Face Front, True Believers: Listen To Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s 1965 Message To The Fans

Hear The Voices of Marvel, a rare recording only available to members of the Merry Marvel Marching Society.

I was born too late. As a boy I would read old comics - this was before the comic speculation boom and you could still get old copies of Marvel comics for pennies - and be fascinated by the ads for the Marvel fan clubs - the Merry Marvel Marching Society (MMMS) or Friends Of Ol' Marvel (FOOM). Members got pins and certificates and other cool pieces of ephemeral junk - and they also got a record. 

Called The Voice of Marvel this 45 featured the legendary staff of the Marvel Bullpen during the earliest years of the creation of the legacy we all take for granted today. This was a time when fans and creators didn't have direct contact, and Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and the rest of the Bullpen putting their voices on record - and making in-jokes and taking tartly funny swipes at the readership - was revelatory. Even today, in a world where comic creators (and Stan Lee himself) talk back to us on Twitter this recording has a certain power.

There's a lot of fun stuff in here, not the least of which is the dialect; most of these staffers speak in a New Yawk accent that's all but gone today. Listen to Flo Steinberg and understand the sound of my youth. The banter - clearly written, and not always well performed - is wonderful, and it highlights the genius of early Marvel, giving everybody their own personality. Prickly Jack Kirby threatens to draw Sue Storm bald if the fans don't like her latest hairdo (and by the way, this should be the voice of The Thing), Steve Ditko doesn't show up for the recording, Stan Lee has a terrible memory (which is why continuity is so bad), Wally Wood rambles on. Don Heck, Dick Ayers, Sam Rosen show up as well... although Stan's brother Larry Leiber gets pointedly left off the recording.

This really sums up what I always loved about Marvel Comics as a kid; it wasn't just the adventures of the heroes (although I loved those too), it was also the personalities that came through in the Bullpen Bulletins, the pictures of softball teams and tales of wacky Marvel hijinks. Sure, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story recontextualized that, but listening to this record reminds me how great it was before we knew everything about all our favorite creators. That was as much of a lovely fantasy as the comics themselves.

Side note: Man, I love fan clubs.