Fantastic Four: TWGCM >> View Thread

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Chris Tolworthy


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 3,423


You may not like the title. Sorry guys, but after writing the book this was the only thing I could possibly call it:

http://zak-site.com/Case_Against_Stan_Lee.pdf

Since the late 1990s I've had a rather large FF web site. But I haven't added much over the past couple of years. The reason is, the more I focus on the things I love about the FF, the more I realise that what I REALLY like is Jack Kirby's FF. And I see the story continuing in his other work (the FF is the Challengers, and I think the characters continue in his later books, with changes just for legal reasons)

I love the FF stories where Kirby was involved. And I hated the changes that Lee made as soon as he was solo writer: immediately getting rid of Crystal; making Sue weaker; replacing change with the illusion of change so Franklin would never grow up, or do anything interesting; recycling old plots - Galactus, creature from the lost lagoon, etc... I admit that I am hopelessly biased, but for my tastes, everything that Kirby added made the team wonderful and exciting and ground breaking and just amazing. And for me, everything Lee added, for me, went the other way.

I feel like a real heel just writing that. A party pooper. After all, isn't Stan Lee at the heart of what makes comics silly fun? Maybe I'm just too serious. But I love Kirby's sense of humour, I love his dialog in his own comics (it's a real change of gears but when I "got it" I never wanted to go back to Lee's style). Lee just doesn't do it for me.

Anyway, click the link at your own risk! If you can get past my obvious negativity toward Lee, hopefully you'll find some interesting stuff. And if nothing else, maybe it's a warning to future generations, not to take comics too seriously.

PDF version (recommended):
http://zak-site.com/Case_Against_Stan_Lee.pdf

web version (if you have a slow Internet connection): http://zak-site.com/CaseAgainstStanLee.html

Thanks for reading!




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Count Dante


Location: Ad Pages in Old Comics
Member Since: Wed Aug 21, 2013
Posts: 3,215


My immediate suggestion is to change the title to "The Case FOR Jack Kirby" - which is more positive. \:\)

That said, I will read this large work and enjoy it. Are you looking for feedback and discussion on your assertions?






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Richard


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 1,550



Won't have time to read this for a while, Chris, but looking forward to it... your devotion to the title is hugely commendable.



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Chris Tolworthy


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 3,423


You're right about the title. I was just feeling click baity. \:\) My original plan was to write a book about Kirby's writing, and that's still my goal. This is just a sort of prequel.

Actually, part of the reason for writing a "case against" is that I am surprised that nobody has done so before. We have the "Lee did everything" book (Origins of Marvel Comics) so it seems fitting to have a "Lee did nothing" book. My current feelings are very negative to him, but my feelings have changed in the past, so they could do so again.

And I know that, while we humans like to pretend we are rational, we really are not. I currently don't like Lee for emotional reasons: I happen to love everything Kirby did. So changing Kirby's work is an unforgivable crime! And since I think Lee's changes are worthless, that means Lee cannot be called a writer, so that makes him a liar and cheat for taking the writing money. But obviously if I preferred Lee's writing to Kirby's then changing Kirby's writing would not be a crime, it would be a great service to mankind, and Lee would deserve every penny.



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Count Dante


Location: Ad Pages in Old Comics
Member Since: Wed Aug 21, 2013
Posts: 3,215


Fair enough. I’ve never been very enamored with Lee either, but I am not sure we can say that Lee did nothing. He absolutely did something. The endless debate is exactly who did what, but it will probably be debated eternally. However, whether one likes Lee or not, he undoubtedly will go down as a major figure in comic book history. I have heard good arguments in favor of Lee’s role and contributions.

But I have great fondness for creators of the magnitude of Kirby. He still is the creator I judge all others against. I have come to the conclusion that there existed a certain synergy between Lee and Kirby that was rare. Were they the Lennon and McCartney of comics? Maybe, maybe not. And more importantly, which one was Paul? I guess that depends on a variety of subjective issues.

Proving Kirby was a great writer? And that he was a superior writer to Lee? That will be an interesting and possibly challenging case to make. I look forward to reading your arguments. That is a complex undertaking to be sure!






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Ancient One

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Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,680


Wow. I hardly know where to begin with this.

Let me start by congratulating you on such an incredibly detailed analysis. Truly worthy of praise.

Also, worthy of criticism, and far more detailed criticism than I'll go into here. But I feel some of the issues have to be addressed. So here goes:

1) "In June 1957 the American News Company ceased trading, leaving Goodman with no way to get his 85 comics per month into 15 the shops".

Where did you come up with that number? Marvel/Atlas never put out more than around 40 titles per month at any time during the 40's and 50's. A trivial point, perhaps, but such a glaring error right off the bat did give me pause, and wonder if it was worth continuing reading.

2) Your point about the Invisible Girl's cover dialogue being misleading is another triviality. The copy indicates she's in danger, and that's a great 'hook', just what you need for the cover of a first issue. And in terms of the narrative, what difference if she can become invisible instantly, or if it takes her a week? Invisibility isn't going to solve the problem that she's in the grip of a giant monster. And a cave-dweller to boot, whose eyesight probably isn't that great.

3) Attacking Marvel comics for the quality of their adverts is a nonsense, and a red herring. If you were talking about comics in general, fair enough. But you use it in a piece attacking Stan Lee personally, the implication being that Lee was responsible, or at least complicit in deception. Also implied is that only Marvel would consider running such ads, but nothing could be further from the truth. Superman #148, published the same month as FF #1 carries a bodybuilding ad making similar claims, and EXACTLY THE SAME ad from the 'Wallace Brown Company' claiming large cash incomes.

4) "Whether or not Lee was doing this in 1961, he certainly did it in later years. When Lee finally left comics in 1972, “Stan Lee presents” was written at the top of thousands of comics that Lee never even read, let alone created. Today Lee’s name is on movies that he almost
certainly had no hand in creating".

Lee didn't leave comics in 1972. He stopped writing them that year when he was promoted to publisher. Between 1972 and 1979 Lee was indeed 'presenting' the stories in Marvel Comics. But no claim of authorship was ever made. Indeed, the writers' names were clearly given in the credit boxes.

As to the movies, Lee is credited as executive producer. This is a catch-all title given to many people with many different interests in the film. By the same token, Michael Uslan's name appears on every Batman film by virtue of a technicality, even though he has absolutely nothing to do with the creative process of any of them.

5) "Perhaps we could argue that “all comics had bad dialog back then.” But that isn’t true. Look at the comics where Kirby wrote the dialog, like Sky masters for example. Here’s a Kirby villain with Kirby dialogue".

Kirby didn't dialogue that Sky Masters strip. It was written by Dave Wood. Nor did he write the story from Young Romance you cite. The author is unknown, but it's clearly not Kirby.

6) Did Lee, or someone working for him, white out artists credits prior to publication? I can't say for certain that it NEVER happened, but it definitely didn't happen in the case you present, the splash page of 'A Martian Walks Among Us', from Strange Tales #78. Attached is the finished splash as published and as you can see, the credits are intact. Whoever whited out the credits on the original art did so AFTER publication.

There's a lot more I want to get to, but I don't have time right now.

I'll continue my critique later this evening when I get home from work.


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Ancient One

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1) "But the “equitorial” typo is not like that. A letterer just copies, he does not check grammar or spelling".

Seriously? Part of your case is that letterers are illiterate?

In an incident like the 'Bob Banner' one, yes, I'd be 90% certain that it was down to the writer. Letterers go from book to book and my not know what all the characters' names are. But in the case of simple mis-spellings (And in the Super-Man case), it could have been anyone. Writer, artist/plotter or letter. Definitively pinning the blame on Lee for typos comes across as a rather cynical attempt to apportion every single piece of blame for every single thing that can possibly go wrong in the production process on one man.

Page 15 is printed upside down? It's Lee's fault. If he'd only put arrows on the page!!! Staples off center? If only Lee had hired a better printer... and so on.

2) "The final two panels break a principle of good design (known as the “180 degree rule” in cinematography): a character who is on the left in one shot should not be on the right in the next shot as if the camera has flipped over".

Even if Lee HAD edited the scene that way, it doesn't make any difference to the narrative. And again, pinning the blame definitively on Lee is impossible. You even unwittingly provide an example of Kirby himself committing the same 'error' later in your paper (See attachment 2). And you can't blame Lee at all for that one. He had nothing to do with Captain Victory.

3)"Iron Man is clearly based on an earlier Kirby character, Metallo, in Action Comics 252".

Kirby didn't create Metallo. That was Robert Bernstein and Al Plastino. And they created him in 1959, a time when Kirby couldn't and wouldn't work for DC due to the Sky Masters conflict.

4) The creation of the X-Men.

Going by your assessments of the creation of Fantastic Four and Hulk, you seem to be seeing the creative process between Lee and Kirby as: Lee would say 'Give me a new book'. Kirby would then go off and create the story and pencils singlehanded, and Lee would merely dialogue and edit. And you seem to imply strongly they used the same method on X-Men. If so then your whole piece comes across as self contradictory, and nothing more than another hatchet job on Lee.

You claim Kirby had no need to swipe ideas from competitors, and I'd fully agree with that. You make the claim that Kirby took his ideas for a team of mutants from earlier stories he'd done. Okay, all well and good. But then you also claim that Lee probably swiped the ideas for X-Men from DC's Doom Patrol and fed those ideas to Kirby. Which makes no sense. How could Lee possibly do that if Kirby was presenting him with practically finished books?

So EITHER Lee created X-Men and Kirby worked out the details, OR Kirby created X-Men based on his own ideas, and Lee is not guilty of plagiarism. It has to be either one or the other but Again, you seem hell bent on attributing everything good to Kirby and everything bad to Lee, no matter how implausible or impossible the scenario. And as there's not one scrap of solid evidence for anything you assert in this chapter, the whole exercise appears to be nothing more than character assassination.

5) "When working for Lee, Kirby and Ayers (his frequent inker) tried to put their names very discretely on the cover and the splash page, but as noted before, Lee had their names painted over. Lee occasionally let a cover signature pass, until the month before Fantastic Four was released (covers dated October 1961). From that point Lee never allowed cover signatures again. Probably the last example of a cover signature before the ban is from Rawhide Kid 122".

This simply isn't true. Attached is the cover to Two-Gun Kid #67, from 1964, with Kirby and Ayers' signatures clearly in evidence. Artists like Al Hartley and Stan Goldberg signed practically every cover they did - or a good many of them at any rate. Don Heck's signature is on Tales to Astonish #49, and Ditko's is on Amazing Spider-Man #9, amongst others. We seem to be getting deeper into the realms of conspiracy theory as we go along.


Okay, so it's late, and I need to get some sleep.

More tomorrow.


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Chris Tolworthy


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 3,423


Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. Much appreciated. I'm making a revised version that will fix a lot of these problems, and be a little less angry' \:\) Hopefully get that done tomorrow.



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Ancient One

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Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,680



    Quote:
    Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. Much appreciated. I'm making a revised version that will fix a lot of these problems, and be a little less angry' \:\) Hopefully get that done tomorrow.


Cool. That's kinda what I was hoping for. I think Count Dante's suggestion s an excellent one, changing it to 'The Case For Jack Kirby'.

Check your PM's.


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Count Dante


Location: Ad Pages in Old Comics
Member Since: Wed Aug 21, 2013
Posts: 3,215


Page 33:

You state:

Strong, independent women are generally considered a sign of good writing. Or at least modern writing.

Being progressive or feminist has nothing to do with the quality of one's writing.  A sexist pig can be an excellent writer - but perhaps an awful person. 

I think you could say it is a sign of "modern thinking" in context to the era Kirby created it in. But that doesn't make Kirby or anyone else who thinks this way a good writer. 

The truth is, sex sells, and Lee, regardless of what we may think of him, was a talented marketer on some level.  Kirby portrayed women as strong, but Lee liked them feminine - and so did a lot of comic readers, who, at the time, were mostly male.  Together, Lee and Kirby eventually achieved a balance between both traits I believe.

Was Lee really a writer?  Perhaps.  I always thought of him as a clever editor. A polisher.  His super-power may have been his ability to tweak things to make them resonate with readers.  One would really need to analyze something he both created and wrote to get a sense of how good or not Lee was as a writer. To write is to create - and Kirby was a rich mine of creativity.  But Kirby could be a bit raw too - and Lee's diamond cutting and polishing skills certainly contributed to success in that time. 

Do we know which comics Lee wrote solo? That would be interesting to analyze.  Creating from scratch a far cry from modifying other's works.






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Grey Gargoyle


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 10,062



    Quote:
    I feel like a real heel just writing that. A party pooper. After all, isn't Stan Lee at the heart of what makes comics silly fun? Maybe I'm just too serious.


No, there is absolutely no doubt that Stan Lee & Marvel Comics did everything in their power to prevent their pencillers from getting any intellectual property right.

After all, Stan Lee was the editor-in-chief, then the publisher, chairman, chairman emeritus and member of the editorial board.

Even nowadays, he is executive producer of most Marvel movies.



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Ancient One

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    Quote:
    No, there is absolutely no doubt that Stan Lee & Marvel Comics did everything in their power to prevent their pencillers from getting any intellectual property right.



    Quote:
    After all, Stan Lee was the editor-in-chief, then the publisher, chairman, chairman emeritus and member of the editorial board.


Stan has never been in he position to grant rights to creators. As you say, he's been EIC, President and Publisher, but he's never OWNED the company.

From 1939 to 1968 the only man with the power to give creators their copyrights - or a portion of them - back was Martin Goodman. When Goodman sold his business to Cadence in '68 the copyrights passed to them, and to their successors. Even as President, Stan always had a board of directors above him and it was they who dictated company policy.




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Grey Gargoyle


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 10,062



    Quote:
    Stan has never been in he position to grant rights to creators. As you say, he's been EIC, President and Publisher, but he's never OWNED the company.

    From 1939 to 1968 the only man with the power to give creators their copyrights - or a portion of them - back was Martin Goodman. When Goodman sold his business to Cadence in '68 the copyrights passed to them, and to their successors. Even as President, Stan always had a board of directors above him and it was they who dictated company policy.


Yes but Stan Lee was perceived by fans, media & the hierarchy of Marvel comics as the pivotal creator of the Marvel Universe, relegating pencillers as satellite creators orbiting around him.

Both Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko felt that their contribution to the stories had been diminished.

Jack Kirby even created the Funky Flashman as a severe criticism of Stan Lee.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funky_Flashman
https://www.cbr.com/meta-messages-jack-kirby-takes-some-shots-at-stan-lee/

Also, in an interview, Jack Kirby made it clear what he thinks of Stan Lee's contribution to the stories.
http://www.tcj.com/jack-kirby-interview/6/

    Quote:
    KIRBY: Remember this: Stan Lee was an editor. He worked from nine to five doing business for Martin Goodman. In other words he didn’t do any writing in the office. He did Martin Goodman’s business. That was his function. There were people coming up to the office to talk all the time. They weren’t always artists, they were business people. Stan Lee was the first man they would see and Stan Lee would see if he could get them in to see Martin Goodman. That was Stan Lee’s function.


Even to these days, the controversy is unresolved.
(In an interview, Stan Lee answered about it.
http://comicsalliance.com/stan-lee-interview-playboy-jack-kirby-steve-ditko-marvel-artwork-disney-movies-controvery-wealth/ )

Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko were freelance artists. Stan Lee said that he proposed to them to become employees of Marvel Comics like he was.
Still, they didn't want that.
They wanted to have the opportunity to create characters which they would own.
Of course, it wasn't in the best interest of comics companies back then.

When Steve Gerber, as a writer, had a similar conflict with Marvel Comics (for the intellectual property rights of Howard the Duck), Jack Kirby helped him by drawing the Destroyer Duck comic book.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destroyer_Duck
In the book, GodCorp is a pastiche of Marvel Comics as an evil corporation.

I want to point out that I don't want to say that Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko & Steve Gerber are right and that Stan Lee & Marvel Comics are wrong. It is not that simple. From the beginning, there were contracts to establish the relationship between artists & the company.

Still, Stan Lee, as a high-level corporate officer, was on the side of Martin Goodman & Marvel Comics.

I think that if the editor-in-chief himself is considered the co-creator of most of the main characters of the Marvel Universe, then it will be much more difficult later for the penciller to claim any intellectual property right.



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Chris Tolworthy


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 3,423


Thanks again. Most of these can be handled by just rewording of making a simple correction, which I have now done. If you have time to look at the next edition before it's final - and add any comments - the link is here Hopefully this lets people add notes, but not edit the text directly):

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vyFfxxmL6qy5m04FFcRc6iFIjck4Dv2Awq-YLAOLcn4/edit?usp=sharing

I'm putting the link publically because I reckon anybody who's reading this far probably has some expertise somewhere and can hopefully save me from embarrassment.

Regarding the figure of 85 titles, that was from Michael Vassallo, the author of the Secret History of Marvel Comics. He wrote on Facebook:


    Quote:
    ANC took over Goodman's distribution on November 1, 1956 as Goodman was ramping up his comic book line. While the comics code had killed the output of many companies, driving most out of business, Goodman kept expanding until by early 1957 had almost 85 different comic book titles on the newsstands. But unbeknownst disaster loomed.


I imagine that includes bimonthly titles. I have asked him to clarify the number in case it was a typo.

Regarding Metallo, thanks for spotting that. I had wanted to avoid a lengthy history of all the different Metallo characters - Kirby's was of course in 1961 - but my short version ended up combining two of them. So I expanded the section to show the evolution of Metallo from 1942 to Kirby's final version (Iron man).

Regarding the signatures, I am grateful to be prompted, because part of the discussion of what a signature meant in 1961 was previously buried later in the book and you are right, as it stands this isn't very clear and could be seen as contradictory. So I moved the later part to the front and revised it.






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Reverend Meteor


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 10,278





    Quote:
    Yes but Stan Lee was perceived by fans, media & the hierarchy of Marvel comics as the pivotal creator of the Marvel Universe, relegating pencillers as satellite creators orbiting around him.



I think that's sort of the problem. I think Kirby and Ditko assumed that because of that Stan could intercede on their behalf. He could not. (whether he bothered with an attempt is unknown) I'm thinking Stan didn't have the pull we imagine he did and he was probably a bit milquetoast.

We all want to paint Stan as the villain but he could have just been the guy who was too worried about keeping his own job to stick his neck out for someone else and too embarrassed at the little power he did have to put up a fight. Maybe Stan didn't have the power or sway we think he did and was treated like a fool with the people with the actual power at the company like Martin Goodman. I'm thinking there were people in power out to screw over pencilers and Stan just sort of let it happen so no one would be out to get him. I don't think he ever did anything out of malice.





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Chris Tolworthy


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 3,423


I agree. I think that's a big part of why so many people who worked with him in the 60s support him. He seems to genuinely want the best. But Evanier and others say that under the bombastic exterior there's a very insecure man. Which I think explains everything, the good and the bad.



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D. Strange


Member Since: Tue Sep 19, 2017
Posts: 272


I hate to break this to you, but as a freelancer I can tell you, that is just sort of the name of the game.

Unless you have it in writing you don't get any say over your work.

Jack Kirby lost his lawsuit in the 80s, because he got what he was owed under the law, not because Marvel was malevolent. He just worked there before the creator writes stuff happened in the 80s.

Quite honestly, he had been a freelancer for 20 years when FF 1 hit the stands. For 40 when he filed the suit. He should have (and probably did) known the rules of the game.

Freelance is a a tough way to make a living. You get get screwed right to your face, and you know it.

Not to mention, it isn't like DC gave him control over The Fourth World or The Demon.

Also, his Captain America in the 70s was awful. I know it has nothing to do with everything, but people forget Kirby may have been a genus, but he had his faults too.



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Grey Gargoyle


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 10,062



    Quote:
    (D.Strange)
    I hate to break this to you, but as a freelancer I can tell you, that is just sort of the name of the game.

    Unless you have it in writing you don't get any say over your work.

    Jack Kirby lost his lawsuit in the 80s, because he got what he was owed under the law, not because Marvel was malevolent. He just worked there before the creator writes stuff happened in the 80s.

    Quite honestly, he had been a freelancer for 20 years when FF 1 hit the stands. For 40 when he filed the suit. He should have (and probably did) known the rules of the game.

    Freelance is a a tough way to make a living. You get get screwed right to your face, and you know it.


Indeed, I agree.

That's why I prefered to precise that I am still neutral on the topic (see below an extract from my previous post).

Reading Reverend Meteor's post, I suppose that's also his opinion.

It is a complex issue.


    Quote:

    (Grey Gargoyle) I want to point out that I don't want to say that Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko & Steve Gerber are right and that Stan Lee & Marvel Comics are wrong. It is not that simple. From the beginning, there were contracts to establish the relationship between artists & the company.



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Chris Tolworthy


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 3,423


Thanks for all the feedback, guys! the revised version is now up. The file name and links are the same, just in case anybody shared them (unlikely, but who knows?) but the title is now "The Case For Kirby".

PDF (recommended): http://zak-site.com/Case_Against_Stan_Lee.pdf
Web (if you have a slow connection): http://zak-site.com/CaseAgainstStanLee.html

There are lots of small changes, but the big ones are:

* Better intro. Less aggressive, and makes a simpler case that is easier to prove (about sales figures)

* New appendix 1: Kirby's writing pre 1961. Especially dialog. If you don't read any other part, I recommend this (he said, modestly). Because when people think of Kirby's writing they usually think of his post 1970 stuff, where he goes extreme Kirby! But his pre 1961 work is much more mainstream, and just a delight to read IMO.

* new appendix 10: how Lee's claim of being the writer evolved. This isn't a strong proof on its own: if the rest of the book doesn't convince you then this won't change your mind. But I think it's really interesting that Lee didn't actually say he was the solo writer for over a year, and before that point the evidence is consistent with the FF being a joint creation.

* more about the flare gun, the "valley of diamonds" and subsequent explosion, the history of Metallo, and various other bits and pieces.

If anything seriously big turns up then I'll make another revision, but hopefully this is the final one. Thansk again for all who made suggestions.



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