I've already held forth here on my reservations regarding the idea of Jack Kirby playing a "lone hand" during his long and estimable career. Still, I threw myself into the debate once more on a listserve, starting with an observation that even if Stan Lee had given Kirby and Steve Ditko every credit that modern fans think that they merited, this credit would never have been noticed by the average person outside comics-fandom. Such outsiders would have continued to believe Stan Lee created everything because he was the most visible figure, just as filmgoers think of Alfred Hitchcock as the sole author of his films, even though he never wrote any of them.
My point is that the general public doesn't remember all the collaborators for
popular works; average audiences are doing good if they can remember one major
player attached to a given work. I'm not necessarily making a one-on-one
comparison between Lee and Hitchcock, though I think Lee did marshal talent in a
manner comparable to the way Hitchcock did-- an important factor in such
Maybe this comparison will sit better with you:
Lee and Frank Capra. To underscore the comparison, Capra wrote a very
self-serving autobio in which he basically claimed that he, the director, did it
all. Later a critic-- Joseph McBride?-- wrote a well-research refutation of
Capra's "I did it all" assertion. McBride demonstrated that all of Capra's
financial or critical successes stemmed from his collaborations with two key
writers-- two writers whom the general public will never know. Sound
And yet, saying that Capra and Lee didn't do it all isn't the
same as saying that they did nothing.
On Kirby and writing: well, they
are documented artist-writers, like Jack Cole, who did for comic books what
Foster and Caniff did for comic strips. (Raymond started out collaborating with
a writer for some years though; don't know how many.) But the problem with
Kirby is that his Golden Age work is so tied to the S&K partnership. I have
no problem with believing that Kirby plotted his stories, probably with little
or no advance notes before he started drawing. But-- DID HE DIALOGUE THEM?
Apparently neither he nor Simon kept records; we don't even know if Kirby got a
separate writer-payment in those days, the very thing which became the bone of
contention in the Marvel years. (Maybe if one of us was an IRS agent, we could
check Kirby's 1940s filings!) The Golden Age works, from SANDMAN to BOYS RANCH,
are all basically well written pulp entertainment, efficient but not
Then there's a fifteen-year period in which exigencies forced Kirby to
collaborate outside the S&K shop, where so many hands contributed. Kirby
works with Dave Wood, Stan Lee, and Larry Leiber, possibly rewriting a lot of
what he's given, and only rarely does he have a dialogue-credit, as in that one
issue of Nick Fury.
Then, toward the end of his first Marvel tenure, he
gets sole credit on a couple of features: one of which is passable (Ka-Zar), one
of which is ghastly (Inhumans). He goes to DC, and though some of his
dialogue-writing experiments with Shakespearean rythyms, a lot of his dialogue
is, in a word, goofy.
So again I ask the question--
was writing such competent dialogue back in the 1940s-- when he himself was in
his late twenties and early thirties-- HOW DID HE LOSE THAT
That one factor makes me doubt that Jack Kirby ever wrote a
line of dialogue in the 1940s and 1950s.
I'm not saying that I believe
it impossible; that Kirby was once capable of very efficient pulp dialogue, and
then just lost the knack.
But an alternate theory would be that Kirby
might have had a lot of help over rough spots in his shop days, so that he
wasn't fully prepared to write dialogue as a solo talent in the 1970s.
FOOTNOTE: Another member of the listserve provided specifics on Alex Raymond's writer-collaborators--
"Alex Raymond had Don Moore as his writer for most of FLASH GORDON and JUNGLE
JIM. Dashiell Hammett, Don Moore and Leslie Charteris were his writers for
SECRET AGENT X-9. Ward Green and Fred Dickinson were his writers for RIP KIRBY."
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