Saturday, March 2, 2013

And now a man who needs no introduction

At least not to DAILY KIRBY regulars. His one guest post has been read more times than any of the hundreds I've composed.  He has a frequently updated blog where he shares his pearls of comic book wisdom. He is also the originator of the most logical theory of why there was a Marvel Age of Comics.

By Barry Pearl

     In the beginning, Marvel’s “House of Ideas” was built on Jack Kirby’s creativity, Steve Ditko’s ingenuity and Stan Lee’s continuity. Throw in the consistency of Don Heck and Dick Ayers and you have the birth of the Marvel Age. As if it was a race and not a business, some fans like to give out credit for the incredible Marvel Age to just one person.
   When that issue comes up, I like to ask, “What is the most important leg on a three legged stool.” The people who cared most about the quality of comics were not those who published them but those who created them.  And Lee, Kirby and Ditko were on top of that list.
    And Lee held it all together, keeping Kirby and the others on track and keeping in touch with the fans to see what they wanted. It was Stan’s dialogue that, uniquely for that era, gave each character their own personality. And while DC and others had each characters each in their own world, Stan was able to weave Marvel’s stories together, creating a One Universe concept never tried before in comics.  It worked, but don’t think that the artists were keeping track of that.  They were too busy getting their own pages drawn to look at their own finished comics, let alone the comics of others. In the beginning that burden fell on Lee alone.
     But if Kirby gave wonder to the Marvel Universe then Steve Ditko gave it awe. Kirby externalized the quest for knowledge, Ditko internalized it. On a journey to the Infinite Kirby took us to the outer reaches of the universe. On a journey to find Eternity Ditko took us into the minds of the Ancient One and Dr. Strange.
     A great example is the Incredible Hulk, which failed after six issues. Lee and Kirby created a creature that turned from man to “monster” by peripheral events: A bomb blast, the sun setting and finally a gamma ray machine. It was Steve Ditko who internalized the situation and gave Banner an anger management problem. Now Banner, himself, was the cause of the change. This is what made the Hulk an iconic character. While Kirby look outward to cause the change, Ditko looked inside the character.
It took the best of all three men, aided and abetted by Heck and Ayers, working together, to create the characters we have today.  Ask yourself, how many of the Marvel movies, 50 years later, are based on characters that came later?

And you can learn a valuable lesson: The decency, humanity and humor of the Marvel Super-Heroes was hereditary. They got it from their creators.


  1. >> And while DC and others had each characters each in their own world, Stan was able to weave Marvel’s stories together, creating a One Universe concept never tried before in comics. <<

    Umm, no. Nevr mind JSA and World's Finest, Julie was creating a One Universe with JLA prior to FF #1. Cross-overs between Flash and Green Lanterns were prior to any cross-overs at Marvel.

    Mark Clegg

    1. I think what Barry means is that it was Stan who popularised the use of the 'one universe' concept and utilised it to its full potential. In that sense he 'created' it - that is to say, in the common, everyday occurrence, no big deal way that Marvel used to have characters appear, just in passing, in each other's comics. Up until that time, you certainly never got a one panel appearance (or even a reference) to Superman in a Batman story (and vice versa). (And if I'm wrong, then it certainly wasn't a common practice.) However, once Marvel had shown the way, DC eventually followed suit. I think that's what Barry means when he uses the word 'created', and in that sense, he's correct. Don't you think?

  2. And the Torch and Sub-Mariner did it in 1940. A guest appearance, by one or two character is not a One Universe concept, it's a guest shot. Villains went from one comic to another at Marvel,plot points went from one comic to another. The Superman world rarely touched anything else (Are going to bring up one issue where the Flash raced Superman?) Wessinger would not allow Supergirl in the Teen Titans.

    The World's Finest team and the JLA were a separate continuity. The Avengers showed up all the time in Iron Man, Thor, and Giant Man.

    You had several editors at DC guarding their own territory, Stan edited everyhting and could mix and match.

  3. I think the problem is with the word 'create', Barry. I don't think Stan so much 'created' the shared universe concept as developed it to an extent it hadn't been used before. He recognised its potential and capitalized on it, but Kirby may have had a hand in it also.