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BELOW: Original pin-up by Stan Goldberg used to create the cover above.
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CHAPTER TWO
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Hello reader, and welcome to Chapter TWO of our multi-issue series revealing "The Secret Origins of The Amazing Spider-Man."

For many years, the so-called "Marvel Method" has been credited with the astounding success of the Marvel Comics Group. What, exactly, IS the Marvel Method? How did it come about? And where did the Marvel superheroes really come from?

This issue, Robby will REDEFINE the "Marvel Method" for all time! Off we go...
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Everything began with Marvel's early SCI-FI/FANTASY, TEEN ROMANCE, and COWBOY WESTERN comics...
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In the 1940 and 1950s, as you can see from the picture ABOVE, comic competition was fierce, and keeping ANY book going was a real challenge. The variety of titles and publishers was amazing! There are two Marvel titles, OUR LOVE and PATSY WALKER, alongside WORLD'S FINEST and SUPERBOY from DC Comics, CRIME DOES NOT PAY from Lev Gleason comics, HUMPHREY from Harvey Comics, and SMITTY, published by Dell Comics.

In 1959, the three top-selling books were:
(1) Uncle Scrooge, selling 1,040,543 copies a month, on average
(2) Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, selling 1,004,901 copies a month
(3) Superman, selling 810,000 copies a month.

Wow. Marvel didn't make the top 10, top 20 -- or even the top 30!

Marvel's top sellers in 1959:
(43) Tales to Astonish 163,156, copies a month.
(45) Tales of Suspense 148,929 copies a month
(46) Kid Colt Outlaw, 144,746 copies a month
(???) Millie The Model etc, Circulation information not available, but Millie would not have gotten TWO titles and several spin-offs if she wasn't popular!

Marvel's best-selling titles were two sci-fi/fantasies, a western and a romance! Soon, all that would change when the MARVEL SUPERHEROES arrived.

Check out the cover of the NATIONAL PERIODICAL PUBLICATIONS ANNUAL REPORT for 1962, pictured BELOW. At this time, NPP distributed all DC comics, as well as all Marvel comics! You can see MILLE THE MODEL at the bottom of the spinner, to the left of Superman.
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By 1965, DC's resurgent superhero titles were completely dominating the sales chart... but look who snuck in at number 16 and 19...

1965 - TOP TWENTY COMICS

(1) Batman, 898,470 copies sold in average month
(2) Superman, 719,976
(3) Superboy, 608,386
(4) Lois Lane, 530,808
(5) Jimmy Olsen, 523,455
(6) World's Finest, 513,201
(7) Archie, 491,691
(8) Action Comics, 491,135
(9) Adventure Comics, 481,234
(10) Justice League of America, 408,219
(11) Detective Comics, 404,339
(12) Metal Men, 396,506
(13) Treasure Chest, 348,305
(14) Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, 346,250
(15) Betty and Veronica, 342,295
(16) Amazing Spider-Man, 340,155
(17) Tarzan, 338,052
(18) Flintstones, 332,362
(19) Fantastic Four, 329,379
(20) Flash, 325,404

That's right, it's SPIDER-MAN and THE FANTASTIC FOUR, characters who were direct descendents of Marvel's old teen romance/fantasy sci-fi/western books! It's like this...
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Marvel's teen/romance titles. The ad below utilizes one of Marvel's standard house ad frames. It's an ad for MILLE THE MODEL and PATSY AND HEDY, but switch out the covers, and it could easily be an ad for an issue of the FF and SPIDER-MAN.
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Below, original artwork for a Marvel house ad featuring the company's romance characters. The spacing in the ad is odd, and the main piece of art shows cut lines around it, as though it had been cut out and plopped into the ad...
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...mainly because it HAD been cut out and plopped into the ad! The company used the exact same frame to promote its new superhero titles...
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As Marvel gradually shifted its line from genre titles to superhero stories, Editor/writer Stan Lee adapted many of the conventions that had been successful in Marvel's romance line. For example, Millie, Patsy and Toni had FASHION pages...
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...while the FF and Spidey had FEATURE pages!
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...Millie had summer party outfits, while Sue Storm (The Invisible Girl) modeled her fabulous FF uniform in a personally autographed ("loads of love!") full page pin-up.
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The models had their fashion accessories, Spidey had his webbing...
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If it worked for Millie, it also worked for Spidey, Thor, the Torch and Ant-Man!
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The teen rivalries and relationships that drove Marvel's romance titles were carried over into Marvel's superhero books, as seen in this panel from Amazing Spider-Man #3...
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The Fantastic Four liked to read other titles in Marvel's expanding line...
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...following in the footsteps of Chili, who once actually visited Stan Lee and colorist Stan Goldberg (Stan "G"), Millie's artist, in the Marvel comics offices...
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XNot to be outdone, Millie the Model actually tracked down Jack Kirby in Millie The Model #107, March 1962 (pictured LEFT).

Millie and her pals were constantly arguing, teenage-style, over clothes and fashions -- but mostly they fought over boys.

When Marvel started doing superhero comics, the teen-style romantic rivalries were translated into the superhero line. For example, the love triangle between Reed, Sue and Namor was a constant source of friction among members of the Fantastic Four...

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Overall, if it worked for the models, it would work for the Marvels...
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Many of Marvel's earliest stories featured menacing monsters...
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...and invading green aliens (below, Amazing Adult Fantasy #8).
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When Marvel shifted to superheroes, a few of these monster types stuck around during the transition period. The brute below menaced the FF...
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...while a few left-over aliens tangled with Spidey (in ASM #2)!
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Stan also adapted many of the story ideas he had previously used in Marvel's western titles, including the omni-present Marvel house ad frames...
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...and cover layouts. If it worked for the gun-slingers, it worked for the superheroes...
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Dramatic full-figure splash pages worked well for the Jack Kirby's western hero, The Rawhide Kid, and also for Steve Ditko's Amazing Spider-Man...
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Most of the Marvel super heroes, at least in terms of personality and adventures, are really just COWBOYS dressed up in superhero uniforms!
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In 1962, Marvel's publisher, Martin Goodman, heard about the success of DC's new super-team book, Brave and Bold #28, featuring the Justice League of America. Goodman told Stan Lee, and in November 1961, Stan and Jack Kirby created a NEW super-team book that combined elements of Marvel's ROMANCE, SCI-FI, MONSTER, and WESTERN comics. The book was called THE FANTASTIC FOUR! But absent alliteration, it might have been titled...
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The new "Fantastic Four" featured characters inspired by the PULPS (as covered in Dial B for BLOG #48), just like EVERY early Marvel superhero...
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Doc Savage #2 (March 1934), Fantastic Four #1 (1961). Hmmm...
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Of course, the pulps had been blending different genres for many years...
But Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were about to take the concept of mixing genres to a whole different level by combining FOUR major genres -- ROMANCE, SCI-FI, MONSTER, and WESTERNS -- into a single title.
The Marvel line-up for November 1961
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In the early 1960s, the Marvel line, edited by Stan Lee, featured stories written by Lee, his brother Larry Lieber, Ernie Hart, Robert Bernstein and Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. The company offered a mix of science fiction, monster, romance and western comics -- plus a new title: Fantastic Four #1, starring four characters, each of which represented a different GENRE.

REED's super science fiction came from Doc Savage, the monstrous THING came from the old monster stories, INVISIBLE GIRL came from the romance books, and the TORCH's personality came from the western gunslingers, with flame substituting for bullets. These four currents combined into the mighty river known as THE FANTASTIC FOUR.
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THEN, ALONG CAME...
Then, along came a book that blended all four genres into a SINGLE CHARACTER. Along came a teen who was a super scientist, who some viewed as a monster, who had romantic problems, and who was as quick on the draw as any gunslinger. Along came the TIDAL WAVE known as...
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With Marvel's line expanding, Stan Lee no longer had time to write out full scripts for stories (if he ever did). Instead, he created what has come to be known as THE MARVEL METHOD. Let's listen to THE MAN himself explain exactly how it happened, in a 1966 audio clip unearthed by Comic Historian Sean Howe...

STAN LEE EXPLAINS "THE MARVEL METHOD"

Stan Lee gave a speech at New Jersey's Princeton University in March 1966. During this talk, he explained the method by which Marvel comics were created. You can hear a 1 min. 47 sec. audio clip from the event by clicking the PLAY button. There's a full transcript of what Stan said below.
STAN LEE: "We don't work the same as other outfits. Normally, to answer your question, normally [unintelligible] newspapers. Well, the way we did it up 'til five years ago, the writer writes a script just as a playwright writes a play, then the playwright gives it to a director, who gives it to the producer. And the director will be the equivalent of the artist.

But we don't do it that way. We have what I think is a much better system -- that we stumbled into because of necessity! I marvel that everybody doesn't do this. I had been writing all the stories myself, and I just didn't have time.

If I was writing a story for Jack Kirby, Don Heck might be sitting on his hands, waiting to do something. And we're so -- our schedule is so tight, we can't afford to have Don be sitting around . And yet, I had to finish this story. So I said, 'Look Don, I can't give you a script, I've got another day's writing to do, because Jack needs it. But the next story would be Iron Man goes here, he does that, he meets that guy. You go ahead and draw it, draw it any way you can, I'll put the copy in later.'

Don went ahead and did it. And ah, his drawings were like a crossword puzzle, I didn't know what was going on. But anyway, I put the copy in. And I found, as I was doing it, it made it much more enjoyable. Because I wasn't looking at blank paper in a typewriter, but I was writing copy for people, for drawings that I was looking at, with expressions and actions. I felt carried away.

My wife said, 'What are you talkin' to yourself about? Writing out loud, singing out loud!' So that's the way we do it now. Now I give the artist a synopsis, and he draws the story himself. I have no idea what I'm going to get. Sometimes it comes out so far removed from what I'd expect."


Now, I'll show you how the "Marvel Method" works in practice, using a Spider-Man page by Steve Ditko. First, Ditko pencils the entire story, then he gives his penciled pages to Stan Lee. Pictured BELOW is an actual page penciled by Steve Ditko for ASM #38...
Next, Stan writes the captions, dialogue, and sound effects. Stan's words are then hand-lettered onto the page by a letterer, in this case Sam Rosen.
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...then the drawings are inked by Ditko, colored, and printed! When Ditko knew he was going to ink his own pencils, as he almost always did, he did the bulk of the work in the inking stage. Notice that in the second to last panel, Ditko altered the villain's helmet in the inking stage, removing the "wings," and modifying the mouth area.
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Back in the day, DC Comics created their stories using an assembly-line process that began with a full script spelling out the story's captions, dialogue, action and location in detail. This script was given to the penciler, who broke the action down into panels. At DC, the artists had little or nothing Xto do with the story's plot or dialogue.

As you heard Stan say earlier, THE MARVEL METHOD was different. At Marvel, Stan edited every title without a staff, "wrote" several himself, and he had no time to spare. Always pressed by deadlines, when Stan was "writing" a book, he eventually just gave the artist a basic outline of the plot, sometimes as little as a few words. It was then up to the artist to flesh out these words into a story, structure the action, and set the pacing.

Supposedly, this method allowed the artists a greater degree of freedom, liberating their imaginations to create the visually-centered stories that eventually made Marvel the number one comic company in the world. But that is not what actually happened.

If you look at Marvel's earliest superhero books, you'll see that they were NOT visually-centered! No artist was "liberated." Ditko was not "freed" to open his stories with splash pages -- he had been doing dramatic splash pages years before the so-called "Marvel Method" Xcame into existence. And Jack Kirby was not "freed" to do mind-blowing double splash pages -- he'd been doing that since his days with Joe Simon on Captain America, and before.

The truth is, the Marvel Method did NOT liberate or "modernize" comic artwork. That job was accomplished by visionaries such as Neal Adams and Jim Steranko. What the Marvel Method DID do was require the artists to create PLOTS. The so-called "Marvel Method," in reality, amounts to the artist creating the plot instead of the writer.

On the FF, Kirby expanded Lee's brief synopsis into ever-more-cosmic adventures, adding scenes and characters (such as the Silver Surfer) at will.

On Spider-Man, Steve Ditko eventually came up with the book's entire plot as well as doing the penciling and inking. Ditko did everything but the dialogue. Only that was Stan's.

Stan's fresh, irreverent dialogue was certainly a major reason why Marvel became mighty -- but it wasn't the only reason. There were other reasons. Two of the other reasons are named Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.


BELOW: Illustration from Ditko Public Service Package (1990).
So here's to the Marvel Method!

Old definition: Stan writes or says a brief synopsis, the artist draws the story based on Stan's synopsis, then Stan puts in dialogue. So Stan wrote the comic, and created whatever is in it.

New definition:
An artist opens a vein and pours out their life's blood onto a blank page, creating the characters and their world, the plot, pacing, and setting -- in short, creating ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. Then Stan Lee adds captions, sound effects and dialogue. That's the REAL definition of the Marvel Method: Stan wrote the words. And he certainly NEVER illustrated a single comic book story, ever, for Marvel of any other company. I can't even recall seeing one of his doodles! He is not an illustrator, he never has been, and he never will be.

By the way, all this is not meant as a slam on Stan Lee. I take nothing away from Stan. I love Stan! But I see Stan primarily as an Art Director. I also think Stan is perhaps the greatest marketing genius of the century, and I have enjoyed his bombastic personality greatly for many years. Comic fans, he's our ambassador to the outside world! But facts are facts.

And so, fearless ones, from now on, the NEW definition of the Marvel Method is this: The artist created everything, and Stan wrote the dialogue.

I repeat: The artist created everything, and Stan wrote the dialogue.

This TRUE FACT has been known among industry members and knowledgeable comic book fans for many years. But the general public is STILL not aware of it. This article has been posted because, with the Marvel superheroes poised to dominate the entertainment industry for decades to come, it's time the world knew it too!

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This one will have the
whole blog-o-sphere BUZZING!
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