Share It

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby et al...The Birth Of The Marvel Universe


I doubt there’s been a more polarizing figure in the history of comic books than Stan Lee.  Depending on whom you believe he’s a shyster, a creator, a fraud, a visionary, a liar, misunderstood or an opportunist.  It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have a strong opinion of the man and there are distinct camps, those who believe that Stan Lee had no input into the creation of the Marvel Universe as we know it and that he took credit for the work of Jack Kirby.  There are those who believe that both Stan and Jack collaborated, and those who feel that the Kirby camp continually try to dismiss Stan’s role and place in the history of comic books.  Stan, self-admittedly, has a shockingly poor memory; however this is nothing new – he’s been stating that for decades now.  Stan doesn’t remember things as well as people would want him to, but then, for some, it matters not – unless Stan were to come out and state that Jack Kirby created, wrote and edited everything that Marvel produced in the Silver Age, then they’ll refuse to believe anything he says.  However some of what Stan says has remained consistent over the years and the bulk of the following was taken from his 2010 depositions, as submitted in the Marvel vs Kirby court case.  What is important to remember is that a deposition is taken under oath – if Stan was lying, and was found out, then the penalties would be severe.  Call Stan what you want, but I don’t believe he’s an idiot, nor do I believe that he’d be foolish enough to lie under oath.  It’s a pity that Jack Kirby was never placed under oath to detail the creation of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man and others.

Curiously, as I was putting this together I referenced some other Stan Lee interviews, dating back to the 1960s.  His stories have fairly much stayed the same, which struck me as being very odd indeed, as the inference is that Stan has changed his stories over the years.  There is the famous story that Stan came up with the idea for Spider-Man after seeing a spider walking on a wall, but that seems to be an aberration.  It’s also worth noting that when the stories of Marvel’s origins were being told in the early 1970s, Kirby was no longer working for the company and clearly Martin Goodman had no desire to promote an artist working for DC.  That might explain some of the inconsistencies, but, in interviews at least, Stan has remained, for the most part, consistent.

This isn’t to say that Stan Lee hasn’t been entirely truthful over the years.  I expect that Stan Lee has lied on occasion when it comes to aspects of the creation of the Marvel Universe, in the same way that Jack Kirby lied when he stated that he and Stan never collaborated, or that Stan never wrote anything, in the same way that Joe Simon appears to have lied when he states that Jack Kirby had no involvement in the creation of Captain America.  Nobody is perfect.  Memory is a fickle thing at best, and what needs to be taken into consideration is that people are asking elderly people to recall events, decades later, that meant next to nothing at the time.  That’s difficult at the best of time. 

What we have here is a small part of the creation of the Marvel Universe, as told by people who were there and had an active role.  The main focus is on that eternal debate, Stan Lee vs Jack Kirby, with the Lee quotes coming from a few sources, but mainly from his 2010 depositions.  Kirby’s quotes are taken from various interviews, some from his Comics Journal interviews, along with interviews with Greg Theakston.  Other quotes come from interviews that I have done, such as Larry Lieber, Joe Sinnott, John Romita and Dick Ayers.  Have a read and you decide who told the truth – but remember this, ultimately we weren’t there and to make a supposition that you have that absolute knowledge is dangerous at best.

-------------------------------------
I never wanted to be a writer particularly. As a kid I joined the WPA Federal Theatre.  I wanted to be an actor, but there wasn't enough money.  I always loved advertising and the closest I could get to it was writing copy for a news service.  I started writing obituaries for people who were still alive, and I was writing publicity releases for the National Jewish Tuberculosis Hospital in Denver, I never knew what I was supposed to be advertising, whether telling people to get sick to go to the hospital.  I had a lot of different jobs, I was I was an office boy for a trousers company; I was an usher at the Rivoli Theatre, all of which was pretty depressing.  There was a contest at the Herald Tribune, an essay contest, which I won three weeks running, and whoever the editor was at the time called me and asked me to stop entering the contest and  he asked me what I intended to be. I was just out of high school, you know, and I said, well, I don't know, an advertising man or an actor or a lawyer or something, and he said why don't you be a writer?

I learned of a job that was opening up at Timely Comics; they needed a gopher. Timely Comics was a small operation, they had Captain America, who was one of the biggest at the time, and they had Marvel Mystery Comics, and Sub-Mariner as well as Daring Comics and Mystic Comics.  Joe Simon and Jack Kirby had created Captain America, and they were doing the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, when I came in.  My job was to really be their assistant. I went down, and I got them their lunch sandwiches for them, and I filled their -- in those days they dipped the brushes in ink and used pencil sharpeners, and I sharpened the pencils. I erased the pages after they were finished. And I did whatever an assistant or an office boy would do.  Shortly thereafter I started writing back-up features like Father Time, Hurricane, The Destroyer, and Headline Hunter. I signed that one “Neel Nats. I was writing so many stories that I thought I should occasionally change my credit.  Before I knew it they had me writing Captain America and they had me doing some editing.  Shortly thereafter Joe and Jack left.  I didn't know at the time, but I have heard much later from a number of different people that they were supposed to have been working exclusively for Martin Goodman, and he found out they had been doing some work for some other company.  I was like the only guy left in the department and the publisher asked me if I could function as the editor and art director and writer until he hired someone else.  And I said, sure. You know, when you're 18 years old, what do you know? I said, Sure, I can do it.  He never found anyone and I've been there ever since.

I met Stan Lee when I first went to work for Marvel. He was a little boy. He was about 13 years old. He’s about five years younger than me.  I couldn’t do anything about Stan Lee because he was the publisher’s cousin. He ran back and forth around New York doing things that he was told to do. He would slam doors and come up to you and look over your shoulder and annoy you in a lot of ways.  You know, he was the kind of kid that liked to fool around–open and close doors on you.  In fact, once I told Joe to throw him out of the room.  Stan Lee was a pest. He liked to irk people and it was one thing I couldn’t take.  He hasn’t changed a bit.   --Jack Kirby

I never thought of it as a permanent job.  It was my job to dream up new characters or to continue with the characters we had, and to pick the best artists and the best writers unless I wrote something -- I had the privilege, which now that I think back, it was rare, but I could either write stories myself or I could hire writers. I couldn't write everything, and it was my job to hire the artists to draw the stories. I did that for quite a number of years but I never particularly wanted to be in the comic book business.  I always figured, hey, this is great, I'll stay here a year or two or three until I make some money and then I'll go out and be a Hollywood director or I'll write the Great American Novel. And for years and years I stayed in the job, never thinking of it as my permanent career. For years this went on, and I was too dumb to realize, hey, this is what you're doing, Stan, this is it. I always had this feeling of temporariness, waiting till I've saved up enough money so I can quit and go do something else. And my wife said to me one day, Stan, when are you gonna realize this is permanent? And instead of looking to do something sensational in some other field, why don't you make something sensational about what you're doing? I mean, you're writing, you are creating...do something really good.

We were living at Timely under the conditions where every few years there was a new trend. We'd be very big in westerns and suddenly the western field dried up and we had to find a new trend and we'd be doing a lot of superheroes and then there was a lack of interest in superheroes so we had to find a new trend and we'd do romances or mysteries or funny animals.  It never made a difference to me what type of thing we were doing.  The Code was no problem to me. We never put out books that I felt were too violent or objectionable. They certainly weren't sexy. I never had trouble putting out books that would be acceptable to whoever had to accept them. So when this period came around, it was just like another new trend. Okay, we've got to drop the so-called horror stories and now we've go to find something else to do. And we did.  I don't even remember what we came out with, but I assume we found something. 

Business got bad and we had to fire a lot of people.  I kept paying our best people to continue doing strips that we really didn't need at the time, knowing we'd eventually have use for them. I simply stored the strips in a large office closet after they were done. To me it was an investment both in people and in inventory.   When Martin one day learned of all the material I had been accumulating for later use, he took an extremely dim view of what I had done. In fact, a dim view is putting it mildly. For starters, he told me that he was running a business and not a charitable institution. Then as he kept warming to the subject, a light suddenly went on inside his head. Martin realized that he had an expensive bullpen being paid every week and a closet full of complete unpublished strips.  He instantly decided he didn't need both. I suppose from a business point of view, it was a rational decision, but I hated it. The bullpen was immediately disbanded. Most of the salaried creative people were let go, while I was ordered to use up all the inventory material.  Martin decided that we would only work with artists and writers on a freelance basis from that day forward, not assigning any strips unless they were definitely scheduled to be used.  As a result of Wertham's War, the market for comic books disintegrated, with artists and writers being fired by the baleful. I was amazed that Martin kept me on, but then he had to have somebody to fire all those other people for him.  Again, it was indescribably difficult for me. For a second time I was forced to lay off talented, hardworking people who were more than just fellow employees to me. I remember the dark day when Martin told me, 'Stan, we have to let the whole staff go. I want you to fire everybody.'  I said, 'I can't do that.'  He replied, 'You have to. I'm going to Florida on vacation, and someone's got to do it', and that was that.  I was left with a skeleton crew, which consisted mostly of me.   Up until then I had always done mostly what the publisher wanted.  It was not a glorious period for the comics. Certainly not for our company and our publisher, who also published other types of books, movie books and crossword puzzle books and so on.  By this time he had left the comics pretty much in my hands. He didn't have any tremendous interest. They weren't doing all that well and he wasn't that much concerned, I suspect.

I had to do something different. The monster stories have their limitations — you can just do so many of them. And then it becomes a monster book month after month, so there had to be a switch because the times weren’t exactly conducive to good sales. So I felt the idea was to come up with new stuff all the time — in other words there had to be a blitz. And I came up with this blitz. I came up with The Fantastic Four, I came up with Thor (I knew the Thor legends very well), and the Hulk, the X-Men, and The Avengers. I revived what I could and came up with what I could. I tried to blitz the stands with new stuff. The new stuff seemed to gain momentum.  
 --Jack Kirby

In the ‘60s, the ideas for the new characters originated with me because that was my responsibility. What would happen is the publisher, Martin Goodman, for example, with the Fantastic Four; he called me into his office one day and he said, "I understand that National Comics," which later changed its name to DC, "I understand that National Comics has a book called The Justice League. And it's selling very well. I want you to come up with a team of superheroes. Let's do something like that."   It was my responsibility to come up with such a team, so I went home and I thought about it.  I wanted to make these different than the average comic book heroes. I didn't want them to have a secret identity.   I figured I'm sick of stories of where the hero always wins and he's always one hundred percent good and the villain is one hundred percent bad and all that sort of thing. So I figured, this time I'm going to get a team of characters who don't hew to the mold. Fighting amongst themselves, and I wanted to make it as realistic as possible. Instead of them living in Gotham City or Metropolis I felt I will have them live in New York City.   Instead of the obligatory teenager Johnny Storm driving a whiz bang V8, he would drive a Chevy Corvette.  I wanted everything real, and I wanted their relationship to be real. Instead of a girl who didn't know that the hero was really a superhero, not only did she know who he was, but they were engaged to be married, and she also had a superpower.  I thought I would try that.  They all got their superpowers by being in a spaceship that was hit by cosmic rays.  I wanted them to be a team, but I wanted them to act like real people. So they didn't always get along well.  We called one of them The Thing, a very powerful ugly guy who would be pathetic.   Mr. Fantastic got the ability to stretch his limbs. The girl, Sue Storm had the ability to become invisible and surround herself with the force field, and the boy Johnny Storm, her brother, was able to burst into flame and fly.  I took that from an old Marvel book, one of Timely Comics' first books called The Human Torch. I always loved that character that had been an android, a robot or something; I felt I'm going to give Johnny Storm that power. He can fly and burst into flame.  So we had a guy who can stretch, a girl who could be invisible, and a man who was an ugly monster.  And again, to go against type, I thought I'd make the ugly monster kind of a funny guy. He's pathetic, but he's also the comedy relief… And he was always arguing and fighting with The Human Torch, who was always trying to give him a hot foot… And he was always trying to grab him and throttle him.  They all loved each other, but they never got along well. The more they fought amongst themselves, the more the readers loved it.  The Torch wants to quit because he's not making enough money. The Thing wants to get out because he's not getting enough glory and he thinks Reed Richards is hogging all the headlines. Occasionally a crook gets away or beats them up. They're evicted from their skyscraper because they can't pay the rent because Reed Richards invests all their reward money in stocks and the market takes a nosedive.  I tried to do everything I could to take these super-powered characters and in some way to make them realistic and human and have them react the way normal men might react if those normal men happened to have super-hero powers.  That was the way I envisioned them.  I wrote up a very brief synopsis about that, and naturally I called Jack, because he was our best artist, and I asked him if he would do it. He seemed to like the idea. Took the synopsis, and he drew the story and put in his own touches, which were brilliant, he did a wonderful job on it.  And it worked out beautifully. Books sold, and that was the start of the Marvel success, you might say. 

It came about very simply. I came in and they were moving out the furniture, they were taking desks out and I needed the work! I had a family and a house and all of a sudden Marvel is coming apart. Stan Lee is sitting on a chair crying. He didn’t know what to do, he’s sitting in a chair crying —he was just still out of his adolescence. I told him to stop crying. I say, “Go in to Martin and tell him to stop moving the furniture out, and I’ll see that the books make money.” And I came up with a raft of new books and all these books began to make money. Somehow they had faith in me. I knew I could do it, but I had to come up with fresh characters that nobody had seen before. I came up with The Fantastic Four. I came up with Thor. Whatever it took to sell a book I came up with. Stan Lee has never been editorial minded. It wasn’t possible for a man like Stan Lee to come up with new things — or old things for that matter. Stan Lee wasn’t a guy that read or that told stories. Stan Lee was a guy that knew where the papers were or who was coming to visit that day. Stan Lee is essentially an office worker, I’m essentially something else: I’m a storyteller. My job is to sell my stories. When I saw this happening at Marvel I stopped the whole damned bunch. I stopped them from moving the furniture! Stan Lee was sitting on some kind of a stool and he was crying. 

Stan didn’t know what a mutation was. I was studying that kind of stuff all the time. I would spot it in the newspapers and science magazines. I still buy magazines that are fanciful. I don’t read as much science fiction as I did at that time. I was a student of science fiction and I began to make up my own story patterns, my own type of people. Stan Lee doesn’t think the way I do. Stan Lee doesn’t think of people when he thinks of [characters]. I think of [characters] as real people. If I drew a war story it would be two guys caught in the war. The Fantastic Four to me are people who were in a jam — suddenly you find yourself invisible, suddenly you find yourself flexible.  I felt I should do something new with Ben Grimm. If you’ll notice, the beginnings of Ben Grimm, he was kind of lumpy. I felt he had the power of a dinosaur, and I began to think along those lines. I wanted his flesh to look like dinosaur hide. He kind of looks like your outside patio, or a close-up of dinosaur hide.  People claim that The Thing is a lot like me, in terms of his personality, and as the series progressed, he became even more so. He was always at odds with the Yancy Street Gang, a bunch of tough kids from the Lower East Side. In fact, they’re a thinly-disguised version of the Delancy Street Gang guys I tumbled with on more than one occasion.  He was a tragedy. Can you imagine yourself as a mutation, never knowing when you were going to change, and what you’d look like to your folks or people that you love. Everybody seemed to associate me with the Thing because he acted like a regular guy. No matter what he looked like the Thing never changed his personality — he was always a human being despite his physical change. Ben Grimm always remained Ben Grimm. I think that’s why the reader liked him — that touch of reality. You can’t really change a guy unless you injure his brain, or if he sustains some sort of injury in a situation.

Doom is really a good looking guy, all he has is a little scratch on his cheek, but he’s such an egomaniac he can’t stand to look at the imperfection, so he wears a mask.  Doom is the kind of guy who’ll come over to your house for tea, shake your hand, be very friendly, and at the same time his henchmen are kidnapping your mother in the kitchen, while he chats with you in your living room.  He’s based on somebody I know, but I won’t say who.  
 --Jack Kirby

I wanted to have a villain called Galactus. We had so many villains who were so powerful. 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, and he drew a wonderful version. But when I looked at the artwork, I saw there was some nutty looking naked guy on a flying surfboard, and I said, "Who is this?" And he said -- well, I don't remember whether he called him the surfer or not. He may have called him the surfer, but he said, "I thought that anybody as powerful as Galactus who could destroy planets should have somebody who goes ahead of him, a herald who finds the planets for him, and I thought it would be good to have that guy on a flying surfboard."  I said, "That's wonderful." I loved it, and I decided to call him The Silver Surfer, which I thought sounded dramatic.  But that was all. He was supposed to be a herald to find Galactus his planets. But the way Jack drew him, he looked so noble and so interesting that I said, "Jack, you know, we ought to really use this guy. I like him."

I tried to write his copy so that he was very philosophical, and he was always commenting about the state of the world and: Don't you human beings realize you live in a paradise. Why don't you appreciate it? Why do you fight each other and hate each other? And I had him talking like that all the time, and the college kids started to love him. Whenever I would lecture at a college, and there was a question-and-answers period, it was inevitably the Silver Surfer that they would talk about the most. So I was very happy with him.  But that's how it happened accidentally. I mean, I had nothing -- I didn't think of him. Jack -- it was one of the characters Jack tossed into the strip, and he drew him so beautifully that I felt we have to make him an important character.

I went into the Bible and I found the Silver Surfer. Everybody thinks he’s a god, but he’s the Devil. Silver Surfer is the fallen angel. When Galactus zaps him and says ‘You can’t go into space again.’ What the hell did God do with Michael the Angel, who was very, very handsome and thought he was so Goddamned good that he could take the place of God? So, God zapped him and said ‘Well, you’re goin’ to Hell’ and that’s where he sent him and where the hell is the Silver Surfer? Among us. Can he be God? No, he’s exactly the opposite because Galactus can get him any time.  They were the first gods in comics and so I began thinking along those lines. I began to ask...everybody else, other societies, all had their Gods, but what were ours? What was the state of our society and where were our mythic figures?  Marvel owns him but I created him and I should be the one drawing him.  I know him. I know his real origin and it’s not what Stan wrote.

I came up with the Black Panther because I realized I had no blacks in my strips. I’d never drawn a black. I needed a black. I suddenly discovered that I had a lot of black readers. My first friend was a black! And here I was ignoring them because I was associating with everybody else. It suddenly dawned on me–believe me, it was for human reasons–I suddenly discovered nobody was doing blacks.  And here I am, a leading cartoonist and I wasn’t doing a black. I was the first one to do an Asian. Then I began to realize that there was a whole range of human differences. Remember, in my day, drawing an Asian was drawing Fu-Manchu that’s the only Asian they knew.  
 -- Jack Kirby

With Spider-Man, that was an interesting thing.  Martin said, "We're doing pretty good, let's get some more characters."   I was trying to think of something different.  I always hated teenage sidekicks, so I felt it would be fun to do a teenager who isn't a sidekick but who is the real hero. So that part was easy.   Martin said, ‘You can’t have a teenager. A teenager can only be a sidekick.’ Then I told him I wanted him to have problems....he’d get ingrown toenails or an allergy attack while he was fighting. “You’re crazy, Stan. That’s not a hero, that’s a supporting character. That’s a comedy character.”  But the toughest thing is dreaming up a superpower. So I thought, what superpower can I give him? And it finally occurred to me, a guy who could stick to walls like an insect, crawl on a wall and stick to a ceiling. I didn't recall ever having seen any character like that before.  I thought that's what I'll do. I'm going to get a teenager who can crawl on walls.   But then the second most important thing is a title. Titles are very -- the names of the characters are very important. So I went down the list. Could I call him Mosquito Man? Insect Man? Fly Man? And I got to Spider-Man. It sounded dramatic. And I remember I had read a pulp magazine when I was a kid called Spiderman.  The guy didn't have a superpower. He was just a guy who went around fighting bad guys. But I thought Spiderman sounds great, I thought Spiderman would be a good strip. I hyphenated Spider-Man for very distinctive reasons, specific reasons. I didn’t want it to resemble Superman. I was afraid Spiderman and Superman were a bit similar anyway, so by putting the hyphen in, it makes them more different.  And again, I went to Jack, and I gave it to him.  And I said, Jack, now you always draw these characters so heroically, but I don't want this guy to be too heroic-looking. He's kind of a nebbishy guy.  I saw a few pages; I hated the way he was doing it. Not that he did it badly, Jack, who glamorizes everything, even though he tried to nerd him up, the guy looked still a little bit too heroic for me.  He didn't make the teenager look as wimpy or as nerdy as I thought he should.  And I realize that really isn't Jack's style. Jack mostly draws glamorous heroic Captain America type. Not that he couldn't have drawn it, but he would have had to force himself. So I figured I will get somebody that it comes easy to.   And nobody, Jack nor I nor anybody, thought that Spider-Man was going to be a big strip, so it didn't matter. So I said, "Forget it, Jack. I will give it to someone else."  Jack didn't care. He had so much to do.  He said okay and he went back to Fantastic Four or Thor or whatever he was drawing, and I gave it to Steve Ditko. And Steve had that kind of awkward feeling.  It was just right for Spider-Man, so I gave it to Steve. His style was really more really what Spider-Man should have been. So Steve did the Spider-Man thing.  I presented that to Martin Goodman and he said, "Nah, nobody likes spiders. That's no good."  So I said, "Well, it's not a case of people liking spiders. Remember there used to be a Green Hornet. I don't think people are turned on to hornets."  "Nah, I don't like it. Forget it." I had a feeling I hadn't hit pay dirt with that one as far as Martin was concerned, but I always liked the idea. So sometime later we had a magazine we were going to drop. It was called Amazing Fantasy.  Strangely enough, Steve Ditko had drawn all the stories in that one, now that I remember. Anyway, it wasn't selling well, and we were going to drop it.  Now, when you drop a magazine, nobody cares what you put in the last issue because you're dropping it anyway.  And we threw it in Amazing Fantasy in the last issue. And just for fun, I put him on the cover. I had Jack sketch out a cover for it because I always had a lot of confidence in Jack's covers.  And the book sold fantastically. So a couple months later when the sales figures were in, Martin came to me and he said, "Hey Stan, you remember that Spider-Man idea of yours that we both liked so much? Why don't we make a series of it?"

I created Spider-Man. We decided to give it to Steve Ditko. I drew the first Spider-Man cover. I created the character. I created the costume. I created all those books, but I couldn’t do them all. We decided to give the book to Steve Ditko who was the right man for the job. He did a wonderful job on that.  He was a wonderful artist, a wonderful conceptualist. It was Steve Ditko that made Spider-Man the well-known character that he is.  
 --Jack Kirby

The Spider-Man pages Stan showed me were nothing like the published character. In fact, the only drawings of Spider-Man were on the splash and at the end. At the end, Kirby had the guy leaping at you with a web gun. Aunt May was there, and Uncle Ben was a retired policeman. He looked a lot like General Thunderbolt Ross. Anyway, the first five pages took place in the home, and the kid finds a ring and turns into Spider-Man.  I thought it would make more sense if this wall-walking character had soft soles.  I’ve always felt that you should be able to identify a hero by a small part of the costume. The best characters have costumes like that: Speedball, The Thing, and Spider-Man.   I drew the first cover from a subjective viewpoint. I wanted to put the reader/viewer up front with the swinging Spider-Man, to be a part of the activity, to see and realize the danger in falling, in having a sense of swinging along with Spider-Man.  The villains were my favorite part of the strip. Creating them was always a challenge.  
 --Steve Ditko

I was trying to think again what I can do that's different. I liked the Thing very much, and I thought what if I get somebody who is a real monster? And I remembered I had always in the old movie Frankenstein with Boris Karloff I had always thought that that monster was the good guy because he didn't want to hurt anybody, but those idiots with torches who were always chasing him up and down the hills.  I thought it would be fun to get a monster that is really good but nobody knows it, and they fight him. But then the more I thought about it, I figured it could be dull after awhile just having people chasing a monster. And I remember Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I thought; why not treat him like Jekyll and Hyde? He's really a normal man who can't help turning into a monster, and it would make a very interesting story if when he needs his monstrous strength the most, the poor guy turns back into a normal man. I could get a lot of story complications. So I thought that would be good.  I needed a name. Years ago I remember there was a comic book called The Heap, H-E-A-P. I don't remember even what he was, but I always thought that was some real crazy name. And somehow or other I thought I will call him The Hulk. It's a little like The Heap, and it has that same feeling. But I love adjectives like the Fantastic Four, the Uncanny so-and-so, so I decided I'll call him The Incredible Hulk.   Next we had to figure out how The Hulk came to be The Hulk. So I decided he's a scientist named Bruce Banner. And I'm not very scientific. All I know are the names of things. I don't really know how they work or anything. I had used cosmic rays for the Fantastic Four to get them their powers and I heard the expression "gamma ray" somewhere.  So I said let's let Bruce Banner be subjected to a gamma ray, and that turns him into The Hulk. But it had to be in a heroic way. I said the military is doing a test for a new kind of gamma ray bomb somewhere and some idiot teenager is riding his bike past the no trespassing sign onto the test area. Bruce Banner in his cubicle sees the kid, he runs out to save the kid, and says, "Get out of here.  There's going to be a gamma ray explosion."  But Bruce Banner had a rival scientist who was jealous of him, and when the scientist sees Bruce Banner run out, he says, "Quick. Start the explosion." And the gamma ray explodes, Bruce throws himself on top of the kid to save the kid, and he gets subjected to the gamma ray. That's how he becomes the Hulk, and that's how we know he's really a hero at heart.  When I did the Fantastic Four, we started getting a lot of fan mail. The fans said, “We love the book. It's great. Oh, it's the best new thing we've seen. But if you don't give them costumes, we'll never buy another issue.”  And I realize there's something unique about the comic book reader. They love costumes.  I couldn't figure out a way to give a monster a costume. I couldn't see a monster, The Hulk, walking into a costume store or making one for himself.  So I figured I'll do the next best thing. I'll give him a different skin color. That will always look like a costume.  You may not know this, but originally I made him gray. I thought that a gray skin would look spooky and scary and dramatic. But when the book was published, the printer apparently had a problem with the color gray.  On one page he was light gray. On one page dark gray. On one page black. On one page almost white. I said this will never do. So I decided on another color. See, you can do that when you're a comic book editor. You can do anything.  So I will change the color of his skin. So I looked around for a color that wasn't being used. I couldn't think of any green hero. I said, I will make him green. And it turned out to be a good choice, because I was able to come up with little sayings like, The Jolly Green Giant, or the Green Goliath, and so forth. And that's how it happened. I could have thought of pink or blue or any other color. 

The Hulk I created when I saw a woman lift a car. Her baby was caught under the running board of this car. 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. It suddenly came to me that in desperation we can all do that — we can knock down walls; we can go berserk, which we do. You know what happens when we’re in a rage — you can tear a house down. I created a character who did all that and called him the Hulk. I inserted him in a lot of the stories I was doing. Whatever the Hulk was at the beginning I got from that incident. A character to me can’t be contrived. I don’t like to contrive characters. They have to have an element of truth. This woman proved to me that the ordinary person in desperate circumstances can transcend himself and do things that he wouldn’t ordinarily do. I’ve done it myself. I’ve bent steel.  

I saw him as a kind of handsome Frankenstein.  I never felt The Hulk was a monster, because I felt the Hulk was me. I feel all the characters were me.  Being a monster is just a surface thing. I won’t accept that either because I want to know why The Hulk jumps around, what the limits of his strength are. I feel that The Hulk’s strength is unlimited for some damn reason I don’t understand. It's just unlimited and when I had him fight with The Thing, I felt The Hulk broke it off at a point where he hasn't fully tested his strength.    
-– Jack Kirby

With The Hulk and the X-Men and Iron Man, I wanted to use Jack for everything, but I couldn't because he was just one guy.  I was looking for somebody new.  I don't know why I thought it, but I thought what if it was somebody in a suit of armor and what if it was iron armor. He would be so powerful.  I have always been fascinated by Howard Hughes. I thought I would get a hero like Howard Hughes.  He's an inventor. He's a multimillionaire.  He's good looking. He likes the women. But I’ve got to make something tragic about him.   Then it occurred to me if he -- somehow when he got his iron armor -- it's a long story -- but he gets into a fight, and he gets injured in his chest. And his heart is injured, and he has to wear this little thing that runs the iron armor.  He has to wear that on his chest because it also keeps his heart beating. And that would make him a tragic figure as well as the most powerful guy. So I thought the readers would like him even more with that little bit added to it.  I wanted him to be a playboy, so he has this gorgeous assistant secretary named Pepper Pots. And he's in love with her, and she's in love with him, but he won't admit he's in love with her because he figures he could die any minute with his bad heart. And he loves her too much to make her a widow, and so he never admits to her how he feels about her, which again is a little touch of pathos for the series.  He also has a friend named Happy Hogan, and it goes on and on.  And that was it.   I asked Don Heck because Jack was busy with something else.  With Iron Man I still wanted Jack to do the cover, though. 

I did the first Iron Man story.  They have it listed that Jack Kirby did the breakdowns, but that's not true. I did it all. They just didn't bother to call me up and find out when they wrote up the credits. It doesn't really matter. Jack Kirby created the costume and he did the cover for the issue. In fact the second costume, the red and yellow one, was designed by Steve Ditko. I found it easier than drawing that bulky old thing. The earlier design, the robot- looking one, was more Kirbyish.  I did the character bits, the scenes with Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan, and Tony Stark, and all the other things like that. But what happens with something like that is that the cover is due, like a month before, so Jack makes up a cover for Iron Man, and the character's design is right there on it. Then Stan calls me up and says, "You're doing a character called Iron Man."  That's about it.  Jack Kirby is the one who created most of those characters.  He's the one who was always in there, and he's the one who was developing all those characters. Stan and he would get together, and they'd start discussing it together.  I try not to brush the truth into the corner. It's what it is.  
 --Don Heck

We tried two or three times to resurrect Captain America in the 1950s. I don’t know who wrote the resurrection stories, but they never worked out.   We weren't publishing Captain America because Martin Goodman thought it was just a World War II character and people wouldn't be interested in it anymore.  Then, at some point I must have said, ‘Jesus, we brought back The Torch and we brought back Sub-Mariner.  They weren’t even a triumvirate; they were the three biggest ones. Let’s try to bring back Captain America.’ I always loved the character, so I decided to bring it back, besides, I was looking for another character for The Avengers and he seemed perfect. We didn’t have a character like Captain America. I tried to write a story where he had been frozen in a glacier for years, and they found him and he came back to life, and so forth. The only thing I said, ‘I’m not going to bring them back the same way, I’m going to try to give them some personality.’ So I said to myself, ‘Now what the hell kind of personality can I give them?’ There was no personality left; everybody had the whole gamut of personalities. I felt, maybe I can make him unhappy; I’ll make him a brooding kind of guy. He’s a guy who worries about the fact that he’s an anachronism, he was born twenty years too early or too late, he feels out of sync in today’s time. He was living in our day, but yet he had the values of 20 or 30 years ago.  And I’ll make him the most natural leader that any group could have, because he has all these leadership qualities. But he’s never quite happy with what he’s doing: does he belong here? Should he? The one line I wrote that I liked the best–at one point, when he was soliloquizing, I had him say something about war, he used to follow orders all the time and he did whatever the government said to do and at one point I had him say, ‘I wonder if I should have battled less and questioned more?’ And the reason I remember the line, I must have had five hundred million college kids over the next few years saying how they thought that was terrific. “I always felt every character has to have a distinctive quality and when I was a kid and I read Captain America, the thing that impressed me—he was like Errol Flynn, I mean, he was such a beautiful man, he was so glamorous and handsome and I wanted to be Captain America! Sometimes I see him drawn now in some strips and he’s just a big, tough lookin’ guy. To me, he’s not Captain America. But that was my feeling about it.  I tried to make him a little bit interesting.  Jack just drew him so beautifully, and the stories worked out so well that he became part of the Marvel superhero characters, the one that I did not create.

Now I was looking for something different and bigger than anything else and I figured, what could be bigger than a god?  People were pretty much into the Roman and the Greek gods by then, and I thought the Norse gods might be good. I liked the sound of the name Thor and Asgaard and the Twilight of the Gods' Ragnarok and all of that. Jack was very much into that, more so than me, so when I told Jack about that, he was really thrilled. We got together, and we did Thor the same way.  I wanted him to be the son of Odin, who is the King of the Gods, like Jupiter. And I wanted him to have an evil brother, Loki. And just like the Fantastic Four were always fighting Dr. Doom, and Spider-Man was usually fighting the Green Goblin, I figured Loki would be the big villain. He's Thor's half brother. He's jealous of Thor.  He has enchantment powers. So in a way he's a good foe. Thor has strength, but Loki is like a magician and can do all kind of things. So that seemed good to me.  Then Thor had a girlfriend from legend called Sif, S-I-F. And I would have her involved in the stories and have jealousy.  I wanted some comedy relief, so I decided there were three guys. I called them The Warriors that I wanted to include a very fat guy named Volstag, The Voluminous Volstag, I called him, who acts like a real hero. "Come on, let's go get them." But when the fights start, he's cowardly and always holds back.  Another guy like Errol Flynn called Fandral the Dashing and a guy like Charles Bronson in Death Wish. I think I called him Hogan the Grim. And the three of them, Fandral the Dashing, Hogan the Grim, and Volstag the Voluminous I thought they could be Thor's friends, and they would provide comedy relief.  And it was something that we both enjoyed doing very much. And Jack was wonderful with the costumes that he gave them. I mean, nobody could have drawn costumes like he gave them.  Thor had a hammer, an enchanted hammer. The back story was I decided to make him a guy here on Earth, he was lame and he walked with a cane. And for some reason he went to Norway, and there he met the Stone-Men from Saturn or somewhere, aliens who were stone men had landed in Norway and they wanted to kill our doctor.  He rushes into a cave somewhere to hide from them. As they're coming toward him, but he sees a hammer in the ground, and some kind of a sign that said -- I don't remember the exact wording, whoever is worthy would be able to lift this hammer, sort of like the King Arthur legend.  He grabs the hammer, and he's able to lift it up, it seems that destiny had prepared that for him over the centuries. The minute it lifts it up, he turns into The Thunder God Thor, and wielding the hammer the takes care of the Stone-Men. He can always become Dr. Don Blake, if he hits the hammer on the ground, it turns back into the cane that he always had because he was lame. He walked with a cane as Dr. Don Blake.   So he's a surgeon, who walks with a cane, but when he hits the cane on the ground, he turns into the mighty Thor, God of Thunder. And that was the idea.

I came up with Thor because I’ve always been a history buff. I know all about Thor and Balder and Mjolnir, the hammer. Nobody ever bothered with that stuff except me. I loved it in high school and I loved it in my pre-high school days. It was the thing that kept my mind off the general poverty in the area. When I went to school that’s what kept me in school — it wasn’t mathematics and it wasn’t geography; it was history.  I researched it and gave my version of it. Stan gave his version of it. Stan humanized it in a way where, for instance, I might be concerned about Thor’s relation to the other gods. I might bring up a Ulik or I might bring up something out of the wild blue yonder, like the Oracle–that great big thing which nobody knew anything about. I tried to fathom it myself. And Stan would come down to Earth and find Thor’s relationship with Earth people. In other words, we go up and down the spectrum.  All through the years, certainly, I've had a kind of affection for any mythological type of character, and my conception of what they should look like. And here Stan gave me the opportunity to draw one, and wasn't going to draw back from really letting myself go, so I did, and, like, the world became a stage for me there, and t had a costume department that really went to work. I gave the Norse characters twists that they never had in anybody's imagination. And somehow it turned out to be a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed doing it.  I loved Thor because I loved legends. I’ve always loved legends. Stan Lee was the type of guy who would never know about Balder and who would never know about the rest of the characters. I had to build up that legend of Thor in the comics.  I built up Loki. I simply read Loki was the classic villain and, of course, all the rest of them. I even threw in the Three Musketeers. I drew them from Shakespearean figures. I combined Shakespearean figures with the Three Musketeers and came up with these three friends who supplemented Thor and his company, and this is the way I kept these strips going by creative little steps like that.  
 --Jack Kirby

I got the synopsis, the plot from Stan, and I wrote the first script of Thor.  That was it.  The civilian name of Don Blake I made up. And I also came up with his hammer. I made that, which people know about. My Uru hammer, I created that.  I just made it up, as far as I know.  I might have read it.  Stan liked the way I made up names, civilian names, and I used to, from my years of doing these, what do you call it, these fantasy books, monster books, and I used to look at the back of dictionary, Miriam Webster had biographical names and geographical, so I would look in towns and if I liked the town, I might put it. And it was kind of fun and he liked what I did.  Now, I don't know if I found "Uru" someplace or I just made it up or whatever. I know I made it short because I felt that Thor might be around a while and I was always worrying about the letterer or somebody. I was worrying about somebody else's feeling, and I figured, well, if I make it U-R-U, there's not that much to letter. And since nobody knows the name of it, I'll make it a short name. So that's why I did that.  And Don Blake I just thought sounded like a doctor and, you know, to fit the personality. I tried to get names that fit the -- the person.  
 -– Larry Lieber

With Daredevil, I gave that to Bill Everett.   I figure I will get a blind man and make him a hero. And how you do that? So I said, what if all his other senses are very acute? What if he can hear so well that he can tell if you're lying to him because he hears your pulse rate speed up, your heart beat, and he can smell so well he can tell if a girl has been in a room.  He could smell her cologne, even if it was two days ago. You know, you get your balance through your ears. So he's like an acrobat, like a circus tightrope walker. He can do anything any trained athlete can do. And on and on. I figured that's kind of good. Oh, and he has a radar sense and a sonar sense. So when he's Daredevil, nobody knows he's blind. He is like the greatest circus acrobat.  However, he has a law office. His name was Murdock, Matt Murdock, he has a friend named Foggy Nelson and they have a law firm called Nelson and Murdock. I had him fighting villains who weren't too super. He didn't fight monsters or anything and I tried to keep the strip a little more realistic.  I loved the character.  Jack was busy, Steve Ditko was busy, everybody was busy, but there's an artist named Bill Everett who had done one of the first strips that Martin Goodman ever had when he started Timely Comics. And that was the Sub-Mariner. Bill was still around, and I called him and I said, "How would you like to draw Daredevil? And he said, "Oh, great."  He drew it, and I put in the copy. It's a shame Bill was ill or something. He couldn't do too many strips. He did one or two and then that was the end of it.

I had a story conference with Stan and we hashed it over. He really didn’t seem to have any ideas, but we worked out a plot, and he sent me the synopsis. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. In one line, Stan indicated that he wanted a three-page fight sequence, in a garage, or whatever. Nothing else. So I called and asked him what I should do. He said, “You know, throw some tires around, do something with some oil, make it up as you go.” Well, that didn’t help. I’m not used to working that way. I like a full script.   
 -– Joe Orlando (who replaced Bill Everett as artist on Daredevil)

Stan was the scripter, but I was coming up with most of the ideas. It finally got to the point where I told him that if he was the writer, he’d have to come up with the plots. So, we just sat across the desk from one another in silence.    
--Wally Wood (who replaced Joe Orlando as artist on Daredevil)

I was plotting from Daredevil. It was done from plotting, not from a script. That’s why I was completely befuddled. I even did a romance style splash on my first Daredevil, but Stan liked it so much that he accepted it and said it was a good counterpoint. Instead of having an action splash he had Matt Murdock looking back up at his office in the building and Karen Page looking out the window at him. In fact he utilized it and wrote, “Don’t let this pastoral scene disturb you, the action is coming soon enough!”  
 --John Romita (who replaced Wally Wood as artist on Daredevil)

Martin asked me for another team because the Fantastic Four had been doing well. Again I wanted to try something different. And I thought what -- I could think of superpowers for them, but how do they get their powers? I have already had cosmic rays and gamma rays and bitten by a radioactive spider. What was left?  So I took the cowardly way out. I said I'm going to just say they were born that way. They're mutants. Now I don't have to figure out gamma rays or anything. So I decided to have a group of young mutants.   And I really, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I said, they'll go to a school. They have to keep their mutant powers secret, so it will just say a School for Gifted Youngsters. Nobody will know it means mutants.  And we'll get a professor who gets them together. And this guy should also have mutant powers, but I will make him have mental powers. He's got a brain.   He can send thought waves all around, and he can send his thought waves around to detect where there's a kid with mutant powers, and then he'll ask that kid to enroll in his school. And again, so that he isn't too powerful, I thought I would make him in a wheelchair. He's the professor.  Then I thought of the characters. There would be a girl called Marvel Girl, who could do crazy things, and a fella called The Beast, who looks a little bit apelike.  To go against type, I made him the smartest and the most articulate of all of them.  And a guy named The Angel with wings, and so forth.   And when I went to tell the idea to Martin Goodman he loved it, but I said, "I want to call it The Mutants."  He said, "That's a terrible name. Nobody knows what the word "mutants" means." So I went back, and I thought about it. And I thought Professor X, Xavier.  And the mutants have extra powers. For some reason I thought I could call them the X-Men. I went back to Martin and he said, "Oh, that's a good name."  As I walked out, I thought, if nobody knows what a mutant is, how were they going to know what an X-Man is? But I had my name, so I wasn't about to make waves.  Luckily, Jack was free at the time. And again, he did a wonderful job.  Jack was the best guy to work with, you can imagine.  Any idea I would give him, he could make it better. When Jack brought in the first story, it opened with all the X-Men fighting in the place they called The Danger Room, where they were trained. That was Jack's idea. And it was the most brilliant opening because it started with action and showed all their abilities immediately.

There was a television series called The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that I used to watch and I liked it. I thought it would be fun to get something like that as a comic book.  So I remembered we had done a war series called Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, Stories of World War II. And it was quite popular. I don't really like war stories, so after a few years of doing it I asked Martin if we could drop the book so we could concentrate on superheroes and he said okay. But we got a lot of fan mail. The kids loved the characters. And we kept reprinting those books, and they sold as well as the originals.  So when I wanted to do the thing like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I thought why don't I take that popular Sgt. Fury that was years ago in World War II, why don't I say he's older now and he's a colonel, and he's in charge of this new outfit that I made up, S.H.I.E.L.D, which stood for the Supreme Headquarters International Law Enforcement Division. So I took Sgt. Fury, who now has a patch over one eye, and made him in charge of this group.   And again, there was Jack Kirby. I said, "How would you like to draw Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.?”  It was right up Jack's alley. He loves that kind of stuff and he came up with all kind of weapons and things.

When I did S.H.I.E.L.D., I had to go five-to ten years beyond James Bond. I couldn't accept Bond, but he was the big rage. S.H.I.E.L.D. was to be patterned on the super-secret agent, just like James Bond.  But James Bond already was and I had to go beyond him–that was my job. I had to experiment with things.  I had to take one leap beyond James Bond. Every time a James Bond picture came out, I had to have four or five gimmicks in a story which would allow a reader to see something different than James Bond. If I had the kind of gimmicks James Bond used, then you wouldn’t read the comic.  
 -– Jack Kirby

The covers in those days, the covers were the most important thing, because we didn't have fans the way we do now. Today, fans go to a book store, did the latest Fantastic Four come in yet? In those days we sold according to how attractive a book looked on the newsstand. A kid would walk in the news stand, and whatever caught his eye he'd pick up.  This was something that my publisher Martin Goodman was an expert in. He taught me a lot about what to do to a cover to make it stand out, what kind of color schemes to use, and so forth.  I paid a lot of attention to covers. They were very important.  I usually, almost always, would say what I wanted the cover to be. Sometimes I'd make a little thumbnail sketch. I'm no great artist, but I would just indicate where I wanted the character.  I was very careful about the covers, and I would say what the illustration should be, where I wanted the caption, where I wanted a blurb, how I wanted -- whether I wanted a close-up or a long shot, whether I wanted it to be an action scene or just a dramatic scene. That I spent a lot of time on.

There was a time when I was writing so many stories that I couldn't keep up with the artists. I couldn't feed them enough work.  For example, if Jack was working on a story, and Steve was waiting for me to give him a story because he had had finished what he had been doing, I couldn't keep him waiting because he wasn't making money. He was a freelancer. He wasn't on salary.  I would be writing a story for Jack and one of the other artists might walk in, John Buscema or Romita or somebody, and they needed a script and if I didn't have a script for them, they weren't getting paid. They were standing around with nothing to do.  So I hadn't finished typing the script for Kirby, and here is Romita who needs a script. So I said, "Look, John. I can't stop what I'm doing, but here's the story that I would like you to do. I will tell it to you. You draw it any way you want. I will put in the dialogue and the captions later." And he did.  Then Ditko would walk in, and I would say that to him, and Gil Kane, and whoever they were. Now, it was done originally in order to save time. It was sort of an emergency situation, but I found we're getting better stories and artwork that way. Because instead of me writing Panel 1, closeup, blah blah blah; Panel 2 a longshot from up above or whatever, I was leaving it to the artist.   I would say, “I don't have time to write your script for you, but this is the idea for the story. I'd like this fill in, and I'd like this to happen, and in the end the hero ends by doing this. You go ahead and draw it any way you want to, as long as you keep to that main theme.  I will keep finishing Jack's story and when you finish drawing this one, I will put in all the dialogue and the captions.”   That way I could keep one artist working while I was finishing something for another artist. That worked out so well that I began doing that with just about all the artists. I would just give them an idea for a story; let them draw it any way they wanted to.  No matter how they drew it, even if they didn't do it as well as I might have wanted, I was conceited enough to think I could fix it up by the way I put the dialogue and the captions in.  I'd make sense out of it even if they may have done something wrong.  I was able to keep a lot of artists busy at the same time by using that system.  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.  If they did anything a little different, it was usually an improvement, and I would change the dialogue and to suit what they had done.

That was my first introduction to Stan and to the Marvel style of writing.  I had never worked that way before.  I was amazed.  You see this very tall, cool gentleman.  You know, a businessman.  He’s got a lot of class about him.  He’s relaxed.  He’s talking through a story and all of a sudden he gets animated.  At one point he jumps up on the desk!  He’s living out a part of the story.  I was completely floored.  I was so busy watching Stan acting out these scenes that… I never expected to see this guy, this top editor, so caught up in a story conference.   
--Ross Andru

That whole thing that he and Jack started was strictly for expediency because he didn’t have the scripts ready. That’s the reason. It was not done out of any stroke of genius, it was done out of expedience. Jack would call up and say, “Stan, I didn’t get the story yet, or the script” and Stan would say, “Ok, what I’m going to do is describe the first five or six pages in action for you, do them without words and when you send them in I’ll put the words in” That’s how it grew into the Marvel method of art first and script second. It was like sunlight had come into the room because this was a visual medium that had become a verbal medium for fifty ears, and suddenly it was the visual medium that it had intended to be in the first place. I think that the biggest thing Stan and Jack contributed to the industry was that. Visual first was a huge step forward; it was like a quantum leap.  
 --John Romita

I felt, we have the greatest artists; we had Kirby, we had Ditko, we had Colan, we had Buscema, we had Romita, we had Gil Kane, we had Ross Andru, on and on. All I ever wanted was to get the guy to work the best he could in his own style.  See, one thing that had been said about me—I used to read it here and there, it wasn’t true–was that I wanted everyone to work in Jack’s style, I wanted to get a Marvel style, I wanted everybody to draw the same way. And that’s 180 degrees away from what I really wanted. What I wanted was everybody to do it differently.  I was very lucky, because I had the kind of artists who were great visual storytellers, and I'm sure that they dreamed up shots that I never would have even thought of. So when I got the artwork back from them, it was beautiful, because they had the freedom to tell the story in their own way visually.  Also, it was easier for me then to write the dialogue, because as you can imagine, if you're typing and looking at a blank sheet of paper, you're imagining what the people would say. And you're imagining how they would look in the drawing.  But when you have the drawing in front of you, and when you see somebody drawn like, aagghh!, you know, you write "Aagghh!" It makes it so obvious.  And what started as an emergency situation, it turned out, I thought, to be the best way to do the stories, and that, after awhile, became known as the Marvel Method.  And it turned out to be quite successful, and we worked that way for years.

It’s a misinterpretation.  The way he would put it would be oh, you see the way so and so puts his blacks, how he spots his blacks in the drawings, or how he’s dramatic and does this and does that and gets more story into it.  He’d coach you that way.  But I never had the feeling that he wanted me to, in fact I knew he didn’t want me to work like Kirby.  One day I drew exactly the way Kirby pencilled, it was a Rawhide Kid I think, I took it in and Stan looked back and he says “If I wanted you to trace, or if I wanted somebody to trace Kirby’s drawings then I could hire them off the streets.”  He says: “I want you to put stuff into it.”  And then he went on into a long story about what he wanted here and there and said, “If Kirby only puts a figure in a panel with no background or anything then you can take your brush and throw in some background or something and make it a little bit more dramatic.”  And so that was how I made it look my way and type of stuff where I could touch the inks and touch the pencils and make it look a bit more realism into it.   
--Dick Ayers

Stan would always say, “Joe, look at some of the EC books and study John Severins work,” because John’s always been one of my favorites.  John did great war stories and he was very authentic.  If he drew a rifle you knew it was accurate.  So Stan encouraged his young artists to look at other peoples work and draw in a similar style like John Severin or Jack Kirby.  Mainly he told us to look at John Severin’s work for reference so to speak.  If you were to draw an army tank for example, John’s stuff was so accurate and he really researched his work.  All artists did that.   
--Joe Sinnott

I remember there was one time some artists had wanted an increase in their page rate, and they felt they weren't getting paid enough. Martin was in a pretty gloomy mood that day, and he said to me, “You know what they don't realize? They don't realize the risk that I'm taking, because if the books don't sell, it costs -- I lose a lot of money, and I have no guarantee the books will sell, and we have periods for month after month after month where I'm losing money where the books don't sell. But I don't cut their rate. I don't fire them. I try to keep going as much as possible.”  And he gave me this whole thing from the publisher's point of view.

This is the way the conferences went.  Very often Jack would say more than "mm-hmm." You know, he might contribute something or he might say, "Stan, let's also do this or do that." I mean, we had conversations.  But aside from that, yes, we would get together. I would tell Jack the main idea that I wanted, and then we would talk about it, and we'd come up with something.  I would give him the outline for the story.  As we went on, and we had been working together for years, the outlines I gave him were skimpier and skimpier. I might say something like: In this story let's have Dr. Doom kidnap Sue Storm, and the Fantastic Four has to go out and rescue them. And in the end, Dr. Doom does this and that.  And that might have been all I would tell him for a 20-page story. If the book was 20 pages long, I'd receive back 20 beautifully drawn pages in pencil which told a story.  Jack would just put in all the details and everything. And then it was -- I enjoyed that. It was like doing a crossword puzzle. I get the panels back, and I have to put in the dialogue and make it all tie together.  So we worked well together that way for years.

When I would give Jack a rough idea for what the story should be, and he went home and he drew it in his own way, laying it out the way he thought it would be best, he would put in the borders, the margins of the pages, he would put little notes -- so I would understand what he was getting at with each drawing, and he would sometimes put dialogue suggestions also.  Very often I would write dialogue to fill up spaces. In other words, I also indicated where the dialogue balloons and the captions should go on the artwork. I might not have written so much if he had made the face bigger, but inasmuch as there was that space on the upper right-hand part of the page, I put in more dialogue to sort of dress up the -- balance the panel with picture and dialogue. That was something else I had mentioned but I concentrated very much on.  I always made the indications for the letter -- before giving my strips to a letterer, I always indicated in pencil after I typed out the dialogue where the dialogue should go in the panel and the sound effects also.  When he drew the strip, he might introduce a lot of characters that he came up with in the story. He might have decided to have Dr. Doom send some giant robot to get Sue Storm, and he would make up the robot. Or there might be some other people. Sure, Jack would often introduce a lot of new characters in the stories.  I wouldn't have cared if Jack devoted, let's say, six pages to this and he changed that to three pages. Just so he got the idea what I had this mind. But he was good at making his own changes, and very often he'd improve them.

Stan Lee and I never collaborated on anything! I’ve never seen Stan Lee write anything[i]. I used to write the stories just like I always did.  I dialogued them. If Stan Lee ever got a thing dialogued, he would get it from someone working in the office. I would write out the whole story on the back of every page. I would write the dialogue on the back or a description of what was going on. Then Stan Lee would hand them to some guy and he would write in the dialogue. In this way Stan Lee made more pay than he did as an editor. This is the way Stan Lee became the writer. Besides collecting the editor’s pay, he collected writer’s pay. I’m not saying Stan Lee had a bad business head on. I think he took advantage of whoever was working for him.  On The Fantastic Four, I’d tell him what I was going to do, what the story was going to be, and I’d bring it in — that’s all.   
-- Jack Kirby

I would write and I wrote stories for Jack Kirby who was so fast; he was drawing faster than I could write.  I had to keep feeding him stories; he needed them to earn a living.  I think he was living in New Jersey at the time and I’d go to the post office on Saturday night and send the stuff there.  I did that for a few years; and then they started making up the Super Heroes and I wrote a few of the first, Ant Man and Iron Man and Thor.  Stan again made up the plots, but I made up the civilian names for a few of them that I create.  Let’s see, the Ant Man was Henry Pym.  I made up the name Henry Pym and Don Blake I made up for Thor and Tony Stark I made up, you know.  But the important names, such as Ant Man, Thor and Iron Man, Stan made up.  
 --Larry Lieber

I don't even know the real reason why Jack Kirby left Marvel. He never told me. He may have just been tired of having his name always linked with mine. Because when he went to DC, he did things on his own. He wrote and he illustrated his own books. So that may have been what he wanted to do.  I suspect that Jack just felt maybe like I felt after all those years, I wanted to do something different...that he wanted to do his own thing. The first few years of his career, so many things said by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby...I suspect he woke up one morning and said, gee, all these years everything has said by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and he probably wanted to prove how good he is on his own.  I know we never had a fight. We got along beautifully.

There comes a time when you’ve had a gut-full of everything. I had a gut-full of Marvel, a gut-full of New York.  First of all, Marvel already had very popular strips going, and they didn’t throw any ropes around me to hold me. It was my decision. They knew I was going to make it anyway, and so I went over to DC to do it.  They didn’t care because they had all these artists waiting in the wings who drew like Jack Kirby. Kirby imitators.  DC was actually like a haven because I was an individual there. I was able to do something under my own name. In other words, if I wrote, “Jack Kirby” wrote it. If I drew, “Jack Kirby” drew it. And the truth was there, and I began to write and draw, and I felt at last a sense of freedom, and with the sales rising from those books, my freedom became more apparent to me, and I felt a hell of a lot better. 
--Jack Kirby

I suddenly realized I was enjoying what I was doing. I could have been writing movies: I was worrying about characterization, I was worrying about dialogue...When I wrote Thor, I had him speaking in a semi-Shakespearean manner. Everybody told me I was crazy. They told me that no little kid is going to read stories whose characters say thing like get thee hence, varlet!, and I said the hell they won't. Well, Thor became one of our most popular characters, and I used to get letters from college kids who'd say I've been reading Thor and I've just noticed that you're actually writing in blank verse, the meter is perfect, it scans, and they started discussing it in class and so forth.  I'd get letters from kids who were doing term papers on the origins of Doctor Strange's incantations and they'd say, well, it's obvious from my research that you're basing this on old Druid writings. Which was nice to know, considering I'd never read old Druid writings.  So I felt I was doing things that hadn't been done before. I was able to get away with it because nobody was really paying very much attention.

I tried to introduce style. Heretofore nearly all the stories had been done, ours and the competitions, in the same style.  The caption would say "therefore" or “the next day" or "meanwhile"...that was the extent of the captions. I tried to write captions that said something. I tried to develop an informal breezy method of communicating with the reader. We inaugurated the Bullpen Bulletin Page, kind of a club page, where we brought the reader into our little circle and made him a friend rather than just a fan or a reader.  Thinking back, the whole thing was treated like an advertising campaign. The catch phrases, like "Make Mine Marvel" and "Face Front" and "Excelsior".  I did it unconsciously, but it all was in the direction as though, I guess, as though I was building a product. I wanted to make Marvel Comics a product that people would love.  I was always thinking that the good things I did would be done outside of comics. Because what the hell good can you do in comics?

The incredible thing about it is here we are one form of media that not only seems to appeal to older people but we still have as many younger readers as any other comic book group, if not more. We seem to have luckily found the way to produce a product that can be enthusiastically enjoyed by kids from the age of six to twelve and also enjoyed and appreciated by one of the most sophisticated and hardest to please groups in the world, which is the high school and college kids.  So I'm very proud of that. I would think that's one of our biggest successes.

I don't have time to write refutations. I had picked up a magazine that was one instance out of thousands of instances, I'm always picking up the magazines and I was usually always saying hey Roy, Jesus, I just looked at the FF, what a great story, you never-told me about that plot, it's sensational.  I just picked up this, where did you get this artist, he's the best one I've seen.  We had so many books it was virtually becoming impossible for Roy Thomas to edit them. If you're producing fifty books a month, how the hell can you edit them if you're one person? There isn’t even time to read them. After a while an editor becomes almost a traffic manager.  I really don't think that editorially we had gotten off the track. And I'm not saying this politically. Don't forget, I was always in editorial control, I was always determining what books we would put out and what the style would be. I would oversee the covers. And Roy would discuss with me any major policy changes if the storylines were going to take unusual directions.  But I left the actual editing and art direction to Roy. And I was perfectly happy, the books were absolutely in the direction I wanted them to be. Had they not been I would have changed them, because it's much too important a business, and too personal a business, for me to allow the books not to be the way I feel they should be.

In the first fifteen years or so that I was the head writer and editor at Timely and Atlas, I remember, my wife and I would go to cocktail parties and somebody would say, what do you do, and I'd say, “Oh, I'm a writer.”  “Really? What do you write?”  And I'd start getting a little nervous and I'd say, “Uh, magazine stories,” “Really? What magazine?” And I knew there was no way of avoiding it, and I'd end up saying comic books, and suddenly the person's expression would change, “Oh, isn't that nice,” and walk away, you know, looking for some television or radio or novelist celebrity.  That's all changed now. I go to places and I'm held up as one of the more interesting celebrities and people go over to the playwrights, you know, and say hey, I want you to meet Stan Lee, he's the head of Marvel Comics, and he made up Spiderman. And I must say I'm very happy that this has happened. It's like achieving one of my goals, because I remember I wrote an editorial, it must have been a good fifteen years ago, and I said one of our main objectives would be bringing some additional measure of respect to comics, that I would consider myself and our company successful if we found a way before we were through this vale of tears to elevate comics in the minds of the public. So that if somebody said, I write comics, or I draw for comics, that people would say, hey, really? Tell us about it, and not say, a grown man like you? You know what I mean?   So from that point of view I'm very happy now.



[i] According to Greg Theakston, Stan Lee was approached with the view of suing either The Comics Journal and/or Jack Kirby about this statement.  As Theakston recounts it in his book, Jack Magic Vol II: “I immediately called Roz and was astonished when she justified their stand with “If Stan Lee can lie, so can we.” In the interview Jack claims that Stan Lee never wrote anything, didn’t really edit the books, couldn’t spell and didn’t come up with any of the characters. I said, “Stan has written tons of stuff.” And Roz countered “Not on Jack’s work. Jack wrote those stories.” “Okay, even if that were true, he certainly wrote for Don Heck, Dick Ayers and others.” “We were talking about Jack.” “But, Jack said Stan didn’t write ‘anything,’ which is wrong. He could sue you if he wanted. And it finally settled in with a quiet “Oh, my.” I immediately dialed Stan, who was quite reasonably steamed about the piece. “Greg, I’ve already had three lawyers call to offer to sue on my behalf but I’m not gonna do it. I’m not going to make things worse than they are.” I explained how sorry the Kirbys were, that things were spoken in the heat of the moment that should never have made it into print. “Gary (Groth) should have known better,” was his answer. “I’d sue Gary but I’d have to drag the Kirbys into it. So, I’m washing my hands of it.” Stan has a fair amount of detractors, but I’m not one of them because of this kind of generosity.”

32 comments:

Mikeyboy said...

you deserve an award for this piece. Did you write the entire article or borrow parts? I love it.
I believe that Stan and Jack had an understanding in the creativity department...they worked off each others Genius and collaborated.
I firmly believe in the panels I sat in on at CONS from the accounts I first hand heard from both fella's...they were a team...except for the art...whatever Stan say's he created...it's half true. I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter as Wood points out is Lee was a thief. Wood told Lee if Lee was going to be the writer and get paid for it Lee had to come up with the plots. When you look at the books Lee credits himself as the sole writer on every issue except #10, and that apparently caused so much friction that Wood quit Marvel shortly after that. Similarly Ditko insisted on being credited and paid for plotting Spider-Man which apparently irritated Lee so much that he would no longer speak top Ditko. Ditko said in a letter to Comic Book Marketplace that he had to leave his story and penciled pages with Sol Brodsky.
Lee mentioned in his deposition he was paid a salary as editor, and a page rate for writing. The artists were plotting the stories, and Lee was taking the whole page rate for himself.

Kid said...

From what I understand, Kirby and Ditko were paid a higher page rate than anybody else as compensation for their contributions to the plots.

Also, I don't think, in the main, that it's entirely fair to say that anybody 'lied' as such - it's just that accuracy sometimes fell victim to faulty memories so long after the events.

mr ed said...

Kid, That isn't true, Marvel's page rates during the period in question where horrible. According to John Romita Lee was offering him only half of what DC was paying.
And based on Lee's deposition the artists created nothing but the drawings. One thing Disney did in the deposition was take Lee through the creative process, and Lee is very specific in crediting the artists with nothing except the art. I'd invite anyone who has read the deposition to find one (aside from the Silver Surfer) instance where Lee credits an artist with anything you could put a name on.
What Lee does is lavish praise on the artists as artists. As a matter of fact there is a long section of the deposition where Toberoff asks Lee to explain a long list of old interview statements, and sections of the Origins books where Lee has acknowledged the artists contributions to the plots, and Lee now says he only said those things to make the artists "feel like we were doing it together."
We only get to see a bit of this because Disney had control of which portions of the depositions were made public, but it's clear that portion of the deposition went on for a very long time based on Lee's comment at one point about the length of the cross-examination, and the large number of exhibits Toberoff was going over.

Mikeyboy said...

The fine art of praising and then not fully crediting someone is not lost on Stan Lee. He was and is very good at that indeed.
But as we clarified once before. When you worked at a publishing house like that back then there was a mutual understanding that the HOUSE held all the intellectual properties on characters and so on. Being that Stan was the Big Chief and he stamped his name all over everything , he is the guy who takes the credit.
No disrespect to Wally or Steve but...Steve Ditko is a bit of a recluse and always has been. There is no doubt his eccentricities were no less apparent back then. BUT...keep in mind you think Amazing Fantasy 15..you're thinking Ditko. Not Lee.
Legendary comic books drawn by a great artist.
However, Wally Wood...eccentricities...problems , troubles. Do we need to go there?
I love Stan Lee and Jack and Steve and Wally and Dick Ayers and even Larry...
Marvel comics is the power house owned by the powerhouse for one reason. It's Timeless...I enjoy the art and stories for what they are worth. Pure imaginitive entertainment. It's kind of a shame that business is business...because people deserve credit where it's due.
I never thought there'd ever be court cases like this and so many others. But there are. That is sad indeed.

mr ed said...

Another thing Lee did (and still does) is promote people like Ditko and Wood as artists,m when even most of Lee's most ardent supporters have long maintained Ditko, Wood, Kirby, were carrying the heavy weight as plotters at a minimum, and very possibly often having no communication with Lee at all. Ditko has said he was plotting Spider-Man for over a year before he was finally credited and paid for plotting, and that during that time he had zero contact with Lee.
BTW since Lee is still around would someone please ask him, "Stan aside from the Silver Surfer can you give us the name of one character which Kirby brought to you?"
For years Stan's fans have made one of their arguments Kirby had way to many ideas, and needed Stan to reign him in. Yet as Stan explains it in his deposition Kirby and the other artists contributions to the stories were limited to graphic story telling and "set decoration."

mr ed said...

BTW, As Dan mentioned Lee was under oath during his deposition testimony, but he was in no danger of being charged with perjury for a number of reasons.
Because there are no documents from the era in question (1958-1963) there is no way for anyone to proved anything. Lee made a number of statements under oath which were contradicted by just about every witness, including his brother Larry, and John Romita. The most specific example is Lee claiming Marvel always paid artists for rejected pages, and redraws. This wasn't a casual comment by Lee, his testimony about artists being paid for rejected pages, and redraws was made after James Quinn was seen talking to Lee during a break in testimony, and Quinn (as pointed out by Toberoff) questioned Lee about those issues right after the break which followed Toberoff's direct questioning of Lee in Dec 2010. Since there are no contracts you are left with Lee saying artists were paid for rejected pages, and redraws, and his brother Larry, John Romita, Gene Colan, Dick Ayers, and Joe Sinnott all saying they were paid only for pages accepted for publication.
In addition deposition statements may be amended or retracted prior to an actual trial, so even in the event some hard evidence was found indicating artists were not paid for rejected work, Lee would have been able to say he'd forgotten.
As the judge pointed out in her ruling Lee there was no one to counter Lee's testimony on most of the key points.
In my view the estates mistake was relying on Evanier and Morrow as their primary witnesses. Evanier and Morrow have a Kirby bias, but the fact is they have a Lee bias as well, particularly John Morrow who is publishing many for profit books and magazines about Marvel and Lee.
To have any chance the estate needed to call Ditko, Sinnott, Ayers, and Stan Goldberg. Very late in discovery they produced short declarations in support of Kirby from Gene Colan, Ayers, and Sinnott, but none of them were the subjects of a deposition.

Kid said...

Marvel's page rates may have been worse than DC's, but what I was getting at was that Kirby (and I think Ditko) got a higher rate than other artists AT Marvel. I know I didn't imagine it, I actually read it somewhere - more than once. Whether or not it's true is obviously a different matter.

One must also remember that Lee has been the subject of a concerted attack in some quarters for many years, in an attempt to diminish - or completely negate - his contribution. Is it any wonder that he's on the defensive, as well as on the spot. Marvel, who he works for, remember, have obviously gone to him and said "Stan, downplay the collaborative aspect - it gives them something to use against us."

Which is not necessarily to suggest that Marvel are trying to deny anything from those it rightfully belongs to just for the mere sake of it, but that they are aware that conceding even the smallest claim of those opposing them could have a disproportionate effect in how such an admission may be used against them.

Example: Stan at one time had no problem in crediting Steve Ditko as a full and equal collaborator in the creation of Spider-Man. (In how the finished product appeared to the public - not in the concept.) Now, Ditko doesn't seem interested in pursuing a claim, but Marvel's lawyers can obviously see how such an admission could open the door to a claim on copyrights and royalties by Ditko if he was so inclined, which, from Marvel's point of view, they don't believe he is legitimately entitled to under the 'work for hire' agreement.

Is it therefore any wonder that Stan finds himself between a rock and a hard place? I don't envy him. If I thought that giving credit to the guy who wallpapered my livingroom gave him a claim on the profits from the sale of my house, I'd no doubt be similarly inclined to downplay his contribution.

mr ed said...

Kid, I'd dispute the idea Lee had no problem crediting Ditko as co-creator of Spider-Man. I remember the scene from the Ross film well, and it's almost insulting the way Lee characterizes it. He says Ditko wants to think of himself as the co-creator, and if it makes Ditko happy he'll go along, but it's very easy to see Lee is being patronizing.
Almost all of Lee's fans have for years asserted that Kirby did the lions share of the plotting and character creation. You could visit a very Lee friendly place like the Marvel Masterworks board and find ardent Lee fans who view Kirby with open scorn saying things like, "No one disputes Kirby did the bulk of the plotting." In fact the argument has always been not that Kirby didn't plot and create characters, but rather Kirby fans saying Lee didn't credit Kirby as a plotter and creator of characters, and Lee fans insisting that he was very generous in crediting the artists.
Dan posted the real reason Lee has withdrawn even the crumbs of credit he used to sweep off the table. Lee is paid one million dollars a year for life (along with many other benefits including sole ownership of "The Femizons"). In order to collect his one million Lee is forbidden from assisting in any way any challenge against Marvel's copyrights.

Kid said...

When I said that Lee once had no problem crediting Ditko, I was obviously (or so I thought) referring to a time well before the Ross interview, so you're getting the cart before the horse in what you say. That's why I went on to suggest why, in my opinion, there was an about-turn in his attitude.

Also, Kirby and Ditko never had success to anywhere near the same degree as with the stuff they did with Stan. So what was the common denominator in that success? Stan, of course.

Even if, for the sake of discussion, we agree to allow for Stan's contribution being nothing more than dialoguing, it's quite clear that Stan's scripting was the magic ingredient that made Jack and Steve's work even better than it was.

It's often the case with secret or magic ingredients - it's one seemingly little thing that has a disproportionate effect on whatever it's applied to. In Marvel's case, that was Stan Lee.

Unfortunately, neither Jack or Steve could ever appreciate that Stan's seemingly minimum contribution (in their view) played a large part in the success of the titles they worked on.

mr ed said...

Kid, When did Lee credit Ditko as a co-creator of Spider-Man prior top the Ross film?
Commercial success doesn't really have anything to do with this topic, and in my book means nothing.
Joe Kubert's Tarzan and the O'Neil Adams Green Lantern were bombs in the 70's, but far better comic books in my opinion than anything
Marvel published.
It's well known George Herriman's Krazy Kat was being carried in only a tiny number of papers during it's last decade. There were dozens of strips being carried in more newspapers. The awful Rod Stewart cover of "Downtown Train" outsold the Tom Waits original by a millions I'd guess. All through the 60's Lois Lane was crushing everything Marvel published.

Daniel Best said...

@Anon. I wish people would sign their names to what they post. I keep thinking that there’s one person out there named Anonymous who posts comments on blogs worldwide.



Yes, Lee isn’t perfect, and yes, he took money for writing that he clearly didn’t do. That was one of things I highlighted in the post. As for Ditko leaving, nobody really knows why he left, other than Ditko, and he hasn’t really told anyone, definitively, as to why he left. There are stories that he left because of the writing issue, or because he wasn’t happy about the direction the Green Goblin story was taking, or that he wasn’t happy about having his art altered, or that he wasn’t happy with the credits. Perhaps it was one of those issues, or all of them, or perhaps it was none of them. One thing to note is that Ditko left and didn’t return to Marvel until Martin Goodman was gone – read into that what you will. However he did do work at Atlas/Seaboard, which was run by Goodman. But as to why he left? Your guess is as good as anyones.

Kid said...

Stan often credited Ditko as co-creator of Spider-Man well before the Ross documentary, but I couldn't tell you exactly where, offhand. In the documentary, he refers to the paper he signed crediting Ditko as such, so that clearly predates the documentary itself.

However, no one can know for sure what he intended at the time he wrote it. He may well have meant to credit Steve with full and equal authorship when he signed it, with his later qualification of its meaning being a retroactive rationalisation once he realised the full implications of such an admission. I guess it's open to interpretation. Did he just mean Spider-Man the comicbook, or Spider-Man the character?

Certainly, as far as Spider-Man's first appearance goes, I don't see how anyone can deny Ditko credit as co-creator of the finished, published character.

However (and I'd have to look again at the documentary to be sure), MY impression was that Stan was laying claim to being sole creator of the 'concept' of Spider-Man - but that's where we can get bogged down in pedantry and semantics - trying to guess what people actually meant when they originally said it.

It's clear that, in the programme, Lee was understandably hedging his bets; he wanted to credit Ditko for his input, but not to the extent of gifting Sturdy Steve with ammunition for a claim against Marvel if he were so inclined.

Also, as I said, he was probably p*ssed off after years of everybody and his brother trying to rob him of credit for anything and everything, hence his guarded stance.

As for commercial success, it certainly meant something to DC. They hired Kirby because they bought into the myth that he was behind everything at Marvel and wanted to deprive them of the 'source' of it. (Little pun there.) They also wanted him to inject the same commercial success which Marvel seemed to be enjoying into titles of their own.

In the end 'though, we're measuring Kirby against himself. (If we ignore Lee for the moment.) Marvel were receiving critical and revived commercial success and DC wanted that. If they got Kirby they killed two birds with one stone; deprive Marvel of its golden goose (or so they thought), and have Kirby fans follow him over to DC in truckloads.

Neither of those things happened. Why? Kirby without Lee wasn't the force that either himself or DC imagined him to be. Which is not to say that what he produced at DC was bad - it just wasn't as good as what he did over at Marvel with Stan Lee's input.

Daniel Best said...

@Mr Ed: Marvel’s page rates were standard at the beginning of the time period in question, but they did go up as money came in. People have stated that Stan did go into bat and ensure that the likes of Kirby, Ditko and Romita were rewarded for effort. Kirby did go on record in the late 1960s to state that he was making approx $250,000 per year from his Marvel work – hardly chump change.

As for the depositions – you’re wrong there. Disney had control over what they wanted the court to see to aid their case, Toberoff had the same right. In a court case each side can pick and choose what portions of the entire deposition that they want people to see. To imply that Disney did not allow Toberoff to use portions of the deposition is incorrect. The fact might be that Stan kept to his party line and Toberoff was left with virtually nothing to use. Stan’s deposition went over two days in total, and a lot of it was just repeating the same thing, over and over. That’s how it works. As for the lack of documents – again, as I’ve pointed out, we’re expecting people to retain documents and have a clear recall of events that happened over 50 years ago, events that were day to day then and fairly meaningless. I’m amazed that people remember as much as they do.

Yes, the Marvel lawyer approached Lee during the break – Toberoff has done the same thing in other cases (he was accused of ‘coaching’ in the Siegel v DC case) and Marvel/Disney put forward a good case to suggest that the Toberoff camp wrote large portions of the Evanier and Morrow declarations as they covered the same ground and were virtually word for word in cases. Quid pro quo.

Evanier and Morrow weren’t bumped because they have a Kirby bias – which clearly showed in their depositions – but because they have a lack of first hand knowledge – as the judge put it, they simply weren’t there at the time. If it were me I’d be calling the likes of Sinnott, Ayers and Goldberg over Morrow, Evanier, Steranko and Adams. The former were there, the latter were not. It also didn’t help that the Kirby children had no idea what Jack did and all pretty much contradicted each other – Neal Kirby had no idea who published Ant Man, but was convinced that Jack created it.

Personally I’d love for someone to call Ditko in to give a deposition. It’d be a hoot. As for the others, yes, Toberoff left it very late and ran out of time, but then he was going for a settlement. The case happened because Marvel/Disney clearly felt that he wanted too much, so they forced his hand.

Stan committing perjury…well we may never know. However we do know that Kirby also lied – read the footnote. Did Stan lie? I believe he has in the past; I’m not convinced that he lied on the stand this time around. Did Kirby lie? At times, the answer is yes, and, it would appear, openly.

Daniel Best said...

@Kid - Jack Kirby is but one person who would deny Ditko a co-creator credit for Spider-Man, along with his family, Joe Simon and a few others. Personally I don't see it myself, but then the Kirby camp were also claiming the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner in the court case, so go figure.

Kid said...

Even if Jack told Stan about the S & K version of Spiderman (no hyphen), isn't there doubt as to whether he (Kirby) can even claim co-creatorship of that treatment of the character?

C. C. Beck was the original artist on the project, but Simon had Kirby redraw Beck's pages because he wasn't entirely satisfied with them. (Sound familiar?)

Apart from the name, S & K's Spiderman bore little or no resemblance to Marvel's character anyway, so surely neither Simon nor Kirby could legitimately claim creator status under those circumstances?

Who was it said "Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan"? He was sure right.

mr ed said...

Dan, You are flat out wrong that Toberoff could have released anything he wanted from the depositions. Don't take my word for it, ask a lawyer and they will confirm this for you. Here is the reason why the depositions were redacted. Disney asked for and was granted a court order that the depositions be placed under seal. What that means is nothing from them could be released unless Disney, Toberoff, and the judge all approved. So it's a fact nothing could be released with out Disney's approval. Now it's true Toberoff could have objected to the snips Disney wanted made public, but he apparently thought it was a wash.
It was mainly a PR move by Disney anyhow, since the judge saw everything.
Marvel's page rates in 1964 were about half of what DC was paying according to John Romita. He's mentioned this in several different interviews.
Where did KIrby go on record saying he was making $250,000 in the late 60's? Kirby's page rate at the time was identical to what Adams, Steranko, Romita, and Buscema were making which was $75 per page. Kirby averaged about 60-65 pages a month during the second half of the 60's. So say 800 pages a year at $75 per page.
And I do agree Toberoff made a big mistake not bringing in Ayers, Goldberg, Sinnott, and particularly Ditko.

mr ed said...

BTW, here is the docket entry where the judge granted Disney's request for a Protective Order covering the depositions. It's standard in the US that corporations ask for and are granted Protective Orders on the grounds that the order will protect "trade secrets."
The appeal is alive, but Justia hasn't chosen to make it a featured case, and so the court records are only available through paid subscription services like PACER.
http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2010cv00141/356975/34/

mr ed said...

Oh, And one of the more remarkable things about the depositions of Morrow and Evanier is both of them said they hadn't read Lee's deposition which I find almost incredible. I'm sure Dan would love to have the opportunity to to read both Quinn's May 2010 deposition of Lee and Toberoff's Dec 2010 deposition of Lee. Combined the depositions were hundred of pages more than the snips we've seen, and both those men had the chance to read them, and both said they hadn't.

Anonymous said...

I'd say the Theakston quote says it all. And that's someone as close to the Kirbys as Evanier was.

I wish people could get it into their mind that, to celebrate Jack, you don't have to tear down Stan.

Say all you want about Stan- he's never done that to anyone.

-Justin H.

mr ed said...

I love the fact there are people who see Stan as the slighted party in all this.
Who are these people tearing down Stan Lee? It's Stan who has torn down Kirby from the very start by constantly denigrating Kirby's creative contribution by crediting Kirby as nothing but an artist. This reaches new heights in Lee's deposition. Some people may say they don't think Lee lied under oath in his deposition, and that's fine, but they should understand that if they accept the idea Stan was telling the truth, then they accept as fact Kirby was nothing but an artist. This is the Kirby who Stan's fans have been claiming for years was such a creative force that he needed Lee to reign him in, but as Stan tells it in his deposition Kirby created nothing except the artwork. Stan says ever character, every plot came from him
during the years 1958-1963. So if any of Stan's fans say Kirby brought Stan a character, or plot, remember you're tearing down Stan, because he's 100% clear it all started with him, and that Kirby was an illustrator.
And if anyone happens to see Stan please ask him, "Stan, Can you give me the name of one character Jack Kirby brought to you between the years 1958-1964?"

Kid said...

Stan freely admits - and always has - that Jack introduced the Silver Surfer character into the 'Galactus trilogy' all by himself.

Considering the fact that the Surfer was clearly Stan's favourite Marvel character at one time, that's a pretty big admission.

And since Roz freely admitted to lying, and Jack's family were claiming ownership of just about every Marvel character going, is it any wonder if Stan's memory has suddenly become more selective?

mr ed said...

The Surfer was created after the time period in question which is 1958-1963. Even then though Stan says he created Galactus with no input from Kirby.
What do you mean Stan's memory has become more selective? Are you saying he lied under oath?

mr ed said...

These stories about Kirby's supposed lies told by Kirby and the ominous threat of a Lee lawsuit shouldn't be taken seriously.
Let's say Lee sued Kirby. How would he prove he wrote the stories? There weren't any scripts. Even if he produced the synopsis Roger Stern found in Stan's old desk in the early 70's how would Lee prove he wrote the synopsis prior to speaking with Kirby.
It's clear when Kirby said Lee never wrote anything he wasn't talking about the printed comic books, but rather the story Kirby gave to Stan, the one which often never made it into print as Kirby intended. Now it's true Kirby also said Lee got someone in the office to fill in the balloons. The thing is for all Kirby knew this was true. Lee didn't write in the office he wrote at home, and Kirby probably never saw Lee write anything. As John Romita put it, "I'd bet my house Jack never read the printed books."
Got to say though that Greg Theakston should be really proud of himself for publishing a quote, which we don't know the full context of, or even if it's accurate. And of course that supposed quote from Roz is now brought up constantly by people who think they have to tear down Jack to praise Stan.

Daniel Best said...

@Mr Ed - I get my documents from Pacer, not Justia, for that very reason.

Denny Colt said...

Interesting, and a great task to put it all in one place. Of course, Stan says he created everything, Jack says that he, Jack, created everything. Others have a somewhat more balanced, but still self-centric, view.

We'll never know what happened really, but Jack didn't do everything, and neither did Stan. Distance, ego, company politics and moeny have made sure we'll never know for sure.

Denny Colt said...

Oh, good god, stupid google. 'Denny Colt' is me, Tom Stewart. Really, I used that name once, three years ago...

Kid said...

No, I'm not saying Stan lied under oath. For a start, I haven't read Stan's full deposition (or if I have I don't remember it).

I was referring to how Stan interprets his written admission that Ditko was co-creator of Spider-Man. As there are different ways of interpreting that concession (he meant the character; he didn't mean the character, he meant the comicbook; he meant only in an honorary way, he meant full co-creatorship, etc., etc.), and as there is no way to know exactly what he meant when he signed it, he's not going to volunteer anything that will give anyone Marvel's head on a platter.

In his earliest interviews, Lee was extremely generous in giving credit to Kirby as both artist and writer, saying things like "He practically writes the stories himself. All I do is say let's have them fight Dr. Doom next issue." (Paraphrased, but pretty close to the actual quote.) Stan was always fulsome in his praise of those he worked with.

It was Kirby, etc., who tried to deny Stan his place in the scheme of things, not the other way around - at least at first. Most fans don't try and tear down one in order to build up the other; they're quite happy to accept "by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby".

However, there are a bunch of anti-Lee Kirby fans who are always trying to denigrate, diminish or deny Lee's entitlement to the credit which is rightfully his.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tom, What do you think of the charges of an anti-Stan bias leveled at John Morrow and Mark Evanier? From everything I've ever read John and Mark say the exact same thing about the Lee Kirby collaboration that you see Stan's fans saying at places like the Marvel Masterworks board.
In short the consensus version is in the early days Lee and Kirby collaborated based on story conferences where the two men bounced ideas of each other. Both of them tend to think Kirby had more to do with the creation of the early characters than Stan, but they certainly don't insist it's a proven fact. During the mid and late 60's John and Mark both say the same thing the majority of Marvel fans have always said; that Kirby was in greater control of the plots only meeting with Stan on rare occasion. I've seen fierce advocates for Stan on the Timely Atlas list say many times they assume Kirby was responsible for 70% of the plotting.
I wouldn't dispute John and Mark like Kirby, but they seem to like Stan just as well. And John is publishing a book called Stan Lee Universe. I wonder what the reaction would be if he published a book called Jack Kirby Universe?
It doesn't add up calling Mark and John anti-Stan and pro-Kirby. Are the same people saying they are biased saying Roy Thomas, Larry Leiber, and John Romita have an anti-Kirby bias?

Timely-Atlas Guy

mr ed said...

Dan, I envy your PACER account, at eight cents a page I couldn't afford it with the number of documents to search.

Kid said...

For the record, I wasn't accusing any specific individuals (certainly not Mark Evanier or John Morrow) of an anti-Stan bias, just that such a bias exists amongst some fans. Nor am I saying that anyone said I was accusing them - but in case some casual reader adds 2 and 2 together and comes up with 5, I thought I'd clarify my position.

HemlockMan said...

Stan Lee was in a classic steal-it position. In music many producers and/or label owners would slap their names on songs as co-writers. Just in case the song became a hit and had merchandising potential. Lee did the same thing to keep the creations of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee as property of Marvel Comics. He claims to be "co-creator" of everything from the brows of Ditko and Kirby. In fact, he created nothing.