Friday, April 23, 2010

Who Is That Masked Writer?

Friday Comic Book Day.

Over at the Yahoo Timely/Atlas Group I have been discussing some of the early Marvel stories in my quest to find out more about the authorship of these pre-hero stories. In the process we found a couple of stories that were rewritten versions of Stan Lee stories from his own early fifties series Menace. Menace was an important book, because for the first seven and a half issues Stan Lee wrote (and signed) all the stories himself. They do not represent his best work (for some reason he ofen gave himself more room to let his stories breathe in the other books), but they give a good glimpse at his writing style and they feature the best possible line-up of Timely/Atlas artists anywhere. Fortunately Marvel has started reprinting some of their best work from the fifties and the complete 11 issue run of Menace is now available as a Masterworks book.

Anyway, we found three stories of that type so far, two drawn by Jack Kirby and one by Bob Forgione. Unfortunately I can't show those stories here, because in all three cases I have't got scans of both versions. But I can show you a new, fourth one I discovered this morning. It's I am the Man Without a Face by Joe Sinnott from Strange Tales #71. Like the three others, it is a retelling of an earlier Menace story, in this case Men in Black from Menace #3, with art by Joe Romita. I don't think the new versions are written by Stan Lee. My guess is, they are written by his brother Larry Lieber and were used to 'work' Larry 'in'. Stan Lee was feeling the pinch, asked his brother to help him out and as he had never written before, Stan suggested he used his own stories as the basis. I don't think he asked the artist to do it for two reasons - one, only two of those stories were done by Jack Kirby and he really was the only one who could do that at that time and two, I don't think he would have tried to get away with not paying for the story by asking the artist to redo an old one, while I don't think it would have been a big thing to 'help' his brother out with the assignment.

In all cases, the newer version is a poor reflection of the earlier one. Much of that would be due to the comics code, as all of the earlier versions have a more horrific ending.

Another thing that's very telling is the fact that the story I am showing here uses the word 'through'. As I have noted here and elsewhere, Stan Lee was in the habit os spelling the word 'through' as 'thru'. This may seem a small thing, but it is a consistent thing all through his career, so I think we can attach some importance to it. He may not have been the only one doing that, but having the spelling 'through' in a story pretty much counts out Lee as a writer. When I have a look at some of the later stories Larry Lieber wrote and signed, I hope to find some evidence of him using 'through'. As Larry Lieber has stated he always worked full script for Jack Kirby, that small difference could be used to destinguish between stories written by Lieber and stories either written by Lee or written Marvel method with a bigger input by Kirby and dialogue by Lee.

For the sake of completeness, here are the other stories adapted from older Stan Lee tales:

C-683 The Madman (Menace #4) - V-402 Look Out! Here Comes the Four-Armed Man!
C-753 Escape to the Moon! (Menace #4) - V-404 Run, Rocky, Run!
B-424 Horror on Haunted Hill (Adventures into Weird Worlds #14) - V-489 Midnight on Haunted Hill

The story from Strange Tales #71 is job numver T-371, which completely destroys my theory that these stories were given to Larry Lieber to try him out, because there at least a two year gap between those two job numbers. The same story was adapted again fro V-445, though (with art by Steve Ditko), so it that fits in rather nicely with the late 1961 set of story adaptations. Unfrotunately I haven't got that story, so I can't check how it is written or even if it was signed by Stan Lee (as most of the Ditko stories were ate that point). Maybe more will be clear as I find more of these Twice Told Tales.

Strange Tales #71

From Menace #3:

1 comment:

Jeff Overturf said...

Love your in-depth analysis.

It's great to see the two stories sid-by-side as well.