Marvel Worldwide, Inc. et al v. Kirby et al - Stan Lee's FF #1 Synopsis & Jerry Bails
There’s always been mixed reactions to this document. Some claim that it’s not believable at all and are stunned if anyone, even Stan Lee, believes that this was written before Jack Kirby began to draw the first issue. Those who subscribe to that theory believe that it was written well after the event, possibly after the book was produced, perhaps in the 1970s or even the 1980s, in which event it’s not likely that Stan wrote this as a guide for Kirby to follow. It’s just too perfect to be true. However there are those who do believe that Lee did sit down and write a synopsis for jack to follow. Greg Theakston is one of those. In his soon to be published biography of Jack Kirby, Theakston states that Lee, “…typed up a two page plot synopsis outlining the first adventure, and contacted his go-to guy, Jack Kirby. Jack was notified of the new project and given Lee’s synopsis. From this, Kirby refined the action and art, and returned the pages to Stan for dialogue.”
What lets this document down is the lack of date and the lack of witnesses from the time period. Simply put there’s no real proof as to when and where it was written – if the synopsis had been mentioned previously to the 1990s then perhaps, just perhaps. We know that Larry Lieber wrote full scripts, because he’s said this all along, and hasn’t deviated from that line. But then there are no existing scripts by Leiber from the 1960s either – as with most documents of the time period they would be long gone, discarded as rubbish once they’d served their purpose. Sadly there’s been no similar synopsis produced by Lee for any other title of the time, imagine if another such document surfaced with the details of Spider-Man, or Iron Man – the cat would truly be amongst the pigeons then.
(Click on any image for a larger view)
The other interesting artefact on display here is a two page letter from Stan Lee to Jerry Bails, dated January 1963. In this letter Lee addresses a number of issues, from the quality of the art of Al Hartley and Steve Ditko, through to the creative process of Stan and Jack on the Fantastic Four. Strangely enough, the process that Lee described in 1963 sounds very familiar; he and Kirby would discuss the plot, Lee would send Kirby his version of the plot, Kirby draws it, Lee then dialogued the story – a true collaboration.
It’s also fascinating to read Lee talking about the forthcoming creation of Dr Strange, and mentioning that Strange is the creation of Steve Ditko. What Lee clearly appears to believe in the letter is while Dr Strange was, “…nothing great,” the character was scheduled primarily to keep Steve Ditko happy at Marvel. But then neither Stan Lee nor Steve Ditko would have known just how popular Strange would become in the Marvel Universe.