I suppose I shouldn't be the one to start this thread. After all, I never bought nor read any of Joe Maneely's work while he was alive, and the only thing that I did know was his work on The Black Knight.
Stan Lee has said as recently as 2000 that had Joe Maneely lived beyond the tragic train accident that took his life in June 1958, that he would have become another Jack Kirby. By that, I take it that Lee meant his speed and skill at rendering all kinds of images, genre and stories would have put him in the top rank of Marvel Comics artists... along side Kirby and Ditko.
However, one has to ask, had Maneely NOT died when he did, would Jack Kirby have been as prolific or well-known as he has become? Would there have been room for three at the top? Would it have been "the house that Stan and Joe and Jack and Steve built" instead of "The House that Stan and Jack built"?
This may be heracy to question if Kirby was the best, or if Ditko was Lee's favorite, but in hind sight, the question may have been, how many artists would the struggling industry and Atlas comics have been able to support?
I think it's a reasonable question... and I welcome any other experts or fans of the Atlas era who are familiar with any of the big three artists to weigh in on this.
I'm no expert but from the Joe Maneely stories I've seen, he was more realistic than Kirby or Ditko and more of a classic illustrater. I don't know if it's heresy to ponder on what Marvel could have been had he lived but I could see him drawing Iron Man or The X-Men. Definitely SHIELD and Sgt. Fury. Possibly Daredevil or Doctor Strange.
Yes, but could he "create" and "write" ?
1957 was the year of the great cut-back of the Marvel line, due to publisher Martin Goodman's distribution problems. In 1958 Marvel only published eight titles a month.
I did a search at the GCD to see what Kirby drew for Marvel in the period before Maneely's death. Apparently Kirby started working for Marvel again in 1956 (after the end of his partnership with Joe Simon). From the period before Marvel's cut-back the GCD found for me a short war story and two short sensation mystery(1) stories from 1956; Kirby's run on Yellow Claw ##2-4 in 1956-57; two short westerns in 1957; and Black Rider #1 from 1957, which apparently featured a remodelled version of the title character, a masked western hero (the previous version wore a mask on the lower half of his face and a cape, this version wore a domino mask and no cape).
The GCD didn't find any Kirby stories from 1957 after the cut-back.(2) From the first half of 1958 it only lists one, a "Black Rider" story in Gunsmoke Western. I think that was likely left over from the previous year. (Two more Kirby "Black Rider" stories appeared as filler subsequently. I would guess the three were prepared for an unpublished Black Rider #2.) The next Kirby work it found was from Strange Worlds #1 (cover-dated Dec., the cover and a story), World of Fantasy #15 (same date, the cover only), and Tales to Astonish #1 (cover-dated Jan. 1959, the cover and a story).
My first thought was that this implies if Maneely had not died Kirby would have done less work for the company as it wouldn't have had as much work to give him. However, in 1958-59 Kirby was still doing work for DC, including "Green Arrow" and Challengers of the Unknown. It may be he could have gotten more work from Marvel in 1958, but didn't want it. (DC was regarded as the industry leader, so it's plausible he preferred doing work for DC.) In 1959 he stopped being able to get work at DC due his falling out with Jack Schiff over the newspaper strip Sky Masters.
It's possible the GCD search I tried didn't catch everything Kirby did for Marvel from the period I was looking at.
(1) I've taken this term from DC's 1952-53 title Sensation Mystery. It seems to me one can't quite call the strange-and-sensational-premise stories of the era horror stories, and I don't like calling them "mystery" tales (because that's potentially confusing). I've not read these two tales; they appeared in Astonishing #56 and Strange Tales of the Unusual #7.
(2) It does list him as perhaps having done alterations for the cover of My Own Romance #62 (the cover has a background figure which looks like Kirby's work), which was cover-dated for Mar. 1958, but appeared in 1957.
Tonight as I'm flipping channels, I see a replay of the classic Twilight Zone episode "Willowby" on one of the satellite channels.
It got me thinking about how similar the story elements are to the untimely death of Joe Maneely. Not that he was hen pecked, nor implying that everything is the same... but the fact that a man riding a train might have fallen to his death...sheesh....It's enough to give me the willies....
I'm still not clear when people say that he had been in the city all day, and had lost his glasses, if that means that his vision was fuzzy enough to be a contributing factor in the slip between train cars, or if the fact that they had been drinking earlier in the day.... I just haven't had it all put into perspective for me by someone who was there at the time. I don't know what to think yet.
If you ever get a chance, see the film IVANHOE, with Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine, and George Sanders (BOO! HISS!). You'd swear that the bulk of the Joe Maneely BLACK KNIGHT comic-book series was a blatent swipe of that movie.
Crap, I misspelled it and got the full title of the episode wrong..."A Stop at Willoughby"