And lo, there shall be an ending!
Over the past two weeks, I’ve shared scans from a folder of Marvel Comics character write-ups I found in 1975 wedged between drawers in a Bullpen file cabinet. They all included suggestions for which celebrities you should think of when reading the word balloons belonging to your favorite superheroes. One set (the X-Men) I published in an issue of FOOM, the others (Captain America, Thor, the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Spider-Man, and Iron Man) went unseen until I posted them on this blog.
Now here comes the final such write-up, on the Fantastic Four.
But before you click through to check it out, pause for a moment and try to imagine—who did Marvel think Reed Richards was supposed to sound like? And how about Ben Grimm and the rest? Got a name? OK, then go for it!
Did you come close? Whether you did or not, I’m sure you’re wondering—who wrote these? And why?
Because of the clues contained in these sheets, I was fairly certain they could not have been written any later than 1965, and therefore there were few possible culprits. I suspected Stan Lee, though my Bullpen peers offered up a few other names, such as Stan’s brother, Larry Leiber, or Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel, who worked briefly for Marvel in the early days.
But why merely speculate, you might ask? Why not reach out to Stan himself?
And that’s exactly what I did.
Luckily, “The Man” is Internet-savvy, and I (to my great surprise) heard back within hours of shooting him a query.
Here’s what he had to say:
I THINK I wrote it. It looks like my typing. But I can’t swear to it. Did you ask Roy Thomas? He’s better at recognizing stuff than I am.
I just wouldn’t wanna testify to something that I’m not sure of. I’d say there’s a 75% chance that I wrote it.
So what did “Rascally” Roy have to add to that?
That’s good enough for me. I put the odds at anyone else writing at one out of ten, at best… probably closer to 1 out of 100.
But that still doesn’t answer the question—why were these written?
My best guess—based on a) when and where these were found, b) when I thought they were written according to clues within the character timelines, and c) which characters were chosen—was that these couldn’t have been put together any later than 1965, which would be in sync with them having been either guides or sales sheets relating to the 1966 Marvel Super Heroes cartoon show.
I still get goose bumps from that immortal theme song.
I asked Stan whether there was a connection between these write-ups and that series, and if there was wasn’t, what other reason he might have had for writing them. And he said:
Sorry, Scott, your guess is as good as (probably better) than mine.
There you have it. I’m not 100% sure that my guess is correct … but I’m confident. And unless someone goes through the files of the defunct Grantray-Lawrence Animation, the company that assembled the series, and finds a smoking gun in the form of its own copies of these, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know for sure. Take it all with whatever size grain of salt you deem necessary.
And, as always—Excelsior!