Recently, I was tagged in yet another discussion in a private Facebook group about Marvel Comics original artwork. These discussions usually rehash what is known and what is imagined about the large body of Marvel original art drawn by Jack Kirby. They include what is publicly known about legal cases, return of art to artists, quotes from documents, speculations, rumors, gossip, and more.
I commented that people are all too quick to assert that any Marvel original artwork was stolen if it happened to be published prior to 1974 cover dates. I worked for Marvel Comics starting in 1974, and I was the first person there tasked with the official return of original artwork to artists and writers. The returns were done by a formula that divided up the pages among the penciler, the inker, and the writer. Those pages were rubber stamped on the back, with a date added, and the recipients had to return a signed acknowledgment.
However, before 1974, there were some artists who received their original art back from Marvel via other arrangements, arrangements to which I was never privy because I didn’t work at Marvel at the time. Some artists got their originals back and everybody knew it, such as Jim Steranko. He was no longer drawing for Marvel by the time I worked there. There may have been others.
As part of the Facebook group discussion, someone linked to this article:
The Stolen Art
by and © Glen Gold
From Jack Kirby Collector #19 that appears online from Two Morrows Publishing.
I don’t know Glen Gold and I never heard of him being around fandom or the comics business at the time I was, in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. His summary of the original art story seems to be mostly correct until he gets to a paragraph that takes a bold swipe at the accuracy of the inventory I did for Marvel in 1976.
Glen Gold says,
“[S]everal people inform me that the master list was wildly inaccurate. If it said, for instance, that an envelope contained 22 pages of X-Men #4, it might not really have that at all.”
This is completely wrong.
The master list I created catalogued every piece of original art in the Marvel Comics warehouse at the time. Every package was opened and the pages were identified and counted. I say “package,” because the art was not returned to Marvel in envelopes, but in brown paper simply wrapped around the art and then taped shut, the title of the comic and the issue number scrawled on the front. No page count. Sometimes, pages from other comics were casually tossed into those packages, too.
As a key part of the inventory, the original art was removed from every package, identified and counted, and put in a fresh, actual envelope properly labeled with what was inside.
So, if an envelope ever existed that was labeled “X-Men #4, 22 pages,” that would be because when that art was put in that envelope, there were in fact 22 pages of X-Men #4 in the envelope. Not 15 pages, or 3 pages, or pages from any other comic.
What happened next to those pages I cannot attest to, because once the original art was not my responsibility, other people did whatever they did. But I can and do say that my master list, my inventory, was 100% accurate on the day it was done, and for some considerable time—nearly four years—afterward, until I gave up being responsible for the Marvel Comics warehouse.
The story of what later became of the Marvel Comics original art that I inventoried is wild enough without people making stuff up or believing any implausible bit of gossip, especially gossip repeated by people who were not there at the time.