A long lost photo of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee has surfaced

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Photo ©2018 Scott Anderson

UPDATE: The mystery has been solved! See the comments. 

As I’ve long noted, finding photos of Stan and Jack together has long been nearly impossible, with this 1964 image via Sean Howe the best known.

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But just in the last few days a photo of the two together has been circulation on Facebook – its photographer and origin unknown. Calling it long lost is a bit of a misnomer, since I don’t think anyone knew this photo existed until now! But with Stan’s passing on Monday, someone got it scanned and uploaded.

It’s obviously the 80s and at San Diego Comic-Con – a closer look at the badges would reveal the year – but it is still a shock to see Jack and Stan smiling together given the long standing acrimony that has long been reported.

In a FB thread where this was discussed, folks noted that they had seen Stan and Jack acting friendly at cons of the past, and both were far too grown up to be rude to each other publicly.   However, here’s a quote from COMICS INTERVIEW #41 (1986), as reported on FB, the following exchange took place in an interview with Mark Borax and Kirby:

On page 53 Kirby mentions to Mark Borax that the previous day he had an “amicable” conversation with Stan Lee and Jim Shooter. Borax replies enthusiastically, “That’s great!” and adds, “You know the whole world would like to see the two of you shake hands.” 

Kirby then tells Borax, “We did yesterday. But it resolves nothing. I can’t understand why there’s a struggle over who did what, cause Stan and I know. Nobody else knows. If Stan would only come out of his hiding place and tell the world everything would go great. It isn’t obscure. He knows it, and I know it. There won’t be a resolution. People don’t change. They can’t change. Sometimes it’s too late. You just go on being what you are. Human beings go on being human beings. I can predict everything that Stan will do. I know I can’t change Stan. He says his piece, and I say mine. I could shake hands with Stan till doomsday and it would resolve nothing, the dance goes on.”

Despite the friendly demeanor in this photo, in Jack’s mind it was still an ongoing battle. My guess is that when this photo was taken Kirby was still fighting to get his artwork back, and the pain was still quite raw for him. Nonetheless this is an image every fan who wants mommy and daddy to be friends again can tack over their desk.

BTW: I’ve asked online about where this photo comes from and no one has had an idea. I will gladly take it down when the owner emerges.As noted above, the photographer has been found and the photo is posted here with his permission.

 

25 COMMENTS

  1. Stan and Jack needed each other at all the points in their careers where they intersected, starting with Stan joining Timely Comics as a teenage office boy. Their relationship grew incredibly complicated, but they accomplished greatness together that they never could have done separately.

  2. No. Kirby created all of it. What did Lee create before he met Kirby or after. Nothing. Stan Lee was not a good person and no one should be celebrating him.

  3. “No. Kirby created all of it.”

    Pretty much Kirby’s entire career pre- and post-Stan disproves that statement. On the other hand, Stan did some stuff with this guy named John Romita that you may want to check out.

    And that statement of Kirby’s is possibly one of the most damning things I’ve ever seen about him. Imagine having to deal with someone who was not only unquestionably convinced they were right but so absolutely sure they were your superior that they didn’t even think about you as person but just a thing they could predict like clockwork?

    Mike

  4. Hi Heidi,

    I’m the photographer. Had no idea this had gone viral and out into the wild!

    Here’s the backstory for you: it was the 1989 SDCC. I was all of 15 years old, and had managed to find Jack and Roz walking the aisles of the Civic Center. Got an autograph from Jack and was showing him my artwork, when Stan came strolling down the aisle. They warmly greeted each other and embraced, and were chatting it up like long-lost friends. I don’t remember any other specifics other than that I was so pleased that they were enjoying each other’s company—and remember, this was right before the TCJ interview came out that shook up the comics industry with Jack’s claims about Stan, so I had no reason to expect anything other than friendliness between them, but still, it was great to see.

    I had a small camera with me and asked the two legends if I could get a shot of them. Even as a 15 year-old fan, I knew this was a great shot to get. I remember how Stan really pulled Jack in when he put his arm around him, and you can see the genuine smiles on both of them. My only regret is that I didn’t ask someone to take a picture of me with the two of them as well.

    So that’s the story. When Stan passed, I took the photo out of the photo album where I kept it, and took a picture of it with my iPhone (which is why you can see a touch of my ghostlike reflection of my arms in the upper right). I’m a member of the 11 O’Clock Comics group on Facebook, and when a member started a post for stories about personal interactions with Stan, I posted this photo and the above story. Since it was posted to a closed group, it never occurred to me it would go viral, but obviously, someone downloaded the photo and the internet did its thing from there. Totally fine with this getting wider exposure, as it is a nice moment of comics history.

    No need to take it down, but if you’d update your story with a photo credit, as I do maintain the copyright of the image, that would be great. I’m now an illustrator myself, doing work for MAD Magazine, and am so happy to play my own small part in this comics industry that was so powerfully shaped and defined by these two gents.

    Best,

    Scott Anderson

  5. Hi, this is Mark Borax. Thanks for crediting my interview with Jack. I’m not sure where David Anthony Kraft is these days, but he’s probably still in Clayton, Georgia, and you might try asking him who took the photo, since he published COMICS INTERVIEW.

  6. Hey Heidi, I recall having dinner with you in San Diego in the late 80s, at my first or second Con. I think you were writing for Fantagraphics then? Greetings.

  7. Scott – thank you so much for the information! I’ll make sure to credit you – I think the horse is out of the barn, but this photo emerging just as Stan passed is a powerful reminder of the complex relationship the two had.

    Mark! Yes probably at Panda Inn since that was the only resto people could eat at then. I think Gil Kane and Joe Sacco were there too? Those were great dinners!

  8. Hi Heidi, You have a great memory, because as I was falling asleep last night I recalled Gil Kane being there, holding court. Don’t recall if Joe was there, maybe Gary Groth? I know a few others were around.

  9. Thanks for updating the article, Heidi! And I’m happy to see that this photo has prompted some good memories.

    Historical question for you, Heidi: I was struck to find out that Jack’s TCJ interview was conducted the exact same summer as when this photo was taken, in 1989 (and then published early 1990). Gary’s notes on the interview as archived online state that it was conducted over three sessions that summer, and I wonder if the spleen-venting portion of the interview happened before or after this Comic-Con meeting? Wondering if you would happen to know. I’ll be honest in hoping that it was afterwards, so that in the moment that this photo was taken, that there was something of genuine camaraderie happening.

  10. I became friends with Steve Bissette when we both lived in Vermont, and, from separately interviewing him and Frank Miller I was the one who figured out they’d both had the same high school art teacher, a guy who apparently had a big inspirational effect on both. I don’t think Steve and Rick were at that particular dinner, but I hung out with them and Bill Sienciewicz (sp?) probably that same visit. Speaking of young fans, I was at Frank’s L.A. apartment while he was creating the first DARK KNIGHT, and he showed me the art in progress and asked me what I thought!

  11. There appears to be some error in dating here, because if my interview with Jack was published in 1986, which sounds right, then Scott couldn’t have taken that photo in 1989!

  12. Mark: no dating error here; I guarantee you I took that photo in 1989; it just isn’t directly connected to your interview. The fact that your interview predates the photo just speaks to the complexity of their relationship, I think. There’s definitely time in between your interview and my photo where further conversations or interactions might have happened. Or maybe it was just that in a public setting, in the aisles of the Civic Center that day, they just both chose to be overtly friendly, even if it may have been an act for the sake of class.

  13. cw said: “No. Kirby created all of it. What did Lee create before he met Kirby or after. Nothing.”

    Interesting how everything Kirby created after he stopped working with Stan was a commercial flop. Also note that Kirby refused to work with any Marvel writer other than Stan. And note the ludicrous results when Kirby tried to write dialogue and captions.

    Jack could be a brilliant idea man, but not all his ideas were brilliant. He needed a writer-editor like Joe Simon or Stan Lee to weed out his ridiculous ideas, and channel the good ideas into comics that SOLD. And he needed a Stan Lee to write dialogue that breathed life into the characters. Otherwise, they were just cardboard symbols or good and evil.

  14. MBunge said: “Stan did some stuff with this guy named John Romita that you may want to check out.”

    And with this guy named Gene Colan, and this guy named John Buscema, and this guy named Bill Everett, and this guy named Steve Ditko, and this guy named Don Heck, etc.

  15. Heidi — I’m curious. At first I thought this photo appeared with my interview but now it seems like you just mentioned my interview with Jack in the context of their shared history. Did you just recall the interview after all these years?

  16. MBunge said: “Stan did some stuff with this guy named John Romita that you may want to check out.”

    And with this guy named Gene Colan, and this guy named John Buscema, and this guy named Bill Everett, and this guy named Steve Ditko, and this guy named Don Heck, etc.

    Amazing, though, how all those diverse artists were able to create a coherent universe where characterization was consistent despite the nominal writer and editor doing nothing.

    Kirby, Colan, Buscema, Everett, Ditko, Heck, Lieber, Ayers, etc. all did great work for Marvel, but it’s hard to come up with a character (other than Namor or Darkseid) or title that any of them created without Lee that had the impact of the stuff they did with him.

  17. Mark and Scott:

    The photo was discussed in a private group where I hoped to get some info on where it had appeared. Mark, your interview was quoted as an explanation for why Jack may have been smiling on the outside but seething on the inside. So the photo and the interview are related only by the subject matter.

    As for the timing of the TCJ interview…well, I think we all have long simmering resentments that we keep under wraps in public. I know Jack and Roz adored the San Diego Comic Con, and it’s quite possible that seeing Stan in such a convivial setting, only the good feelings came out for this photo.

    I know some have said that Gary “goaded” Jack into slamming Stan, but obviously this was a deep seated anger that Jack had felt for a while, as shown by the Borax interview.

    You know, people are complicated.

    Stan and Jack was complicated. Like I said in my obit, everyone involved did plenty of work on their own, and it’s blatantly obvious that the work that Ditko, Kirby, et al did with Stan was different than their work with other writers.

    By the same token, Stan’s other creations with lesser artists were…not as good. And he created many, many things over the years.

    Kirby’s long career, with massive success and lasting impact in every genre he worked in (and sometimes invented) shows, to me, what a once in a lifetime protean talent he was. Although mocked at the time, the Fourth World books have lasted and the characters have led to decades of great storytelling, right up to the present moment with the King/Gerads Mister Miracle. He would have been the GOAT even without Stan.

    Stan’s most obvious genius was as a marketer, but I’ve heard plenty of stories about what a good editor he was. It’s complicated.

    I guess the argument that will rage for eons comes down to how much of a jerk Stan really was.

    Stan came to Jack’s funeral but lingered in the back of the room, and didn’t call attention to himself. He knew and respected talent when he saw it, even if he put himself first back in the day.

  18. Dave said: “Amazing, though, how all those diverse artists were able to create a coherent universe where characterization was consistent despite the nominal writer and editor doing nothing.”

    Dave, the universe was coherent and the characterization was consistent because the ACTUAL (not nominal) writer-editor worked his butt off. You clearly have no comprehension about what editors actually do.

    Heidi said: “I know some have said that Gary “goaded” Jack into slamming Stan, but obviously this was a deep seated anger that Jack had felt for a while, as shown by the Borax interview.”

    My memory of that interview is of Jack’s wife, Roz, goading him into attacking Stan. My impression was that Roz Kirby hated Stan Lee much more than Jack did.

  19. Heidi – do you have a full copy of my interview with Jack you can post? I no longer have my old COMICS INTERVIEW interviews, but I think there was some good stuff in that one that could illuminate certain comments on this thread. My sense of Jack was that he was pretty much of a live-and-let-live kind of guy — what you see is what you get. Not particularly introspective, and definitely not vengeful, but he appeared to have grown to realize that he was being financially screwed and that Stan, if not directly a part of that, was not sticking up for him, but more being a corporate shill. It seemed to genuinely hurt him that Stan wouldn’t put his neck out to publicly acknowledge what everyone knew was true about their collaboration. Whereas Stan was clearly more interested in covering his ass with the corporation. For ten years I worked alongside Mike Friedrich, the only full-time agent in the comics business, who not only represented creators, but also fought diligently for decades to get publishers to grant creators the rights they deserved. Jack’s case was only the most visible end of this fight, because he was so well-loved by fandom, and because, no matter how you slice it, he was at least equally, if not more, responsible for the creation of most of Marvel’s original superheroes. Nowadays most publishers at long last grant at least some version of creator’s rights rather than work-for-hire, but this was a long fight that we waged with publishers, distributors, retailers, artists, and fans, and the vocalness (or lack thereof) of fandom was one significant piece of the puzzle.

  20. I’ve heard from various sources that Lee/Kirby got along well in person – and that Roz was a big influence. Kirby strongly alludes to that in at least one interview as I recall. It was complicated, of course, and I imagine many of us have had similar work/personal relationships. I recall Kirby’s summary of things from the 1977 FOOM article, where he stated: “I’ve always enjoyed working with Stan – we’ve been a successful team. In the collaboration, something good comes out; its the chemistry of a good team.”

  21. Just to clarify my post above, I didn’t mean to imply Roz was a big influence in how well Lee and Kirby got along when meeting in person. Rather the opposite. She felt very strongly that Kirby should have received more credit. This was evident in her interviews and in stories from people such as Jim Shooter. Kirby, particularly when meeting Lee in person, tended to be much more conciliatory. There are also various interviews where he talks about Lee’s contributions…though they tend to be overlooked these days (much like the Foom article I mentioned).

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