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Comic Book Legends Revealed #442

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Welcome to the four hundred and forty-second in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and forty-one. This week, just WHO invented Thor? Stan Lee or Jack Kirby? Plus, what comic book classics are responsible for the dreaded Comic Sans font? Finally, how close did we come to a new John Byrne Fantastic Four story from Marvel a few years ago?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: Stan Lee invented Thor on his own.

STATUS: I’m Going With False

When it comes to disputes between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby over the creation of most of the most famous characters of Marvel’s Silver Age, there are three major roadblocks to getting to the “truth” of the matter.

1. These characters were not intended to be still discussed fifty years later, so no one was exactly taking detailed notes at the time of the creation.
2. Stan Lee has a terrible memory
3. Jack Kirby didn’t often speak publicly about his involvement in the creation of the characters until a period in the late 1980s/early 1990s when he was so pissed off at Marvel that he made a number of exaggerated public claims.

thordebut

Still, I figure we can at least shed SOME light on the issue, especially the most popular depiction of Thor’s creation, which is being disseminated with Marvel’s film products, namely that Stan Lee came up with the idea on his own, like this 2002 telling of the story, where he posited that Thor evolved from a desire to make someone stronger than the Hulk…

How do you make someone stronger than the strongest person? It finally came to me: Don’t make him human — make him a god. I decided readers were already pretty familiar with the Greek and Roman gods. It might be fun to delve into the old Norse legends… Besides, I pictured Norse gods looking like Vikings of old, with the flowing beards, horned helmets, and battle clubs. …Journey into Mystery needed a shot in the arm, so I picked Thor … to headline the book. After writing an outline depicting the story and the characters I had in mind, I asked my brother, Larry, to write the script because I didn’t have time. …and it was only natural for me to assign the penciling to Jack Kirby

The one person who seems to be the most straightforward on this matter is Larry Lieber, who confirms that he was, indeed, given a plot idea and he then scripted it and then Jack Kirby drew that strip. That much seems to be definitely true. The question just becomes, “Where did the plot idea COME from?”

In 1990, Kirby spoke of Thor’s creation thusly to Gary Groth in The Comics Journal:

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.

Jack Kirby famously wrote and drew a Sandman story in the early 1940s where the heroes fought against Thor…

And Kirby also did another story for DC in the late 1950s in Tales of the Unexpected featuring Thor.

thortales

Does Kirby’s early Thor work prove that he came up with the idea? Of course not. But when Stan Lee gave his deposition a while back in the Kirby vs. Marvel lawsuit, his take on it seems a bit off…

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.

Obviously, Kirby WAS really into the Norse Gods. But wouldn’t it make more sense then that Kirby, the guy who had already adapted Thor into comics twice over the years, would have been the one to make the Norse Gods connection and not Lee? Or at least, not Lee by himself?

Notably, Lee has spoken on the matter in the past, and notice the slight difference in this version of the story when Lee told it in a radio interview ALONG WITH KIRBY (they were both guests on the show) in 1967…

I always say that Jack is the greatest mythological creator in the world. When we kicked Thor around, and we came out with him, and I thought he would just be another book. And I think that Jack has turned him into one of the greatest fictional characters there are. In fact, I should let Jack say this, but just on the chance that he won’t, somebody was asking him how he gets his authenticity in the costumes and everything, and I think a priceless answer, Jack said that they’re not authentic. If they were authentic, they wouldn’t be authentic enough. But he draws them the way they should be, not the way they were.

Knowing that Lee and Kirby would confer on ideas, I think it is fair to say that Stan Lee came up with the idea for Thor WITH Jack Kirby, not a matter of Lee coming up with the idea and then assigning it to Kirby. Maybe I’m wrong and it was Kirby who came up with the idea and brought it to Lee, but I definitely don’t think it was a case of Lee coming up with the idea on his own. Enough so that I’m willing to go with a false here.

Thanks to Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Gary Groth, Mike Hodel (the fellow who had the radio show that Lee and Kirby were on in 1967) and commenter kevinjwoods, who reminded me of this story the other week when he mentioned the early Thor stories by Kirby.
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Check out some Entertainment and Sports Urban Legends Revealed!

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Was “Unchained Melody” Actually the Melody to the Film Unchained?

Did Monster Cable Sue the Chicago Bears Over the “Monsters of Midway”?
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On the next page, which comic book classics inspired Comic Sans?

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95 Comments

Nifty column as always, but the header text for this week still has last week’s teasers (e.g. Alan Moore leaving DC).

Thanks, David, fixed it.

It was Tom Brevoort who disrespectfully ended any hopes of Byrne returning to Marvel. The guy who has proven over and over that he doesn’t understand what makes the FF work.

I’m pretty sure Watchmen was lettered by Dave Gibbons, not John Higgins

What about how it was announced to the press bothered him?

I’m pretty sure Watchmen was lettered by Dave Gibbons

You’re absolutely right. Small brain fart there. Corrected.

What about how it was announced to the press bothered him?

He felt that they kept changing their reasons behind its cancellation. I’ll edit that into the piece.

The way I heard it about the whole X-Men: Hidden Years deal, was that it was a strong performer sales wise, but Quesada cancelled it anyway because he didn’t want Marvel to tell stories set in the past. Byrne was , and I believe rightfully so, a bit peeved about the way it was all handled, and left Marvel altogether because of it.

It’s worth noting how incredibly bitter John Byrne was about Marvel following the cancellation of Hidden Years. It was to the point he wouldn’t actually spell the word Marvel. John Byrne has shown himself to be a talented artist and writer over the years but also one who does not let go of a grudge easily.

I think it’s really for the best the Fantastic Four Forever series never happened. Byrne’s art has lost a few steps over the years as he has honed his drawing style. He’s happier as an artist but I think he often overdoes it. That Thing pic above is a case in point. It looks like an homage version of a JB Thing more than his work.

At the time THY was cancelled, I recall the reason being a need to trim the line. Of course, the line actually INCREASED in titles with things like Muties and whatever that title written by “X” was (were those the same thing?)

Also, why has Marvel never gotten Peter David to write a Hulk Forever series? I’d buy it.

Brian,

I think you’re misreading that radio snippet a little bit. I think that Stan is not contradicting his other pronouncement (that he initiated the idea of a Thor character and then took it to Lieber and Kirby) with what he says there. I think he’s giving Jack the credit for running with the concept (Tales of Asgard, other Asgardians, developing Loki?) but not giving him the credit for the initial concept. That’s how I read that comment. Might that then change your classification to a “Maybe?”

Even without that snippet, though, I think that the odds are that Lee did not invent it on his own. We know that they conferred on ideas. We know that Kirby was a big fan of the Norse gods. That Lee somehow came up with an idea involving the Norse Gods without conferring with Kirby just doesn’t seem likely. Not to mention, of course, the fact that Kirby has said on more than one occasion that he came up with the idea (although only once did he say he came up with the idea while simultaneously dissing Lee).

I enjoyed the Byrne FF at the time, but I think that was more for the ongoing soap opera element — rereading convinces me that Byrne didn’t really understand the characters or the book. Taking Ben away for years and putting Alica with Johnny just shows that he didn’t understand the heart of the series. He also tries too hard to have “realistic” aliens for my tastes.

Having said all that, I ‘ll repeat that I did enjoy his FF at the time it came out, as a serial story, and probably would have picked up his return to the FF.

I think even Stan Lee’s version of events leads to Kirby being a co-creator of Thor. The most likely truth I’m getting out of it is that Stan had the rough idea and Kirby embellished it out. Those embellishments are a key part of the character’s success, therefore Kirby is a co-creator.

As much as I loved PAD’s Huk run, I’m not sure a “Hulk Forever” would work. Granted, PAD’s Hulk ended rather abruptly (certain plot points were never resolved–the resurrected Maestro and Janis Jones being two prominent examples)–but I think it did end well. It left me with a feeling of “the Hulk was miserable for the rest of his days and eventually became the Maestro. The end.” A downer, but a “complete” one.

Now, what I *would* go for is a 2099 Forever helmed by PAD and whomever else was on the 2099 books when they were rapidly cancelled. PAD never had a decent wrap up on Spider-Man 2099, nor did most of the other titles.

Bob, Peter David had returned to the Hulk in his 1999 (aka vol 2) series, for issues 77-87. From what I remember from it, it was pretty forgettable…

I think Stan Lee’s “terrible memory” is a legend of it’s own.

Stan is now 91 years old but it has been used as an excuse to cover and defend all sorts of things as long as I remember reading comic books.

Comic sans legend is really cool.
And Byrne…. Hell, I would LOVE to read Fantastic Four Forever, or more X-Men Hidden Years.
I think that we can than Quesada for that one.
His grudge towards Byrne is legendary.

I think Stan Lee’s “terrible memory” is a legend of it’s own.

Stan is now 91 years old but it has been used as an excuse to cover and defend all sorts of things as long as I remember reading comic books.

Possibly, Cotsos, but people who knew the guy back in the day have always noted that his memory has always been poor.

Brian, I’m sure you know this. But there was a Thor in the golden age, that was very similar to the original Marvel Thor.

I think even Stan Lee’s version of events leads to Kirby being a co-creator of Thor. The most likely truth I’m getting out of it is that Stan had the rough idea and Kirby embellished it out. Those embellishments are a key part of the character’s success, therefore Kirby is a co-creator.

That’s the thing, though, Dan, the version I’m specifically taking issue with is the one that Lee has been using recently that has been making the rounds on all the Marvel films, which is that Lee came up with the idea, sent the plot to his brother. His brother then scripted out that plot and then gave that script to Jack Kirby to draw. In other words, everything was set in stone (besides Thor’s appearance) before Kirby ever touched the work. I just can’t buy that.

Heck, V-Rod, Marvel even had their own Thor during the Golden Age!

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/07/12/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-111/

I do think one of the best compliments Lee ever paid Kirby was when he said (Origins of Marvel Comics, I believe) that nobody but Kirby could have drawn a guy with blond hair down to his shoulders in the early 1960s and convinced people he was a strong, kickass super-hero.
Oh, while it has nothing to do with the legends here, I did come across yet another version of Charles Addams’ skiing cartoon that you’ve covered in the past: http://www.dcindexes.com/features/database.php?site=dc&pagetype=comic&id=25964. From Sugar and Spike.

The interesting thing about early Thor is that Kirby was off of the book pretty quick ( I think his initial run was maybe 3 issues) to be replaced by a variety of other pencillers including some gorgeous work by Joe Sinott. The stories were fairly bland by the standards of early Marvel and feature almost none of what we’ve come to know and love about Asgardian mythology. The only gods featured are Thor, Loki, Heimdal and Odin (who still has both eyes). Then right around Journey into Mystery 100 Kirby comes back and introduces the Tales of Asgard feature and the Sutur storyline, probably the first of the multi-part Marvel Masterpieces. I would not be surprised if Kirby was in fact the one plotting these stories as Stan knows so little about Norse myths he once credited Larry Lieber with inventing the word “mjolnir”. It’s pure conjecture but I am of the opinion that credit for Thor belongs almost entirely to Kirby.

I believe Lee even eventually copped to Kirby plotting the Tales of Asgard stories.

But yes, in general, the fact that Kirby was a Norse God aficionado combined with the fact that we know that Stan WOULD have conferences with artists to develop plots and it just does not seem likely that Stan came up with the idea independent of Kirby. I could see it being possible that Kirby came up with the idea independently of Lee, but not the other way around. I think them coming up with the idea together is the most likely scenario, and the Lee doing it by himself scenario being the least likely, so unlikely that I feel confident giving it a false.

Wally Wood had a great line regarding Lee and Kirby’s conferences (Wood is certainly not unbiased, of course, so take what he says here with a grain of salt):

“Stanley and Jack have a conference, then Jack goes home, and after a couple of month’s gestation, a new book is born. Stanley gets all the money and all the credit… And all poor old Jack gets is a sore ass hole.”

They should just start crediting the Marvel Universe as a whole as being created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. They’re the only ones who ever get credit anyway.

Brian, I’m a frequent lurker at Byrne’s board, and if I remember correctly, he didn’t do that Thing splash page until long AFTER he’d turned down the FF Forever project.

People really need to get past the Comic Sans rage. I don’t think anyone actually felt that strongly about it — it just became a faddish thing to complain about, like Justin Bieber and Twilight. Ain’t hurtin nobody.

Exactly, Danno – Comic Sans has become one of those things that people supposedly hate because they’re told they’re supposed to hate it (like the Eagles). It’s a perfectly fine font if used in the proper context, but now even if a designer uses it in something appropriate (such as a poster that’s supposed to look like a comic), you’ll have some dunce who thinks they know something saying “Ewwwww! Those idiots used Comic Sans. That’s terrible!” It’s gotten really ridiculous.

I absolutely agree that the Comic Sans hate does get too extreme. I recall a Line it is Drawn a while back when one of the artists used Comic Sans and some people lost their shit over it.

I didn’t know about the Forever line of comics. What an interesting concept. As a fan of Claremont’s X-Men, I am definitively looking for those 43 issues :D

Peter David’s Hulk Forever would be a dream come true.

I absolutely agree that the Comic Sans hate does get too extreme. I recall a Line it is Drawn a while back when one of the artists used Comic Sans and some people lost their shit over it.

Yes, I remember that too. That was the first time I became aware of the incredible hate over it. I still don’t get why though.

Thanks for the link and compliment Brian.

If anyone wants to know what John would have done for the first year of Fantastic 4Ever, I’ve got a post with his ideas. Basically lots of time travel, Skrulls and Alicia & Franklin get killed.

http://tmblr.co/Zs-VMtkZBLMN

I dunno how I forgot to include that info the first time around! Thanks, I’ll edit some of it in there (and include another link to the whole info on your site, of course)!

Somehow having Alicia and Franklin getting killed (and staying dead) strikes me as a really horrible, needlessly grim direction for the Fantastic Four. I vastly prefer the MC-2 Fantastic Five as an interesting alternate future.

David, John is not at all a fan of Franklin Richards. He’s written that he worked out in detail a way to kill him back when John was on the book but ended up abandoning it. Once, when someone said 90% of the stories with Franklin should never have happened, John disagreed. He said it should be 100%.

I can understand *some* of the Comic Sans rage in that I used to hate, and still do a little bit, the Brady Bunch font. It was just sooooooo overused for several years and used in absolutely anything to try and get GenXers to pay attention to it. Once I started seeing rage over Comic Sans, I was like, “Hey, other people hate fonts!” But I didn’t write any letters to the editor or rage on people or anything, myself. And I can still barely pick Comic Sans out of a lineup.

You may be passing too lightly over the version of Thor that appeared in “Venus.” It is generally assumed that Bill Everett wrote the stories that he illustrated, but the pre-Everett issues may very well have been written by Stan Lee (there are no writer’s credits on any of these stories, but obviously Lee wrote a lot of what Marvel published in the 1950s). If Lee did then have a history of writing stories that used Thor as a hero, there seems to me nothing implausible in him deciding on his own to start a Thor series.

That is not more plausible than your other proposals, but I see no reason to reject it out of hand.

The Golden Age Thor that I think V-rod is referring to actually has an origin very much like the Marvel Thor started with. A mortal bestowed with the powers of Thor.

There’s nothing wrong with comic sans. The only thing is that some people use that font for things that shouldn’t have a comic type font.

You may be passing too lightly over the version of Thor that appeared in “Venus.” It is generally assumed that Bill Everett wrote the stories that he illustrated, but the pre-Everett issues may very well have been written by Stan Lee (there are no writer’s credits on any of these stories, but obviously Lee wrote a lot of what Marvel published in the 1950s). If Lee did then have a history of writing stories that used Thor as a hero, there seems to me nothing implausible in him deciding on his own to start a Thor series.

That is not more plausible than your other proposals, but I see no reason to reject it out of hand.

I don’t believe those Venus issues were written by Lee, though. Or at the very least, they weren’t solely his writing. And that’s the key – the idea that Lee came up with the idea BY HIMSELF. I am not saying that Kirby did it without Lee, either, but just that it wasn’t a case of Lee coming up with the idea, plotting the issue, giving the plot to his brother, having his brother script the issue and THEN and only then, did Jack Kirby come into play. I don’t buy that.

Todd Klein has a nice post about Comic Sans on his blog http://kleinletters.com/Blog/comic-sans-font-examined/

JohnByrneSaysOnTwitter–I had no idea. That’s really sad; I loved Byrne’s FF run, and especially loved the family dynamic with Franklin, the cute “4 1/2″ FF-style t-shirt, etc. I had assumed he liked the kid too… ah well, I can still enjoy those issues regardless.

If Marvel can get Alam Moore to allow them to reprint Miracleman, how can they not get Byrne to do Fantastic 4Ever? He must be the truest of hardcases. He could also do a Hulk Forever and have a crossover where they fight Gladiator. I would love to read a Byrne Hulk 320 to…. whenever.

No loss on the Byrne issues. Always have thought the original run was about the most overrated run in comics history-and a re-read recently of scattered trades confirmed it to me. Lost me when it quit being the Fantastic Four and became the Fantastic John Byrne.

The big objections to Comic Sans as a font are that its kerning is way off (giving you irregular spaces between the letters) and there is no San Serif capital “I” (You’ll notice that classic comic book lettering only uses a Serif “I” as the personal pronoun). The Todd Klein post that Rob linked to above displays these faults very well.

When I became a regular on The Line a while back, one of the first things I did was invest in a good comic book lettering-style font. The one I use is called AlterEgo BB. The periods are a bit too rectangular for my tastes, but other than that I’m extremely happy with it.

And personally, any comic book font that uses lower-case lettering will never seem like “real” comic book letting to me. :)

And going back to the John Byrne thing, it might also be worth noting that that Thing splash page is one of the recent Byrne pages that Erik Larsen decided to tweak to suit his own aesthetic:

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/03/18/fanboy-rampage-when-erik-larsen-corrects-john-byrne/

If you’re a comic art geek and you like seeing artists getting snarky with each other, you’ll go nuts at that link. :)

Brian from Canada

October 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Simon Garfield’s book Just My Type presents a slightly different story than Brian’s that puts the hatred into context:

Comic Sans was created to appeal to kids, who were to be the principal users of Microsoft Bob. Microsoft, however, opted for the far less kids-friendly Times New Roman instead and the product flopped. The font was then resurrected for greeting card software — at which point its difference from Times and other serif fonts (or the sans serif Arial, which is a rip off of classic Helvetica) caused it to be dramatically overused. Designers felt it was sullied and most won’t touch it again.

It’s not the only hated font out there either. Garfield identifies 10 hated fonts (8 of which I agree with). But Comic Sans is the most notable — it’s not even designed AS a proper font, press-wise! — because it made non-designer notice.

(My favourite tale is the UK design students who responded with Comic Serif, a better alternative to Comic Sans.)

ParanoidObsessive

October 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I think you’re misreading that radio snippet a little bit. I think that Stan is not contradicting his other pronouncement (that he initiated the idea of a Thor character and then took it to Lieber and Kirby) with what he says there. I think he’s giving Jack the credit for running with the concept (Tales of Asgard, other Asgardians, developing Loki?) but not giving him the credit for the initial concept. That’s how I read that comment. Might that then change your classification to a “Maybe?”

That’s how I read it as well, honestly. It feels more like Stan is saying “I had the idea, but the reason why that idea became as popular as it is is because Jack was able to contribute so much to the premise based on his own knowledge and interests.” He’s still praising Jack, but not actually saying “We totally came up with the premise together.”

The implication being that Stan might have come up with “Big dude with a hammer/Norse god” and maybe even “normal (lame) doctor by day who magically transforms into Thor”, but it was Kirby who later added in most of the actual elements from Norse myth like Loki and Baldur and Frost Giants and such. Which would fit most of the facts we have just as easily as the alternative.

I think the real problem is that the comic fan community – especially online – has developed something of a habit of seeing Kirby as someone who always got the short end of the stick while subjecting Stan to a more critical eye, which leads people to be more inclined to believe any scenario where Jack comes across like the victim and Stan either forgetful or malicious.

Even without that snippet, though, I think that the odds are that Lee did not invent it on his own. We know that they conferred on ideas. We know that Kirby was a big fan of the Norse gods. That Lee somehow came up with an idea involving the Norse Gods without conferring with Kirby just doesn’t seem likely. Not to mention, of course, the fact that Kirby has said on more than one occasion that he came up with the idea (although only once did he say he came up with the idea while simultaneously dissing Lee).

But we don’t really know what level of awareness of Norse myth Stan had, apart from Kirby’s dismissiveness (which in itself should be questioned, all things considered). And if he wanted a big, strong mythological god to contrast the Hulk, Thor would probably be the obvious one for anyone rooted in Western culture (actually, Hercules would probably spring to mind first, but he explicitly mentions wanting to avoid Greek/Roman myth).

As for Kirby’s interest in Norse mythology, that could actually work in reverse – assuming Stan KNEW of Kirby’s interest in Norse gods, it could be what prompted him to think about Thor in the first place. And of course, once he got the idea to do it, Kirby WOULD be the obvious go-to artist to draw it. That could easily happen without Kirby having initial input in the idea.

I’m not saying Stan absolutely came up with the idea on his own, but I don’t think we even remotely have enough info to say Kirby HAD to be involved, either. It’s murky enough that it’s hard to definitely call one way or the other based on the info at hand.

Brian from Canada

October 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Regarding the John Byrne/X-Men: The Hidden Years thing…

Quesada wanted to pare the line. In one fell swoop, half the titles were cancelled regardless of sales. X-Men: The Hidden Years was cancelled because it was set in the past and NuMarvel would be looking to the future — but what really stung about the series is that it was cancelled abruptly, just nine issues away from its natural conclusion anyway: each issue was supposed to replace the reprints in Uncanny X-Men #67-93 (31 issues), and Quesada killed it at issue 22.

Forget Hulk Forever, I just want Marvel to finish collecting PAD’s original Hulk run.

Not everybody has the taste — they eye for aesthetics — to be a graphic designer. If you believe that Comics Sans is ever an acceptable font choice, it proves that you are NOT meant to do graphic design. See the reasons stated by John Trumbull above.

No hate here. Just carefully back away from the computer keyboard before you hurt somebody.

For the record, the Thor that appeared in the Simon and Kirby Sandman strip was not the actual god but a delusional metallurgist named Fairy Tales Fenton whose hammer was a hi-tech gismo he invented. When Roy Thomas revived him for All-Star Squadron, he had the Ultra-Humanite arm him with the real Thor’s hammer, the power of which drove FTF completely around the bend.

You said that Thor story was drawn AND written by Jack Kirby, but the comic credits Joe Simon too. Did Simon not really write it, or HAVE YOU GOOFED AGAIN?!?! ;)

Oh, and as for the Stan VS. Jack debate, I’ve always looked no further than the comics themselves for proof: Without Jack, Stan was still good. Without Stan, Jack was kind of awful. The end.

From where I’m standing, people’s hatred for Comics Sans has *always* bordered on the genuinely deranged. Yeah, it’s kind of a problematic font, but some people really need to calm down already.

I love comic sans, if only because it inspired this: http://achewood.com/index.php?date=07052007

I don’t know if Onstad was making fun of the haters or reveling with them, but the strip always makes me laugh.

The Mighty Thor made his debut the same month as the Ant-Man and Spider-Man, prior to which Marvel’s only superhero comics were the FF & the Hulk. As noted here, Kirby had already used the Thor as a character in two previous stories for DC. Ant-Man took a character, Henry Pym, previously used in a short story drawn by Kirby from just a few months prior in Tales to Astonish. Even Spider-Man was initially based on a previous creation by Kirby and his previous partner, Joe Simon, which eventually morphed from a spider-themed character into a super-hero called the Fly. Kirby drew the first few pages of Spider-Man but Lee claims he rejected them because Kirby made Spider-Man look too muscular and heroic. Ditko, however, claims the real reason was that he (Ditko) saw those pages and noted that the premise was nearly the same as that for the Fly and he brought that to Lee’s attention. In Kirby’s story, Peter Parker was a little kid (ala Billy Batson) who finds a magic ring that transform him into an adult superhero with a gun that shoots webs, along with Captain America style boots and a mask that only covered the upper-half of his face. In other words, not much like the character introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15. It was Ditko who came up with the revised, soon to be iconic Spider-Man costume. Personally, I’d say that Ditko’s account is far more credible and it reinforces the likely fact that Kirby brought all the ideas for Thor, Ant-Man and Spider-Man to Lee rather than vice-versa, albeit after being tasked with coming up with new ideas for superheroes by Lee. As an adolescent in the ’70s, reading reprints of Silver Age Marvel classics, I all but idolized Stan Lee, but I’ve since come to realize that many of his stories about how he came up with various characters as related in, for example, Origins of Marvel Comics, were essentially hogwash meant to protect the company’s bottom line and Stan’s image. The convenient bad memory had nothing to do with the hogwash.

Re: Wacky Wally

Moore didn’t give Marvel permission to reprint anything. The Marvelman stories they reprinted were from Mick Anglo, well before Moore’s involvement. Marvel hasn’t printed anything from the Warrior/Eclipse run because they can’t prove who owns anything. Marvel bought the rights to the Mick Anglo-produced stories and that’s about all. There was a lot of fan assumption that when Marvel announced they had bought Marvelman that the purchase included every story and Marvel willingly let people believe it; but reality seems far different. Moore himself commented that he doubted he could stop them publishing the stories, as he gave up any rights years ago. Even he wasn’t sure if Anglo owned the character, if Dez Skinn had licensed it, or it was in the public domain. That isn’t to say Marvel couldn’t reprint the 80s run, but if they had the rights, why haven’t they reprinted anything?

As far as Lee and Kirby, I have read numerous accounts about how their plotting sessions involved each talking about a plot in their head, but neither person’s plot seemed to match the others. Kirby would go off and draw his plot, then Lee would dialogue based on his plot, sometimes incorporating Kirby’s notes from the margins of the art and sometimes not. My theory is that many of the books (Avengers, X-men, etc…) it was a combination of Lee suggesting a new book and Kirby throwing out ideas, which Stan fed off of and vice versa. However, their longer runs, like FF seem a bit different. I suspect it was a closer collaboration at first, but I see Kirby’s hands more on the book once we start seeing the Inhumans and Galactus. Even so, Stan fed off of Kirby’s art and Kirby fed off of Stan’s editorial suggestions. Thor sounds like it was more Jack’s baby and Tales of Asgard was pretty much Kirby plot, with Stan’s dialogue being his major contribution. The same seems true with Ditko. Spider-Man was more of a collaboration, but Dr. Strange was more Ditko. I can’t really prove it; but, if you examine their solo work and that with Stan, plus Stan’s work with less developed artists to that of Kirby and Ditko, you can see trends. Again, I don’t believe Stan contributed nothing to the work with Lee and Ditko; I just think he fed off their plot ideas more than with someone like Don Heck or Herb Trimpe.

The Thor thing should go without saying. Both Thor and Iron Man were basically group collaborations between several writers and illustrators. I don’t think there’s ever really been any serious debate over this.

@Scott Rowland: As I recall, it wasn’t Byrne who took “Ben away for years.” That was ENTIRELY thanks to Jim Shooter’s “Secret Wars” storyline which ended (and this was SHOOTER’S script) with Ben staying on the Battleworld after the rest of the team returned to Earth. Now, I don’t remember for certain (it has been 3 decades after all) if Byrne had much pull with Shooter–which is highly doubtful–but I honestly believe that Byrne was told (maybe by Shooter, maybe by whoever was acting as Byrne’s editor) that Shooter planned to end the Secret Wars with Ben on the Beyonder’s World which forced Byrne (who was writing the Thing’s solo title–and, again, to the best of my memory, he was NOT “away” from the FF during the title’s first pre-Secret Wars year) and Byrne was forced to incorporate the changes in both books. Further, it was Mike Carlin who was writing Ben’s solo book for most of Ben’s time on the Beyonder’s World and Byrne, who hadn’t written Ben’s adventures for a year, got ONE issue of the FF for Ben’s return to Earth while Mike Carlin wrote the actual story where Ben quit the FF. (Again, I don’t recall from the time who was behind Ben’s leaving the FF–maybe it was Byrne, maybe it was Carlin, maybe it was Shooter, though Carlin MAY have had the bigger say since he was acting as Byrne’s editor on FF at the time he was writing Ben’s solo adventures. That’s total speculation, of course, but let’s say I’m an editor on a book where a character *I* am currently writing has been appearing but *I* want to have control over the character, what would be the best way of ensuring that? Maybe force the issue and take the character out of the other book that *I* am editing without that book’s writer’s input?)

@Jeff: I think what Wally’s refering to is the UPCOMING reprints of Moore’s Marvelman work from Warrior.

You said that Thor story was drawn AND written by Jack Kirby, but the comic credits Joe Simon too. Did Simon not really write it, or HAVE YOU GOOFED AGAIN?!?! ;)

Simon inked it.

Methinks Jeff Nettleton wasn’t following the news out of NYCC — Marvel’s going ahead and printing the Miracleman stuff starting in January. Regardless, I think WackyWally is overstating one element — I don’t think Moore has been what’s been holding up the reprints. And I highly doubt anything Marvel could do would persuade Byrne to do a Fantastic 4Ever (great name, though).

As to that radio snippet, read the second line again. “When we kicked Thor around, and we came out with him, and I thought he would just be another book.” — he’s explicitly saying WE kicked it around, WE came out with him, which to me certainly implies that it was a collaboration. Now, is it possible that even with that phrasing that Stan came up with the idea first and then gave it to the others? Sure.

But one thing that makes me lean towards it not being a solo Stan idea is that he handed it off to his brother. I’m not sure of the chronology, but given that Stan did many books at various times, if it was an idea that he came up with himself, and was fired up about it, wouldn’t he likely have juggled other assignments in order to do it himself, if he was the sole creator?

And from what we’ve been seeing with the Thor features Brian’s been doing here lately, it wasn’t like they had a predetermined power set and story engine for Thor prior to doing the books, so it’s not like the book was fully formed from the start anyway. Even if Stan came up with the idea solo, the embellishments from Larry and from Kirby et al point towards it not being more than “big strong Norse god superhero”.

Another “Forever” type of book that you guys forgot to mention was Spider-Man: The Clone Saga which was co-written by Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie and drawn by Todd Nauck. It should also be noted, that another reason why Byrne decided not to do F4EVER was because a creator friend of his (who just worked on a FOREVER type of series) told Byrne of his negative experience working on said book due to editorial interference. IIRC, the problem that this creator had with his editor is that said young editor (who wasn’t even working at Marvel when said creator worked on the stories that his Forever type series was continuing from) basically acted like he knew better than the season pro about how the original stories were supposed to continue.

I don’t believe that, Blade X.

John Byrne has friends? Getouttahere!

;)

Microsoft Bob is a bit of an obsession for me, so an attempt to clarify a bit. Bob was not just an assistant for using Windows 95 – the infamous “Clippy” that evolved from Bob was that. Bob was actually an interface that went over the top of Windows 95. Just as the regular Windows interface uses the “desktop” metaphor with trashcans, folders, etc. to help people understand what the operating system is doing with files, Bob used a house. the Wikipedia entry actually describes it rather nicely: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_bob

Most importantly, the Wikipedia entry has a picture of the Bob mascot. This is the best part of the whole Comic Sans connection – as you indicated, Comic Sans was originally intended for Bob, and it was partially based on the lettering from “Watchmen,” and, ta-da, Bob’s icon/logo/mascot was a happy face!!

Jeff, I think you have a point about Lee and Ditko. When Ditko left, the quality of Dr. Strange dropped; Spider-Man was different from Ditko but it didn’t go bad.
I’ve often thought the one or two Captain America stories Stan did with John Romita seem very Spider-Mannish with Cap moping over his lovelife.

But how could Byrne kill Franklin when Stan and Lee came up with him? After all, Byrne always believes the original creators know best.
(Sarcasm).

Do we know of any other plans John Byrne had for FANTASTIC 4EVER ?

JosephW,

I’m pretty sure the Thing leaving was Byrne’s idea. I used to frequent Byrne’s board and he told it like this: Shooter passed an edict that each book had to have one major change come about as a result of Secret Wars. Byrne then chose the Thing leaving the F4 as that book’s major change. He did this because he felt that *every* Thing story could also work as an F4 story, so the Thing leaving the team would allow the two books to have more distinct identities.

Thing leaving was John’s idea. From his FAQ:

“Writing MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE and, later, THE THING I very quickly realized it was hard to come up with a good Thing story which was not, by definition, a good FF story. So I had Ben stay on the Beyonder’s BattleWorld so that he could do some stuff he couldn’t do on Earth, and thus justify (in my own mind at least) why he had his own book.”

Firstly, though I know you’ll call it nit-picking, I am certain neither Stan Lee nor Jack Kirby invented Thor on their own. One or the other may have been the first to appropriate the figure from Norse mythology for Marvel, or it may have been a collaborative effort, but this is NOT true invention as with other characters. If Stan has a problem with that fact . . . well, I’m an old man too, but I think I can take him. Excelsior! :)

Secondly, by happenstance I am presently just finishing the Marvel Omnibus of John Byrne’s FF run of the ’80s, and have enjoyed it very much. I still purchase his recent efforts for more independent outlets whenever I find them, and consider him to be that rare and valued bird who can both write and draw his visions with skill and interest. I would have loved to see what he’d do with the FF these days, especially as they are (like Byrne) one of my favorites, but one team who seem too dated and lost in the present glut of comics.

I was not 100% happy with the stories Byrne did for his hidden years series,would have prefered Roy Thomas writing them,since he was the x men writer of that era represented.Anyway,I was VERY happy to see the run inked by Palmer.There was another 15 months worth of tales of the original team to fill,untill the beast left, at the least,and another three years till the new xmen came in.The series could thus, have went at least to75 issues,maybe even 100.I was VERY pissed to see it canceled.I came to like it more then any other x title at the time.The only other artist who could have done better at the time was Neal Adams.Now THAT would have been nice to see..

Quesada wanted to pare the line. In one fell swoop, half the titles were cancelled regardless of sales. X-Men: The Hidden Years was cancelled because it was set in the past and NuMarvel would be looking to the future — but what really stung about the series is that it was cancelled abruptly, just nine issues away from its natural conclusion anyway: each issue was supposed to replace the reprints in Uncanny X-Men #67-93 (31 issues), and Quesada killed it at issue 22.

Not quite accurate, Brian from Canada. It’s true that Byrne was doing X-Men: The Hidden Years to fill the 22-issue “gap” where the book was in reprints, but it was never intended to ONLY be a 22-issue series. It was meant to be an unlimited ongoing series that ran for as long as it remained popular and as long as Byrne had stories to tell. It could’ve run 50, 100, or even 200 issues if they wanted it to.

This will doubtless make some fanboy’s heads explode, but why couldn’t the series have run as many issues as they wanted? It’s not REAL, after all. :)

I can’t think of another font, off the top of my head, that shows kids how “a” and “g” look when printed by youngsters. It’s a good “learn to read” font…otherwise I’ve had students think the swirly a and g are new letters!

No, I haven’t really followed comic news much in the last year or so, apart from a few specific books; so I guess I missed that. My bad. My tastes have become very European in recent years and I have spent more time perusing the upcoming books from Cinebook than DC or Marvel. I’m happy that a new generation can experience the brilliance of Moore, et al’s work on Marvelman and will be along for the ride if Neil Gaiman finishes his story arcs. I will also be around if Matt Wagner ever returns to do the third volume of Mage, if Tim Truman ever resurrects and finishes Scout Marauder, and would dance a jig if Baron and Rude produced some more Nexus. Until then, I’m quite happy to occupy my time with Valerian and Spirou & Fantasio, and the occasional Astro City, Hellboy, and Rocketeer Adventure.

Re: Byrne’s Hidden Years. First, I have to question your math, Brian from Canada (and, for that matter, yours, John Trumbull). It would have had 27 issues, not 31 nor 22, if it had just been meant to provide stories for the reprint issues from #s 67-93. And while John’s right (as far as I know) about Byrne intending it to be an open-ended series, I actually think it would have been better if he had planned it as a 27-issue series that just “filled in” the reprint era (with maybe an annual or two) – if for no other reason than that probably would have saved it from getting prematurely axed.

OK, Jeff, prepare for some good news, as Gaiman is going to be finishing his arcs.

And we all want to see the video of you dancing a jig, as Baron and Rude have, I believe, being doing some new Nexus stories for the latest iteration of Dark Horse Presents.

I hope you’re also following the new Astro City series from Vertigo (I know, crazy, right?!), and the Rocketeer miniseries that IDW have been putting out. There’s been Cargo of Doom and Hollywood Horror, and currently the Rocketeer is in a crossover with the Spirit. #2 of that just came out this past week. Excellent stuff all!

Not quite accurate, Brian from Canada. It’s true that Byrne was doing X-Men: The Hidden Years to fill the 22-issue “gap” where the book was in reprints, but it was never intended to ONLY be a 22-issue series. It was meant to be an unlimited ongoing series that ran for as long as it remained popular and as long as Byrne had stories to tell. It could’ve run 50, 100, or even 200 issues if they wanted it to.

This will doubtless make some fanboy’s heads explode, but why couldn’t the series have run as many issues as they wanted? It’s not REAL, after all.

_______________________________________

Quoted for both the truth and because I wanted to say pretty much what you just said, but I was too damn lazy to type it up.

Enlightening articles you presented, Brian!

One not so great aspect of Marvel doing reprinting Marvelman is that they will be making money off of a book they did their damndest to kill, via intimidation, since they didn’t have a legal leg to stand on (when it was being published by Warrior). Eclipse played it safe by changing the name to Miracleman, to keep Marvel at bay. I would have rather seen it turn up at Dark Horse, where it would be treated with some respect, as would the creative teams. One things for certain, neophyte readers will be in for a shock when they come to the end of the Alan Davis work and they run smack dab into Chuck Austen’s (under his birth name) art. It’s not horrible, but it certainly wasn’t on the same level as Davis, technically or creatively. Tottleben’s work was a thing of beauty, even when the imagery turned horrific.

I did see that the Bojeffries Saga was also being reprinted, so another piece of lunacy from Warrior will be unleashed upon a new audience.

I think it’s Top Shelf (maybe with Knockabout) that intends to reprint the Bojeffries Saga, but I think they’ve been saying that for quite a while. Still, fingers crossed, because Top Shelf is awesome and what little I’ve read of Bojeffries was awesome too.

But yeah, I totally agree about Marvel reprinting Miracleman, Jeff. It makes me pause, but I think the work is probably too good to not get in some form. Just makes me wish I’d gotten that set of the originals that I’d seen at a con a few years back, but I think it was just out of my price range (but was still relatively reasonable). Arrgh!

Miracleman deserves as much recognition as Watchmen. And the Neil Gaiman issues were almost as good as Moore’s, though in a completely different style. I’m thrilled that it will finally be concluded.

I only pray that they will never bring Miracleman into the Marvel Universe proper. They already ruined the Sentry when Bendis brought him into the Avengers. And the Sentry was obviously inspired by Miracleman. Please Marvel, don’t let Bendis ruin the original too.

The rage over Comic Sans is a sad statement on the world we live in.

Re: Byrne’s Hidden Years. First, I have to question your math, Brian from Canada (and, for that matter, yours, John Trumbull). It would have had 27 issues, not 31 nor 22, if it had just been meant to provide stories for the reprint issues from #s 67-93.

WHOOPS! You’re absolutely right there, Edo. I obviously just glanced at Brian from Canada’s post when I was typing up mine and I assumed that the “22” in there was referring to the number of issues in the gap, not the issue # where the series was canceled, and I didn’t bother to double check. Sorry for the mistake!

Anyway, the basic point is still true, which is that X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS was only intended as a finite series in the broadest possible sense, in that there was an eventual end point in place. I’m sure Byrne could’ve happily done 5-10 years of X-Men stories set during that gap era.

No discussion about Comic Sans is complete without this ranted monologue from the font itself:
http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/im-comic-sans-asshole

I think the one thing we can deduce is that Kirby certainly didn’t come up with Thor on his own. Because he had used the character twice before, and both those times looked a lot more similar to each other than it did to the ongoing Thor character, that looks nothing like them (or traditional depictions of Thor, really).

Since reprints are such big business these days, I wish that they would occasionally go back and redo some of the issues with the weaker artists. Why not pay whatever it takes to get Alan Davis to create new all-new art to replace the fugly Chuck Austen issues?

For that matter, I’m finally reading “The Kang Dynasty” right now, which is insanely good, but man oh man that transition from Alan Davis to Manuel Garcia is painful. I’d love for them to have Davis go back and re-do the Garcia issues, at least. Hopefully, this would make the new trade a major event, so it would pay for itself.

(Oh, and I’ve always wanted Steve Rude to go back and redo those two super-rushed issues of Nexus by Jackson Guice and Gerald Forton, too! If only I ran the world!)

People really need to get past the Comic Sans rage. I don’t think anyone actually felt that strongly about it — it just became a faddish thing to complain about, like Justin Bieber and Twilight. Ain’t hurtin nobody.

Comic Sans has become one of those things that people supposedly hate because they’re told they’re supposed to hate it (like the Eagles).

Bollocks. I loathed it before I knew it was so widely hated, and it didn’t grow on me when I realized that everybody feels like I do.

It’s a perfectly fine font if used in the proper context

Not it’s a hideous font that makes the text an eyesore regardless of the context.

Yes, I remember that too. That was the first time I became aware of the incredible hate over it. I still don’t get why though.

Probably combination of being so overused and the fact that it’s so darn ugly.

Not everybody has the taste — they eye for aesthetics — to be a graphic designer. If you believe that Comics Sans is ever an acceptable font choice, it proves that you are NOT meant to do graphic design. See the reasons stated by John Trumbull above.

No hate here. Just carefully back away from the computer keyboard before you hurt somebody.

I’m not a graphic designer and even I find CS to be a hideous, poorly designed font.

Related to the “Forever”s, I read an interview with Bob Layton in which he says “Iron Man #258.1-4 in no way represents my initial intent or the story concept originally created for Iron Man Forever. The mini debuted in May after ‘sitting in the can’ for almost two years, The editorial department held onto it until the release of Iron Man 3″.
“That miniseries became a hodge-podge of corporate meddling, musical editors, nitpicking and story by committee”. He makes clear that he has no intention of working for Marvel ever again.

I always thought Thor was created centuries ago by some Norse guy…

” The Fantastic Four go back in time and manage to save Ben but they arrive after the battle had begun, so Alicia and Franklin still die ”

That killed it for me right there. Glad it never got made becouse of this. I’m sick of pointless marvel deaths.

I’m pretty certain Thor was created by Odin (well, in part).

I enjoyed X-Men: The Hidden Years primarily because I love the original X-Men. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking but it was a good read and I would have been happy to see it continue.

X-Men Forever, on the other hand, is easily the worst thing Claremont has ever written (and that’s saying a lot afer X-Men: The End). I was really looking forward to the book when it was announced but then it came out and it seemed like Claremont was intentionally crapping on my childhood and even on his own greatest stories (I can’t believe the same guy that wrote the Phoenix Saga wrote that garbage). Jean Grey’s furry fetish alone was enough to make me want to vomit, nevermind all the other horrible characterization in that book and the fact that Claremont actually managed to kill off Wolverine (which I applaud) but still make the book all about him. UGH!!!

Wow, I can’t believe that thing in the third panel of that Tales of the Unexpected page is supposed to be a human. I honestly had to do a double take to realize it’s not a monkey.

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