BLOG

Odds & Ends

I kind of feel like after Craig Fischer’s column on horror comics from yesterday, we don’t need to publish anything else this week. At the very least, I don’t want it to fall through the cracks, so give it a read soon if you haven’t done so already.

New today, we have the usual Joe McCulloch Tuesday feature: This Week in Comics!, this time featuring a bit on the top about ’00s Joe Kubert. Joe also made a guest appearance this week over at Douglas Wolk’s Judge Dredd site, in which the two discuss everything from Garth Ennis to comic-book ethics to Before Watchmen. (There’s some overlap.)

We also have Rob Clough’s review of Sharon Lintz’s Pornhounds 2.

Elsewhere, Michael Chabon is mining comic-book history in his fiction again, and has a story in this week’s New Yorker that is partly based on the relationship between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

At the Brooklyn Rail, Bill Kartalopoulos has a typically well-informed and informative review of the new Joost Swarte collection.

And the mysterious Illogical Volume of the Mindless Ones has a complicated response to Grant Morrison’s Batman comics (and his recent dubious statements about Siegel & Shuster). Of course, it’s unclear if complicated responses are what Morrison deserves—though as Joe M. pointed out over at Wolk’s place, Morrison is the only DC creator we know of (besides Kevin Smith, ha ha) to have publicly turned down working on Before Watchmen. So at least there’s that.


10 Responses to Odds & Ends

  1. Jeet Heer says:

    I thought this section of the Chabon interview was interesting:

    “[New Yorker: Was it common to have these fertile, long-lasting partnerships—between writer and artist—in the comic-book scene of that era?”

    [Chabon] “Not so common, no. The nature of the business was to fill creative slots and meet page needs as they arose. Writers and artists tended to get shuffled around. Most of the best-known partnerships—Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum on X-Men, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez on New Teen Titans, Don McGregor and Billy Graham on Black Panther—tend to have been fortuitous, informal, and relatively short-lived. Interestingly, Jack Kirby was part of two great, formal partnerships in his career, having started out in 1941 doing Captain America with the late Joe Simon.”

    Aside from Simon/Kirby and Kirby/Lee, I would add Kurtzman/Elder as a longlasting and fruitful collaboration (whatever one thinks of Little Annie Fanny). Also Stanley/Tripp (although the two men meet only a few times). What else is there? Maybe Ditko/Lee? But that was relatively short-lived.

    It’s interesting that Kirby really was a team-player until Lee and Goodman mistreated him in the late 1960s. After that, Kirby preferred to go solo, for very good reasons.

  2. patrick ford says:

    Based on everything I’ve read it’s clear to me Kirby was at Marvel and stayed there because he felt trapped.
    When Gary Groth suggested to Kirby the early years must have been a period of excitement Kirby said:

    “I had to make a living. I was a married man. I had a home. I had children. I had to make a living. That is the common pursuit of every man. It just happened that my living collided with the times. Circumstances forced me to do it. They forced me. There wasn’t a sense of excitement. It was a horrible, morbid atmosphere. If you can find excitement in that kind of atmosphere it was the excitement of fear.”

    1956 found Kirby writing and drawing stories which were published by Atlas. Kirby’s first sales to Atlas came shortly before he began selling material to DC that same year. As Kirby got more work from DC he stopped selling art and stories to Atlas.
    There were at least two reasons for this. The most significant was Marvel went through most of 1957 purchasing very little new material due to Martin Goodman’s distribution misadventures.
    While Atlas wasn’t buying much, Goodman also slashed page rates to the point where Atlas page rates were only about half of what DC was paying. Clearly DC was a better option for Kirby as long as he was getting work from them.

    The thought, “If Jack had not returned to Atlas in 1958 there never would have been a Fantastic Four,” is a happy thought for me. Aside from Kirby’s great art, and the scattered bones of the plots he intended, I’m not a fan of Silver Age Marvel comic books. If Kirby had gone to work for Charlton or Harvey I have no doubt Kirby would have created something other than Thor or the Fantastic Four, and no doubt I would have enjoyed those comic books more than the Marvel material which was heavily rewritten by Stan Lee.

    Based on everything I’ve read Kirby would have been wise to quit Marvel about the same time Ditko did and go to work for Charlton. That is assuming he wouldn’t have been welcome back at DC prior to Infantino taking over as publisher.
    One reason Kirby and Ditko stayed at Marvel is Goodman used a carrot and stick approach which lead Kirby and Ditko to believe they would eventually see a bigger piece of the pie. I doubt Ditko figured out Goodman’s promises were empty any sooner than Kirby, but Ditko being a lifelong bachelor with no children had responsibility only to himself, and was able to take chances Kirby felt he couldn’t afford.
    It’s true Charlton paid very poor page rates, but Kirby would have been paid for writing, and one of the attractions at Charlton is artists weren’t asked for numerous redraws.

    This was common practice with the so called “Marvel Method,” as Mark Evanier has explained many times in various places:
    http://marvelmasterworksfansite.yuku.com/sreply/261264/Ask-Mark-Evanier-
    Don’t think this kind of thing didn’t happen to Kirby from the very start.
    From Larry Lieber’s recent deposition. Lieber talks about a six page Hulk story he saw Kirby rip in half and throw in a trash can.
    http://themarvelageofcomics.tumblr.com/post/14954889622/heres-an-unused-

    Q: Can you tell me how you came into possession specifically of these drawings?
    LARRY LIEBER: They — I was in the office, the Marvel office. It probably was at — no, it must have been at the — on 57th Street when they were there on Madison, and Jack Kirby came out of Stan’s office from — and from the direction of Stan’s office. He may, probably, he had come out of Stan’s office, and he seemed upset. And he took the drawings, he had these drawings, he took them and he tore them in half and he threw them in a trash can, a large trash can.

    And I, since I was such a big fan of his, I knew that at the end of the day, they would be discarded, you know, and would be trash. And I — I saw it as an opportunity to have some of his originals to keep, to look at and study, and so I took them out of the trash can.

    And there were other people in the office, but nobody else seemed to have noticed this, which I was glad about, and I just took them, walked over to where I was sitting and put them in my case. And I took them home and I taped them together, you know, I taped them all, and I kept them and I’ve kept them all these years to look at them and, as I say, to study them.

    Q: If you look at the center of the page, you see a line going through the center of the first page, the third, fourth, fifth and sixth pages?
    LARRY LIEBER: Yeah.
    Q: Do you see that line?
    LARRY LIEBER: Yes, I see the line.
    Q: Is that because those pages were originally ripped in half?
    LARRY LIEBER: Yeah, that’s where it was ripped and I have tape on them.
    Q: And the black marks on the left and right-hand margins –
    LARRY LIEBER: Scotch tape.
    Q: — in this photostat copy are scotch tape?
    LARRY LIEBER: Yes.
    Q: Have you scotch-taped them together?
    LARRY LIEBER: Yes.
    Q: What was your understanding of why or your impression of why Jack Kirby was upset when he tore these up and threw them in the trash?
    LARRY LIEBER: I didn’t know. I didn’t speak to him. I assumed, seeing a man walk out of the office and tear his artwork up, that — or I thought probably they were rejected and he was annoyed or disgusted. I didn’t, you know, and I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t hear anything, so I just — that was my first assumption, but I didn’t know.
    (Lieber Exhibit 6, an excerpt from Jack Kirby Collector Forty-One, marked for identification, as of this date.)

    People will often say Kirby derived a great benefit from his work at Marvel in the ’60s, but I see no evidence of that.
    Consider that in 1970 when Kirby came over to DC from Marvel he was making the same page rate as John Romita, and John Buscema at Marvel, and the same rate Neal Adams, Curt Swan, and Joe Kubert were at DC. So KIrby was well paid on par with other top pros, and if Kirby was the equal of Romita, Buscema, Adams, Kubert, and Swan then I don’t see how Kirby working for Marvel gained him anything.
    Another bit of comics lore is the contention Kirby would not have been given the same “freedom” at DC as he was given at Marvel. This is a dubious theory not supported by the facts. In the first place this supposed “freedom” Kirby was given was more like “writing for free” rather than being paid and credited for writing. Then consider Kirby’s writing from the start was heavily rewritten by Lee. We have a very early example of Kirby so frustrated he rips six pages of a Hulk story in half and throws them in a trash can, later Kirby saw characters and plots changed so extensively by Lee’s rewrites the characters and stories were often turned on their heads. Major examples were detailed by MIke Gartland, but this continued to the very last stories Kirby did for Marvel (FF #108), even down to Lee asking for a complete rewrite of Kirby’s “Morgan’s Monster” story a short horror story in a minor anthology comic book.
    By no means was Kirby able to write the stories he intended without editorial interference, and worse than what might have happened at DC, the rewrites were often taking place at Kirby’s expense forcing him to redraw or set aside whole pages, even whole sequences of pages, and to scuttle plots he had carefully worked out, only to discover after he had finished or begun work that Lee wanted changes.
    One of the best examples of this was Kirby’s origin of Galactus intended for a multi-issue story arc in Thor. Kirby had to rework most of one issue, and the story he intended never saw print.
    Another supposed benefit Kirby is supposed to have gained by working at Marvel is the very fact DC hired him in 1970. This doesn’t make much sense unless Kirby was a lesser talent than a whole raft of new blood DC infused at just about the same time.
    People like Jim Apparo, Dick Giordano, and Sam Glanzman, hadn’t been working for Marvel, they came over from Charlton. Howie Post came from Harvey, Frank Robbins had been working on newspaper strips.
    The whole “Marvel made Kirby” idea assumes Kirby was not the equal of Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Wally Wood, or even Joe Orlando.
    Do people remember Kubert, and Toth today, because of Kubert’s run on Thor, and Toth’s long run on Iron-Man.

  3. Heh, I’m about as mysterious as a sack full of Kevin Smith dvds*, but thanks for the link!

    *I am currently running the potential horrors of a Smith-written Wa2chmen comic through my head. Even the jokes about such a comic could blacken your eyes with their obviousness.

  4. Briany Najar says:

    Jeet,

    Goscinny / Uderzo (on Asterix for 17 years, but started working together 10 years before that)
    and,
    Wagner / Ezquerra (on Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog for approx 30 years, so far).

    Longlasting and fruitful collaborations, I’d say.

  5. Kim Thompson says:

    The Goscinny/Morris collaboration on LUCKY LUKE lasted even longer than ASTERIX. Charlier/Giraud worked for a long, long time on BLUEBERRY. Christin/Mézières collaborated for so long on VALERIAN that their present day collided with the far future they’d predicted early in the series and they wound up with a temporal knot. But these are single-series collaborations, as opposed to collaborations that jumped from one project to another (such as Kurtzman/Elder and yes, Goscinny/Uderzo), which are much rarer. Dupuy/Berberian.

  6. Ryan says:

    If nothing else, it’s nice to see TCJ (print version) and Gary Groth (fictionalized version) mentioned in the pages of The New Yorker.

  7. Jeet Heer says:

    True, it is fun to see Gary in a fictional story. Having said that (and I realize it’s absurd to “fact check” a work of fiction) there was a lot of implausibilities in Chabon’s version of Lee and Kirby. For one thing, there’s no way in hell Lee would ever do a full-dress interview with Gary. Secondly, Lee would never lift a finger to get any sort of money or recognition for Kirby. What Chabon offers is a consoling fannish fantasy. The reality is more grim.

  8. patrick ford says:

    Lee is often credited with promoting Ditko, Wood, and Kirby, but he promoted the idea they were ARTISTS.
    Promoting people who are writing and drawing the stories as “the artists” is not promotion, it’s just the opposite, it devalues their role.
    There are a few interviews prior to the purchase of Marvel by Perfect Film and Chemical where Lee was pretty straight about how he worked with Kirby, but that all changed after Goodman sold Marvel.
    What Lee gets away with in interviews boggles the mind. What really gets me is for many years Lee has described the Marvel Method as something he came up with out of some kind of genorosity towards the “ARTISTS.” Here was a situation where Lee was taking the whole writers pages rate, and all of the writing credit, and he describes the Marvel Method as something he came up with because he was thinking of what was best for “The ARTISTS.” This bit of obvious bullshit, which should cause people to laugh in Lee’s face, has never once been questioned.
    Lee clearly came up with the Marvel Method as a way of lining his own pocket at the expense of the artists.

    Lee’s 2010 deposition

    Stan Lee: I wanted to have a villain called Galactus.
    I was looking for somebody who would be more powerful than any. So I figured somebody who is a demigod who rides around in space and destroys planets.
    I told Jack about it and told him how I wanted the story to go generally. And Jack went home, and he drew it.

    Kim Aamodt: I really sweated out plots, unlike Jack Kirby. Jack just ignited and came out with ideas, and Joe’d just kind of nod his head in agreement. Jack’s face looked so energized when he was plotting that it seemed as if sparks were flying off him.Joe was on the ground, and Jack was on cloud nine. Jack was more of the artist type; he had great instincts.

    Walter Geier: Jack Kirby was great about that; he always came up with the plots. Jack had a fertile mind. Joe used to sit there when the writers came in for conferences. They sat there and made up the plots for the writers. Jack did most of that. Joe would say something once in a while, but Jack was the idea man. Joe didn’t talk much. He could come up with decent plots, but it was usually very sketchy stuff. A lot of times Joe would say, ” Awww…you figure out the ending.” Jack would give me the ending, because he was good at figuring out stories. It was not hard to work with Jack. They were Jack’s plots. I just supplied the dialogue.

    John Romita: Jack got a chance to knock the stuff out, and use his own characters. Jack used to surprise Stan with new characters almost every time he turned in a story. Take Galactus who devours planets. Instead of knocking down buildings, Kirby is talking about eating planets.
    I told him once he threw away more ideas than I could think of. His throwaway bin was probably worth millions. I can imagine going through his wastebaskets, and “coming up” with all the ideas he didn’t use.

    Stan Goldberg: “Jack would sit there at lunch, and tell us these great ideas about what he was going to do next. It was like the ideas were bursting from every pore of his body. It was very interesting because he was a fountain of ideas.
    Stan would drive me home and we’d plot our stories in the car. I’d say to Stan,”How’s this? Millie loses her job.” He’d say,”Great! Give me 25 pages.” And that took him off the hook. One time I was in Stan’s office and I told him, “I don’t have another plot.” Stan got out of his chair and walked over to me, looked me in the face, and said very seriously, “I don’t ever want to hear you say you can’t think of another plot.” Then he walked back and sat doen in his chair. He didn’t think he needed to tell me anything more.”
    Jim Amash:” Sounds like you were doing most of the writing then.”
    Goldberg: “Well, I was.

    Stan Lee (The Origin of Marvel Comics): “Myself when born was christened Stanley Martin Lieber— truly an appellation
    to conjure with. It had rhythm, a vitality, a lyricism all it’s own. I still remember one of my earliest purchases being a little rubber stamp with my name on it, which I promptly stamped on every book I owned,and even some I didn’t.

  9. Jeet Heer says:

    Upon deeper refelction, the character Morton Feather has bits and pieces of Ditko as well as Kirby: he’s a loner, indifferent to monetary rewards and fannish adulation. All of which suggest Ditko even though much of his physical appearance and life history is Kirby-esque.

  10. Allen Smith says:

    Don’t judge Stan too harshly. How else was a person of only fair talent going to hit the big time if not by anchoring himself to someone who could get him there?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>