Jun 7, 2010

Beware, He Isn't Human

Page 5, panel 6 of Journey Into Mystery # 77 (Feb 1962)

Over the years, there has been much debate amongst comic book students as to who created the famous Marvel Spider-Man character. Some comics scholars take Stan Lee at his word, and believe Lee's story that he created the Spider-Man character alone, without any input from any of his artists. Most feel Steve Ditko, the artist for the first published Spider-Man story, deserves credit for designing the costume and for contributing certain visual and story elements to the character.

Others suggest that Jack Kirby may have presented the concept of a "Spider-Man" to Stan Lee, because there is evidence the character existed since the 1950s as part of a Simon/Kirby file of unused concepts. Kirby was the artist on the first Spider-Man story written in 1962 and Jack may have contributed significant elements to the plot, as he had done on virtually every story he had worked on for his entire career. But after finishing 5 pages of story and artwork, Stan Lee removed Jack from the book and replaced him with Steve Ditko -- more than likely because Jack already had a tremendous workload, and since Marvel was expanding their line of super heroes, Ditko needed a title to work on, and his dark, moody style was more appropriate for an insect character.

If Kirby contributed certain concepts to the story in the first unpublished Spider-Man story (such as an ability to climb all over the walls of NYC, and a spider sense), some comics scholars suggest Jack Kirby deserves to be considered one of the creators of the Spider-Man property.

Here is an example of Kirby working on a similar character to Spider-Man published only six months before the publication of the first appearance of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy # 15 (Aug 1962). This story is called "Beware, He Isn't Human," from Journey Into Mystery # 77 (Feb 1962). Page 3, panel 4.
Page 4, panel 1 - 2. The character has incredible strength.

Walking up the walls, like the legendary Marvel wall-crawling Spider-Man. Page 4, panel 3.

The character also appears to have a kind of ESP, similar to Spider-Man's "spidey sense," or maybe that's his version of night-vision. Page 4, panel 7.

If I didn't know any better, I'd swear this sequence came directly from Kirby's unpublished Amazing Fantasy # 15 book, and the artwork was cannibalized for this story. Page 5, panel 2 - 4.

Looks like Peter Parker with a fedora and platform shoes. Page 5, panel 5.
Doing the moonwalk, upside down.

Page 5, panel 6.
Page 5, panel 7.
Page 5, panel 8 - 10.

Exploring the rooftops of New York City like a combination Spider-Man/hard-boiled detective. Page 6, panel 1.

Breaking and entering. Kirby characters never come in through the front door. Page 6, panel 3.

Strange Tales Annual # 2 (1963). Cover by Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers.