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I had given up on 'new' comics in 1977 (for details see here). I was then surprised on my return, in the early part of this millennium, to discover a group of readers, who I now call Comics Cops, had such vitriol for the Marvel Method and the man who used it most, Stan Lee. (Sadly, such attacks continued even after Stan's death.)
In the early 1960s most companies produced comics in the following way: An editor would either think of a story idea or get one from his writers or artists. A writer would then be assigned to write a detailed story, describing the scenes on each page and including the dialogue. From that script an artist would pencil the required pages of story. A letterer, using black ink, would then letter the dialogue, narration and sound effects. Then an artist would ink the penciled figures and (stats of) the pages would be given to a colourist, who determined what colours would be used and where.
(*Examples are: Kirby with Randy Hoppe, 1992; Comic Book Collector 1993; Kirby Collector 1994; Kirby and Pitts; Jack Kirby The Golden Age; Interview with Glenn Danzig 1990.)
Dick Ayers told me that he enjoyed the Marvel Method. It would allow him to properly pace the story and not be 'glued' to what a writer had written. He especially liked working with Stan and Tony Isabella, both of whom gave him a one page outline for the story, often over the telephone. Ayers mentioned that he had trouble with Gary Friedrich who often only gave him a couple of sentences. Roy Thomas, Ayers went on to add, did quite the opposite, giving him twice as many pages as Stan! Only once, Ayers said, was Stan stuck for a plot. Stan called him regarding issue #23 of Sgt. Fury and asked him to come up with a plot because he couldn't think of anything. Dick was very disappointed when Stan left the series a few issues later.
|Dick Ayers in his office at home|
Gene Colan told me that he loved working with Stan using the method. As a reader, though, it was easy to see that Gene had a looser pacing with Stan than he would have with Roy Thomas, where the stories became more detailed. In an email to Nick Caputo in 2000, Colan wrote: "Stan really came up with all the ideas for the story, as minimal as they were, and I interpreted them. I remember how free I felt. I felt total freedom. There was just one problem and that was pacing so the events wouldn't get bunched up. [Stan gave] a rough verbal outline with no dialogue. Working with other writers like Roy Thomas and Archie Goodwin was restrictive for me, feeling like the writer had all the control and I had very little. As writers and editors, both those men treated me well. But for me, the fun was taken out of the work."
Thanks again to Barry for taking the time to write this post for all we Criv-ites. Don't let his efforts go unappreciated - leave a comment saying what you think, for or against, the 'Marvel method'.