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Excerpt From 'Marvel Comics the Untold Story'

Excerpt From 'Marvel Comics the Untold Story'

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Published by: scprweb on Oct 08, 2012
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In 1961, Stanley Martin Lieber was pushing forty, watching the comic-book
industry, in which he’d toiled
for over two decades, fade away. Recently forced to fire his staff of artists, he sat alone in the comicsdivision of publisher Martin Goodman
’s perfunctorily named Magazine
Management Company, where
he’d been
hired, as a teenager, at eight
dollars a week. He’d once wanted to be a
novelist, but he nevermanaged to get around to it, and it seemed unl
ikely that he’d be able to work
Big Ideas into the monster,romance, and western comics that were still dribbling out from the vestiges of the company. Tuckedaway in a
quiet corner, the highlights of Lieber’s da
ys were writing corny jokes for toss-off humor bookslike
Blushing Blurbs: A Ribald Reader for the Bon
 
Vivant
and
Golfers Anonymous
. Not wanting to use his realname, he
signed them “Stan Lee.”
 Fate intervened (or so the story went) in the form of a golf game between Martin Goodman and JackLiebowitz, publisher of rival publisher DC Comics. Liebowitz reportedly told Goodman that DC hadthrown together some of its most popular characters
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, GreenLantern
into a single supergroup title,
The Justice
 
League of America
, and found itself with a surprise hit.Goodman marched into the office with a mandate for Lee:
steal this idea and create
 
a team of superheroes
. ButLee had been through attempted superhero revivals before. He went home to his wife, Joanie, andannounced that he was finally going to quit. She talked him out
of it. “Just do it the way you want to,”she insisted. “Work your idea
s into the comic book. What are
they going to do, fire you?”
 
“It took a few days of jotting down a million notes,” Lee would remember years later, “crossing them out
and jotting down a million more until I finally came up with four characters that I thought would workwell together as a team. . . . I wrote an outline containing the basic description of the new characters andthe somewhat offbeat story line and gave it to my most trusted and dependable artist, the incredibly
talented Jack Kirby.”
The Fantastic Four 
wasn’t quite the
 Justice League
rip-off that Goodman had ordered
in the first issue, theprotagoni
sts didn’t even wear costumes;
stranger still, they were constantly bickering. Never before hada comic-book team been shaded with such distinct personalities. In a nearly revolutionary flourish, theThing was
even conceived as “a heavy—
not
really a good guy,” who might go rogu
e at any moment, afar cry from the upstanding citizenship of Superman and Green Lantern. But copies sold, quickly, and fanletters poured in to the Magazine Management offices. The book had sparked something, a fervorunfamiliar to Lee.M
arvel’s colorful creations—
the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, andDoctor Strange
built the groundwork for a self-contained fictional construc
t called “The MarvelUniverse,” in which all heroes’ adventures were int
ertwined with great complexity. Soon their rapidlyexpanding world also included the likes of the X-Men, a gang of ostracized mutant schoolchildren whosestruggle against discrimination paralleled the civil rights movement, and Daredevil, a blind lawyerwhose other senses were heightened to inhuman levels. The Black Widow, Hawkeye, the Silver Surfer,and countless others followed. For twelve cents an issue, Marvel Comics delivered fascinatinglydysfunctional protagonists, literary flourishes, and eye-popping images to little kids, Ivy Leaguers, andhippies alike.St
an Lee addressed Marvel’s audience co
lloquially and excitedly in the
comics’ back pages, making
readers feel like they were part of an exclusive club. Although most of the stories were produced in thesilence of
freelancers’ homes, Lee painted the drab
Marvel offices as a crowded and
chatty “House ofIdeas,” a throwba
ck to the bustling, desk-filled rooms
that he’d known in earlier years but tha
t nowexisted only in his mind. With a jazzy string of
didja know
s and all-caps accents and exclamation-pointba
ckslaps, Lee’s “Bullpen Bulletins”
columns could confer excitement even on the very idea of aworkplace.
“It isn’t generally known, but
many of our merry Marvel artists are also talented story men intheir own right! For example, all Stan has to do with th
e pros like JACK ‘KING’
KIRBY, dazzling DONHECK, and darl
in’ DICK AYERS is give them the
germ of an idea, and they make up all the details as

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