Jack’s work had become somewhat unpopular when I started at Marvel in the mid 70’s. On the one hand, Jack was revered by a lot of the Marvel people; Len and Marv would just marvel at the pages. Basically, the fan in everyone who was old enough to have read FF #1 had this awe of his work and loved it. On the other hand, there was a lot of stuff that just wasn’t quite right about it, and it wasn’t selling. It was a disaster; we had single-digit sales figures for Captain America, and at that time the Marvel line average was up near 50%. Jack’s popularity had declined to amazingly low levels in terms of the new generation of comic book readers. Newsstand readers had a lot of turnover, and new readers coming in weren’t buying it.
Category: 09 Reminiscences and Tributes Page 1 of 5
After I read each issue, I would call Jack and go over the corrections I proposed to make, mostly punctuation, spelling, grammar and such. I never messed with his intent, though a few (very few) times I caught a significant mistake and proposed a solution. I was as respectful and deferential as could be, as everyone should be when dealing with a King. Jack was the easiest-to-deal-with creator I ever worked with. He seemed to sincerely appreciate my help. He thanked me. He complimented me on my “catches.” Technically, by contract, he was the Editor of his own books. He could have refused any of my suggestions, but he never did.
In 1980 or ’81 — I forget — Jack had a stroke that paralyzed his right arm and his drawing/inking hand.
A few of us at Marvel went to visit Jack in the hospital in Queens. Roger Stern was with me, maybe one or two others, I forget. We tiptoed into Jack’s room, all unsure of what to say. Jack was almost unaware of us. He kept staring at his inert right hand, trying to move his arm and his hand without result. We muttered the usual platitudes and stood there stupidly. And ignored.
Then, Howard Chaykin came breezing in. Howard had been one of Jack’s roommates at Continuity.
Howard’s opening line was words to the effect, “You were a lousy inker anyway, so no great loss.” Then he proceeded to insult Jack’s talents, his ancestry, his looks, his wife, his kids…..
Jack looked up. At Howard. And fired back. And they had a raucous insult-fest.
It brought Jack back to life.
Thank you, Howard. You knew what to do and you did it, while we dimwits stood around helplessly.
Neither Paul nor I made a fortune in those days, but Paul said that if I’d split the past due payment with him, he could fudge the paperwork and get Jack seamlessly back on BC/BS. Cool.
So we executed his brilliant, benignly wicked scam and Jack was covered. Between Marvel’s coverage and DC’s, he didn’t have to come up with a nickel. Insurance paid for everything.
First, the origin.
I’m sitting at my desk at Marvel one day, doing Editor-in-Chief stuff, whatever, and the phone rings. The receptionist asks me if I will take a call from someone named “Neal Adams.” Who? Yes, I will take a call from Neal Adams.
Neal tells me that a young artist turned up at his studio showing samples. He thought I might be interested, but he wasn’t sure because, Neal said, “He draws like me.”
Well, not interested then.
Now, let me tell you something about my father. He loved airplanes. All kinds. He used to build model airplanes, including those radio controlled ones.
So, during the VALIANT days, when he came to New York from the family home in suburban Pittsburgh, one of only two times he ever made it to the Big Apple, I had this brilliant idea. Why not ask Herb to take him for a ride instead of me? I happened to have business up Herb’s way anyway. I figured that my father could come with me and therefore, we’d be in the neighborhood.
Even with the income I was making from DC added to the mix, my family wasn’t exactly prosperous. When you start deep in the hole, it takes a long time to dig out. My mother was worried that she didn’t have anything appropriate to wear. And there was no money to go clothes shopping. A friend of hers from church who was a seamstress offered to make her a few dresses, as a gift.
But, as for the trip itself, DC paid all expenses—the airfare, meals, the hotel. They put us up in the Summit Hotel, a top shelf place in those days. It also happened to be located at Lexington and 51st, right across the street from 575 Lexington Avenue, where DC had its offices. For about a week, I reported to the office every day, met people and learned things.
Ask the average fan to name the greatest creators in the history of comics and the name Archie Goodwin will not leap to the minds of many, because so much of Archie’s brilliant work was behind the scenes or flew under the mainstream radar. But ask the creators with whom he worked! Ask other all-time great writers, artists, editors and creators! Gather the elders, the best of the best and ask them! His name will be among the first mentioned. Archie Goodwin was an amazing writer with outstanding story sense, penetrating insight, a gift for dialogue, an effortless knack for character, a flair for drama and utter mastery of the art of delivering the payoff. His sheer creativity ranks with the best ever. He was an all-time great editor and teacher. He made everyone he worked with better. On top of that, Archie Goodwin was a fine, wonderful, noble and honorable soul, loved and respected by everyone because he deserved it. This industry may never see his like again. How sad. He is desperately missed.
When I first moved to New York City in 1976, as it happened, Dave had a room to rent and I needed a place to live. We didn’t know each other at all, but it worked out fine for the eight months or so I stayed there. Dave was good-natured, easygoing and easy to get along with—also, totally honest and honorable. The place was great. I tended to avoid the room where he kept the snakes and lizards. They stunk. Or, I guess, some of what they ate stunk. Anyway….
Jack Kirby was crowned King by Stan Lee when Stan gave Jack the Marvel nickname “King.” Did Jack deserve the coronation? Certainly. His creative record is not only unmatched in the comics field, but possibly, idea for idea, unmatched by anyone in any field. Ever. At his peak, in the early to mid 1960’s, Jack was the absolute master of comics storytelling, and had evolved a powerful, wonderful, exciting, magical style that blended just enough solid drawing with just enough abstraction and just enough exaggeration. He changed everything. He influenced countless creators. He awed and entertained millions of readers. His work moved people. King, indeed.