Comic Legends: How FF's Movie Rights Led to the Last Lee/Kirby Comic

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and fortieth week where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

As we've been doing it for some time now, one legend today, one tomorrow and one Sunday.

Let's begin!


Marvel having sold off the movie rights to the Fantastic Four directly led to the final Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Marvel collaboration.



There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about how Marvel does not have the rights to produce a Fantastic Four movie and that the company that DOES have the rights, Fox, has no interest in ever giving up on those rights. The conflict between the two companies likely has played a role in there not being a Fantastic Four comic book being published by Marvel in the last couple of years.

Amusingly enough, the film rights of the Fantastic Four being licensed also played a major role in the creation of the LAST comic book that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ever worked on!

Famously, Jack Kirby got sick of Marvel Comics and left in 1970 for DC Comics. However, while he got more money from DC, the situation there was pretty much the same as Marvel. It wasn't like Kirby got the rights to his DC Comics characters (although DC famously would try to help him out in that regard later on - Paul Levitz, Jenette Kahn and Dick Giordano were great), but it was just a matter of "if I'm going to not get my rights, let me at least not get my rights somewhere else so I don't have to stay here and be constantly reminded of all of these awesome characters I am not making money off of and all the promises that were made to me and broken."

Anyhow, once Kirby's DC contract ran out, he went back to Marvel, who offered him the same freedoms of DC Comics.

Around the same time, a movie producer by the name of Lee Kramer (boyfriend of Oliva Newton John) came to Stan Lee and suggested that they do a rock opera based on the Silver Surfer. The only problem was that the rights to the Fantastic Four were currently owned by someone else (Marvel got them back a few years later and sent them right back out the door). So the proposed Surfer movie would have to be a brand-new story without any connection to the Fantastic Four. Kramer suggested that they do a new comic book that the movie would be based on.

Lee agreed and he came to Kirby. The deal was a sweet one - good money and if the movie was made, Lee and Kirby would be paid as if it were a book that they had written that was being optioned into a film.

So they collaborated on a graphic novel about the Surfer, re-telling his journey to Earth and his betrayal of Galactus.

Joe Sinnott inked Kirby, completing the return of the classic Fantastic Four creative team of Lee/Kirby/Sinnott.

The idea is basically the same as the classic Galactus Trilogy. Galactus comes to Earth, Surfer realizes he doesn't think it should be destroyed, he fights off Galactus, Galactus leaves.

However, Galactus then wants to woo his herald back, so he creates a female version of the Surfer, Ardina!

I included Ardina in my recent list of superheroes who slept with versions of themselves, as yes, this Kirby/Lee comic involved Surfer getting some!

While she is designed to make the Surfer come back to Galactus, Ardina breaks free and helps Surfer defy Galactus. For her betrayal, Galactus takes her life away. Harsh (the addition of a female lead was because Lee Kramer wanted a role for Olivia Newton John). Galactus then insists that the Surfer either return to being his herald or Galactus will destroy Earth. Surfer reluctantly accepts the offer and the book ends with Galactus and his herald reunited - however, Earth is saved in the process, so it's almost as if Surfer was like a Messiah-like being (that's a bit of a joke about how Lee constantly wrote Surfer that way in his ongoing series).

Kirby was purely an art cog in this game. Lee even had John Buscema do "fixes" to Kirby's work! And Kirby's original cover was replaced by an Earl Norem painted cover...

The movie was never made (Kramer and Newton-John then did Xanadu, which was probably the replacement for Surfer) and Kirby and Lee never worked together again.

And it was all made possible by the FF movie rights being taken up!

Check out some legends from Legends Revealed:

Check back Saturday for part 2 of this week's legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you're curious about, drop me a line at either brianc@cbr.com or cronb01@aol.com!

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