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Thursday, 5 August 2010
KIRBY HAS LEFT THE BUILDING...
Image copyright MARVEL COMICS
Following my post on FANTASTIC FOUR: The LOST ADVENTURE, I'd like to look at another of the fantasies surrounding the original printing of this story in FF #108. I've previously addressed JON B. COOKE's idle speculation that STAN LEE may possibly have delayed printing JACK KIRBY's version out of spite, so I'd now like to examine the suggestion that it was released the same month as the first issue of DC COMICS' (then National Periodical Publications, Inc.) NEW GODS title in a malicious attempt to sabotage its launch.
Sound plausible? Let's examine the facts. Kirby's first comic to be released by DC was SUPERMAN'S PAL JIMMY OLSEN. When New Gods hit the stands (six months after Kirby had left MARVEL) no special attention or promotion was given to FF #108; Kirby wasn't mentioned on the JOHN BUSCEMA cover and the Kirby content was bookended by a Buscema splash and end page, with quite a few redrawn panels inside the book - rendering Kirby's involvement practically invisible 'til the reader got the mag home and sat down to read it. Hardly the way to create an impact and steal New Gods' thunder, I'd suggest.
Marvel were trying to establish Big John Buscema as the FF's new regular, superstar artist (after four issues by JOHN ROMITA), so that would surely count against them harping on about the past glory that was Jack. And sales on 'The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!' actually increased after Kirby left the book (as they did with SPIDER-MAN after STEVE DITKO departed) so, Stan Lee's personal sadness aside, Marvel wouldn't have been overly concerned over the King's departure. The most likely explanation seems to be that the story was printed simply because it had been paid for - and once Stan had worked out the problems with it and incorporated it into a longer, more cosmic story arc, there was no good reason not to print it.
When one examines the evidence, the fact that FF #108 featured Kirby material and came out the same month as New Gods #1 seems to be nothing more than coincidence, otherwise Marvel surely wouldhave hyped it to the rafters. They didn't - which puts paid to that little notion as far as I'm concerned. That's the trouble with most "conspiracy theories" - they seldom withstand scrutiny when measured against the plain and simple facts of the matter.