The Beginnings of Spider-Man and how he came to be is an interesting story to say the least and a bit of a confusing one, even for its co-creators, Yes, that’s right even for Spider-Man's co-creators, who are all no longer with us, were a bit confused or hazy on the details over the years about Spider-Man in the beginning.
Let’s first look at a brief perspective from the creators views of how Spider-Man came to be, as we all know him today and let’s attempt to place the subject art’s era of creation, or at least a time frame of when that could be. We’ll try to spare you from the long drawn out versions of each co-creator story, both Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. Though not officially listed as a co-creator, we’ll also add Jack Kirby’s version of the story since both Lee and Ditko admit early involvement by Kirby of Spider-Man at different times in various interviews over the years.
Steve Ditko version-
Ditko has mentioned a couple different versions of Spider-Man in the beginning, both involving Lee and Kirby. The first version Lee had Kirby originally draw the character, he saw the initial 6 concept pages, which he said resembled more of a human fly character and less of the Spider-Man we know of today. Lee apparently didn’t like Kirby’s version being too heroic and didn’t fit the bill of a teenage spider-man, so Lee passes the job to Ditko, who came up with the suit, mask, webbing, etc. Lee liked Ditko’s version and the rest is history. Or is it?... The other Ditko version is more vague, as he later went on to say he doesn’t remember if the Spider-Man concept and idea came from Lee or Kirby, he just knows both were in the office when it was pitched to him by Lee. Later in life, Ditko became more distant and unresponsive to just about anything Spider-Man and the history behind the character, essentially wanting nothing to do with it.
Stan Lee version-
Lee as mentioned above originally had Kirby draw the concept of Spider-Man in a series of test pages, but didn’t like it at all, it was “too heroic” and went with Ditko’s version. Lee asserted he came up with the name and the origin story, going over various insect names before Spider-Man stuck! Though Lee too changed his tune as well on this over the years, giving Ditko credit along the way for some of the origin as well as the concept of the suit. Lee too later in life doesn’t recall how much influence Kirby had on the character, though at times would say Kirby had no influence on the creation of Spider-Man. Or did he?...
Jack Kirby version-
Kirby’s version differs from both co-creators in that he and Joe Simon in the late 1950’s came up with a Spider-Man name but never came to fruition at the time. When Lee was looking for another character to enter Marvel as the superhero genre, which was picking up with the success of The Fantastic Four, Lee looked to Kirby for another hit. Thus, according to Kirby, Spider-Man was pitched and the rumor was 6 concept pages, or perhaps more were turned in by him, though they’ve never surfaced. Just as Lee did with a lot of the Marvel Universe as we know it, he would feed off Kirby for new characters in the early 1960’s. In this case Kirby is actually chosen to create both the first and second appearance covers for Spider-Man, Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1.
The start of the Marvel Age began with The Fantastic Four, then Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man, Iron Man, bringing back Captain America and The Avengers. There were of course other characters in between, but these were the big five individual heroes as we know them today. Kirby is linked as co-creator for all of the above characters and teams, with the exception of Spider-Man. Let’s dig a little further on the front to see how much involvement he may have had with the character.
Was it Lee? Ditko? Or perhaps Kirby? Well unfortunately these founding fathers of Marvel are all not with us, but we can look at clues, theories, time frames, and the art itself to draw conclusions. As mentioned above Lee claimed he came up with Peter Parker, Uncle Ben, Aunt May etc. Ditko never had much to say about the origin story, only crediting himself for the mask and costume.
An excerpt From the Kirby Museum Article- “The Case For Kirby” by Stan Taylor (2003)-
“Three stories, with three variations that don’t quite connect. Kirby says it was all his, Lee claims it was all his, and Ditko, he says Stan gave him a script based on a Kirby character, that was then changed. Oh what a tangled web we weave. (sorry, couldn’t resist)
Another point of interest that may account for some of why the story changes, has to do with how the copyright laws changed in 1976. As a result, all the artists working for Marvel in the 1960s were classified as freelancers, and since they were freelancers, they could possibly make future claims for termination of copyrights for any characters they created. (this is the same law that has allowed the Siegel family to claim partial rights to Superman, and Joe Simon to make a claim for Captain America) One way the companies might protect their claim is by showing that the characters and concepts were created by employees, and supplied to the artists.
Since Stan Lee was technically the only employee of the three men involved, suddenly all characters in Marveldom were “his” sole creation, and the artists merely illustrated his tales. But Spider-Man provided a unique problem, because Stan, in a speech at Vanderbilt College in 1972, related how Kirby had first provided a proposal for Spider-Man. Stan stated that after he looked it over, he had a different idea for the “look” of Spidey, and decided that he would offer it to Steve Ditko to draw. He didn’t mention any problem with Kirby’s concepts and plot. It is in later tellings – post copyright law change- that he would stress that Kirby’s proposal, though rejected, were still based his (Stan’s) original ideas. Which brings us to the heart of the debate: Just what did Kirby propose, what was used or rejected, and where did these ideas come from.
That first proposal has never surfaced, though Jim Shooter has mentioned seeing it at Marvel in the late ’70s. So what we are left with is the personal recollections of two men whose memories are hopeless, one of whom is now dead, and a third who won’t talk. The problem here is not that we don’t have eyewitness testimony, it’s that we have conflicting eyewitness testimony. The people involved disagree.” We should add since this article, not one but all three of these men have passed, which makes it that much harder to piece the puzzle together.
Another interesting fact is if we compare the co-creators previous stories and characters there’s not much to tie into these characters. Stan Taylor (historian), eloquently linked Kirby’s previous characters and stories closely to Peter Parker’s origin story. Taylor’s article and tie-in was almost uncanny to the origin story of Spider-Man done only a few years earlier. Kirby would do this with previous character stories to later tie-in at Marvel, for instance Challengers of the Unknown was later closely linked to The Fantastic Four and Thor, which we’ll take an excerpt Taylor’s article below.
“The plot of Amazing Fantasy #15 is simple, yet unique: An orphaned teenage boy receives super-powers during a scientific experiment. After gaining his powers, a loved one is killed due to his inaction. This remorse leads him to vow to never let it happen again, thus becoming a hero. Again, after cross checking stories by these three men, it became obvious that in structure and theme, the basic plot for Spidey’s origin came from one of the three persons involved: Jack Kirby.
The first plot element has to do with an orphaned, older teenager, who gets super powers via a scientific experiment, and this is intriguing. Even though I tried to approach this in an entirely objective manner, I still had some preconceived notions of both Kirby’s and Ditko’s proclivities. Many of these were shattered by my actual findings. One of these was that it was Ditko’s nature to use older troubled teenagers for his heroes, while it was Kirby’s nature to use younger kids. So strong is Ditko’s aura surrounding Spider-Man that I just assumed that it was a Ditko trait, but I was not able to track down a single use of older orphaned teenagers, troubled or not, by Steve prior to Spidey. What shocked me was how easy it was to find the template for the orphaned older teenaged hero, and a title that would provide key elements in piecing together the puzzle.
Surprisingly, it was in a title by Jack Kirby. In The Double Life of Private Strong, (Archie Publications 1959) (not coincidentally the companion title to The Fly) the hero, Lancelot Strong, aka The Shield, is an orphaned high school senior, and like Spider-Man, his surrogate parents were gentle, compassionate, and supportive. His powers were the result of a scientific experiment. Around this same time, Kirby was also working on the proposed newspaper strip, Chip Hardy, with a teen-aged science whiz hero. In fact, from about 1959 on, just about all of Kirby’s youthful heroes would be older teenagers, and most orphaned. Johnny Storm, Rick Jones (both predating Peter Parker) and the X-Men all fit into this mold. I could find nothing that matched in Ditko’s, or Lee’s, (sans Kirby) recent past. The next element is very important: After gaining his powers, the hero loses a loved one due to his inaction, thus providing the impetus for becoming a hero.
This may be the critical element that separates Spider-Man from almost all other heroes- and it’s right there in The Double Life of Private Strong. While rushing off to test his newfound powers against a rampaging alien monster, The Shield, (Lancelot Strong), in his teen exuberance, ignores and leaves his best friend Spud in harms way. After defeating the brute, the Shield returns to celebrate his triumph only to learn that the monster has killed Spud. The distraught Shield blames himself, and vows that it will never happen again. Similarly, Spider-man, in a moment of conceit and arrogance, ignores a thief, only to learn that that same thief would go on to kill his Uncle, which in turn, spurs him into action. He then vows that it will never happen again So in one book, done less than three years before Spider-Man, Kirby used most of the critical plot elements that would show up a few years later in Spider-Man.
Certainly Spider-Man’s is more melodramatic as one would expect from Stan’s dialogue, but the basic plot mirrors Private Strong. The panels where the boys mourn the loss of their loved ones are almost eerie in their similarities. So going by pattern matches, it appears we have the hero and villain from the Fly combined with the origin outline of the Shield. This cross-pollination of a character from one story, and a plot from another is classic Kirby. He had touches of genius, but during the late 1950’s to mid-sixties, his characters and plots were interchangeable. His storytelling was very formulaic. He had archetypal heroes, a small list of stock villains, and, a set selection of plots. He mixed and matched these regardless of genres. His approach to comics was sort of a Chinese take-out menu, one from column A and one from column B. Nothing became more apparent during my research. In legal lingo, Kirby was a chronic repeat offender. Kirby’s touches are repetitive and easily identifiable. This realization led to one of the more unexpected findings. It appears that Kirby did not cross match the Fly and the Shield one time; he did it twice, and both simultaneously.
This pattern can also be found on the Mighty Thor For Spider-Man, Kirby took the basic character traits (insect), and the villain (petty crook) from the Fly, and the origin gimmick (scientific, older teen), and the dramatic ending (mourning a lost friend) from the Shield.
For Thor, Kirby reversed himself, taking the origin element, (finding of a mystical artifact) and ending, (transformation back to hapless human) from the Fly, and the villain (rampaging aliens) from the Shield, plus adding in a hero from an earlier DC fantasy story. (Tales of the Unexpected #16) Thor, and Spider-Man appeared on the stands simultaneously. Thor had the earlier story number. Facts, and patterns says the Confessor, plus look for what doesn’t fit.
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko say they rejected the original plot because of its similarity to The Fly, and created their own. The idea that they would reject one Kirby plot and then replace it with another Kirby plot makes no sense, it simply doesn’t fit. These two men had their own influences and patterns, and if they were to sit down and come up with an original origin, it would not have mirrored a recent Kirby plot, especially if they were specifically looking to avoid the appearance of a Kirby plot. It appears that Stan and Steve took Kirby’s plot, added in Peter’s personality, some of the supporting cast, and maybe the details involving the wrestler and show business, but the basic plot was all Kirby.” - Stan Taylor “The Case for Kirby” (2003)
Even the origin of Dr. Strange is thought to have come from the origin of Dr. Droom from Amazing Adventures #1 (Atlas, 1961). Interestingly enough in both stories a medical doctor goes to Tibet and after a series of tests, receives mystical powers from an ancient sorcerer. The overall thought was Kirby was the go-to for plotting the origins and overall concepts of new characters at Marvel in the early 1960’s. It would be completely out of the norm if Kirby did not provide the origin of a new character. Just as Taylor states in his article, even nearly 20 years later, I too can’t remember another instance where comic historians have denied credit to the person who supplied the origin sequence.
Furthermore, in regards to published work, Ditko may be credited with the art for the origin story in Amazing Fantasy 15, but Kirby supplied the iconic cover in which we all identify the character and his first appearance. Now let’s get to the meat of our discussion, the art.
In looking at Kirby’s contribution to Spider-Man’s art himself, as mentioned above he not only did the cover to his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy 15, but also his second appearance and first solo title, The Amazing Spider-Man #1, another iconic image of Spider-Man breaking into the Baxter Building to join the Fantastic Four. It’s interesting this is the cover piece chosen for the first solo title for Spider-Man, sure to create more reader interest with the crossover, but why is Kirby again chosen to draw the cover and not Ditko? Especially if Lee repeatedly later says Kirby’s Spider-Man was too heroic and not a good fit for the title? Furthermore, it would make sense for Kirby to draw his greatest creation superhero team at the time being The Fantastic Four. But let’s also remember Ditko was brought onto ink both the first and second appearance covers. Why? One can only think Lee did this to for ego reasons denying his first cover, we’re uncertain if Ditko even did a cover for Amazing Spider-Man #1, and to keep the overall continuity of the character of Spider-Man. Kirby was known for drawing his own version of Spider-Man, largely different from Ditko’s odd and awkward design and poses, which furthered the importance of keeping the overall continuity.
So let’s jump back to Amazing Spider-Man #1 cover and the mention of not seeing a Ditko version, which may or may be of importance. We know Ditko submitted his version of Amazing Fantasy #15 cover, we’re unclear who’s cover came first, Ditko or Kirby, but Kirby’s was the published choice. Why have we not seen an Amazing Spider-Man #1 Ditko unused cover when he did the interiors for this book? Well, let’s now get into the overwhelming theory that most comic historians support at this time…
The first theory is after Amazing Fantasy #15, work was quickly starting for the next Amazing Fantasy issue. After all, Stan’s claim of knowing the title was to be canceled was debunked seeing the last panel states for readers to see Spider-Man in the next Amazing Fantasy issue. It was Martin Goodman, editor in chief at the time who saw poor sales of the series from months earlier and already made the decision to cancel the series. Whether Lee threw a hail mary with the Spider-Man story or not, unbenounced to Lee about the series cancellation, Kirby and Ditko, continued their work on Amazing Fantasy #16 and #17, possibly at the same time or shortly after the conclusion of issue #15. This is where it gets interesting…
After the origin story in Amazing Fantasy #15, comes “Freak, Public Menace” the second story, and the third story being “The Chameleon” where Spider-Man meets the Fantastic Four. Before these two stories were published in Amazing Spider-Man #1 cover date March 1963, they were slated for Amazing Fantasy #16 (September 1962) and #17 (October 1962), but after the announced cancellation of the title they were subsequently inventoried and shelved at the Marvel offices.
When you look at the timeline from Amazing Fantasy #15 release date of June 5th 1962 to Amazing Spider-Man #1 in December/January 1963, you see a 6 month gap in between. At some point at this time Lee decides to give Ditko the Amazing Spider-Man title, perhaps he liked his awkward and weirdness he brought to the character, or the other thought was Kirby was cranking away with Thor, Hulk, Fantastic Four, Rawhide Kid, and other titles monthly and he simply had too much on his plate.
Here’s where the theory continues with Kirby and why we see his version of the cover for Amazing Spider-Man #1 and not a Ditko cover for this issue. Ditko more than likely was given the second story “Freak, Public Menace” for Amazing Fantasy #16, but Kirby was given the green light for story #3 where “Spider-Man meets The Fantastic Four” to be for Amazing Fantasy #17, Kirby being the overwhelming choice to draw his greatest creations at that time.
Chronologically it’s important to know after Spider-Man gets his powers he quickly realizes he can’t earn money after Jonah Jameson has made him Public Enemy #1 in the second story and Aunt May is having a hard time making ends meet, so he decides to try to join the Fantastic Four in story #3 (Amazing Fantasy #17). Who else would be better to draw this scene than Kirby, being the regular on the title for The Fantastic Four, which was his baby at the time and also Spider-Man new to the scene. Hence, he does an Amazing cover (no pun intended) for what was to be Amazing Fantasy #17 as well as the interior art for Spider-Man meeting The Fantastic Four, a 6 page story at the time. Later, the story is taken off the shelf and clearly swiped by Ditko to condense the Chameleon story incorporating the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four meet from 14 pages to 10 pages to fit the 24 page format for issue #1. Essentially Kirby’s original 6 pages are condensed to 2 pages by Ditko in Amazing Spider-Man #1 to fit the format at the time. Ditko’s usual 6 panel a page is expanded to 9 panels a page for the entire story, which was never seen by Ditko for a full length story at this time.
Let’s expand on the Ditko panel discussion further, which is a fairly significant discovery in the math of it all. We did an incredible amount of research in going through all of Ditko’s Spider-Man art from issues Amazing Fantasy #15, to Amazing Spider-Man #1-38, all the individual stories, except for the annuals since some are retold stories and or a series of pinups, etc. but it was to see his overall layout grid. This is where it gets interesting and I’ll do my best not to bore you issue by issue what we found, but essentially and to our surprise our suspicions were correct.
From the painstaking amount of research counting each panel with over 800+ pages of Ditko art, out of the 39 issues and 41 individual stories on title for Ditko Spider-Man, by far the highest panel count average per page was from the Chameleon story (Spider-Man Meets the Fantastic Four), and not by a little, but by a lot seeing that every page was a nine panel grid. Most of the Ditko Spider-Man issues average per panel were between 5 and 7, sometimes slightly over 7, but mind you we were counting the title splash page 1’s only since a few of them had more than 1 panel, like Kirby’s in Fantastic Four Annual #1 title page. If you remove the splash page 1 panel’s the percentage would be even higher for the case of Amazing Spider-Man Chameleon story, it wouldn't be a little over 8+ per panel, but 9 per panel average. What is the likelihood that out of 39 issues and 41 stories by Ditko of Spider-Man, the one story containing the most average panels per page by far is the Chameleon story where Spider-Man Meets The Fantastic Four?! We’re talking less than a 2.5% chance of this story being the greatest average of panels amongst them all. Again, one can only sum based on the math, Ditko incorporated Kirby’s story into the mix of the Chameleon story and furthers the evidence to Kirby’s board coming first in line. Now let’s get back to the story of how Amazing Spider-Man #1 came to be.
When the decision was made to incorporate this story into The Chameleon story, they already had a cover from Kirby when it was originally drawn for Amazing Fantasy #17, now to be the Amazing Spider-Man #1 cover, which is why there is no Ditko cover. I also find it interesting the cover image is the first panel page art of Spider-Man breaking into the Baxter building aka headquarters of the Fantastic Four. Kirby specifically uses the panel of Spider-Man sliding down into the plexiglass tube in which the Fantastic Four think he’s trapped. Again, seeing that Kirby illustrated the pencils to this cover, which later becomes Amazing Spider-Man #1 and also has the identical panel page art in the FF Annual #1, with no production notes, panel reorganization or stats on the cover scene, it is highly unlikely Kirby's art came later in line after Ditko. We must remember Kirby was not only an artist but a storyteller, it’s this writers thought that Kirby not only drew the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #1, but also drew the 6 page story of Spider-Man meeting the Fantastic Four at the same time choosing this particular scene for the cover, which is now perhaps one of the most iconic and recognizable images in all of Marvel history.
Amazing Spider-Man #1 hits the newsstands sometime in December of 1962, some accounts are January of 1963, but nevertheless within the same month or around the same time, when deciding to run with the flagship title first annual, Fantastic Four Annual #1, Lee and Kirby were filling in the gaps for a 72 page issue. Lee took the original 13 page origin story from Fantastic Four #1, various villain pin-ups as well as this original 6 page story which was shelved this time, flipping it to “The Fantastic Four Meet Spider-Man” and not the other way around.
Once making the decision to use the 6 page Kirby Spider-Man story, pulling off the shelf and having Lee dialogue, send to Holloway to be lettered and then to Ditko to ink before being sent to the Comics Code Authority for approval, which is stamped on the back March 5th, 1963. According to comic historian and Kirby Museum curator Tom Kraft when asked about the stamp and time frame, he pegged Kirby’s board for this subject art story to be no later than December 1962 before the other steps were done before being sent to the Comics Code Authority. Once again, with Amazing Spider-Man #1 coming out around the same time as this story being taken off the Marvel inventory shelf and sent to the necessary channels was when Lee decided to create his usual hype and spin the dialogue to the readers as it’s being retold and redrawn by Kirby knowing this wouldn’t hit newsstands till months later.
Speaking of Lee's dialogue, on the title page he makes it sound like the two-page sequence in Amazing Spider-Man #1 was created first, but as Stan was concerned about the published chronology, it makes sense that he would tell that to the readers rather than explain what was really going on behind the scenes. It's interesting to see on the opening title page that Stan Lee in the narration refers to that scene as "One of the high points in comic book history." Stan was well known for his hyperbole, but in this case history would prove him right. This story of Spider-Man's first meeting with the FF was such a key moment in Marvel's folklore and historical significance, if Amazing Fantasy #15 is one of the greatest origin stories of all time, one could argue Amazing Spider-Man #1 is the greatest second appearance story of all time.
Jean Depelley in The Kirby Collector #66 was the first to publish this theory by piecing the time gap and all of the supporting facts to further the Kirby claim of his art story coming before Ditko. Some other notable facts Depelley brings up are as follows:
On the original art of the Fantastic Four Meet Spider-Man in The Fantastic Four Annual #1, if it was the other way around and Kirby did in fact swipe Ditko and this art came second in line, we would see panel reorganization, production notes, paste ups, which are simply not there. Furthermore, one of the best observations by Depelley was for him to think as an artist and to compare panel by panel. In doing so, he discovered Kirby’s art was more simple and less detailed, while Ditko’s art added detail to the same panels in Amazing Spider-man #1. When details are added to art panels, logic dictates this would be the later work, or in this case Ditko’s swipe of Kirby. In addition, Kirby was king at this time, not only was he the highest paid freelance artist of the era, it would be highly unlikely for Lee to ask Kirby to recreate the scene by Ditko. It is also highly unlikely at this time to do a recreated story within a few months apart in publication. It's even more highly unlikely if not nearly impossible to have Kirby take a 2 page story and expand it into 6 pages, essentially working backwards. Thus, Depelley and other historians have concluded with what we know today, this original 6 page story by Kirby came first in line and was later swiped by Ditko for Amazing Spider-man #1. Now let's discuss some of those other historians, articles and even the auction world taking notice of Kirby's art coming first...
First up, The Metabunker, love the site and the name! The Metabunker is an interesting blogger site that's been around for at least two decades, perhaps longer and their featured the article (left), which first suggested this theory of Kirby having a bigger influence on Spider-Man art and story layouts back in 2002, later blogged in 2007. This suggested that Ditko's art even in Amazing Fantasy #15 for Spider-Man's origin story looked to be based on Kirby layouts. For our subject story it also adds the same for Amazing Spider-Man #1 suggesting Kirby layouts before Ditko pencils. This theory made Ditko fans irate to the point that Metabunker publisher did another blog a week later in 2007 to address this topic where Kirby and Ditko fans could give their own views.
The last person to write before the blog was closed for debate was historian Mark Evanier, who said the following- "Jack did, of course, draw a few pages of a different Spiderman (no hyphen) before the project was assigned to Ditko. A few story elements from that material may have found their way into the published material but since those pages are not available for inspection, any speculation there is highly speculative. And of course, Jack claimed that he was the one who walked in and said, “Hey, let’s do a new character named Spiderman who can walk on walls!” By the way: I think it’s been pretty well proven that when Lee and Ditko cobbled up the story in Amazing Fantasy #15, that comic had not been cancelled and they had every reason to believe Spider-Man would be appearing in it for many issues to come. They had finished the story for #16 and done at least some work on the one for #17 when the publisher decided to ax Amazing Fantasy and those two stories went onto the shelf. They were used in the first two issues of the Amazing Spider-Man comic when it was decided to give the character another try." Evanier wrote this back in 2007, and the key points saying Amazing Fantasy #16 and #17 were worked on and then shelved, which later were used for the first two solo issues of Spider-Man. This again goes in line with Kirby's initial work for Amazing Fantasy #17, which later not only became the cover to Amazing Spider-Man #1, but also that same cover story of Spider-Man meeting The Fantastic Four!
Now the CBR article, which is a fairly large online publication, really looks to have sourced Depelley's Kirby Collector 66 story. This was actually the first article I stumbled on about the theory, which made me question more about Kirby's Spider-Man work coming before Ditko. It was almost an "ah ha" moment reading this, making me want to put the puzzle together and put my Sherlock Holmes hat on. Shortly after this article and digging further, I came across the Depelley article from the Kirby Collector 66, which then it all seemed to come together and made perfect sense. But of course I didn't want to stop there, I wanted to keep digging.
But it wasn't until ComicLink Auction House included the well thought out theory in their original art page they auctioned in June 2022. It's one thing to theorize, another to publish work based on findings, but it's a whole other ballgame when one of the top comic art auction houses recognizes these findings as factual based evidence, enough to put it in their description. And in doing so, the 1st of the 6 pages sold for nearly $300,000! We should add based on the two high bidders tying at $286,000, the winning bidder bid at least the next bid ($20k increments at this level) to $306,000 if not more to cushion him or herself to win. And kudos to the winning bidder, it's an absolute fantastic, all out historic page setting the tone for the ensuing battle between web-head and The Fantastic Four!
Some of you may think that's a lot of money for this original art page, while others of you may think it wasn't high enough, so let's look into this a little further. First off, keep in mind the auction ended June 2022, which turned out to be one of the worst economic months in a very long time, but enough about the state of the economy, let's look into the art itself.
This is an amazing page, after all it's the title page splash, but is it really a true splash? Well, technically it's a half splash, but by the looks of it, the Fantastic Four in the window as a box appears to be a panel and gives off the feel of 4 panels on the page. It's certainly not the in your face large Kirby one panel splash of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Two of the panels are of Spider-Man walking the tight rope to the Baxter Building (one back turned), and the other two are of the entire team of the Fantastic Four, which is really cool. Moreover, it was brought to my attention by an astute collector the top title stat takes up too much of the overall page, giving less art than desired. Thus overall, these above points may be more of a hindrance than a plus for the title page to this short story.
As a reminder there are only 6 pages in this story and this first page, doesn't have any interaction or great content between the characters in their first meet-up, only Stan Lee's commentary attempting to spin the narrative. I would argue starting with page 2, which I might add is the Amazing Spider-Man #1 cover scene, has much better content within the panels of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four characters, some of which are transposed directly into Amazing Spider-Man #1. At the end of the day, the art on each of these 6 pages is historic, whether it be this first page setting up the break-in to the Baxter Building, or our page 5 meeting and battling Human Torch for the first time, all of which should carry similarly enormous values!
Something Depelley in his article did not necessarily focus on since he was looking at the facts and timeline, were the concepts in Kirby's art in this story. These are firsts and I should add lasts of concepts for Spider-Man, which would be extremely odd if the art came later. The first being an electrified webbing in page 3 versus Thing. The second and seen on our page 5 (image right), is the first webbing that acts like it's alive as it slithers along the floor to tangle up Sue Storm and a wind-tunnel fan., similar to what we see decades later almost symbiote-like.
Now let’s play the hypothetical again that Kirby’s art came later in line, after Amazing Spider-Man #1 and was created in December 1962, which we can conclude would be the latest the pencils would’ve been done based on the stamp as mentioned above. At that time, Amazing Spider-Man #2 would be in production and being drawn by Ditko and we’d be a few stories in already. We heard shortly after the Amazing Spider-Man title began, Ditko controlled the story art and Lee controlled the dialogue, which also began the rift between the two as Ditko wanted full control. With that said, if this was done later in line, there is no way these one off concepts would’ve been approved by Lee or Ditko once into the Amazing Spider-Man series. Again, going with the thought this art was therefore created much earlier in line.
That being said, one begs to question how early is this art? If we are witnessing an early concept web shooting or “slithering” by Spider-Man, seen once and never seen before, is this a story done shortly after Amazing Fantasy #15? Or perhaps are these one of the test stories rejected by Lee in the beginning?
Mark Evanier, comic historian, and once assistant to Kirby, has gone on record to say Kirby’s original 6 page Spider-Man concept story that others have mentioned, could actually be as many as 30 pages. This would be in line with how Kirby did things when developing a character and their creation, drawing not only the origin story but other supporting stories around the same time. Kirby worked well and fast, which is why he was able to do so many titles per month and consistently put out quality work. The original concept pages by Kirby have never surfaced, but there is some speculation by historians that this 6 page story of Spider-Man Meets The Fantastic Four may in fact be one of his original concept stories. After all, it is story #3 overall for Spider-Man, and the overwhelming evidence supports these penciled pages to come earlier in line than Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man #1 story pages. If Kirby’s initial stories were 6-10 pages a story this would certainly fit within the first 30 pages Evanier has talked about. Perhaps we’ll never be able to confirm these being part of the concept pages, but it is quite odd we have a one off web concept on this very page, which is later inked by Ditko and dialogued by Lee.
One other interesting fact we recently found after countless hours of research, we went back to the date stamp and for any clues on the art board itself. We came across an owner of a Strange Tales Annual #2 Spider-Man Kirby/Ditko story, which would have been chronologically the next story with Spider-Man and Torch. Interestingly enough, The Strange Tales Annual #2 story though chronologically later, was published first, before the Fantastic Four meet Spider-Man in Fantastic Four Annual #1. According to Overstreet Guide and Grand Comics Database Strange Tales Annual #2 ties for Spider-Man’s fourth appearance tying with Amazing Spider-Man #3.
Going back to Depelley’s theory, he thinks this story from Strange Tales Annual #2 would have originally been for Amazing Fantasy #18. When we contacted the owner of the original art page, we found the date stamp on the back from Comics Authority was the same as our Fantastic Four Annual #1 page even though the Strange Tales Annual #2 was job # X336 coming out in June 1963, while Fantastic Four Annual was job # X344, coming out July 2nd, 1963. What can we take from this?
Well, it furthers the claim that both of these stories were done earlier, both of which penciled by Kirby and later inked by Ditko, and were submitted at the same time to the Comics Code as back up stories to their respective annuals. This is a fairly large breakthrough to prove these stories were not done at separate times as Marvel may have suggested or presented to readers, but in fact they were stamped and submitted at the same time.
Thus even though the Strange Tales Annual #2 may have been published earlier, chronologically we can prove after being submitted at the same time that the Fantastic Four Meet Spider-Man story would've in fact been created first. It would make no logical sense the other way around and once again Kirby working backwards to create a future story of Torch and Spider-Man before creating their first encounter.
Now let’s also look at the art itself from our page 5 to find any other clues that can help or hurt the above claim. First off, the only thing that remotely questions whether the above claim is true is Sue’s hairstyle. It was brought to our attention that in Fantastic Four #15 (which would have hit the newsstands March of 1963 and similarly the art would’ve been created hypothetically around the late 1962 mark) that Sue changed her hair from a wavy longer hairdo to a higher beehive perm-like hairdo. Now when we look at the subject art, it’s clear Sue has the beehive hairdo and not the longer wavy hair. Does this peg our timeline of the art again being created in late 1962 and not earlier? Well, not necessarily.
The rebuttal from this could be two very likely scenarios. One, seeing this was an annual and we already saw new concepts from Spider-Man, perhaps we're seeing the same with Sue, and this was tried out first with Sue's new "do" prior to Fantastic Four #15. The second scenario and the more likely one was simply Ditko corrected her hair to match the era with his inks. It’s not the first time this happened in altering Sue’s hair via inks, it was known that Sue was the “in” girl, shopping and having the hottest “do” at the time, therefore, the pages would be corrected by the inker, and in this case Ditko to match the current era in design.
When we look closely in panel 4 (image right), the only panel where Sue is visible on the subject art page, oddly enough we can see what looks to be pencil marks in her hair, was this when Kirby had it flowing? We also see a thick ink line by Ditko around Sue’s hair to create more of the beehive look and possibly removing any pencils and outline by Kirby. We had a comic art expert evaluate the panel with up close scans and agreed it could have very well been altered based on the existing pencil marks in and around her hair, and the think ink line by Ditko.
The other clue to mention and this is an intricate one, are the buildings on page 1. The buildings are rough by Kirby and Ditko, and goes in line with the early Fantastic Four art. The buildings look much more refined when we get into Fantastic Four #17 in August of 1963, which is slightly past the mark of our subject issue. Again, this is a very intricate clue, but helps support early Fantastic Four art seeing the buildings are more in the rough manner shown as early as Fantastic Four #1 and #3.
We’re not sure if either of these two clues can help further or hurt the claim, but they are interesting facts.
Marvel's founding fathers Kirby, Ditko & Lee collaborate on this significant first meeting of the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch and Spider-Man, truly historic original art! Twice-Up (Large Art 12” x 18.5” signed by Jack Kirby on the lower right. Now in discussing the subject art itself, we must first discuss the storied relationship between Spider-Man and Torch over the decades. It made sense back in 1962 when creating Spider-Man and looking to add more marketing by creating a crossover with Marvel’s lead title the Fantastic Four. Seeing Parker was a teenager it made perfect sense to have the other teenager in the Fantastic Four, Johnny Storm aka Torch to have more interaction, which ends up being decades of a love-hate relationship between the two. Nearly all of the early crossovers for Spider-Man ended up being not only the Fantastic Four, but centering on his relationship with Torch.
At least for the first few crossovers between Spider-Man and Torch, interestingly enough, it ended up being Kirby pencils and once again Ditko inks on title. Is that the correlation? When doing the initial research it seemed odd, Ditko does the interiors for Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1-38, while Kirby does the following Spider-Man stories, which we’ll name chronologically of interiors only; Fantastic Four Annual #1 (first meeting), Strange Tales Annual #2 and Amazing Spider-Man #8 (was published in 1964). Did Lee think it made the most sense for Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four to be penciled by Kirby, seeing this was his creation? And then later inked by Ditko once again for continuity purposes and since he was given the title of the Spider-Man brand early on? This would make the most sense seeing there’s no Spider-Man annual or main title featuring webhead with Kirby Pencils and Ditko inks early on other than the above stories.
The other interesting thing with these three Kirby stories is him drawing Spider-Man only and not Parker at any point. Even the few panels without his mask, Parker is still in costume in all of Kirby’s 30 pages featuring Spider-Man early on. Ditko on the other hand, even early on would have a balance of Peter Parker the teenager and Spider-Man the hero. Was there a reason why there is no Peter Parker in the Kirby published pages? Did Lee not like Kirby’s version of Peter Parker? Or was Kirby’s interpretation to be largely Spider-Man in action with these stories? Or were certain pages and stories with Kirby’s Peter Parker and Spider-Man omitted? I guess we’ll never be able to know this, but it is interesting with the Amazing Spider-Man #1 Chameleon story we see Ditko beginning with Parker trying to figure out how to get into the Baxter building and not as Spider-Man. Whereas Kirby’s version starts with Spider-Man on a wire ready to jump in to the building and again, no Parker.
With that said, the so called 2 page swipe in Amazing Spider-Man #1 to the 6 page Fantastic Four Annual #1, is really 3 pages if you count the Parker panels plotting to get into the building. As mentioned above, it’s really not till the last tier of the page 1 in panel 7 where Spider-Man walks on the wire of Amazing Spider-Man #1, which is the start of the shared panels. Now let’s get back to the subject art…
Even though they start and end this issue battling one another, Spider-Man and Torch in story #2 in Strange Tales Annual end up working with each other to catch a thief. They still end story #2 back and forth with some playful banter, and in story #3 in Amazing Spider-Man #8 have more competition with one another, being the two hot teenage heroes of the era battling once again. The audience apparently loved their playfulness and banter so much that they eventually became friends in future crossovers over the years.
Point is all these early issues generally centered around Spider-Man and Torch, and here you have the very first page they meet face to face and it is an epic battle page at that! Beginning on panel 5 in the center you have Torch with “flame on” battling Spider-Man as he uses his web to fly across the room and crawl on walls while Torch eventually fires off flame balls at Spider-Man, which is truly epic! It’s great you can still see Kirby’s pencils on this page as well as areas where you see Ditko’s thicker inks. Little did they all know this duo would have one of the most storied relationships early on in the Marvel Age continuing into today’s age of comics.
Furthermore, Depelley’s now well known published article piecing the puzzle together centered completely on these stories of Spider-Man and Torch, showcasing the importance of this page being their first encounter. With that said, with the evidence above, this art predates Amazing Spider-Man #1 and would be the earliest art available on market, the only earlier being Spider-Man’s first appearance which hails in the Library of Congress!
In conclusion, we have to look at all the clues, evidence and science, or in this case math to make our best educated decision which art came first. Similar to our early Shuster Superman piece, we looked at the earliest and the latest with all the evidence to give a range of the art era. We can do the same here with the Spider-Man Kirby penciled page. In doing so, its less about theories, we have to look to the science of it all. The theory and supporting story amongst the timeline may further the case for Kirby, but it's the science and evidence on the art itself being the deciding factor. Since all of the founding fathers of Marvel are now no longer with us, or leading up to their passing seemed to not remember the details, or didn’t care to discuss, we again have to look at what we have in front of us.
So what's in front of us? The answers are in the panels, the other supporting issues, the clues on the art itself and borders/notes and even the date stamp on the back. Thus, we already know the latest Jack’s board based on the stamp on the back to give time for the dialogue, letterer and inker before going to CCA, would be late 1962 around the same time Amazing Spider-Man #1 was hitting the shelves. But what would be the earliest? Is it possible this art was created months earlier during the creation of Spider-Man in Spring of 1962? We know Kirby not only had a hand in the name, but we also know Kirby did a set of test pages for the character and story. Some said 5-6 pages and others have said Kirby did more. How many more pages did he do? Was this story part of the rejected story? Or was it done shortly after Amazing Fantasy #15 in the Summer of 1962 as John Depelley outlined for us in the Kirby Collector #66. Perhaps we’ll never know the earliest, but even if we can conclude it’s between late Spring and Summer of 1962 to the end of 1962, it still would be arguably the earliest original art story of Spider-Man outside of what’s in the Library of Congress on the open market.
Going back to the timeline, as mentioned above, if we look at the latest point, we know Amazing Spider-Man #1 was hitting the shelves, or on it's way to the shelves, and therefore we can debunk Lee’s writing on the board requesting the readers for a longer retold version. Why would he say this if he was not trying to spin it and hide the truth? Furthermore, why would Kirby be doing this story all over again and a longer less detailed version swiping Ditko? And why would Ditko ink his story as he did all of Kirby’s stories of Spider-Man over the next year? And where are the production notes and or stats on the board?
Then we look at Ditko's board and we see added detail to the same images, we see more panels than any of his other work on Spider-Man for his entire tenure on the title at Marvel. The theory and timeline certainly makes sense, but the math is what furthers the claim of Kirby’s art coming first in line. When you look at the theory from afar on a board and you plug in the science to match it, the puzzle makes sense. Here is a brief rundown of the top 10 facts:
1. Kirby creates the Amazing Spider-Man #1 cover (which shows the scene of Spider-Man breaking into the Baxter building trapped in a tube), also suggesting his original art story was created earlier than Fantastic Four Annual #1 published months later also by Kirby.
2. Kirby creates a lengthier 6 page story with the same story from Amazing Spider-Man #1 published months earlier. Over the years historians always questioned why so close months after? This was something that was never seen before in retelling a known Marvel story published only months apart.
3. Kirby’s same version over Ditko’s art has more panels in total (44, an average of 7 panels over the 6 pages) and seems less busy and with less detail in the art than Ditko’s busy 9 panel grid for the entire story totaling 27 panels over a total of 3 pages not 2 pages if we include Peter Parker’s plan to break in.
4. Ditko’s entire Chameleon story has a total of 91 panels including the splash in a 10 page story, even though the cover advertises “2 Great Feature-Length Spider-Man Thrillers!” and the first story is 14 pages and the second story The Chameleon is again only 10 pages, not exactly a backup length, but also not a full feature length. This can only be attributed to Ditko being told by Lee to fit Kirby’s original crossover story of Spider-Man and Fantastic Four into the Chameleon story. It’s by far Ditko’s busiest and only full story 9 panel grid is his entire tenure on the title with the highest average panel per page, and furthers the proof that he swiped Kirby’s original art and story incorporating it into Amazing Spider-Man #1. Out of the more than 41 individual Ditko Spider-Man stories there would be a little over a 2% chance of the Amazing Spider-Man #1 story Chameleon being the highest panel average. Thus, it’s all in the math!
5. Kirby’s concepts in The Fantastic Four Annual #1 art shows firsts and lasts for Spider-Man, with electrified webbing and webbing that slithers on the floor. If this came later in line, both Lee and Ditko would not approve of these web concepts as they were both very picky about the use of Spider-Man. Not to our surprise, Ditko does not choose to swipe and use Kirby’s Spider-Man web concepts for Amazing Spider-Man #1.
6. The timeline gap between Amazing Fantasy #15 being canceled and Amazing Spider-Man #1 being 6 months apart from his first and second appearance suggests work was being done in between art by both Kirby and Ditko, and not just Ditko. This also shows in the beginning Lee was not sure which artist to go with on title .
Speaking of the timeline, the job # for Strange Tales Annual #2 Spider-Man / Torch story is X336, published June 1963, while the Fantastic Four Meets Spider-Man story is job # X344, after Strange Tales Annual, but are both stamped by Comics Code Authority on March 5th, 1963. This is a huge clue, and only suggests even though the Strange Tales Annual #2 was published earlier than Fantastic Four Annual #1, both stories had already created and submitted at the same time, presumably shelved as inventory at Marvel. It would make sense the Fantastic Four meets Spider-Man story would have been drawn first since chronologically since this story comes first, being their first meet, versus the Strange Tales Annual story where Torch and Spider-Man already know each other.
7. Kirby’s initial involvement suggesting the “Spider-Man” name and being told by Lee to start drawing the character and creating stories. Even the origin story and characters had similarities with Kirby stories and not Ditko or Lee. Those initial Kirby Spider-Man stories seen by a few in the office at the time are thought to have been as little as 5 pages and as many as 30 pages, which suggests this subject story though published later may have been one of the rejected stories. Ditko admits in an interview he doesn't know who came up with the Spider-Man name and story, as both Lee and Kirby were in the office when first brought up to him.
8. Kirby’s board has been suggested by historians based on the stamp date on the back by CCA at the latest would’ve been created in December 1962, which debunks Lee’s verbiage on the board retelling the Amazing Spider-Man #1 story by popular reader demand, which was just hitting the shelves. This fact begs the question, why was Lee lying and covering up the Amazing Spider-Man #1 Fantastic Four first meet with Kirby coming first?
9. If Kirby’s art came second in line and based on the above evidence was drawn literally within a month or two apart from Amazing Spider-Man #1, Marvel would be notorious for saving time and money to use stats, paste ups, panel reorganization and production notes, but we see none of this evidence on any of the art boards.
10. Kirby was brought on to do all of the early crossover Spider-Man and Fantastic Four stories, with not only Fantastic Four Annual 1, but also Strange Tales Annual 2 and Amazing Spider-Man 8 into early 1964. All we can conclude was Lee thought it would be best to have Kirby draw his greatest creations along with Spider-Man, and have Ditko ink these issues for character continuity. Again, this would also suggest it would've been out of the norm for Ditko to drawn a Spider-Man with Fantastic Four early on with Marvel as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #1, which was coincidentally also drawn by Kirby around the same time. Thus, Ditko swipes Kirby for Amazing Spider-Man #1, with the overwhelming thought Lee green-lighted Kirby to originally draw Spider-Man and Fantastic Four crossover stories in the beginning.
There you have it, the facts, timeline and theories all point to Kirby's are coming first, but it's the math of it all that puts it over the top. The math in the overall panel average and the roughly 2% chance this story having his highest average panel count supports Kirby’s subject art coming before Ditko. There’s nothing in our evidence that suggests Ditko’s art coming first in line, other than the publish date of Amazing Spider-Man #1. Thus, with the overwhelming evidence, it’s in this writers humble opinion Kirby’s 6 page story of “The Fantastic Four Meet Spider-Man” was drawn first by Kirby and then shortly after swiped by Ditko.