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CSBG Archive

Meta-Messages – Jack Kirby Takes Some Shots at Stan Lee

In this feature I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.” Here is an archive of the past installments!

Today we take a look at a famous example of Jack Kirby taking out some of his frustrations with his time at Marvel Comics with a satiric look at his old company in the pages of Mister Miracle #6.

As you likely know by now, Jack Kirby left Marvel Comics in 1970 after working for Marvel on a pretty much exclusive basis for over a decade. Kirby had grown frustrated with Marvel for a number of reasons, with one of the major reasons being what he felt to be a lack of appreciation for the impact that he had on the “Marvel Age” of comics (both in terms of credit and financial compensation). He was irritated with how much credit Marvel Editor-in-Chief Stan Lee took (and was given by the mainstream media) for the creation of characters that Kirby had created with Lee, such as the Fantastic Four, the Hulk and the X-Men. Moreover, while Kirby was certainly paid well in general (at least compared to other comic book artists of the time), he felt he was routinely promised more from Marvel publisher Martin Goodman and Goodman just as routinely reneged on said promises (this was the exact scenario that led to Kirby leaving Marvel decades earlier when it was called Timely Comics. Goodman promised Kirby and Joe Simon a certain percentage of the sales of their creation, Captain America, and reneged on the promise. Kirby and Simon then signed with DC Comics). So when Goodman presented him with a new contract in 1970 that required Kirby to specifically sign away certain legal rights, Kirby had had enough and he moved to DC Comics, which had been wooing him for a couple of years. Kirby ended up working for DC for five years. His most notable work there was the so-called “Fourth World” saga, a series of inter-connected titles all concerning a brand new race of “New Gods,” some good and some evil. The story took place in a trilogy of titles: New Gods, Forever People and Mister Miracle.

In Mister Miracle #6 (Mister Miracle was a New God who escaped to Earth and became a famous escape artist. His past kept catching up with him, though, as the evil New Gods kept trying to re-capture him), Kirby invented a new villain to face Mister Miracle that also gave Kirby the opportunity to really stick it to his old company. Check out the introduction of Funky Flashman…

As you can see, Kirby depicts Marvel Comics as a former slave plantation. Lee is depicted as a money-hungry man living off of the whims off Marvel publisher Martin Goodman and whose best skills appear to be using other people while distracting people into thinking he’s adding something important of value. This comic came out in late 1971, which was an interesting time at Marvel. Goodman had sold the company in 1968 but was still working there as the publisher, but it seemed like it was only a matter of time that he’d leave (Goodman finally left in 1973) and Lee, meanwhile, was also primed for a move (presumably to publisher, which is exactly what he did). Roy Thomas, in turn, seemed poised to become the next Marvel Editor-in-Chief. The oddest insult here to me is of Roy Thomas, who is depicted as Stan Lee’s bootlicker, which is pretty weird since I don’t recall of any problems between Kirby and Thomas while at Marvel, so the harsh take on Thomas seems kind of, well, mean. Of course, you could argue the entire thing is too mean, but at least with Lee there was a legitimate conflict between Kirby and Lee at the time. I don’t recall any such conflict between Kirby and Thomas.

Later in the issue, Funky signs Mister Miracle and he does what he does best, talk…

Ultimately, Funky has a hold of Mister Miracle’s Mother Box, which was being used to summon the Female Furies to attack. They attack at “Mockingbird Estates” and Funky shows his true colors…

A “Marvel” of contrast indeed.

Here’s a picture of Lee from the time period, by the way, in case you want to see how on point the caricature was…


Talk about passive-aggressive subliminal messaging. lol

The difference between lee and Flashman is that after Kirby left DC, Lee took him back and let him write a well as draw. Flashman would’ve left him twisting in the wind.

Just out of curiousity, did Jack Kirby get in hot water over this story?

From what I’ve read, Lee was hesitant to take Kirby back because of Funky, but Roy Thomas convinced him. Thomas also told Lee not to let Kirby write, and Lee said “If Jack wants to write, let him write”.

I may not be remembering this correctly since I haven’t read it in a few years, but didn’t Kirby get screwed because he made a handshake deal with Martin Goodman for partial ownership of his co-creations and then this was denied by the company Goodman sold Marvel to?

Unlikely that Goodman intended to give company profits to hired help. He made the same non-binding promise to Ditko, causing Ditko to leave.

While I was and still am a Kirby fan, he seemed like a person who would work his ass off, get the job done, quietly and without the fuss or bother of celebrity…people of that type are there own worst ememies. You either try to stand out or be who you are, once you make that decision, taking potshots or complaining after the fact is wrong. Being a martyr doesn’t cut it in business and no matter you created the F.F or Superman, the company will not go out of its way if it recognises that a promise or a handshake can easily be put aside without fear of repercussion. Companies will use and abuse no matter what, you just have to know how to play the game and clearly Jack didn’t…I am not saying he shouldn’t have got his due and that he didn’t deserve much more than he received or be recognised to a much greater degree, but business is business and the comic business was a completely different animal back then …nobody saw what was coming. Stan was a catalyst and deserves the accolades accorded…he knew and still knows how to play the game, we cannot begrudge him that!

To be clear I am not saying that corporations are right in how they deal with people, just that each individual should be responsible for themselves and do what they feel is in their best interest when they see how the cards are being dealt.

I see no problem with the legal system trying to get you what you may or may not have deserved in the past, but it does allow families and friends (and lawyers) to be no better than the corporations, reaping benefits but not really deserving.

Stan Bragg in Angel and the Ape was another scathing Stan Lee parody. An editor at Brainpix comics (rival to dz) he dressed like Captain America, took credit for all his artists work and refused to pay them.

Strangely enough, I read that issue of Mister Miracle yesterday. While I can understand (sorta) why Kirby had it in for Stan, I’m not sure what Roy Thomas did to deserve being parodied as “Houseroy”.

Oddly, Kirby didn’t cut any better a deal for himself at DC. No percentage of the New Gods or any other creations. And now with Darkseid being the Big Bad of the proposed JL movie…

Love seeing Royer ink Kirby.

Good one, Brian. I’m currently listening to The Untold Story of Marvel on audiobook, and just heard this part yesterday. Thanks to similar dealings/lawsuits/backstabbings in my “film life” I can totally relate. I can also sort of understand in the abstract why he rips on Thomas even though there’s no published or well-storied acrimony. There are usually lots of “passive” accessories to these kind of art-fights.

yeah in the Marvel Comics book by Sean Howe it mentions that Stan Lee decided to shave his beard off after seeing the Funky Flashman character.

It’s really disheartening. You grow up with loving your idols, both Kirby and Lee. You love “their” creations. And then you got older. You learn the sad, bitter truth. You learn that all you believed was a facade, a lie. It’s really sad that your heroes hated each other, that your hero, Mr. Kirby is the world’s most ripped-off artist ever. And that without him, you would have no X-men, no Fantastic Four, no Captain America, no Iron Man, no Thor, no Avengers, literally nothing. And the worst part? It’s too late, all too late. It’s one of these wounds that will never heal.

And, not for nothin’, here’s a photo of what Stan Lee looked like in ’64, without the toupee or facial hair:


@Bill: Hm, I thought the Kirby heirs benefited from Darkseid/the New Gods/et al. Though if that’s not the case that’s hardly surprising.

(Seems like it’d be a good idea to keep them happy, though. 56 years after publication is 2026, and my understanding is that there’s much better documentation of Kirby creating the New Gods on his own time than any of his Marvel work. If it were to go to court it could still end up like the Wolfman case, but there’s no guarantee of that.)

@Mel: Yeah, even without any documented acrimony I can see why he’d have some distaste for Thomas. Thomas defended the corporate line a couple of years ago in his deposition for Marvel v Kirby; I doubt his stance was any different in the 1960’s.

…would love to see Funky depicted in a movie/TV show/cartoon/something and played by Stan Lee, just to be a good sport about the whole thing.

(Unlikely, sure, but then again I didn’t expect Young Justice to feature Dubbilex, the Forever People, or Glorious Godfrey, or Dan Turpin to appear on Smallville. There seems to be a lot of love for Kirby’s less-prominent Fourth World characters.)

What Ultron said!

Kirby was treated very badly, but in some ways he’s often thought of as especially hard done by *bbecause* Stan Lee’s publicity-hound ways extended to promoting Marvel’s artists. Bob Kane’s various co-writers and ghosts got no credit whatsoever — not even on the books themselves.

Jerry Robinson was, by many accounts, integral to creating characters like Alfred, Two-Face, Robin, the Joker, and the Penguin. He fully pencilled the Batman comic strip for years, credited only as “Bob Kane.” He also helped Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster get their stipends from DC in the 1970s. Hell, look at Siegel and Shuster themselves! No one seems to get mad that Curt Swan and Otto Binder

Marvel Comics ripped off Kirby and Ditko, but not to the extent of many other creators had been and still were ripped off by Marvel, National/DC, and plenty of others. The more you look at the context of the times, the clearer it is that Marvel was where guys like Ditko ad Kirby went because it was the best bad deal in an industry where bad deals were the norm. Lee was very stingy with writing credits, no doubt, but he also clearly added his own creative work and he did, indeed, promote the careers of his artists to no small extent. He was a rotten apple in a barrel full of of very fat worms.

Can every week be like this? It seems like most of these posts were made specifically to bring out the rancor. I’m loving it.

ultron, I bookmarked the page linked below for its comments section discussion years ago, and I read it every now and then. Omar Karindu and a few others really shed light on the Lee/Kirby relationship/rivalry and the life of its own it’s seemed to take on since then.


I actually find the discussion so valuable that I’ve saved the page file itself in case comments are ever wiped.

Kirby beat Lee like a dawg!!!

I’m currently reading “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” and the book is littered with example of these “meta-messages” that range from tongue-in-cheek, to flat out hostile and vindictive (usually for good reason). It makes sense that writers would use their preferred form of artistic expression to air out some of their dirty laundry.

Steve Gerber was the king of the meta-message.

I find it amusing how Kirby characterizes Flashman (in part) as a grandiloquent, over-the-top impresario… while all of Kirby’s solo writing is WAY more over-the-top and purple than Lee’s scripting (I enjoy Kirby’s writing, but it is out there). Of course, equating Marvel with the “former slave plantation” is a pretty cutting criticism.

@Bill: wait, DC ripped Jack off regarding the New Gods? I wasn’t aware of that, what happened? I thought he was getting minor royalties for Darkseid toys and appearances.

@Thad:a far as I understand DC owns the Kirby Kreations wholly from day one. No royalties. When Kirby showed te New Gods to future boss Infantino,he had created them while still a Marvel employee,

@Thad:a far as I understand DC owns the Kirby Kreations wholly from day one. No royalties. When Kirby showed the New Gods to future boss Infantino,he had created them while still a Marvel employee,

@Thad: he did get merchandising royalities, just nothing for continuing use of the characters as I understand. Obviously Mark Evanie would be the trusted source on this. And DC in the ’90’s tied a daring experiment: have big-names do creator-owne properties set in the DC Universe. The first (and only) on was Soveriegn 7, by Chris Claremont.

ouch new jack and stan slowly started to not get along but jack tacking pot shots at marvel with their rival dc including funky looking like a stan parody . jack sure knew how to use his work to make his frustrations with some one known and a unique way of trying to take shots at the party that offended him

I was never aware of the subtext when reading this for the first time. I thought it was an odd Mister Miracle story. Leaving aside the Stan stuff, or being unaware of this, it seemed to serve no purpose other than to say even a New God who poses as an escape artist can be influenced or manipulated by fly-by-night shady impresario-types.

I too thought the Thomas stuff was particularly mean.

I still vividly remember when Flashman was in the Secret Society of Supervillians. There was a great scene where he was making a deal with Luther, who questioned Flashman why he shouldn’t kill him right there and then. With a flourish, Flashman removes his wig and beard and proclaims, “because bald is beautiful baby!”

It seems to me that Kirby is probably criticizing Roy Thomas by implying that he should stand up and be less of a follower to Lee.

This is self-indulgent and anger-filled rubbish. Kirby was a genius but this is a poor excuse for a comicbook story.

I know it was standard practice back in ye olden times to use exclamation marks as a substitute for nearly all forms of punctuation but as the mark is both a sign of, well exclamation and a full stop, when I see it used in comics I always mentally shout the relevant piece of dialogue then stop. It’s use above is both illogical, (you only need one exclamation mark as it is also a full stop) but jarring as every character shouts at the end of every sentence! And multiple times! In each speech! Bubble!
Roy Thomas was right to warn Lee not to let Kirby write, plot maybe, but script? No. The art on the other hand is particularly gorgeous. Anger (or is it bitterness and resentment?) really makes Kirby’s pencil pop.

Funky Flashman’s them needs to be “How ya like Me Now” by Kool Moe D.

Hello. A couple of the above commenters have written to ask me to weigh in here…

Jack received (and his estate still receives) royalties on the Fourth World books. The original deal was done at a time when DC execs swore they would never in a million years pay royalties to creators…but they had in some cases and they would later make it a standard policy with new creations. When Jack did design work for those Super Powers toys of the early eighties, DC decided they could let that material qualify for the then-current royalty plan on newly-created work. So Jack got paid whenever a Fourth World character turned up in other media, was merchandises or made a major appearance in a comic book. His estate still receives such money. Marvel has never paid him anything on the characters he created or co-created for them.

Thanks for the information, Mark!

Actually, Brian, that Chameleon Boy knock at Spider-Man was Adventure Comics #350, not #351. And it was written by E. Nelson Bridwell.

Looks more like Brian Blessed than Stan Lee.

Interesting, Mr. Evanier. Whether it’s “too little, too late” or not, it’s good to know that at least his estate will get something if the Darkseid-as-main-villain-in-JLA thing happens.

It has been pointed out that Kirby’s depiction of Flashman in that last panel of page 23 (walking away from the flaming wreckage of the plantation) looked more like his then-current boss, Carmine Infantino, than it did Stan Lee. And Kirby reportedly had. Meet the new boss…?

Well, it was Carmine who quickly pulled the trigger on New Gods, forcing Kirby into less complex (more commercial?) projects like Kammandi.

As much as I love comics, and Marvel in particular, it’s always sad to realize what a miserable, goddamn business it can be.

I don’t see any resemblance to Carmine Infantino in that story and neither did Jack. Jack actually had generally warm feelings towards Infantino though he felt the man was not equal to the task of running DC back then. It was an impossible job.

By the way: I see someone earlier said it was Mort Weisinger who ordered the redraws of Jack’s Superman drawings. No. Matter of fact, Weisinger was being shown the door at the time and if he’d advocated it, that would probably have been an argument against doing that. It was DC’s licensing folks, Carmine and the Production Manager, Sol Harrison, who insisted on it.

Whilst Roy Thomas may or may not be deserving of Kirby’s ire,he did testify against the Kirby family in the recent case.

Maybe Kirby thought he was too much a company man.

At that point, Kirby would’ve seen any Marvel exec as positioned against him. Even decades later, when John Byrne proclaimed himself “proud to be a cog in the Marvel Machine” Kirby lampooned him as” Booster Cogburn” in Destroyer Duck.

This may be “self-indulgent and anger-filled rubbish”, but Kirby felt that his hard work and important contributions to Marvel had not been properly compensated.

Looking back at it more than 40 years later it may seem one sided. I can’t help but feel sympathy for a man who felt that he and more importantly his family had been cheated out of money that was rightfully theirs.

How many people reading this at the time (besides industry insiders) would have even made the connection to Stan/Marvel?

Actually I’m intrigued now, was there any kind of response in the nascent comics fanzine culture of the day?

Sad.The more I hear of the Great Jack Kirby being screwed over and over again…it’s sad.Don’t forget about the Silver Surfer,at least Stan gave Jack total credit for that creation.Inhumans,Black Panther,FF’s entire rogues gallery.In the FF movie extended edition there is a good Kirby docu,learned a lot more about the man than I ever knew.Have even more respect of the man.Long live King Kirby!!!!

Bill: Destroyer Duck was written by Steve Gerber. Kirby was just the artist on it, although I’m sure he saw Gerber as a brother in righteous invective.

A.L.: Saying Kirby was “just the artist” invalidates the whole point of this thread. And since Destoyer Duck was done to sue Marvel ove creators’ rights, it’s same to assume Kirby’s involvement wa somewhat more extensive.

I love the Fourth World books!

I didnt know Kirby’s estate got no royalties from Marvel. Too bad, cause they could have made a lot of money off the Avengers movie

Supposedly the character of Lex Luthor from the original Superman movie wasn’t so much based on Lex Luthor as he appeared in the comics, but in fact from Funky Flashman. Gene Hackman’s Luthor wore a hairpiece, self-aggrandized himself with copious verbiage, with Ned Beatty as his bootlicking sidekick Otis.

In the end, Superman’s truly greatest foe was… Stan Lee.

Any chance Thomas was less a target of criticism, more a victim of the completion of the fictional premise? Presumably not every detail was rendered in anger. Just a thought.

Any chance Thomas was less a target of criticism, more a victim of the completion of the fictional premise? Presumably not every detail was rendered in anger. Just a thought.

He called the dude “Houseroy.”

Seriously… he made Roy Thomas the Milhouse to Stan’s Bart Simpson. That’s a pretty grave insult.

For me the most savage part of the parody is having Funky put on the toupee and beard. The image we have of Stan with the beard or mustache and the hair is really from the late ’60s when Lee started doing college lectures and television interviews. Kirby really calling shenanigans on all that and pointing out that Stan is actually balding and looked like a middle aged accountant only 6 years before and all of that is just put on. When I read that Mister Miracle issue when I was younger I thought that part of Funky was just comic exaggeration. The fact that’s actually true gives it a real bite.

IIRC, Booster Cogburn was depicted as being literally spineless.

Ironically enough, John Byrne has now left Marvel (and DC) pretty definitely.

True, Pedro, but Byrne’s departure wasn’t about creators’ rights. He’s angry about having his books cancelled because of changes in the house style at both companies more than anything else.

What’s also interesting, I’ve remembered, is that Kirby was the first (and only, I think) artist to draw Lee/”Lee” without wig/beard/tache in BOTH a Marvel AND DC comic. There was a ‘behind the scenes/creation of FF’ story in an early FF annual: 3 (1966?) or 4 (1967?), without checking. I think it was the Surfer one, which would be 4, right, as 3 was the wedding?
Lee is clearly shown in full profile with receding hair and no facial hair.
In all future ‘behind the scenes/humorous Bullpen’ stories in various Marvels, and of course in all publicity photos from about ’68 onwards Lee was sporting his familiar toupee/beard/facial hair combo.

If you remember- in the Spidey Annual #1 (How Ditko/Lee Created Spidey or whatever) Ditko drew Lee in shadow or obscured: never a full face or body shot.

Also without checking, the ‘Stan & Jack’ part of FF10 (where Doom and Reed switch bodies) didn’t also show a full shot of Lee/Kirby? It was all obscured/shown from the back, IIRC?

@Mark: Thanks for the clarifications.

@Bill: The reason I mentioned Kirby creating Darkseid and the New Gods while still at Marvel is that it’s relevant to termination. It would mean that they were sold to DC, not created as work-for-hire, which would in turn mean his statutory heirs can reclaim the rights 56 years after publication.

I brought up the Wolfman case because, while not related to termination, it was a judgement that the Blade who saw print was so fundamentally different from the version Wolfman originally pitched as to constitute a work-for-hire arrangement and not a sale. Given how much New Gods was promoted as Kirby being hired for his own vision and allowed to do what he wanted to (plus his being both writer and artist), it would probably be more difficult for DC to make that argument about New Gods than it was for Marvel to make it about Blade.

Bottom line, though, is that I think the Kirby heirs are less likely to seek termination from DC, which gives them royalties, than they were from Marvel, which doesn’t — even if they would have a clearer case for termination this time.

(And, granted, the judgement in Marvel v Kirby, as well as the recent decision in the Superman case, are probably pretty big deterrents themselves. But Marvel v Kirby largely depended on the Kirby heirs’ inability to produce hard evidence of Kirby working on spec, and the Superman case was decided on the premise that the Siegels waived their right to termination in a previous contract. I don’t know that either one of those points would be relevant in a hypothetical attempt for the Kirbys to reclaim the rights to Darkseid et al.)

All of which is, of course, pure conjecture on my not-a-lawyer part. But termination is an interesting subject, and there are going to be a lot more attempts at termination in the next couple of decades.

Which is a pretty big tangent. But still pretty relevant to the question of what Kirby got at DC that he didn’t get at Marvel.

A real black-eye for Stan Lee.

This is largely tangential…but I saw Stan Lee speak in a small group at my University in late 1972. No beard at the time, and pretty wasted from martinis on the plane (those were his opening comments for being late, and yeah, he was pretty wasted). I remember him talking about how much he wanted to expand Marvel characters into the movies. He thought it would be soon in coming. This was only a few years before Hulk materialized on TV…but not much else for a long time. I have to tell you he seemed more like a “pitchman” than a talent.

It seems that from this work his anger at Roy was for sucking up to Lee so much tho i’m not sure if this is the actual case or not or its just Kirbys anger and possible jealousy.

To be honest Roy comes off way worse than Lee in this which is strange cause i have never heard of Kirby having any issues with him.

This reminded me of the publisher in John Byrne’s Next Men. You could do an entire month of Meta Messages from JBNM. Don’t know how fun it would be, though.

I cant stand the Lee bashing. Kirby was paid to do what he did at the time. Lee didn’t get any better treatment and he was responsible for the whole gamut and a lot more headaches. Lee has always tried to be inclusive and complimentary and he doesn’t have to, and Kirby just angry. Oddly, Lee shouldn’t even be the target of Kirby’s anger, Marvel should, if anyone should at all. Kirby had the same problem with other publishers too. The bottom line is; Lee’s tireless work and salesmanship and promotion far beyond the comics is what made Marvel sell. Without Lee there is no Marvel resurgence. And Marvel did quite nicely after another Kirby departure. I am not saying the artists should not have been treated better, but they ought to take more time protecting any ‘rights’ at the time of creation, not bitching about it later. Marvel bankrolled the effort and took the risks, and Kirby would not have paid had their efforts failed. No, he would have jumped ship to another company as he often did. Lee was at Marvel through thick and thin, and there was plenty of time while he was scratching to get by, yet he never abandoned ship. Thanks.

I suppose I can understand Kirby feeling some some acrimony,he supplied much of the creative inspiration for Lee who has claimed so much as his own.However,in trying to lampoon Marvel’s boss,he not only proves he’s no satirist,but worst,no writer;sorry to say it,but it was quite unreadable and pathetic,with grinding dialogue,lacking wit,panache,originality,characterisation,and was unconvincing.

It’s ironic that he didn’t have any of these skills that his former partner had in abundance.He was really out of his depth then in trying to lampoon someone with fine scripting skills and was such a powerful figure at Marvel,despite any drawbacks he had.The joke’s on Kirby then.

I think he took on too much on his shoulders with the New Gods concepts,despite the awesome,creative effort.The fact he didn’t possess fine literary skills and had write too,only increased the burden.When he came back to Marvel to do The Eternals,Lee gave him his way to do the writing there too,but was no better.

I can’t stand it and I had to comment. For fans that say that Kirby should be happy to have employment and should have just stood there and taken what Stan had to give him….well…..Stan should have went out on a limb to keep him. Stan was looking out for himself. I’ve seen Stan say in interviews that he had no power because he wasn’t the publisher. It’s disingenuous because he was related to the publisher. He could have used his powers of persuasion to offer Jack a fair deal!

Before I could read I wasn’t buying comics so I could read Stan Lee’s stories.

I bought comics for the dynamic pictures and battles between good and evil. Stan Lee would have been retired a long time ago if he didn’t have Jack Kirby drawing Marvel Comics.

Marvel would have been a footnote in a long line of publishers. Kirby sold the books with his fantastic art! Comics are and always will be a visual medium. To say that Kirby deserved the raw deal he got is just blatantly false. Back then if you weren’t working for Marvel or DC, an artist couldn’t get exposure or make a good living. Forget Charlton and Gold Key. They would have never paid Kirby what he was worth!

Jack Kirby was a creative genius – perhaps the greatest in American comic strip history. Stan Lee was also a genius in his own way – as scripter, editor, co-plotter, lecturer, comic-book ambassador and personality. You can certainly argue that Kirby had the greatest single gift…but Lee possessed a broader range of talents that have kept him as the voice/face of Marvel (and perhaps comics in general) for a global audience.

Sadly, much of the controversy is the result of comments by an older Kirby (who had been very ill and embittered over a dispute with Marvel) that are very different to what he stated in earlier interviews.

Consider this quote from Jack Kirby in 1969 (printed in Nostalgia Journal nov/dec 1976), when asked who was responsible for various aspects of the Thor strip, him or Lee:

“Both of us in a way. I researched it and gave my version of it, and 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 something out of the wild blue yonder…And Stan would come down to Earth and find Thor’s relationship with Earth people”

And these quotes from the early 1960s…from Jack Kirby Collector 54:
“An idea can come from me, it can come from Stan, it can come from a reader…”

“We’ll build a plot around that type of story. I feel that Stan is very wise in looking over letters from readers and keeping tabs on the progress that the character is making.”

Yes…they all correspond exactly with Lee’s description of the Marvel method, which was clearly outlined in a mid-1960s Bullpen page for all readers of the time and repeated many times by Lee. But compare them to these quotes from Kirby in 1989:

“Stan Lee and I never collaborated on anything! “

“…I dialogued them. If Stan Lee ever got a thing dialogued he would get it from someone working in the office”
“Stan Lee is essentially an office worker, OK?”

To me and other readers of the time it was obvious the radically different Marvel style started in the early 1960s on the Fantastic Four. Similarly, whenever Stan wrote a post-1961 story with whatever artist – Kirby/Ditko/Colan/Ayers/Romita/Buscema etc it always had that same style. This element was simply never present in Kirby’s solo work after he left Marvel, nor in Ditko’s solo work…even though both continued to produce comics immediately after leaving the company.

This wasn’t because Kirby ceased to be a creative dynamo. His characters/ideas were still unequalled…but his solo execution/approach was very different and simply didn’t achieve the ‘popularity’ test (it would left to other writers to make his characters/ideas ‘big’ at DC).

The younger Kirby recognised this. When asked in the 1969 Nostalgia Journal interview why DC, with such great characters, couldn’t compete with Marvel, Kirby noted “Stan will look at all the characteristics of a character”.

Despite some occasional differences in recollections, Steve Ditko’s views generally support Lee rather than Kirby. He’s on record as stating he produced the first Spider-Man story from Stan’s synopsis (which Ditko also noted was very different from an earlier Kirby version)…and that he worked from Stan’s plots prior to that story. As the Spidey issues went on, Ditko took over the plotting. Ditko’s article on the creation of Spider-Man can be found in various publications, including TwoMorrows’ ‘Comic Book Artist’ magazine. This first-hand testimony alone would assure Stan’s standing in popular culture. (Ironically, Ditko wrote his article on the creation of Spider-Man to counter some of Kirby’s later claims that Spider-Man was a Kirby creation).

If you wish to read more first-hand accounts of Lee’s importance at Marvel see ‘Romita and all that jazz’ (essentially a long interview with Romita) and ‘The Stan Lee Universe’ (lots of first hand accounts from artists/staff who worked with Stan…includes a Lee/Kirby interview). And, of course, read the Ditko article and the early Kirby or Lee/Kirby interviews

No-one is disputing Lee’s charisma, his endless energy or his eye for catchy characters. But let’s suppose Kirby and Ditko had never existed, let’s suppose it had been Don Heck or Gene Colan (for all their talents) trying to design and draw Spider-Man, do people really think Stan the Man, or Marvel Comics, would be remembered much today?

paul carbonaro

July 7, 2014 at 7:52 am

The editor(s) at DC surely should not have allowed Jack to spend an entire issue of MISTER MIRACLE bashing Stan Lee and Roy Thomas. I say this because it was pure self-indulgence on Jack’s part and no doubt almost the entire readership of that issue had no clue who or what the hell Funky Flashman and Houseroy were (in reality). If anything then, it served to turn readers off because they weren’t in on the joke. We know Jack felt very aggrieved and had every right to do so. But, it just seems unprofessional to use MISTER MIRACLE as a vehicle to get out his frustrations.

@Oliver: I agree, but I think the same can be said in reverse. Ditko and Kirby’s solo creations have never taken off the way that their collaborations with Lee did. I think that it’s fair to say that those creators had an amazing, if unstable and tempestuous creative relationship and they brought out the best in each other. Lee and Ditko was a fusion that was better than Lee or Ditko; Lee and Kirby was a fusion that was better than Lee or Kirby. That’s all separate from the business end of things, which is just sad and unjust.

Some spot on comments here! From what I’ve read about the life of Kirby, he grew up both at a hard time, the depression, and a tough inner city neighborhood. He was a street wise tough little guy, that knew how to deal with thugs, but, time and time again, got his clock cleaned royally by the suits.By 1961, he was a comics pro of over 20 years, having just got screwed over in court by dc bigshot Shiff.Lee may have been a distent relitive of Goodman, but not a close relitive. He got nothing extra when marvel was sold, no cut of the action from figurines,or even the films I beleave.Yet he is slandered greatly by some,as being a thief.He stuck it out all his life with marvel. He made promoting marvel his lifes work.That club house atmosphere he pushed in the 60s, worked . In the end, far more fans stuck with marvel, then went with Kirby.To dc

[…] about) every Marvel movie, and before he helped recreate the Marvel Universe (though there’s plenty of controversy on that one), he was just a lowly office gofer, working for his cousin-in-law Martin […]

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