|Edited by John Morrow||Jack Kirby Collector celebrates the life and career of the "King" of comics through interviews with Kirby and his contemporaries, feature articles, and rare & unseen Kirby artwork. Now in tabloid format, the magazine showcases Kirby's art at even larger size.|
A Failure To Communicate: Part 5
by and © Mike GartlandFrom Jack Kirby Collector #26
Submitted For Your Approval...
There's been some response during the course of my writing the "Failure to Communicate" articles that I was being unfair to Stan Lee. Several people have written to TJKC expressing their disappointment in our trying to take credit away from Stan, reminding us of Lee's contributions, his superior writing skills (comparing it with Jack's solo work yet again) etc., and citing that, just because Jack left a few border notes, it doesn't necessarily mean he had anything to do with writing the stories—he was in on the plotting, but Lee was the writer. And of course there's the old favorite critique of every research writer: "You don't know because you weren't there." (By the way, there was a much larger percentage of letters approving of the articles, for which we say "thanks.")
Rather than going into a lengthy explanation concerning my opinions of the Kirby/Lee creative process, I thought it would be far more enlightening and entertaining to let the stories try and speak for themselves; thereby giving the reader an example of how a typical Kirby/Lee plot was finalized before printing. In the next few articles I will be showcasing Kirby/Lee stories from various books that they have worked on, the stories to be determined by what original complete stories I can find; I will document whatever is on the original art and print it verbatim for the reader to see. It should not only give us a glimpse into the creative process of a Marvel comic, but reveal the seldom-seen editorial changes made by Stan (and of course, whatever notes Jack left for assist).
In keeping with the theme of this issue, I decided to start with a Thor story from 1964. Whereas some will attest that the Thor stories from 1966-on were pretty much Kirby directing the storylines, this story comes from a time when many believe that Jack and Stan were plotting together, or Stan was creating the plots solo. The story is from Journey into Mystery #111, the second half of a two-parter. The synopsis is: In the previous issue, Loki had increased the power of two of Thor's arch-enemies, The Cobra and Mr. Hyde. Loki also reveals to them that, in abducting the nurse Jane Foster, they will gain the advantage over Thor. They kidnap her and take her to a specially-prepared house of traps; when Thor arrives and begins battling, Jane becomes mortally wounded. Thor suspends time around the house in order to keep her from dying; with her safe for the time being, he turns to confront his adversaries....
Below are the border notes left by Jack, broken down panel-by-panel; some have been cropped off by the printer, some have been rubbed off from handling. Also, any changes made by Stan will be revealed. Notes followed by a "X" mean that the rest was cut off or not legible. Where no panels are mentioned, no notes exist or were legible. Grab your copy of JIM #111 and enjoy!
(NOTE: This story was approved by the Comics Code Authority on 7/13/64, which puts Jack drawing it in June 1964. Throughout the book, Chic Stone's bold thick ink brush lines are actually greyish on the originals; the faces stand out as denser black because they were apparently inked separately with a pen.)
What conclusions can one draw from this? Obviously something was in the process of changing, since only months before on other originals there are no Kirby notes at all. In the photocopies of Jack's pencils from JIM #101 (previously seen in TJKC #14 and #18), no notes are visible; and since these are photocopies of pencil art, one would assume that if pencil notes were there, then they'd be viewable. Also, on other pages of original art from pre-1964, no notes are found (other than editorial notes left by Stan). So sometime during 1964 Jack begins the process of leaving notes in the borders of the artwork. Why? Were these to help remind Lee of a story they plotted weeks previously, or guide him through a story he had little input on?
In other books not drawn by Jack, where he is credited as "layout" artist, also from this time (64-65), he leaves even more detailed border notes. Why? Is he laying out art, plot, story, or what; and for whom—the artist or the writer or both? Some speculate that Jack may have just left border notes on the books he drew, having gotten into the habit after leaving notes on his "layout" books; but this JIM #111 story pre-dates his layout books. It's also well documented that, as time went on, on future stories Jack's notes become even lengthier, describing characters and events in much more detail.
In future issues we'll see other examples—judge for yourself what or who's unfair (and to whom)!
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