Friday, February 15, 2013

Just Before Fantastic Four: Amazing Adventures

At 1961 Marvel the fifth monster anthology, Amazing Adventures, distinguished itself from Journey into Mystery, Strange Tales, Tales to Astonish, and Tales of Suspense with a series: occult master Dr. Droom, in #1-4 and 6.

With no full credits at this point, the best guess at authorship has been that whatever Stan Lee didn't sign was written by Larry Lieber. In late '61, it looks as if they were indeed the only two writing for the company; that wasn't be true a couple of years earlier, where Jack Oleck, for instance, was one of the writers with a story in TOS 1 and Jack Kirby was for a short time allowed to be the writer/artist he'd been elsewhere (see Nick Caputo on Kirby's scripting his own stories in Battle).

Since by 1961 Stan and Larry's styles are very, very similar, I'd been relying on that signature; the only story signed by Stan in these six issues is "The Fourth Man" in #6. It's a small surprise, then, that he wrote some stories he didn't sign. The surprise is only a small one because they're exactly the ones you'd think he wrote: the twist-ending shorts drawn by Steve Ditko, quite a different sort of tale by this point than the monster epic leads. AA would, of course, turn into Amazing Adult Fantasy with #7—all Lee-Ditko stories of this sort and all stories, covers, and contents pages signed by Stan and Steve. In the four anthologies that outlasted AA, Stan would continue with the Ditko stories (signed and then credited, when Larry gets credit too on his stories).

Again, this doesn't stretch back years. Steve Ditko's first stories for Marvel in 1959 were not scripted by Stan Lee, who was busy enough with the Western and girls' series.

Amazing Adventures 4, The Bootblack--'I'll cut all your salaries in half...heh heh...and there's nothing you can do about it!'
If Stan Lee (as per later stories' credits) or Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko (as per reminiscences of the Marvel method) plotted some of these, who can tell? (Although that alliteratively-named capitalist Simon Sledge is the villain and not the hero would suggest that Stan could keep all the credit for "The Bootblack" and be welcome.)

UPDATE: I'd originally listed Dick Ayers as the inker of "Sserpo," but Mark Evanier's comment sent me to look at it more closely.

Amazing Adventures

Jun/61 Torr w: Larry Lieber
         p: Jack Kirby  i: Dick Ayers
    Midnight in the Wax Museum w: Stan Lee  a: Steve Ditko
    I Am the Fantastic Dr. Droom w: Lieber  p: Kirby  i: Ditko
Jul/    I Led the Strange Search for Manoo w: Lieber  p: Kirby  i: Ayers
    TheWorld Below [DR. DROOM] w: Lieber  p: Kirby  i: Ayers
    Rocky's Last Ride w: Lee  a: Ditko
Aug/    We Were Trapped in the Twilight World w: Lieber  p: Kirby  i: Ayers
    The Teddy Bear w: Lee  a: Ditko
    Dr. Droom vs. Zemu w: Lieber  p: Kirby  i: Ayers
Sept/    I Am Robot X w: Lieber  p: Kirby  i: Ayers
    Who or What Was...the Bootblack? w: Lee  a: Ditko
    What Lurks Within? [DR. DROOM] w: Lieber  p: Kirby  i: Ayers
Oct/    The Escape of...Monsteroso w: Lieber  p: Kirby  i: Ayers
    The Watchers w: Lieber  a: Don Heck
    The Joker w: Lee  a: Ditko
Nov/    Sserpo! The Creature Who Crushed the Earth! w: Lieber  p: Kirby  i: George Klein
    The Fourth Man w: Lee  a: Ditko
    Dr. Droom Defies the Menace Called...Krogg w: Lieber  a: Paul Reinman


  1. Martin,

    I've written about my theories on who authored the Ditko stories in Ditkomania some years ago, and will likely update it for my blog, but from interviews and personal discussions with Larry Lieber he has continually stated he "never" wrote any of the Ditko drawn stories (there is one story that is credited to Lee plot, Lieber script, "Haag, Hunter of Helpless Humans" in Tales of Suspense # 37, so he's not entirely correct).

    Since, as you note, aside from Kirby writing some stories early on, no one else seemed to be writing at the time. If Stan wrote stories that he did not sign. I suspect it might have been on purpose. The stinging effects of Wertham on oomics, particularly crime and horror, may have given Stan second thoughts on attaching his name to even the tamer suspense and fantasy stories. This may have changed when The Twilight Zone TV series became hailed as a quality show, and Stan may have felt it was then ok to sign his name to those stories. I've asked Stan and unfortunately he doesn't recall, but he also stated its possible he didn't sign his name to every story he wrote. ASide from the early stories that Carl Wessler wrote, Ditko also doesn't recall working with anyone other than Stan, apparently from a plot synopsis on the fantasy stories as well.

  2. My apologies Martin, I already posted my article on my Blog and totally forgot (and one wonders why Lee, Lieber and Ditko may have forgotten details from 50 years ago!). For those interested they can read it here:

  3. That blog post on Ditko not only beat me by a year to the point of what I was saying here, Nick, but it covers the other monster books as well--so, yes, anyone interested in this subject should turn to it now, if they haven't before reaching this comment.

    Eventually I want to look harder at those Ditko stories in the period of the earliest issues of TOS and TTA--the stories just prior to those you list. I think I see Larry Lieber's writing beginning then, but those are likely full scripts and so neither he nor Ditko could be expected to remember working together in the Marvel method style.

    On another note: if, as the evidence seems to be showing, Stan didn't script any of the Kirby monster stories, it increases the significance of the Lee-Kirby-Ayers Rawhide Kid revamp as a precursor to the Fantastic Four. It's probably heresy to say the Kid was the first Marvel series--a cowboy!--and treason to say that Kathy was the second--a Betty/Veronica girl!!

  4. All good points, Martin. Another theory that Michael Vassallo posited in a discussion we had the other day was that there may have been quite a few (pre-Implosion)unused scripts that were given to Ditko (and others) to illustrate.

    I also see Rawhide Kid as a very important part of the beginning of the Marvel Age as are many of the teen titles which incorporated much of Lee's humor and wisecracks that became past of the hero books (Lee was also not averse to reusing old names - there was a Gobby the Goblin in one of his kids books!)

  5. I disagree with your inker credit on "Sserpo! The Creature Who Crushed the Earth!" in #6. I think that's George Klein and I think he inked it shortly before he inked FANTASTIC FOUR #1.

  6. It does look a lot less like Ayers' work upon a closer look, Mark; I've changed the credit to Klein.

    1. There are a couple of pages of the first Doctor Droom story at Tom Kraft's site WHAT IF KIRBY. An examination of the pages reveals Kirby's penciled lettering in the areas of the published word balloons and captions. It would be very interesting to examine the original art closely. I've been able to detect some differences in the text between the penciled text and the published text.
      It's certainly possible Kirby wrote the story and his dialogue and captions were edited/rewritten by Lee.
      I agree with Martin it's hard to see a big difference between Larry Lieber text and Stan Lee text. My assumption is Lee rewrote most of his brothers text. Lee was still doing a lot a rewriting in the second half of the '60s (at least on occasion). There is a NOT BRAND ECHH stat page which was published in ALTER-EGO magazine. The original text (Englehart?) had been completely rewritten by Lee for the published comic book.
      Mark Evanier has written that based on comments by Kirby and Sol Brodsky it was common for Kirby to write/rewrite (plot)stories for the pre-hero Atlas comics.
      It certainly does read like all the published text, with the few exceptions pointed out by Nick Caputo, in the late '50s early'60s Atlas/Marvel books is either Lee's or has been so heavily rewritten by Lee that he could be said to have scripted the published text. The NOT BRAND ECHH page shows clear evidence of Lee not just revising text, changing a word or more, but ignoring what had been written to the extent the story is no longer the one the original author had intended.

    2. Mr Ed,

      I have a few observations regarding Kirby's lettering on pencilled pages. It's quite possible that Kirby was copying the script he was working from. As late as the 1970s I've seen instances of Kirby handwriting on stories others wrote, including Justice Inc. and Kung Fu Fighter, scripted by Denny O'Neil. This may have been the way he worked, both on his own stories and those scripted by others.

      The alterations on the printed page of the Dr. Droom story may be changes made to Larry Lieber's script by Lee. Roy Thomas has explained that Lee was quite hands on as editor and would make alterations on scripts if he felt they were needed. This occured not only on Roy's early stories, but to others such as Steve Skeates and Denny O'Neil.

      It is certainly possible that Kirby devised plots for some of the monster stories. As Mark Evanier states, we have no way of knowing which ones Kirby contributed to. However, I suspect that it also makes sense that Kirby followed a working pattern, one that he continued for decades. Aside from some of the early fantasy stories, some of which bear Kirby's writing style (which I will analyze in depth in a future blog post) it appears that most of the monster stories have a consistent voice, with Larry Lieber, aided by Stan Lee rewriting/editing, the likely suspects.

    3. Nick, I think with Kirby a distinction has to be made between scripts handed to Kirby and the way Kirby handled them. As Martin points out Kirby's style overpowered scripts by Binder and Jack Oleck. In the case of the monster stories it's very possible Kirby was given a script which he used in the same way, the difference is that was not the end of it. At Atlas/Marvel Kirby's pages went back to Marvel where they would have been rewritten/edited by Lee.

  7. Here is a link to one of the two pages from that first Doctor Droom story.
    Note panel three where the published text in the caption is very different from what Kirby has penciled. Easy to make out is the penciled text "...emerald and I was through." Completely different from the published text.
    Also if interest is the fact the inker on the page is Steve Ditko, and Ditko simplified a great deal of the background details. It's obvious there are penciled flagstones and other architectural details which Ditko didn't follow. Ditko is such an excellent artist that his omissions work, where as I don't think the same could be said for the stuff Colletta left out. Zoom the art though and see panel two Ditko has ignored the bricks on the arched ceiling. Panels 4 and 5 Ditko again ignores bricked walls. Panel six no bricks as penciled on the wall and floor.

    Patrick Ford

  8. My mistake it was Freidrichwho was the original writer of the NOT BRAND ECHH story I mentioned.
    Sorry but these guys are run together for me. Anyhow the point it the same, Stan rewrote the dialogue.
    Here's more detail, the two sets of dialogue from just one of the panels.

    Alter-Ego magazine published the Nick Fury Not Brand Echh. story written by Friedrich. A penciled stat survived.
    The stat was printed along side the published page, and Stan Lee has rewritten every word (every single one) and changed the plot, on a story he took no writing credit on.
    Stan turns Mrs. Mulligan into a love interest (as opposed to a sweet old lady), and inserts one of his fight scene banter jokes.
    This is just one panel, but the rest of the page shows the same level of rewriting.
    The art is identical except for the inks. The pencil stat and the printed comic book both show Nick Fury and Forbush Man in a back alley. Nick Fury is standing next to a trash can and has one foot in a garbage bag he is getting into. Forbush Man has his back to Fury and is banging his head and fists on a brick wall in frustration.

    Fury: The only thing I'll believe is that the Yellow Claw runs that Laundry,,,And that he's up to no good in there!
    Forbush Man: Oh, Perish forbid that would mean dear sweet Mrs. Mulligan is mixed up with him, but I can't believe...
    Fury: That there is nothing suspicious about a Chinese dame named Mulligan?

    Stan Lee:
    Fury: This time Kettle-Dome we're doing things right! You're going back in there with me in this bag!
    Forbush Man: But what if I told you I was in love?
    And what if I told you I couldn't help you arrest the girl of my dreams?
    Fury: Then I'd clobber ya!
    Forbush Man; Okay, so I won't tell you that.

  9. Patrick, the rewriting certainly hit me when I looked at Gardner Fox's early '70s work on Red Wolf; it was obviously Marvelized by other hands. From the evidence, at EC Al Feldstein rewrote all the stories he received from Binder, Oleck, and Wessler until a few months into the New Direction. Binder was rewritten elsewhere by, of all people, Jack Kirby on the early Captain America.

    Luckily for our purposes here, it looks as if Stan didn't rewrite as heavily as on the NOT BRAND ECHH story when we go a few years earlier; Robert Bernstein's and "Joe (Jerry Siegel) Carter's" credited Human Torch scripts in STRANGE TALES show their own styles.

    If Stan was paying Larry Lieber to script over Kirby's plots and then rewriting Larry, it seems he could have cut out the middleman, as he did with Ditko plots. But who knows what passes through editor's heads? I never could figure out why Joe Kubert would hire artists like Dan Spiegle and then "correct" panels in his own distractingly distinct style.

    1. Martin,

      I believe Roy Thomas stated that it was he that rewrote many of the Red Wolf stories.

    2. Nick, that would have been my guess. Roy may have been influenced by Stan, but his style is pretty distinctive.

  10. Martin, As Larry Lieber explained it he had just gotten out of the service and was looking for work. He had done a very small number of art jobs previously, but had never written. His brother had nothing for him in the way of art assignments but suggested he write. Lieber says he went out and bought a typewriter. It's possible Lee was just trying to help out his brother. Lee probably could knock out dialogue in a flash. He once said he was a fast writer because he didn't enjoy writing. He wanted to get done as fast as possible so he could get back to doing things he enjoyed like, "arguing with my wife." Sp I think Lee had a well established set of riffs he used almost like a stand-up comedian.

  11. Patrick is basically right. Stan did not treat his kid brother like any other writer. At least on the earlier monster stories, Larry would be given plots. Some of them may have come wholly from Stan. A lot of them were plots that Jack gave Stan and then Stan gave to Larry. There's no way of knowing which are which and how much alteration, if any, Stan did on a Kirby plot. Anyway, Larry went off and wrote scripts. Stan revised them before and after they were drawn and Jack revised them while penciling. Again, we may never now for sure how much alteration went on...but the "voice" of those stories seems pretty consistent to me.

    Stan wouldn't have worked like that with Robert Bernstein or anyone else. But he did it for his younger brother.

  12. Patrick and Mark, thanks for passing along some of the word from the people involved. Things weren't straightforward at Marvel, were they? Or should I say: in comic books?

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  14. One window into the Kirby-Lee-Lieber process is the first Iron Man story. The published comic book credits Stan Lee with the plot and Larry Lieber with the script. It is known Kirby designed the character. Don Heck had unclear recollections of Kirby's involvement aside from the look of the character. What is interesting is the basic plot of the first Iron Man story is almost identical to a Green Arrow story Kirby had created a few years earlier. When Kirby created characters he didn't bring in a complete story. What he did was create pitch pages with drawings of the character and often considerable text explaining the background of the character and often plot suggestion for three or four stories. Jim Shooter confirmed he had held Kirby's Spiderman (no hyphen) pitch page (not the five page story Kirby produced after his pitch had been approved)"In my hands." A few Kirby pitch pages from the '60s have survived.
    Kirby's cover for the first Iron Man story may well have been a pitch page which contained the basic plot for the first story and was then cut up, reconfigured, and inked for use as a cover.

    Patrick Ford

  15. And to go off on a tangent, Patrick, none of this shows the corporate entity Marvel contributing a scintilla to the creation of these stories and characters.

  16. This may be going off on a tangent, but Kirby rewriting Binder on Cap may shed some light on the notorious 'Fraulein Sweetheart' recently reprinted in the Young Romance hardcover collection (from Young Romance No. 4, the GCD informs me). Semi-credited to Jack Oleck, it has captions and dialogue in Kirby's style.

  17. In the early issues of Black Magic, I'm finding one or two stories with some of Oleck's style and some of Kirby's, and the situation does strike me as Oleck scripts getting partially rewritten, somewhere along the way in the editorial process, by Kirby. Oleck's later scripts for S&K do read as if they went pretty much unchanged to the artists.

  18. Martin, When you identify Kirby as rewriting Binder on CA; is your Binder identification based on style? Any particular stories you would mention?

    Patrick Ford

  19. Patrick, I see Kirby's writing on every Cap story he drew in the Forties. Binder recalled writing a couple of stories when he and Jerry Bails reconstructed his records in the Sixties--they're the ones in the GCD--just as Steranko's History of Comics attributed the first Red Skull story to Ed Herron. I don't find anything left of their scripts; I'm passing on second-hand knowledge.