This is the ninety-eighth in a series of examinations of comic book urban legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous ninety-seven. Click here for a similar archive, only arranged by subject.
COMIC URBAN LEGEND: DC once asked Marvel Comics for a page of Jack Kirby’s New Gods artwork when they needed a copy for reference work.
Much has been written about Jack Kirby’s departure from Marvel Comics in 1970, and rightfully so, as the move was a major point in comics history, as Marvel was forced to scramble to replace their most popular artist, and co-creator of a number of their most famous characters.
As you might imagine, workers at Marvel were quite interested in exactly what Kirby was going to come up with at DC Comics. Towards the end of his Marvel tenure, angry over what he felt to be breaches of agreements; Kirby was resistant to use new creations at Marvel, choosing instead to save up his new ideas until his situation was settled. Ultimately, his situation was settled by going to work for DC Comics, where Kirby’s Fourth World line of comics debuted at the beginning of 1971.
The interest at Marvel, however, soon found an avenue to see what it was that Kirby was working on, in the person of Vince Colletta.
Colletta was a prominent inker at Marvel Comics during the 60s, inking Kirby on a number of issues of Fantastic Four, but most notably, a long run inking Kirby on the Thor feature in Journey into Mystery.
Colletta also freelanced for DC, mostly working on DC’s romance titles. So when Kirby came to DC in 1970, it was determined that it would be an nice sign of familiarity to fans for Kirby to be inked by Colletta on the Fourth World comics.
This was all fine and good, but since Colletta was working for both companies, he would often bring the pages by the Marvel offices to show everyone what Kirby was working on – not in a malicious sense, but merely in a “hey, look what Kirby’s doing now!” manner.
The Kirby pages were popular at the Marvel offices, and it soon led to an interesting situation that I read about in a few places (including Ronin Ro’s book on Kirby), but it seemed so darn implausible that I was quite doubtful. But surprisingly, as implausible as it sounds – it actually happened!
I asked Mark Evanier, one of Kirby’s assistants at the time, about it, and here’s what he had to say:
When Jack was doing an issue of New Gods, he needed reference on something he’d drawn in an earlier issue. He asked DC to send out a stat but they never got around to it. So I called a friend at Marvel. I’d been back there a few weeks earlier and seen stats on the wall that they’d made when Colletta was up at the office with pages. My friend at Marvel sent Jack the stat he needed.
Isn’t that amazing?
For what it is worth, Colletta only lasted on the New Gods titles for the initial issues, with Jack Kirby choosing Mike Royer to be his new inker. That, though, almost certainly had more to do with general dissatisfaction with the appearance of the finished product than the fact that Colletta was loose with the pages he was working on.
Thanks to Mark Evanier for the info!
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