Without commentary on the legal proceedings between Jack Kirby’s family and their quest to terminate copyrights on the creations of Jack Kirby, I have to say that the process is revealing a ton of really interesting facts about working at Marvel in the silver age of comics.  Bleeding Cool has some transcripts of the depositions of such greats as Stan Lee, John Romita, Roy Thomas and Larry LieberHere are some excerpts:

Stan Lee:

Q. Okay. Why don’t you describe the Marvel method.

STAN LEE: There was a time when I was writing so many stories that I couldn’t keep up with the artists. I couldn’t feed them enough work. And, you see, the artists were freelancers. Now, for example, if Jack was working on a story, and Steve was waiting for me to give him a story because he had had finished what he had been doing –

Q. Jack being Jack Kirby?

STAN LEE: Jack Kirby.

Q. And Steve Ditko?

STAN LEE: Right. Or it could have been any of the artists. But just using them as an example, if one of them was waiting for a story while I was still finishing writing the story for the other one, I couldn’t keep him waiting because he wasn’t making money. He was a freelancer. He wasn’t on salary.

So I would say: Look, Steve, I don’t have time to write your script for you, but this is the idea for the story. I’d like this fill in, and I’d like this to happen, and in the end the hero ends by doing this. You go ahead and draw it any way you want to, as long as you keep to that main theme. And I will keep finishing Jack’s story. And when you finish drawing this one, I will put in all the dialogue and the captions.

So in that way I could keep one artist working while I was finishing something for another artist. That worked out so well that I began doing that with just about all the artists. I would just give them an idea for a story, let them draw it any way they wanted to. Because no matter how they drew it, even if they didn’t do it as well as I might have wanted, I was conceited enough to think I could fix it up by the way I put the dialogue and the captions in. And I’d make sense out of it even if they may have made — have done something wrong.

And I was able to keep a lot of artists busy at the same time by using that system. And I have never given that long an explanation before.

John Romita:

JOHN ROMITA: The only thing we used to do, because we worked from a plot, we used to write notes above and below the artwork and sometimes in the margins to — we would make notes and say — to remind him what we had talked about in the plot and this is my response to it and this is how I’m building up to it. So yes, remember that this is — we are now going into the fight phase and such and such, on the next page we would go to — so there were instructions by the artists as a reminder to the writer what we plotted, or if we were deviating from it slightly. Say I needed to add a panel here because we forgot how he was going to get from the east side to the west side in thirty seconds. You know, that kind of stuff. So a lot of writers disregarded those things, and when you do the artwork, you are faced with the reality of actual bridges and connections.

You can’t just make believe –Spider-Man used to swing to Manhattan from Queens, go on the rooftop, take an elevator down and come out as Peter Parker, and I used to tell Stan — and I was such a fanatic for believability and sense, common sense, I said, “Stan, what did he do, how did he — where is his costume?” He said, “its underneath.” And then he would forget. Sometimes he would have him go into a doctor’s office and take off his shirt and be examined and I would say, “Stan, he has got the costume on underneath.” He never thought of those things. I had him so browbeat with my reality check that he once made me for a year take off Peter Parker’s shoes and I had to put them on — tie the shoelaces and put them around his neck so that as Peter Parker he could walk up a wall, because somebody told him — after all the times I had tried to make him think realistically, somebody told him, “well, how can he walk up the walls when he has got shoes on?” His spider abilities doesn’t — he should have even taken his socks off. The point is I had to do the damn shoes for at least a year or six months. That’s the — I also created a web pack where Peter Parker would take his clothes and put them in a web sack and put them around on his back like a knapsack so that when he got to New York he could take his clothes out of the web sack, put them on and leave his — and go downstairs, you know. In other words, now at least you know he could put his clothes on. Where the hell were his clothes all the time? You know. So I was a realist and Stan was always — “it’s not important. The reader doesn’t think of those things.” Well, I think of them. I can’t stand it that way. So that’s the kind of stuff we used to have. That’s where all of the changes come from.

Q: So what would Stan do with notes or the dialogue in the margins?

JOHN ROMITA: I used to write notes that I thought were clever. I’d say “maybe he should say ‘what’s up’,” you know, something like that.

They sounded clever to me while I was doing the drawing. 3 in the morning everything sounds clever. He invariably would not use them, and I asked him once “why wouldn’t you use — why wouldn’t you let him” — he said something similar. He said, “because I can’t speak in somebody else’s vernacular.” He says, “when I am writing my characters, I am writing in Peter Parker’s personality and Aunt May’s personality and I write the captions in my personality. If I start putting your personality in there, I am going to confuse the reader.” So he used to -he told me — he invariably did not use anything that was in the margins that was cleverly suggested by the artists, because he said he did not want to stray from his normal approach. He had a dialogue going with the reader. Saying “dear reader, this is your editor speaking right now.” He used to do that. It used to drive me crazy. I used to tell him “you are puncturing the illusion.” It’s like opening a door in the theater and letting the sunlight in and everybody realizes they are watching a movie now. I said “you are ruining” — he said, “it doesn’t matter. I am talking to my readers.”

Q: Do you know whether it was just your dialogue he wouldn’t use? Would he use anybody else’s dialogue in the margins?

JOHN ROMITA: I don’t think so.

MR. TOBEROFF: Calls for speculation.

JOHN ROMITA: I don’t think so. I don’t think he ever — I think he — more than once I’ve heard him saying he avoided anybody else’s expressions in the scripts.

Q: Who had the final say on what the dialogue would be, what the characters would say?

Roy Thomas:

Q: Mr. Thomas, can you describe for us when you arrived in Marvel in the 1960s what the first step was in the process of creating a comic book issue?

ROY THOMAS: The first step was for the designated writer to come up with a plot idea.

Q: How did the designated writer become designated?

ROY THOMAS: That was Stan Lee’s decision. Of course, it was often him designating himself, but then it became me or someone else.

Q: What happens after the designated writer comes up with a plot idea?

ROY THOMAS: The writer would either write out the plot or synopsis. We used those terms interchangeably or he might — in some cases, but usually it was written — might verbally — one way or the other we would give it to the — the pencil artist. We would often call the person the artist, but it was really the pencil artist, who might or might not be the inker.

Q: How did the pencil artist become designated to do the particular issue?

MR. TOBEROFF:: Leading; lacks foundation.

Q: You can answer.

ROY THOMAS: He — that was Stan Lee’s decision.

Q: When in the process was the writer and the artist for a particular issue elected? When in the process?

ROY THOMAS: Well, I guess I would say more at the beginning. I mean, right away — when in the process — I mean, the writer — either one of them might have been put on first, because the artist might be continuing, while it might be a new writer or visa versa. I’m not sure if I understood the question exactly.

Q: What would happen after the writer provides either a plot or synopsis to the artist?

ROY THOMAS: The artist would go and draw or pencil the story.

Q: And what would the artist do after the artist drew or penciled the story?

ROY THOMAS: It would then be mailed or brought physically into the — the office so Stan Lee could review it. Of course, he was the writer. He would also be writing them.

Q: And after Stan Lee reviewed the artwork, what would happen next?

ROY THOMAS: Well, if there were no corrections, it would then be written by the writer, which would either be Stan Lee or perhaps someone else. Usually, Stan at that stage, when I first arrived.

Q: And when you say “written,” what do you mean?

ROY THOMAS: Well, yes, what I really meant there is the term that — what we later came to use the verb “dialogue for,” which means to write the dialogue, which includes, actually, the dialogue and the so-called captions. And while doing that to indicate those — where those captions and balloons come on the page, generally writing it on the original artwork — not the copy, but indicating the shape of the balloons and the captions and writing a separate script.

Q: And after the writer wrote the dialogue and captions, what would happen next?

ROY THOMAS: Well, if it was Stan or his brother Larry Lieber at that stage, it would be sent to the inking the inker, we call it, the artist who applied the ink, who usually was not the same artist who penciled it; although, it was — it could be but it usually was not. If it was a new writer like me, Stan would go over the — the scripts first for the first few months before it would be sent out.

Q: And where would it go after Stan would review the scripts?

ROY THOMAS: It then goes to a letterer. It would be sent out — I’m sorry. I said the inking art. I’m sorry, it has to go to the letterer first. I’m sorry. My mistake.

Q: What does the letterer do?

ROY THOMAS: The letterer was the person who would letter the actual dialogue and captions as well as their shapes onto the page in ink.

Q: What is the difference between a letterer and the inker?

ROY THOMAS: The inker was the person who would apply the ink to the drawing portion of the page, go over to and amend and add to what the penciller had — had drawn.

Q: So it goes from the letterer to the inker?

ROY THOMAS: Yes. Sometimes, it would come back through the office to be rerouted, but often it was just sent — Stan, generally, did not review things between the stages of lettering and inking, so quite often the letterer was asked to just mail it directly on to the — to the inker. Or, you know, the inker might even some days come by and pick it up. There were many, many different little ways it could work.

Q: What happens after the inker goes over the pencils?

ROY THOMAS: After the book is inked, the inker would either mail or bring it into the office, either turning it directly to Stan or to the production manager, depending on whether Stan wanted to see him or not.

Q: What would happen to it when it got to either Stan or the production manager?

ROY THOMAS: Stan would go over the story and proofread it, asking for any changes he wanted on either the copy or even at that stage, even still on the art if he saw something that didn’t quite work out.

Q: At what point does the issue get colored?

ROY THOMAS: Well, at the time that the — generally –pretty much as soon as the inking would come into the office or very soon thereafter, it would be Photostatted and reduced to a smaller size, about the size of a comic page or so. And those Photostats would be given to what we call the colorist who is the person who actually applied water colors to that to indicate what the colors should be and also would write in notations to clarify so that the colors would be matched in the final book by the people who actually did the physical coloring that got reproduced. These were actually called color guides, what the colorist did.

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