Thursday, January 05, 2012

Continuing My Impressions of Martin Goodman and His Nephew

Martin Goodman's company was just a few short months away from changing itself and the entire industry when these books came out. By this time, FANTASTIC FOUR had already been out for a few months. Sales figures for that book were already in and it was obvious that by aping the superhero craze going on over at DC that Stan Lee had made a good choice by allowing Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to create superheroes for the company.

Still, the horror and science-fiction titles were still going on as before and the company was maintaining their publication with the huge inventory of stories that had been accumulated. But within the year each of the horror and sf titles would be given over to superhero features to take advantage of the ballooning sales figures enjoyed by FANTASTIC FOUR and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Lee and Goodman knew they had a real winner on their hands with the resurrection of the costumed heroes.

In a matter of only nine more issues, TALES OF SUSPENSE would be given over as the flagship for Kirby's new creation, Iron Man. But even so, with the heavy backlog of horror and sci-fi stories, the newly christened Marvel Comics would still be publishing weird stories as backups to the new superhero stories leading the way.

But never again would Marvel make their monthly sales quotas on the backs of aliens and monsters. From the moment Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four, and The Mighty Thor, and The Avengers, and The X-Men, and The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man; and after Steve Ditko created The Amazing Spider-Man and Dr. Strange...from that time onwards it was superheroes that would make Marvel the most successful comic book company in modern times. It would be the intellectual property of Ditko and Kirby that would fuel Marvel--property that was essentially stolen, the true profits never going to their creators.

Less than a year after these books appeared, if it wasn't a superhero, it probably wasn't going to sell well anymore. (Or well enough to be given a chance.)

With Kirby and Ditko and company doing the art and mainly even the writing of most of the output, it was left to Stan Lee to tweak the dialog and write the titles and name the characters his artist/writers were creating. But I get the distinct impression that often Lee was tossing plots to the real creators of the books, and that as often as not he was lifting them from the pulps he must have had access to, and from the waning radio drama shows, such as Arch Oboler's LIGHTS OUT series. LIGHTS OUT, especially, seems to have featured the same silly kinds of plots and base emotions on display in Goodman's comics. Lee must certainly have been the culprit in lifting those themes from other sources.

One HELL of a great Kirby cover. And his interior art is just as good. However, the name given to this critter is one of the more unfortunate Stan Lee ever concocted: OOG. Oh, well. Stan Lee loved his vowels.

This cover was a departure for both Kirby and Marvel's general output during this period. This one has no garishly colored alien, nor some gigantic creature from the bowels of the Earth. Instead, it's a ghost menacing a cowering man.


dogboy443 said...

I love these old Time Radio shows.
X-Minus-1 is my all-time favorite.

HemlockMan said...

X Minus 1 was probably the best sci-fi drama show ever done for any medium. Radio or TV or film. Top-notch stuff by people who respected science fiction.