Monday, June 20, 2016

50 Summers Ago: Marvel Tales # 4

Fifty years ago this month - on June 9th, 1966, to be precise - Marvel Tales # 4 was distributed to candy stores amid a vast array of comic books vying for attention. It got mine. While visiting my Grandparent's in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, my older brother John and I took a walk to the corner ice cream parlor, run by a Louie Dumbrowski type (the harassed proprietor of the old Bowery Boys comedies). Having collected comics for a few years, John perused the magazine racks, as he often did, searching out a few to purchase. One of those was Marvel Tales # 4. The color scheme was striking; a purple logo with red highlights and a bold yellow background, topped off with small cover reproductions of Amazing Spider-Man # 7; Journey into Mystery # 86; Strange Tales # 102 and Tales to Astonish # 39. At six years old the comic was a hypnotic draw to me, and one of the earliest I recall reading (or attempting to read). 

                                  Marvel Tales # 4, cover-dated September 1966.

Marvel Tales was originally published from 1949-1957, a horror/mystery anthology in the companies Timely/Atlas period. The title was resurrected in 1964 (a logical move, since "Marvel" became the brand name associated with Martin Goodman's comics line) and the first two issues were annual publications. Beginning with Marvel Tales # 3 the comic was promoted to bi-monthly status, alternating with Marvel Collector's Item Classics, another 25 center which reprinted The Fantastic Four, along with early stories of "Iron-Man", "Doctor Strange" and The Incredible Hulk. Either Publisher Goodman or editor Stan Lee realized that the earlier superhero material was of interest to fans and would be a profitable venture. 

Although the reprints were only 3-4 years old, they had the feeling of a much earlier time. This was due in great part to the changes instituted at Marvel in those few short years. In most cases the older stories had writers working over Stan Lee's plots and artists drawing from a traditional full script (exceptions in the material reprinted include Spider-Man, FF and the Hulk, which were co-plotted by Ditko and Kirby, respectively). By 1966, though, the "Marvel method" of artists working from a synopsis was in use throughout the line, with Lee and Kirby going full-throttle; combining a heightened sense of drama, heavy doses of humor, bombastic visuals, sub-plots and continued stories; supported by the likes of Roy Thomas, Dick Ayers, Gene Colan, Don Heck and John Romita.  Nevertheless, these early stories had a sense of raw energy and undeniable charm that poured through every page.                  

The cover copy to Marvel Tales # 4 (almost certainly penned by Stan Lee) created additional excitement for an older period.

As editor, Stan Lee choose words carefully, often tinkering with his own copy until the final deadline. A comparison of the copy on a stat used in house ads that month shows just how meticulous Lee was.


 On the second blurb, Lee added the word "unforgettable" before publication, creating an even stronger statement to entice readers.

                                    Lee cut "strives to defeat" to one succinct word: "trapped". 

Thor was no longer struggling, but HELPLESS, before the Tomorrow Man, although I think "against" would have been a better word than "before" (every one's a critic!)

                        The Torch copy was altered from "striking at" to "imprisoned" 

..and finally Ant-Man wasn't doing any "smashing" but became a "human target" of that over-sized bug! Sam Rosen, who lettered the cover, deserves kudos for his calligraphic skills, although staffers Sol Brodsky or Marie Severin likely provided the last-minute corrections.   

In every instance Lee altered the copy in order to create a sense of danger. I suspect Lee felt his audience would relate more to the heroes struggling with adversaries, unlike the original copy, which often pointed to a preordained victory.      

The inside front cover continued the sense of a bygone age (while I'm able to scan the cover and some interior pages without undue damage to my copy, since Marvel Tales was a square bound comic the inside front cover is fragile so I'll instead quote Lee verbatim):

"Four comicdom classics of yesteryear", followed by more dynamic verbs; "tangles", "battles", "traps", "attacks".  

"On the Trail of the Tomorrow Man" Stan Lee plot; Larry Lieber script; Jack Kirby pencils; Dick Ayers inks; Jon D'Agostino letters and Stan Goldberg colors. Since I'm a stickler for details, I'll add that Sam Rosen lettered the new blurbs! Originally presented in Journey into Mystery # 86, November 1962. The splash page of every story included a large yellow arrow pointing out to readers (literally) where they were first published.

"Prisoner of The Wizard!" Stan Lee plot; Larry Lieber script; Jack Kirby pencils; Dick Ayers inks; Jon D'Agostino letters and Stan Goldberg colors. Originally presented in Strange Tales # 102, November 1962. Kirby's original interpretation of the Wizard was decidedly odd, perhaps inspired by the great character actor John Carradine. 

  At six years old the two stories I was transfixed by, and which, I can't deny, remain sentimental favorites to this day, are Ant-Man's confrontation (hey, I can come up with exciting verbs too!) with the Scarlet Beetle and Spider-Man's encounter with The Vulture. 

"The Vengeance of the Scarlet Beetle!" Stan Lee plot; Larry Lieber script; Jack Kirby pencils; Dick Ayers inks; Artie Simek letters and Stan Goldberg colors. Originally presented in Tales to Astonish # 35, January 1963. Jack Kirby's world of ants, insects, gutters, sewers and sidewalks was familiar territory to city kids, and my introduction to Ant-Man.    

The Return of the Vulture!" Stan Lee story; Steve Ditko co-plot and art; Artie Simek letters; Stan Goldberg colors. Originally presented in Amazing Spider-Man # 7, December 1963. There was a definite sense of humor in story and art in the early Spider-Man tales.The above argument between J. Jonah Jameson and the Vulture may have been inspired by the famous Jack Benny radio bit wherein a mugger confronts the cheapskate and demands; "Your money of your life!" After a very long pause, Benny replies, "I'm thinking! I'm thinking!"   
Steve Ditko's art was a compelling world unto itself; his characterization of the teenage Peter Parker was complimented by his use of mannerisms and expressions. Peter was a likable kid, and his adventures as Spider-Man were exciting and dramatic. While I had just started reading and enjoying the John Romita version (Amazing Spider-Man # 40, Romita's second outing on the strip, was on the stands the same month as MT # 4) Ditko's original take was available to me through my brother John's collection and future issues of Marvel Tales and I was immediately taken by his work.

  Marvel Collectors' Item Classics # 4, dated August, was published in May, 1966, a month earlier than MT # 4, but since it was a bi-monthly title the chances are high that it remained on retailer shelves for an extra month. Both MCIC and Marvel Tales followed the same appealing cover design for many issues. Cover art by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, inks by Kirby and Ayers. Sam Rosen letters.  

  Fantasy Masterpieces # 4, dated August 1966, was on the stands the same month as Marvel Tales # 4 (and another title bought by my brother John at the aforementioned ice cream shop, possibly on the same day that MT was purchased, even though it went on sale the previous week).     

Fantasy Masterpieces was the third reprint comic Marvel debuted in 1966. It began as a standard size title reprinting pre-hero monster stories, but with the third issue morphed into a 25 center spotlighting Simon and Kirby's Captain America, stories not seen in 25 years. Reprints of Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch would soon accompany Cap. Along with the pre-hero monster tales, Fantasy Masterpieces gave many fans their first taste of the rich history of Timely/Atlas/Marvel. Jack Kirby pencils and inks. Sam Rosen letters.  

Marvel Tales continued as a reprint title for decades and Spider-Man eventually became the solo feature when the comic was reduced to standard size. In 1982 Marvel Tales turned back the clock and began re-reprinting the Lee-Ditko Spider-Man's in consecutive order. 

In 1966, though, Marvel Tales and its two companion mags offered children and teens a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of Goodman's line. The world was very different in those days; conventions were rare, stores devoted exclusively to comics were non-existent (used book stores, which could be found in almost any neighborhood, were often the only place to buy back issues), hardcover collections were in the distant future and the instant gratification of Ebay or Amazon was inconceivable. In that context, Marvel's reprints were an important first step in preserving the past, often doing so in consecutive order, creating a greater understanding of how the creators grew and developed over time. 


Booksteve said...

My first ever look at Spider-Man came from Romita's second issue so it was here in MARVEL TALES # 4 that I discovered Ditko's Spidey! This was my first exposure to Thor, too! I remember the Ant-Man story creeped me out, though. Ah, nostalgia!

Nick Caputo said...

We're a month off, Steven. The first issue I recall seeing on the stands and reading was Romita's first, # 39, although I was likely aware of the character since my brother had back issues of Ditko's Spidey.

Kid said...

I think I picked up Marvel Tales #4 in 1982 or thereabouts ('though it could've been #6, as they both had yellow covers), but it wasn't the first ish I'd bought. Regarding the addition of the word 'unforgettable' to that blurb, Nick, I'd guess it was more likely added because Stan didn't like the blank space in that particular line. (I know I don't.)

Unknown said...

Thanks for this tribute to the wonderful Marvel reprint titles of the mid 60's! As an eleven year old kid, I made the transition from casual comic book reader to devoted Marvel fan and collector in December of 1966 (with the purchase of Fantastic Four #60 and Avengers #37.) These reprint books allowed me to enjoy the earlier Lee/Kirby/Ditko stuff...reprints of comics that I was sure at the time I would never have otherwise seen. Fantasy Masterpieces, and its later incarnation Marvel Superheroes, was particularly special to me...where else could one find Golden Age reprints back then? These reprint comics still hold a special place in my collection.

Donald V. Calamia said...

I loved Marvel's various reprint titles during that era. They were my way of catching up on the Marvel Universe, since I didn't start following most Marvel titles until 1968 or '69 (with a few exceptions such as Fantastic Four and Spiderman). It was the giant-size reprints that introduced me to various characters and titles that whet my appetite for more.

Nick Caputo said...


Thanks for the kind words. Like you, I greatly appreciated those reprint titles which introduced me to an earlier period. FM/MSH were a journey into the past. The Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, Cap, All Winners Squad, Black Knight, Great stuff.

Unknown said...

When I sold my comic collection on Ebay 8-12 years ago(had the complete Marvel silver-age(except the romance titles) and a great share of DC silver-age. It took me about 4 1/2 years to sell most everything) I kept my Marvel Annuals, Marvel Tales #1-11 and Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #1-12. This was purely out of nostalgia. I remember buying these new off the rack and just found it hard to let go of the giants. Thanks for the article, brought back alot of memories of a great friend who got me involved in comics a life time ago.

Nick Caputo said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I've kept many of those giants all these years as well.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

GOOD call on John Carridine for The Wizard's 1st appearance. I could never quite figure that one out, and should have.

Of course, over several stories, he kept being (ahem) "recast". By the time you get to "The Frightful Four" stories, he's definitely Vincent Price.

Henry R. Kujawa said...

Oh, by the way...


So EVERY one of those stories, EVERY one, L** ripped him off.

When you get to TALES OF SUSPENSE #50-72, the "Iron Man" stories, where Kirby came up with the story ideas and DON HECK wrote the stories, L** is ripping off BOTH of them at once!!!

And by the way, that one episode where Al Hartley did the dialogue, he was MUCH FUNNIER than L**.

Michael Hill said...

Nick, it's too bad you didn't comment on the veracity of the plot/script credits. I know it's part of the accepted version of history, but with the enormity of Lee's fraud and theft coming to light, it would look better on comics historians if they added the disclaimer, "Of course Kirby claims to have written and plotted the stories, so the published credits were simply a mechanism for directing a portion of Kirby's page rate to Lee and his brother."

Russ said...

When I was a preteen comic reader, I had a friend a couple of houses away who was my age. He had an older and a younger brother and they had this HUGE cardboard box of comics. We used to borrow each others comics and it was through them that I saw the Human Torch for the first time, in Strange Tales #102, so I especially wanted this issue of Marvel Tales when it came out.(My first Fantastic Four comic was Annual#1 and you can imagine what that did to my kid-sized head).

One of the things that I remember about the stories reprinted in MT and MCIC is how comparatively dense they seemed. With the larger art size, Kirby and Ditko were prone to a lot of 9 (sometimes more) paneled pages, and Stan seemed to have the energy and enthusiasm in those early days to exploit every opening for dramatic captioning and emotional thought balloons. I know with the modern decompressed styles, a lot of current fans are averse to having a lot of text in their comics, but I always loved it. That FF annual took a long time for this preteen to read and it was a wonderful, immersive experience.

Nick Caputo said...


There is absolutely no proof that Kirby wrote any of these early stories. I've spoken to Larry Lieber directly, a gentleman with absolutely no ego, and he described his working from Lee's story plot and writing a complete script for Kirby to illustrate. Don Heck has also explained working from Lee's plot synopsis, not Kirby's. Do you seriously believe that Kirby was not only co-plotting and drawing his own stories but every other title he didn't draw?


Kirby deserves a lions share of the credit for his Marvel stories, but to put Kirby's claim of "writing" all the stories as evidence and discount anything Lee did would not be historically accurate by any measure. Lee is part of the equation, whatever that equation that may be, and the cover copy I pointed out is just one of those examples.

Nick Caputo said...

Hi Russ,

Yes, there was a lot to read in those stories, and I enjoyed the experience as well. We grew up in a special time in comics history.

Michael Hill said...

Nick, let's disregard for the moment what Kirby said. Nearly everything claimed by Lee is demonstrably false... why would you give him the benefit of the doubt for any of it? Kirby, Ditko and Wood were Lee's writers, and he was stealing their writing pay. Furthermore, Kirby was not Heck, and there's no comparison in their respective working arrangements with Lee.

Nick Caputo said...

Michael, I don't take anyone's word as gospel. I study the evidence, as I have been doing for many decades. Kirby, Ditko and Wood were heavily involved in every story they produced, and plotted many on their own, particularly by the time of the mid-1960s. By reading the books themselves, though, one can point to Lee plots dating back to the Timely era.

Lee didn't do it all, and I've never said he did in any of my writings. But I won't erase his name from the equation in order to balance the scales.

Michael Hill said...
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Michael Hill said...
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Michael Hill said...

Nick, it's an idea whose origin you need to question that Kirby only plotted on his own "particularly by the time of the mid-1960s." Please consider the possibility that Kirby always plotted. When you review the evidence at the link I provided ( do you look at the books any differently? Lee didn't sign a single (Kirby or otherwise) monster or science fiction story until about a month before FF #1... how many stories unsigned by Lee have Lee plots? GCD says all of them, but we know better, don't we? But to state things differently would mean questioning Lee's version.

Goldberg and Wood tell of story conferences where Lee expected them to come up with a plot. (Goldberg also says Kirby got synopses from Lee like the other "artists" but admits he never witnessed it.) Ditko said a typical Lee plot was "Let's have Attuma fight Spider-Man," and that in the story conference he would back Lee away from such ideas and they would hash out a real plot based on Ditko's ideas. Were these the exceptions, or the rule? Let's fall back on the accepted version.

You say you don't take anyone's word as gospel except for Larry Lieber, who gets a free pass because he has no ego. Please consider the possibility that Lieber is operating with incomplete information and is relaying things that Lee told him, or has reasons to withhold the truth he knows. Was it intimidating to be beholden to his brother, as it was prior to his 2010 deposition? Lieber related that Lee threatened him with the loss of his Marvel income depending on his willingness to be deposed.

Lieber supposedly wrote full scripts for four titles a month for three years, while his brother didn't have time to write. Is that believable? Lieber says he never wrote scripts for Ditko. Who was writing scripts for Ditko? Not Lee, because he didn't have time, and he didn't sign the stories.

Roy Thomas and John Romita also present themselves as expert witnesses on things that transpired while they were not at Marvel, based on what only Lee could have told them. There are a lot of voices relating the same information, but in reality only a single source. Lee is the eyewitness people are the most eager to believe, even as he continues to perpetrate the biggest fraud in the history of comics.

I provided an example of Lieber writing a script for Kirby based on a plot from Lee where Kirby had given Lee the plot in a story conference. There are multiple examples of Lee passing off Kirby ideas as Lee plots to others. Is there any reason to believe that this was not always the case? I know this is one of the questions that won't be asked, because although you don't take Lee's word as gospel, you won't erase his name from the equation.

Nick Caputo said...


I'll make a few points and then close out the discussion. We have heard instances where Lee told Goldberg, Wood, Ayers and others to come up with a plot, but the folks I've spoken to directly, including Goldberg and Ayers, never said he did this on every occasion. Thus, these examples become escalated to the point where Lee offered no plots to any artist, and especially not Kirby or Ditko.

In his essays Ditko clearly states that their early working method (before they didn't communicate with one another) is that he worked from Lee's written one or two paragraph plot synopsis. Ditko contributed greatly to the storylines from day one, but if one believes Ditko his "evidence" is that Lee indeed wrote a synopsis.

You note that Lieber "supposedly" wrote scripts for four titles a month and claim Lee didn't have time to write, but in the period of 1959-1961 alone Lee signed stories appeared in many more titles than Lieber (and this in primarily in the full script period) including Kid Colt, Millie the Model, Patsy Walker, Two-Gun Kid, Kathy, Linda Carter, Gunsmoke Western, Rawhide Kid, Wyatt Earp, Love Romances and others. This was in addition to editing the entire line and art directing. Sounds like he was pretty busy to me.

Who wrote the unsigned Ditko stories? I speculated on this on one of my posts several years ago and in an issue of Ditkomania:

Why do I give more credence to Leiber's word than some others. One reason is he has had a consistent story, whether speaking to me personally or in his various interviews. To use a word from your essay, his story "stuck".

The monster stories, like most of the product in the early pre-hero period, were churned out furiously. Kirby could certainly have thrown some ideas out to Lee in the office. But, really, many of the plots didn't diverge from formula as entertaining as some are. I've also pointed out in various posts that Kirby more than likely wrote many early war, sci-fi and monster stories before Lieber came on board. Did Lee take Kirby off scripting for some ulterior motive? Or did he find Kirby more valuable as an artist working on as many strips and covers as possible, as he had done earlier with Joe Maneely?

And with that, Michael, I'll withdraw from the discussion. I thank you for your thoughts and appreciate your keeping it civil.

Michael Hill said...
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Michael Hill said...

Nick, I too will withdraw. Just a few observations... do you seriously equate the Kirby-Lee workflow with that of Lee with Ayers or Goldberg? Kirby was the source of all the creations. Ayers and Goldberg needed someone to plot for them, but Kirby did not need Lee's input into his stories. Quite the contrary... Lee used Kirby's input to stories for the entire line. This came to Lee through story conferences with Kirby. Spider-Man is a prime example, detailed by Stan Taylor on the Museum site.

Did Lee take Kirby off of scripting? This question tells me you are unwilling to let go of Lee's narrative, which is entirely fraudulent. Kirby was never taken off of scripting, the credit for the scripting already done by Kirby as he drew was assigned to somebody who didn't do any scripting. Once you realize Lee is a fraud, it's easy to question everything out of his mouth. Once you are willing to not give him the benefit of the doubt, it's easy to see the truth as the opposite of his claims.

I didn't say Lee wasn't busy, Lee said Lee didn't have time to write and thus came up with the Marvel Method. This is just more BS. Mike Vassallo will confirm for you that Lee did not write what he didn't sign, and he didn't sign any of Kirby's or Ditko's science fiction or monster stories up until just before FF #1 came out. Kirby plotted and wrote the stories that Lee didn't sign. Contrary to Roy Thomas's testimony, Lee had no input into Fin Fang Foom, because he didn't sign it.

Again, you don't treat anyone's testimony as gospel, but Lee's "history" is the backdrop to your intricately manufactured latticework of "facts;" if something doesn't line up, you dismiss it. This no matter how many pieces of Lee's history have been disproven. The next time you have occasion to question a component of Marvel history that's accepted as common knowledge, test it against the Kirby version.

Kid said...

Seems like a lot of hate against Stan Lee on this page. I've yet to see any of Lee's alleged 'claims' being exposed as 'fraudulent'. True, he DID have a dodgy memory, but Jack's memory was equally at fault. Jack claimed to have created Spider-Man, his costume, Superman, and The Punisher (the Frank Castle version), but he was mistaken. He wasn't being 'fraudulent', he just 'misremembered'. Personally speaking, if Stan never came up with a character or plot in his life (note I said 'if'), it hardly matters. It was Stan's characterization through scripting and exposition that elevated the strips he worked on above the commonplace and made them memorable. I find it telling that Stan gave Jack credit for being as much the writer as he (Stan) was in early interviews, and always volunteering the fact that Jack had come up with the Surfer, which, considering SS was Stan's favourite character at one time, is far from indicative of a dishonest man. Jack was a terrific ideas man, but one only has to look at most of his DC output to see what a dry read his scripts often were.

Who's responsible for the success of Marvel in the '60s? Stan, Jack, Steve, Larry, Don, etc., but Stan was the foundation stone. Without him, readers would have had some nice art and competently told stories, but not the classics we adore today.

"May your amulet never tickle!" Stan Lee wrote that, and in doing so, made that particular story (ASM Annual #2) so hugely enjoyable to read!

Michael Hill said...

I've simply asked people to question their understanding of Stan Lee's involvement, and presented reams of evidence why it should be questioned. In response, the evidence is characterized as "a lot of hate against Stan Lee," and the answer to the evidence is "everyone just knows in their hearts that Lee's version is true." I find it telling that people ignore the evidence.

Anyone who honestly believes "Stan gave Jack credit" needs to read Ditko's essays on the subject of credit. Lee took away credit even as he appeared to bestow it.

Jack Kirby did create Spider-Man according to Lee's definition of creation, because he brought Lee a concept (and the name) that he'd worked on at S&K. Jean Depelley makes a compelling case in the latest Kirby collector that before the cancellation of Amazing Fantasy, Lee had Kirby and Ditko alternating on Spider-Man stories.

Lee's faulty memory? That's a cover story.

Michael Hill said...

And Kid, I don't believe that '60s Marvel comics were anything like memorable (Lee and his insipid dialogue and moronic story changes made a mess of them, so for that I give him full credit), but even I know that Kirby created the Punisher as part of the Galactus trilogy. Have you actually read any of the comics you're defending?

Kid said...

I don't see 'reams of evidence' - what I see is speculation and supposition, based on a rabid desire to deny Stan any credit and accord it all to Jack and Steve (or even Irving Forbush). And it's not your so-called 'evidence' that is characterized as 'a lot of hate against Stan Lee', it's the whole tone of your comments. People aren't 'ignoring the evidence', they perhaps just don't agree with your interpretation of it, which is an entirely different thing. It's interesting that you seem to ignore the fact that Jack could be a bit of a glory hog himself on occasion. In his early '70s DC essays, he doesn't mention Joe Simon once, and in some interviews he claimed sole credit for creating Captain America - not a single word of Joe at all. This is not to bad-mouth Jack, I'm merely pointing out that it seems to be a common trait amongst 'creators' to view their contribution as the primary one. And I'm afraid that Jack didn't create Spider-Man. The idea for Spiderman (without the hyphen) came from Joe Simon and Jack Oleck, and was drawn by C.C. Beck (as the Silver Spider). It eventually became The Fly, which Jack drew the origin of, I believe. When Joe, years later, asked Jack why he had shown Joe's original logo to Stan and claimed credit for creating Spider-Man, Jack's response was 'I was just trying to make a living'.

I know all about Galactus' robot called The Punisher, but I specifically pointed out that he claimed to have created the Frank Castle version. When he made the claim (at a convention I think), he was asked if he meant Frank Castle, and replied 'Yes'. Have you actually read the material you're disputing? I guess not. I find it interesting that you choose to ignore addressing instances of Jack's own faulty memory. Is it because you think it's a 'cover story'?

And you don't think that '60s Marvel Comics were 'anything like memorable'? With that one statement you reveal your obvious bias and thus erode your credibility as a serious commenter on the Lee/Kirby debate. Stan and Jack were both great, and seldom if ever better than when they worked together. That's some pretty impressive evidence right there that YOU seem to be ignoring.

Michael Hill said...
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Michael Hill said...
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Michael Hill said...

Glory hog? Have you read any sources besides Simon on the S&K years, like Gil Kane, Kim Aamodt, Walter Geier, Jack Katz? Simon rode Kirby's coattails, took the lion's share of the credit and made a second career of belittling him. No, I don't consider Joe Simon any more an authority on Kirby's work than I do Lee. Of course the best defense for either of them was to make Kirby out to be the "glory hog," which is the opposite of the truth. As Lee learned early, there's a Marvel fan born every minute, and he has nothing but contempt for the merry band he calls "drooling juveniles and semicretins" who jump to defend even his most outrageous pronouncement.

Obvious bias? I believe the Marvel years were the disastrous low point in Kirby's career, and that Lee soiled and defiled everything he touched. Have you honestly, as an adult, read this tripe you consider so brilliant? Kirby was a writer, and he wrote for all ages. I never pretended I wasn't biased, but if that's a criterion for commenting here, you should refrain from having an opinion on "dry scripts" at DC that you last read forty-five years ago, if ever.

Kid said...

Third time lucky with your above comment, eh? Fact: Jack made no mention of Joe Simon in his DC essays, giving the impression that he did it all himself. Fact: He often cited himself as the creator of Captain America, The Newsboy Legion, The Boy Commandos, etc., with no mention of Joe. Still not addressing this, are you? Apart from saying that Joe rode on Jack's coattails. That's hardly reasoned argument. The whole basis for your standpoint seems to be that because you're a Kirby fan, everything he says is gospel, and everything anyone else says that disagrees with it is a lie. In short, you're doing the exact same thing that you accuse Nick and myself of.

There is a strong anti-Stan Lee sentiment in certain circles that's being doing the rounds for years. I'm aware of much of the argument, but not persuaded by most of it. I have myself pointed out some of Stan's failings as regards his memory of events, but the point is that anything that can be said about Stan can likewise be said about Jack. I don't deify either (or any) man, but it's patently obvious that Stan was responsible for most of the mood, the magic, and the madness that was Marvel. Kirby art had always looked like Kirby art; Ditko art had always looked like Ditko art, so what was the difference that made Marvel mags suddenly take-off in the '60s and capture the college crowd? Answer: Stan Lee. Without Stan, Jack and Steve's mags would still have looked as good as they did, but they certainly wouldn't have read as good as they did.

Your statement that 'the Marvel years were the disastrous low point in Kirby's career' beggars belief. It was Jack's Marvel years that cemented his reputation and which mostly inspired the following of his later work. Even his title 'King' is a Stan Lee creation, and Jack's recognition as a comicbook legend is as a result of Stan's policy of crediting creators/contributors in the mags. As for Jack's DC work, I've got most of it, read it at the time, and have re-read it several times over the years (and recently too), so I'm extremely familiar with it. Script-wise (I'm not talking about ideas), it's a dry read compared to his collaborations with Stan.

No, not being biased isn't a criterion for commenting on Nick's blog, but it is relevant to having your comments regarded as informed and worthy of consideration. They strike me as being more a highly-emotional response to a perceived slight against your favourite creator, than an intellectually-reasoned one.

However, unless Nick doesn't mind us going on with our discussion, I'd suggest continuing it over on my blog (http;//, because I don't want to take over Nick's comment section and participate in a controversial subject that he might prefer not to indulge. There are plenty Kirby posts on my blog where we can pick up on this interesting topic. However, if Nick doesn't mind us continuing - in a civil manner - I'm game to continue right here.

Nick - your call.

Kid said...

Oops! My mistake. That's - missing out the 77 in my above comment is down to my poor memory, and that's no cover story.

Michael Hill said...

Lesson learnt: there's no mechanism to edit in place here.

Fact: Jack made no mention of Joe Simon in his DC essays, giving the impression that he did it all himself. Fact: He often cited himself as the creator of Captain America, The Newsboy Legion, The Boy Commandos, etc., with no mention of Joe. Still not addressing this, are you?

Addressed: Kirby was the creative member of S&K, Simon handled the business end. Kirby wrote, penciled and inked his work before he met Simon, and some of that work appeared as backup stories in Captain America. When he returned from combat, Kirby single-handedly wrote, drew and inked books at DC including alternating issues of Boy Commandos. When the S&K partnership resumed and Simon dragged them to other companies, Kirby was the art director and a studio writer for other staffers. He wrote his own stories, and from 1947 until the partnership dissolved, a typical S&K book had a lead story that was written, penciled and inked by Kirby in addition to plots, splashes, inking and assorted art corrections.

Jack Katz: "Jack would work at his own desk there and Joe would come in during the morning and subtly stare at us. Jack would go for lunch, and when he came back Joe would leave for the day. Jack would get in early, he was always there before I came in. He left late."

Kirby did the inking that's most often associated with S&K, and is traditionally attributed to Simon. When Simon contributed to the art, he took it home to do it, and his work stood out painfully from Kirby's. Jim Steranko calls Simon a swindler, and suggests the Kirbys were of the same opinion. Over the years, Simon was constantly badmouthing Kirby, but Kirby wouldn't stoop to Simon's level. My belief is that Kirby gave Simon more creative credit than he deserved, often brushing off questions by saying, “we both wrote, we both inked.”

When S&K was dissolved, Simon bought a mansion on Long Island (and somehow wound up with the bulk of the original art). Kirby had to scramble for work to keep his family afloat; he had to swallow his pride and turn to Lee (while he continued to freelance for other companies until the end of 1961). Picture the scenario in the context of Lee and Kirby's back story. Keep in mind that fifteen years earlier, Kirby wanted to throttle Lee for ratting out S&K's moonlighting to Goodman. Lee played Mister Potter to Kirby's George Bailey, coming to him begging... “Look at you. You used to be so cocky.” Then Lee was George Bailey holding the bathrobe... “This is a very interesting situation.” Over the course of the Marvel Years, Lee made the most of having Kirby beholden to him.

Michael Hill said...

I don't deify either (or any) man, but it's patently obvious that Stan was responsible for most of the mood, the magic, and the madness that was Marvel. Kirby art had always looked like Kirby art; Ditko art had always looked like Ditko art, so what was the difference that made Marvel mags suddenly take-off in the '60s and capture the college crowd? Answer: Stan Lee... Your statement that 'the Marvel years were the disastrous low point in Kirby's career' beggars belief. It was Jack's Marvel years that cemented his reputation and which mostly inspired the following of his later work.

Spoken like a fan of, and someone who has been indoctrinated by, Stan Lee. Lee and '60s Marvel are not the pinnacle of comics history, as he would have you believe. Jack Kirby was a successful cartoonist before Lee was even involved in comics, and the creative force behind of one of the most successful business partnerships in comics history. Is there room for Simon & Kirby, or EC Comics, in the Lee-approved version of comics history?

It's a common accusation that someone cannot be a fan of Kirby's writing unless they deify him, but the converse is that being a Lee acolyte is an indicator of reading level and gullibility.

Even his title 'King' is a Stan Lee creation, and Jack's recognition as a comicbook legend is as a result of Stan's policy of crediting creators/contributors in the mags.

Kirby no more wanted to be called “King” than Springsteen wants to be called “The Boss,” and he denies being “Jolly” in his association with Lee. Lee wasn't the first to credit contributors, and I point you again to the essays of Steve Ditko: Lee took away credit by fraudulently causing his writer/artists to be forever classified as the “artists” who realized his writing. Lee credited himself on stories he arguably never laid eyes on before they saw print. He was a thief, and his credits formed the company's accounting system that routed the writing pay due his writer/artists into his pocket.

As for Jack's DC work, I've got most of it, read it at the time, and have re-read it several times over the years (and recently too), so I'm extremely familiar with it. Script-wise (I'm not talking about ideas), it's a dry read compared to his collaborations with Stan.

I was reading science fiction books before I got into comics and discovered the genius of Kirby's writing. Lee takes credit for helping kids to read, but maybe kids who learned to read at his hands just can't tell the difference between good writing and bad.

Kid said...

I don't know if you're aware of how insulting the entire tone of your comments is: 'Spoken like a fan of, and someone who has been indoctrinated by Stan Lee.' I could easily say that your entire argument is spoken like a fan of, and someone who has been indoctrinated by Jack Kirby and his supporters - but talking like that proves nothing. It's just a cheap way of avoiding the pertinent points of things you're unwilling or unable to deal with. Neither does quoting those who see things your way prove your contention; it only proves that their is a difference of opinion on the issue. I read somewhere only recently that Joe wrote or scripted most of the stories on at least one particular title because he wasn't a fan of Jack's writing. (If I can find who said it and what mag(s) he was referring to, I'll add it later.) That in itself also proves nothing of course, except that, as I said, there are two schools of thought on who did what.

And no one ever said that 'someone cannot be a fan of Kirby's writing unless they deify him...' - you're erecting straw man arguments against which to rail against. I'M a Jack Kirby fan, and I enjoy his writing (in the main, but while recognizing its weaknesses), but I'm a bigger fan of Stan's writing than Jack's. So that part of your argument falls at the first hurdle. And to say that 'being a Lee acolyte is an indicator of reading level and gullibility.' is utterly pompous and insulting - as well as complete nonsense. There are many readers who enjoy the separate work of both Lee and Kirby, some of whom would agree with your belief that Jack was the primary creator, so you're even insulting those who see things your way. (Unless you're saying that no true fan of Jack Kirby can also be a fan of Stan Lee.)

Your entire argument is full of holes, and it seems to me you're scraping the bottom of the barrel in your desperation to prove your point. Whether or not Jack wanted to be called 'King' is redundant; it's how he's known, even today, and he certainly never seemed to object to anyone referring to him that way once its use had been established. My point (such as it is) stands. The title by which he is known to his fans was accorded to him by Stan Lee. And despite his earlier work, it was his Marvel work that, with Stan Lee's promotion, catapulted him to comics superstardom.

I'm perfectly willing to discuss matters civilly, but you seem more interested that rubbishing anyone who disagrees with you, and in producing heat rather than light. A comicbook as it is presented to the reading public is (usually) the product of more than one man. Who created Captain America, The Newsboy Legion, The Boy Commandos, etc.? Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Who created the sensation that was Marvel Comics in the '60s? Stan, Jack, Steve, Don, Larry, etc. I, as well as millions of others, recognize that the comics were more than the sum of their parts, whereas you prefer to believe that Jack and Steve did everything and that Stan did nothing but ruin everything.

Kid said...

As for good and bad writing (or scripting if you prefer), Stan wins hands down every time. I still read '60s Marvel mags and thoroughly enjoy them - for what they are. I can also read and appreciate books on many different subjects, written on many different levels, so I'm not about to wither under your scorn of my reading abilities.

For every detractor of Stan Lee (or Joe Simon), there are those whose accounts back the claim that Stan had a hands-on involvement with the Marvel material. Stan admits that he sometimes just gave a broad outline, or that Jack would tell him what the next story would be about. Nick's already covered this, but you prefer to ignore him and repeat yourself. Just saying the same thing over and over doesn't make your case. As for your remarks about Jim Steranko, you dismiss the opinion of anyone who 'wasn't there at the time' (when their account supports Stan) and claim that they're mainly 'repeating what they've heard or been told, yet who quote Steranko, who 'wasn't there at the time' and is merely 'repeating what he'd heard or been told'. That's what I call a double standard.

And your main case seems to be this: Stan did s*d all, and anything he did do ruined Jack's Marvel work. That is, you'll forgive me saying, patent nonsense. You're so completely out of step with the consensus of historical opinion and the facts of the case (fact number one being the impact Marvel Comics made on the industry and the readership at the time) that I find it hard to accord your argument serious consideration.

Now, instead of looking down your nose at everyone who doesn't exalt Jack to the same degree that you do, why not find something more constructive to do than argue with those whose opinion you clearly hold in contempt?

Michael Hill said...

You're right, Kid, it's a waste of time.

Kid said...

Corrections dept: That should be 'more interested IN rubbishing anyone', and 'yet YOU quote Steranko', not the way I mis-typed them in my haste. Incidentally, I recently re-read Jack's issues of Jimmy Olsen (all 15) and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Michael Hill said...

Just to clarify, Steranko was speaking about his own experience with Simon (and being a houseguest of the Kirbys), so no double standard:

Here's the Simon mansion:

The deification straw man? You brought it up.

Kid said...

No, I brought up the fact that some people deify Kirby (as you clearly seem to). You turned it into a 'straw man' by suggesting that I'd said that one can't be a Kirby fan UNLESS one deified him. Big difference. And Simon MAY have been a 'crook' (at least in Steranko's estimation), but that doesn't mean he didn't do what he says he did (or is credited with having done) with Kirby. Time to let it go, Michael. Not everyone who appreciates what Stan Lee did for Marvel is brainwashed, indoctrinated, gullible, or has learning difficulties and poor reading skills. To suggest such a thing is patronising and offensive.

Nick Caputo said...

Although I find it a little amusing that this is the longest comments section since I began this blog, I think its best to end this discussion here. Michael, you can go to Kid's blog and continue if interested, but I prefer to move on.

Michael Hill said...

Thanks for the opportunity, Nick. I won't pursue this with The Kid, not after being told "I don't want to do this any more, you give up." It's hard to challenge the accepted version of history when the response is "Detractors of Stan Lee can't be taken seriously" or "I read somewhere that Simon did all the writing." How can evidence prevail against claims like that?

Looking forward to the continuation of the investigation you started on the Battle books.

Kid said...

Nick, a thousand apologies in advance, but I hope you will permit me one last comment (promise), as I simply cannot let the above gross distortion of the discussion go unchallenged. Not once did I say or imply "I don't want to do this any more, you give up", and this kind of willful misrepresentation of the facts has permeated most of Michael's side of the debate from the start.

Nor did I ever say (or imply) that "Detractors of Stan Lee can't be taken seriously". What I said was that, as Michael dismisses anyone's account which accords any credit to Stan Lee and accepts any 'testimony' that paints Stan as a 'thief' (describing anyone who has enjoyed Stan's work over the years or accorded him any measure of credit for his Marvel collaborations as 'gullible' or 'indoctrinated', with 'poor reading skills'), he, Michael, cannot be taken seriously.

He is not even consistent in his argument. He dismisses Jack's own claim that 'We both wrote, we both inked' as Jack according Joe 'more creative credit than Simon deserved'. This is Michael's belief (not a proven fact), but it's a belief arrived at by dismissing testimony from the individual concerned that runs contrary to Michael's biased point of view. Jack says Joe wrote and inked, so who are we to believe? After arguing that we should listen to Jack, he then asks us to ignore him. Which is it to be? He can't have it both ways when it suits him.

And the fact remains that testimony saying Joe wrote in the S&K team-up exists and should be considered. I can't yet find the source of the claim I mentioned earlier, but here's what Carmine Infantino, who worked in their studio, had to say in response to a query about whether Joe wrote and what he did in the office.

'I saw Joe do some inking, but sometimes Jack would ink, too. Sometimes Joe would ink the outlines, and Jack would do the rest. Sometimes they had other guys pitching in with the inks.' (So much for Michael's assertion that Jack did all the inking.) 'But don't forget that Joe was a very sharp writer. People don't give him much credit for that. His idea was to take classics and turn them into comic book stories. Remember the Boy Commandos story with the Trojan Horse? Joe did that sort of thing all the time. He'd take a classic, twist and turn it around, and use it, and it would be great. He was very clever. I don't think he got enough credit for his whole process. But that's not to take anything away from Jack, obviously - the combination was magic. They really worked hand-in-hand easily. It was a full and equal partnership.'

Of course, Michael will dismiss the account of a first-hand witness because it doesn't fit his 'belief'.


Kid said...

And finally, another of Michael's distortions. 'How can evidence prevail against claims like that?' he asks facetiously, after misrepresenting what I actually said in regard to Joe writing. My full comment was 'I read somewhere only recently that Joe wrote or scripted most of the stories on at least one particular title because he wasn't a fan of Jack's writing.' Note that this is quite different to Michael's suggestion that I was claiming that Joe did ALL the writing - period. In reply I ask, how can truth prevail against distortions such as that?

Again, apologies, Nick, but I simply could not let such devious distortions of what I said go unanswered. Regardless of Michael's next response, that's my last word on the matter on this post on your blog. However, should Michael let sour grapes consume him to such an extent that he repeats the offence (I guess it's true - there's nothing worse than a sore loser), I shall write a post about this discussion on my own blog and, if you don't mind, reprint his comments and my responses, and address any further infractions of his over on

Thanks for your kind indulgence. Let's hope that really is an end to the matter.

Looking forward to all your future posts - they're always worth reading.

Michael Hill said...

Nick, have no fear, I won't be baited. Just remember, when overwhelmed by facts, characterize your opponent's position as "Simon did nothing, Lee did nothing," even if that's not his position.

Umberto Franciscus said...

I've followed the dance with interest and this kid guy is wrong. You give stan lee credit for much. "He soiled and defiled everything he touched." OK, so you don't give him credit for anything he claims credit for, but the other guy's just being picky.

Kid said...

Nick, I did say that I'd add the quote I referred to earlier when I found it (good ol' Al McK helped), so here it is. It's from a 1997 George Roussos interview, as printed in the Collected Jack Kirby Collector Vol. 4. I make no further comment about it ('cos I promised I wouldn't), I merely offer it up because I said I would, and because it's relevant. (And also to show that I wasn't making it up or imagining it.)

TJKC: Do you remember how they worked?

GEORGE: Joe was the writer - he never trusted Jack with the writing - and Jack would do the pencilling, which Joe would ink. Sometimes both of them pitched in to ink.

Michael Hill said...

Nick, it's unfathomable to me how someone who was invited into the home of Dick Ayers, and knowing what Ayers knew about his employer, would encourage a pro-Lee, anti-Kirby stance on his blog. Ayers was denied work because Lee spread the story that he was "sick in the head."

Nick Caputo said...


Since I've spoken directly to Dick Ayers over many visits and many hours for years I can assure you that he bore no malice towards Stan Lee, nor ever made any claim that Lee spread rumors about his mental health. Yes, I know about Ayers statement that he was blackballed but that does not mean Lee was the culprit. At the point Ayers stopped getting work from Marvel it was a corporate entity, not a small outfit where Martin Goodman made the decisions. Making statements without any evidence does not make the statement true.

I'm also very much offended by your categorization of my post as "encouraging a pro-Lee, anti-Kirby" stance. You've read enough of my stuff to know that isn't the case.

And no, I won't debate this further here. There any plenty of negative online sites in which to commiserate. In case you haven't noticed after all these years, My blog is a place to celebrate the positive achievements of comic book creators.

Michael Hill said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.