There are few creative teams whose mere mention causes such a visceral reaction from fans, but the legendary duo of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby certainly fit the bill. Their individual bodies of work are certainly the stuff of legends, the kind of accomplishments that most creators can only dream of, but it's their combined work during the '60s on Marvel Comics' "The Fantastic Four" that may be their greatest accomplishment. The series often claimed to be "The World's Greatest Comic Book Magazine" and considering the influence the comics still have to this day, it may not be an exaggeration. With Marvel's recent announcement (and comments from editor Tom Brevoort) that a "missing" issue, originally scheduled to be #102, of the Lee/Kirby run would be published, CBR News caught up with Lisa Kirby, daughter of "The King," and TwoMorrow's Publishing's John Morrow, a noted comic book historian & publisher of "The Jack Kirby Collector," to learn more about this unprecedented comic. Marvel Comics has also revealed that the issue will feature two versions of the story: one modern, with inks by Danny Miki & Richard Isanove, and one classic, with Joe Sinott inks.
While some might see "Fantastic Four: Lost" (the working title for this project) as a money grab from Marvel, aimed at nostalgic fans, Morrow couldn't help but disagree. "Historically speaking, this 'lost' FF story is pretty significant," Morrow told CBR News. "While I don't think anyone (Kirby and Lee included) would consider it the finest story they ever worked on - not even one of the finest Fantastic Four stories they did - it's still a solid, entertaining, self-contained yarn, done while Kirby was at the peak of his abilities. It's no secret, however, that Jack wasn't happy with how things were going at Marvel at the time, feeling he wasn't getting proper compensation or credit for his contributions. But he still managed to turn in an outstanding penciling job, despite his differences with the company at the time - a sign of a true professional."
As you might expect, Lisa Kirby is excited to see her father's work back in print, but jokes that being only nine-years old at the time of the issue's creation leaves her a tad unclear on a few details. "From what I understand, my father submitted art that was intended for FF # 102," Kirby explained. "Stan Lee apparently felt at the time that this work could not be used. The artwork was shelved for a few months, and then parts of it resurfaced for FF # 108. It was during this time my father had turned in his resignation at
Marvel and moved on to DC.
"This project was brought to my attention by John Morrow," continued Kirby. "Tom Brevoort had contacted him about his idea of putting this 'lost' issue together. John then contacted me, and filled me in on the origin and history behind the lost pages. He also mentioned that Tom would like to get Stan Lee to do the dialogue and possibly Joe Sinnott to ink. I had to say I was pretty intrigued about the idea."
The aforementioned resignation is significant according to Morrow, who said that after Jack Kirby left Marvel, things changed quite a bit. "Jack soon after turned in his final FF story (which ended up going in #102) along with his resignation from Marvel, and the Marvel Age effectively came to an end," explained the historian. "Without Kirby at Marvel, the company really took on a different feel, and Stan himself retired from writing comics soon after. The 'House of Ideas' was never the same after that. So this final, reassembled story is one last look at the greatness that was the 1960s Marvel Age of Comics."
Jack Kirby enthusiasts and die-hard Fantastic Four fans reading this article would be quick to point out that this lost story has in fact seen print before, but not in the way it was originally intended. "Interestingly, Marvel decided to chop this story up, rearrange large parts of it, and have John Buscema re-pencil about half of it, finally publishing the revised version in 'Fantastic Four' #108," explained Morrow. "That version bears little resemblance to what Kirby originally plotted and drew, so by reassembling it back into the pure, original Kirby version, we're all getting the chance to see what would've been Kirby's next-to-last FF story as it was supposed to appear. It's also readers' one and only chance to see just one more Lee/Kirby FF story. I for one can't wait to see all the pencils inked, dialogued by Stan, and finally published the way it was intended! Certainly, if any similar significant 'lost' stories came to light, they also deserve the same treatment. But I doubt we'll run across anything like this again. It's a fluke that it exists at all, and Tom Brevoort at Marvel deserves credit for putting this project together."
While the circumstances around Jack Kirby leaving Marvel weren't optimum, his daughter does feel that her father would be delighted to see more of his work brought to fans of "The House Of Ideas." "I can only hope that he would be delighted to know that people were still getting enjoyment from his work. His fans meant a lot to him!" Kirby said. "It seems to me that my father's contribution to the Marvel Universe has come full circle. My father was a major part in the creation of The Fantastic Four, and any time he can receive recognition for his work, will only help keep his legacy alive."
While there is no definite release date for the project yet, keep your eyes peeled for more news here on CBR, and take a moment to chat with other Fantastic Four fans on our very own Marvel Universe Forum. Long Live The King!