Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics 101: The Mighty Misfits Who Made Marvel
Marvel Comics houses some of the most beloved super heroes in the history of pop culture. Characters such as Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men have captured the imaginations of millions of “true believers” for over 50 years. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were the creative forces behind Marvel’s first wave of heroes but the question remains: Which of the pair is most responsible for the new wave of mythology that are now modern pop culture icons. Was it Kirby? Was it Stan? This question and the origins of Marvel Comics greatest characters are explored in the premiere episode of a new AMC series, Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics: The Mighty Misfits Who Made Marvel.
The series begins with Stan’s start at Timely Comics, Marvel’s forerunner. Stan’s recounting of the early days at Timely coupled with Jack Kirby’s recorded interviews gives some real insight into how Stan and Jack first met as well as how they came to be such a great team. Sprinkled with comments from comic book historians (Jessica Tseang, Eddie DeAngelini), comic book creators (Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas, Jim Shooter) and actors (Famke Jensen, J.K. Simmons) The Mighty Misfits Who Made Marvel is like a being a fly on the wall during Marvel’s early days.
Kirby’s dynamic art style combined with Lee’s helped to transform the medium from the conservative approach preferred by DC Comics. DC dominated the industry in the 50’s but with the arrival of Marvel’s heroes things changed. Super heroes with real world problems leapt off the page and mirroring some of the everyday problems and social unrest that dominated 1960’s.
Ironically, the company’s success changed the way comics were made but also lead to problems that would eventually cause a rift between Stan and Jack. Stan’s self promotion made him a larger than life figure and too busy for writing. The Marvel Method was born giving artist’s more input with storytelling. While Stan earned raves for the stories Jack and the other artists’ contributions weren’t always recognized. Stan’s ease with the press and the attention he garnered not only caused a riff between Stan and Jack but also between Steve Ditko (The Amazing Spider-Man) as well. Eventually poor pay and the lack of licensing deals for the artists that helped to create the images on Marvel related merchandise and cartoons led to Kirby and Ditko leaving Marvel.
The Mighty Misfits Who Made Marvel is a fascinating look at the inner workings of the early days of one of the greatest factories of modern mythology. Marvel Comics, like the characters in their books was fueled by immense talent and creativity but also humbled by human frailties. Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics is off to a great start. It’s an informative and entertaining look at the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby partnership for longtime fans or newcomers to the medium.