Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Mystery of the Missing Box of Marvel Artwork

Around about early 1978, Marvel’s warehouse got broken into and ransacked. Other than scattering artwork all over the floor--they apparently hadn’t taken any of it that we could tell--but this warehouse was a dump! It was completely unsafe; anybody could break in there. I went to the people that ran the warehouse and said, “I want that artwork all moved to my office.” So it was. You should’ve seen it. It was me in a little corner, and wall-to-wall files full of art, because my office was the safest place in the building. You had to go through three doors to get to my office: The front door, the door to the editorial suite, and then my door, and I was the only one who had a key. It was safer there than it was in the warehouse.

Then when Marvel moved, around the end of 1979, we got a brand new state-of-the-art safe warehouse, so the stuff was moved from my office to the new warehouse; except for one box, which for some reason was moved to the Marvel lunchroom. When I was made aware of that, I went to get Bernie, the office manager, and said, “That box goes to the warehouse right now!” I went back to my office, then Bernie came in a few minutes later and said he went to get the box and it wasn’t there. Somebody had obviously grabbed the box, went straight out to the freight elevator--which was near there--and was gone. I have no idea what it contained. There was probably Jack Kirby’s stuff in it among other things. To this day I have no idea who took it.

36 comments:

Marc Miyake said...

Given what you've written earlier about the chaos of Marvel before you became editor-in-chief in the 70s, I'm not surprised the warehouse wasn't guarded. I imagine the people who broke into it didn't take any art because they didn't see any value in it. They scattered it, looking for "valuables," oblivious to the real valuables right in front of them.

Vinnie Bartilucci said...

Ownership of art was (still is) one of the biggest arguments in comics. The publishers' argument was simple; we paid for it, it's ours. And legally, that's absolutely right.

But as is so in so much of life, there is what is legal, and what "feels right". It's the whole reason DC and marvel are going through what they're going through with the families of Jerry and Joe, and that of Jack, respectively. They didn't HAVE to do anything, but more and more readers and creators felt they SHOULD do more.

You felt so as well, or you wouldn't have gotten the incentive plan in place, or the reprint plan, or any of the other stuff you did (I believe a water cooler was replaced in accounting, if I believe everything I read on the Internet)

William Gaines NEVER returned art - he had every page from the EC era. The upside of that was they were able to do those stellar reprint editions off the original art.

So was it evil and mercenary for the companies to keep all that art? It's debatable. Was it a conspiracy against one artist? No.

Should the guy who grabbed that box of art spend eternity having red hot Kirby Dots inserted rectally? Without hesitation.

Kris Brownlow said...

Hi Jim, were the police called about the theft?

Kyle said...

I remember when we used to draw on paper...

ponoloot said...

Love your site man keep up the good work

nolvadex

Daniel Best said...

Jim, with all due respect, it must have been a very large box indeed. I've done a comparison of what Jack Kirby was handed back in 1987 against Irene Vartoff's original 1980 list here: http://ohdannyboy.blogspot.com/2011/04/marvel-worldwide-inc-et-al-v-kirby-et_04.html

As you can see Jack got none of his X-Men art back, and there's piles of Fantastic Four art missing. As it stands, going on the signed document that the Kirby estate submitted recently 1915 pages went missing between the years of 1980 and 1986-87.

It's generally known that a few Marvel staffers lifted art from both the warehouse and the Marvel offices. People I've spoken to who worked at Marvel at the time say that it was an open secret. It's a shame that nothing was done about it at the time, but I expect that you knew nothing about it?

jimshooter said...

In the 60's, no one gave a damn about original artwork. Artwork from several Legion of Super-Heroes issues were given to me at various times. I felt that it was wrong that I should have that artwork. I called Curt Swan and offered to send it to him, its rightful owner, in my mind. He said if I wanted it I should keep it because he had no room for it, and he would only throw it away. I no longer have it. It was stolen.

It was common practice in the '60's at both Marvel and DC to give original art away to fans coming through on tours, fans who wrote good letters or any damn fool who wanted the stuff. Nobody cared. Nobody objected.

It is legend, but true, that at King Features, on rainy days, they would throw Hal Foster Prince Valiant (and other) original pages on the floor to soak up water.

When I started working at Marvel, I received two pages of art from every story I wrote, in accordance with an artwork return policy that Roy Thomas had instituted. I gave one page to the penciler and one page to the inker, because I didn't feel entitled to any original art.

I later changed that policy, so that only artists got art.

Early on, when I was Editor in Chief at Marvel, one day, I was told that our warehouse had been broken into. I guess I knew we had a warehouse, but I had other things on my mind. I went with Irene Vartanoff -- spell her name correctly, please -- and Sol Brodsky to inspect the damage. The perps broke into another storage space, then broke through the walls into spaces all down the row, including ours. They tossed the room, but having no clue that the art stored there might be valuable, apparently didn't take any.

I had the art gathered up and put into transfiles. I had the transfiles moved to my office, the most secure room at Marvel. You had to go through three locked doors to get into my office -- the door from the elevator lobby, the door to the editorial suite and my office door. The transfiles took up most of the room, but I didn't care.

Shortly thereafter, Marvel moved from 575 Madison to 387 Park Avenue South. We also got a secure, fireproof storage facility in Astoria. Office moves generally take place over weekends. You leave your old address Friday and report to your new address Monday. The transfiles were supposed to be moved to the storage space.

As previously described, at least one transfile -- at this point, 30+ years later, I'm not sure, could have been two or three -- was moved, mistakenly, to the lunch room, near the freight elevators. I idiotically went looking for Bernie Schacktman, our office manager, to get him to have the transfile(s?) moved to storage. By the time Bernie and I got back to the lunch room, the transfiles were gone. Why I didn't carry them from the lunchroom to a safe place, say, my office right away, I do not know. Stupid. It never occurred to me that someone would steal them. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Other than that transfile (or two or three, I honestly don't remember), no art was "lifted" from Marvel during my tenure. Whatever you refer to as "generally known" is a lie. "Open secret," my ass. And you can kiss my ass, you snarky son of a bitch. With all due respect.

Daniel Best said...

Well I'm sorry this has upset you Jim, but the fact still remains that in 1980 you were given an inventory list that contain 1915 pages that Jack Kirby DIDN'T get back in 1987. And you can't explain what happened to that art, other than 'a box' was lifted. The art was stolen, no police reports were filed, and the art was openly sold on collectors markets - at the time - and Marvel still did not act.

But, by all means, continue to deny any responsibility. And as for the Marvel staffers who stole the art, I generally tend to believe people I've spoken to - they were there, and events have born those claims out, such as the recent donation of Ditko's art for Amazing Fantasy #15.

Again, sorry you're upset, but trust me, I can find better arses to kiss than yours. Such a shame, as I did enjoy your work, back in the day.

And we're talking about the 1980s, not the 1960s here.

JayJayJackson said...

Oh, by the way, Jim asked me to post the above comment on the nasty article Danny Boy wrote on his blog, but Danny Boy censors comments on HIS blog. There's really nothing worse than a "crusader" who waves the flag of truth when he isn't in possession of the truth.

jimshooter said...

I was not given an inventory list of the artwork in the warehouse until late 1986.

I was, in fact, Editor in Chief when the Kirby artwork return issue was settled, and I was a key figure in accomplishing that.

I did explain how artwork was freely given away in the '60's and early '70's, easily accounting for the missing pages. A transfile or possibly two or three were stolen while I was EIC. It, or they, certainly contained pages done by artists other than Kirby. It is possible that no Kirby pages were in that box (or boxes), but I doubt it, considering the vast number of pages Jack did. As I previously stated, when informed of the theft, the facilities manager, Bernie Schacktman, did whatever he did. I was the EDITOR IN CHIEF, not the Master and Commander of Everything at Marvel. As previously stated in my response to Kris Brownlow's question, whether or not Bernie called the police, I doubt that the theft of comic book art would have been taken seriously.

On your blog, you mention that Kirby art was offered for sale in the Comics Journal. Where's the outrage against their hypocrisy?

Again, other than the transfile (or two, or three) that was stolen because of the movers' error and my failure to act quickly enough -- that would be a span of two or three minutes -- no Marvel staffers ever stole any artwork during my tenure. Did not happen. Whoever you have "spoken to" was lying. "...they were there..." Who the hell were they?

You are misinformed and wrong.

Daniel Best said...

JayJay - I did not censor anything on my blog. Jim's comment is up there, as is my reply. I have moderation set, so it takes time for comments to appear. Fret not, I have no issue with anyone commenting on my blog about what I write or say. I'm more than happy to copy Jim's comments here and post them over as well, along with my reply. No censorship anywhere, so find a better angle to attack.

If you took the time to read what I've written about art theft over the years you'll see that you're not even on the radar. I have nothing but disgust for those who stole the art in the first place, those who sold it and those who allowed it to happen, via conventions and via advertisements.

Jim, you say you didn't contact the police because they'd not take it seriously? Theft is theft, and Marvel considered that art as a financial asset for many years. I'm sure if you'd contacted the police they'd would have taken it seriously then, especially as you could have easily pointed them in the right direction, that being dealers.

Daniel Best said...

JayJay - the latest comments have been posted.

Daniel Best said...

And, further to that JayJay, just for you, I've removed the moderation - post away!

STEIBEL said...

Hi Jim,

My name is Rob Steibel and I do a weblog called Kirby Dynamics, here:

http://kirbymuseum.net/blogs/dynamics/

Recently, I've been discussing Kirby, Lee, and Ditko's accounts of the creation of Spider-man.

I've heard over the years that you had a chance to take a close look at the first 5 pages of Jack's Spider-Man story. If that's true, are there any details you can share with us that you remember from the artwork -- such as the plot, the characters, Kirby's Spider-Man cosutme design, etc. -- and do you have any idea who has that art now? Surely it must be a short list of people who could have it, and why wouldn't they scan it and share it with us?

If anyone who reads Jim's blog has the art and sends me scans I promise not to reveal your identity. :-)

With your permission, I'd like to post your reply on the Kirby Dynamics weblog, if you do so.

Thanks.

- Rob Steibel

STEIBEL said...

Hi Jim,

I just discovered your weblog, looks like a lot of interesting reading. I had a couple questions for you. If you take the time to answer I'd really appreciate it.

I've heard all sorts of rumors about Jack's original artwork disappearing from the Marvel warehouse. If I understand correctly, Jack did about 10,000 pages for Stan and he got back around 2000. Maybe less.

Do you have any idea how many pages were given back to Jack's inkers? I know Sinnott got some art, did Colletta?

Even if 1000 pages were returned to Jack's inkers, that still leaves 7000 unaccounted for. Do you have any idea or any guess how someone could remove that huge quantity of art from the Marvel warehouse? Maybe someone had a key or something. :-)

Surely it must have been a long process where the art was removed a pile at a time during the 70s and early 80s. I've heard a lot of off-the-record hearsay on, sold to dealers, tehn sold at Comic Cons this. Can you recall when you first saw Jack's originals popping up at Cons?

Anything you could share on the history behind Jack's originals would be great.

Thanks again for your time.

R-

jimshooter said...

Dear Rob,

I never saw any Spider-Man story pages by Jack and as far as I know there were never any story pages done by Jack. What I saw was one art board that had a sketch of Jack's take on Spider-Man and some notes. The version he drew looked nothing like Ditko's version. I remember he had a "web gun." I believe he also had boots like Captain America. The notes described a character far different from the Lee/Ditko character. I saw this page once for under a minute 42 years ago. I don't remember it with crystal clarity.

STEIBEL said...

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the reply. It's nice to "meet" you via cyberspace.

Here's my guess: (1) I suspect you mentioned in an interview or article seeing a Spider-Man presentation piece drawn by Jack with some notes written on it by Jack. Any idea what year that might have been, or what the context was? IOW, did someone find it in a file or something?

(2) In his article "An Insider's Part of Comics History: Jack Kirby's Spider-Man," here -

http://fakesteveditko.blogspot.com/

- Ditko says "Kirby had penciled 5 pages of his Spider-Man."

(3) My guess is that over time the stories morphed into one, so the rumor started circulating that you had seen this 5 page story. I'm sure every comic geek on earth visualized you holding those 5 pages in your hand and wished they could take a peek over your shoulder.

Your comment is interesting because it means either Jack only did the one presentation piece and Ditko is wrong about the 5 page story; or maybe the 5 page story AND the presentation piece exists.

I really hope at some point this material surfaces. If someone would just scan it, that art would be a truly huge addition to comics history.

Thanks again for responding. I've seen a lot of comics fans badmouth you over the years. In my ignorance, I assumed maybe some/all of the negative things they said about you were true, but I can immediately see just from reading your anecdote about Jack at the convention, that it may be you've been wrongly demonized by many comcis fans.

So I'm glad you're out there talking about your career. Did you ever post a scan of that Captain America piece Jack gave you? I'd love to post it on Kirby Dynamics and plug your weblog.

In my opinion, you should write a book about your experiences in comics. Just don't call it "Straight Shooter." haha TwoMorrows would be crazy not to publish something like that. You played a key role in the history of the medium and a book by you on the subject would be an entertaining read and a genuinely valuable resource for future comics historians. It would be nice to see a book on comics with some real depth. I think you could do that.

Thanks again, Jim, I'm looking forward to reading more of you weblog when I get the chance, and I really hope you consider writing a memoir about your time in comics.

- Rob Steibel

jimshooter said...

Dear Rob,

As far as I know, Jack received all the pages he was entitled to during his last stint at Marvel, 1975 through 1978, in accordance with the artwork return program Roy instituted. In fact, on a few books, Jack actually kept some pages that should have been returned to Frank Giacoia and John Verpoorten. Jack got ahold of them and refused to return them. That led to all of Jack's books being inked by people who had private agreements with Jack to give him what would have been their share under the policy Roy instituted. Mike Royer was one, the other fellow's name escapes me at the moment. I'm not going to wrack my brains. You know who I'm talking about.

Before I started at Marvel in 1976, and for several years after, Marvel had a warehouse space downtown somewhere that wasn't very secure. Sometime during the first year or two that I was Editor in Chief, the warehouse was broken into. I had known we had a warehouse, of course, but I had other pressing things occupying me and had never been there or given it much thought till then. The door to the space was sturdy, and hadn't been breached, but thieves somehow got into another space down the hall and broke into adjacent spaces through the walls, which were fairly easy to rip holes in. Many spaces were violated, including Marvel's. I went with Sol Brodsky and Irene Vartanoff to inspect the damage. Our space had been tossed. There was original artwork all over the floor. But it didn't seem as though any had been taken. I don't think the thieves had a clue it might be valuable. We had no way to check whether any art was stolen because no inventory of the art existed.

I had all of the originals put into transfiles and moved to my office. My office was the most secure room at Marvel. One would have to break through three doors to get into my room. There were a lot of transfiles. I kept them in my office pending acquisition of a new, safer warehouse space, which was supposed to happen soon. Financial V.P. Barry Kaplan was the exec in charge of that effort. It actually took some months, and coincided with Marvel's move to 387 Park Avenue South. I never had time, or personnel with available time to inventory the art.

As usual for substantial sized companies, Marvel moved over a weekend. I did not supervise. I think Sol and facilities manager Bernie Schaktman were our people in charge. The artwork was supposed to be moved to our new, secure warehouse space in Astoria.

On Monday, when I arrived at the new offices, I did a walk-around. As I passed the lunch room door I saw a a transfile sitting in the middle of the floor. I thought "Artwork!" and ran to find Bernie. I didn't go in and look around the lunchroom. Could there have been other transfiles in there? I suppose. By the time I found Bernie, explained that a box of art had been moved to the new offices by mistake and led him to the lunchroom, the transfile (or transfiles?) were gone. The lunchroom was near the freight elevator landing and out of sight of most of the place.

I should have stayed in the lunchroom and called for someone else to go find Bernie. Or just picked the damn thing up and lugged it to my office, I'm a big guy. But, I didn't think of it, and it never occurred to me that someone would grab that transfile and go out the back in the next minute or two.

Back in the sixties, original artwork was routinely given away. Pages were given to fans visiting the offices, sometimes entire books were given away and no one thought a thing of it. This happened at DC where I worked, and I'm told it happened at Marvel, too. Of course, Kirby books were given away the most because there were more of them and people wanted the FF, the Hulk, Thor, etc. more than, say, Sgt. Fury. I saw this happen once or twice when I worked briefly at Marvel back in those days. No one complained, not the artists, nobody. No one thought it was wrong. No one cared.

jimshooter said...

Legend has it that at King Features, on rainy days that they'd use Hal Foster Prince Valiant pages to soak up water on the floor. Larry Hama told me that and I don't doubt him. Most people didn't think the original artwork had any value, and no one wanted it. Mort Weisinger gave me a couple of books by Curt Swan. I felt a little weird about it. I called Curt and asked him if he'd like me to send him the art, because it was his, in my view. He said I should keep it if I wanted it because he'd only throw it away. He didn't have room for the stuff, he said.

Danny Crespi told me that covers returned from the printer to the bullpen back in the 1960's and early 1970's were routinely sold to some guy, a fan, who wanted them. He'd pay a dollar or two per cover. The bullpen people thought he was nuts. They'd save up the money and when there was enough, they'd buy lunch for the production guys. Nobody thought this was wrong. Nobody cared.

So...many pages were given away, some covers were sold, some pages were stolen and some, the later vintage ones were returned.

No one had access to the secure warehouse without authorization from Barry Kaplan or me. For that matter, even I'd have to tell Barry if I wanted to go to the warehouse because I didn't have the access codes, etc. I never went to the place, nor did anyone who worked for me during my tenure, until time came to return the art. No one "had a key." I cannot believe anything was stolen from there. My secretary Lynn Cohen supervised the sorting and inventory of the art when it was done. No more trustworthy person walks the Earth.

However many pages were there, were there. All pages were returned to everyone, once all the legal wrangling with Jack was over (which delayed returning art to others for a long time), in keeping with the art return program as modified by me, which meant that inkers (but not writers, as under Roy's plan) got there proper share. That means Sinnott, Colletta, whoever. Jack had the same deal re: artwork return as everyone else. Ditko and others objected to the notion that Jack might get some special deal, preferential treatment. I convinced the suits and lawyers that was important that everyone be treated the same and they listened.

STEIBEL said...

Hi Jim,

Thanks a lot for the reply. I hope you don't mind me posting this on the Kirby Dynamics weblog. I think you have cleared up a lot of misinformation that's out there.

For me I guess my big source of confusion is the number of Kirby pages stolen, or "liberated" as some comics art collectors called the removal process. I'm not an expert on this, so my apologies to anyone reading this if my numbers are waaaay off, or if I am way wrong on something. I only bring this up because I don't know what happened.

This isn't a question to you per se, Jim, because you probably don't know the answer: but... If Jack drew 10,000 pages during the 1960s (for example he did about 20 pgs. x 100 on FF, that would be 2000 alone) I just wonder why he only got back about 2000 pages, many of which may have been from the 1970s.

For years I've asked if the comic art collecting community would consider putting together a list of what art was returned to Jack, so we would have an accurate idea of what may or may not have been "liberated"/removed/given-away etc., but so far I don't think anyone has put that list together.

I've heard all sorts of various rumors from art collectors discussing the provenance of Jack's 60s Marvel originals. For example, on the Kirby-l chat list years ago, one well-respected collector claimed he bought art off a person (I'm paraphrasing) who claimed the provenance was "homeless drug addicts who found it in a dumpster and sold it on the streets of New York to people walking down the street." This individual got very angry when I laughed at this -- in my defence I have friends who are cops and they frequently joke that every time they recover stolen property, the individual in possession of it claims "I got it from a homeless person who found it in a dumpster."

And I've heard many other rumors about Jack's art. If I understand correctly, it sounds like maybe 5000 pages or so were stolen (removed/"liberated") before you even started working as Editor-in-Chief.

STEIBEL said...

Part II

As for pages being given away by someone like Lee. In an old Alter-Ego interview, Lee mentioned that he never gave art to fans (I'm paraphrasing) because he wanted them to buy the books... BUT, he said the art was stacked all over the place so amazingly Lee claimed in that article that he used to give it away to delivery boys and cleaning staff!

For me, I find this really hard to swallow. What would Matilda the cleaning lady do with a stack of large sized X-Men art especially if she isn't a fan? Use it to line her kitty litter pan? To me these types of comments deepen the mystery, especially since I haven'e seen Fred the deilvery boy selling Kirby originals on ebay claiming Lee as the gifter.

My point is that I've heard so many different theories and accounts on-and-off-the-record as to what happened to Jack's art, that I haven't a clue. My guess piecing all the accounts together is that maybe about 5000 pages were stolen ("liberated") I assume before you started as Editor in Chief.

And... it may be YOU who actually stopped the systematic "liberation" process, and Jack's family may owe you their thanks for helping to make sure Jack did get SOME art back -- you may wrongly be the one being blamed for the art that disappeared from the warehouse before you even arrived on the scene.

All that being said, I only bring this up because I truly don't know much about this topic. There are plenty of art collectors who claim to know who-did-what-and-when. I certainly don't, so I put this out there to see if you have anything else to add. And if I have a fact wrong, I certainly want to be corrected.

This topic sure would make for an interesting article! I mean, imagine about 6000 - 7000 Picasso originals out of 10,000 being systematically removed from a warehouse. I guess this isn't a bigger story because Kirby still isn't considered an important artist by the masses, and there is so much conflicting information swirling around out there about the provenance of his original art?

My thanks again to you for responding, Jim. I hope you won't mind me posting our little exchange on Kirby Dynamics. I certainly have a lot of respect for the fact you were nice enough to take the time to answer my questions.

Best wishes to you, and again, thanks,

Rob Steibel

jimshooter said...

The Kirby drawing and my recollection of seeing the Spider-Man sketch in Sol's office are on the blog somewhere. Maybe someone can point out where.

STEIBEL said...

Hi Jim,

I found the scan of the Cap drawing. Thanks. I didn't see the anecdote about the Spider-man sketch, but no big deal, you gave me a lot of gret info. Thanks,

R-

STEIBEL said...

I found the Spider-man sketch comment too. Thanks.

:-)

R-

jimshooter said...

If Jack got back 2,000 pages of 1960's work, then, if I remember the split correctly, inkers got 1,000 or so. Aside from whatever was in the transfile or transfiles that were stolen when Marvel moved, I am very certain that no Kirby artwork (or anyone else's) was removed from our secure warehouse. Possibly some was stolen when the old, downtown warehouse was broken into, but I doubt it. What was in the secure, Astoria warehouse was what it was. I suspect that the rest was given away long before my time, as previously stated.

jimshooter said...

Dear Rob,

Once more, with feeling: I told you what I know. There was no "systematic" stealing of the artwork for me to stop, as far as I know. What was gone was gone long before my time, other than the one transfile I'm sure of, which probably didn't have all Kirby art inside, and, in fact, might not have had any. What remained remained.

Again, with feeling, in the sixties, no one cared about the originals. I doubt that Jack cared about the originals. If he had, back in those days, Stan and Sol probably would have given Jack the pages because they were giving them away anyway. When Stan says he didn't give originals to fans, I believe he's referring to having some regular policy in place, like DC, which routinely awarded artwork to fans who caught errors. I saw artwork given to visitors in 1969. Stan wasn't the only one who might have given art away. The stuff piled up in Sol's office until he got around to dealing with it. Maybe he gave some away. I wouldn't doubt that the receptionist gave some away. Nobody placed any value whatsoever on that original artwork. Probably much like Picasso's until the world wised up.

JayJayJackson said...

One place Jim mentions seeing Jack's art work in the Marvel offices is this post.

STEIBEL said...

Hi Jim,

Great. I personally find it unlikely that about 6000 to 7000 pages of 1960s Kirby original art was given away for a long list of reasons -- for example, when I collected comic art from about 2004 - 2006 I NEVER came across a Kirby art owner who had bought a page with that kind of provenance. Surely there would be 7000 stories from 7000 people who recieved free art as opposed to 5 or 6 stories that an individial/individuals stole the art and sold it to dealers (and of course there's the homelss drug addict/dumpster tale).

If you personally did see someone giving away books of Jack's large art at some point in the 60s, that would suggest Marvel did give art away. So far, I just don't recall ever hearing a story where the owner of 1960s Kirby art talked about getting if from Lee, or whoever was authorized to hand out originals. Maybe art collectors will forward that info to me and I can set the record straight on my Kirby weblog.

In any case, I've taken up enough of your time, hopefully a journalist will write an article about Jack's original art in the 60s (not holding my breath) and one day we'll learn what happened to about 7/10 of the art Jack drew for Stan.

Re: Jack's Spider-man: amazing you might have seen that in the file of unused art for inkers. Maybe someone inked it and threw it in the garbage. A shame. I assume the 5 pages of Spider-man art Ditko mentioned do exist. I wonder if they will ever surface.

It sounds like Ditko's take on Spider-man was original, but I'd still love to see Ditko and especially Lee at least admit they don't have photogrpahic memories, so maybe Kirby does deserve a tiny piece of credit for helping to create the character. I have never understood why it has to be 100% for Stan and 0% for kirby when it comes to working on someone like Spider-man. Just about every person I've ever met if put in a sililar situation to Lee would say, "Y'know, I have a really bad memory, I can't even remember what I ate for luch yesterday, if Jack said he helped create spider-man, maybe he did. I respect Jack a great deal. He sure did have a lot of ideas, etc."

Thanks again, great weblog, still hope you write a book, there are very few realy, really good books on comics out there, imo. Mike Gartland has a book on Kirby coming out early next year that should be good.

Take care,

R-

STEIBEL said...

Jim writes:

"I saw artwork given to visitors in 1969. Stan wasn't the only one who might have given art away. The stuff piled up in Sol's office until he got around to dealing with it."

Thanks Jim. I think for me the biggest problem I had when tracking down what I call the "first owner" of a piece of 1960s Kirby art was that I could never find that first owner. Only in the case of art returned to Jack or Joe Sinnott did I have iron-clad provenance. Other than that I could never find out who the "first owner" was.

For example when I asked about some Kirby X-Men art that sold during the middle of the deacade -- when I contacted the eBay seller and asked about the provenance, he told me he got the art from "a dealer that would like to remain anonymous."

So it may well be the receptionist gave, I dunno, some 12-year-old kid the entire stack of X-Men # 1 original art. For me, since I couldn't track down the "first owner" and I had heard the rumors (all of which may be untrue) that an individual/indivuduals had systematically stolen a significant amout of Jack's art from the Marvel warehouse, I had to assume X-Men # 1 may have been one of those books stolen (or "liberated"). Maybe I was wrong and I regret calling that art stolen if it was not.

You make a great point. I don't know what took place, maybe 1000s of pages were given away by Sol or whoever. 7000 pages just seems like a lot.

All I can do is hope one day someone in the comic art collecting hobby has the courage to go on record and write an article about what I've was hearing off-the-record. Or maybe that is just hearsay which is as incorrect as much of the misinformation I've heard about you over the years and this is another lesson learned about being careful to jump to judgement on any topic.

Thanks again, I appreciate all the great info,

R-

jimshooter said...

Maybe Roy knows more than I do. Maybe Irene Vartanoff knows more. Maybe John Romita or Herb Trimpe or Flo Steinberg know more. They were there before my time and may have info I don't. I told you what I know and what I think. Best I can do.

STEIBEL said...

Hi Jim,

I hope you didn't misunderstand me. You gave me some GREAT info. Honestly, before talking to you, I assumed just about all of that "missing" 7000 pages of Kirby 60s art was stolen/"liberated"/in the homeless-crack-head-dumpster.

Your comments made me realize I'm wrong. There may indeed be a lot of 60s Kirby pages that were given away, I just haven't talked to the first ownders; or who knows, some art may even have been taken home by staffers during that period. Heck, Sol may have wanted to clear out his office and done like anyone would do back then, he chucked art in the trash.

So your comments were very useful and helpful to me. Many folks get irritated even discussing that era, they want to talk about their new work or they resent being questioned. You politely cleard up several rumors I had heard over the years about you and the Kirby art and the SPider-man art, and I appreciate you even answering me. All I can do is write about Jack and comics, you lived it -- I love first person accounts as opposed to fanboy hearsay -- so your comments are apprecited and certainly thought-provoking.

Thanks again,

R-

Jason said...

Mr. Steibel:

I think that you are making a few (quite honest) errors in your zealousness.

First, as Mr. Shooter has reiterated (both here and in other posts), art was given away (and possibly even trashed) all the time in the 1960s, and NOBODY CARED.

To you (and, quite honestly, to me) this is difficult-verging-upon-impossible to comprehend, given what Kirby's work means to you. But, as seems clear from comics history, Shooter's anecdotes, and virtually everything else I've ever read or heard about the era (and earlier), nobody valued the original work. Nobody. Not even the artists. Once it went to press it was basically wastepaper to them, taking up space and with no future value that they could foresee. Whatever happened to it, you will never get an accurate accounting of everything, because nobody cared enough about it to document it ("Personal journal: threw 100 pieces of original artwork in the dumpster today because, hey, who cares? Pages from X-Men, Thor, and Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandoes, mostly, because even though I don't care, I checked due to my unceasing OCD.")

Second, out of context, seven thousand seems like an enormous number. Kind of a Brewster's Millions situation -- I've got 7000 pieces of art to disappear, how the hell am I going to do it?

But let's say that art was freely handed out over the course of 12 years, 1961-1973. (I'm being totally arbitrary, here, having no idea when the giving-away of original art ceased. But it seems about right from what I have gleaned from various sources. Feel free to adjust the following figures to a more accurate timeline.)

7000 pp. / 12 yrs = 583 and 1/3 pages given away per year. Still not a small number, but not insanely huge, either.

583.33 / 50 working weeks in the year = 11 and 2/3 pages given away every week. Seems less crazy now, doesn't it?

And, just to be pedantic about it:

11.67 / 5 working days in the week = 2.334 pages given away per day.

In short, before even considering that art may have been thrown away, all you need to account for the missing artwork really is to envision two pages being given away per day, with three given away every third day. Pages that NOBODY CARED ABOUT at the time.

Broken down, it doesn't present any great mystery. It's just that nobody cared until much later what happened to original art, and so it went out willy-nilly. The idea of establishing provenance on comic book art would have seemed ridiculous to anyone at the time, including the artists themselves.

Jason said...

ADDENDUM: Nuts, I see that you got everything I was saying before I managed to post it. But I'll let it stand, since I think it clarifies things a bit. (I hope.)

STEIBEL said...

Hi Jason,

Thanks for the comment. Basically in a nutshell the Kirby 60s Original Art debate is one I jumped into from like 2004 - 2006 and I honestly have no idea if anything new has happened since then. I genuinely appreciate Jim giving me first-hand info on what he saw in the 60s.

During the period I was collecting Jack's art, several insiders told me off-the-record that a few people stole 1000s of pages of Jack's art from the Marvel warehouse and sold it to dealers who then sold it to fans/collectors. But that's hearsay. I have no idea if that happened. If you want to read about it in detail, check out comicart-l.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/comicart-l/

People name names in the archives, but again, there is no real historical documentarion, just rumors and speculation.

I dug into it a little in the middle of the last decade, and never encountered anyone who had gotten a free piece of art from anyone at Marvel in the 60s. There was one guy who said he knew a guy who had a comic shop that got a page from a guy who got if from an advertiser who got it from Lee, and it hangs in his shop.

That's one page. Someone handing out entire key books like X-Men # 1 to a fan strikes me as implausible, but that's totally my opinion, that may have been standard practice at Marvel.

As I said, I hope someone interviews the major players and finds out what happened -- I think it's an interesting topic. I stopped buying art a few years ago, and have not followed the hobby, so maybe owners who got free art from Lee and Marvel are surfacing and I don't know about it.

Jim was nice enough to tell us here he saw Marvel staffers giving away art in teh l;ate 60s. I believe him.

So it may well be that there was some of Jack's given away. It may also be that much of Jack's 60s art art was stolen by people who did not have permission to take it; and those individuals sold that art directly to dealers who knew it was stolen, and had value; and over the years the pages have changed hands many times.

Basically I'm willing to accept the possibility that a lot of Jack's art was given away now based on Jim's first person account of events. As more people sell off their art I hope the buyers will want to know the provenance -- if we find Lee, Sol, and office staff did indeed hand out thousands of pages of Jack's art, then people like me who have used the term "stolen" in the past will owe those owners of Jack's 60s art like X-Men # 1 a serious apology.

All I do on my Kirby Dynamics weblog is report all the sides to the story and try and get the facts as right as I can. Now I have Jim's side to that debate and I think his recollections are important because they balance out the fan hearsay and my speculations. Then I let my readers look at all the sides of a debate and reach their own conclusions.

thx again for the comment,

R-

Anonymous said...

Daniel Best's behavior is no surprise given he is well known in his home city for stealing money and materials from comic shops and people he pretends to be friends with. Oh, and hes a chronic liar.

JediJones said...

Just wanted to pass along a comment from Ron Fontes (who says he was a Marvel employee from August 1982 to August 1985) that he posted in April on the Comics Journal web site. Even if the specifics aren't accurate here, it does stand to reason that "floods, fires, rats and mold" could have destroyed some stored artwork over the years.

Ron Fontes said...

"I hate to tell you this, but I worked in Special Projects at Marvel from 1982-1985, under Sol Brodsky and Johnny Romita (the Nicest Man in Comics). Here's what REALLY kept Marvel from returning artwork: Old pages were stored in a Brooklyn warehouse which was FLOODED around 1983. Decades of artwork was actually destroyed and could not be returned to anyone at all as it was just so much soggy paper residue. That is why the Marvel Masterworks series was repro'd from faded plate negatives and had to be touched up by the likes of Phil Lord et al. I'm really surprised in all this time no one has revealed this fact. I strongly remember the day of the flood because Sol and others were pale with shock."

"I had work to do in my broom closet “office.” What I saw was Sol and Johnny freaking out while talking to Reggie and Nestor from the mailroom, who were sent to the warehouse in Brooklyn. Sol told me that there was a flood. I did not run off to Brooklyn to “personally witness” something that was not under my job description; what could I do, weep and wail? It's not like the Louvre was destroyed. It's not like the East River was going to give back anything.I just heard back from Johnny, trying to get the actual date: Actually, there were several floods, a couple of fires, rats, mold and thefts that wiped out a lot of old art. Johnny got back “less than 55%” of his work. If you have bought any old Marvel artwork, you may have bought stolen goods."