Stan Lee UniverseThe Stan Lee Universe Magazine

Sept. 2011. By Danny Fingeroth, Roy Thomas. Two Morrows.
Softcover: 176 pgs. $26.95.
Hard Bound: 192 pgs. $39.95. [net]
The correspondence between Richard Corben and Stan Lee printed in the book (starting from pg 119). See preview (PDF, 10 Mb).

Letters themselves:

Corben's letter and proposal to Stan Lee (August 28, 1972):

"Dear Stan,

I did like you said and thought very much about what you said on the phone August 17. I'm sending along my thoughts about a new comic which I could do and be published by Marvel. It would be sort of a 'missing link' between regular comics and underground comics. It would be for mature readers and look completely different from anything you've ever published. I've gathered my ideas under several subject headings, such as Physical Description, Editorial Control, Advertising, Production Schedule, and Ownership. I bet you thought I merely wanted control over the story and art content. As editor, I have something to say about every aspect of my books. Most of what I discuss concerns the 1st issue of one title.

I seem to remember we agreed that my remote location ruled out the possibility of me editing a whole line of books. Also, such a step would be premature since we are comparitively unknown to each other. Undoubtedly, the following pages will discourage your ideas about working with me, but at least you'll know where I stand. I've found that the planning of this tenative book has helped me in finding what my goals really are concerning comic books, and I thank you for the motivation.

Richard V. Corben

Exploring the Possibilities of a Corben-Marvel Book

The following paragraphs discuss several aspects of a proposed comic book to be done by Richard Corben and published by Marvel Comics Group. Although it would be related to the established comic form and the underground comics, I want it to look and be different in some ways. It would be aimed at an audience of young adults over 16. To borrow the movie rating system, it would contain material ranging from PG to X but done in accordance with my ideas of good taste. It would be competing somewhat with undergrounds and not at all with regular comics. I wish to create as attractive a package as possible and sell in the 50 cents to a dollar range. The book will also be related to the Warren hybrid because I want to have slick, high quality covers and printing.

1. A Physical Description

This book will be regular comic book size, 7" x 10", and 36 pages counting covers. The covers will be on slick coated paper and I want the highest quality printing possible here. It will be my choice of 4 color process or hand made color separations and will have 150 line screens. The interior paper has to be a finer grade than you are using now. Even the underground comics beat you on interior printing quality. They regularly use zipatone screens reduced to an equivalent of 85 to 120 lines per inch. I also have seen ads printed on a finer grade of newsprint in 4 color process using 133 line screens. The result is brilliant compared to the average color comic. So, I require high quality color printing on the interior of the new book with at least 85 line screens. The interior color will be all hand made color separations done by me. I've had some experience with this kind of color work in the underground comics. I'll send you a copy of FANTAGOR 3 when it comes out to give you an idea of how I work with color.

2. Editorial Control and Direction

I wish to have control or a voice in all aspects of the book's contents and production. Of the 1st issue, I'll do the covers, create a host, write the stories or get a writer of my choice, do all the art (with the possible exception of the lettering), and limit the number and placement of advertising pages. I'll do all hand color separations and allow you to provide color separations of my full color art in the case of 4 color process. The host will be compatible to the books theme and will probably be semi humorous. The host will introduce the book; he may or may not introduce, narrate or make comments on the stories. If there happened to be a second issue, I might want to invite another contributor to be in the book and there might be a page for letters. You would make no changes in the art or writing without consulting me. Examples of people I would invite are Vaughn Bode, Jeff Jones, Greg Irons, Jaxon, Wally Wood, Alex Toth and many more.

The book's themselves will be a mixture of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Stories may be straight, humorous, ironic or satirical. I'd like to do adaptations of short stories of known writers such as Ray Bradbury, Phil Farmer, Robert Heinlien [sic; Heinlein], Harlan Ellison, H. P. Lovecraft, C. A. Smith, R. Block [sic; Bloch], etc. This would be a big plus factor with our mature audience. I would do the adaptions and decide the length of the stories. I'm trying to push my book, FANTAGOR, in this direction too; so there would probably be a family resemblance between FANTAGOR and this new book. The difference between them would be better paper, better printing and better distribution on the side of the new book.

On the cover, I'd strive for a better organized uncluttered look in contrast to kids comics. There would be a strong title logo, a full bleed illustration taken from an interior story scene, the issue number, the price, the 'Adults Only' disclaimer, a publishers seal, and that's all. No balloons, no captions, no repeat of the title in the corner, and everything but the title and illustration would be subdued and designed so that the emphasis is where it belongs.

It occurred to me that some of the most important points in this pre-proposal concern the extremness of adult material and how far removed will this book be from the comics code acceptance; so, I've gone over the code and I generally approve of it for children's books. The book we are contemplating is not a children's book and won't be subject to the Comics Code. I reserve the right to show complete nudity and suggest sexual activity. I probably won't show 'intercourse of organs' as Warren once put it. There will be slang and profanity where necessary. I'll have no restrictions on violence or gore and I'll make my moral points regardless of respected institutions.

3. Advertising

The front cover, the back cover, and the inside covers will not have advertising. There will be no more than 4 pages of interior advertising. The choice of advertisers should be compatible with the book's mature content and audience. Uncluttered good design should be encouraged in the ads and their placement will not interrupt the stories but be inbetween the stories.

4. The Production Schedule

Production will be started after we agree on all other conditions. I'll decide on the deadline and it will undoubtedly be longer than any you're used to. I'll write or control the writing myself. The first things you'll get from me are the rough story breakdowns which will include panels, dialog and captions. Included with this will be sketches for the covers and inside covers. After you approve of these, I'll proceed with the final art. In the course of production, I'll have some camera work done on the covers and a sampling of the interior pages. Color key proofs will be make and sent to you with all the final art. After you accept the art, I'll expect payment for the book. You won't do any editing or story switching or break up the book in any way. You will schedule the book for the earliest possible publication. All artwork will be my property and returned to me after publication. The art will be copyrighted in my name. In the case of a contributor other than me, the copyright will be in their name. All characters and names invented by me for the book will be mine. The books title will be copyrighted jointly by Marvel and me with an agreement that neither will use the title without permission of the other.

In the event that this outline is completely unacceptable, you wish to go ahead with your own adult comic book, and you want a contribution from me, I'd like to know what your book's stand is on each of the subjects I've touched.

Richard V. Corben"


Stan Lee's reply (September 7, 1972):

"Dear Dick,

I appreciate the letter you sent me with all its information, terms, conditions and miscellaneous in-depth data. I've read it a few times, studied it carefully and unfortunately -- as I'm sure you expected -- can't find any realistic basis on which we can proceed any further.

While we try to give as much freedom of expression as possible to the people who work for us, we have always felt that the ultimate responsibility and authority for what is done under the banner of Marvel can only rest with Marvel's publisher.

I'm still as much of an admirer of your work as ever and I would like to close with the hope that we might be able to come to terms sometime in the future.

Stan Lee

Copyright © 2012 Heart-Attack-Series, Ink!,
Created: November 24, 2012. Modified: November 9, 2014.