Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Letter Column Rant and A Few Observations

Tom commented on the post “Reminiscing About Jack Kirby

I think that in the 70’s, people were so used to having Jack around that they took him for granted. I’ve read the letters pages in some of his 70’s Marvel titles like Cap, Eternals and Black Panther and he definitely gets a lot of negative feedback. It seems to me like a case of too much of a good thing. These guys had grown up on his stuff and his style at Marvel was kind of omnipresent, and if it wasn’t him drawing a book in a lot of cases it was someone drawing just like him, and then in the 70’s you had guys like Starlin and Barry Smith which for the fans were a new style and a kind of a breath of fresh air, and they didn’t want to go back. They were like teens who’ve gotten do drive and have some freedom for the first time, and now they don’t want to go to grandma’s house every sunday with the rest of the family.

I didn’t get into Kirby until the early 90’s when I was in my early 20’s. I ate up his 70’s stuff. The time was right for me to discover and fall in love with it. I understand how the kids didn’t want it at the time, but I wish they hadn’t been so mean about it. Anyway, I see every Kirby issue as gold.


Jack’s titles got plenty of positive mail, too, especially early on, but because the people putting together the lettercolumns then used a lot of negative letters, that had the effect of generating more negative letters. In those days, it was a very cool thing to see your letter in print. Show the readers that negative letters are likely to get printed and you’d get lots of them.

I cannot imagine what the people putting the letter columns together were thinking. Were they trying to be “fair and balanced,” and show that some people were disappointed with what Jack was doing? Was it that they, themselves, were disappointed with what Jack was doing and weighted the lettercols to express their POV? Putting together a negative lettercol is stupid, amateurish and/or malicious.

Lettercols in commercial, entertainment publications are PROMOTIONAL INSTRUMENTS (and entertaining, if done right). Like it, don’t like it, or whatever. If you’re a professional with the brains God gave a goat, you know this and you act accordingly. This isn’t journalism.

Ideally, you select letters positive letters, especially thoughtful, thought-provoking letters, including some, OCCASIONALLY that express thoughtful criticism along with positive comments. A critical letter that is clearly biased or dumb enough to incite the readers to rebut it, if only in their own minds, works too. Publishing 101.

Stan told me that when John Romita replaced Steve Ditko on Spider-Man, the mail was overwhelmingly negative. Stan ran only the rave letters, almost without exception. Soon, the mail became overwhelmingly positive. And, P.S., people got used to John’s style and sincerely started grooving on it. This happened, in part, because the lettercols promoted the new look. That helped to start a movement.

P.S. That wouldn’t have worked if John’s work wasn’t really good. Trying to promote in a lettercol something that’s really lousy usually is a non-starter.

A possibly interesting fact: though Jack’s books did not sell well on the newsstands, because, I think, to casual readers they seeemed old-fashioned and un-hip, they sold gangbusters in the nascent direct market, as well or better than the X-Men, and far more than all other titles. I remember noticing that a couple of Jack’s books were selling upwards of 30,000 copies — just about enough to break even all direct — at a time when Spider-Man, the Avengers, etc., were selling closer to 10,000 direct. That observation was part of the genesis of the first major all-direct book, Dazzler #1. So, it wasn’t that Jack’s books were universally hated. The more comics-sophisticated/collector direct market patrons liked the stuff — enough of them, anyway. I wonder how many copies direct Jack’s books would have sold when the direct market had developed a little more and X-Men was selling several hundred thousand direct each month.

These days, lettercols have largely been obviated by e-communication. The readership community is far more aware of overall trends and opinions. Stan’s lettercols promoting the new look on Spider-Man would have made not a dent, because everyone would be talking about it online and the lettercol couldn’t influence opinion at all.

A Few Observations

The discussions that follow my posts are better than my posts.

I read Waid’s Daredevil last night. Unsurprisingly brilliant. I expected as much. How does he get such wonderful art?

This just in: Janet Claire Jackson continues to deny that she is an alien vegetable clone grown in a vat on the planet Vegetron who is here on Earth to confuse us to death by posing as Penelope Muddlepud.


Three Comic Book Weddings, or Holy Matrimony! – Part 2


Disney Adventures


  1. Anonymous

    I dont think letter columns should be considered promotional. They are about communication, between creators and readers, between readers and othe readers, and they help build a sense of community. If they are honest, they build a brand identity that keeps people a part of the family; if they are hype, they turn people off and are useless. The best editors – Lee, Schwartz, Thomas, Yronwode, Schutz, some others – knew this and built a good dialogue with their fans.

  2. Cliffy

    Late to the party but the numbers posted above while interesting are prob atypical. The 200 issue is probably the issue closest to the statement date and therefore would skew those numbers but of course Captain America is going to be the biggest selling title either way. more interesting would be the numbers on 2001 or Eternals. that's what I'd like to see.

    But ither way, this is the guy who created the Celestials for heaven's sake!

  3. I just realized that character evolution may have come full circle when the 1978 Fantastic Four cartoon replaced the Human Torch with a cute little robot named H.E.R.B.I.E. Maybe Disney should've sent Marvel a sternly worded letter about that instead of focusing on Howard the Duck.

    I found the video with the scenes of WW2 planes compared to Star Wars scenes on YouTube. The footage is from 1:30 to 2:30. It looks like the documentarian may have assembled the comparison shots himself from WW2 movies. It doesn't seem to indicate if those WW2 dogfight shots came from specific films known to be referenced by Lucas.

  4. Re-reading your earlier post, I totally misidentified the scene you describe, my bad. It's the end assault on the Death Star that bears some resemblance to the Three O'Clock High, and you're totally right about the Dam Busters.

    Actually, I was watching some of the Vietnam War w/Walter Cronkite docs yesterday and there was a pilot briefing in there that reminded me of the pre-Death-Star flight briefing, as well. I guess a lot of this stuff bears similarities because of actual military protocol, source material all these movies are referencing.

    Nevertheless, I don't think it's a mistake that all these things have been mentioned as influences.

    Herbie and R2 is a new one on me, tho! Not that I think it's all that off the wall.

  5. Bmcmolo, I think what I was thinking of was a scene from a Star Wars documentary that did a split-screen between footage of Han and Luke's dogfight with TIE Fighters (when they escape right after Obi-Wan is killed) and actual archived WW2 dogfight footage, in which the shots lined up perfectly.

    The biggest comparison to a fictional WW2 film I've seen is to The Dam Busters (1955). Here is a YouTube video that "humorously" puts Star Wars audio onto scenes from that film. Here is a Wikipedia entry explaining the similarities. "The attack on the 'Death Star' in the climax of the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is similar in many respects to the strategy of Operation Chastise from the 1954 British film, The Dam Busters. Rebel pilots have to fly through a trench while evading enemy fire and drop a single special weapon at a precise distance from the target in order to destroy the entire base with a single explosion; if one run fails another run must be made by a different pilot. Some scenes from the A New Hope climax are very similar to those in The Dam Busters and some of the dialogue is nearly identical in the two films. These scenes are also heavily influenced by the action scenes from the fictional wartime film 633 Squadron. That film's finale shows the squadron's planes flying down a deep fjord while being fired at along the way by anti-aircraft guns lining its sides. George Lucas has stated in interviews that this sequence inspired the 'trench run' sequence in A New Hope."

    Another off-the-wall comparison I don't often hear made but that rings true to me is between R2-D2 and Herbie the Love Bug. They're both "cute" and childlike mechanical creatures, they have a round domed shape, they're colored mostly in white with some blue and a little red, and they cannot speak but instead communicate through sounds, lights and movement.

  6. JediJ – the ww2 b+w film you reference is Three O'Clock High with Gregory Peck. You're absolutely right, too, that last bomb-run in that film parallels the attack on the Death Star almost to a t.

    Interesting theory re: Green Lantern.

  7. Jim:

    I've posted a scan of Kamandi #26's letters page for reference re: Jack's comments on balancing his duties.


    Thanks to the other Phillip for referencing this.


  8. No one mentioned the influence of WW2 films on Star Wars yet. One of the "Making of" Star Wars documentaries puts some black-and-white dogfight footage from an old WW2 movie up against the scene where Luke and Han have a dogfight with TIE Fighters in their gunports. The shots line up literally frame for frame, cut for cut.

    I've heard that the Howard the Duck DVD includes interviews that say Lucas first suggested making the Howard the Duck movie even before Star Wars, in the early or mid-'70s. That's more evidence that Lucas was a pretty intense comic book reader, because wasn't Howard becoming a cult favorite at that time with older comic book fans?

    Allow me to offer my own pet theory about comic books that influenced Star Wars by suggesting that Green Lantern was one of them. Examples…

    Both feature a weapon that creates solid light energy, a signature weapon which every warrior on the heroic team must master and carry at all times.

    The main villain has the same weapon and there are different colors for heroic energy vs. villainous energy (blue vs. red in Star Wars and green vs. yellow in Green Lantern).

    Both have "guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy" that are made up of different alien species.

    There is a similar physical appearance between Yoda and the "Guardians." One is green and one is blue but both are short, midget-like, elderly, with pointy ears and gray, balding hair. Both play the role of "old, wisened masters."

    The main villain is a former member of the hero's team who fell from grace.

    Anakin, Luke and Hal all start out as great pilots before being transported off of their homeworlds and finding a larger destiny for themselves.

  9. Anonymous

    Jim, I tracked down the Statements of Ownership sales figures for Kirby's Captain America.
    The first is published in issue #196 four issues into Kirby's run and too soon to reflect any sales resulting from Kirby's tenure.
    Average Printed was 339,484
    Avergae Sold was 180,156 with the issue nearest to filing date selling only 161,552.
    The second notice is in isue #207 well over one year after Kirby took over and would reflect only issues by Kirby.
    Average printed was 355,693 with the most recent issue seeing a spike to 444,370.
    Average sold was 165,147 with the most recent issue selling 223,260.
    It would seem that the book was selling better than the book before Kirby took over, and increasingly so as Marvel incresed the print run from 355,693 to 444,370 during the course of the year.
    The next statement is in issue #219 which I don't have, but Byrne reported the sales average for that year was 133,000 so the sales had taken quite a dip from the previous average of 165,147, and a bigger one from the high of of 223,260, but other statements from the same months show Marvel's sales were tanking right before Jim became editor, and every title I've looked at shows similar large drops in circulation.
    Spider-Man for example dropped from 281,860 to 258,156 during the same time period.


  10. Chris,

    You are right. I'm being a pill. To each their own. And I do have fun.

    Apologies to all.

    But I think I'm done. Take care.

  11. Oscar, obsessing over this type of minutia in this context is FUN for me. Unless I am literally hurting Henley I don't understand why you are being such a babyman. Stop complaining about my fun and start having your own.

  12. Dear DJ,

    I probably have some circulation department memos from 1978. I have transfiles full of circulation department memos from when I started as EIC on. Captain America was probably Kirby's best title, sales-wise. Kirby's left Marvel in mid-1978. June, maybe? Does the statement of ownership cover only Kirby issues? Is that the average sale or the single issue closest to filing date?

  13. All this bickering about what Lucas took and how much Kirby influenced them, and Darkseid, etc, etc, etc.

    This is why comic book fans are generally looked at in a bad light in the real world. And I mean that. Comic Book Guy is designed the way he is for a reason. There's a good reason why Mike Manley uses the term Babymen. Who gives a flying crap about all this minutia? If the stories are good, they're good. But all this other stuff is bs.

    Stop bogging yourselves down with all this minutia. It doesn't matter or shouldn't matter in day to day existence or even in the long run. You guys are better than this.

    That's it for me. I've had enough.

  14. Most of those are genre conventions and tropes. That basically means Tolkien can come back from the dead and sue the world and then have to settle out of court with Jesus.

  15. I always think that people will get this once the obvious similarities (like Mark Moonrider vs Luke Skywalker) are pointed out. But for those who need more… here's a list from Tom Scionti:

    "Living computers that speak in electronic pinging noises rather than speech, and the characters understand what they’re saying.

    Mother Box helps Mister Miracle and Oberon out of the X-Pit the same way R2 helps the Star Warriors out of the trash compactor pit.

    The Source/Force

    Compare the Emperor’s goading of Luke from his throne in ROTJ with Darkseid’s goading of Orion in NG#2. Both climax with the hero being attacked with electrical energy bolts.

    Seagrin and Vader’s funerals.

    The banter between the Forever People before launching into hyperspace with the banter aboard the Millenium Falcon before doing the same. When piloting their vehicle Mark Moonrider and Big Bear relate to each other in much the same way that Han Solo and Chewbacca relate to each other.

    I am your father!

    Hero needs to learn to control his anger before he can triumph.

    Darkseid/Dark Side

    Death Star/ Apokolips (the planet Coruscant in the prequels resembles Apokolips even more closely).

    Compare Darth Maul’s face make-up with Mokarri’s in Olsen.

    Clone factories.

    An army of fascistic armored soldiers, Stormtroopers, Justifiers, the Dog Soldiers of Apokolips, Granny’s troopers.

    The floating city.

    Learning to tap into the Source and learning to tap into the Force.

    Star Wars has so much of the feel of The Pact and Himon.

    The scene at the end of Himon where Darkseid tries to tempt MM into joining him. Let me destroy and recreate you in my image. The echo between this scene and Luke and Vader’s confrontation in ROTJ is really strong. And both end with the hero screaming his defiance before throwing himself into a hissing vortex.

    The chase through an asteroid field in New Gods #3 and the one in Empire Strikes Back.

    The villain with a code of honor: Darkseid, Kanto, Darth Vader.

    Galactic bounty hunters: Devilance and Boba Fett.

    The combination of sci-fi and hippy-era mysticism.

    Ewok village and the Hairies’ treehouse.

    The Himon-Metron-Darkseid trinity at the end of MM#9 and the Yoda-Kenobi-Aniken trinity at the end of ROTJ.

    Kenobi seems like a combo of Highfather and Metron.

    Kenobi tells Luke there’s a greater teacher than himself, Yoda. We find out in MM #9 that there is a greater mind than Metron, the true innovator Himon.

    Infinity Man frozen in a block of ice. Han Solo frozen in carbonite.

    The youthful sci-fi cowboys of the Forever People compared with the youthful sci-fi cowboys of Star Wars.

    Mark Moonrider rescues Beautiful Dreamer from Darkseid (in a very Darth-Vadery outfit, complete with cape). Luke Skywalker rescues Princess Leia from Darth Vader."

    If Warner ever needs some extra cash, they might consider letting some bright attorney with a background in copyright law have a look at that list.

  16. Ronin Ro's "Tales to Astonish" covers some of this territory as well. From a post by Patrick Ford in the "Comics Comics" forum: "The book (Tales to Astonish) also describes a dinner between Ed Summer owner of Supersnipe, his partner at Supersnipe George Lucas, and Roy Thomas. Lucas tried to pitch the idea of a Marvel comic book based on Star Wars (remember the comic book preceded the movie) without success to Thomas. Thomas is quoted as saying he wasn’t interested in Star Wars, but came away from the dinner believing that Lucas had been reading Kirby comics, “I don’t know if George Lucas ever quite admitted it, but I got the impression that there was a little influence there.”
    The book then moves on to quote Mike Thibodeaux recalling Jack’s own feelings that a number of things had been borrowed ( like Moonrider/Skywalker, Older mentor:Himon/Obi-Wan Ken-obi, Dark Side/Darkseid, Light saber/Mega-Rods, and quite a few more.) Kirby is quoted as saying he didn’t think the resemblances were great enough that he felt he was owed anything other than an acknowledgment from Lucas.

  17. Chris, you may want to check out:


    for some pretty conclusive evidence that Dr. Doom and FF comics were among the source materials Lucas gave to McQuarrie for the design of Vader. Scroll down and you'll see the author remarks on the overall similarity between Darkseid and Vader.

  18. Anonymous

    Jim, The statement of ownership sales figures in Captain America show it was selling 130,000 copies during the last year Kirby was on the book.
    Do you have any official Marvel sales documents which show at what levels the various Marvel titles were selling?


  19. Dear czeskleba and Allen,

    By virtue of direct market sales alone, Kirby's books were at or near sustainable levels, if the disastrous newsstand distribution had been eliminated. Some Kirby books were selling single digit percentages of draw on the newsstand, at a time when Marvel books' average percentage of sell-through on the newsstand was a little under 50%. Print and sell 35-40,000 all direct, not so bad. Print 300,000 for the newsstand, sell 18,000, not so good.

  20. A pre-1980 interview is probably the most credible record from George Lucas himself. If Mr Thomas can cite the source I'll post it on my blog.

  21. I heard that Lucas said Vader was in part inspired by Doom decades ago, probably before 1980. I wish I could cite the source. Roy would probably know.

  22. Allen said:
    Glad to see the rumor started and repeated ad nauseum by John Byrne on his 'forum' that Kirby's books in the 70/80s at Marvel did not sell has been proven false by Jim.
    How has it been proven false? Shooter says "though Jack's books did not sell well on the newsstands, {snip} they sold gangbusters in the nascent direct market."

    The direct market was just a small part of total sales in those days. The point is, the overall sales of his books were poor.

  23. Aside from antagonist being father of protagonist and the rhyming cosmic religions your argument falls apart.

  24. Retconned more than revealed. Until Lucas came up with the new idea Darth was more like Joe Chill.

  25. How old is the Doom begat Vader record? The newer the interview the less reliable.

  26. Chris A. – you got me! You are absolutely right! Luke's true father is not revealed until Episode 5 "The Empire Strikes Back"!

    This small technicality invalidates my whole line of reasoning!

    Curses, foiled again!

  27. Bmcmolo, thanks for the quote and the site!

    Let me translate what I think Lucas was trying to say: "Star Wars owes its origin to either very old things upon which the copyright has lapsed – and on foreign things upon which any copyright would be difficult to enforce."

    What's that apocryphal Picasso quote? "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." And good businesspeople make sure their properties have the clearest possible title.

  28. John H, I knew you were going to say that Luke was the son of the antagonist…. But you would be wrong. That is NOT in Star Wars.

  29. Lucas was on record saying Star Wars was an amalgam of comic books, "using Flash Gordon vocabulary to create an outer space version of Kurosawa's samurai films (most notably Yojimbo – for the cantina scene – and Hidden Fortress, for the rest of it), and Joseph Campbell.

    Of course, by this point, he's probably digitally altered said record to remove any of the above, but who knows.

    Kirby and Lucas both liked Joseph Campbell – Kirby probably liked Kurosawa, too, but I have no idea.

    Cool site for those interested:

  30. Rob

    There's a very minor connection to Star Wars. Very minor.

    Luke is nothing like Origon. Being the son of the main antagonist is nothing new and much older than Orion

    Vader is slightly like Doom, but it's exaggerated how much. He's nothing like Darkseid.

    and the death star is nothing like Apokolips.

    This is like saying Star Wars is Flash Gordon. Two differen things, even if Flash inspired Star Wars some, and had the same type of opening scrawl. Tone, quality, ideas, all different.

    "Star Wars is Kurosowa, no its Fourth World, no it's FF, no it's Flash Gordon, no it's a western" lol

  31. Chris, you really need me to spell this out? The Death Star is a dead ringer for the planet Apokolips. Darth Vader = one part Darkseid, one part Dr. Doom. Our hero Luke, uses the Force while our hero Orion relies on his connection to the Source. Luke, our protagonist, is actually the son of our main antagonist – just like Orion, our protagonist is the son of our main antagonist. I could go on…

    I'm not claiming line-for-line plagiarism here but I think the "Romeo and Juliet" inspires "West-Side Story" analogy is an apt one for the Fourth World inspiring Star Wars. The fingerprints of Jack Kirby are all over the Star Wars Universe.

    Given that the Fourth World is owned by Warner, I'm not surprised Lucas has downplayed its obvious influence on his masterwork.

  32. Dear Chris,

    Legend has it that George Lucas owned part of Supersnipe Comic Book Emporium, a comics shop on the Upper East Side. I believe he is also on record saying that Darth Vader was in part inspired by Doctor Doom.

  33. Anonymous

    The first person I remember mentioning a similarity between The Fourth World and Star Wars was Roy Thomas. Thomas said he had a meeting with Lucas where Lucas tried to sell Marvel on the idea of a Star Wars comic book.
    This was before the movie was released, and Thomas said based on the conversation he got the impression Lucas had been reading The Fourth World.
    I think Jim has said the Star Wars comic book played a major role in Marvel staying in business. Things were that bad when he took over as editor.

  34. John H… try coming up with proof that a) George Lucas was that much of a reader b) the other creators of the movie had those comic books in their histories c) there are specific comparative points between New Gods and Star Wars

  35. "If anti-John Romita, Jr. stuff made it into the lettercol on my watch, then I apologize for letting it slip through. I think he was/is great. Loved his stuff. Chris, after recruiting him in the first place, eventually wanted someone else on the book. Whatever. I was a fan."

    Romita Jr. talks about leaving Uncanny X-Men on the extras on the Daredevil movie DVD. He said he either quit or was kicked off the book. He goes on to say that he was at a crossroads before being offered Daredevil, and didn't know if he wanted to be a cartoonist anymore, and not because of comics, but because of personalities he had to deal with. He called them "boneheads". I've had a few conversations with JRjr. online, and he's always fun to talk to. I asked him who he meant, but he understandably didn't want to stir anything up. It was Claremont! Thanks, Jim!!

  36. OM

    …One of the numerous anonymii said: "First letter complains there are only white people among the surviving humans of Kamandi's world."

    …Probably one of the same guys that complained how all of Nova's tribe were all honkeys with the same hairstyle and skin tone, too in Planet of the Apes.

  37. It's really odd that there's an argument about the lack of "realistic" art in modern (presumably mainstream) comic books, given that there's been a heavy trend toward photorealism (to the point of photo-manipulation) over the last few years — ESPECIALLY at Marvel.

  38. Dear Inkstained,

    Gotcha. Thanks.

  39. Chris, Star Wars was not adapted from Kirby's Fourth World in the exact same way that "West Side Story" owed no debt to Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet".

  40. Anonymous

    Jim, No scanner sorry.
    First letter complains there are only white people among the surviving humans of Kamandi's world.

    Kirby: "Sometimes it takes more than 21 issues for a guy to realize he's a "potato-head."
    If you keep reading Kamandi you'll find that I've explored his world a little more throughly.

    Third letter complains there isn't enough dialog in recent issues.

    Kirby: "Your idea of a lot of dialog sure comes across. However in all sincerity, I must admit that your points are valid because they point up the limitations of the comic magazine format.
    To gain the most out of my "story cast" I must be my own gadfly. I must constantly do a "razzle-dazzle" balancing act between story, picture, and action. I must pull off "good reading" in a "frozen-movie" framework. What will I hide if I "add" and will things look lopsided if I "detract?"


  41. Star Wars was not adapted from comic books. It was a reflection and pastiche of westerns, sci CJ, and samurai movies

  42. Anonymous

    Glad to see the rumor started and repeated ad nauseum by John Byrne on his 'forum' that Kirby's books in the 70/80s at Marvel did not sell has been proven false by Jim.

    Byrne is always eager to give Kirby backhanded 'compliments'. He praises his work but always calls him "jack the hack" and keeps repeating how his run on Cap sold 15,000 copies – pure bull of course.

    Byrne has a habit of denigrating many a great creator but when he does it with Kirby he really shows what a sickening excuse for a human being he is.


  43. I'm not sure why Kirby wasn't as appreciated in the 70's as he was before but the times were different art style wise almost everything adhered to a more realistic approach, which is pretty different from the way Kirby and even Ditko drew.

    I don't really recall even reading any books that either of them drew as a kid or even a teenager which i feel ashamed of now but i don't think either of them were getting promoted like they were in the silver age.

  44. Inkstained Wretch

    Err … I'll readily concede that maybe I didn't make that point well.

    Double err … My understanding has always been that even when the comics started out with a thin plotline by Stan he was heavily involved in writing/editing the finished product.

    Sheesh …

  45. Inkstained Wretch

    Jim, I wasn't trying to denigrate Stan. Quite the opposite; I was trying to articulate why I thought he was able to bring out the best in Jack, Steve and others. That's why their work with him was so much better than their solo-written stuff. I'll readily concede that maybe I didn't make that point it well.

    My point was that the ability as a manager (or editor) to get talented people to focus their energies in productive ways is a gift. My understanding has always been that even the comics started out with a thin plotline by Stan he was heavily involved in writing/editing the finished product. That this process created latter-day questions over who plotted/created this or that doesn't detract from the excellence of the actual work.

    Nor do I think it takes anything away from Stan to say that there was better chemistry between him and Jack on Thor than there was between him and John Buscema.

  46. "If his name was Hirby, he wouldn't have been named the King and that would have hurt."

    His real surname was Kurtzberg and he changed it to Kirby for his comicbook work (just like Stan used Lee instead of Leiber which was his real surname) so it's not like Kirby was his real name.

    "two movies that are completely different lol"

    From the wikipedia entry of the Masters of the Universe film:


    Comic book writer/artist John Byrne compared the film to Jack Kirby's comic book metaseries Fourth World, stating in Comic Shop News #497:

    "The best New Gods movie, IMHO, is ´Masters of the Universe´. I even corresponded with the director, who told me this was his intent, and that he had tried to get [Jack] Kirby to do the production designs, but the studio nixed it." "Check it out. It requires some bending and an occasional sex change (Metron becomes an ugly dwarf, The Highfather becomes the Sorceress), but it's an amazingly close analog, otherwise. And Frank Langella's Skeletor is a dandy Darkseid!"

    Director Gary Goddard clarified this in a letter appearing in John Byrne's Next Men #26, in which he stated:

    "As the director of Masters of the Universe, it was a pleasure to see that someone got it. Your comparison of the film to Kirby’s New Gods was not far off. In fact, the storyline was greatly inspired by the classic Fantastic Four/Doctor Doom epics, The New Gods and a bit of Thor thrown in here and there. I intended the film to be a “motion picture comic book,” though it was a tough proposition to sell to the studio at the time. 'Comics are just for kids,' they thought. They would not allow me to hire Jack Kirby who I desperately wanted to be the conceptual artist for the picture…

    I grew up with Kirby's comics (I’ve still got all my Marvels from the first issue of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man through the time Kirby left) and I had great pleasure meeting him when he first moved to California. Since that time I enjoyed the friendship of Jack and Roz and was lucky enough to spend many hours with Jack, hearing how he created this character and that one, why a villain has to be even more powerful than a hero, and on and on. Jack was a great communicator, and listening to him was always an education. You might be interested to know that I tried to dedicate Masters of Universe to Jack Kirby in the closing credits, but the studio took the credit out."

    It wasn't a straight adaptation but apparently it did use elements of the comics. Though I found the Fourth World comics much better than the particular film.

  47. Dear Inkstained,

    You're selling Stan short. As one who read some of Jack's "dialogue" on early Marvel comics visible in the margins of art boards, as someone who worked closely with Jack, Stan, Steve and others, I can attest to the overwhelming force that Stan was. Taking nothing away from Jack and Steve, who need no hype from me, Stan was the primal force that made it all happen. It's hip to credit Jack and Steve and diminish Stan. Baloney. Sorry Jack and Steve, I love you and honor your genius, but Stan was the man.

  48. Dear Phillip,

    Wow. I didn't know about that. Any chance you could scan it and post it?

  49. Rob

    I love how "they already did Fourth world, it was called Star Wars" and "It was called Masters of the Universe"

    two movies that are completely different lol

    I'd rate them

    1. Star Wars
    2. He-Man
    3. Fourth World

    in terms of quality.

  50. Rob

    Most of Kirby's post 60s work, I think is pretty lousy. The art was ugly and the dialogue painful. Ideas were often good, if unrealized. Storytelling was always top notch though.

    Pre-60s, most of it is pretty crude and primitive looking, like most Golden Age art.

    I think the work he did with Stan was top notch and is why he is remembered. Otherwise, he'd be largely a footnote. Plus, it didn't hurt that Stan named him King and promoted that relentlessly. A colorful nickname helps. If his name was Hirby, he wouldn't have been named the King and that would have hurt.

    of course Ditko's legacy is 95% Spider-Man. Otherwise, he'd be less than a footnote.

    For whatever reason, they all put out their best work in the 60s.

  51. Anonymous

    John, You would think DC would see a property perfect for a film series (Star Wars, LOTR, Potter) right under their nose wouldn't you? It's said they were in search of a property to promote aside from Superman and Batman, and they picked Green Lantern over the Fourth World? Well done Fourth World movies would be like printing money.

  52. The New Gods film adaptation was called Masters of the Universe

  53. I was born in 1982 and I love Jack Kirby's work (which I first encountered through Marvel's Essential line). Cartoony artwork doesn't mean inferior, it's just a style. There is good cartoony artwork and there's bad.

    As much as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko owe to Stan Lee, the reverse is also true. I didn't enjoy Stan Lee's other work as much as when he collaborated with those two (with the exception of John Romita's stint on Spider-Man).

    On the matter of changing artists and negative letters, I'm sure John Byrne has said that there was a lot of negative mail when he followed Dave Cockrum on the X-Men, even though his run now has a legendary status.

  54. FWIW, they did make a New Gods movie. They just changed the title to "Star Wars".

  55. MACHINE MAN was the book that made me love Kirby, dialog and all. That's right. I wasn't born when the masterpieces prior came out. It took me till 1986 to find three of the first four issues.

    I'm a day early, but happy birthday, Jim. Many happy trips 'round the sun!

  56. Inkstained Wretch

    In retrospect it was pretty clear the Jack Kirby needed a strong editor to bring out the best in him. Stan Lee filled that post throughout most of the 60s.

    I'm certain that Kirby made more of a contribution to the comics they did together than Stan did. Not just art, but plot and even even dialogue too. That is, Stan wouldn't have been able to substitute any other artist on FF or Thor and have the issues come out nearly as good.

    But Kirby could not have done them alone either. Stan clearly had the right instincts on where the plot should go, what would work and what wouldn't and even had the balls to tell Kirby when a page was substandard and needed to be redone.

    Thanks to the Essentials volumes, I am finishing up the late-60s Lee/Kirby Thor run and I have to say those stories are just fantastic. Lush, beautiful and vibrant art on every page combined with wonderfully freewheeling stories that cross from standard superhero fare, to magical fantasy and over to cosmic space opera.

    When Kirby left, John Buscema took over on art. He was one of the great pencilers himself, but those stories just don't compare to what came before, even with Stan Lee remaining on as (nominal) scripter.

    Meanwhile Kirby's DC work, where he was now his own writer and editor, was clearly very undisciplined. Take The Demon, for example: The art alternated from dazzling, jump off the page splashes to flat, inert images, all hard angles and thick, cartoony lines. Meanwhile the plot, exposition and dialogue were jumbled messes. The contrast between those comics and his Thor masterpieces just a few years prior are amazing.

    The problem with Kirby in the 70s was that he was his own writer/editor, when what he really needed was a collaborator who could push him to do his best. The only way the companies could assert any control was to cancel the comics he made and force him to start over. Which is why Kirby's 70s career had so many cancelled titles.

  57. Dear Mr. Shooter,

    Very good blog. I was a teen fan during those benighted 1970s; I just liked nearly everything Marvel put out. Let me congratulate you on no longer being Marvel's whipping-horse. That honor has now passed to Brad Douglas and his Spider-Man Crawl Space site.

  58. Ok, I know this has nothing to do with it but it just flashed in front of me: did you ever notice that DC's Amethyst Princess of Gemworld and Marvel's Saga of Crystar the crystal warrior were released the same month of 1983?!
    People often talk about the Swamp Thing/ Man thing coincidence but this one is also quite something! Of course, Amethyst had been in the works for several months before that so we know which one was the first and it's probably only a coincidence but was it ever point out to you? It seemed nobody had ever notice it before!

  59. Agreed. Well put, Marc!

  60. Marc said it as well as anyone, on Jim and his blog:

    "I wish to thank you and JayJay for creating the ultimate letter column. Interactivity taken to the next level. I appreciate how you answer our questions here and even use comments as springboards for posts like this one. You inspire us and we inspire you. A circle of mutual respect."

  61. "This just in: Janet Claire Jackson continues to deny that she is an alien vegetable clone grown in a vat on the planet Vegetron who is here on Earth to confuse us to death by posing as Penelope Muddlepud."

    What??? Jayjay is… BOB LAYTON???

  62. Anonymous

    In issue #26 of Kamandi Jack Kirby took over the LOC for an issue because Steve Sherman was on vacation. Kirby printed several critical letters, and his answers to the letters are a great insight into his working methods.
    In one reply he gives a mini-tutorial on balancing text and images as part of overall page design, and in another gives a humorous reply to a complaint that horses are nearly the only animal which hasn't evolved a higher intelligence.


  63. The new Daredevil #1 is the best single issue I've read all year, including the DCU new #1's.

    And the back up strip, by the artist my brain refuses to remember the name of a the moment, seemed to exude 'Ditko' while still being the artists own distinctive style.

  64. ja


    I do understand the points you're making, even though you're convinced I'm not because I've not parroted everything back to you exactly the way you've dictated to us all.

    We're all talking about things that need to be improved upon, which largely aren't being done in the comics industry.

    Hopefully one day, before things all go to shit…?

    I'm dubious about the outlook. We'll see.

  65. Ja & Urk,

    You both jumped to a conclusions with your reply. Art is only one problem with modern comics and some don't have an art problem at all.


    Yes, the Georgia stores might have been run more poorly. I said "statistically" that was a bad indicator. What that means is that there is a high statistical likelihood that more are having problems. Actually, having been friends with a lot of formal retailers I know the distribution system is extremely flawed. Most businesses don't die overnight. They flop around and suffer like a fish out of water.

    Again, my message is "wake up" not "I don't like that art". Jim's blog has some very logical and basic information about making comics and I don't see people following it.

  66. Hey Bully, thanks for posting those panels– of course, I should've mentioned your wonderful blog when I posted the link. Seriously, if y'all aren't reading Bully's posts everyday at Comics Oughta Be Fun (but of course, you *are,* right?), you should be! And "I just condensed your subplot a little" is such a great, great line.

  67. ja

    What he said.

  68. Dear Jim,

    I didn't know about the anti-Kirby sentiment back in the 70s. I was just a kid reading whatever random issues I came across.

    One of the first Marvel — and Kirby — comics I ever read was Captain America #213. I loved the way-out design of Zola. So much more interesting than a standard supervillain, a human in a costume. And then there was Zola's living castle … ! I've forgotten most comics that I read as a five-year-old, but that one's been stuck in my memory for 34 years.

    One of my cousins had an issue of The Eternals back when it was being published. I'm not sure if I read it, but the title lodged itself in my brain and when I finally read multiple issues as a teenager in the late 80s, I loved them.

    In 2004, a fan I knew online introduced me to Kirby's 2001. I was so impressed that I ended up buying every single comic that Kirby wrote and drew after he left Marvel in 1970 except for Spirit World which still eludes me after seven years.

    By that point, I considered reading the letters pages to be an integral part of the comics experience and I saw the negativity. Whatever. How some readers felt 30 years ago about Kirby's work had no influence on how I viewed it. I kept collecting his comics anyway.

    Having said that, I do agree with your perspective on letters columns. People are easily influenced. Even me. Although I always try to judge comics on their own merits, judging comics creators as people is another matter. Fans can read the work for themselves, but most can't meet the people who created it … or talk to them (until now!). I loved the reprints of your 60s Legion stories that I read in fourth grade. But then I heard the, uh, "stories" about you. Without knowing you, I had no way of determining whether they were true or not. Yet I didn't question them. I was wrong. As you wrote in a DEFIANT editorial, "You'd think anyone who'd ever read Spider-Man would be a little suspicious of journalists." Just because J. Jonah Jameson said so doesn't mean it is so.

    Then came the Internet, and I got to see you state and defend your position in interviews. And now you provide us with documentation that backs you up on this blog. I'm convinced.

    I wish to thank you and JayJay for creating the ultimate letter column. Interactivity taken to the next level. I appreciate how you answer our questions here and even use comments as springboards for posts like this one. You inspire us and we inspire you. A circle of mutual respect.

  69. Dear Bully,

    That memo is a good sample of the fun and friendly banter we all engaged in at that time. Trust me, Louise defended her choices well and we all got by.

    The mail on Secret Wars was overwhelmingly positive. The series got trashed in the fan press but few haters sent letters to Marvel. Since we were selling X-Men times two numbers, I surmised that the haters were a small, vocal minority and we pressed on.

  70. I like that scene, Brian! I just checked the GIT Corp DVD-ROM collections and all of Waid's Fantastic Four issues appear to be included on the Fantastic Four and Silver Surfer – Complete Comic Edition while the earlier 44 Years of the Fantastic Four edition seems to just miss his last 5 issues. The shorter edition is about $25 on Amazon or eBay while eBay currently has the extended edition for $50 which is lower than Amazon.

  71. Brian Doan: Thanks for pointing the way to my post on Waid & Ringo's wonderful FF #511. (I really should scan better-quality images of that one of these days!)

    Jerry Bonner and Jim: I went back to UXM #176-200 to check the letters columns–I wanted to see if there were any complaints about JRJR's artwork (which I loved both there and in Iron Man, although I don't think he always had the most fitting inkers for his work).

    Actually, there doesn't seem to be any negative comments on JRJR's art! In those couple years, a large majority of the issues don't have letter columns (Chris Claremont was giving us an extra page of story in a lot of them), and while there's a few negative comments about the Storm mohawk, and the marriage of Scott to Madelyne, and complaints about the letters column itself being absent…the only reference I found to JRJR's art is in UXM #188's LoC, and that's praise. I do know from the local comic book shop at the time (the late lamented Dream Days in Syracuse, New York) that there were X-Fans who didn't care for Romita at the time, but it doesn't look like those views were carried over to the letters page.

    By the way, I found, in UXM #176, a nice little half-page feature by Jim himself: a memo and repro of the original cover to #176. That's always been a favorite touch of mine, when we got to see behind the editorial process. Nice touch, Jim!

    I'll close with a quick question about letters to Marvel around the same period. Jim, with all respect, were the letters praising Secret Wars really all as uniformly positive as was shown in the "Letters to Secret Wars" issue of Marvel Age (#20?) Don't get me wrong–it was a highly enjoyable series, but I definitely was surprised there were no letters shown that contained constructive criticism or any counter-views.

    Thanks for letting me ramble on!

  72. Jim, glad you liked DAREDEVIL– thought you would! And I'd second the recommendation above about the SPIDER-MAN issues he wrote. Really, Waid's name on a book is a real draw for me. And just to connect it back to the conversation about Jack Kirby, his vision of Kirby as the God of the Marvel Universe (done in FF #511 with Mike Wieringo and reproduced in part in the link below) is sweet and brilliant:


  73. ja


    You may be correct, in that a whole line of so-called 'realistic' comic books (done well, of course) might, as a unified publishing unit, raise sales high enough to be a publishing force to be reckoned with. I'd be curious as to what the sales are for books that have the 'realistic' drawing, vs. the more cartoony books.

    But then we'd have to delve further in, distinguishing between the better realistically drawn books, vs. the ones that aren't, and how they stand against really beautifully drawn 'cartoony' books by people such as Chris Bachalo or Michael Golden.

    It's fun to speak in absolutes, but you can rarely ever apply an absolute to anything like what we're talking about here. It's hit & miss all the time. So you go ahead and be 100% sure of your opinion. That's a good thing, especially if you (you, the 'royal' you, anyone) decide to venture out to be a publisher, or whatever else. To achieve great things, you have to have that confidence/arrogance/belief in your convictions, and your point of view.

    I hope you're not right about the industry's comics stores collapsing as you see it. It could be that the stores in Georgia just weren't managed all that well. Sometimes there are shitty retailers, such as this idiot on the east coast who decided to boycott Grant Morrison's comics because he thought 'GD' in a word balloon meant that Superman was saying "God Damn". Fucking idiot deserves to lose his business and store, for being so arrogant as to shove his religious dick down everyone's throat, making decisions for his customers that they should all be offended by the blaspheming of his make-believe god, so therefore he's going to take the choice of what to buy out of the hands of his customers. Screw that holier-than-thou asshole. Dumbasses like him do tend to favor your doom & gloom outlook on the industry repeatedly shooting itself in the foot.

    As some sort of counter-balance to your gloomy scenario, I believe there are more and more people who are opening stores that have a good chance of succeeding. I have a good friend in Houston who started up his store all on his own, and has just celebrated his third anniversary, and is still going strong.

    I'll give him a plug: Rober Quijano's store is The Pop Culture Company (www.thepopculturecompany.com). He does a healthy mail-order business. He's a hard worker, applying every kind of contemporary business practice he can toward the success of his business.

    I agree with you about the severe lack of discipline with the editorial side of comics. It's sad.

    I'm sorry you have such disdain for someone's more exaggerative & cartoony approach, that you reject it out of hand. The names I've mentioned above are from people who have produced excellent books, and their work should be cherished and appreciated with greater and bigger audiences.

    But again, you speak/write in absolutes, which doesn't speak well for your point of view, I think. You advocate for one particular 'style', to the exclusion of all others.

    That is limiting to readers, and to publishers. That is limiting to creativity and innovation itself. I believe there can be a comic book company – if done correctly, of course – that can have the best of all worlds, with only the best of the best (in whatever style) producing great comics, on time and with great audience reaction.

    Some company, some publisher just needs to somehow know how to 'tune in' to that frequency level.

    Good luck with THAT.

  74. Anonymous

    The great Stan Drake worked on The Heart of Juliet Jones, and later became the artist on Blondie.
    Drake's realist style was mentioned by Neal Adams as, "Where I got my lines from."

  75. ja


    Moebius IS cartoony at times. Even his more realistic work has a cartoony quality, with how he exaggerates proportions and such. However, I truly believe his work is some of the most convincingly realistic(ish), yet still stylized illustrations ever! Especially his Blueberry westerns. Awesome stuff.

    So when I use Moebius as an example, I guess he's a sometimes-example, depending on what style he's using at the time. Any artist who exaggerates (or even manipulates their 'realistic' approach to drawing) is really 'cartooning'.

    Jake Parker is someone who works in the animation business, but he's done some comic book work in the FLIGHT books. He's also created (and had published) 2 books of his creation, Missle Mouse. You can see his work at http://agent44.com/.

    It's amazingly beautiful work. He's got such an amazing range.

  76. Anonymous

    My modesty prevented me from mentioning that no one would remember Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, or Milton Caniff if I hadn't promoted them. As evidence of my prodigious promotional powers consider that Alex Toth based on doing two stories for mighty Marvel is being endowed with a three volume set of books housed in a medium sized Manhattan appartment the publisher is calling a slipcase.


  77. I can't think of a bigger waste of time than listening to me comment about Jack Kirby. I just don't feel qualified.

    But I did have an opinion of his 70's work. And that opinion is that comics is a collaborative medium and sometimes he didn't have the right inker. Some inkers seemed to want to preserve what he did perfectly and not bring any of themselves to the table.

    That's my $0.02.

  78. OM

    …A couple of random points:

    1) Ja sez: "For several examples, Bob Layton's work looks boxy, as if he draws stiff looking Mego action figures all the time."

    …There's some irony there. As I've told Bob personally some years ago, in High School I'd done some photographic layout studies using Mego and Micronauts figures, trying to reproduce the "look and feel" of a comic book page using Fumetti techniques. The pages I wound up using as templates to follow were drawn by Bob.

    2) Is anyone else now *un*convinced that Ralph Macchio was the sort of "office weasel" that you just wanted to take out back of the building and dropkick into the dipsy-dumpster. Provided you didn't find a 2×4 lying around somewhere just waiting to be used on his face? I suppose it begs the question we've all asked in a similar situation, and IIRC Jim's already answered in at least one other thread: if Macchio was such a slime, why wasn't he fired before he could do any more damage?

    3) Ja again sayeth: "Just because I don't think Barry Kitson's work is nearly as good as Jim Lee's, doesn't mean that I can't thoroughly enjoy a good Barry Kitson project, which I do each time I read the work he illustrates. "

    …And, as *I* and others have pointed out here and on other forums, the only reason most older and/or die-hard Legion fans bothered to buy Waid's "Threeboot" debacle was for Kitson's superior art. Kitson knows how to draw "clean-line future tech" and not have it be boring *or* looking like it had been stolen from a Rick Sternback and/or Mike Okuda set layout for one of the Star Trek shows. In fact, had DC just published the book without word balloons and Waid's hack work, sales would have actually been *better* than they were.

    4) Slim Jim himself sez: "I had a teacher in high school named Mr. Nicholl. Every year, he would say to each new class, "My name is Mr. Nicholl. I have a daughter, Penny Nicholl, and she isn't worth a dime." True story. "

    …The punch line? She married a guy with the name of Buck Dollar, who punched daddy out the first time he told that joke to him 😛 😛 😛

    (See, there's this theory that women marry one of two types of guys: ones who remind them of daddy, and ones who can beat the living frack out of him. What that says for the women who marry geeks is still being researched…:P)

    5) J-Cubed said: "Oh dear. You see how he is. This is what I have to put up with. "

    …To quote Super-Chicken: "If you're afraid you'll have to overlook it. Besides, you *knew* the job was dangerous when you took it."

  79. @ actionlad

    Well said. Pretty much the definitive word on the relative merits of Kirby, Byrne, and gah, Liefeld on this thread.

  80. Urk

    Hi Defiant one.

    I have to disagree: i don't think that the lack of "realistic" art is what's pulling comics sales down, and I don't think that you can equate art that you don't like stylistically with art that bad, or bad production values.

  81. ja,

    I am 100% sure that if my standards were met, comics would be selling more than 50,000 copies a month. If comics were prosperous, there would be enough money flowing for any style of art to exist. As it is, most of the core older readers left the hobby. They aren't reading this blog. They aren't coaxing their children into buying comics. They've moved on. You aren't hearing their points of view. They hung it up. When I rant, it's to wake people up. I don't complain about something if it can't be fixed. Considering two more retail outlets closed in Atlanta this past month, it may already be too late to fix anything. Statistically speaking, two stores closing in one market is a bad indicator on the whole retail distribution chain.

    One of the things I do know from my former years of employment is retail. Usually, anything I touched and pushed sold 4 times what anyone else was able to achieve. I actually got called up to a managers office once and he wanted to know my secret. He told me my department was outselling every store in a chain of probably 50 stores. In my new life I know quality. I work for a global high tech company. We build products that are worth millions of dollars a year. I'm the gatekeeper. If I have a problem with something, the whole operation stops and a CEO is talking about me in high level meetings. I deal with engineers that have patents in their name. Even they accept the importance of something being right and meeting the customers expectations.

    Comic creators these days don't even care if the customers expectations are met. Artists do what they want. Editors let them. Everyone hypes a few compliments. They doctor few numbers to make it look like comics are healthy and they target the same dwindling audience that was buying comics in the 70's. 80's, and 90's. I have a definite problem with this. First, the comics I want to see are not even being produced. My friends that shared my sentiments gave up because of production values. Second, the customers they ran off are the reason comics are priced $4 a piece. Even if something was to meet my standards, the price is about double what it should cost. Production and setup costs to print something are pretty much the same whether you print 1,000 or a million.

    I'm glad you like more stuff than me. I'm glad contortions, scribbling, and inking that looks like a sharpie was used doesn't distract you from the enjoyment. For me it does. For thousands of others it does. Just because lesser production values and lesser attention to detail and visual clarity allows something to be classified as a comic, that does not mean it meets the expectations of the customer. The customer does not owe it to this industry to make sacrifices. The customer ultimately defines the quality, not the manufacturer. That's one reason I'm going to be crawling all inside a welded cabinet tomorrow morning measuring paint thickness in some 300 different spots. They don't care if the products lasts for 10 years as promised. They want it to look like a new car knowing full well it'll be caked in dirt after the first day of operation.

    I retired as a collector this year. I'm enjoying things outside of comics because comics just aren't delivering what I want. I'm not selling my EC's or my Amazing Fantasy #15… but I'm not filling up my home with long bozes worth of comics just to find one that meets my standards. I've done that for too long.

  82. Mark Waid and the Daredevil artist, Marcos Martin, work very well together. They combined for two of the best of the "Brand New Day" Spider-mans- Amazing 578 and 579, a two-parter taking place underground. The villain was the Shocker, and it introduced J. Jonah Jameson's…dad! Really great Spidey story.

    BTW, I like the idea of you reviewing current comics, Jim. And if that gives you the excuse to read comics and "count" it as work, by all means, feel free…

  83. Hey Ja, calling Moebus art "cartoony" is quite a stretch. The man can draw in almost any style and his realistic stuff (like Blueberry) blows pretty much every realistic Marvel/DC artist out of water!

    And who is Jake Parker? I know all other names in your list but I'm drawing a blank here.

  84. ja

    Defiant1 said… "I like artwork that is more realistic for a reading a story. The unusual contortions and having things out of proportions are generally a distraction from that purpose, not an enhancement. It does not facilitate the flow of reading a comic book story if you are looking at goat feet on an otherwise human character."

    I truly believe it's a 'frequency level' kind of thing. Either something resonates with you or it doesn't. But there is NEVER just one particular 'style' that represents a single category. There's way too much overlap in artists' exaggerations to definitively label someone's style as being only one thing!

    I tend to judge each particular project on its own merits. Just because I don't think Barry Kitson's work is nearly as good as Jim Lee's, doesn't mean that I can't thoroughly enjoy a good Barry Kitson project, which I do each time I read the work he illustrates.

    I absolutely love 'realistic' comic book drawing (Neal Adams back in his heyday, for example), but I also love anything Chris Bachalo does.

    Same with Michael Golden, Walt Simonson, Alex Toth, Milt Caniff, James W. Fry, Bruce Timm, Darwyn Cooke, Eric Canete, Frank Miller, Gene Colan, Herb Trimpe, J. Scott Campbell, Jack Kirby, Jake Parker, Joe Quesada, Klaus Janson, Matt Wagner, Keith Giffen, Kelley Jones, Kyle Baker, Michael Avon Oeming, Mike Mignola, Mike Ploog, Moebius, Romita Jr., Ted McKeever, Todd McFarlane, and the great Will Eisner. All whose work is topnotch, and yet quite exaggerated, very 'unrealistic' and cartoony.

    Their work hits all the right notes, the drawing solidly communicates, and I appreciate how they can distort 'reality' while making damn good comic books.

    I know for a fact we all have that ability to appreciate many different kinds of things at once. We all have the same ability to keep more than several appreciative viewpoints in our heads without thinking the world has become sour because someone else drew Captain America differently than John Buscema.

    I think it's limiting to us as readers, as thinking people in general, when we put our blinders on that only allow us to see one particular thing to the exclusion of everything else.

    Especially then to make a blanket statement such as:

    "I don't really care what other people's standards are. If you like stuff that is sub-par by my standards, just add your name to the list."

    That's okay. We don't care about your standards, either. We're just talking about subjective viewpoints, anyway. Not trying to stand our ground, pretending to protect some non-existent style-oriented line in the sand that dictates only one kind of drawing style to be legitimate, claiming that all others aren't.

    You enjoy your stuff, we'll all enjoy ours. Then we'll all be happy.

    Take a laxative. Loosen up!

  85. **********
    Anonymous said…
    "Most people don't know it but Curt Swan, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Wally Wood, and Carl Barks are remembered today because of Stan Lee. If it weren't for Stan, no one would remember any of them right along with Kirby and Ditko."
    Stan, you really should use your real name if you're going to post on these boards. I mean come on, who do you thing you're fooling here?

  86. "Oh dear. You see how he is. This is what I have to put up with. "

    I'm used to similar laughs and groans where I work.
    I am not innocent in that regards.

  87. As a child of the eighties I had/have trouble understanding the love for Kirby's pencils but his creativity is undeniable. After Marvel he gave us Darkseid for gosh sakes people! As well as the rest of the New Gods, Kamandi and the Demon. Give the man credit for being the genius he was.

    As a side-note I grew up thinking that Perez and Byrne were kings and that Neal Adams was a GOD (in all capital letters). Lately in my local comic shops I've had conversations with collectors in their 20's and 30's who do not share my opinion. They are not at all impressed by Adams' Batman Odyssey and Byrne and Perez don't register any excitement. My point being that the first time that you realize that there is a real person behind the drawings in your comic book that person becomes your favorite artist forever. Kind of like my favorite Bond is Roger Moore and my favorite Green Lantern is Hal Jordan. These things are written in stone.

    All the artists who came before are "old" and all the artists who come after are not as creative as the artists you loved in your teens. When your a teenager your passions run deeper for everything in life. There is nothing that anyone could tell me that would convince me that LeBron,Wade or Kobe are as good as Magic, Bird or Jordan (Michael not Hal). There are people out their who think that the art in comics was never better than it was in the nineties and their opinion is correct…for them.

    With maturity comes an ability to appreciate what you like without feeling the need to justify your opinion by denigrating everything else.

  88. Keep in mind, when we talk of a book selling well in the direct market, what we really mean is that it sold well to retailers, not necessarily to readers. I suspect Kirby sold well in the direct market primarily because shop owners, being fans, were at least fairly well acquainted with the King's reputation, and placed orders based on that.

    Did those orders translate to sales? I dunno, but here's this in the way of anecdotal evidence: Over the years I have purchased a few large collections at auction, from shops that went out of business. Almost invariably I find Kirby books in very high grade, while other '70s titles show far more evidence of having been subject to repeated readings at young hands.

  89. Oh dear. You see how he is. This is what I have to put up with.

  90. Dear Defiant,

    I had a teacher in high school named Mr. Nicholl. Every year, he would say to each new class, "My name is Mr. Nicholl. I have a daughter, Penny Nicholl, and she isn't worth a dime." True story.

  91. Dear Steve,

    "As for negative letters, it depends on how it is handled." EXACTLY. Roy apparently turned a knock into a boost. Good for him.

    The lettercolumn in any entertainment publication intended for sale, intended to make a profit, ought to be promotional, positive, supportive and help sell the book. That's publishing 101. Why would an editor, who presumably is employed to help the commercial venture succeed, use a page of the publication under his or her watch to disparage the creators and book he's in charge of? Commercial entertainment is not journalism! (Aside: Journalism today often isn't journalism. Especially "comics industry journalism," which is an oxymoron of the first waters.) Why would any publisher wanting his or her commercial venture to succeed allow anything to be printed in his or her product that diminishes it? Why wouldn't said publisher fire any editor who chose to print damaging comments within the magazine he's supposed to be trying to make successful?

    When you see movie reviews quoted on billboards do you ever see "Not very good." or "Boring"?

    There were and are plenty of independent "journalistic" venues for unbridled criticism.

    As previously stated, the advances of the Information Age have obviated lettercolumns in our industry and virtually (a pun!) eliminated the promotional power of lettercolumns.

    All of that said, a lettercolumn could then and can now certainly contain negative letters, if handled right, as Roy proved. Lettercolumns, as I've said before, should be thought-provoking, interesting and entertaining.

    And, as I've said before, no promotion or positivism in a lettercolumn is likely to help a bad product.

    I used to be a regular reader of Car and Driver in ancient days, when Brock Yates, Jean Shepherd, Patrick Bedard and other great writers wrote for the magazine. C/D's lettercolumn was unique. They routinely insulted readers who stated idiotic or childish views, printed negative letters and humorously eviscerated the correspondents, and generally had an irreverent, acerbic, wonderfully witty lettercol style — like Howard Chaykin, but about cars — that worked well for them. Readers like me loved the magazine all the more for their wit and fearlessness. Their success was tremendous and well-deserved.

    So…there is no one way to succeed. But, whatever approach the publisher has, it is meant to sell the book.

  92. I wish I could remember the source (Back Issue? Comic Book Artist? re: 70s Marvel) but I could swear someone interviewed admitted the BLACK PANTHER ran negative letters to deliberately force Jack out and bring back the JUNGLE ACTION tone of the character.

    Which always struck me as ironic as Kirby created him.

  93. Jim,

    Obviously, you just haven't picked the right name yet. Keep trying. That's going to be the only way to really make her happy. 🙂
    It needs to be something that really defines her personality. I think if you bought her some preppy clothes (maybe something white and pink– some capris)and called her Penny, you'd see a whole new side to her personality. 🙂

  94. Robert,

    Yes, the Fantastic Four is known because of other media. Marvel promoted Kirby's work. Stan Lee credited Jack Kirby with much acclaim in all the early Marvel super-hero comics. My whole point is that Marvel and Stan Lee marketed/promoted/leveraged Jack Kirby's work into becoming something socially relevant. People draw stunning pieces of work that don't get promoted in such a manner. People write masterpieces that never get read by the public. Talent has nothing to do with making someone a legend if they are incapable of marketing themselves or getting their work into the right person's hands. If DC wanted to hype Kirby's 4th world comics and make a movie, we could give DC some credit for Kirby being remembered another 100 years from now. As of now it's just another blip on comics history.

  95. Dear Defiant,


  96. Oh, ja, don't think it hasn't occurred to me… but his ghost would just haunt me if I did him in. Besides, then I'd have to find another editor to help me with my writing, and I might actually have to PAY a new one, so I have to keep Jim around. Even if it means I have to suffer the slings and arrows of his outrageous humor. And if I'm really truthful every once in a while one of his jokes are actually funny. Like, maybe once a year. Maybe. ; )

  97. I was excited when Kirby returned to Marvel in mid 70's. Alas, the actual work was not particularly good. Occasionally the art was fantastic – one of the last issues of Captain America springs to mind, the end of the Arnim Zola saga I think; and an issue of 2001. But other than that they were tripe – Black Panther was particularly bad especially coming after McGregor. The odd fact that he sold better in the Direct Market suggests to me that there were a hardcore set of fans who bought every Marvel comic they could regardless – I should know I was one of them.

    As for negative letters, it depends on how it is handled. I can well remember a letter in Conan 32 (I think), where a very negative letter was published and Roy Thomas responded it to at length which I thought was cool and showed that a dialogue between pros and fans was possible.

    Personally speaking Kirby's best work was with Stan Lee and even for then, the last 2 or 3 years of the work was hardly great stuff.

  98. Dear JayJay,

    Nyah, nyah!

  99. Anonymous

    The comment about movies is spot on. I think Jim has pointed out that Marvel suits were at one point giving thought to shutting down comics publishing. If that had happened, if there had never been the box office success of the movies of the past few years Marvel would be remembered today about as much as Tom Mix. Marvel wasn't even a really big success inn the 60's. Marvel's best selling book Spider-Man was still being outsold by Lois Lane in 1969, and didn't sell better than Superman until Jim took over as editor in the late 70's.
    There are loads of things which were far more successful than Marvel was in the 60's which are now almost forgotten. There aren't any Terry and the Pirates movies being made, but at one time it was read by 10's of millions every day.
    Modern day public awareness of super heroes is primarily the result of the huge advertising promotions pushing the equally expensive films.


  100. Who'd a thought there would be such a kurfuffle about letter columns?

    Some random thoughts:
    Stan may not have created credits, but was probably the first to make them so bold, in themselves. Once upon a time, the Marvel Bullpen was a proud place of bluster. Kirby splash pages, followed by Buscema and Romita are iconic. They well-deserved the recognition, or at least, the recognition was part of Stan's master plan.

    There's no doubt, then, in the seventies, things were looking a bit more tired, and the face of that weariness was Kirby. The old-saying goes, I don't know art, but I know what I like. Kirby in the 70s was not as easily accessible. He was taking people on a trip, but it was iffy, whether to follow.

    Always, in art, whether consciously or unconsciously, people are weighing the good, the better , the best. It ain't easy for the artists who fall off the pedestal, but it's a fact of life. Having made it up once, is a miracle. It's much harder for cultural critique to let them up again, pending relentless promotion.

    For me, a good letter column complemented a good comic. It helped to ingrain the experience, providing justification to the good money spent. Comics were something worthy of reflection and re-reflection.

    They still are.

  101. Defiant1–

    Kirby is known more for the Marvel work than the DC Fourth World material because the Marvel work enjoys a higher profile in other media. There hasn't been a New Gods or Mister Miracle movie yet.

    A successful movie can make a big difference. I don't think anyone outside of comics knew much about Iron Man before the films. That's not the case now. Iron Man is the most popular Marvel movie character after Spider-Man.

    At The Hooded Utilitarian this past summer, we conducted a poll of comics creators, journalists, and academics. They were asked to name the ten comics they considered their favorites, the best, or the most significant. We got over 200 top-ten lists, including ones from adventure-comics folk like Kurt Busiek and Paul Gulacy. The Lee-Kirby Fantastic Four came in tenth, and The Fourth World came in eleventh. The Fantastic Four came out ahead by all of one-third of a vote. The Fourth World's stature is rising to the point where it is rivaling the Marvel work. I wouldn't be surprised to see it eventually come out on top.

    For those interested, the overview of the poll is here, and the ranked Top 115 list is here.

  102. "Jim won't stop calling me names. He sucks."


    I think he should ONLY call you Penny or possibly Millicent. That was your name on "Good Times". 🙂

  103. "Kirby created the New Gods Mr. Miracle, Kamandi, Demon. etc. It's kinda silly to say he was only great with Stan Lee. "

    Not really. There is a huge difference between providing a solid piece of work and providing one that inspires generations. Kirby is not known by the general public because he worked on Kamandi. He is known outside of the industry because of his Marvel work.

  104. ja,

    I like artwork that is more realistic for a reading a story. The unusual contortions and having things out of proportions are generally a distraction from that purpose, not an enhancement. It does not facilitate the flow of reading a comic book story if you are looking at goat feet on an otherwise human character. It can affect the story if he is supposed to have goat feet. I don't really care what other people's standards are. If you like stuff that is sub-par by my standards, just add your name to the list.

    Distortions can have a purpose, especially with Kirby's work. It conveys motion which is another aspect of realism. Kirby's work is not static. His background in animation brought some very innovative and clever elements to 2-D art.

  105. Anonymous

    As a teen in the late 70s, I dug Kirby's last Marvel work and still have all of it in my collection. It was crazy, disjointed stuff –his characters had corny names and nutty dialog and the stories spun out of control on various tangents… but I nevertheless enjoyed his wild concepts and he remains my favourite artist.

    I think he hit his peak in 1966-67 and kind of declined from there but never completely lost it.

    Pete Marco

  106. Publishing negative letters in order to undermine Kirbys work is the worst kind of disrespect. It's akin to abusing your dad in his latter years.


  107. ja

    Yeah, but he sucks in a funny enough way to make us all wonder why you haven't killed him by now.

  108. Jim won't stop calling me names. He sucks.

  109. ja

    Mean Marvelman sucks.

  110. Hi Jim. Everything you said about letter columns is exactly what drove me crazy about Marvel letter columns as a teenager. I felt like I was being talked down to. From my perspective (then), it was like Marvel figured we were a bunch of morons who would believe anything they said. There were never any thoughtful, critical letters. The only "negative" letters that saw print were generally stupid or incoherent so as to make anybody with a critical opinion look dumb. The worst, of course, was Marvel Age Magazine, which I stopped buying as soon as you put yourself on the cover. I decided I wasn't going to shell out even a dime for propaganda. Now, of course, you have the exact opposite situation with the internet. Who sucks? Everybody sucks!

  111. Dear Defiant,

    I don't remember the exact number, but as I recall, Captain Victory sold like an upper tier Marvel book sold in the direct market, which would have been 200,000 plus. I remember that we at Marvel were impressed.

  112. Dear Jerry,

    If anti-John Romita, Jr. stuff made it into the lettercol on my watch, then I apologize for letting it slip through. I think he was/is great. Loved his stuff. Chris, after recruiting him in the first place, eventually wanted someone else on the book. Whatever. I was a fan.

  113. ja

    CARTOONY, OR NOT CARTOONY? To this question, I say:

    To-MAY-to, to-MAH-to.

    Six of one, half-dozen of the other.

    Milly, Vanilly.

  114. ja


    As 99.9% of anyone who reads comics stories does, the reader will open a page, read the captions and word balloons, then look at the picture within the frame for maybe several seconds. To then keep a 'reading pace' (as one would do while reading a novel), the reader then goes onto the next frame, and the next, and so on.

    When you read the captions & word balloons, and you then absorb the visual of the panel frame, all of the elements are comprised to blend together to give you a 'moment in time' that helps to build & tell a story. The more panels you read, the more the story forms in your head. Since this is flat-paper comic books (not animation or live-action), your mind fills in any blank areas, such as the 'in between' actions from one panel to another, be it from a calm scene to an action scene, or from one timeframe (daytime) to another (night).

    If the illustrator does his job correctly, and puts all the visual information into the story frame, then to keep that 'reading pace', all you need is to look at the picture for that 3-5 seconds of time, so you can move along within the story. If suddenly the visuals do not convey what's happening in the story/dialog, it would then interrupt the reading pace, as the reader would then stop and have to 'correct' or 'fill in more blanks' in his/her mind to better make sense of what's going on.

    Kind of like when I saw the last 3 Star Wars movies. What a pain in the ass that I had to sit there and re-edit these damn movies in my head AS I WAS SITTING IN THE THEATERS WATCHING THEM.

    While you're reading a comic book, my contention is that if a fingernail or toenail isn't drawn to 100% specifications, but overall the visual details of the figures and compositions are acceptably powerful/beautiful/emotional/detailed and pretty/informational/whatever, then NO ONE REALLY CARES that someone didn't draw an ear perfectly well, or that hand is a bit out of proportion.

    What I'm saying is that we ALL have that '20% discount' we give to EVERY artist that does such a wonderful job with their work, even though they don't draw feet or hands or belt buckles as well as they should. Or that the Invisible Woman's boobs are giving her severe spinal cord damage. Or that Thor's jaw is as wide and distorted as Seth MacFarlane's American Dad. Or that Bob Layton's figures look boxy and stiff. Or that this or that artist's work is distorted in this or that way.

    So long as the overall EFFECT of their work shines through, NO ONE CARES that finernails and elbows aren't drawn perfectly well!

    But there are more and more, a number of people who criticize someone like Jack Kirby's work, their main complaint being the anatomy. Balderdash. Bull puckey. Kirby's work was powerful when it was supposed to be, subtle when needed, the women looked like women, and younger men (like Johnny Storm) looked convincing, all within the context of Kirby's work! IT READS WELL. Always has.

    Which is the standard you apply to every other artist, such as Eisner or Adams, or the other Adams, or Mignola's more contemporary cartoonier work.

    I just think that those kinds of criticisms come across as ignorant and disingenuous.

    Just my observation.

    I agree with you about Liefeld. Like I've said before, Rob Liefeld cannot draw the paper bag that he cannot draw his way out of, unless Arthur Adams or Jim Lee showed him how to do it first.

    Adam Hughes' work is the best because he puts so much care into all aspects of it. What beautiful results to behold! His next art collection book might actually be titled, 'RACKS AND RACKS OF ADAM HUGHES'.


  115. Urk

    I think that Czeskleba has it exactly right above.

    I would also agree with most of what Ja said about style. there are billions of different ways to tell a story on a comics page. some of them involve either realism or the highly stylized and exaggerated realism that's ruled mainstream comics for a long time. Traditionally "cartoonish" styles only look unprofessional if your using that mainline superhero "realism" or some variation as the baseline. Which is fine to do, but that's a subjective judgement, it doesn't say anything about how it looks to me. & how it looks to me has changed alot over the years.

    My comics reading heyday was roughly very late 60s through mid-late 80s, tho my timeline of who did what when is all messed up because I started buying back issues early, and because in those days you could wander into a grocery store and find comics left on the rack for 6-9 months. By the time I became conscious of artists, it was Neal Adams, Jim Steranko and Jim Starlin who really thrilled me, people who I think of as setting the foundations for modern superhero "realism." the same kinds of qualities made George Perez and John Byrne my favorite artists later: clean lines, graceful figures, detail. I liked some Kirby, especially his Jimmy Olsen and New Gods era stuff at DC, and I liked his art with Coletta's inks. But mostly I thought his stuff was blocky, although I understood his place in the pantheon of creators, thanks mainly to Steranko's History of the Comics. Of course I didn't get Robert Johnson the first few times I heard him either.

    what changed it for me was probably Miller's Daredevil. That's where I started to see pages in terms of panel compositions, and not just the gracefulness of the lines within a panel. (Of course this was something that Steranko and Adams and to a lesser extent Starlin did in an exciting way too.) Chaykin's American Flagg also opened things up for me, as did Cerebus, especially once Gerhard started doing the backgrounds. But what really broke it all open for me was Love and Rockets, which I started buying for Jaime's art and ended up loving for Gilbert's art and stories. by that time I didn't expect comics to look a certain way.

    Like any artist, especially one who drew professionally for so long, there's going to be better and worse examples of Kirby's craft out there. But, overall he wasn't just a good comics artist, he was a truly original American artist, someone whose originality and stylistic innovation transcends the medium he was working in-and not because the medium is inherently compromised, just because he was a giant.

  116. Kirby created the New Gods Mr. Miracle, Kamandi, Demon. etc. It's kinda silly to say he was only great with Stan Lee.

  117. Yet so many people seem to present themselves as pseudo art critics, focusing in on the very elbows and toenails that the vast majority of people really don't care about.

    I beg to differ. Why?

    Rob Liefeld's work isn't cartoony.

    Rob Liefeld's work sucks so much because he doesn't care about elbows or toenails. All he cares about is torsos and drawing lots of and lots and lots of pouches. Adam Hughes draws HAWT WOMYN in bold and all caps because he cares about elbows, toe nails, and tendons just as much as a woman's rack.

  118. ja


    It's STILL cartooning, in the broad sense. Not even really that broad, either. Even Neal Adams' work, though realistic-ish looking, is a distortion of what is real. It's cartooning. Interpretation. Extrapolation. Application of a subjective visual point of view.


    They're pictures that are drawn with lines that gives the illusion of something either real, or really convincing, something that is believably this or that, depending on how well the illustrator does his or her work.

    And even then, it's subjective as to whether this person is good or not, to be sure.

    Certainly Sonic the Hedgehog is blatantly 'cartoony', but so is Chris Bachalo's work, or Michael Golden's. Or Marc Silvestri's, or Erik Larsen's, or Amanda Connor's or even Jim Lee's (though his work has that more 'realistic'-ish feel to it).

    Rob Liefeld's work isn't cartoony. It just sucks Dick Cheney's wrinkled pickle.

    The designation of what's cartoony is a broad one that overlaps so many styles, like Macfarlane's, Simonson's, Klaus Janson's, Frank Miller's, Will Eisner's, Wally Wood's, David Finch's, Dave Cockrum's, Moebius'. That doesn't mean those people can't also imbue realistic qualities within their work, which they do wonderfully.

    Neal Adams inking over Kirby demonstrates this quite well.

    IT'S CARTOONING! In the URL you posted above, Joe Kubert 'HIMSELF' called what he does "realistic cartooning", which backs up my point!


    I don't know if Stan Lee started the habit of including creative team credits in the books or not. I thought people were credited (or were allowed to sign their work on more and more occasion) in the EC comics of the 50's. Weren't some people also credited for their work here and there even before that at other companies? Didn't Bob Kane make sure his name was always attached to Batman, even from the beginning?

    It's never an exact thing as to what got started somewhere, I believe. Though I do look forward to someone giving definitive examples of when something like this did start. That would be interesting to know. And even then, I'm sure it wouldn't be the exact example that covers the complete subject at hand.

    It's nice to think of only one 'originator' of a certain subject matter, but it's almost never that way. It's never just one thing that covers everything else.

    Nothing is 100% anything.

    Except Liefeld's work sucking. That's an axiom I fully accept.

  119. Anonymous

    Isn't the "remember because of Stan Lee" thing in the post above a simple ref to the fact Stan is the one who started the habit of including creative team credits in the books?


  120. ja,

    Cartoon art is a completely different style than traditional comic art. Any hybrid between the two styles comes across as highly unprofessional.

    Kubert even differentiated in his 1954 art lesson book.


  121. Defiant1 wrote:Ditko and Kirby have never really proven they can promote their work without Stan Lee. Both have had ample time away from Stan Lee to be successes on their own.
    Kirby was extremely successful for the first 20 years of his career, before he ever worked with Stan Lee.

    Kirby is remembered today because of the work he did and the characters he created, much of it with Stan Lee. No sensible person would dispute the notion that Stan made Kirby's work more commercial and more accessible. But saying Kirby is remembered today because of Stan Lee is a gross overstatement.

  122. ja

    … know, love & remember the beautiful works that Curt Swan, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Wally Wood & Carl Barks *did*.

    I hate when I don't proofread properly.

  123. ja

    Anonymous said… "Most people don't know it but Curt Swan, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Wally Wood, and Carl Barks are remembered today because of Stan Lee. If it weren't for Stan, no one would remember any of them right along with Kirby and Ditko."

    Not JUST because of Stan Lee. Lee is only but a small part of the HUGE amount of people who know, love & remember the beautiful works that Curt Swan, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Wally Wood & Carl Barks.

    Nothing is 100% anything. Especially that Stan Lee alone keeps these people's memory alive.

  124. ja

    Anonymous said… "As I recall Macchio and the other letters which followed complained about Kirby's tin-eye for anatomy…err…sorry, his tin-ear for dialog. I always liked Kirby's dialog myself, and thought the problem with Kirby was his strange anatomy."

    This is something that's always quite bugged me about readers/viewers/audiences. Style is style, and we all have a broad range of appreciation of differing styles. Yet so many people seem to present themselves as pseudo art critics, focusing in on the very elbows and toenails that the vast majority of people really don't care about.

    For several examples, Bob Layton's work looks boxy, as if he draws stiff looking Mego action figures all the time. But overall, there's a charm to his work that seems to resonate over the years, so no one really busts his balls over the stiffness. They react to the overall EFFECT of his work. Todd Macfarlane draws his characters (less so than when he first started) with polio-stricken hands, cauliflower ears, and really distorted faces and bodies. Yet the overall EFFECT of his artwork is what people have enjoyed.

    You'd be frightened as hell if you ever saw a real-life person walking down the road that looked like a Walt Simonson drawing. But his work is so attractive because of the overall EFFECT of how powerful or subtle his particular style is.

    And yet people sit there and make their silly (IMHO) nonsensical value judgments on people like Jack Kirby, based (seemingly) solely upon elbows and toenail details not being 'real' enough, as if that negates the accomplishment of the power and majesty Kirby's work conveyed.

    Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes is just a bunch of squiggles of circles, squares & rectangles. Nothing drawn at all realistically, but it IS some of the MOST REAL stuff I've ever seen drawn. Real CONVINCING, to be precise! IT'S ALL IN HOW IT'S PRESENTED.

    IT'S CARTOONING! I wish people would pull their heads out of their butts and appreciate the overall EFFECT that someone's work has, instead of first checking to see if all the elbows and toenails are drawn properly, first.

  125. Curt Swan is remembered because he drew Superman, character that was already established. Toth is simply brilliant and the master of minimalism. Wally Wood is remembered for his work at EC and Gaines deserves the credit for letting his work flourish. Barks work simply stands out amongst all other Duck books.

    Ditko and Kirby have never really proven they can promote their work without Stan Lee. Both have had ample time away from Stan Lee to be successes on their own.

    Regarding Jim's comment about how well Kirby could have done in the direct market… He was released in the direct market with Captain Victory through Pacific Comics. I'm sure the Schanes brothers could answer about how well the book did. I bought a few issues and found it highly uninteresting. I suspect Captain Victory #1 sold much better than his work at Marvel. Regardless, I've never heard any interest from anyone wanting to make a Captain Victory movie. Most of Kirby's non-Marvel work is remembered out of sentimentality because he did make such an impact at Marvel.

  126. Anonymous

    I loved Jack's Machine Man.Particulary the Ten-For saga.

    Stéphane Garrelie.

  127. Anonymous

    Most people don't know it but Curt Swan, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Wally Wood, and Carl Barks are remembered today because of Stan Lee. If it weren't for Stan, no one would remember any of them right along with Kirby and Ditko.

  128. Anonymous

    When Brian Bendis wrote the Spawn spin-off Sam & Twitch, the letters run on the letters page were generally positive. Before his final S&T stories were published, Bendis had a falling out with Todd MacFarlane. The letters that showed up in the last few Bendis-penned issues were all negative. MacFarlane choosing to run only negative letters was blatant, and struck me as immature. i can't believe that Kirby's editors did the same thing to the King because of their personal tastes or pettiness. That's like a concert promoter telling the audience to boo at Bob Dylan. Absurd.

    – Mike Loughlin

  129. I always liked Kirby's work, I had been reading since his early FF work. I loved his Captain America work two (Especially when Syd Shores inked him). About 20 years ago I got around to bagging my collection and looking at his covers I realized that most of them would have made great movie posters. Now Barry Smith's work on Nick Fury I thought was utter garbage. He didn't become Barry Windsor Smith for some years after that.

  130. I think an overly positive letter page warrants derision. I think readers want honesty and entertainment. They want to know their opinions are being expressed and not censored. America has grown up. We've been raised around advertising and the hard sell tactics for hundreds of years. A letters column is not where I want to see overly sappy marketing. In that sense I would prefer to see journalism with rebuttal (if necessary) when criticism isn't fair and accurate. The letters should be thought provoking.

    I had a letter published in DEFIANT's publication of Charlemagne #4. As I look back, my comments were genuinely positive because I felt DEFIANT produced thought provoking comics. The quality sometimes looked rushed or neglected, but the concepts inspired some genuine positive feedback from me. I'm pretty sure I wrote the letter because I was curious about something. I was hoping for a little insight into the ideas forming the characters. I never even imagined for a second that my letter would be published. It honestly never entered my mind until after I saw it in print.

    Kirby was a master at storytelling, pacing, and knowing how the eye navigates a page of art. His art evoked emotion. People like Neal Adams and Jim Starlin had already made their impression on fans like me at the time. Neal Adams alone made comics look more real. Neal drew in the style of advertising artist Tom Scheuer (later known as writer Tom Sawyer) and it added a level of maturity that comics in general were lacking.

    I was not a fan of Kirby's art because it was usually a craggy style and not really very pretty. I did not come to appreciate Kirby until I actually tried to sit down and drawn sequential art. When I actually tried to draw something, creators like Kirby and Toth really stood out as brilliant talents. That will never change the fact that I want the refinement that Neal Adams brought to comics. It does make me understand why some people praise Kirby while others shrug their shoulders and are unimpressed.

    Who gets an email and longs for the fun days when messages were sent by Morse code? Quality is collectively defined by the customer and I don't think ignoring negative comments in a letters column is wise. Ultimately the column should be balanced and entertaining. Provoking thought is almost always a requirement of what I read.

    I really liked Kirby's storytelling on Captain America and Machine Man in the 70's. Devil Dinosaur and some other things he did weren't so impressive to me. When I read criticisms about Kirby back then, I usually agreed and it made me glad others shared my opinion.

    People talk about how wrong Marvel treated Kirby. Kirby had plenty of opportunities to recreate the magic he did at Marvel. Kirby is remembered today because he inspired Stan Lee. Stan Lee market Kirby as the legend he is today. Stan Lee marketed Ditko also. I think Stan could've done the same for any artist that had a solid work ethic and grasp of the ultimate goals. Marvel made Kirby as much as Kirby made Marvel.

  131. I've been really enjoying these posts. So much so that I've been purchasing on eBay Marvel comic books that I vividly remember seeing on those spinning racks in the mid and late eighties at different corner and grocery stores.

    Having been raised on a steady diet of Herge and Byrne, I've never understood the fascination with Kirby. When the first film you ever saw was Star Wars, Byrne understood that look in a way that some of the older guys, like Infanito and Kirby couldn't or wouldn't. I suppose my kids will be saying the same thing about Byrne, and for that matter, Star Wars🙂

    Oddly enough, I find that the horror comic book guys age must better over time. Ingels and Wood look every bit as slick and fresh as Wrightson and Bissette's work does now.

  132. Dear czeskleba,

    Why Marv, who loved the Kirby stuff, or Archie, a professional's professional, permitted benighted fools to put together lettercols that were damaging to Kirby and the very books the lettercols appeared in, I don't know. I had enough else to worry about while I was associate editor that I never even read the lettercols. Probably it was the same with Archie. And, I can't believe that Marv would have allowed Kirby-bashing in Kirby book lettercols if he was aware it was going on.

    When I became EIC, again, I didn't have time to check up on what I assumed was a no-brainer operation that no one would screw up, that is, lettercols, until Jack called me to complain about them. I've told that story elsewhere on the blog. It was, as I recall, the only time ever that Jack complained about anything. I felt terrible that we had let him down so badly.

  133. Hey Jim,

    You mentioned the negative letters that followed the switch from Steve Ditko to JRSR on Spider-Man. I recall the same kind of feedback when JRJR took over for Paul Smith on the X-men in the 80's. I think Paul wanted to do Dr. Strange or something?

    Anyway, I wasn't a fan of JRJR's work on the X-men either, but I never wrote a letter…we (my buddies and I) just vociferously complained about it on the schoolyard and swore that we weren't going to waste another 60 cents on an X-men book as long as JRJR was drawing it!

    Of course, we still bought the book the next month anyway…

    Am I remembering that correctly…or was it just us 12-year-olds who didn't dig JRJR's work on the X-men?



  134. Anonymous

    An interesting thing about the Kirby LOCs and Macchio is early in Kirby's run on Captain America a long negative letter by comic book fan Ralph Macchio showed up in the LOC. One or two issues later it was announced on the letters page of Captain America that Macchio had been made an editor. From that point on letters very similar in tone to Macchio's fan letter began appearing in the CA LOC on a regular basis.
    As I recall Macchio and the other letters which followed complained about Kirby's tin-eye for anatomy…err…sorry, his tin-ear for dialog.
    I always liked Kirby's dialog myself, and thought the problem with Kirby was his strange anatomy.

  135. Jim, one question… why didn't Marv or Archie clamp down on the assistant editors who were doing this, and insist that they do a professional job on the Kirby letters pages?

  136. Here's a comment by Alan Kupperberg about the letter columns in Kirby books (from http://www.alankupperberg.com/invaders.html):

    "What if an editor at Marvel is a no-talent son-of-bitch with an axe to grind? And let’s say he feels he’s been “stuck” with Jack Kirby, in the twilight of Kirby’s brilliant career, doing a regular book. And out of sheer spite, this editor prints the letters that put the knock on Jack. But you’ve gotta believe that there were probably just as many or more letters that were pro-Jack."

    (BTW, though he doesn't mention a name in this particular comment, it seems likely the person he's referring to is Ralph Macchio, based on other things he says on his site).

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