"Early Sales Reports"???

By | Friday, November 08, 2013 2 comments
OK, so The Comic Journal has this piece looking at some old letters from the early days of Marvel Comics. The link's made the rounds; I trust you've read it by now.

But I just noticed something that points to Stan Lee as a bullshit artist from Day One. Check out this letter to Jerry Bails from August 25, 1961...
This was written three weeks after Fantastic Four #1 first hit the stands. Given the lead time comic book production takes, issue #2 was probably done and #3 (when the characters' costumes debuted) was just starting to be worked on. So, Stan's thinking at least one issue beyond that when he mentions the Sub-Mariner. Definitely interesting, but no big revelations there.

Here's what catches my eye. Stan says, "judging by our early sales records, I think we have a winner on our hands." Early sales records? In 1961, at a time when comic book distribution and record-keeping was haphazard at best (I've personally found release dates for FF #1 ranging from August 3 to August 9) and publishing decisions weren't made until three months after an issue came out because the data influx was so slow, Stan is claiming to have early sales records? What newsstand was keeping meticulous enough records that they could have any sort of report back to Indpendent News and have them report back to Stan in a matter of weeks?

That line can only come from one of two things. Either Stan is making this up wholecloth or, if you're feeling more forgiving, the handful of copies at one newsstand where Stan picked up his copy of the New York Times sold out.

For years, I've been of the opinion that Stan was mostly just an opportunist who was savvy enough to take advantage of the media hype that Marvel found itself immersed in. He played to an audience because of the egoboo, and things kind of got out of hand, but he rolled with it anyway. But seeing this, I can't help but think he's been bullshitting everyone about everything since he first started working at Timely. Makes me really wonder about how Joe Simon and Jack Kirby really got fired in the early 1940s, or what really happened to cause the Atlas implosion of 1957.

Stan Lee: Bullshitting everyone since before he was even "Stan Lee."
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Matt K said...


I'm pretty sure he also fixed at least two World Series, sold The Bomb to the Soviets, and masterminded the Warren Commission cover-up from behind the scenes.

I think he was regularly stealing people's lunch at the Bullpen and blaming Ditko for it, too. For, like, years. Oh, and he completely made up most of his remarks in Mallrats, including a Spider-Man scene that never appeared in any comic book that he or anyone else wrote! The nerve of the man!

Truly there is no low to which that fiend has not stooped.

Anonymous said...

In the newstand era sales data would dribble in over six months. I think you're making a common mistake in believing that sales info arrived in one big block months after the comic is released. Fragmentary information from distributors would arrive in bits and pieces and some arrived quite quickly. I've seen Jim Shooter refer to these as 'flash reports'. So Lee may have had indications that FF was doing well within the first month of its release.

PS: Lay off the Lee hate. It makes you look like a stupid, ignorant buffoon.