Stuf' Said! ("Jack Kirby Collector #75") by John Morrow, TwoMorrows Publishing
Stuf' Said! (2019) by John Morrow is a meticulously put together historiography of the genesis of the Marvel Universe. Most comics fans know Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Dr. Strange, Captain America, The Avengers. Many comics and movies fans equate these heroes with Stan Lee. What many of the general public are not aware of is the contribution to this world of wonder by the proclaimed "King" Jack Kirby (and in the case of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, Steve Ditko.) What this book, or double-sized magazine sets out to do is explain how the characters, the stories, and eventual movies we all know and love were contrived. Using interviews done with Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Jack Kirby's Wife Roz, Stan Lee's wife Joan, Roy Thomas, and excerpts from the letters pages of old Marvel Comics mags, scans of original artwork, and deeply routed investigation, John Morrow manages to paint a picture of the before, during, and after of what we know today as Marvel Comics, the behemoth at the box office that was once simply a comics magazine company. The book is neither pro-Kirby nor anti-Lee; it is simply an ode to the others who had a hand in creating this universe, and an eye-opener for those who don't know the secrets of the Marvel Bullpen.
Stuf Said! is the 75th issue of the Jack Kirby Collector which is a magazine published by TwoMorrows Publishing that "celebrates the life and career of the "King of Comics" through interviews with Kirby and his contemporaries, featuring articles and rare & unseen Kirby artwork..." (1) This double-sized issue of the long-running magazine reads like a book with a narrative. From the pictures of original Kirby artwork, to the colorful font that differentiates Stan and Jack's quotes, the exposition of the author and the beauty of the artwork reads like no other nonfiction book. More interestingly than other historical works is that it reads like a court case (something the author makes a "case" and point of doing.) There are Opening Arguments (brief history), Rules of Law (things the writer adds in to understand his methodology, including when he sprinkles in his own two-cents), then all of the material (interviews from years past with the aforementioned people, Stan's Soapbox quotes, letters to the editor, etc.), and the final Closing Arguments and Verdict. Morrow uses these chronologically placed interviews, quotes, radio interviews, Kirby's artwork, and so on to paint a historiography of the genesis and full swing of the Marvel Universe.
The story begins in 1940 when Jack Kirby and Joe Simon create Captain America and ends at present day (2018). From Marvel's nascence as Timely Comics and the business methods of its publisher, Martin Goodman, to Kirby's late but well-received dues by the comics and larger community. The most important points in Marvel's history are each laid out: Kirby and Simon splitting, leading to Kirby going to Marvel, Stan Lee as writer and editor of Marvel, and Jack and Stan doing stories, the creation of the Marvel Bullpen, 1961 and the creation of The Fantastic Four, Kirby's departure to DC Comics, Kirby's return to Marvel, and finally the fight to return Kirby his original artwork and get him his due credit as co-creator.
I have read many books on history, sociology, and so on. Never before have I seen a piece of work like this, one that takes direct quotes from its sources, be it through interviews on radio or print, and original artwork, to make its case. Stuf Said! reads like a dissertation; you can see the blood, sweat and tears that went into making it. Generally works like this are in book form with laundry lists of footnotes. I can honestly say Stuf Said! is a genuinely unique piece of work.
The book raises the question of who created the Marvel Universe. Since it is from a magazine called The Jack Kirby Collector, one would think it might be a Kirby-centric book. That is not the case. Morrow lets the reader know when he's adding in his own ideas and stepping outside of his role as historian and narrator, but mostly the book just lays out what happened and makes the reader feel like they are reliving the story presented.
What fascinated me was the use of art to portray the story. A point of contention in the creation of these characters and stories-- the writing of these issues-- is always made murky by the Marvel Method, wherein Stan Lee would give an idea to an artist, or he and the artist would collaborate on the idea. The artist would come back with the story drawn out and Stan would put in the dialogue. This was great for output, but didn't allow for proper credit to go to the artist. I don't want to give away more, but this is to say that Morrow uses original art as evidence for Kirby's role in co-creating the Marvel Universe. It's so awesome to see these classic pages in their original form and a highlight of what makes Stuf Said! so great.
Stuf Said! sets out to answer the question: who created the Marvel Universe? Subsequently, it also asks who kept it going, who was the force behind all of its properties. Morrow wants the reader to decide. I adamantly stand by this being a MUST-READ for any fan of comics.