wasn’t that it can’t ever happen but that I didn’t believe Kirby was an eyewitness to what must finally be an extremely rare and unusual occurrence.

  85. Scott Grammel says:

    If you don’t believe Lee’s 2010 deposition than you can’t believe anything he’s ever said? I simply don’t accept that premise. Nor, frankly, do most posters on this site. Lee, to too many it seems, is generally considered believable when he credits others and equally doubted whenever he credits himself. Not a complicated equation at all.

  86. patrick ford says:

    Re. The Synopsis:
    Let’s go back to Kirby’s arrival at Atlas in the late ’50s. Simon and Kirby’s publishing company MAINLINE had failed. The Simon & Kirby partnership had dissolved.
    The industry altering comics code took effect in early 1955. It was well over a year before the publication of Showcase #4 featuring The Flash in 1956. By no means did super heroes sky rocket right away after the publication of Showcase #4.
    Kirby was at DC in 1956 (after a brief time at Atlas), and launched the CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN (early 1957, four years prior to FF #1) only a few months after DC revived The Flash in late 1956. Note there were two appearances of the Challengers published prior to the second appearance of The Flash, and two more appearances by the Challengers before the third appearance of The Flash. And while The Flash was still appearing in Showcase, Kirby’s Challengers had been given a title of their own.

    Showcase:
    4 The Flash (Barry Allen)
    5 Manhunters
    6 Challengers of the Unknown
    7 Challengers of the Unknown
    8 The Flash (Barry Allen)
    9 Lois Lane
    10 Lois Lane
    11 Challengers of the Unknown
    12 Challengers of the Unknown

    The Challengers (costumed heroes in stories featuring super powers in every issue) could be seen as a super hero book. If it had been published by Marvel dealers would have long been calling it a FF prototype.

    DC was in no rush to introduce a flood of super heroes, the steps were incremental. In several later interviews Kirby said that based on his experience at DC 1956-58 he began urging Lee and Goodman to give costumed heroes a chance as soon as he returned to Martin Goodman’s nearly moribund company in late 1958. Kirby told Gary Groth he felt super heroes were coming back, and he suggested Lee look at DC’s success with superheroes. Despite Kirby’s urging it wasn’t until 1961 that Goodman decided to give super heroes a shot.

    Kirby’s story of urging super heroes on Marvel is logical based on his experience at DC. And we know Lee’s Jack Leibowitz/Goodman golf game story is a fabrication.
    When interviewed DC’s Jack Liebowitz said there was no golf game and he never socialized with Goodman). Goodman himself never commented on what brought about the FF. The story that Goodman wanted a book similar to the Justice League of America is simply another part of Stan Lee’s fabricated golf game story.

    Many people place a great deal of emphasis on the Stan Lee FF#1 synopsis. Kirby said straight out in TCJ that any suggestion he had ever seen the Lee synopsis for FF#1 was (exact quote) “An outright lie.” Marvel editor Roger Stern said another Marvel editor David Anthony Kraft found the synopsis in Lee’s old desk at the Marvel offices. David Anthony Kraft is the same person Jim Shooter said was responsible for loading Kirby’s mid-late-’70s LOCs with negative letters and urging from the editor to discuss the controversy over Kirby’s writing. Shooter saiys he replaced Kraft because of this.

    When Roy Thomas was asked about the synopsis in TJKC #18 he said,

    “Even Stan would never claim for sure he wrote it before speaking to Jack.”

    Not long after that Lee began saying in precise terms he had written the synopsis before ever speaking to Kirby. As a matter of fact it is almost as if Lee has been coached by an attorney, (likely his friend and personal attorney Arthur Lieberman an IP attorney who had represented the Robert E. Howard estate). When the synopsis was published in Alter-Ego, not very long after Roy Thomas’ interview in TJKC #18, Lee saw fit to include a sidebar note very specifically mentioning the synopsis was written before ever speaking to Kirby.
    Thomas also says in TJKC #18 that Lee “didn’t remember” if he’d spoken to Kirby before writing the synopsis or not. Since the synopsis had only recently come to light that suggests Thomas had questioned Lee about the synopsis when it first showed up, and Lee told him he could not remember.

    Again TJKC #18 page 21. Roy Thomas :

    “Later I saw Stan’s plot for FF #1, but EVEN STAN (my caps) would never claim for sure he and Jack hadn’t talked the idea over before he wrote it.”

    Sol Brodsky told Mark Evanier Kirby presented an idea much closer the the Challengers than the JLA. Again the logic points to Kirby. The similarities between the FF and the Challengers are obvious just as are the similarities between The Fly and the described Kirby Spiderman. This points to Kirby bringing ideas, plots, characters, to Lee rather than the other way around.
    There is also the telling fact that the origin of Iron-Man story is a direct knockoff of a Kirby Green Arrow story called THE WAR THAT NEVER ENDED. Clearly Kirby was creating characters and plots for books he was not drawing.
    Then you consider multiple stories from Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, Ditko, Stan Goldberg, and others that Lee was depending on them for plots and it becomes plainly obvious Lee from the very start was not fomenting plots and characters.
    Lee’s role began AFTER the writer/artists working for him gave him a complete story they wrote with little or no input from Lee. BTW: You will see MMMS types storm in, in a fury, asserting Kirby took his Spiderman from Joe Simon and Jack Oleck. I take it from Simon’s book Kirby had considerable input in revamping the Silver Spider (who was more like the Green Hornet). Kirby complained to Simon about the script saying “this thing has cobwebs all over it…”
    The point is not that Kirby’s Spiderman was a great character, or a flash of original genius. The point is it shows it was Kirby bringing ideas to Lee. Does it make sense at all that Lee would give Kirby the same plot (according to Ditko who pointed it out to Lee) Kirby had used as the origin of The Fly?
    Why was Kirby using recycled ideas from the recent past? A good chance the answer is he was being poorly paid, not being paid for writing, and was having to produce a tremendous number of pages due to Marvel’s lousy page rates (half what he’d been paid at DC), and he was getting none of the writers page rate which was being collected by Lee.

    There is not one thing which indicates to me that from the very start it was not Kirby going into the office and giving Lee the plots and characters. There is considerable evidence (as I’ve described above) it was Kirby, Wood, Goldberg, Ditko, from the very start giving their complete stories to Lee

    I do not dispute Lee rewrote plots and had a tremendous impact on the published stories. There is clear evidence that did happen all the time, to the great distress of Powell, Ditko, Wood, Kirby, Orlando, and likely others who are not on record.

    This is all my speculation, but just about everything about the era is speculation because no one sat in with Lee and Kirby. Not Roy Thomas (except for his jury duty episode). Not Marie Severin. Not Flo, she heard raised voices from the next room. Not Romita, his big story amounts to one car ride which has been inflated to mythic proportions. The people who say things like “Stan gave plots to all the artists”, have no clue as to what went on between Lee and Kirby. There was Sol Brodsky. He was there at times, and he tends to support Kirby’s version of events.

    There are fans who think the early years represented more of a collaborative effort . My assumption is Kirby would meet with Lee at the office when he brought the finished story in and sat there and explain the whole story to Lee who made a few notes on the artwork. It’s likely before leaving Kirby also gave Lee a rough idea for the plot of the next issue and Lee may have typed up those “synopsis” fragments based on what Kirby told him.
    I don’t absolutely doubt the FF #1 synopsis is genuine; it could have been written after Lee got the plot (which is largely a close variation on the origin of the Challengers) from Kirby, and typed it up for his own use, and possibly to show to Goodman.

  87. Scott Grammel says:

    Rob, sorry after all your efforts above, but I only read a very little of your questioning. For one thing, I found the smugness underlying the seeming line of attack off-putting. For another, since you say you hope to address the synopsis in the near future, it seems a topic best addressed than.

  88. Scott Grammel says:

    “a topic best addressed then.”

  89. patrick ford says:

    The big difference between the Challengers and the FF is the FF behave like children. The relationship between Reed-Johnny-Ben is a direct knockoff of Kirby’s kid gang set up in the Newsboy Legion where you have the “smart guy” (Big Word/Reed), the “tough guy” (Scrapper/Ben), and the “wise guy” (Gabby/Johnny). The Challengers have a similar but more mature make-up. The real big personality in the Challengers is a woman scientist named June Robbins. Typical of Kirby’s strong women characters she has no interest in being part of the official team, but she routinely greater humor, ingenuity, and intelligence than any of the men.

  90. patrick ford says:

    If you look at the actual Kirby quote about “lifting a car” it isn’t particularly outlandish. When I read it long ago my thought was he was describing a woman lifting the body (running board) of a car enough that her baby was able to squeeze between the edge of the sidewalk and the cars body. The body of a car “floats” on the suspension and rests lower than the cars frame. To raise the body is not the same thing as lifting the frame to which the axles are attached off the ground. I took the story that way for years. Later I noticed Lee fanatics misrepresenting the story. It has become one of the Lee-Bag Party talking points.

    Kirby: ” The little child was playing in the gutter and he was crawling from the gutter onto the sidewalk under the running board of this car — he was playing in the gutter. His mother was horrified. She looked from the rear window of the car, and this woman in desperation lifted the rear end of the car. “

  91. Scott Grammel says:

    And up is down. Left is right. And North is South.

    Still, like those Republicans who are always willing to go on record against ANY business regulation (however reasonable)and FOR any business’s actions or policies (however abhorrent), one can be impressed by the discipline if not by the intellectual honesty behind Ford’s “never let any anti-Kirby comment go unattacked” postings.

  92. patrick ford says:

    The Black Panther contains a lot of outstanding satire directed at the collector mentality. It’s been pointed out by several people the book might have served as inspiration of the Indiana Jones movies.
    Devil Dinosaur is altogether an outstanding effort with the high point being the three issue Alien Invasion story which contains a kind of Adam and Eve retelling as part of it’s subtext.

    Chris makes a very good point about reading Kirby aloud. While I’ve always enjoyed his dialogue I never thought to read any of it aloud until I began noticing a lot of complaining about the supposed “weirdness” of it. His supposed “weird” use of language is impossible to technically define. What exactly is a “weird” word stress? What is a “weird” choice of words? There is factually no such thing as “weird” bold face stress choices when it comes to comics text. And there is no codex which tells a creative writer which words are appropriate or inappropriate to use. There are no doubt instances in Kirby’s writing, and in the writing of many others, where a word choice appears to fall outside the proper dictionary definition. The thing is it isn’t uncommon at all for words to begin to be used in new ways over time. There are slang/urban dictionaries. Kirby was an imaginative and creative individual. If he could take a stack of magazines,cut them up, and then arrange the pieces into a well composed piece of artwork, or deconstruct human anatomy, there isn’t any reason to assume he was not using a sophisticated intellectual process in his writing. WHY are his choices described as “weird” when they might be described as inventive, or creative? Isn’t it a huge positive that his style is so unique both fans and detractors recognize it as being like nothing else? Intellectual is defined as “given to study, reflection, and speculation.” An excellent description of Kirby’s process. An intellectual quarterback in a football game is reacting in the moment, but his reactions are based on intellect. His live reactions are based on a sophisticated understanding. Sophistication is described as; “highly complicated or developed, having a refined knowledge of the ways of the world cultivated especially through wide experience, finely experienced and aware, not naïve.”
    Kirby lavished value added attention on his text should in no way be seen as unschooled. The fact he took the time to add layers of meaning to his text with the tools at his disposal, is an indication of intellectual process i.e. sophistication. The frequent use of word stress, “scare quotes,” and other punctuation, shows an connection with the words and a desire on the part of the author to instruct the reader as to how those words are intended to be understood.
    It’s also unreasonable to remove from the equation that Kirby was in almost every instance writing primarily for a targeted audience. His first focus was to connect with the most likely audience. The fact Kirby was at the same time able to express a personal point of view commenting on issues thematically important to him is another value added. It’s really the very thing which makes writing for children or adults great.
    I think most adults can appreciate Seuss, or E.B.White, or Roald Dahl. It’s because they are dealing in largest part with the same themes as the best writers for adults. The reading level is just a little different. In a way though there is more magic in something which can connect with all ages than there is with something which is understood only by a narrow audience.

  93. Jaz says:

    “We can also look at the image and see if Lee based his text on Jack’s art”–exactly. It always stuns me that even the most rabid devotees of comics still manage to think of “emotion” or “characterization” or “personality” as aspects of comics that are conveyed through words more than the visuals; even if Lee had added NO words to Kirby’s visuals, I still think they’d have heaps of character and personality, and those same visuals provide all the spark for the verbiage being added after the fact, no?

  94. Steibel says:

    Scott Grammel says: “Rob, sorry after all your efforts above, but I only read a very little of your questioning.”

    No need to apologize, I did that series for fun, and I certainly don’t expect people to read through all of that. I was just showing an example of a series that shows some people don’t think the Lee FF # 1 “synopses” proves Lee created FF alone.

    Scott Grammel says: “For one thing, I found the smugness underlying the seeming line of attack off-putting.:

    That was the point, It was satire, I was playing the role of a rude, condescending, relentless prosecuting attorney.

    I got a lot of emails on that series from people who said I was being “mean” to Lee. I tried to explain to them that Lee wasn’t really in the room with me or on trial and I was playing a part — I was pretending to be a comic book lawyer version of Perry Mason grilling Lee who clearly would never (and probably will never) answer such questions. I was using satire to expose absurdity — it is utterly ridiculous to claim that document proves Stan Lee created FF alone.

    Scott Grammel says: “For another, since you say you hope to address the synopsis in the near future, it seems a topic best addressed than.”

    Sometime next year I hope to analyze that document in a serious fashion. I thank you and all the other readers for reading the article and for your comments.

  95. Jaz says:

    “But if you think Jack’s “Green Arrow” series was for little kids (how is this bad?), then aren’t Marvel Comics arguably just for kids who think they aren’t kids anymore?”

    EXACTLY.

  96. Jaz says:

    Whenever Patrick posts something this well-phrased, intelligent and enriching, I really wonder why people feel the need to characterize him as “simple-minded”…

    Or maybe since I agree with almost everything he posts, many might say I’m simple-minded, too… :)

  97. Jaz says:

    Dunno, Outhouse’s thought might be relevant in light of how often Lee’s defenders say that Lee is owed recognition and wealth for his “salesmanship” of the “Marvel experience”–if DC had done the FF, would, say, Jack Liebowitz be more deserving of credit for its success [or not] than Kirby?

    Also, if the Fourth World books had been done at Marvel instead, would they have been cancelled as swiftly? Would Kirby have been allowed the same autonomy at Marvel? It’s interesting to think of the similar “success = $$$” condemnation of Kirby–“if Kirby was so creative, why did his books [except KAMANDI…] all get cancelled so quickly?”–if you think of what the Kirby Kondemners might think of these alleged “bad comics” had they lived in the would-be “House of Ideas” instead, and maybe been given a better shot at continuing longer? [Probably they’d continue to paint them with the same brush as Kirby’s later Marvel material.] It seems like Marvel loyalists in part are quick to tear down Kirby’s DC work because he was a “traitor” to Lee, and because he was wasting his talents at “Brand Ecch”…

  98. george says:

    “Lee’s has spent 50 years tearing down Kirby. Lee has been so successful at tearing down Kirby that Lee is a celebrity appearing in movies and recognized by millions of people.”

    Sigh.

    This is why I usually avoid forums about Silver Age Marvel. Most of them — like this one — are overrun by people bashing Stan Lee and praising Kirby as a flawless genius and victim/martyr. I’m surprised they haven’t established a Church of Kirby, with Jack as their messiah. It’s probably just a matter of time.

  99. george says:

    “As for business related issues; I’ve got no interest in what the editor or publisher want. My sympathies always are on the side of the creative people.”

    I sympathize with the creative people, too (and editors can be creative people, just like writers and artists). But without some businessmen willing to spend money, no comics get printed or distributed.

    Fans can live in ivory towers and pretend that business doesn’t matter, that comics are Pure Art. But Stan Lee (and his counterparts at the other companies) had to deal with the commercial realities of the comic book business as it existed then. And it was a BUSINESS.

    Marvel, DC and the rest were not patrons of the arts, any more than movie studios and TV networks were in the art business. They were in the business of entertaining a mass audience, an audience MUCH larger than comics have today. Art sometimes got done, but that wasn’t the main goal. The goal was to make money and stay employed.

    If Kirby didn’t want to deal with commercial considerations, and really wanted to own his characters and his original art, he could have worked for an underground publisher. They were up and running by 1967. Or he could have tried self-publishing, as Steve Ditko and Wally Wood did.

    But until the ’80s, Kirby worked for mainstream publishers like Marvel and DC … companies that he knew would own the copyright on anything he created.

    The Fourth World might have survived if the direct market had existed in the early ’70s. But the sales didn’t justify the big print runs required for newsstand comics in those days. And make no mistake: Infantino expected commercial blockbusters from Kirby. He assumed New Gods and the others would sell like the FF and Thor, right out of the gate. That didn’t happen.

  100. Mike Hill says:

    1. If you wouldn’t accept Lee’s claim that he created everything in 2010, why wouldn’t you look more questioningly at the things he told you when you were a kid? 2. Lee’s credit for Kirby was always carefully worded so it didn’t remove the writer’s page rate from his own pocket. Stan always said he had a heck of a stable of “artists,” but the truth is they were doing the writing for which he got paid.

  101. george says:

    “The big difference between the Challengers and the FF is the FF behave like children.”

    Okay, so characters who are bland, boring and colorless, and have the combined personality of a tree stump (like the Challengers), are for adults. Thanks for clearing that up, Patrick.

  102. Steibel says:

    george: “Sigh. This is why I usually avoid forums about Silver Age Marvel. Most of them — like this one — are overrun by people bashing Stan Lee and praising Kirby as a flawless genius and victim/martyr. I’m surprised they haven’t established a Church of Kirby, with Jack as their messiah. It’s probably just a matter of time.”

    When I first started looking at Jack’s work about 10 years ago, I used to write “sigh” a lot too when dealing with Jack’s critics who were constantly calling Kirby fans “Stan Bashers.”

    I used to write “sigh” a lot when I met folks who were claiming Jack’s fans were portraying Jack as a ‘victim/martyr” (for the record I have met 0/1000s of Kirby fans who have actually called Jack a victim or a martyr).

    I also used to write “sigh” a lot when Jack’s fans were accused of being religious fanatics who want to establish a “Church of Kirby” and who want to establish Jack as a “messiah.”

    I would write “sigh” because I expected better of grown men; I expected adults would have the maturity to discuss the history without resorting to attempts at demonization using religious terminology.

    I stopped writing “sigh” years ago.

  103. patrick ford says:

    Here’s a good example of the way Lee operates.

    In early 1969 (a year before he stopped selling his freelance creative work to Marvel)) Kirby told Mark Herbert.

    Kirby: “I created the Hulk, and saw him as kind of a handsome Frankenstein. I never felt that the Hulk was a monster, because I felt the Hulk was me.”

    Now here are recent comments by Stan Lee.

    Stan Lee: “I wrote the Origins of the comics for Marvel I think I even put it in my
    introduction, and he read that. He didn’t say anything then. But
    with the Hulk I wanted something that was a combination of the
    Frankenstein Monster and Jekyll and Hyde, and I’ve said that to people
    over and over again. And I read an interview with him somewhere, and
    he said, ³I’ve always liked Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde, and I
    wanted to do it.² And the son-of-a-bitch read that I had written it
    and it somehow became part of his–you know, how d’ya–”

    Lee’s origins book was published in 1974 five years after the Mark Herbert interview was done.

  104. Steibel says:

    And to repeat the challenge I made earlier in the comments section here: instead of calling Jack’s fans “Stan Bashers,” and instead of making the false claim the Kirby fans are “praising Kirby as a flawless genius and victim/martyr,” and instead of claiming it’s a matter of time before Jack’s fans “establish a Church of Kirby, with Jack as their messiah,” why don’t you pick up a copy of FF # 61 and tell us specifically what Lee contributes to the story that is not in Jack’s art.

    Instead of attacking Jack’s fans on a personal level, show us specifically what it is in the FF # 61 story (and in any Kirby/Lee work or solo Kirby work) that you think proves Lee added significant characterization to Jack’s stories. I’ve been waiting 10 years for someone to take up my challenge, instead I’ve received 100s if not 1000s of emails claiming I am a member of some kind of Kirby Kult.

    I’m beginning to thing no one is taking up my challenge because when they actually go back and re-read Lee’s text, it doesn’t have the same impact it had on them when they were 12-years-old.

    Instead of accusing Jack’s fans of being members of non-existent religious organizations (most of which begin with “ks”) how about breaking open an old 60s comic book and showing us examples of Stan Lee as master wordsmith.

    I’ll give you a no-prize if you find some Lee prose that deserves to stand alongside the work of the great authors of our time.

  105. george says:

    It’s typical of Kirby fanatics (like Steibel) to see any criticism of Kirby’s work as a personal attack on Kirby, his family and his fans.

    The Kirby fanatics write post after post bashing Stan Lee, and basically depicting Stan as a combination of Hitler, Nixon and Al Capone. Then they go ballistic when anyone disagrees with them, and feel they have been attacked and insulted. The Kirby fanatics also seem to have an incredible amount of time on their hands, as they’re able to post comments 24/7.

    I’ve seen this on other boards, and I guess it will never end.

  106. Steibel says:

    Hi george,

    You don’t seem to have understood what I wrote. I wrote:

    And to repeat the challenge I made earlier in the comments section here: instead of calling Jack’s fans “Stan Bashers,” and instead of making the false claim the Kirby fans are “praising Kirby as a flawless genius and victim/martyr,” and instead of claiming it’s a matter of time before Jack’s fans “establish a Church of Kirby, with Jack as their messiah,” why don’t you pick up a copy of FF # 61 and tell us specifically what Lee contributes to the story that is not in Jack’s art.

    It’s simple, if you want to enter into an intelligent dialogue about the work of Jack Kirby, why not give us examples that back up your POV instead of calling people silly names like “Kirby fanatics?”

    As for this comment from you:

    george: “Kirby fanatics write post after post bashing Stan Lee, and basically depicting Stan as a combination of Hitler, Nixon and Al Capone.”

    I’ll repeat it again: if you want to enter into an intelligent dialogue about the work of Jack Kirby, why not give us examples that back up your POV instead of calling people names?

    By the way, how on earth does Nixon deserve to be in the same list as Hitler?

  107. Allen Smith says:

    Why should it ever end? The truth remains the truth, no matter what Lee apologists say.

    Allen Smith

  108. Steibel says:

    george: “It’s typical of Kirby fanatics (like Steibel) to see any criticism of Kirby’s work as a personal attack on Kirby, his family and his fans.”

    I think criticism of Jack’s work is great. I’ve criticized Jack’s work, read my Kirby Dynamics archives. A lot of Kirby fans hate me because I have criticized some of Jack’s work.

    In your comment above you are misquoting me. I wrote in response to this comment:

    Robert Stanley Martin: “…the problem with the Kourageous Kirby Keyboard Krusaders. If you so much as write a sentence that even slightly goes against the grain of their idolatry, they focus on that to the exclusion of all else.”

    Steibel: I remain shocked by the fact that there are so many comic book fans out there who constantly make the study of Kirby and comics personal. I don’t understand why individuals feel the need to make up derogatory terms about Jack’s fans that start with “ks.” It’s insulting to Jack’s memory, it’s insulting to Jack’s associates, it’s insulting to Jack’s friends, it’s insulting to Kirby students and Kirby scholars, it’s insulting to Jack’s family — it’s insulting to anybody who cares about Jack’s life and work. It’s also insulting to anyone with any common sense. It’s ignorant.

    So I do not see “criticism of Kirby’s work as a personal attack on Kirby, his family and his fans.” I guess you just make things up out of thin air to support your POV.

    If you can’t even accurately use my own quotes in a comments section for an internet article, how am I supposed to take any of your analysis of history seriously (if you actually discuss the history).

  109. Benjamin Robinson says:

    Any argument for Lee would certainly be strengthened if there were any good comics with his name on them that didn’t also feature Kirby or Ditko’s name. Spoiler alert! There aren’t any.

  110. Allen Smith says:

    Well Rob Steibel, he did write those photo caption mags like Monsters to Laugh With. Do those count?:-)

    Allen Smith

  111. Steibel says:

    Allen Smith: “Well Rob Steibel, he did write those photo caption mags like Monsters to Laugh With. Do those count?:-)”

    Absolutely. Stan’s text brought tremendous characterization and emotion to the characters in that movie monster photograph series. Here’s an example:

    http://weirdhollow.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html

    Notice the passion, the personality, the complexity, the poignancy, the warmth, the pathos Lee gives this character with his brilliant text. That is the genius of Your Fearless Leader/Your Generalissimo: when Smilin’ Stan (“The Man”) Lee adds text to an image, that image is transformed into a masterpiece of American literature.

  112. R. Maheras says:

    At the time FF #61 was published, Kirby had already been doing the lion’s share of creating and plotting of the series for years. I don’t think any objective observer can deny that.

    Lee’s forte was never world-building or other such innovations, nor was it outside-the-box plotting. He also had difficulty creating new characters or villains that were not simply carbon copies of generic characters he had seen or created previously. This is pretty obvious if one looks at Lee’s career as a whole. The only time he was involved with a seemingly endless stream of new ideas and original characters was the relatively short period of time he was both utilizing the Marvel Method and working with Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. And the reason for that is simple: Lee did not do any of the creative heavy lifting — Ditko and Kirby did. While I never spoke to Kirby, Ditko explained to me that Lee never put much thought into what was coming up. He might suggest some random existing villain during a plot discussion, and Ditko would have to talk him out of it. Ditko was driving the creative train on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, as no doubt Kirby was with his books, and to his credit, Lee was smart enough to let them do it.

    But while both Ditko and Kirby were geniuses as creating new characters, villains, dramatic situations, and riveting storylines, both had trouble writing smooth, relatable, emotional, humorous and enjoyable dialogue. Lee could. In addition, neither Ditko or Kirby seemed comfortable at the art of self-promotion, whereas Lee exceled at it. Lee was also an excellent editor, and seemed to know how to get the best work out of his staff. He had a knack for sensing when some art or concept he was presented with would or would not work.

    So while Lee’s dialogue often “stated the obvious” or closely followed the directions of his two top artists, the fact is, Lee’s dialogue was critical to smoothing out the rough edges and jerkiness of the artists’ margin notes.

    In short, while Kirby and Ditko created the majority of the Marvel Universe during the 1960s, Lee was the guiding hand, glue and the catalyst that made the whole thing work. None of the principles involved enjoyed anywhere near the same success working separately than they did working together. Like the Beatles, they had a special synergy whose whole was far greater than the sum of the individual parts.

  113. patrick ford says:

    I guess Federal Judges are not objective observers. We had the judge’s ruling in the case where Disney/Marvel sued the Kirby heirs, and the judge not only fully accepted that Lee created every basic plot and character 1958-1963, but went on to quote from Lee’s testimony all through her ruling.
    This went to far as the judge quoting Lee saying he made the Hulk green because there were no green super heroes at the time.
    The judge wrote right up front in her ruling:

    “Marvel’s case stands or falls on his (Lee’s) testimony.”

    The issue is not who was doing the heavy lifting. The issue comes down to who brought the seminal ideas to who. The importance of what might seem like a minor point is that if Lee was assigning his ideas to Kirby then at that point Kirby (or Ditko, et al.) is creating work for hire because he is building on Lee’s ideas.

  114. Mike Hill says:

    I hate to disagree with you, Russ, but the “whole greater than the sum of its parts” BS only works if you’re a fan of Lee’s “dumbing down” of the material. He frequently took a work of art by Kirby or Ditko, complete when he received it, and turned it into something pedestrian. The individual parts of a Kirby solo work, the pencils, the words, the superb editing (and sometimes as a bonus the inks and the colours), all move in the same storytelling direction to add up to a masterpiece.

  115. patrick ford says:

    Here’s Lee from his autobiography on Steve Ditko and the other “artists” (never writer-artists).

    Stan Lee: “My respect for Steve Ditko is so great, and his contribution to the strip was so important, that I’m willing to share the credit and call myself co-creator. In fact, I’m willing to call myself co-creator of all the characters I’ve dreamed up, thereby sharing a grateful world’s plaudits and accolades with the artists (there’s that word “artists” again) who did me proud.
    I really think I’m being very generous in giving him ‘co-creator’ (Lee’s quotation marks there) credit, because I’m the guy who dreamed up the title, the concept, and the characters. Personally I think the idea is the thing, because an idea can be given to any artist.”

    How people can fail to see through this kind of thing is a curiosity. It’s the same thing in Lee’s testimony. He takes all the credit for creating characters and plots. He then will go on at tremendous length vaguely praising “his artists” as; creative, incredibly creative, the most creative artist ever, my best guy, the worlds biggest genius, and so on. He never mentions anything they have actually created though, aside from drawings and things not protected by copyright.
    When questioned specifically about the “artists” creating characters Lee said it was part of their job, and they created characters all the time. As an example he said if his story had a scene set in a bar it was the artists job to populate the bar with patrons and staff, and that one of these characters might be a “sexy bartender.”

  116. patrick ford says:

    I would say this. I give Lee credit for the heavy lifting. Lee can have the credit for the published stories. By the time he was finished they were more his than Kirby’s in many instances. Certainly the point of Kirby’s story had often be removed. So give Lee the heavy lifting, and credit Kirby as the idea man.

  117. R. Maheras says:

    No, the federal judge was not an informed, objective observer. She apparently had no understanding of how the Marvel Method worked, and since no one apparently presented any evidence explaining it, she made an incorrect ruling.

  118. She made the correct ruling. The issue before the court was not who created what. It was whether Kirby was working with Marvel in a for-hire capacity. She ruled he was. The relevant testimony from Lee had to do with his relationship to Kirby as editor, art director, and Marvel’s representative.

  119. R. Maheras says:

    C’mon, Mike. Who are you kidding? I read every book Kirby drew from about 1956 until he passed away, and the Lee “dumbed down” the dialogue charge is mostly BS. Sure, Lee occasionally did dumb it down, but that was his frickin’ job as editor. He was Kirby’s margin notes interpreter, and considering how successful his “corny patter” was with his primary audience back then, it seems to me that more often than not he made the right call.

    I had high expectations when Kirby jumped over to DC, but after a few months of reading Kirby’s dialogue in his Fourth World books — especially “Jimmy Olsen” — I was extremely disappointed. I found Kirby’s dialogue stilted, jerky, and at times, almost like a monotone. And some of his puns and kooky phrases were unlike any dialogue I’d ever heard or read. The books were still powerfully drawn and action-packed, and the ideas still fresh and intriguing, but the dialogue? No way. At times it drove me to distraction.

    That’s not to say that Lee’s syrupy, soap-opera-ish dialogue wasn’t distracting either. For example, I didn’t like almost every issue of “Silver Surfer,” because Lee seemed to go over-the-top to dramatize the Surfer’s “woe is me” persona. And if Kirby had been the artist of the entire run, Lee would have been forced by the direction of Kirby’s plotting to tone down the theatrics.

    But the fact is, the Lee/Kirby team balanced the strengths and weaknesses of both men, and resulted in some truly memorable issues that were pinnacles of their careers.

    Does that mean I don’t think Lee is a skunk for hogging most of the creative credit all of these years? Not at all. That’s really a separate issue, and one that has no bearing on the merits of the Lee/Kirby collaborations.

    But the Lee/Kirby

  120. R. Maheras says:

    Then that’s totally different. I haven’t read the summary of the case, so I did not know.

  121. patrick ford says:

    Her understanding of the Marvel Method was from Lee. Lee claimed he alone created every plot and character 1958-1963 and then assigned his characters and plots to the “artists.”
    Lee is the only living witness who has firsthand knowledge of his relationship with Kirby between 1958 and 1963.
    The Kirby heirs offered testimony of their firsthand knowledge of Kirby’s creative process. Since Kirby worked at home (this was not disputed by Lee or Marvel) only the heirs could offer firsthand knowledge of Kirby creating his work. The judge described their testimony as “the recollections of children” despite the fact Neal, Barbara, and Susan were all in their teens by 1961.

  122. patrick ford says:

    It was Lee’s testimony which placed Kirby in the “work-for-hire” position. This is absolutely clear. The judge herself says “Marvel’s case stands or falls on his (Stan Lee’s) testimony.”

  123. patrick ford says:

    If a person cares to look all these various comic book copyright cases stem from a creator saying they created a character on spec and then offered it to a publisher.
    That’s true of Gerber, Wolfman, Friedrich, and all the rest.

  124. God, I’m letting myself get sucked into this again.

    The judge didn’t say they didn’t have firsthand knowledge of “Kirby creating his work.” This is what she wrote:

    The Kirby Heirs also offer their own reminiscences of their father and his work, but as they were children during the relevant time period, they do not claim to have first-hand knowledge of their father’s business dealings with Marvel.

    I’m sorry, but “creating his work” is not synonymous with “business dealings with Marvel.” I’m not sure whether it’s your poor reading comprehension or your propensity for hallucination that’s tripping you up here, Patrick, but you should be mindful of it, and discipline yourself accordingly.

  125. george says:

    R. Maheras said: “But the fact is, the Lee/Kirby team balanced the strengths and weaknesses of both men, and resulted in some truly memorable issues that were pinnacles of their careers.”

    Totally agree.

    Patrick Ford said: “So give Lee the heavy lifting, and credit Kirby as the idea man.”

    For once I agree with you, Patrick, although I suspect you mean “heavy lifting” in a sarcastic way, given your trashing of Lee in other posts.

    Benjamin Robinson said: “Any argument for Lee would certainly be strengthened if there were any good comics with his name on them that didn’t also feature Kirby or Ditko’s name. Spoiler alert! There aren’t any.”

    The Daredevil stories by Lee, Romita and Colan are entertaining. So are the Lee-Romita issues of Spider-Man, and the Iron Man stories by Lee, Heck and Colan. Even the Lee-Buscema Silver Surfer, which so many fans hate
    (probably because Kirby didn’t draw it), are competently executed.

    I wouldn’t put any of them on the level of Shakespeare or Tolstoy, but nothing by Kirby or Ditko is on that level, either. (I would rank Ditko with his heroine, Ayn Rand … unfortunately.)

  126. Allen Smith says:

    I don’t know that the judge made the correct ruling. Clearly Kirby submitted ideas that weren’t suggested by Stan Lee as editor, and he did so at the risk that they would be rejected. Pages of art by Kirby were rejected, correct? The same idea applies to characters and concepts submitted by Kirby, although of course in his testimony Lee only refers to these as background characters. So, I argue that the instance and expense test wasn’t met in what Kirby submitted to Marvel. Of course, the judge, having the last word, her view will prevail. Too bad.

  127. Allen Smith says:

    I agree with you, Mike HIll. The sappy soap opera elements Stan brought to the table worked on Millie the Model and other similar books, which were enjoyable as light entertainment, but they served to dumb down the concepts created by Ditko and Kirby.
    Now, maybe people enjoy soap opera, nothing wrong with that. But I read comics for the fantastic and imaginative elements, and the mystery, which I’ve never seen Stan Lee show any affinity for creating.

  128. patrick ford says:

    According to Lee he always paid for rejected work, and not just Kirby’s but every creators rejected work as long as he had assigned it. This goes hand in hand with Lee’s claims he alone created every character and plot between 1958 and 1963.
    Again this is the whole key to the case. The heirs said their father created characters at home and then pitched his ideas to Lee who could either accept or reject them. Lee claimed he created everything and then assigned it to the “artists.”

  129. patrick ford says:

    I have always given Lee credit for the published stories.
    My argument has always been that Kirby created the characters and plots and pitched them to Lee. Once Lee approved Kirby’s ideas, Kirby went home and produced a story which he then sold to Lee. At that point Lee’s heavy lifting began.
    I’ve never said anything different from that. It’s easy for me to say, because It explains why I dislike the published stories so much. It’s because of all that heavy lifting Lee did with the sledge hammer he took to Kirby’s creations.

  130. Mike Hill says:

    Russ, we’re not going to agree on which is better. You like Stan’s “writing,” I prefer Jack’s storytelling, and his dialogue. You can only assert “sum greater than its parts” if you believe that Lee’s contribution was an improvement, and I reject that.

  131. Criminy. This is another reason why I want to stop discussing this stuff. It’s just never-ending. Just to take Patrick as an example, it doesn’t matter how decisively you refute this baloney. Sooner or later, he will eventually start repeating it again.

    This is what Stan Lee said:

    Even if we didn’t publish–if an artist drew a 10-page story, and the artist rate was $20 a page, I would put in a voucher for $200 for that artist. Now, if–and this happened rarely–but if we decided not to use that story, the artist would still keep the money because he had done the work. It wasn’t his fault.

    He says they paid for stories they didn’t use. I cannot find anywhere in that deposition where he said they necessarily paid for rejected individual pages.

    Oh, and Allen, the judge covered every point you bring up and rejected the argument. Perhaps you should read the decision before commenting on it.

    Getting back to Patrick, Susan and Neal Kirby NEVER said they saw their father creating the Marvel characters. Susan Kirby said she saw him working on a drawing of the Fantastic Four, and that Sue Storm was named for her. That’s it. There’s no indication that he did this independently of any discussion with Lee about the feature. As for Neal Kirby, he says he remembered his father working on a drawing of Thor, who incidentally is a public-domain character. Now a unique treatment of Thor can be copyrighted, but based on his description, it wasn’t the Marvel Thor. And again, there was no indication of whether Kirby was working on this independently of any discussion with Lee.

    What it boils down to that Patrick doesn’t really care about the truth. Yes, he has problems with reading comprehension and hallucinations and so forth. But he’s just simply not an honest person. His response to seeing a crap talking point refuted is to lay it low for a while. He then starts spouting new crap talking points until they get refuted as well. And so it goes until he eventually works his way back to the earliest talking point that’s been refuted, but hopefully everyone’s forgotten about, and ’round we go once more.

    The bullshit never stops.

  132. patrick ford says:

    RSM: ” I cannot find anywhere in that deposition where he said they necessarily paid for rejected individual pages.”

    Page 376 of Lee’s deposition:

    https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2010cv00141/356975/102/10.pdf?ts%3D1376380861&chrome=true

  133. patrick ford says:

    If wonder if it really helps a person’s arguments when they puff-up all their own opinions while characterizing anything they don’t agree with as nonsense.

  134. Allen Smith says:

    True, Scott. That story ranks right up there with Stan Lee’s claim that he came up with the idea for Spider-Man because he saw a spider on the wall.

    Allen Smith

  135. patrick ford says:

    RSM: “Getting back to Patrick, Susan and Neal Kirby NEVER said they saw their father creating the Marvel characters. Susan Kirby said she saw him working on a drawing of the Fantastic Four,…”

    Hysterical. BTW She said only three of the four were in the drawing.

  136. Allen Smith says:

    “Son of a bitch”, eh, Stan? Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

    Allen Smith

  137. R. Fiore says:

    These discussions become circular because participants start from undeniable positions and extend them into the indefensible. Some start out with the undeniable fact that Stan Lee claimed more authorship than he was entitled to and want to extend it to the point where Stan had no creative input at all. The flaw in that position is that no one was maintaining purity of creation. From the evidence we’ve heard it seems pretty clear that Lee’s preference was for his artists to carry as much of the load of storytelling as they were capable of, reserving for himself the writing of the literal captions and dialog and providing plots to those who couldn’t hatch them. One reason one could infer from Kirby’s handwritten directions was that he knew if he didn’t provide them Lee might easily misconstrue Kirby’s meaning and screw up his story. Taking an example from the previous installment of the column, it seems likely to me that Kirby knew that if he didn’t underline that Loki was feeling doubts about his nerve Lee might miss the point and just have him spinning out villainy by the yard. If Lee had the power to screw up the story then he had creative input, even if he was coming in after the fact of plotting. Lee’s writing was glib, prolix and constantly winking at the reader but it was involving and readable, and it absolutely made Kirby’s stories palatable to a broader readership.

    Kirby’s career was so long and varied that, almost like Robert Crumb’s, it has distinct periods that have their own partisans. In particular, the DC-and-later period which at the time was almost universally perceived as artistic decline – Poor Jack, he’s not what he was – is now for a certain readership the prime period of interest. This readership is drawn to the pure Jack, and the Stan Lee days might well seem to them adulterated in one way or another.

    Reading Robert Stanley Martin’s comments over the years I have to infer that either (a) he finds that the idea that the industry was unfair to creators impairs his enjoyment of the comics or (b) he feels compelled to defend some kind of libertarian notion of the absolute justice of the market economy as it exists. By the 1960s there could be no doubt in any party’s mind that the intention of the comic book publishers was to own all rights to everything in perpetuity. To argue that this state of affairs was just, however, is like trying to argue that the Indian Wars were conducted honorably. The relative leverage between creator and company was so lopsided in favor of the company that no choice a creator made could be free except not to work in the business at all. What the company commanded was not so much capital as real estate in the form of rack space on the newsstands, which could only be won incrementally through struggle. Maintaining the rack space he controlled was the main reason Goodman continued to publish comics when they weren’t pulling their weight. You can say the comics companies won what they claimed according to the rules of the game but you can’t say that the game wasn’t rigged.

  138. Allen Smith says:

    A synopsis that created the FF couldn’t alone have created the FF, as comic book characters are as much a visual creation as they are verbal concepts, correct? So even taking Lee’s lie that he created the synopsis first, then gave it to Kirby, Kirby’s visual rendition of the FF is just as important as the synopsis would be, isn’t it? And as far as its value to the company, it’s not the verbal concepts that are being sold as toys, posters, clothes, etc., is it?

    Allen Smith

  139. patrick ford says:

    Susan Kirby: “One day I was upstairs and mom told me to go downstairs because dad was creating some new super heroes. So I went downstairs and he said, I want you to see this.’ He said, ‘I named the female super hero after you. Her name is Sue.’
    There were three characters on the board, three of the four. And I asked about who they were, and he told me who each one was.”

  140. Allen Smith says:

    So, characters like the members of the FF, acting like five years olds and overage teenagers, are supposed to be clever and inventive, eh, George? Thanks for clearing THAT up.

    Allen Smith

  141. Chris Duffy says:

    And …scene!

  142. patrick ford says:

    RSM gives Kirby more credit for the published Marvel stories than I do.
    If I’m not mistaken he’s endorsed a 90% Kirby 10% Lee split on creative input.
    My contention is a simple one. I’m very consistent about this and have been for a long time.
    It’s my opinion Kirby created the characters and plots in almost all instances and presented them to Lee. Once Lee accepted Kirby’s pitch, Kirby went home and produced a story which he then sold to Lee. At that point Lee rewrote the story, often making well documented drastic changes. He also heavily imprinted the dialogue and characterizations with his voice and ideas.
    Many of Lee’s fans argue Lee credits Kirby and the other “artists” (as Lee calls them). This is completely false when it comes to character creation and basic plot ideas. Lee does not credit Kirby with anything in terms of character creation 1958-1963. He’s clear about this in interviews. He was clear about it in his autobiography. He was clear about it in this depositions. The kind of credit he gives is a snow job. He goes on at great length lavishing vague praise and calling Kirby, Ditko, and others “incredibly creative” and the “most creative guy ever,” but he does not say exactly what it is they are creating except artwork.

    Lee from his autobiography.

    Stan Lee: “My respect for Steve Ditko is so great, and his contribution to the strip was so important, that I’m willing to share the credit and call myself co-creator. In fact, I’m willing to call myself co-creator of all the characters I’ve dreamed up, thereby sharing a grateful world’s plaudits and accolades with the artists (there’s that word “artists” again) who did me proud.
    I really think I’m being very generous in giving him ‘co-creator’ (Lee’s quotation marks there) credit, because I’m the guy who dreamed up the title, the concept, and the characters. Personally I think the idea is the thing, because an idea can be given to any artist.”

  143. george says:

    R. Fiore said: “These discussions become circular because participants start from undeniable positions and extend them into the indefensible. Some start out with the undeniable fact that Stan Lee claimed more authorship than he was entitled to and want to extend it to the point where Stan had no creative input at all.”

    Yes, and that’s my problem with some of the Kirby partisans. They depict Lee as a lazy clod who contributed nothing to the stories. At the same time, they complain that Lee destroyed the brilliant works of genius that Kirby and Ditko created. If there’s anything in a Marvel story they like, it came from the artists. If they don’t like something, well, Lee must have added that.

    Some of these people make virtual careers of bashing Stan Lee. I’ve read Allen Smith’s attacks on Lee at other websites. It’s a weird personal vendetta against someone they have probably never met, let alone worked for.

  144. Robert–

    Both of your speculations about my motives are wrong. The business circumstances under which work is created generally doesn’t affect my enjoyment of it one way or the other. I’m also not defending anything from a libertarian standpoint. More often than not, I think libertarianism is quite foolish.

    I’m not going to spend time digging up links, but I believe I’ve said on more than one occasion that I think Jack Liebowitz, Martin Goodman, and so on were rapacious scumbags. I’m certain I’ve also repeatedly said that I feel artists have a moral right to income from their work as long as it is protected by copyright and generating money.

    However, I don’t feel anything justifies misrepresentations and outright lies about the circumstances of these artists and publishers. I also don’t think much of the apparent view of many in the comics community that authors and artists are these hapless precious darlings who need to be protected from the consequences of their actions. No competent adult in our society is afforded that kind of treatment.

    When I speak up on topics such as Kirby’s relationship to Marvel, it’s usually just to call out the falsehoods and dubious assumptions that always seem to accompany the discussions. If you want to make a respectable case for anything, you have to keep clear of bullshit, or you just undercut yourself. Many in the comics world seem unfortunately of the assumption that the more bullshit the better.

  145. george says:

    Regarding “work for hire” (i.e., the publishers owning everything forever):

    It may seem abhorrent to us now — and it IS abhorrent — but those were the conditions under which almost everyone worked in comics for 50 years. And it wasn’t just Marvel and DC that used this system. They get most of the flack because they own the most valuable characters.

    EC’s writers and artists didn’t own the stories they created. The art and stories were EC’s property.

    Jules Feiffer wrote a lot of Spirit scripts, but he didn’t own them. They were owned by Will Eisner, who held the copyright on the Spirit. Lou Fine and Jack Cole didn’t own the stories they drew under Eisner’s name during WWII, when Eisner was in the military. Again, the owner was Will Eisner.

    You have to remember, Kirby’s generation were children of the Depression. Most came from poor families where the father was often unemployed. Very few went to college. Comics were a way for young, working-class guys to make a living in New York.

    For this generation, putting food on the table came before everything else. They happily signed away their rights to characters they created to fill pages and meet deadlines. In exchange they got a regular paycheck. Most were happy to have a job — any job. Years or decades later, they felt differently.

    At the time, nobody (including the editors and publishers) knew how valuable these characters would someday become. Nobody guessed the characters would still be around in the 21st century and the subject of blockbuster movies. We can put on our hindsight glasses and say that Donenfeld and Liebowitz, and later Goodman and Lee, KNEW these characters would be billion-dollar properties someday. But that isn’t reality.

    Fans may call for a Utopia in which DC gives the Superman copyright to the Siegel family because it’s “the right thing to do,” and Marvel gives rights to the FF, Thor and Hulk to Kirby’s family. In the real world, that’s not going to happen without some long and bitter court fights.

    P.S.: Work for hire doesn’t just exist in comics. Robert Towne created private eye Jake Gittes in the movie “Chinatown,” but he can’t write a novel about Gittes because Paramount Pictures owns that character.

  146. patrick ford says:

    R. If you really want to know what RSM’s motives are I can tell you.
    It all has to do with him feelings disrespected by TCJ. It may have begun when he wrote a review of the Gilbert Hernandez book SPEAK OF THE DEVIL.
    Since then he’s decided Gary Groth is the blame for the horrible level of craft in alternative comics. He’s decided to rectify the reputation of Jim Shooter because it was Groth who turned people against Shooter. It was Groth who interviewed Kirby. It was TCJ which didn’t place his favorite super hero comic books on their 100 best list. It was Groth who shunted off super heroes into AMAZING HEROES rather than giving super heroes more space in TCJ.
    The list goes on. It’s all pretty obvious if you take a look.
    He doesn’t really care about any of these issues. He’s lost a leg and is chasing a white whale.

  147. Patrick–

    I hadn’t seen that exchange with Lee before. However, you’re drawing your inferences from the question rather than the answer. It looks like he’s more or less repeating the answer I quoted about paying for unused stories. I don’t see him clearly saying that Marvel paid for both a rejected page and the revised one that was used. However, I grant it’s ambiguous and your reading of that is one I accept as valid.

    As for Susan Kirby’s statement, I’m assuming you’re quoting it accurately, which given your history of making stuff up is not something anyone should automatically assume. I was going by memory and I didn’t recall her using the specific word “create.” However, she isn’t saying that her father was doing this work independently of any discussion with Lee. Nor is she saying that he unilaterally came up with these characters. I see nothing that indicates she has definitive knowledge of that one way or the other, and that’s what’s important.

  148. R. Fiore says:

    There is genuine bias in discussions of the comics business and genuine misstatements of fact that are repeated to promote a certain point of view towards it, but it has always seemed to me that you go a far piece beyond that in your defense of comics business ethics. Bending over backwards is the phrase that comes to mind.

  149. Perhaps you could be more specific and provide some examples? I don’t identify with your characterization of me at all, and that makes it very hard to discuss.

  150. George Bush (not that one) says:

    The Fourth World might have survived if the direct market had existed in the early ’70s. But the sales didn’t justify the big print runs required for newsstand comics in those days. —————————–Not exactly true. Jenette Kahn is on record stating that she wouldn’t have cancelled the 4th world titles based on the numbers she saw when she took over DC. The 4th world was not the sales disaster some portray it as. Carmine wanted and needed(to keep his own job)a Fantastic Four type hit. But comics stopped selling as well and many titles were cancelled during this time.

  151. R. Fiore says:

    Well, to give one example, the way you try to change the subject of a business paradigm that compels artists to surrender all rights to what they create as a condition of employment to the personal ethics of this or that individual. But really my point ought to be obvious to anyone who’s been reading your posts, and I would simply rely on the reader’s memory.

  152. Jeet Heer says:

    I completely agree with R. Fiore’s take on this. I really find it hard Robert Stanley Martin’s claim to be a disinterested truth-seeker who is trying to set the record straight. Why? Because Martin constantly says things that aren’t true. One example. On September 8, 2013, Martin wrote: “Stan Lee cannot bring a libel or slander claim against anyone. He’s a public figure. As such, anyone can say anything they want about him. It doesn’t mean you can’t libel or slander him; it just means he can’t take legal action against you for it.” This is completely false. Stan Lee and other public figures in the United States can bring libel suits whenever they want, just like everyone else. The only difference is that they face a higher burden of proof (including having to prove that the persons making the allegedly libelous statements acted with malice and knew the statements were false). The relevant Supreme Court case is “New York Times Co. vs. Sullivan.” I’ll note that prominent public figures like William Westmoreland and Ariel Sharon have launched lawsuits in the US, with varying degrees of success. Now, if I were following the rhetorical standards of Robert Stanley Martin, I would say RSM is a liar, a knave, and beyond the pale of decent society. But I actually don’t think that: he’s just a guy who thinks he knows more about the law and about the history of comics than he actually does, and has the bad habit of trying to bluster his way to argumentative victory.

  153. Robert–

    I don’t think I’ve written anything arguing that. A quote, please?

    Jeet–

    Honestly, I think I was in error with that. Mistakes happen, and they’re especially likely in the off-the-cuff environment of a comments section. I’m a lot more careful in prepared articles.

    On the other hand, you know what I don’t do that you do? I don’t bluff reading books I haven’t read. I don’t proceed to try to bully people with my bluffed knowledge of books I haven’t read. I don’t engage in bullshit academia tactics that accuse people I disagree with of sexist and racist assumptions in an effort to shut them up. That crap is particularly ripe coming from you, given your enthusiasm for Philip Roth and John Updike, both of whom are considered offensively sexist by nearly every female literary academic I know. I don’t look the other way at outright lies and demonstrable ignorance from people just because I’m sympathetic to the cause they think they’re serving with it. Oh, and then there’s the obnoxious pedantry, and the complete inability to distingush between the significant and trivial, and the failure to understand that morality concerns itself with the general while fiction deals with the exceptional. And God, who can forget the brown-nosing. If you thought agreeing with me could advance your career status, you’d have your head so far up my ass you’d be eating my meals for me.

  154. Actually, let me deal with the specifics of this.

    Without getting too much into it, my relationship with TCJ and its past editors was just fine until the magazine dropped its traditional periodical print publication in favor of the website. That set the stage for a series of payment disputes that took about two years to get resolved, and not in a nice way. There were no significant problems with their handling of the Speak of the Devil review at all.

    I posted some comments about TCJ’s role in promoting the unvarnished aesthetic favored by many young alternative cartoonists at the Hooded Utilitarian. My recollection is that I was responding to some complaints about that aesthetic from Caroline Small, and site editor Noah Berlatsky decided to turn my comments into a post without my knowledge. The subject is a complex one, and one of the complications I believe I noted is that Gary values good drawing and often advises young cartoonists to focus on developing technical skills.

    As I’ve said before, if Patrick has any specific dispute with anything I’ve written about Jim Shooter, I wish he’d say what it is. I’m working on the series to correct what I see as significant distortions of the historical record when it comes to his tenure at Marvel. Gary’s contributed to those, but he’s hardly the only one. The initial piece has been well received, and there’s been no significant criticism of it.

    Yes, Gary interviewed Kirby. I believe my only criticism of him with that is it’s very shabby and exploitive behavior to conduct and publish an interview with an elderly man whom he considered mentally challenged. Or in his words, “not all there” and “pixillated.” The latter is a rather abstruse term my dictionary defines as “somewhat mentally unbalanced.” Some of Kirby’s statements in the interview were so extreme that in at least one subsequent publication, the very unusual if not unprecedented step was taken of adding disclaimers that many of the claims made were considered “excessive” and “should be read with a grain of salt.”

    I ran the poll primarily because I thought it would be fun to have a Sight and Sound-style poll for comics. A lot of people enjoyed it. As I recall, I voted for all of one superhero comic in my personal top ten list. That was Watchmen, which was included in TCJ’s Top 100 from a decade earlier.

    As for Groth’s shunting off superhero comics coverage to Amazing Heroes at a certain point, I can’t say I missed it much as a reader of TCJ. I can probably count the number of Amazing Heroes issues I’ve bought on the fingers of one hand, and those were all from before the shunting. (I was in high school at the time.) Superhero comics from 1987-onward just aren’t my thing and never have been. The criticism was a retrospective one that noted that TCJ’s editorial emphasis at that point was fostering a stunted clique perspective and not a generalist view of the comics world, even though it was promoting itself as offering the latter.

    I’m afraid Patrick’s just flailing around.

  155. Jeet Heer says:

    @Robert Stanley Martin: “Mistakes happen, and they’re especially likely in the off-the-cuff environment of a comments section. I’m a lot more careful in prepared articles.” I completely agree, which I why I’m happy to conclude that you made an honest mistake rather than an outright lie. What I object to is your double standard, whereby you want us to make allowances for you honest mistakes, but if someone else makes a trivial error, you denounce them as liars, knaves, miscreants, polluters of all that is decent & fair, etc.

    As for my various and sundry moral failures: you could be completely right that I’m a totally good-for-nothing creep, the demon spawn of Nixon & Pol Pot, etc. For that matter it could be the case that Jack Kirby was a scumbag who sold heroin to kids and drew necro-phillic porn on the side (I’m fully expecting you to make such an accusation any day now).

    The thing is such claims may be true, but they are also completely irrelevant for the issues at hand. I could be a moral monster but still right in thinking that Jack Kirby deserves equal credit with Stan Lee for the creation of the Marvel universe (and Kirby’s family deserves some financial compensation for the same for as long as the characters he created stay in copyright). For that matter Jack Kirby himself could have been a total moral monster, and still deserve credit for the work he did (and his family still deserving of compensation for the characters he created so long as they stay in copyright).

    It’s a mistake to conflate the personal morality of the people in an argument with the rightness of the argument. The fact that you constantly bring up the moral failings of the people you disagree is a distraction, one that to me indicates the overall weakness of your arguments. If you were arguing from a position of strength you wouldn’t need to sling so much mud.

  156. Allen Smith says:

    Not exactly a weird personal vendetta so much as the fact that I’m paying attention. Stan Lee has repeated himself so much the last fifty years that he must think that no one remembers what he says. And, from all appearances, no one does pay attention. Or they wouldn’t take him so seriously.
    As for saying things about Stan on various websites, true. I’m trying to catch up with all the BS Stan Lee has uttered in numerous interviews, in the comics he’s edited and claimed to have written, etc. for the same fifty years, so I have to make sure I spread the word far and wide. So far Stan is winning. Sorry if you think your hero is being picked on.

    Allen Smith

  157. R. Fiore says:

    Well, for instance, your comment right up there, “I believe I’ve said on more than one occasion that I think Jack Liebowitz, Martin Goodman, and so on were rapacious scumbags . . .” What is this, the comment thread version of Memento?

  158. Allen Smith says:

    And, don’t have to have worked for him, as I’ve read numerous interviews with people who have worked for him. Don’t know him personally, however. Wouldn’t want to. What would he say that I couldn’t predict?

    Allen Smith

  159. patrick ford says:

    Here’s an example of how incoherent RSM is.
    What I’ve been consistently saying is in my opinion Kirby created the characters and plots and presented them to Lee. What leads me to believe this is; looking at interview statements by Kirby, Kirby’s wife and children, people who knew or worked with Kirby, Kirby’s work prior to and after Marvel, comments by other creators like Wood, Ditko, Goldberg, and others, who worked with Lee, and Lee’s own interview comments and career.
    In reply to this RSM puffs our his chest and struts around shrilly hurling insults, and shrieking “bullshit.”

    He then turns around and says something which appears to put him in agreement with me, or perhaps puts him in a position where he gives Lee less credit for the published comic books than I do. He says Kirby was responsible for 90% of the creative input. And he says this is a settled matter, not even debated by most people.
    And he supports his claim that Kirby did 90% of the creating with what? As far as I can tell…nothing. It just “is” because RSM says so with great confidence. There is no need to make a case or apply vigor. There is no debate on it in his opinion. Kirby supplied 90% to Lee’s 10%.

  160. Robert–

    Following the logic of your comments, you’re saying that calling Liebowitz and Goodman rapacious scumbags is an example of “[b]ending over backwards” in “defense of comics business ethics.” Oooo-kay. You’ve either gone batty or this is a practical joke.

    And between that and Jeet’s disingenuous concern trolling, I think it’s time to say enough’s enough.

  161. patrick ford says:

    RSM seems to think his piece on Shooter went over well and was not challenged because of the great deal in intellectual rigor he devoted to his research (calling up Shooter and his friends on the phone as far as I can tell).
    It’s my understanding it wasn’t a matter of him not being challenged, it was a matter of people viewing him as a troll and insult monger who is not worth bothering with. People more and more ignore him not because they don’t want to discuss issues with him, but because he is not worth the trouble.

    As to his characterizations of the 1986 Groth interview with Kirby. Groth told be he never feared Kirby had made any comments which were libelous and that sitting there with Kirby he understood comments Kirby made, such as Stan Lee had someone in the office write the dialogue, as sarcasm and hyperbole.
    It was my understanding when reading Groth’s “pixilated” comment to Woodring that Groth was using the word in the sense of “whimsical; prankish.” Kirby is often described in that way by people who knew him. A typical example given is Kirby being an accident waiting to happen whenever he was behind the wheel of a car. The explanation for that is he supposedly would become so wrapped up in what he was thinking he’s lose focus on driving.
    The word pixilated has a number of meanings. It’s typical of you to chose to interpret it in the usual MMMS way in which Kirby said “mean things” about Stan Lee because he was senile.
    There is no one who knew Kirby who felt he had any sort of dementia in 1986 or from that point up until the day he died.

  162. Mike Hill says:

    @Robert Stanley, enough’s enough.

  163. Allen Smith says:

    Stan’s capacity to create ideas can be seen even now on Fangasm. If he’s the best writer comics has produced (don’t worry, he isn’t), and this is the best he can come up with, then I worry for the human race. Stan is in his milieu here, with drooling fans who appear not to know that his line of patter is not only imbecilic (a word he once used to describe his pre Marvel fans, and should use to describe his current ones), but passe, stale, boring, and not the least bit interesting.

  164. Jeet Heer says:

    @Robert Stanley Martin. Perhaps I should let R. Fiore speak for himself, but let me try and clear up your confusion. What Fiore wrote was “the way you try to change the subject of a business paradigm that compels artists to surrender all rights to what they create as a condition of employment to the personal ethics of this or that individual.” The meaning of that is clear: in the way you write, you don’t talk about systems (say, capitalism, or even the exploitative nature of low end pulp publishing) but rather about the “personal ethics” of individuals (is this or that person a “scumbag” or a homewrecker or a spendthrift). So your comment that “Jack Liebowitz, Martin Goodman, and so on were rapacious scumbags” is perfectly in keeping with Fiore’s characterization. The problem is not a question of which “side” you’re on, it’s the larger pattern of thinking you’re applying to the whole case (trying to decide who was a good guy and who was a bad, or maybe just declaring everyone is bad).

    As I’ve also tried to indicate, the personal morality of the people we’re talking about isn’t at all relevant to the issues at hand. Even if Jack Kirby was a huge philanderer who had more lovers than John F. Kennedy, Warren Beatty, Wilt Chamberlain, and Harlan Ellison combined (and in the process wrecked thousands of marriages), that still wouldn’t answer the question of who deserves credit for the creation of the Fantastic Four (and who, morally if not legally, deserves compensation).

  165. voss says:

    As best I can remember Robert Stanley Martin wrote two laughably awful reviews for the Journal, one for Beto’s Speak of the Devil and the other for R. Crumb’s Genesis. These got the reception they deserved, and since then he’s been on a never-ending, thin-skinned rampage against the Journal and the critical culture of alternative comics. His actual points about the Lee/Kirby credit problem are incoherent (there is no significant disagreement about these issues? but we’re too unkind to Lee?) and a flimsy pretext to spit bile at the usual offenders for underappreciating him.

  166. Allen Smith says:

    I don’t waste my money on buying Stan’s autobio books. Toilet paper is a lot cheaper at the local Kroger’s.

    Allen Smith

  167. Actually, I wrote over a dozen pieces for TCJ for its various iterations over the course of about a year-and-a-half. All were commissions. The Genesis piece in TCJ 301 was a reprint of a post I originally published on my blog, so Gary Groth couldn’t have thought it was too terrible. As for Gary’s opinion of me before the bad blood over the business problems, he named me first on his list of preferred current writers about comics in the essay that introduced the online-magazine edition of tcj.com in 2009. Just so we’re clear about the record.

    Beyond that, I suppose your opinions are your opinions.

  168. Chris Duffy says:

    End this! Or I’ll have to get some self-discipline and stop checking back.

  169. R. Maheras says:

    Rejecting it is your prerogative, but I have hundreds of thousands of comics readers in my corner. Jack’s best-selling books and most successful characters are the ones he developed while Lee was his editor/scripter. With the exception of “Kamandi,” no book Jack scripted after he left Marvel sold well enough to last more than a year or so.

    There is a reason for that — a reason that was clear to me even as a 16-year-old fanboy when the much anticipated Fourth World books first came out.

  170. Ben Barnett says:

    In nearly every post RSM violates TCJ policy:

    1. Comments which include ad hominem or abusive attacks on writers, commenters, or figures featured on the site will be deleted.

  171. Mike Hill says:

    Russ, you’re expressing the fact that you and millions of others love the work of Stan Lee, regardless of their education level as to exactly what part he had in it. I’m expressing the fact that I like Kirby’s solo work and I do not like his work when it was dismembered by Lee, and the opinion of you and large numbers of people who equate popular with good cannot dissuade me.

  172. Jeet Heer says:

    Russ: Sigh: we’ve gone over this many times before. The best selling comics of 1969 (the last full year Kirby worked at Marvel with Lee) were: Archie Archie 2) Superman 3) Superboy 4) Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane 5) Betty and Veronica. These all sold more than any Kirby/Lee book (the top selling Kirby/Lee book was Fantastic Four at #12). If you honestly believe that the Kirby/Lee books were better than the 4th World because they sold more and lasted longer, then you would also have to conclude that the Archie of 1969 and the Lois Lane of 1969 was superior to Lee/Kirby. Is that what you think? For that matter, if you were consistent with your arguments you would have to argue that the Abbot and Costello movies Keep “em Flying and In the Navy were both far superior to Citizen Kane (since they did much better box office in 1941). You would also have to conclude that Barbara Cartland, Danielle Steel, Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon are among the greatest writers who ever lived. Perhaps you do think that.

  173. James says:

    It would be just too funny, if it wasn’t also so pathetic. No-prizes ( the highest reward anyone can ever get from Marvel, i.e. absolute emptiness and zilch regard) for above and beyond services are deserved by all the face-fronting Lee-baggers.

  174. Allen Smith says:

    There isn’t much of a correlation between the quality of something and sales. On one of the Facebook lists, the Ditkomania list, I stated that I didn’t think that the Marvel comics of the ’60s were revolutionary in the sense that they presented anything new to comics. I thought that at the time they came out and I think it now. The fans of Stan Lee bend over backwards to credit him with things he never accomplished. “Lee saved comics” is a favorite line. As shown by the above sales figures, he didn’t save comics, or if he did, Archie and Superman got there ahead of him. It was ten years after the debut of the Marvel superheroes that Marvel was able to overtake DC in sales, and that was at a time when the sales of all comics, including Marvel, were declining. So much for saving comics. Now, no doubt that Lee, aided by Ditko and Kirby, saved Marvel. It was the talent and imagination of those artists that propelled Marvel. All Lee did was the kind of writing he’d been doing in books like Millie the Model and the teen humor books. And, those books were entertaining, but they didn’t propel Marvel to the top of the heap, as eventually happened. It was the imaginations of the artists that did that. The key thing is, though, is that the writing in the Marvel books wasn’t anything new or revolutionary, even for comics. Lee, by riding the coattails of guys like Ditko and Kirby, was able to give content to his otherwise slick, but meaningless, banal, trite, overbearing, overwritten style. So it was the artists who propelled Marvel. Otherwise Marvel would still have been mired in the same output they’d been putting out for most of two decades. Entertaining enough, but certainly nothing special. It wasn’t a matter of Kirby and Lee cancelling out each other’s excesses, either. Kirby had had a history of producing engaging, successful features. Lee’s history shows no such history of success. Nor did it after Ditko and Kirby left Marvel. Kirby and Ditko, on the other hand, did produce some interesting material, even if it didn’t meet with a huge sales success. Lee has produced things like Fangasm. And, whatever happened to that great American novel Lee wanted to write? I guess he wasn’t able to produce it without having an artist to help him, was he?

  175. Allen Smith says:

    1. Comments which include ad hominem or abusive attacks on writers, commenters, or figures featured on the site will be deleted.

    Ben, had no idea that the Journal had such a policy. Oops….

    Allen Smith

  176. R. Maheras says:

    No, Mike. I did NOT express my love for Stan Lee’s (solo) work.

    I expressed my love for the work of the Kirby/Lee team — especially when their collaboration involved the Marvel Method.

    Likewise, I’m not a fan of the overwhelming majority of solo music work by John, Paul, George and Ringo, but I like a large swath of their collaborative work as the Beatles.

  177. R. Maheras says:

    Jeet — Your arguments are apples and oranges. Kirby’s popularity with a certain demographic has nothing to do with the sales of Archie, or even Superman. That age group skewed younger and less sophisticated. Marvels appealed to the high school, college, counterculture and young adult crowd.

    Most of that crowd knew who Kirby was and was drawn to his work. And the fact that he was unable to sustain his appeal with that crowd when he left for DC and introduced a whole new universe and exciting cast of characters, well, that spoke volumes. And the reason is simple: The only missing elements from his wildly successful run at Marvel were Lee’s dialogue and editorial oversight.

    I — and hundreds of thousands of others — should have been a lock to like Kirby’s Fourth World stuff, but although we initially bought it by the boatload, interest by many Kirby fans quickly waned. In my neck of the woods, at least, the reasons were discussed a length at the monthly Chicago minicons I attended back then, and they generally revolved around Kirby’s often goofy or jerky dialogue. And while I liked most of Kirby’s new characters, god, I hated Goody Rickles almost as much as I hated Jar-Jar Binks nearly three decades later. And the Black Racer? Really, Jack? Skis and ski poles? Silver Surfer: Cool. Black Racer: Not cool. The look and concept was as goofy as Neal Adams’ Skateman.

    I knew Fourth World was doomed when, at those monthly Sunday minicons, people started spontaneously spouting off silly lines from the books as they flipped through the newest issues.

  178. Paul Tumey says:

    A nice piece, Robert. Good work. It’s a shame that a study dedicated to figuring out if a writer/editor’s contribution actually matches his claims is even necessary. Personally, I’ve always come to the same conclusions as you do in this piece, although you actually provide measurable proof. It hurts me to see that Jack Kirby, who provided so much to so many has been so mistreated. In any case, it’s really nice to study those eyepoppin Kirby pencils in your article. Thanks!

  179. Allen Smith says:

    I see people bring up the Black Racer quite often, although no one takes note of the fact that, if what I’ve heard is correct, that Kirby didn’t originally want to include the Black Racer in his Fourth World books. Somebody who might know can clarify that for me. What I do know is that after creating all those characters for Marvel, Kirby was able to come up with such characters as Orion, Darkseid, Omac, Kamandi, etc. So, I’ll put up with the Black Racer, who might not have been the greatest character, in exchange for the likes of the characters I just mentioned.

  180. Jeet Heer says:

    @R. Maheras “Kirby’s popularity with a certain demographic has nothing to do with the sales of Archie, or even Superman.” This is a standard line that Stan Lee started in the 1960s which still gets repeated — that Marvel fans were more sophisticated, intelligent, and older than fans of other comics. I’m not sure that this is true at all. There’s actually no good demographic data on who read comics in the 1960s and 1970s. There are anecdotal stories about young adults reading Marvel comics but there are also anecdotal stories of adults reading Uncle Scrooge, Little Lulu, romance comics, war comics, and Archie. (In fact, this may surprise you but a lot of the best cartoonists currently working are still fans of Archie — see the many interviews of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez). Of course, I’m sure a few Marvel fans in the 1960s thought they were more sophisticated than the clods who read Archie and Lois Lane, but so what? Some Dr. Who fans also think they are more sophisticated than the clods who like Star Trek (and vice versa). Some Game of Thrones fans think they are more sophisticated than Breaking Bad fans (and vice versa). This says more about human vanity than the quality of the art.

    Also: “I — and hundreds of thousands of others — should have been a lock to like Kirby’s Fourth World stuff, but although we initially bought it by the boatload, interest by many Kirby fans quickly waned.” I think this gets to the heart of the problem. What you’re expressing here is a classic case of fan entitlement mentality. The thinking is: “Kirby worked on comics that greatly entertained me in the 1960s and he had a duty to keep on making the same kind of comics, but he didn’t do so. Hence, he’s a failure.” Well, I’m sorry, but Jack Kirby was not a performing monkey who existed for your entertainment. Kirby was an extremely ambitious artist working in a commercial medium, so he goal trying to 1) make enough money to support himself and his family while also 2) doing work that was of interest to him. And in the 1970s Kirby achieved both goals. You might see his books as commercial failures but there’s no evidence that either DC or Marvel didn’t want him working on their books (when he left comics, it was because animation offered more money and also, crucially, health care). He could have continued working for Marvel and DC till the day he died. There is a lot of evidence to indicate that creatively he was much happier in the 1970s (despite setbacks like The New Gods being cancelled mid-story) than in the 1960s, because he was once again telling the stories he wanted to tell (as he had in the 1940s and 1950s). Ultimately, I think Kirby’s happiness as an artist, the fulfillment he got from his work, was more important than whether Marvel fans were happy or not.

    Finally, and at the risk of repeating myself, it is simply false to assert that there is a consensus that the 1960s Marvel work is better than the 1970s DC and Marvel work. There are fans like yourself who prefer the 1960s stuff but there is also a sizable contingent prefers the 1970s work (as I myself do). To speak from my own personal experience, I find almost anything Kirby wrote and drew himself more entertaining and aesthetically rewarding than the 1960s strips for which Lee wrote the dialogue and captions.

    Part of this might have to do with how the art was experienced. I wasn’t around in the 1960s to read those Marvel comics. When I was a teen, I heard the 1960s comics praised and bought reprints, but couldn’t understand what the fuss was about since the writing was so embarrassingly dated in its antiquated “hipness.” It was only when I read reprints of Kirby’s 1970s New Gods work that I started to appreciate Kirby’s comics. I think of myself as lucky in that I didn’t have the baggage of 1960s Marvel fan culture influence my reading of these comics.

    And in general, I can’t think of why the enjoyment of Kirby fans who love the 1960s stuff is more valid or real than the enjoyment of Kirby fans who love his other work (not just the 1970s books but also the 1940s boys strips or the 1950s romance comics). There is no elite fan community whose tastes and pleasures deserve a privileged status.

  181. patrick ford says:

    I’d love to see an accounting of Lee’s talks at collages. I’d be amazed if there were more than 10,000 people in collages across the country reading Marvel comics.
    There are times when I wonder if maybe every kid over 12 reading Marvel didn’t end up working as an editor at Marvel in the ’80s.
    I was a kid in the ’60s and Marvel did not even register on my cultural radar.
    I knew things like Rock and Roll, Hot Wheels cars, and MAD were around. I knew the Batman TV show was on. I recall The Man from U.N.C.L.E..
    Marvel comics I never heard of. Aside from MAD I don’t remember kids reading comic books at all. The subject just didn’t come up.

  182. patrick ford says:

    colleges.

  183. R. Maheras says:

    Jeet — My observations regarding Kirby’s 1960s and 1970s work weren’t “anecdotal.” I lived through it and watched the whole thing unfold — not by myself in some rural hamlet, but in one of the centers of fan activities during that era. I saw with my own eyes, as both a fan and a dealer, what the demographic was for Marvels, DCs, and various other comics. For example, despite the national sales, for every Disney fan there were 20 Marvel fans at conventions and in the fan publication network. That’s because most Disney fans were young kids who read comics for a few years and moved on. Marvel fans, however, were much more likely to be in their teens or early 20s. I know, because I know who bought what at my dealer tables at those early 1970s Chicago minicons.

    The fact is, there was a lot of disappointment with the Fourth World, and that disappointment muted the buzz — and sales. Yes, even back then, some folks liked it, but they were in the minority.

    As for “fan entitlement” being some sort of problem, that’s bullshit. Fans greatly elevated the artistic status of comics, preserved its history, gave original art value, and changed comics from a throw-away commodity to one which countless scholars would eventually embrace, critique and analyze.

    Fans became businessmen and businesswomen, opening comic book stores and creating a new distribution system that eventually saved the entire comic book industry when the oft-unreliable traditional distribution system eventually thumbed its nose at comics.

    Fans built a world-wide communications network of fan publications that acted like the Internet of its day, providing news, commerce, discussions, and a creative outlet for tens of thousands. Fans also created a comics price guide and national network of conventions that spawned a massive sub-industry of back issue sales and a huge demand for comics-related books and reprint volumes — and mega-pop culture events like Comic-Con International.

    But most important, fans provided, and still provide, the primary source of income for thousands of professional comics creators.

    They also provided you with this forum, and gave you something worth writing about.

    So you’re goddamned right comics fans are entitled. They frickin’ earned that right.

  184. Chris Duffy says:

    But, R. Maheras, I’m a fan of Kirby’s 70s work, especially the 4th World books, which I read in college. A big fan. Are some fans better than others?

  185. patrick ford says:

    No Chris you’re a deluded “Kirby Kultist” like all people who like Kirby’s work. Some of us are such worshipers that we think SILVER STAR is great work.

  186. Allen Smith says:

    My experience with reading comics was an isolated one. I didn’t know anyone else who read them during the ’60s, whether they were Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Charlton, or whatever. So I was never exposed to the herd phenomenon that the coming of Marvel engendered. When I discovered Marvel at age 13, I certainly enjoyed them, but then again, I enjoyed a lot of other comics as well. The thing is, the writing in the comics, that is to say, Stan Lee’s dialogue, didn’t impress me that much, I mean it was slick and readable but nothing extraordinary. Agree there was a sense of excitement of the new, but once it became obvious what Stan had to offer, the writing by him became tiresome and repetitive. Just another approach to writing comics. Just like most other comics writers, Stan’s writing was limited. I made up for that by buying a lot of different comics, from all companies, so that the diversity of what I read made up for the limitations of any one company’s approach. Visually, Marvel was striking because there simply weren’t any artists like Ditko and Kirby working anywhere else.

  187. Jeet, May I ask where this surfaced? Thought I had read a lot of the early stuff like this – and this one has eluded my research. Mucho thanks for posting it. Glad Patrick ford asked me to weigh in on a couple misconceptions & issues which i am coming to, methinks, where I will try to contribute more insight from my own researches.

  188. As i scroll thru this thread, I note a partial false piece of history regarding “….If Kirby didn’t want to deal with commercial considerations, and really wanted to own his characters and his original art, he could have worked for an underground publisher. They were up and running by 1967. Or he could have tried self-publishing, as Steve Ditko and Wally Wood did….” though i agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment expressed

    Underground back in the day referred to methodology of distribution of “alternative” from Code comics. Trip is, there was nothing truly “up & running” regarding non-Code comics until Print Mint began to take Zap Comics national with #2 and expanded page counts of #1 and #0 in late summer 1968. #3 and #4 in 1969 coincided with Rip Off Press beginning their first comics beginning with Crumb’s Motor City IIRC

    What I am trying to convey is the Direct Market has its nexus origins in 1968 when Print Mint took Zap “national” – then the #4 busts began. June 22 1973 saw SCOTUS deny hearing the case on #4 which scared the ba-jee-zus out of the mainly Bay Area publishers but not before Print Mint published #6 with an initial print run of 100,000 copies about the time we hosted the first Bay Area comics festival dubbed Berkeleycon 73 which attempted as one aspect to focus on creator-owned, royalty paying comics though Jay Kinney has voiced in the past the only positive thing he saw out of the show was being able to sell some of his Marvel collection to pay rent then.

    Be that as it may,when we opened that first store on Telegraph Ave of what became the Comics & Comix chain store operation in August 1972 about a week or so after the first El Cortez comicon in San Diego John Barrett, Bud Plant and I counted up all of 22 other “comic book” stores in the entire USA. That initial store was #23.

    There was a Direct Market up & running when Kirby’s 4th World began, though parts of its output were focused on exploring “free speech” issues. Outside of something called Witzend, and a very few others, Ditko does not entire the “underground” until Joe Brancatelli published that first Mr A stand alone in 1973.

    Some where down this thread I will present aspects of parts of my decades long research in to explaining “affidavit return fraud” which saw Best Seller Comic Books being seen as losers by the Code publishers out of New York City.

  189. As i scroll thru this thread, I note a partial false piece of history regarding “….If Kirby didn’t want to deal with commercial considerations, and really wanted to own his characters and his original art, he could have worked for an underground publisher. They were up and running by 1967. Or he could have tried self-publishing, as Steve Ditko and Wally Wood did….” though i agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment expressed

    Underground back in the day referred to methodology of distribution of “alternative” from Code comics. Trip is, there was nothing truly “up & running” regarding non-Code comics until Print Mint began to take Zap Comics national with #2 and expanded page counts of #1 and #0 in late summer 1968. #3 and #4 in 1969 coincided with Rip Off Press beginning their first comics beginning with Crumb’s Motor City IIRC

    What I am trying to convey is the Direct Market has its nexus origins in 1968 when Print Mint took Zap “national” – then the #4 busts began. June 22 1973 saw SCOTUS deny hearing the case on #4 which scared the ba-jee-zus out of the mainly Bay Area publishers but not before Print Mint published #6 with an initial print run of 100,000 copies about the time we hosted the first Bay Area comics festival dubbed Berkeleycon 73 which attempted as one aspect to focus on creator-owned, royalty paying comics though Jay Kinney has voiced in the past the only positive thing he saw out of the show was being able to sell some of his Marvel collection to pay rent then.

    Be that as it may,when we opened that first store on Telegraph Ave of what became the Comics & Comix chain store operation in August 1972 about a week or so after the first El Cortez comicon in San Diego John Barrett, Bud Plant and I counted up all of 22 other “comic book” stores in the entire USA. That initial store was #23.

    There was a Direct Market up & running when Kirby’s 4th World began, though parts of its output were focused on exploring “free speech” issues. Outside of something called Witzend, and a very few others, Ditko does not entire the “underground” until Joe Brancatelli published that first Mr A stand alone in 1973.

    Some where down this thread I will present aspects of parts of my decades long research in to explaining “affidavit return fraud” which saw Best Seller Comic Books being seen as losers by the Code publishers out of New York City.

  190. There has also been commentary regarding how well Kirby’s 4th world books “sold” or did not sell. If it is OK, I refer interested souls to my initial published foray on some of the whys and wherefores regarding “creation” of the Direct Market which has many tangents of its origins which nexus with Print Mint taking Zap Comics “national” like I wrote in my previous post which saw 25,000 words on the subject in Comic Book Artist #6 and #7 edited by Jon B Cooke published by TwoMorrows more than a decade ago now.

    Code comics coming in to the DM beginning in late 1973 was Phil Seuling adding in same in to an already existing system which slowly grew over the 70s.

    One major aspect of Code comics entering the DM was a direct result of “affidavit return fraud” being perped in many an “Independent” Distributor of periodicals seeing comic books as the arm pit/butt end of the magazine business as it then existed.

    Many an ID could already claim they “pulped” any given week’s worth of comics and no one said “boo” especially following the glut collapse with the demise of the Batman TV show. These “gaps” in distribution gave rise to a term commonly used then by many of us, but rarely now, called “regional scarcity.”

    Though I do know of comics collectors speculating on multiple comics as early as when Amazing Spider-Man #7 was published, it got in to higher gear by 1968. That is when I bought 200 of each of the Marvel title expansion splits like Shield #1, Sub-Mariner #1, Capt America #100. Many others I knew back then began doing this in 68.

    Doing this sort of thing was being discussed in letter writing amongst us fans as well as in some of the fanzines and adzines of the day. By 1970 into 71 was purchasing 300 of each of the beginnings of Kirby’s 4th world on in to 600 of Conan #1 when it debuted. These I was pre-ordering from Fremont News & Travel.

    I knew others buying even larger quantities. There was talk of an outfit in New Jersey acquiring more than 25,000 of each of many of what was considered “hot” comics back then.

    It was easy to acquire unopened case lots of many certain titles back then in the speculator “after market” which I was very much a small part of when I first began taking dealing in comic books at the shows seriously. I was following leads I learned from larger dealers such as Passaic, Grand Books, guys like Robert Bell, Howard Rogofsky, etc who were obtaining much larger quantities.

    As the band wagon progressed the estimates we talked about with each other as the 70s began to unfold were hundreds of guys beginning to get in on the act. No one knew for sure. I have spent the past decades correlating such data trying to make sense of what was unfolding as well as coming to grips with who was doing what when.

    When I left out of Calif in 1994 following the aftermath of the death of my close friend Rick Griffin and began a phase of my life setting up at comicons all over the country, I began interviewing many many long time comics dealers when they started, when they began their speculation efforts, etc

    By the early 70s some of these comics i estimate more than 100,000 copies were diverted from the news stands in to comics dealer/speculator holdings. This only grew as we got to 1973 when Phil Seuling, following being yet another seller busted for Zap Comics #4 was led away in hand cuffs form one of his New York City shows. Facing losing his high school teacher job in Brooklyn couple with other scenarios which happened summer 1973, he set up a deal with Sol Harrison to directly sell DC comics to buyers. At Comics & Comix our first order was for 3000 copies of Sandman #1 by S&K.

    Then he set up deals with Marvel, Warren, Archie, etc which added in to his already funding various pro/fan-zines which he began splitting the print runs with Bud Plant. Seuling had begun funding Witzend early on when Wally Wood was still more intimately involved.

    I have a lot more detail going in to my book on all this I use a working title of Comic Book Store Wars for.

    The earliest comics speculation “hot” books were by Jack Kirby especially his 4th world titles New Gods and Forever People, not so much Mister Miracle and Jimmy Olsen.

    Plus title runs by Neal Adams who took the comics scene by storm back in the day especially his X-men run which saw sales go down. Even more so were his Green Lantern issues which, even though this title written by Denny O’Neill was being written up in major news media of the day such as Newsweek, sales were purportedly going down down down even though they were easy to obtain after the first couple 76 77. From 78 thru 87 plus the 89 last Adams case lots were very very easy.

    Barry Smith earlier Conans were also in this category. The last issues from August 1972 onwards we at Comics & Comix were trying like the devil to obtain every issue coming in to Oakland’s Gilboy Agency. We also began haunting Golden Gate in San Francisco as well as Milligan’s in San Jose trying to get ALL the copies of certain titles & numbers. We were competing with the likes of Gary Arlington out of San Francisco and Bob Sidebottom out of San Jose. Many a time whoever got there first got ALL the copies. Some times greasing the palm of a line worker helped

    In the 1975-76 era books like Starlin’s Warlock were being sucked up in large numbers till we got to Howard #1 by Gerber & Brunner when it was estimated 56% of the print run went in to the hands of comics dealers never getting on to the news stands. Brunner did #2 which also was sucked up a lot, but when he left, speculation started to wane with the Colan issues.

    Thru all this ID workers learned with the cash coming in, with “affidavit returns” being done on an insane “honor” system, more and more Occam’s Razor says ID workers could pocket said cash from honest comic book dealers and simply tell national distributors reporting to DC or Marvel publishers the books were pulped, never put out for sale.

    I hope some of this goes a ways in vindicating guys like Kirby or Adams their books were actually Best Sellers though the publisher bean counters were not seeing what was truly going on

  191. R. Fiore says:

    At what rate were these hoarded comics fed back into the market? Was this a successful strategy financially at all?

  192. patrick ford says:

    I was discussing this with Bob earlier. He had copies of Conan #1 flying out of his shop. He bought 600 from a local distributor himself. Then he would buy from a large East coast mail order dealer who had over 25,000 copies of CONAN #1 which were for sale only as case lots of 300. Bob bought six boxes 1800 copies at $2 each. They sold in a flash. He then went and bought 3 boxes of 300 each at $3 each two months later. He was selling them from his shop at $5 each or five for $20 and he said they were blowing out in no time. The case lots of 300 went up to $4 each and Bob ordered two more cases – 600 copies. His last order was shortly after the lots went to $5 per copy wholesale, and he bought one more case of 300.

  193. James says:

    Many fans have been very positive forces in the medium, such as those who preserved the history of the artform and its practitioners—but some, the deservedly reviled Jim Shooter for example, became hack “scripters” and eventually heavy-handed editors that fed the rampant misogyny and reliance on overly complex continuity that so severely limited comics’ audience. Others have unfortunately indulged in the sort of corrupt speculation that Mr. Beerbohm describes to negatively impact the visible sales of good books and create a network of female-unfriendly comic shops overflowing with a greasy backstock of expensive but pointless variants.

  194. Jeet Heer says:

    @James. Absolutely agree, fan culture has to be seen in the round. It’s true that fans have done great work in preserving the history of the medium during a period when institutions like libraries and museums were negligent. But the downside has to be part of the evaluation. And I’d add one big downside are the “fans” who have stolen original art that should have been returned to the creator and continue to traffic in it.

  195. Allen Smith says:

    25,000 copies? And all of those copies likely not reported as sold. It would have been ironic if Conan had been cancelled due to low sales while going gangbusters in the market.

    Allen Smith

  196. George Bush (not that one) says:

    Thanks Robert Beerbohm for that research, it reminds me of stories of how crack cocaine got started.

  197. patrick ford says:

    Steve Ditko has a lot of harsh words for “fans.” This extends not only to the expectations fans place on creators, but to the original art issue.
    Ditko wrote a 28 page essay called “The Sore Spot” which was published in Jan. 1993.

    In the article Ditko listed the Silver Age Marvel art that had been returned to him:

    “I received story/art pages from 3 Spider-Man issues: 2 complete issues (inside pages) and a 3rd which had three pages missing. So, I was given, as a ‘gift,’ a portion of 3 issues of the 41 Spider-Man books I did. There is nothing from the Spider-Man annuals (one of which included Dr. Strange as a guest star). And no covers of any kind. What happened to those 38 missing Spider-Man books and all the other missing pages and covers? And how many other artists’ names could be added to Kirby’s and mine who are denied our ‘original artwork’ and are being ‘deprived of a portion of (our) livelihood’?”

    Ditko had very harsh and extensive words for the comics community and it’s attitude towards stolen art:

    “the open wound was the comics companies claiming (or acting as if) it was self-evident that they had the ownership and property rights” of the original artwork. To appease the
    counter-claim that it was the artists who owned the pages, “a Band-Aid was put over the unsightly wound. Story/art pages would be returned to the artists. But it wasn’t a correction or a cure. It was more of a conceptual, moral, tranquilizing effect to dull the already dulled understanding. “Marvel is pleased to deliver [the pages] as a gift to the artist…the artist will not reproduce, commericaly exploit or publicly exhibit any portion of the artwork…will not use or exploit the name of Marvel, or the name, title, or likeness of any characters depicted in the artwork, in any manner or media….The artist has no claim or right to any kind in or to other artwork prepared by him….never contest or dispute, or claim rights inconsistent provided herein, or assist anyone else in doing so….” Ditko notes, “The release
    form is almost a full page of binding conditions. There have been changes in wording at different times, but the policy, premises, don’t change. All rights are with Marvel. The conditions are attached to the “gift” so that the story/art pages are never fully owned by the artist.
    “Marvel is pleased to deliver [the pages] as a gift to the artist…the artist will not reproduce, commericaly exploit or publicly exhibit any portion of the artwork…will not use or exploit the name of Marvel, or the name, title, or likeness of any characters depicted in the artwork, in any manner or media….The artist has no claim or right to any kind in or to other artwork prepared by him….never contest or dispute, or claim rights inconsistent provided herein, or assist anyone else in doing so….” Ditko notes, “The release
    form is almost a full page of binding conditions. There have been changes in wording at different times, but the policy, premises, don’t change. All rights are with Marvel. The conditions are attached to the “gift” so that the story/art pages are never fully owned by the artist.
    With valid property rights and ownership title, one has the right, freedom, to use and dispose of his earned property as he chooses. With such a conditional “gift,” the conditions are not strings attached but bars of a cage. The ‘gift’ and the receiver are captives.

    Ditko commented on the stolen art when mentioning Kirby original art. These comments are flat out contemptuous of the comics communities attitude towards original art stolen from Kirby. The attitude at the time was the original art being held by Marvel belonged to Kirby, but the stolen pages were according to Ditko “gifted to looters and thieves” who deal, sell and trade in a “thieves market”:

    “The C/C held that Kirby had an ‘unqualified right’ to all of his pages held by Marvel. So Marvel had no rights of any kind to the ‘original artwork.’ But according to the C/C’s ‘justice,’ Kirby did not have an ‘unqualified right,’ or any kind of right, to any of his ‘original artwork’ which was now being held by others, immorally or illegally taken from Marvel or elsewhere. Kirby has no right to claim, to possess or own, all of those other missing ‘original artwork’ pages not gotten directly from him (or his authorized agent). Those missing ‘original artwork’ pages were not considered to be Kirby’s property anymore. So Kirby could be ‘rightfully deprived of a share of his livelihood.’ …How generous of the C/C to dispose of Kirby’s ‘original artwork’ and a ‘share of his livelihood’ and make an ‘unqualified’ ‘gift’ to looters and thieves. …The C/C sanctioned unlimited ‘rights’ to the immoral, to the thieves, to ‘rightfully’ possess, to ‘own,’ to deal, trade with and sell, the ill-gotten Kirby ‘original artwork’ and his earned values. They could all profit at Kirby’s expense in a sanctioned thieves market.”

    Ditko goes on discussing what he calls a “thieves market”:

    In the thieves market how anyone came to possess it [the original art], has no meaning, makes no sense. (It just is. One has it or one doesn’t. One wants it or one doesn’t.) The means are irrelevant to the possessing. It’s like asking a dog, a rat, or a cockroach of its right to its food. Its eyes saw it. It began to drool. It doesn’t just ‘drool,’ it drools for something: the food, the art page. It went after it. And got it. The food now belongs to it. That is its true nature. How else is it expected to act? Any conceptual/moral level concepts (stolen, thief, dishonest, unearned, etc.) are not part of the mental content of any lower animal, any sensory perceptual mentality or creature or bug. Who would call a dog dishonest or a thief for snatching a bone from a table or off a plate?
    As to the story/art pages, there were plenty of them taken and/or stolen from Marvel. Yet Marvel doesn’t seem to consider it a wrong, an offense, or a crime, a violation of its property rights. …With real earned property, the rightful owner has a responsibility in protecting his valued material (via safeguards, insurance, etc.). Any property taken from a true owner without his consent is a violation of his rights: a crime. That act would not be tolerated. But it seems Marvel easily tolerated losing a portion of its ‘property.”

  198. patrick ford says:

    Sorry. There is a repeated passage in the previous post. This is the same text with the repeated text removed.

    Ditko:

    “I received story/art pages from 3 Spider-Man issues: 2 complete issues (inside pages) and a 3rd which had three pages missing. So, I was given, as a ‘gift,’ a portion of 3 issues of the 41 Spider-Man books I did. There is nothing from the Spider-Man annuals (one of which included Dr. Strange as a guest star). And no covers of any kind. What happened to those 38 missing Spider-Man books and all the other missing pages and covers? And how many other artists’ names could be added to Kirby’s and mine who are denied our ‘original artwork’ and are being ‘deprived of a portion of (our) livelihood’?”

    Ditko had very harsh and extensive words for the comics community and it’s attitude towards stolen art:

    “the open wound was the comics companies claiming (or acting as if) it was self-evident that they had the ownership and property rights” of the original artwork. To appease the
    counter-claim that it was the artists who owned the pages, “a Band-Aid was put over the unsightly wound. Story/art pages would be returned to the artists. But it wasn’t a correction or a cure. It was more of a conceptual, moral, tranquilizing effect to dull the already dulled understanding. “Marvel is pleased to deliver [the pages] as a gift to the artist…the artist will not reproduce, commericaly exploit or publicly exhibit any portion of the artwork…will not use or exploit the name of Marvel, or the name, title, or likeness of any characters depicted in the artwork, in any manner or media….The artist has no claim or right to any kind in or to other artwork prepared by him….never contest or dispute, or claim rights inconsistent provided herein, or assist anyone else in doing so….” Ditko notes, “The release form is almost a full page of binding conditions. There have been changes in wording at different times, but the policy, premises, don’t change. All rights are with Marvel. The conditions are attached to the “gift” so that the story/art pages are never fully owned by the artist.
    With valid property rights and ownership title, one has the right, freedom, to use and dispose of his earned property as he chooses. With such a conditional “gift,” the conditions are not strings attached but bars of a cage. The ‘gift’ and the receiver are captives.

    Ditko commented on the stolen art when mentioning Kirby original art. These comments are flat out contemptuous of the comics communities attitude towards original art stolen from Kirby. The attitude at the time was the original art being held by Marvel belonged to Kirby, but the stolen pages were according to Ditko “gifted to looters and thieves” who deal, sell and trade in a “thieves market”:

    “The C/C held that Kirby had an ‘unqualified right’ to all of his pages held by Marvel. So Marvel had no rights of any kind to the ‘original artwork.’ But according to the C/C’s ‘justice,’ Kirby did not have an ‘unqualified right,’ or any kind of right, to any of his ‘original artwork’ which was now being held by others, immorally or illegally taken from Marvel or elsewhere. Kirby has no right to claim, to possess or own, all of those other missing ‘original artwork’ pages not gotten directly from him (or his authorized agent). Those missing ‘original artwork’ pages were not considered to be Kirby’s property anymore. So Kirby could be ‘rightfully deprived of a share of his livelihood.’ …How generous of the C/C to dispose of Kirby’s ‘original artwork’ and a ‘share of his livelihood’ and make an ‘unqualified’ ‘gift’ to looters and thieves. …The C/C sanctioned unlimited ‘rights’ to the immoral, to the thieves, to ‘rightfully’ possess, to ‘own,’ to deal, trade with and sell, the ill-gotten Kirby ‘original artwork’ and his earned values. They could all profit at Kirby’s expense in a sanctioned thieves market.”

    Ditko goes on discussing what he calls a “thieves market”:

    In the thieves market how anyone came to possess it [the original art], has no meaning, makes no sense. (It just is. One has it or one doesn’t. One wants it or one doesn’t.) The means are irrelevant to the possessing. It’s like asking a dog, a rat, or a cockroach of its right to its food. Its eyes saw it. It began to drool. It doesn’t just ‘drool,’ it drools for something: the food, the art page. It went after it. And got it. The food now belongs to it. That is its true nature. How else is it expected to act? Any conceptual/moral level concepts (stolen, thief, dishonest, unearned, etc.) are not part of the mental content of any lower animal, any sensory perceptual mentality or creature or bug. Who would call a dog dishonest or a thief for snatching a bone from a table or off a plate?
    As to the story/art pages, there were plenty of them taken and/or stolen from Marvel. Yet Marvel doesn’t seem to consider it a wrong, an offense, or a crime, a violation of its property rights. …With real earned property, the rightful owner has a responsibility in protecting his valued material (via safeguards, insurance, etc.). Any property taken from a true owner without his consent is a violation of his rights: a crime. That act would not be tolerated. But it seems Marvel easily tolerated losing a portion of its ‘property.”

  199. R. Maheras says:

    Chris — Here’s what I said about fan reaction to Fourth World when it was initially unveiled: “The fact is, there was a lot of disappointment with the Fourth World, and that disappointment muted the buzz — and sales. Yes, even back then, some folks liked it, but they were in the minority.”

    So, while you may have loved it, many of Kirby’s followers were disappointed by Fourth World and openly mocked Kirby’s dialogue.

    And the pattern continued on everything Kirby scripted and drew post-Fourth World. His dialogue simply did not click with the masses.

    Even the masses like me who adored his art.

  200. patrick ford says:

    It nearly was cancelled. And what is funny is the reason it wasn’t may be by the time of Conan #3 there was talk the title might be cancelled. Dealers backed off bulk purchases of issue #3 and the sales of issue #3 supposedly encouraged Marvel to stick with the title a bit longer.
    If you go look at the Overstreet guide issue #3 is listed as: scarce, low distribution.
    Actually that issue got better newsstand distribution than the first two issues. It just wasn’t a title which could be ordered in case lots of 300 copies in the after market.

  201. Jeet Heer says:

    @Russ. I think there is a contraction between describing yourself as a hardcore fan, with special knowledge/insight, and being part of the masses. If you’re saying most hardcore fans didn’t like the Fourth World, that’s true enough, if you also include the caveat that a significant minority of fans did like the Fourth World (the books have been repeatedly reprinted, as has almost all of Kirby’s 1970s work). As for the whether the masses liked it or not, the key point to remember is that the masses stopped reading comics in large numbers in the mid-1950s. The period of really high sales were the 1940s and early 1950s. The romance comics Kirby sold in the late 1940s sold far more than anything he did for Marvel in the 1960s. (And the best selling regularly published comics of all time in North America were probably the Barks duck comics, Stanley’s Little Lulu and the Archie books). If your criteria for goodness is what “the masses” like, then the Marvel comics of the 1960s shouldn’t be highly prized at all.

  202. Chris Duffy says:

    R., it makes sense to point out that your original point was specific to your experience. But I was questioning whether the fan reaction at the time is the only measure of a work’s value. Am I wrong that that is part of your point–that the disappointment was a very real thing and in some way a judgement on the objective values of the 4th world comics? If not, then I got you wrong.

    By the way: When I was in college (85 to 90), I was part of a pretty large group of comics reading fans, like you were in the early 70s. Our reaction to Kirby’s New Gods work (being reprinted at the time) was that that it was much BETTER than his work with Marvel. I’m not saying we were right and you were wrong, but rather just pointing out that a different group of college-age fans 25 years later had a different point of view.

  203. george says:

    “As for Groth’s shunting off superhero comics coverage to Amazing Heroes at a certain point, I can’t say I missed it much as a reader of TCJ. I can probably count the number of Amazing Heroes issues I’ve bought on the fingers of one hand, and those were all from before the shunting.”

    I loved Amazing Heroes and mourned its passing in ’92. I still think it’s the best superhero-focused magazine ever. It was what Wizard SHOULD have been.

    Re the origins of the direct market: There may have been comic shops in New York and other places on the East Coast in 1970, but if you lived in the heartland — say, in Tennessee — you were out of luck until much later. I didn’t set foot in a comic shop until 1977, because until then there were no comic shops in my region. We were still dependent on the spinner racks (“Hey, Kids! Comics!”) in grocery stores and drug stores.

  204. R. Maheras says:

    Jeet — The market in the late 1940s was different. Audiences were much bigger, younger and much less discriminating than many of Marvel’s 1960s readership — especially its late 1960s readership.

    After all, as a pre-teen, I was an avid reader of DC’s goofy Superman, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen comics during the early to mid-1960s — stuff which I turned my back on in the summer of 1967.

    And while I don’t remember Kirby’s dialogue being all that “strange” during his Simon & Kirby years, if it was, then for that audience during that era, it was obviously acceptable. But for the older Kirby fans (and the masses) circa 1970 and beyond, his dialogue obviously had issues that affected sales.

    The weak sales numbers and long list of post-Silver Age Marvel titles that failed simply doesn’t lie.

    Regarding both your comments and Chris’ — My problem is not with Kirby’s concepts, plots, characters (most of them, anyway), or art, it’s the dialogue.

    I swear that one of these days I’m going to compile a long list of Kirby’s goofy dialogue excerpts and force his “Dialogue Defenders” to publicly defend them as examples of good dialogue writing in ANY era.

  205. Jeet Heer says:

    @Russ. Sure, the 1940s were a different era. But you could just as easily (and perhaps more accurately) say the 1970s were a different era than the 1960s. How many new, long lasting characters were created in the 1970s by anyone, Kirby or not? There was Conan, but he wasn’t a new character, just new to comics (also true of Dracula). And Howard the Duck (who didn’t last as long as Kamandi. Stan Lee supposedly created Dazzler, not a great, long-lasting hit. I’d say Kirby’s 1970s comics actually lasted about as long as most comics of the 1970s. If comparing the 1940s and early 1950s to the 1960s is apples and oranges so is comparing the 1970s to the 1960s (for one thing, the inflation of the 1970s seriously drove up the cost of both newsprint and comics, which made comics much more expensive for kids).

    AS for the claim that “Audiences [in the 1940s] were much bigger, younger and much less discriminating than many of Marvel’s 1960s readership.” There’s actually no evidence for anyone of this except the claim that audiences were bigger. There’s anecdotal evidence of adults reading Marvel comics in the 1960s, but there is actual demographic evidence that adults read comics of all sorts in the 1940s (comics were top sellers at army bases, where the audience was by definition adult). For that matter, the comics fans who loved Eisner’s The Spirit, Barks’s Duck stories, Kurtzman’s war stories, Stanley’s Little Lulu and Kirby’s romance comics were, I suspect, as sophisticated as any Marvel fan in the 1960s. Your version of history is based on generalizing from your personal experiences and saying that’s how all (or most) fans experienced things. But in fact, many (I’d say most) fans (or I’d prefer to say, readers) experienced comics differently than you did.

  206. Some one reading my post did not “get it” properly. To wit, the comic “fans” buying the books were honorable persons. It was the insides of the ID system which were corrupt.

    Early “speculator” comics fans began going in to the ID system of some 900 servicing all of the USA.

    They paid their cash, walked out with comics wanted in the “after” market in those areas where a fan may not have been able to acquire a book they wanted

    The ID worker people would mark the books as “pulped” ie not put out for sale. All on an affidavit return “honor” system which they began to see as “free” money

    Part of Seuling’s entry in to what wqe began calling the Direct Market was to “service” said speculators buying comics non-returnable. This began to erode and slowly made the concept of “affidavit return” fraud go away. It took some years.

    PLEASE do not place any sort of blame on the comics sellers. They paid their bucks in good faith

    Any questions please do not hesitate to ask. I am back from the Comic Fest in San Diego, was gone for 8 days of daZe with some time also spent in LA attending to family emergency scenarios

  207. patrick ford says:

    I’d love to see Russ (or anyone give a list of Kirby’s “goofy” dialogue). I’d counter it with a list of “goofy” dialogue by Stan Lee, or Roy Thomas. It would be easy since it would be close to every single word they ever wrote.
    No one can hold a candle to Lee though. His material reads like an entry in a bad writing contest.

  208. I can see the analogy. When we first opened I “cracked” many a time we dealt in “paper” drugs in that the (reader) addicts came thru on a regular basis for their “fix” on delving in to other people’s fantasies. Last Gasp used the phrase “mind candy for the masses” – when we opened up that first Comics & Comix location at 2512 Telegraph Ave the Berkeley police wire tapped our phone for months convinced we HAD to be a front for other kinds of tangible consumable drugs because how could a store offering what we did survive on just comics & such?

  209. see below for a partial more fully developed answer regarding if this was a “successful financial strategy” with what was in motion back then coming out of the late 60s into the early 70s which led to Seuling cutting his deals with the New York City publishers

  210. There were many levels in play “why” this speculator market grew as it did.

    In the beginning we have to examine the utter disdain comic books were held in the eyes of the ID system once the Comics Code, administered by aspects of the Catholic Church over a mainly Jewish owned business as we went thru the late 50s on thru the 60s culminating with the huge gluts which began with the (for a short while) hugely popular Batman TV show.

    The back lash at the ID level of post Batman TV show saw many of them not wanting to distribute the then very low profit 12 cent comic book, nor even at 15 cents beginning in 1969.

    Many an ID if they ran out of time in any given week would merely “pulp” that week’s comic books and not distribute at all. Inside the comics fandom world of the time used the term “regional scarcity” to describe this phenomena.

    So that was already happening. Early on with that first Comics & Comix store when the late John Barrett and I came thru Oakland’s Gilboy Agency the guy with dealt with named Jack (forget his last name right now) informed us they had done that very thing.

    Facing a potential disaster conundrum, we shot over to San Francisco’s Gold Gate Distributors as well as the 75 mile trek down to San Jose’s Milligans Agency to score new issues for that week.

    We also informed Jack at Gilboy if they were ever faced with doing that again, we would buy ALL the comics for that week.

    It was ID practices like that which partially led us and other early comic book stores and early resellers to purchase ALL the comic books of a given week and/or ALL the copies coming in to any given ID of certain “hot” titles.

    Many a time it was not so much to resell at higher than cover prices, but more so simply have product to have at all for the growing number of regular readers we were cultivating to depend on us for their “paper drugs” fix

    There is much more to the levels in motion and at play which forms parts of the basis of what I am developing in what I still tentatively call Comic Book Store Wars for it was truly a “war” fought on many fronts .

    Back then there were just a handful of comics creators who were avidly followed by a majority of our readers such as Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, Berni Wrightson, Barry Smith, etc.

    Scarfing up ALL the copies by certain artists was indeed a “…successful financial strategy…” early on to insure we had a continuity of product as we continued to build a steady clientele who learned to rely on us to do all the work for them to earn the concept of being your “one stop fantasy shop”

  211. A guy named “george” wrote, “….Jules Feiffer wrote a lot of Spirit scripts, but he didn’t own them. They were owned by Will Eisner, who held the copyright on the Spirit. Lou Fine and Jack Cole didn’t own the stories they drew under Eisner’s name during WWII, when Eisner was in the military. Again, the owner was Will Eisner….”

    Just to place proper “ownership” in proper context regarding those character(s) alluded to Will Eisner “ownership” – Will did not outright own The Spirit or any other character at Quality. Everett Arnold was owner publisher of Quality Comics Group. The copyright notices inside the comic books themselves stipulate “Quality Comics Group” as copyright holder.

    Eisner was not an owner that I have been able to uncover (yet). If he was I would love to learn some thing new here as I am always seeking simply to have “truth” properly laid down for posterity. I have zero agenda regarding any comics creator and/or publisher “owner” type.

    Am still seeking to unravel completely Arnold possibly passing on/Eisner acquiring ownership of The Spirit which led to the five issue run of newspaper section reprints over at Fiction House in the early 50s. Might very well have been a deal between Arnold and Fiction House as Quality was imploding hanging on to Blackhawk, G.I. Combat, a few others when in 1956 those properties were sold to National Periodicals (otherwise known as DC).

    For the longest time Eisner claimed “creatorship” of Blackhawk when it was proven at a SDCC panel some 13 years ago with him and Chuck Cuidera moderated by Mark Evanier that Chuck and Bob Powell “created” the team out of the energy of Jack Cole’s Death Patrol satire with Will merely naming the team.

    Arnold seems not to have been the same type of owner as those over at the other comics publishers. As he vacated his position(s) in the comics publishing world, he was not hung up on maintaining said ownerships.

  212. patrick ford says:

    Bob, I’ve always been curious about Eisner’s ownership of The Spirit. In interviews he gave a confusing explanation where he said Arnold had the copyright but Arnold agreed The Spirit was Eisner’s property. Eisner said he still had the contract including language to that effect.
    It certainly does seem that Eisner gained control of the copyright at some point, but maybe he was paying a percentage to Arnold or Arnold’s heirs?
    Anyhow as related to the creation of characters the difference between Eisner’s many assistants and someone like Kirby is Eisner’s assistants were working on a strip created by Eisner. The argument re. Kirby is Kirby created the characters. The “who created the character” issue is all important when it comes to any attempt to claim copyright, and to determining if work being done is “work-for-hire.”
    Feiffer, Wood, Fine, Cole, Grandenetti (and others) were clearly creating “work-for-hire” just as when the S&K studio brought in other creators like Mort Meskin to take up features created and launched by S&K.
    I think many fans and casual observers see Kirby at Marvel 1958-1963 as a co-creator by virtue of him creating the visuals. That is not and never has been the legal argument. No attorney would pursue a case where an artist, working on another person’s creation, is attempting to gain a share of the copyright based on accepting an assignment to illustrate someone else’s idea. It may seem unfair the artist who is obviously the co-creator of the stories and might be the creator of the costume does not have a legal leg to stand on, but that’s the way work-for-hire as related to copyright works. An artist working on a character created by another person is placed in the cart behind the horse position and at that moment is by definition creating work-for-hire.

  213. R. Fiore says:

    I’m still not sure I’m getting this ID thing properly. What it seems to be is that fraudsters were ordering large quantities of comic books, squirreling them away, claiming that they had been pulped, getting their refunds, and then selling them illegally over the years at collectors’ prices without even having paid wholesale for them. This would be criminal activity pure and simple, and like printing money. I could imagine that the countercultural outlaw mentality might have justified it in the minds of some, and that you are talking about this openly now only because the statute of limitations has run out. But maybe I’m still misunderstanding.

    I think the most likely version of the genesis of the Marvel characters is that Kirby created them and brought them Marvel, and that this will ultimately be the consensus opinion, but there’s no proving it. The legal question of who’s entitled to the money is a parochial interest of the Kirby family and the Disney company, and not germane to our critical understanding of the work.

    To see the difference between the choices presented to Jack Kirby and a truly free choice you need only look at the commercial comics business as it exists today. The major corporate publishers have clearly determined that owning the characters is the heart of the business, and are not interested in publishing characters they don’t own. This is what makes licensed properties almost the sole domain of mini-majors like Dark Horse and IDW. The modern mainstream comics creator takes a portfolio approach, doing some work for the major publishers who when all is said and done will offer better money in the short term at least (or to put it another way, will make it worth the while of the creators they want), while reserving characters they create themselves for smaller companies that will let them own their creations. Offering ownership allows smaller companies to compete with the majors for talent.

  214. george says:

    Comments by Will Eisner:

    “Written down in the contract I had with ‘Busy’ Arnold — and this contract exists today as the basis for my copyright ownership — Arnold agreed that it was my property. They agreed that if we had a split-up in any way, the property would revert to me on that day that happened. My attorney went to ‘Busy’ Arnold and his family, and they all signed a release agreeing that they would not pursue the question of ownership.”

    Quality Comics may have had the copyright on the comic books published in the ’40s, but the reprints from Warren and Kitchen Sink assign the copyright to Eisner.

  215. patrick ford says:

    R. No that’s not it. Here is how it worked.
    Local distributors sold newly delivered comic books from their warehouse direct to local comic book dealers. For example a dealer who wanted CONAN #1 would go to the distributor and purchase copies of CONAN #1 in bulk. The dealer would pay the wholesale price a newsstand would pay. The distributor would not report that sale, but rather would report those copies as unsold and pulped. This arose because comic book dealers wanted to make new comics as well as back issues available. Buying direct from the distributor was the only way they could offer new comics at the newsstand price. Prior to that they would have gone to the newsstand and paid retail. This would have required an immediate mark-up in order to make a profit. As Bob describes some of the really large dealers placing ads in comic books began purchasing extremely large numbers of new comics direct from distributors. I would assume this would have been confined to large cities where a distributor would have larger numbers of copies. This was done with an eye on sales of new comics, but also with the assumption any stock they had of books by popular creators would continue to move and likely increase in value.
    The fraud was the distributor not reporting the sale, but rather reporting unsold and destroyed copies for which they were given a credit.

    As to the characters. It’s true it’s likely it can never be proven Kirby created the characters. What could have happened any time over the past fifty year is Stan Lee could say, “You know what. Jack Kirby did create these characters by himself and brought them to me. Now before they ended up in a comic book we hammered out some changes, and I had complete control over what ended up being published. But it was Jack who would bring characters to me. A good example of that process is Spider-Man. Jack brought a Spiderman logo to me and a character based on something he’d done with Joe Simon. We were going to publish Jack’s Spiderman, but when I showed it to Steve Ditko because I was going to have him ink Jack’s story, Ditko said it was just like The Fly a character published by MLJ. Well, that got my attention and when I told Martin Goodman about this he got cold feet. Martin was in a pretty precarious spot at that time and wanted to part of a possible lawsuit from John Goldwater and Louis Silberkleit. Goodman had started out as a partner with Silberkleit, and he knew Goldwater’s reputation for filing lawsuits. We distanced Kirby from his character, but retained the name, the teen orphan hero living with his aunt and uncle, and the spider powers. We figured it was still a decent idea, and by assigning Ditko to it, that would not draw the notice of Kirby working on a character which was a variation of The Fly.”

    Instead Lee presents himself as the idea man.

  216. R. Fiore says:

    As I said, I never really understood what was going on there. The question I had then, which I may have gotten but not understood either, was whether this process of buying 300 issues of this and 300 issues of that worked over time.

    As to Stan, people do remember things differently than they happened, and I think it was possible that he managed to convince himself that he had all the ideas. Or he could have just been lying. It did make for a better story on the lecture circuit.

  217. R. Maheras says:

    In Chicago during the 1970s, when comic book stores first entered the scene, they could not order “just comics” from Charles Levy Circulating Company, which had a monopoly on distribution in the Chicago area. To establish an account with CLCC, a dealer had to carry a wide variety of periodicals. The reason for that was simple: At a 15 cents or so cover price, comics were the lowest periodicals on the food chain, and it simply was not profitable for CLCC to create an account with the relative handful of comics shops in the Chicago area.

    As a result, the stores I frequented could not get new comics from the only distributor in town, so every comics shop back then that I know of only sold back issues. To compensate, a few dealers even did what I was doing from about 1968 on: they regularly scoured the local drug stores or 7-11s carrying comics, bought multiple copies of what they thought would be hot titles, and then they sold them later to other fans at a mark-up. They had stores, but I made my money at the monthly Chicago minicons. It was precisely this new comics logistical problem that led to the emergence of the Direct Market.

    I know of at least one instance where an enterprising comic book store bought a half a skid of comics from CLCC — which I believe was about 5,000 copies — as a “one-time” purchase. The comic was “Shazam!” #1 (Feb. 1973), and, since I was doing sign painting and other odd jobs for the store owners, I saw the half skid with my own eyes.

    Personally, from a dealer standpoint, I thought they it was way too risky a gamble. They thought they’d cornered the Chicago market and would be able to get $5 a copy — which was a considerable amount of dough back in those days. But two things happened. First, they didn’t corner the market, because I had no trouble finding and buying multiple copies of “Shazam!” #1 on the spinner racks of the usual local drug stores I frequented to buy my comics. Second, while they got $5 from a few folks, the market was so saturated with copies, that the price quickly dropped from $5 to $3 to $1. But at the Chicago monthly minicons, one was lucky to get a quarter a copy, or even cover price, for literally years.

    It was simply a case of supply and demand.

  218. That is the point I bring up with my query. Quality Comics Group was owned by Everett Arnold. The copyrights all say Quality Comics Group. I think maybe the two Harvey Spirits published in the mid 60s was when EIsner was testing the waters when Joe Simon was editor there for a spell, establishing ownership concepts. This has also been a murky area which I tried to get Will to open up a few times, but felt it best not to test those waters of pushing.

  219. Yo Fiore (Robert?), Yup, you got it ass backwards wrong, sorry to say.

    I have ALWAYS discussed these DM origins concepts openly for decades, even back when it was “new” and unfolding. Methinks you are not reading what I wrote, maybe just skimming, or, perhaps more so, I am not presenting clearly enough. I am holding back data which will be in my book, taint all for “free” here, nor do i feel inclined to justify what was happening, other than it was what it was.

    That said, and will repeat myself hopefully in a more clear way:

    1) the ID people around the country were already “pulping” comics some weeks, not putting them out at all here and there on occasion

    2) guys like me began coming in to the ID warehouses buying comics in quantity. Not so much thinking in terms of selling them, big time for bigger bucks, those thought patterns evolved later

    3) The ID guys got the cash, then simply told publisher the comics were “pulped” via this honor system of not having to prove anything other than place numbers on an affidavit return form.

    4) Twas the ID workers who were perping fraud on Marvel, DC, etc. NOT the comics fandom guy. The fandom guys I knew coming in to the IDs, we all got invoice paid receipts for tax purposes. The paid invoices simply said

    2000 Comic Books at XXX.XX fer instances – no title break downs what so ever

    I surely feel a bit bad this thread has veered so far off course re Jack’s detail pencils and side bar notes to Marvel editorial. I was asked to weigh on on affidavit return fraud concepts as they evolved back in the day which led to adding in Code comics to the “underground” Direct Market

    Hope Rob S does not mind

  220. patrick ford says:

    It isn’t really a matter of Lee remembering, because he never credited Kirby in any way which mattered. The entire controversy is rooted in the fact that Lee did not credit Kirby as a writer in the only place that mattered back during the Silver Age. That is to say in the pages of the comic books. Lee took the whole writer’s credit, as well as the whole writer’s page rate.
    This was a huge problem at the time. It simply isn’t true that people like Wood, Ditko, and Kirby had no problem with the circumstances. Ditko and Wood expressed harsh criticism of Lee over the issue of writing credit and payment. They both left the company. Kirby stayed on, most likely because he had fewer options and greater family responsibilities.
    Ditko did eventually get plotting credit and payment, but the struggle resulted in Lee refusing to speak to him. Wood got one writing credit which was accompanied by sarcastic remarks by Lee in two LOCs. Wood then left the company. Lee himself frequently made sure he was credited and paid for plotting stories where another writer handled the text. Once Lee left Sgt. Fury, Dick Ayers began being paid and credited for plotting Sgt. Fury.
    Kirby was not paid or credited for plotting and his page rate was the same as Ditko’s, Romita’s, and John Buscema’s. In fact Buscema mentioned at one point Kirby’s page rate was cut.

  221. Yo george, thanks for the clarification re what Eisner sez happened. I happen to also think a part of the story would be Arnold had gotten out of comics and why be a dog in the manger in a way. My way of saying this is I think Arnold to be one of the “good guy” publishers unlike so many others who were more of a scum nature.

    Much of what Russ M writes is right on the money as well. I never heard of Shazam #1 hitting $5, but it did get to $2 in the Bay Area (Dec 1972) for a very short period of time.

    “Speculation” in comics is just what the word implies. Speculation.

    Outside of my first foray in to the concept with ordering 200 each of the 1968 Marvel expansion of title splits out of ST, TofS, TtoA, etc, I stuck almost exclusively with certain creators: Adams, Wrightson, Smith as well as the 4th World of Kirby re FP and NG. Just the first few issues of MM and JO.

    Re my pre-ordering 600 Conan #1 around Labor Day 1970 (or so), I pre-ordered from local Fremont News & Travel. They got them from Omaha News. I specifically requested “No Tops or Bottoms” from the cases as they tended to be wrinkled

    When we began ordering new comics from Gilboy in Oakland in August 1972 we had no trouble when we promised to spend a minimum of $500 a week – at 30 per cent off – completely non-returnable. We had “new” Code comics from the git-go

  222. R. Fiore says:

    I just couldn’t figure out who was doing what to whom. So you were buying books that were about to be pulped, and instead of reporting them as books that had sold, the distributors just pocketed the money, is that it? For the slow ones in the class.

  223. george says:

    “Busy” Arnold was considered a “good guy” because he paid decent rates for good work. (Quality had the consistently best art of any ’40s publisher.) He was also a womanizer who blatantly cheated on his wife. You can read more about this in the book “The Ten-Cent Plague.”

  224. Was unaware this would be difficult for some to comprehend as there is so much myth still out there regarding deteriorating conditions of distribution regarding comic books in those years right after the cancellation of the Adam West Batman TV show leading in to those years after Phil Seuling cut the initial deals adding Code comics in to what we came to call the Direct Market.

    You are Approx Half correct.

    1) books were not about to be pulped.

    2) because of the “affidavit return” honor system which was rife with more than potential fraud concepts, no publisher of comicbooks ever knew if their product was being pulped or not. Zero verification possible.

    3) comics guys came in to buy in order to supply for their customers, paid their bucks in good faith. Always got paid invoice receipts

    4) ID on some level of management could (and would in growing instances) simply inform publisher product had been pulped.

    This was a phenom which led to titles like

    1) New Gods, Forever People (Kirby)

    2) Green Lantern, X-men (Adams)

    3) Warlock (Starlin)

    4) others

    to be noted by publisher as losing money for publisher.

    This is just one of the reasons why Seuling was able to cut his deals in 1973 to supply a then-growing segment of the comics market with non-returnable product.

    The inflation of the times of the 70s decade which caused the cover prices to jump from 15 20 25 30 35 50 75 cents per book each time would caused massive drop offs in regular readership.

    There are so many levels in play. Every one seems to have pre-conceived notions of what they thought was happening back in the late 60s thru the 70s & 80s leading to the “death of Superman” in the early 90s coupled with the “death of the Direct Market” as originally envisioned by many of us when Marvel stupidly decided to make Heroes World their exclusive distributor in 1994.

    This is why I am making an entire book on the concept of the rise of the comic book store phenom coupled with the myriad “origins” of what we came to call the Direct Market.

    I got sidetracked working hot and heavy on this aspect of the comics world many years ago in the late 90s when the concept of realizing there were thousands of comic strips in hundreds of publications in the 1800s out there buried and no longer in our historical consciousness.

    That heavy lifting was accomplished 1998-2007 by & large. Along with about 40 or so comics scholar collector friends I spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours for “free” compiling and editing, even laying out the pages towards the end there indexing same which are known as the Victorian and Platinum Ages in Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide. For over 17 years in a row the Gemstone people have used this material, but my research interests never left wanting to get back to my original mission I had set for myself.

    But then I went thru another half decade (plus) of a pain hell I can not even begin and want to describe any more from 2006-2012 which saw all my research projects disintegrate and implode along with medical issues with some of my children which also went beyond the pale.

    This past year is when I have been able to re-organize the research files and begin the process of working on explaining this story involving many hundreds of players which confuses (evidently) so many reader collectors from back then and on-wards up to today who were simply trying to fill in holes in their collections.

    These days I run an eBay store which one can access by clicking on my name at the top of any of my posts which funds me creating the time to work on this slice of history in my humble attempt to fully explain all the levels at play in the “business” of the comics world at the time all this craziness unfolded.

    This missive has now grown to be way longer than I wanted it to be. My apologies.

  225. R. Fiore says:

    Granting the possibility that I’m just dense, what you might have to be aware of is that things that are common knowledge within a business might not be obvious to the layman. It wasn’t readily apparent to me why large buys by independent comics retailers would be singled out by distributors as an opportunity for this particular scam.

  226. R. Fiore wrote, “….Granting the possibility that I’m just dense, what you might have to be aware of is that things that are common knowledge within a business might not be obvious to the layman. It wasn’t readily apparent to me why large buys by independent comics retailers would be singled out by distributors as an opportunity for this particular scam….”

    You are not alone – far from it. For years I have listened and heard so many collectors and dealers voice what they think was going on. This is why I began to work on this book, then side tracked for some years like I have previously written whilst I explore the world of 1800s comic strip books.

    So many pre-conceived ingrained notions take a while to unravel as one learns to embrace “hidden” truths much like remolding long held erroneous thought patterns that Yellow Kid was “first” of anything, or that Famous Funnies in 1933/34 was also “first” – those notions saw me bitterly attacked by many a dealer, a story for another day, not here, have “hi-jacked” Rob S’s thread more than enough. This exploration cries out for its own thread actually.

    If one wants to learn a bit more of this multi-layered onion, and can track them down, I have 25,000 words on this very subject already in print inside Jon B Cooke’s Comic Book Artist 6 & 7 published like 13 years ago by TwoMorrows.

    Some times I wish I had not gotten side tracked with the re-discovery made of Rudolph Topffer’s The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck being published in America Sept 1842 which one can examine more closely here http://www.ebay.com/itm/OBADIAH-OLDBUCK-9-2-NM-1842-FIRST-AMERICAN-COMIC-BOOK-/390670183137?pt=US_Comic_Books&hash=item5af5c1eae1

  227. patrick ford says:

    R. It came about due to a change in the way “returns” were handled.
    Back in the ’40s and up until the late ’60s if a magazine (comic book or otherwise) went unsold a distributor could return it to the publisher for a credit. It was expensive to ship the complete magazine back so often the cover was torn off and the cover was returned. In some cases only the top third of the cover containing the title of the magazine was returned. By the late ’60s this had evolved into an honor system. Nothing from the published magazine was returned. The distributor sent an affidavit saying magazines went unsold and had been destroyed. A distributor might be tempted to report bulk sales of new comic books to comic book dealers as comic books which went unsold and were destroyed. That way they were paid for the comic books by the dealer, and got a credit from the publisher based on the fraudulent claim in the affidavit.

  228. R. Fiore says:

    Yeah, I dig that, but why the ones comics shops were buying in particular?

  229. Allen Smith says:

    I can understand why distributors would sell comics to large buyers, as it was easier to sell them in bulk than to just dribble them out a few to individual fans. There were only two times where I was able to buy comics from the local distributor, Louisville News, as an individual fan. That didn’t last long as people were climbing up on pallets with the danger that they would either fall or knock things over in the warehouse.

  230. R. Fiore wrote, “….Yeah, I dig that, but why the ones comics shops were buying in particular?…”

    Back in 1972, for instance, there were exactly 22 entities which one could construe as being a “comic shop” which included places like Cherokee Book Shop which was decidedly not a comic book store. When we opened that first Comics & Comix location at 2512 Telegraph Ave we became #23.

    John Barrett and I brain stormed one day early on just how many “comic book stores” were there in the USA. That is the number we came up with doing some RBCC and else where research. It was a decidedly different environment which one might seemingly not comprehend easily 40+ years later though to me it some times feels like yesterday.

    Comic books had just risen to 20 cents each not that much prior when we opened that first store. ID systems did not want to fuck around with such a decidedly low profit center of literally just a couple cents each they had as their cut. The “honor” system devolved because it cost more to process returns than do any thing with them at all. ID systems were rejecting even handling comic books at all for any reason. DC, Marvel, Harvey, Archie, were scared the end was neigh.

    That first Comics & Comix store was the first attempt to plunk a comic book store down on a well worn path coming out of a major university in a then extremely high rent area. At least as far as I know. If there was such a place attempted prior, I would surely like to know.

    Collectors Book Store in Hollywood, down the street from Cherokee, was obviously a high traffic high rent street as well, but not focused to seeking the university student as a customer

    OK, that said, it was easy for the comic book fandom guys coming in seeking larger quantities of certain comics for those issues to be “lost” in such an honor system. I truly do not understand why this is so hard to comprehend unless you are merely being helpful having me write out my history book here -:) -:)

    If that is the case, tis cool, I love talking and writing about comics history. I also seek to have my data accurate, so weighing in as you have is making me think a bit more to make sure the explanations I end up with are comprehensible to all.

    there is still way more to the stories I relate, all we get here is off the cuff, out of my head aspects. I have a lot written back in the 1990s still hiding out in older obsolete technology systems which I have yet to get moved on to more current modes of storage. The world moved on as I was building those 1800s comics indexes and then dealing with severe medical issues.

  231. All this posting by me is by way of explaining and defending Jack Kirby’s New Gods and Forever People were actually selling very well (and still are for me 40+ years later). That it was his rep as a comics CREATOR which motivated comics fans back then to seek out sources to get them to other Kirby fans. There remains so much misconception regarding what was happening back in those days as the ID system was imploding and before the Direct Market was able to sustain this industry.

  232. R. Maheras says:

    I saw no distribution fraud when I worked for Charles Levy Circulating Company from 1974-1978. The orders for comics went down the “pull” line conveyor belt, the comics were pulled, and the bundles were wire-wrapped and loaded on the trucks representing the various routes servicing all of the stores in the Chicago area.

    Any comics left over went down the chute to the underground conveyor belt that led to an enormous shredder. I know, because I worked right next to the short line where comics orders were pulled, and I routinely had to either dump the comics down one of the nearby chutes myself, or help a co-worker do it. I relate this in detail in the essay I wrote for my fanzine, “Maelstrom” #7, “Confessions of a Comic Book Killer.”

    For returns, there were a half dozen or so stations where return bins from stores throughout the city were dropped off. The people working those stations would go through the bins, verify the paperwork submitted by the stores, and then tear off one cover and write the returned amount they counted in grease pencil. The paperwork and verification covers went on a conveyor belt that went up to accounting, and the returned magazines went down the disposal chute to the shredder.

    CLCC built in some flexibility in their system in case a magazine turned out to be a hot seller. The first thing they did was keep any undistributed leftovers of Playboy, Time, and other slick publications in the re-order section where I worked. That way, if a retail outlet notice an issue selling unusually hot, the retailer could as for additional copies later. In rare instances, demand for a magazine issue went viral, and all of the re-order section extras were tapped out. When that happened, the returns section was notified, and if one store in one part of Chicago returned copies of a hot issue, those return copies could be re-distributed once the returning retailer account was settled.

    Leftover undistributed comics, because of the low profit stature of comics in that era, never went to the re-order section, due to limited storage space. They were immediately pulped after the initial distribution took place. The only exceptions I ever saw were the large-sized Treasury Edition-sized comics. This included “Superman Vs. Mohammed Ali.” This is why for traditional comics during the 1970s, unless all copies were distributed during the initial order process, it was impossible for a comic book in Chicago to have 100 percent sell-through.

    Now there may have been fraud in other parts of the United States, but I saw none in Chicago, and since Chicago was then the second largest market in the US, Chicago sales had a significant impact on periodical sales nationally.

  233. Steibel says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for sharing your research here. I’m looking forward to any of your future publications. I hope you will let us know when you have a new book or article coming out.

    Robert Beerbohm says: “All this posting by me is by way of explaining and defending Jack Kirby’s New Gods and Forever People were actually selling very well (and still are for me 40+ years later).”

    I suspect you’re right and Jack’s 4W sold pretty well, but as several other comics historians have discussed over the years, there were several other factors that might have prevented the 4W books from being blockbusters in addition to the crazy distribution.

    First of all, obviously, it must have been very hard for a fan to find every single issue of every single 4W book on the stands even if they were making it to the spinner racks — that would have surely caused readers to give up on the series, especially if they were completists (or wanted to know the whole story). When I bought comics in the late-70s from the local 7-11, I never could find any issues in sequence except the Kirby MGC reprints which were always easy to find — and of course, that is another factor that hurt 4W sales, Jack’s 4W was competing with Jack’s “classic” Marvel material (much of which was priceless if you wanted to buy the original printing). Lee’s “Origins” books and all Kirby reprint books were like a goldmine considering how expensive the original books were. Plus much of Jack’s Marvel material was self-contained, a 4W book was a part of a much bigger tapestry and as a reader you would only be getting a fragment of the story.

    I think Colletta’s inking on the first 4W books was weak (this is why I stopped buying the reprints in the 80s), Royer’s inks were hard to digest to those used to Sinnott (Royer was giving the reader pure unalduterated Kirby), the prices on the books went up significantly, many of the books had Simon/Kirby reprints in them some fans had no interest in, and thousands of fans yearned for that “Written by Stan Lee, Pencils by Jack Kirby” blurb on the splash in the same way millions yearned for Lennon/McCartney to get back together before John was murdered.

    Plus a lot of fans were growing up. When I turned 16 I cut back on my comics reading dramatically, when I turned 18 I never read another comic book until I was in my mid-30s.

    Fans who still loved comics were changing, they wanted different types of comics than the ones Kirby was so famous for. Plus Jack was trying new things: people loved the family dynamic of the FF book, 4W was more of a mythical pantheon of gods and goddesesses acting on the grand stage.

    So I think you are correct — the 4W sales were solid, but there were a lot of other factors in play that in addition to shoddy distribution made it hard for fans to support the project. 4W was pretty ambitous and it was a lot to ask readers to track down 4 books per month to follow a single epic story. But you have to admire Jack’s ambtion and vision, 4W remains a historic moment in the history of the medium.

  234. Russ Maherus wrote, “….I saw no distribution fraud when I worked for Charles Levy Circulating Company from 1974-1978. ….”

    The honor system known as “affidavit return” which was rife with avenues for all sorts of fraud. I note you worked at that particular ID system beginning in 1974.

    Well, that was a year or so after Phil Seuling, Jonni Levas & crew which became Sea Gate had begun to take the pressure off comics fans entering the ID system attempting to score books for the then growing back issue market. Other fledgling Direct Market distributors were getting off the ground like Bill & Steve Schanes out in San Diego with Pacific Comics, etc.

    The main years for this phenom I have been attempting to explain was the late 60s up thru the year or so – give or take – when you began working as a “comic book killer,” which I was very much a part of back in the day, buying & selling comic books being a hobby for me which got way out of hand a very long time ago.

    Repeat: late 60s thru mid 70s.

    By the time Howard the Duck #1 came out in 1976 most aspects of this scenario happening at various ID outlets was, for the most part, gone. It was estimated by this book that comics fandom dealers & speculators “controlled” some 56% of the print run which saw stupid crazy prices erupt on it with some parts of the country debuting a “retail” of $3 the first week it was out.

    With the phenom of Howard many more guys & gals got in on the pre-ordering of comic books and the Direct Market grew in quantum leaps the next couple years culminating with the next level of Marvel calling a special meeting of around a hundred of us “hard core” dedicated sellers at San Diego Comicon summer 1979.

    By that time official net DM sales for Marvel was hovering around 5%. This is what we were told by James Galton……

  235. Hi Rob,

    Trying to describe all what was going on is akin to a bunch of blind people each touching a different aspect of the proverbial elephant. Each is basicly correct, but few are “seeing” the bigger picture. Does this make sense to any one bothering to read what I have laid down here so far?

    Thanks for offering to host the initial appearance of Goodman VS Ditko & Kirby which I place the link here for just for the hell of it on the off chance there is some one who might be reading this stuff and has not read it yet. In the year and a half since G vs D&K appeared there, I have placed it else where like on Bleeding Cool, etc seeking any one to knock a hole in the research presented in it.

    http://blbcomicshistoryresearch.blogspot.com/2012/02/goodman-vs-ditko-kirby-by-robert.html

    To date no one has been able to show any aspect of my research to be wrong. I still seek any one to give me one shred of evidence that Stan Lee ever stood up on any level for royalty paying creators rights – as in ever. To date that comes in at zilch nada.

    That said, the speculation aspects of the Kirby 4W books centered in on New Gods and Forever People. Never so much on Jimmy Olsen and/or Mister Miracle after the first few issues of those latter two titles

    I agree with much of what you bring up, could regurgitate point for point, but then I end up with yet another long missive which I would like to try to avoid. These days I work my eBay store some 100 hours seven days of daZe a week trying to keep up. Am still tail end from recovery from my medical nightmares along with kids having issues as well.

    Coming to forums like this every so often is a welcome respite of sorts cuz good folks cause me to jog memories which is a good thing.

    I have almost zero agenda with all this history other than trying to compile the best damn comics business book for the posterity of history to be able to safely use down the path after we are all dust in the wind.

    All sorts of myth misconception abound re what was going on in the late 60s when the Batman TV show caused a huge temporary phenom in comic book demand & reading for a couple years there.

    This phenom, in turn, led to a huge glut at the tail end of the 60s which caused many ID systems to reject wanting to work with comic books. Then comics were forced to 20 and 25 cent cover prices as that readership waned which was causing more & more to stop reading comics on a regular basis. Continued story lines in some titles made the hit & miss ID system even harder to keep up.

    It was in that gloomy atmosphere we opened that first Comics & Comix store August 1972 full of renewed energy following a fun summer comicon circuit culminating with the first El Cortez comicon in San Diego.

  236. Steibel says:

    Robert Beerbohm says: “Trying to describe all what was going on is akin to a bunch of blind people each touching a different aspect of the proverbial elephant. Each is basicly correct, but few are “seeing” the bigger picture. Does this make sense to any one bothering to read what I have laid down here so far?”

    Hi Bob, I think what you are presenting makes a lot of sense, and your research is very interesting to anyone wanting to learn about the history of publishing. In terms of the discussion here, you have to remember some of the people here are putting forth the argument that Kirby/Lee books sold well because of Lee, and Kirby 4W books sold poorly because Lee wasn’t adding the captions. Those folks are not going to deviate from that argument.

    As I pointed out (and I know you know all the info I presented) there were at least 10 maybe 20 other factors in play, plus as your research suggests there were 100s if not 1000s of additional factors happening in terms of various dealers trying to profit off the material. So what you are writing makes perfect sense, it’s just that you are always going to have some folks who are going to argue with you because they have their own agenda. And of course you are only scratching the surface of your research here — I certainly hope you can put everything together soon, maybe get a good publisher and you can present your work to all of us. I’d love to read all the data you have gathered.

    Thanks for your comments and best of luck with your ebay business and your research.

  237. Kirk G says:

    Could you go back and insert the article “The” just before the word “Sealed” in your title. It’s been driving me crazy that you didn’t catch the bad English! Thanks.

  238. Kirk G says:

    And maybe again before the word “Negative”?

  239. Tim Hodler says:

    Check out the caption in the bottom right-hand panel in the first image.

  240. patrick ford says:

    Kirk, It’s kind of a shorthand being used by Kirby. He didn’t have a great deal of room to write in and as a result often eliminated conjunctions, prepositions, and articles of speech.

  241. Steibel says:

    Kirk: “Could you go back and insert the article ‘The’ just before the word ‘Sealed in your title. It’s been driving me crazy that you didn’t catch the bad English! Thanks.”

    I wondered if readers would find it annoying if I didn’t “fix” Jack’s margin notes so they were more conventional article titles, but I thought using Jack’s margins verbatim (Jack’s actual words) might make readers think more about Jack’s role in the literal writing process.

    One thing I find kind of ironic about that “I’m Gonna Open Sealed Door to Negative Zone!” margin note is that it’s actually more believable as dialogue. When you’re fighting for your life, struggling to open a massive lock to another dimension, the last thing you are going to do is make sure to use perfect grammar. Jack’s notes are more natural than something like “I am now going to open the sealed door to the negative zone!”

    But I see where you are coming from about the “the” (and I don’t mean Matt Johnson’s old band The The). Readers would expect the “the” in an article title, but I hope the incorrect grammar and unconventional title can be forgiven given the content of the article itself.

  242. Allen Smith says:

    You have to remember who the margin notes were intended for. As long as Stan Lee didn’t have any trouble following them as he wrote the dialogue, they accomplished their intended purpose. Stan got the idea of what the story was.

  243. Hi Rob, I understand there are those Kirby 4th World nay-sayers who wish buh-leeve what they have always chosen to buh-leeve all these decades. I still run in to “lost” comics souls who choose to buh-leeve Famous Funnies #1 1934 was the first comic book and Yellow Kid was the first comic strip despite the clear distinct evidence of thousands of comic strips and books predating either much less getting all the way back to Obadiah Oldbuck in 1842 out of New York City. But I digress

    I felt I had to take the circular way around the park to get back on topic to those same types who wish to persist the reason why Ditko left Am Spi with #38 was arguments over who was Green Goblin in the secret ID aspect. Simply more bull shit perped on gullible fans

    The two Kirby DC titles getting most of the speculation energy back in the day were New Gods and Forever People. Why not the other two (Mister Miracle and Jimmy Olsen) is subject to some conjecture of getting in to the psychology of the comics buyers who were purchasing “extra” copies.

    Why were Barry Smith Conans being specked on, but not the Buscema issues?

    Why were Neal Adams issues of Green Lantern and /or X-men being bought in larger numbers out of the IDs?

    I think Kirby’s New Gods and Forever People reminded fans of Inhumans concepts out of FF is one reason. Would be interested in hearing others views.

    I do not remember hearing very much from reader fans at the time that the 4th world DCs did not “read” well. I tended to hear that argument later on when Kamandi, Omac, etc debuted though both had a measure of avid fans.

    I do remember that once we got past Kamandi #1 which came out a week or so after the last issues of New Gods and Forever People, there was not much speculation in later issues.

    I do remember NG and FP issues were always easy to obtain in quantity from sources I knew of who solicited me constantly to buy their stuff

    So, people can cling to their myths, but they are not entitled to their own facts to back up said myths. For us, the New Gods and Forever People were good sellers back in the day. They got cancelled a month or two after we opened that first Comics & Comix store in Berkeley.

  244. James says:

    Sorry for the belated nature of this comment, I was unable to post it until now because of TCJ.com snafus.
    Like R. Fiore, I’m a little unclear on the 900/ID part of what Bob Beerbohm was saying. Perhaps his use of slang is making it a bit obtuse. There were few comics guy retailers other than a few back issue dealers operating by mail order at that time, as far as I know. I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing of a comics shop proper anywhere until the early 1980s.
    Is it then, that some fans pretended to be retailers for their speculative purposes to buy bundles of select well-done comics from the distributors wholesale?….which were then reported by the distributors as unsold? Because I recall when I was a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere that half my collection was comics that were either coverless or had the cover logo ripped or sliced off with a boxcutter… the sliced-off logos would be sent to the comics companies as evidence that the books were unsold. I had gotten those issues in odd bookstores or supermarkets stores that (illicitly?) sold piles of such coverless comics titles for, say, a nickle—-thus with the advent of the speculators and these books were sliding out the back door of the distributors complete—but even though no sliced-off logos were coming back, the sales figures were skewed and the companies then believed that these well-done comics were somehow failing? Beerbohm seems to be saying that this was because the distributors began to be held to some sort of honor system ——which was like leaving the fox in charge of the chickens. At any rate, I am glad he corrected the long-standing misconception of the reasons why Kirby’s solo titles were cancelled—proving that it wasn’t because they sold badly.

  245. James wrote, “….. Beerbohm seems to be saying that this was because the distributors began to be held to some sort of honor system ——which was like leaving the fox in charge of the chickens. At any rate, I am glad he corrected the long-standing misconception of the reasons why Kirby’s solo titles were cancelled—proving that it wasn’t because they sold badly…..”

    Trying to explain more fully once again, my first answer is regarding the 900 ID outlets which stands for Independent Distributor which in turn serviced thousands of retailers.

    At its height in those days before the advent of TV, much less the internet (which killed Comics Buyer’s Guide, the regularity of The Comics Journal et al etc as just two prominent former centers of comics “fandom”), these 900 ID entities serviced some 130,000 retail outlets.

    American News Company out right owned over 90,000 of these outlets as in the physical buildings. This is a whole ‘nother world to explore. The 900 ID system was separate from ANC. Yes, I guess potions of what I write is “short hand” of sorts.

    That said, your observations of 3/4 cover as well as coverless comics you scored as a tyke serves up yet another aspect of my adage re a bunch of blind men each touching a different portion of an elephant.

    There are innumerable aspects of how where why whom was perping after market aspects of comic books. The honor system known as “affidavit returns” evolved when comics were a cheap ass 12 cents cove price.

    The ID earned all of a couple cents per book as their cut for worked expended

    When we opened the first store front of what grew to be the Comics & Comix chain store operation Aug 1972, John Barrett & I counted up 22 other outlets one could construe 22 other outlets as a “comic book store” of sorts. Most of them did not offer new comics.

    The comic book stores evolved out of at least a couple levels of person:

    1) the comics fandom person such as myself who first saw GB Love offer a one stop spot to buy quality fanzines is one aspect of the evolving DM

    2) the head shop operator. See, back then, they were first selling “tobacco” smoking devices. Once alternative comix began being distributed by an “underground” method which found its nexus when Print Mint took Zap Comics #2 “national” with an initial print run of 20,000 copies

    When UG distributed comix showed up, police were enabled to “bust” said “head” shops because they were now offering “instruction” manuals for the tobacco smoking devices. Once busted, they faced a choice

    a) smoking devices
    b) comix

    but not both

    Since the comix once Cumb, Shelton, etc had a number of titles out were selling better as well as easier to obtain, many of these busted folks opted to become comic book stores

    there are so many levels in play.

    My book seeks to bring all of the previously mentioned levels in to play plus others not yet covered here

    I think a blog here on TCJ might be in order as James memories of how he was acquiring his initial comic book collection to READ them is exactly what I am covering plus a whole lot more.

    In the late 90s Don Thompson solicited inside CBG the concept of a questionaire which hundreds filled out for me as primary research data.

    I have those here in my warehouse being gone back thru after such a hiatus I would not have anticipated when I initially embarked on this quest to lay down truthful proper history of how the Direct evolved as well as how

    Am back at this now with a vengence as now the 1800s heavy lifting coverage is accomplished via Overstreet which has seen comic history articles by me and friends for over 17 years in a row now since I began the first one Oct 1996 upon invitation from John Snyder then of Gemstone which first appeared OPG #27 April 1997 then partnered up with first Richard Olsen PhD, we talked about then Doug Wheeler. In a couple years we discovered so much 1800s stuff the inital Platinum era was broken down in to a “Victorian” Era of comics

    Leonardo de Sa joined in on the mss for a few, Richard Samuel West expanded the series horizons for a spell. Joe Raione showed me a lot of new stuff which was showcased for the wonderful additions they truly were. Garretts level of participation was key to learn about as just one exampleo

    All the while the index of what existed grew and grew.

    With the same energy of not so yore I am reapplying the thoughts of myself as well as those of others who were also “there” back in the day as far back as you can remember.

    Guys like Russ Maheras were there garnering varying experiences. What was going on across the country was simply mostly “all of the above”

    In addition to the microcosm of affidavit return fraud stemming from an incredulous “honor” system I am still to this day flabbergasted was ever put in place to govern the sales tallies of comic books.

    But with out that going on there might never have been a Direct Sales Market as we knew it back in the day before Marvel entered it final greed stage to implode was we once knew as the Direct Market.

  246. R. Maheras says:

    Robert B. wrote: “In addition to the microcosm of affidavit return fraud stemming from an incredulous ‘honor’ system I am still to this day flabbergasted was ever put in place to govern the sales tallies of comic books.”

    It wasn’t just comic books — it was ALL periodicals. At Charles Levy Circulating Company, the accounting process was no different for “Reader’s Digest” than it was for “Prez.”

    Regarding the 3/4 cover or coverless stuff that popped up at conventions and comic book stores, they were really only a miniscule portion of the comics that were available. The 3/4 cover books were definitely non-pulped unsold comics, but whether they had their 1/4 cover strips removed by the retailer or the distributor is impossible to know. Some distributors around the country, in lieu of retailers sending bulk unsold copies back as returns, may have simply required the retailer to send the 1/4 cover strips to account for unsold issues. They may even be unsold return copies that, once they were accounted for and mutilated, distributors allowed their employees to take home. This was allowed at CLCC, but employees were only allowed to take three such unsold magazines home each week. There was nothing “hush-hush” about the practice either, so I don’t think the publishers cared as long as accounting protocol was followed. CLCC did not at any time allow employees to take magazines with full covers, as those copies could, in theory, be given to a retailer and returned for unsold credit — which would be like taking money out of CLCC’s pocket. So their policies were strictly enforced, and even in 1974, CLCC had closed-circuit cameras throughout its main warehouse to prevent that, and any other type of theft.

    All I know is that, from a collector’s point of view, such mutilated issues had zero collectability. They were reading copies only, and if there was some side business going on selling these copies, it was never very big.

    I have an EC horror comic from 1953 or 1954 (I can’t remember which issue it is offhand, but it’s the one where a severed human arm is hanging from a subway strap) that I picked up somewhere, so these mutilated comics have been floating around for a long time.

  247. Hi Russ, every person seems to want to have their long held views held sacrosanct because this is what they grew up with. I ask now if you are merely commenting on your own personal experiences inside where you worked for four years, or are you doubting what I have been trying to present here which ultimately is a very vocal defense that Jack Kirby’s New Gods and Forever People, contrary to widely held myth, were, in all serious actuality, bestsellers, if all the “sold” copies had been tallied up honestly in ALL the 900 Independent Distributors (aka ID) then extant across the USA and reported “honestly” to National Periodical Publications aka DC to those who think they know what the name of the publisher was at the time.

    Your comment regarding closed circuit TV cameras watching all of you at CLCC is revealing a lot in support to my postulations regarding rampant fraud inside the “honor” system as it evolved known as “affidavit returns”

    Yes, as I have related, the frauds off the returns of coverless, 3/4 cover, etc periodicals, especially as it applied to after-market comic books, extends back many years. Tis one of my points in support of the concept that since said frauds were already rampant, and not all IDs installed closed circuit TV cameras across the 900 IDs in the country, at one point the fraud inside CLCC must have been rampant for the owners to have taken such a step by 1974

    Since the fraud was already common place inside such a system, it is only a logical step to funnel lowly comic books to honest fans seeking to score multiple copies of certain books for resale, and whomever inside any given ID location to simply stipulate on an “affidavit return” form they got shredded instead

    The main time line for this inside the new comic book market as it late 60s thru about when you began working there at CLCC

    As of late 1973 Seuling’s pre-ordering system guarranteeing (sp -whoops) copy counts any given speculator investor and/or fledgling comic book store owner had already begun to have an effect on reducing the number of said types from feeling pressure to venture in to an ID in the first place.

    Especially on the east coast. All books in those early days went to Seuling & Levas & crew on Coney Island where they sent up Seagate Distribution and reshipped via UPS for the most part unless local enough to come by and do a pick up. It would be some time before the concept of a “sub”-distributor got off the ground.

    First some of us had to gather enough wholesale customers to be able to cover a drop point. IIRC right now, that figure was $3 thousand. A LOT of money back in the mid to late 70s.

    If you are in to it, I encourage every one reading this thread to send in their experiences (if any) from those days of daZe in the 70s when the Direct Market was expanding out of mainly the Bay Area alternative comix market distributed via the “underground” as initially set up by Bob Rita of Print Mint once they took Zap Comics #2 #1 & #0 “national” late summer 1968

    Thanks for the input.

  248. James says:

    I don’t know what Maheras is talking about; the coverless or comics with the logos sliced off that I was talking about are from WAY before there were ANY conventions or comic shops in existence, way before there were any head shops. Back when a lot of folks reading this were either babies or living out the ass ends of their previous lives, pre-this incarnation. In other words, when the Christians were still dodging lions or riding dinosaurs and comics could be had only in newsstands, drug stores or weird out-of-the-way antique shops or supermarkets where you could sometimes get a bunch of shitty Charltons sealed in a bag for a quarter. Said coverless or mutilated comics were a nickle tops, the new ones only cost 12 cents! We read them, that was what comics were for—reading! Amazing, I know.

  249. James says:

    The point being that coverless or sliced logo comics were to be found EVERYWHERE across the country; tons of them; I remember, I was there. And it continued through the 1960s and into the early seventies because, fact: my first copies of a lot of Kirby’s Jimmy Olsens and other 4th World title and even Kamandi’s were coverless or with sliced off logos. I still have some of them.

  250. Russ Maheras says:

    James — Well, you apparently never attended early comic book conventions in the Chicago area, because the percentage of such mutilated comics were miniscule compared to what was sold or offered for sale — so much so that they were a bit of a curiosity whenever they popped up. Coverless comics were far more common than the 3/4 cover comics, but in the case of coverless comics, it’s impossible to tell if they were unsold returns or simply comics that had been owned by some young kid who didn’t take good care of his/her comics. Before I was a teenager and collector, I manhandled my comics and if the cover detached, I tossed it in the garbage.

    Bob — I said in my comments that my experiences were my experiences, and that things in other parts of the country could have been difference. But, as I pointed out, despite the fact that there were hundreds of distributors nationwide, CLCC was almost certainly one of the top 10 in the country.

    One other thing. Despite the fact that I started working for them in 1974, their system of returns, and their shredding system, was not new. The concrete channels throughout the building that led to the shredder had been there a while, so your suggestion that CLCC had somehow modified the way they did business in response to the emergence of the Direct Market a year or two earlier simply doesn’t wash. Comics sales to CLCC were nothing — a minor part of their business operation. I doubt they had any idea there even was a Direct Market in 1974. Most fans then didn’t even know.

    Frankly, I find the whole argument that Fourth World sales were strong, but were cancelled anyway to be a big stretch. After all, I’ve been hearing about “greedy publishers” almost as long as I’ve been a collector, and the idea that DC would shut down a lucrative source of income for no apparent reason to be extremely hard to believe — despite Jenette Kahn’s comments about what, in hindsight she says she would have done. Not discussed in the circulations argument is something Mark Evanier once mentioned: Kirby’s contract costs. Although no one I know of has discussed the numbers, if Kirby’s payment was unusually high compared to his DC peers, that cost had to be part of the profit bottom line — meaning that Kirby’s books needed to sell considerably better than some of DC’s other books to be profitable. They obviously did not.

    But let’s move beyond Fourth World. Other books Kirby wrote the dialogue for after he left Marvel in 1970 showed a similar pattern of low or sluggish sales. People can argue all day how much they love Kirby’s dialogued books, but the fact is, they never sold as well as the books he drew and Stan Lee dialogued. Don’t shoot the messenger here.

    On the other hand, I can respect Kirby for going the route he did — even if it did not mean his books would enjoy the popularity they once did — because it meant he had control, and he got credit for the things he created. In his partnership with Lee — and even Joe Simon — that certainly was not the case.

  251. patrick ford says:

    Mark Evanier has reported several times Kirby made the same rates as DCs other top creative people like Neal Adams and Joe Kubert.
    People may take notice that the material Adams and Kubert worked on in the early ’70s had reported low sales.
    Adams is a real curiosity because just about everything he ever worked on had low reported sales. Even his work on Batman had sales which were declining. Things like the X-MEN and GREEN LANTERN were cancelled.
    Kubert was taken off TARZAN because DC couldn’t justify his page rate on a book with low reported sales.

  252. Robert Beerbohm and I had a little back-and-forth about the distribution situation. He suggested I post my thoughts on the subject here.

    There was a possible avenue of distribution fraud that hasn’t been mentioned: illicit remaindering. In the Sarasota/Bradenton area of Florida in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was clear that several local 7-11s were not getting their comics from the local newsstand distributor. First, one could find titles the local distributor didn’t carry and were not available at area drugstores and newsstands and so forth. As I recall, these included Dr. Strange, Power Man & Iron Fist, Marvel Team-Up, and Marvel Two-in-One. Second, and this is more important, the comics were always at least two or three months older than those sold elsewhere. Every couple of months, the old batch would be replaced with a new one on the racks. I’m guessing, but it seems to me what might have been going on was that comics from another region that were past their sell-by date in the legitimate channel were probably reported as unsold for credit and then shipped with lower than normal wholesale discounts to these other outlets.

    Also, count me skeptical about Adams’ stuff, Kirby’s Fourth World, and Starlin’s Warlock really being best-sellers that were undercut by distributor fraud. These books all had major accessibility problems. While many older comics fans love Adams’ approach to page layout and panel composition, his style can be very alienating and even impenetrable to people who are not well-versed in comics, and that includes the young kids who were comics’ major audience. The publicizing of GL/GA in Newsweek and so forth wouldn’t mean much, as young kids and adolescents didn’t read those publications. If I’m remembering correctly from Mark Evanier’s Kirby book, he believes Kirby’s dialogue and the heavy continuity between the various Fourth World titles may have hurt the project commercially. As for Warlock, I believe Jim Shooter is on the record saying that he thought the occasional text-heaviness, dark coloring, and so forth were probably detrimental to sales. And he liked the book, too. He reprinted it twice, and he of course was a huge booster of Starlin’s work while running Marvel.

    I also note that Shooter more or less banned Adams- and Steranko-style panel and layout approaches from Marvel company-owned titles when he was in charge. He felt it confused readers. He also wanted the continuity downplayed enough to keep an individual issue of a title accessible to a first-timer. He was a big advocate of accessibility, and it appears to have helped Marvel a great deal in the newsstand market. When he took over in early ’78, I gather Marvel was at about 30-35% sell-through on the newsstand. By the end of ’79, they were back up to around 60% or so.

  253. Allen Smith says:

    Those copies with part of the cover removed would also have resulted in lost sales as a casual reader would buy the reported unsold copy instead of going out to get a copy off the stands. And copies reported under the “honor” system of affadavit returns and later sold would certainly have cut into “regular” sales. It makes sense that an artist like Adams, whose work was popular, as well as Kirby and a few others, their work would sell less as copies of their comics would be subject to more of these illegal sales as compared to more run of the mill creators. Just going by what Robert Beerbohm has said.

    Allen Smith

  254. Hello Russ

    Simply installing closed circuit TV implies loudly there had been “issues” prior to installation of said devices is all I was getting at.

    As some one who became heavily involved by learning from my earlier “peers” as well as “teaching” others there were bucks to be made purchasing multiples to service the concept of “regional scarcity” which went away as a term we used as the Direct Market grew, there were all sorts of scenarios in play all at the same time.

    There is no “one size fits all” to this passion play.

    Changing gears a little bit now addressing the concepts of “affidavit return” fraud spelling doom for New Gods, Forever People, Adams X-Men or GL/GA, etc, when one combines the estimates gleaned from decades of analyzing the data as it first unfolded, then in retrospect over said decades, reported sales plus unreported to publisher “sales” one comes up with the concept that the “net” of those two numbers made such books “best” sellers

    Trip is, publishers did not see that which was part of the fraud concepts.

    CLCC placed that closed TV circuit system where you worked for a reason, yes?

    The bottom portions of what you wrote does not correlate with what I have been presenting. One can debate “dialogue” all one wants to. That is not an issue here for me to ponder the “business mechanics” in play at the time before “Seuling’s experiment” took pressure off demand VS supply concepts.

  255. Thanks for posting your thoughts here, RSM. This way i can easily view the entirety of one’s email response. I will focus on your Newsweek thoughts in that Newsweek is just ONE of many many media blurbs touting the Green Lantern series Denny & Neal were coming up with back then,

    As a budding comics dealer back in the day as the energy began to swell for recent back issues as distribution was so utterly spotty at best in quite a few locations around the country, I pose a query to those nay-sayers is how does one explain the plethora of unopened cases of certain books readily available “behind the scenes” specifically regarding Kirby New Gods, Forever People, Adams X-men and/or GL/GA and other titles construed to be “hot” back then?

    What I have been trying to present is “new” ways of looking at some of this stuff going on back then. I fully understand and appreciate it might take a little while for some to come to grips with releasing their old ways of looking at what they thought was going on.

    I also ran in to this a lot when presenting the concepts inside Overstreet that the Yellow Kid was not the “first” of anything, nor was Famous Funnies #1 the “first” comic book. Old habits can die hard.

    If I had not gotten side tracked some 14 years ago now with The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck 1842 Wilson & Co NYC being America’s first comic book and working with a few dozen dedicated friends uncovering thousands of comic strips in hundreds of publications in the 1800s I would have finished this research up and gotten my book out on the rise of the comic book store coupled with the myriad origins of the Direct Market.

    The half decade I lost 2006-2011 dealing with hip replacement issues and its mind numbing pain certainly did not help either. That was then, up to today, picking up where I left off 14 years ago.

  256. patrick ford says:

    Bob, Any idea how many distributors serviced the city of Chicago? What about San Francisco? L.A. and New York?
    You have reported one New York area mail order dealer had over 25,000 copies of many individual issues by what were seen as “hot creators. ” The list would include the Studio guys as well as Kirby and Adams.
    That’s a lot of unreported sales just in one city.
    As I understand you in the early ’70s you were purchasing from local distributors for sales out of your shop and would sometimes go around to two or three different distributors in order to get the quantity needed just for what you were moving in the store.
    What’s the highest number of copies of a single issue you ever bought from a local distributor?
    I assume you were getting all your new comics from distributors including things which were not in high demand? If so, roughly how many copies of something like the Flash or Iron Man did you purchase for sale in the shop as a new release as compared to something by BWS, Adams, or Kirby?

  257. James says:

    As I said, the comics I mentioned had the top portion of the covers sliced off very deliberately—-um, *maybe* some of the covers fell off of the others, but mostly I would bet they were reported as destroyed by the distributors and sold to the second-hand cheapo market. And this was all through the 60s—-I never heard of any conventions happening then. At any rate, Maheras will I am so sure refuse to concede anything that disparages the super-honest distributors, haha, or doesn’t align with his hatred of Kirby’s *dialogue*, no matter how many of us who like it speak up—-just like his nameless pal will defend Sh**ter til the cows come home, no matter how many people testify that that wretched creep treated them badly. It’s kind of like how those nitwit tea party racists deflect their own actions to the president–they yell as loud as they can the exact opposite of what is as plain to most people as the nose on your face. Y’know, WTF ever.

  258. Robert–

    I didn’t mean to say that the backdoor sales to comics dealers wasn’t a contributing factor in those titles’ low official sales. I just don’t think it was the only one, and I’m not sure it was the biggest one, either.

    There is at least one fan-favorite title of the period that for whatever reason didn’t suffer from low official sales. That would be the Wrightson-Wein Swamp Thing, which I understand had official sell-throughs of over 60%. How do you account for that? Why was it an exception to what you describe?

    Media coverage is not indicative of commercial popularity. For example, the two most popular scripted TV shows of the past several years by far have been NCIS and Two and a Half Men. They don’t get anywhere near the press attention that Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and 30 Rock have received. The first two programs have audiences so small that the broadcast networks would not carry them, and the third has always had mediocre ratings. Media productions, regardless of the field, get press attention if and only if the editors of these publications are interested in them, not because they’re necessarily popular.

    Personally, the Adams/O’Neil Green Lantern/Green Arrow and the whole “relevancy” thing strikes me as the adventure-comics equivalent of broccoli ice cream. I’m sure the latter would get press coverage, and some specialized palates would like it. But I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it flopped because kids stayed away from it en masse.

    A big marketing campaign doesn’t mean anything, either. Just consider New Coke.

    Just some things to consider.

  259. Russ,
    you brought up Chicago comicons. I was at that first one in 1972 a woman named Nancy hosted IIRC at the Pick Fort Congress Hotel with Russ Heath as the only guest only cuz he was local (living at the Playboy Mansion at the time). Were there shows prior to that one? This was a different Nancy than the one who became partners with Larry, Bob Weinberg, later Gary C as well. One was a Ford, the other a Warner, am always confusing both Nancys in my head -:)

    That 72 Chicago show was part of the circuit Bud Plant and I caravaned around the country June July August culminating with the mid Aug 72 first El Cortez show which then brought me up to San Jose at Bud’s urging to help him figure out what to do with John Barrett wanting to buy in to his mail order business.

    What got figured out was opening that first location at 2512 Telegraph Ave which became the flag ship location of what was within a year the Comics & Comix chain store operation

    I would say, as some one who set up at over a thousand comicons in my day, us dealer types were always trying to bring the “best” material possible, not beat up tattered or coverless type comics. Not worth hauling ar0und paying the gas on -:)

  260. Pat, I do not have my files near me. There would have been an “inner city” distributor for Chicago. Then there would have been other ID locations for other aspects of “greater” Chicago.

    The Bay Area had Golden Gate for San Francisco, Gilboys for Oakland, Milligans for San Jose area. Plus one in Sacramento, one in Fresno, etc etc – each had their own territories. This concept would duplicate itself over the entire country.

    Is there an hard & fast rule which governs each and every issue coming out back then? Nope. Much of what has been presented so far fits in one of the many shoes which made up the patch work ID system which evolved over the country ever since American News formed up as the first organized distributor of periodicals and other printed paper back in 1865.

    By the 1880s ANC was a de facto monopoly. The distribution wars began around then. Things truly got going in that department in the early 1930s when former bootlegger outfits who had all these trucks began seeking ways of making a living.

    From the early 30s up thru 1957 the ID system competed head on with the ANC system. When I say ID, that translates (short hand) in to Independent Distributors. ie “independent from American News.

    Returns were always a problem for all publishers concerned. There was always fraud and graft inherent in the systems as they then existed.

    After the Code came in to effect, with comics still at a dime, they became lowest on the periodical totem pole. Very few distributors cared whether any given week’s shipment got out there on the stands.

    All that said, by the time of the Batman TV show, there was a glut within two years. ANC was long gone, the ID system was in place. Affidavit returns simply allowed room for all sorts of potential shenanigans to be possible.

    That is why larger ones like where Russ worked installed closed circuit TV cameras. I can see no other reason.

    This affidavit return scenarios I write about here lasted around half a decade until the effects of Seuling’s experiment began to siphon that energy around the comic books

    When we were buying from these local ID distributors in the Bay Area beginning in 1972, the paid invoices we got simply said X amount of 20 cent cover comic books. There was no break down of titles. Some times we bought all the copies of certain title & numbers.

    Some comic book dealers had huge quantities of certain issues. The largest was those guys in New Jersey we began siphoning in to in late 1972.

    At the end of the decade, after a LOT of buyers had come thru, Chuck Rozanski bought the remnants which consisted of 2.2 million issues which he dubbed Mile High Two Collection or some such replete with Certs of A.

    There were other batches around to buy from albeit smaller.

  261. patrick ford says:

    Bob, Thanks for sharing. I know you’d like to save some information for your book, and being involved in this thread might already have resulted in you giving away more than you’d care to at this time.

  262. James says:

    If a kid wants to read a comic (and to tiresomely repeat, back in the day, we read them and couldn’t imagine who would keep funny books sealed in bags), it is still readable without the cover. I don’t recall ever throwing one away for that reason. When I bought a new one, I’d fold it up and stuff it in my back pocket. I still do that with, ahem, “floppies”—it’s an old habit. I get them to read them, not to worship them or from some sort of greed motivation. Of course, when conventions DID begin to manifest, the idea was to sell and encourage the collection of copies in good condition and so, no intrepid dealer would bother to lug piles of coverless or mutilated comics to a show because they weren’t valuable enough. Likewise, when comic shops finally appeared, the proprietors didn’t buy collections of coverless or mutilated comics, even to put them in the bargain bin—- they were and are not considered to have any value to anyone. So the true picture of how many mutilated i.e. improperly distributed comics were flying around out there over the years is skewed.

  263. Allen Smith says:

    How true about Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Over the top attempts at relevancy do not a great story make. Of course, with comics, there is the saving grace of superb artwork to look at even if the story stinks.

    Allen Smith

  264. Jeff Mclachlan says:

    I think it’s a little unfair to judge Stan’s contribution to the issue based on a short action sequence. Stan’s strongest suit was humorous dialogue, and if we were looking at three pages of the FF hanging out and arguing, his contribution would be a lot stronger.

  265. Jeff Mclachlan says:

    Stan’s real strong suit was comedic dialogue, and the numerous gags in just about any of his 60’s comics are one of the the things that make the books still so readable to an adult even today. That’s not nothing.

  266. Jeff Mclachlan says:

    if Kirby was still around, with all the exposure Marvel Characters have gotten in the last decade or so, he’d be getting just about as much attention as Lee. It’s not Stan’s fault Kirby died too early to see his creations finally get the attention they deserve.

  267. Jeff Mclachlan says:

    How is that any different from what Stan has admitted for years, going at least as far back as that old Castle Of Frankenstein interview?

  268. Jeff Mclachlan says:

    Interesting that that claim of Kirby’s came after The Incredible Hulk tv show was on the air, where the origin of the character was based on that premise.

    I love Kirby, and totally believe that he did most of the work once his books were off and running, but I also believe that Lee was more hands on at the beginning, and consider that FF#1 plot a pretty persuasive document.

  269. Jeff Mclachlan says:

    Well, that’s not so clear cut. Did George Lucas create Darth Vader, or did Ralph McQuarrie?
    And Kirby is credited as the co-creator if these characters, so his contribution isn’t ignored.

  270. Jeff Mclachlan says:

    You can’t underestimate the ability of humor to improve characterization, although the ability to laugh seems pretty foreign to a lot of the people here posting dry, boring, 50 paragraph screeds.

  271. Jeff Mclachlan says:

    How much time does someone really need to spend debating the relative contributions of a 90 year old, and a guy who’s been dead for twenty years? It’s an interesting topic for a few minutes here and there, but it baffles me why some people want to make a full-time job out of it.

  272. Bob Ralph says:

    Because, as usual in Team Comiccers, no one wants to discuss teh merits or lackthereof of the work in question, because that would ruin everyone’s adolescent buzz.

  273. Jeff Mclachlan says:

    Well, look on the bright side—Stan’s in his 90’s. He won’t be around to drive you crazy for too much longer.

  274. Re: “How much time does someone really need to spend debating the relative contributions of a 90 year old, and a guy who’s been dead for twenty years?”

    I’ve kind of retired from the internet comment sections wars — that’s one of the reasons I turned the comments off on my old Kirby Dynamics weblog — so I don’t intend to participate a lot in the comments section here in the future (mainly because I don’t want to filibuster) but because I’m new in this forum and I’m seeing a lot of criticism being directed at Jack Kirby and Jack’s fans I’m going to say a few things, not to be combative, just as an fyi:

    Quick background about me: I stopped reading comic books in about 1985 when I went to college; I didn’t read a comic book again until about 2000; I started studying Jack Kirby in 2002 because I found the topic interesting. I started writing about Jack every day at Kirby Dynamics in about 2010 — mainly I did it to help promote the Kirby Museum (I thought a museum dedicated to the study of Jack Kirby was a worthy endeavor) and since Jack’s creations are making billions of dollars I hoped to promote Jack’s work to a wider audience. I hoped to get Jack’s work out to the 6 billion people who never heard of him because I find Jack’s life and work inspiring and relevant to 21st century culture. I figured other people might be inspired, or maybe they might learn something from Jack’s experiences in the industry. When I like something I share it.

    Jack’s work even inspired me to do my own comics in 2010: here are some I did this weekend.

    http://www.robertsteibel.com/

    (Yeah, I know I spelled “Ben Kingsley” wrong, I’ll fix that later in the week when I get to my PC.)

    I decided to part ways with the Kirby Museum a few months ago, and TCJ was nice enough to let me do a column here about Jack to keep his memory alive. It’s an honor to be here, I have tremendous respect for TCJ.

    Here’s the comment I want to address:

    Jeff Mclachlan (Nov 4, 2013): “How much time does someone really need to spend debating the relative contributions of a 90 year old, and a guy who’s been dead for twenty years? It’s an interesting topic for a few minutes here and there, but it baffles me why some people want to make a full-time job out of it.”

    I hate to keep repeating myself so I’ll try to only say this one last time: ever since I joined the online discourse about comics in about 2002, I remain “baffled” (to use Mr. Mclachlan’s term) by the fact that people keep making these discussions about historical figures personal. Why is there a need to attack and demonize people who write about Jack Kirby? Why not discuss the subject on the table, or if you are not interested in the topic? Why not talk about a topic you ARE interested in. Promote the comics creators you feel are relevant and important instead of mocking those who talk about artists you are sick of.

    For the record, I’m sorry if me writing about Jack bothers you. That’s the last thing I meant to do. I want to celebrate all comics creators and writing about Jack is my small way of doing that. It’s my small way of promoting the medium Jack loved so much. Jack wanted nothing more than for all comics creators to be successful.

    I’m also sorry Stan’s fans get angry when I criticize him. I’m also sorry people hate reading about the superhero genre. I’m also sorry more people aren’t promoting indie comics. I’m also sorry more people aren’t writing comics criticism. I’m also sorry more women aren’t interested in Kirby. I’m also sorry people are sick of Kirby — they want to discuss the millions of other cartoonists out there.

    I’m sorry.

    But here is one reason I still write about Jack Kirby: (to quote Mr. Mclachlan) Jack is “a guy who’s been dead for twenty years.”

    That’s 1/1000 reasons I discuss Jack online: I didn’t realize there was a statue of limitations on what comic book artists we are allowed to discuss (I didn’t know the cut-off-date was 20 years ago) so I discuss Jack for the very reason Mr Mclachlan mentions above: Jack is gone, he can’t speak up for himself. It’s not a “kause,” or a “krusade,” I just feel like as I watch something like Jack’s Avengers # 1 comic being made into a movie that made billions and billions of dollars (and Jack’s Avengers have impacted literally billions of people) somebody somewhere on the internet should point out Jack probably wrote that story and he played a huge role in creating those characters.

    I don’t see why a discourse about Kirby can’t be part of the over-all online meta-discourse about comics.

    A million other things to add but I’ll leave it at that.

  275. e says:

    Good for you George, I couldn’t agree more. There is some hardcore passive-aggressive behavior here, in particular from Steibel. A reasonable person cannot understand their anger. It is depressing to read. Rest easy tho, needless hate usually exposes itself for the useless thing it is. It is a ‘bubble’ you can never hope to reason with. I never could, and hopefully never will understand why some have to tear down some people in order to glorify others. I did and do dig Kirby’s work, but I also appreciate Lee’s never ending efforts on behalf of Marvel. He stuck it out through good times and bad and never jumped ship. Perhaps his passion and endless energy for all things Marvel is what brought him the fame so many despise him for. I think so. Take care. Nuff said!

  276. george says:

    e said: “Good for you George, I couldn’t agree more. There is some hardcore passive-aggressive behavior here …”

    I’ve learned to avoid most articles about Kirby, because the comments inevitably devolve from praising Kirby to bashing Lee. And you can’t debate these people, because they regard any disagreement as a personal attack, and they go ballistic. If you criticize any of Kirby’s work, you’re accused of insulting not only Jack but his family as well!

  277. e says:

    Heck, I don’t even criticize Kirby’s work, in fact I adore it. I guess I am the fool to expect people to appreciate the best parts of everyone’s work, and have a respectful disagreement on the differences in the approaches and contributions. Seems like a lot of people have an axe to grind, with motivations I can’t fathom. It just saddens me, as I loved Marvel as a kid, and I like to go down memory lane here and read people’s opinions and memories here, but cant get far at all without wading through the senseless anger. I guess I’ll count myself as lucky that I cant comprehend it. Take care.

  278. patrick ford says:

    It’s just horrible. It’s like watching people pummel a kids teddy bear.

  279. James Van Hise says:

    Before comic book stores. Before there were even more than a few comic book dealers, there was some kind of underground system in the industry of profiting from unsold comics which the distributors had gotten credit for. In 1963 or 1964, I was in a grocery store and saw a display of bagged comics with the logos stripped off being sold with 3 comics per bag. These were professionally bagged and labeled. I bought one because it had Fantastic Four #3 in it. A couple years later, on the way home from school I walked into a corner store and saw a comic book rack filled with coverless comics and bought a copy of Showcase #19 for 5 cents. So something was going on below the comic publisher’s radar then.

  280. Jarvis says:

    Hello! I’ve been reading your website for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent job!

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