Tony Television Special # 2
Because you demanded it! The Tony Television Network presents its most pulse-pounding TV movie event ever! The tantalizingly true tale of two of the titans of American comic books and their rip-roaring, mind-bending, and heartstring-tugging roller-coaster relationship! See the birth of a new American art form! Witness the struggle of two young dreamers to make it in the rough-and-tumble world of periodicals publishing! Thrill to the highs and lows of their tempestuous partnership! Face front, True Believers! This one has it all!
STAN AND JACK: THE EARLY YEARS
Starring “Torrid” Topher Grace as Stan Lee and “Dogged” Dominic Cooper as Jack Kirby, this all-star bio-pic opens in late 1930s New York City, as two young men who will change the face of American popular culture meet for the first time and begin working for the small publishing firm that will one day become Marvel Comics.
Jack Kirby, a talented self-taught artist struggling to get his young family out of the city’s infamous Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, is less than impressed when he first encounters young Stan Lee, the teenage gofer for Jack’s new boss, comics publisher Martin Goodman (David Hyde Pierce). However, although Goodman is his distant relative, Stan is determined to become a writer on his own merits, and uses his irrepressible enthusiasm to buddy up to both Jack and his partner Joe Simon (David Schwimmer).
The company finds its first success with a magazine called Marvel Comics, and its two main superhero features, “The Human Torch,” created by brash young Carl Burgos (Taylor Handley), and “Sub-Mariner,” by pipe-smoking pro Bill Everett (special appearance by Ben Affleck). This convinces Goodman to publish Simon and Kirby’s new strip, called Captain America, which is a smash hit. Due to a series of fortuitous coincidences, Stan quickly becomes the editor of Goodman’s comic book line. Meanwhile, Jack and Joe Simon are riding high on their newfound fame.
With the outbreak of World War II, Stan and Jack both volunteer for service, but their experiences could not be more different. While Jack is under heavy enemy fire on the wintry front lines of France, Stan remains in New Jersey writing Army training films. When the war ends, they return to their former jobs in the comic book industry, which is now booming. Stan soon marries a drop-dead gorgeous, British-born model named Joan (Alexis Bledel), who could not be more different from Jack’s forthright working-class wife Roz (Kristin Kreuk).
Through the booms and busts of the post-war period and into the 1950s, Stan hangs on to his job at Goodman’s company, first known as Timely and then as Atlas Comics. He builds a staff of talented pros, including his right-hand man, Sol Brodsky (Zach Braff), versatile Syd Shores (Josh Randall), and his star artist Joe Maneely (Ben McKenzie). Campbell Scott makes a special appearance as Stan’s friend Mickey Spillane, who considers a career in comics before deciding to write detective novels instead.
Jack, meanwhile, bounces around the industry as his fortunes rise and fall. A failed attempt to start their own company leads to the end of the Simon & Kirby partnership. Then, Jack’s hopes for a successful newspaper comic strip are wrecked by a double-dealing editor at National Comics, played by Cotter Smith. Times are hard all around, and Jack commiserates with fellow artist Gil Kane (special appearance by Alan Cumming). But through it all, Roz gives Jack her unflinching support.
In 1959, after a series of major setbacks, including Joe Maneely’s sudden death, Stan finds he must rebuild the company almost from scratch, and convinces Jack to come work for Marvel. They begin turning out imaginative “monster” comics that meet with moderate success, although they soon become dissatisfied with the stories’ repetitive and formulaic nature. However, Goodman continues to insist they follow industry trends and play it safe.
As the company regains its footing, Stan hires another talented artist, the reclusive Steve Ditko (Dustin Diamond), as well as illustrator Dick Ayers (Andy Richter), letterer Artie Simek (Steve Paymer), and even his own younger brother Larry Lieber (Justin Long). Freelance artists come and go, including Gene Colan (Matt Damon) and John Buscema (Kevin Smith), who make cameo appearances.
With the arrival of a sexy young secretary named Flo Steinberg (Jennifer Love Hewitt), the company settles into a comfortable routine, but Stan feels creatively frustrated and plans to quit the business. Jack also feels dissatisfied, as he comes to realize that Goodman is taking advantage of him, and all his promises to reward Jack’s talent go unfulfilled. He starts looking for a better gig.
Then, on a fateful day in 1961, Goodman plays a round of golf with the head of National Comics, Jack Liebowitz (John C. Reilly), who brags about the success he’s had lately with superhero comics, particularly his new title Justice League of America. Goodman immediately orders Stan to copy the idea and come up with a team of superheroes. Stan considers this the last straw, until his wife Joan convinces him he has nothing to lose by doing the new book in his own way.
Intrigued by the possibility of telling more complex stories with compelling characters, Stan meets with Jack, who is also excited to return to the superhero genre, where he always had his greatest success. In a marathon brainstorming session together, they hammer out the details of the new series; dream up, design, and name their cast of characters; and work out the exciting first adventure for The Fantastic Four.
As the first issue of their groundbreaking title hits the newsstands, both Stan and Jack, and their families, wait to see if their creative experiment is a success, or whether the comic book industry is truly a dead end. Then, when fan mail starts pouring in, the two creators realize they are on to something big, and the Marvel Age of Comics is born.
The Tony Age of Television is Here!
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