The Fantastic Four live in Manhattan. Spider-Man hails from Forest Hills. And Ant-Man aka Giant-Man had a house on the New Jersey Palisades overlooking the Hudson River. But, really, they and the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and many other 1960s Marvel Comics creations mostly came from Long Island.
That's where the main Marvel masterminds, writer-editor Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, lived, brainstorming the superheroes and supervillains that decades later would form the foundation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — including the new film "Ant-Man and the Wasp," opening Friday. From Centereach to Central Islip, Long Island was packed with the purveyors of the Silver Age of Comic Books.
"You live in a little apartment in the boroughs," as virtually all the early comics creators did, "and these people dreamed of having a house," recalls "The Amazing Spider-Man" comic-strip artist Larry Lieber, 86, the scriptwriter who co-created Ant-Man with plotter Lee and artist Kirby. "A lot of these guys were single, and then they got married and they'd say, 'Let's go move out into the suburbs.' It just seemed like a step up from being in the city."
Lieber, who has lived in Manhattan since even before co-creating Ant-Man, Iron Man and Thor in the early 1960s, had stayed for a short time with Lee (his older brother) and family in Woodmere, in a three-bedroom house on Broadway that Lee had bought in 1949. In 1952, Lee, his wife, Joan, and their toddler Joan Celia moved to a larger place, a former caretaker's cottage on Richards Lane in Hewlett Harbor.
"I used to type my stories on the patio standing up," Lee recalled in a 2007 interview. "During my years there I helped create Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, among others. All our neighbors were wealthy business people, and I was a guy writing comics. No one quite understood us." The family moved to California in 1980.
Kirby, Lee's primary collaborator and eventual co-plotter and co-architect of the Marvel mythos, also lived on Long Island, spending 20 years with his family on Congress Avenue in East Williston. Not far away, on Bette Road in East Meadow, lived fellow Marvel artist Frank Giacoia, one of the "inkers" who, in the assembly-line nature of comics, added ink-pen shading and tone to Kirby's pencil art.
"Occasionally one of them would deliver the other one's work into the office" in Manhattan, says TV writer and Kirby biographer Mark Evanier, 66. "And it worked the other way, too — sometimes if Marvel had to send something to Jack, and Frank was in the office, it was, 'Hey Frank, can you drop this off at Jack's on the way?' "
Other Marvel greats who lived on Long Island during the Silver Age '60s include artists John Buscema (The Avengers) of Port Jefferson; Mike Esposito (inker, The Amazing Spider-Man), of Huntington and later Lake Grove; Don Heck (Iron Man) of Centereach; John Romita Sr. (The Amazing Spider-Man) of Bellerose; George Roussos (an inker whose work includes Kirby's iconic cover of The Avengers #4, which reintroduced the Golden Age hero Captain America) of Central Islip; and Frank Springer, (Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) who lived variously in Lynbrook, Massapequa Park and Greenlawn.
"To me, the Silver Age at Marvel set the template for this whole Marvel Cinematic Universe idea, which is the cross-pollination of heroes from movie to movie," says "Ant-Man and the Wasp" director Peyton Reed, 54 And whether the movies take you to Brooklyn or to Wakanda or 'cross the Rainbow Bridge of Asgard, this universe's big bang was banged out in some humble Long Island homes next to yours.