Monday, August 13, 2018

The Other Stan Lee: Not giving Credit where it’s due!

This is  the most difficult blog I have written because I am a fan of  the Marvel Age and everyone who was a part of it. Over the last few decades I have met with many of the artists and writers who worked with Stan and they genuinely like him. They describe a nice, even generous person.  But when you talked to them about “Stan, the Promoter,” they often smiled and rolled their eyes. It was as if you were talking about a different person. Forgive me for keeping a source confidential, but one famous artist told me that he liked Stan very much, he just wished he would not take credit for things he didn’t do.

Stan Lee changed comics for the better and forever and this is no way should be seen as diminishing his accomplishments.  The major point of this blog is that I just feel the credit for Marvel's success in the 1960s should be shared. It should not be seen as taking away from Stan's many accomplishments.  In the fifteen years between 1960 and 1975, Marvel’s sales increased from 13 million to over  70 million comics a year and Stan Lee, as editor, oversaw this rise in sales.  There is no question that we should also remember the work of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and many others for the incredible creative work at Marvel during the 1960s.  When promoting Marvel Stan often did not mention his creative staff.

In the 1960s and 1970s, comic books were too often considered junk reading by parents and librarians and monitors of good taste. Reporters sent to get a story on the topic, didn’t read comics, and in their ignorance, their questions and conclusions often lacked depth and ignored the contributions of others.  Here are a few examples:

New York Herald Tribune, January 9th, 1966: … Stan Lee dreamed up the “Marvel Age of Comics in 1961.”

Dallas Times Herald, 1975: In the beginning was Stan Lee. And Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four. And he saw that it was good. And the Fantastic Four begat the Hulk and Spider-Man.

New York Times Magazine, May 2 1971: The turnabout came in 1961, when Stan Lee metamorphosed the Marvel line and very likely saved comic books from an untimely death.

Chicago Tribune: July 17, 1975 : STAN LEE, 53, is the great bard of the superhero epics, the creator of a modem mythology avidly devoured by 72 million readers a year.

The Press Telegram Newspaper of Long Beach Calif., Aug, 19, 1977: First, he begot The Fantastic Four, a cosmic powered quartet….AND THE Fantastic Four begot The Hulk and The Hulk begot Spider-Man, who begot a whole lot of success for Stan Lee, who is now 55, and the publisher of Marvel Comics, a definite cult hero and rich like you wouldn’t believe.

New York Newsday, June 8th, 1978: It was Lee’s fertile mind that created the many superheroes who were eventually to make Marvel mighty. Among them: “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Mighty Thor,” “Captain America,” “Ms. Marvel,” “The Fantastic Four,” “The Avengers,” “Dr. Strange” and “Daredevil.”

Time Magazine: Monday, Feb. 5, 1979: Marvels of The Mind: The man chiefly responsible for all the TV superdoing is Stan Lee, 56, the mustached and irrepressible publisher of Marvel Comics. Ideas pop in and out of his head so fast that Lee keeps a tape recorder by his bed to catch them late at night.

Even early Comic book fanzines gave Stan all the credit                                       
Super Star Heroes by Gene Wright, 1978: THE ORIGINS OF STAN LEE… he’s Super Stan!—inventor of the hung-up hero. “The result of Lee’s brainstorm was a 1961 comic book entitled The Fantastic Four.”

Stan  cannot be blamed for those  headlines. Those came from reporters and editors and  that was the playing field of that time. Marvel and Lee listed the creators of every story at a time when most comics did not. I learned their names from those credits.

Stan received criticism for his introductions to the Fireside series of reprints which started with Origins of Marvel Comics in 1974. Fans need to accept a few realities. Concerned with ownership and copyright issues, Stan, then a publisher, and a true company man, was not about to suggest that a single creator was responsible for a character’s creation. They all belonged to Marvel, so a creator’s role was often downplayed, and even sometimes ignored. When an artist left Marvel he was never referred to again. This is common among all media companies.  When someone leaves the Today show and joins the competition, they are never mentioned.  While Steve Ditko was drawing the Amazing Spider-Man letters were addressed to “Dear Stan and Steve.” Two issues before his last story was printed, in the spring of 1966, Steve’s name was removed from the greeting in the letters pages and they just read, “Dear Stan.”

We cannot lose sight of the fact that Stan was running a business. Just glance at any cover from that era. Every story was “the best” or “the greatest,” chock-full of “the most” thrills of any comic magazine.   So each artist was equally talented,  he was not about to promote one artist over another. With Jim Steranko replacing Jack Kirby on S.H.I.E.L.D. or John Romita replacing Kirby on the Fantastic Four, each was generating work that was described in superlatives in the Bullpen Bulletins or the letters pages.

Stan eventually began to understand what many of Marvel’s artists and writers were complaining about. He recognized the problem and admitted to it.  On the Today show (June 15, 2008) Stan said: “The artists felt that I was getting too much credit for everything so occasionally there would be a little dissatisfaction. But that was normal and we got over that.”

At a Caps Banquet in 2007: “Comic books is (sic) a collaborative medium. Had I not worked with artists like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko … my stories would not have looked as good. These guys were writers themselves. But they would write with pictures.… And they really deserve as much credit as I ever get.” 

An example of self-promotion came in an article he wrote for the July/August 1977 issue of Quest magazine. For the record, I placed the entire article at the bottom of this blog.   It was entitled “How I Invented Spider-Man.” . The editor, not Stan, might have written the title.

The article begins with Lee discussing his own background: “I heard of a job opening at a comic book publishing company. In those days it was called Timely Comics.”  What Stan neglects to say is that Timely’s publisher was Martin Goodman and that Martin’s wife Jean was Stan’s cousin. 

Lee continues: “Not long afterward, the editor and the head artist left and I was asked if I thought I could fill in as editor until the publisher could find someone else.” The editor and artist were Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, creators of the very successful Captain America.  At  the N.Y. Comic Con in 2008 I was next to Stan when he said to Joe Simon “I have never had the chance to thank you. You taught me so much and I have used what you taught me throughout my entire career.”

A little later in the article, Stan writes: “In 1961… For the first time within memory there seemed to be no special trend in the comic book field. No single title or group of titles seemed to excite the readers.” That year, the Justice League of America was definitely exciting comic book readers it was outselling Superman! The rebooted Flash and Green Lantern were also gaining in popularity. When Goodman found out how successful the JLA was he asked Stan to create a super-powered group for Marvel. 

In displaying what Stan wrote in that 1977 article on Spider-Man, I will make some some comments.  I will also discuss, when necessary, two other titles: The Fantastic Four because they were the first of Marvel’s new line and Sgt. Fury because that was an unexpected success.

Stan Lee may not be scripted but he certainly is rehearsed, he knew how to entertain an audience. When he begins the version of his sole the creation of Spiderman he would say: “I’ve told the story so many times it must be true.” (which he did on Larry King Live, May 4, 2002; Barbara Bogave National Public Radio (2002); Comic Book Artist #2 (1998) and 60 Minutes (Oct. 13, 2002). 

Stan: “But most of all I wanted to do Spider-Man….in searching for a title for our newest superhero, I remembered [an] old pulp favorite [The Spider: Master of Men]—and the title Spider-Man instantly hit me.” 

Stan also has another version describing his searching for the character where he tries to look spontaneous. He will first mention that he saw a fly or insect walk up a wall...  “I thought what will I call him….it seemed to me that Fly-Man didn’t work; that Insect-Man didn’t sound good, Mosquito-Man was awful, and then it hit me: Spider-Man. It was an epiphany!” This was said on a CBS interview in 1992; The Overstreet Quarterly (April 1994), Interview, Maryland’s Fredrick News Post on May 2, 2002, National Educational Association, 2008 and National Public Radio 2002.

Stan: “Even the man I chose to illus­trate the web-spinner's adventures marked a departure from the usual superhero strip. Steve Ditko was as fine a draftsman and graphic conti­nuity artist as one could find.”  

It has been established, most notably by Joe Simon in 1990, that Stan Lee first gave the character to Jack Kirby, who provided six pages of a very different character than Ditko’s. In Comic Scene Spectacular #1 (1989), Stan says: “I think Ditko was tremendously responsible for the popularity (of Spider-Man)… Kirby did a few pages. When I saw them, I said, “No, no, this isn’t what I want.” I took him off the hook and gave it to Ditko. I felt Spider-Man should not look like the typical superhero. And Ditko’s style at the time was just perfect.”

There were great differences in the Ditko and Kirby versions.  Ditko told Comic Fan #2 (Summer 1965): "Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist & spider signal." And in 2001, Ditko added the following: “So for 30-plus years, the ‘one and only creator’ theme continued to pollute various publication outlets. The subjective and intrinsic mentalities continued their unquestioning, unchallenging, and self-blinding support of the non-validated claims.”  Stan did say in 2007, "If Steve wants to be called co-creator, I think he deserves (it)." Note that he added the word “think” instead of stating explicitly he deserves it. Ditko noticed this and expressed his displeasure.

 In 2007, BBC host Jonathan Ross asked Lee,  “Do you, yourself, believe that (Ditko) co-created Spider-Man?” Lee, looking uncomfortable says, “I’m willing to say so. No, and that's the best answer I can give you. I really think the guy who dreams the thing up created it! You dream it up, and then you give it to anybody to draw it!” Ross then says, “But if it had been drawn differently, it might not have been successful or a hit.” Lee replies, “Then I would have created something that didn't succeed.”

In an interview published in Eye Magazine in 1966, Lee said: “I don’t plot Spider-Man any more. Steve Ditko, the artist, has been doing the stories.” But in the article, Stan takes credit for everything and does not mention Ditko again. Nor does he mention John Romita, who followed Ditko as artist on Spider-Man.

Again from the Quest article, Stan writes as if he was working solo: “The deeper I dug under Spidey's skin to see what made him tick, the more I realized how embarrassingly banal had been the comics of the past few decades in terms of character­ization; When­ever Spidey was in a tight spot, I'd only have to think of what I would say or do in the same predicament. I merely tried to imagine what would happen if someone with superhuman power really existed, and if he dwelled—for example—in Forest Hills, New York.”

In Comic Book Marketplace, Lee recalls the beginnings of Sgt. Fury. Lee, in 1963, says to publisher Goodman. “How about a book of war stories?” He said, “Nobody’s going to buy a war book. Point number two: Let’s call it Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos?” Martin said, “Are you joking? That’s the worst title... “I said, “I’ll bet I could do that book and make it sell.” I tried to concentrate on getting a platoon of soldiers that the readers would care about, I think it was one of the first multi-ethnic comic books ever done.

In his biography of Jack Kirby (Tales to Astonish) Ronin Ro quotes respected artist John Severin as saying that in the late 1950s, Jack Kirby had wanted to do a war series “set in Europe during  World War Two; the hero would be a tough, cigar-chomping sergeant with a squad of oddball GIs — sort of an adult Boy Commandos." This doesn’t mean that Lee did not come up with the idea of a war comic with “Commandos” in the title, he just does not acknowledge the input Kirby must have had in its creation and execution. Kirby’s group would really not be unique in comics, the Blackhawks, created in 1941 for Quality Comics, which also featured a similar culturally diverse group of fighting men. And a nod of appreciation should also go to Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates.

In 1999, in an interview with James Cangialosi for Comics Interview, Stan is asked the beginnings of the Fantastic Four: “I was sitting and I thought, “What powers would be interesting for these characters to have?” One thing I remembered was that when I was younger I loved the original Human Torch and I thought I would like to bring him back. I also liked the idea — and I don’t know how I particularly thought of the idea — of a scientist who was a little bit stuffy…. Then I wanted to have another guy on the team who was always bored.” In Stan’s 250-word answer Jack Kirby is never mentioned. On WFMU-FM radio in 1967 Stan says: “Jack is the greatest artist in the world. He also is a great story man. He does all the breakdowns and basic plots and I provide the dialogue.”

In the Quest article, Stan writes about how he created the various characters of the Fantastic Four, without mentioning Jack Kirby. “Improbable as they all sound, I was attempting to place these fantastic characters in the real world, trying to give them human traits and believable reactions, trying to com­bine fairy-tale concepts with down-to-earth reality, and the results really grabbed me. I was doing what Joanie (his wife) had suggested. I was writing stories for myself, trying for the kind of off­beat, irreverent feeling that had always attracted me to Mark Twain, Bernard Shaw, and yes, Woody Allen.”  In The Overstreet Lee says: “Jack was about the best. He was really the most creative artist of all, because he was more than an artist. I call him a great conceptualizer. He could conceive of stories and follow them through. All I would have to do with Jack is give him a very brief outline on what to do, and he would just do the whole story. After a while when we were rushed, I didn’t even give him an outline, he just did whatever story he wanted.”

In Quest, Lee continues: “To me, the most gratifying result of our new approach was a startling change in the comic book audience. The age range of our readers, previously six to about 13—suddenly zoomed to college age and beyond. In fact, the additional sales were corning mainly from older readers, and the beauty of it was that we were gaining those older readers without losing the younger ones.”

Jim Galton, former President of Marvel, says in Comic Scene #1 (1981): "When comics (in the 1960s and early 1970s) were at their height the average age was between 10 and 12." Galton said that the “average age of a Marvel reader was 11½ despite Marvel’s widely publicized popularity among college students.   

Stan was aware that he spoke to two different audiences. To those who knew comics, he often included comments about the artists who worked for him. But to a more general audience he often just spoke about himself.

One last time to the Quest article. Stan: “You'd be amazed at the range of queries that have been flung at me, questions ranging from “How can Spider-Man see through those obviously opaque eye panels in his mask?”  Beyond grownup language and drawing, there seems to be something about Peter Parker and his costumed alter ego that mesmerizes his millions of admirers, including myself.” These statements refer directly to Ditko’s creative costuming of Spider-Man, but he is not mentioned here.

Think what you like. Whether it was showing off or simply toeing the company line, by not giving credit where credit was due, it caused some heartache for the creators. Mark Evanier recalls the aftermath of the 1966 Herald Tribune story, briefly mentioned here. “That article did enormous damage to Jack, personally and professionally.” And Jack would never forget it. Stan did not write it or approve  it and it was a surprise to him too.  But some of  the tarnishing of Stan Lee’s reputation, among fans, is seen as self-inflicted.

If we accept that Stan may have come up with the original concept and the name of Spider-Man, but the actual character is a co-creation with Steve Ditko, then we must also accept that Stan is the co-creator of many concepts that Jack Kirby originated, such as the Silver Surfer and the Inhumans.

“How I Invented Spider-Man.” By Stan Lee

In case you've been living outside the solar system, and therefore haven't heard of Spider-Man, let me introduce him as painlessly as pos­sible. The Amazing Spider-Man, to use his full title, appears on the covers of six million comic books a year and plays starring roles in an additional 10 million. Beyond comic books, he shows up everywhere from toys to T-shirts to television. He's a celebrity not only in the United States but also in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Indochina, and most of South Amer­ica. He is, in fact, the world's most popular fantasy hero—and the best­selling as well.

Now that we've more or less established his fame, let's explore how it happened and, of far greater impor­tance, what it all means—mainly in order to learn a little more about ourselves.

To that end, I've been asked to tell you something about the guy who reputedly started the whole thing—namely me.

Unlike most New Yorkers, who come from somewhere else, I was born right in the middle of Manhattan. I attended De Witt Clinton High School and, in my spare time, was a member of the Washington Heights branch of the WPA Federal Theatre. I loved acting. I was always a ham. But acting didn't pay the rent, and since my father was one of the legions of unemployed at that time, I had to set my greedy little sights elsewhere.

While completing my senior year in high school, I became the world's most inept theater usher, whose great­est claim to fame was showing Elea­nor Roosevelt to a seat at the Rivoli Theatre and suffering the indignity of having her help mc to my feet solic­itously after I had tripped over some­one's outstretched kg in the aisle with the theater manager and half the nation's Secret Service force looking on. From that debacle, I went to a job writing obituaries of famous people for a news service, so they'd have the obit all ready to print when the notable finally went to his or her reward. I soon got depressed writing about living people in the past tense, so I abandoned what might have been the springboard for a glorious career in journalism. After other forgettable part-time stints, such as writing pub­licity releases for a hospital (I was never sure what I was supposed to publicize: "We'll cure you faster than other hospitals"? "Our doctors arc safer than theirs, I reached the turning point of my 161/2-year-old life.

 In those days the New York Herald-Tribune ran a weekly essay contest open to all high school students. It was called "The Biggest News of the Week Contest," and the purpose was, as you'd expect, to write the most spell­binding essay in so many words or less on what you considered the most momentous news event of the past week. Either no one else was enter­ing, or I was an embryonic Walter Cronkite (probably the former), but I won three weeks in a row. One of the editors called to ask me to stop submitting entries and "give someone else a chance." If I hadn't yet made a life's commitment, he said, I might consider becoming a writer.

At that point the long arm of coincidence took over. Within a matter of hours, I heard of a job opening at a comic book publishing company. In those days it was called Timely Comics. A "gofer" was needed to round out the tiny staff: a kid to do some proofreading, write copy, answer letters, and "gofer" the coffee and sandwiches. I applied and I got the job. Not long afterward, the editor and the head artist left and I was asked if I thought I could fill in as editor until the publisher could find someone else. I said sure. At the age of 17, I didn't know any better. Apparently no one else was ever found, and I've been there ever since.

In the past three decades, I've held the titles Editor, Art Director, and Head Writer. Then, in 1972, I was named Publisher of what is now called Marvel Comics. Although I never made it as a thespian, I've found enough temperament, talent, and theatrics in the way-out world of comic books to make it all worthwhile.

Now back to Spider-Man and the events that led to his creation.

 In their own simplistic way, comic books have usually mirrored the tenor of the times. In the late thirties and early forties, colorful pulp heroes like Captain America and Captain Marvel almost single-handedly decimated the forces of fascism between the multicolored covers of their monthly magazines. After World War II, when the public was satiated with tales of diabolical dictators, the comic books turned to Westerns, crime, and monster stories. For a brief period in the early fifties, when the nation enjoyed an illusory hiatus between crises, the biggest-selling comics dealt with the innocuous antics of the animated animals created by Walt Disney, Paul Terry, Walter Lantz, and their ilk.

In 1961, something happened. For the first time within memory there seemed to be no special trend in the comic book field. No single title or group of titles seemed to excite the readers. Oh, they were still buying the comics—kids always will—but with‑ out any discernible enthusiasm. Even the superhero titles, long the staple of the industry, were declining in sales and apparently going nowhere.

At first blush, it didn't make sense. Everyone said it was a time for heroes. The youth of America had been inspired by John Kennedy and the vision of Camelot; astronauts and cosmonauts performed incredible exploits as they raced for supremacy in space. It was a time for daring concepts, deeds far bigger than life—a time when comic book superheroes should have been selling better than ever. What was wrong?

Personally, I was bored. I had 20 years of writing and editing comics behind me. Twenty years of "Take that, you rat!" and "So, you wanna play, huh?" Twenty years of worrying whether a sentence or phrase might be over the head of an eight-year-old reader. Twenty years of trying to think like a child. And then an off‑ hand remark by my wife caused a revolution in comics tantamount to the invention of the wheel. Eighteen simple words, electrifying in their eloquence and their portent for the future. Each momentous syllable is engraved in my memory:

"When are you going to stop writing for kids and write stories that you yourself would enjoy reading?" It was a casual question, posed in a casual way, but it really rocked me. It made me suddenly realize that I had never actually written anything for myself. For two unsatisfying decades I'd been selling myself short, sublimating any literary ability I might have in a painful effort to write down to the level of drooling juveniles and semicretins.

"Nevermore!" I shouted. "Never‑ more will I fashion my tales for the nameless, faceless 'them' out there. Henceforth, I will write for an audience of one; an audience I should have no trouble pleasing, for I cer‑ tainly know what turns me on."

When the time came to create a teenaged hero for Marvel Comics, I decided to depict him as a bumbling,   real-life teenager who by some mir­acle had acquired a super power. He'd have to be bewildered, insecure, inept, ungainly, and often out of step with those around him. He'd be my kind of teenager. A loser. A schlepp. Just like I was when I was young. And I know if I had gotten a super power when I was a teenager, the only change would be—I'd simply have become a super-powered schlepp.

After all, who ever said that extra strength, or talent, or ability has to make a guy a winner? If you suddenly gained the muscle power of a hundred men, OK—so you'd be able to lift heavy weights and outwrestle King Kong; but that doesn't mean you still wouldn't have to worry about dan­druff, or acne, or hemorrhoids, right? And suppose you could crawl on walls and ceilings like a human spider. Wouldn't you still be concerned about postnasal drip, or warts, or the heartbreak of psoriasis? Wouldn't you still have trouble balancing your checkbook, or scoring with a girl who doesn't happen to dig costumed wall-crawlers?

The more I thought about it, the faster the ideas came to me. Sure, I was still writing comic book yarns about freaky, farfetched superheroes, but I suddenly realized I was begin­ning to enjoy it. An extra dimension had been added. I was now playing with characters like the Human Torch, a pushy extravert able to burst into flame and fly like a bird with his blazing lighter-than-air body; Mr. Fantastic, a stuffy, brilliant, ego­centric scientist with the ability to stretch his body like a piece of elastic; the Thing, a monstrous being with a temper to match whose superhuman strength is exceeded only by his popu­larity with our fans; and the Invisible Girl, Mr. Fantastic's fiancee, whose chief claim to fame is exactly what her name implies. In addition to the Fan­tastic Four, who battle for truth, jus­tice, and monetary compensation, there was the Incredible Hulk, the most powerful mortal on earth. His distinctions include a green skin and the fact that he weighs in at about 700 pounds. Improbable as they all sound, I was attempting to place these fantastic characters in the real world, trying to give them human traits and believable reactions, trying to com­bine fairy-tale concepts with down-to-earth reality, and the results really grabbed me. I was doing what Joanie had suggested. I was writing stories for myself, trying for the kind of off­beat, irreverent feeling that had always attracted me to Mark Twain, Bernard Shaw, and yes, Woody Allen.

But most of all I wanted to do Spider-Man.

When I was about 10 years old, I used to read a pulp magazine called The Spider and subtitled "Master of Men." Perhaps it was the Master of Men that got me, but to my impres­sionable, preteen way of thinking, the Spider was the most dramatic charac­ter I had ever encountered. He ranked right up there with Doc Savage and the Shadow. Even better, he wasn't as well known as the others, which gave mc the warm feeling that his fans belonged to an elite club. At any rate, in searching for a title for our newest superhero, I remembered my old pulp favorite—and the title Spider-Man instantly hit mc. I didn't mind bor­rowing the Spider part of his name because everything else about our new character would be completely different. I was determined to make our next production the most origi­nal, most unique comic book charac­ter ever to swoop down the pike.

Even the man I chose to illus­trate the web-spinner's adventures marked a departure from the usual superhero strip. Steve Ditko was as fine a draftsman and graphic conti­nuity artist as one could find. Instead of depicting unreal creatures, with muscles bulging on muscles, Steve's characters looked like the guy next door. Where the average superhero strip was exaggerated and overblown, his artwork was low-key and under­stated. It was just what I wanted. It was vitally important to me that Spi­der-Man be the kind of character with whom any ordinary Joe could iden­tify. I was certain that Steve's untypi­cal, uncliched artwork would help.

The deeper I dug under Spidey's skin to see what made him tick, the more I realized how embarrassingly banal had been the comics of the past kw decades in terms of character­ization. The so-called good guys were always invincible, infallible, and totally triumphant at the end of each story. The bad guys were always das­tardly, deadly, and irrevocably eradi­cated by the time the final curtain rang down. The good guys talked lyrically. The bad guys grunted. The good guys were pure at heart, proud, and passionately patriotic. The bad guys were cowards, cutthroats, and craven to the core. The heroes were one scant step removed from saint­hood, while nary a villain had a single redeeming feature. Nonsense: I'll bet that even Attila the Hun was good to his mother; Albert Schweitzer proba­bly snored in his sleep.

And so another mighty Marvel concept was born. Our villains would no longer necessarily be the epitome of evil incarnate; our heroes had not only feet of clay, but kneecaps and thighbones as well.

But how could the reader learn what motivated them? After all, their dialogue was usually limited to "I've got to stop him before he captures Buckey," or "Great Scott! It's a crea­ture from another planet!" The solu­tion was obvious: give the reader a chance to get inside our characters' heads—emphasize cogitation as well as conversation. Those of you who are steeped in Marvel lore, who have faithfully followed the adventures of our amazing arachnid, how well you know our penchant for thought bal­loons wherever we have the slightest millimeter of empty space within a panel. Our characters soliloquize enough to make Hamlet seem like a raging extravert. Never before have comic books exhibited such inter­minable soul-searching; such agoniz­ing reappraisals on the part of hero and villain alike; such a dogged quest for truth, understanding, and basic motivation, even while Spider-Man is getting his lumps.

Thus, for the first time, comic book stories began to be written with the same concern for human speech and characterization as movies, novels, and plays. I'm not trying to imply that the end result would have made Ibsen jealous. We were still writing for a mass market and grinding out doz­ens of pages a day. But we were trying—and we were on our way.

There were plenty of voices of doom out there. I can't tell you how many times I heard, from those who were "older, wiser, and we've been in the business far longer than you," how my innocent little crusade to upgrade comic books would bring about the total collapse of our valiant little com­pany, if not the entire industry itself. I can still hear the voices—wise, per­suasive, and unrelenting.

"Are you out of your mind? Comics are for kids. For little kids!"

"You can't produce comic books to suit your own tastes. You'll lose your entire audience!"

"They just wanna look at the pic­tures. Give 'em anything that requires real reading and you've had it!"

"Don't ruin what we've got goin' here. Don't be a jerk and mess up a good thing!"

We managed to stick to our guns. We kept writing and drawing Spider-Man stories that featured surprisingly realistic situations, carefully con­trived motivation, and the sharpest dialogue I could invent. One of my favorite devices was the old "What if . . . ?" ploy. What if Spider-Man, while fighting for his life against some deadly foe, is suddenly hit with an allergy attack? What if he has to rush out at midnight to don his hidden costume and save mankind, but his Aunt May won't let him go because of an impending snowstorm and he's just getting over a cold? What if Spidey receives a huge check as a reward for apprehending some deadly dastard, but he can't cash the check because it's made payable to Spider-Man, and he has no bank account under that name, nor does he have any way of identifying himself without revealing his secret identity? For the first time in years, comic books began to amuse me again.

After the first few stories of this type, I felt I really knew our friendly neighborhood web-spinner. Refer­ring to him as Spidey seemed as natu­ral to me as calling my wife Joanie. Writing his dialogue was ridiculously easy; I simply let him speak exactly as I would. Talk about empathy! When­ever Spidey was in a tight spot, I'd only have to think of what I would say or do in the same predicament, and presto—I had my dialogue as well as my course of action. But I've always tried to keep it in the right per­spective. I've never personally. attempted to shinny up a wall or cling to the nearest ceiling.

But what about the readers? What sort of impact did the widely heralded (mostly by us) "Marvel style" have on the hard-to-please hordes of Spider-dom Assembled? I'm glad you asked.

The Amazing Spider-Man first went on sale early in 1963. Prior to that time we were selling about 17 million comic books a year. In 1964, spear­headed by Spidey's phenomenal pop­ularity, we sold 28 million. By 1968 we were selling 49 million copies per year. Last year, still led by Spider-Man as our flagship character, Mar­vel Comics sold more than 70 million comic books and our sales arc still growing. Throughout the world, Spidey outsells even Superman by about 800,000 copies per year.

To me, the most gratifying result of our new approach was a startling change in the comic book audience. The age range of our readers previously six to about 13—suddenly zoomed to college age and beyond. In fact, the additional sales were corning mainly from older readers, and the beauty of it was that we were gaining those older readers without losing the younger ones.

It seems that Spider-Alan and other Marvel Comics titles were being accepted and enjoyed on two levels. For the younger reader, there were colorful costumes, action, excitement, fantasy, and bigger-than-life adven­tures. For the newly proselytized older reader, we offered unexpectedly sophisti­cated plots and subplots, a college  level vocabulary, satire, science fic­tion, and as many philosophical and sociological concepts as we could devise. In the beginning, the satire wasn't completely intentional. I merely tried to imagine what would happen if someone with superhuman power really existed, and if he dwelled—for example—in Forest Hills, New York. Then I tried to con­front him with real-life situations and problems. I thought I was being realis­tic; older readers thought I was wax­ing satirical. If they called it satire, who was I to contradict them?

I was also delighted to discover that our younger readers were not turned off by the college-level vocabulary we were dishing out. They seemed to absorb the meaning of words like cataclysmic, misanthropic, sub­liminal, phantasmagoric. We actually received hundreds of letters from bewildered parents telling us that "Johnny's reading ability has improved 100 percent, as has his schoolwork—especially gram mar and composition—since reading Marvel Comics"!

For the past decade, I've traveled around the country extolling the vir­tues of Spidermania on the campuses of virtually every college and univer­sity from Portland to Phoenix, from Seattle to Sarasota. You'd be amazed at the range of queries that have been flung at me, questions ranging from "How can Spider-Man see through those obviously opaque eye panels in his mask?" to "Philosophically, how do you equate Spidcy's guilt syn­drome with his hyper neurotic extra­version and manic-depressive tenden­cies?" And I'm not even laying the tough ones on you!

Beyond grownup language and drawing, there seems to be something about Peter Parker and his costumed alter ego that mesmerizes his millions of admirers, including myself. Let me venture a theory as to why Spider-Man has enjoyed such a vast and ever-growing popularity all these years.

It's a pretty safe bet that you and I have one thing in common with the whole human race. Cute, cuddly, and captivating though we may be, we all possess a certain degree of rotten-ness—just enough to make us inter­esting. We may be genuinely fond of our friends; we may respect and admire any number of people, wish­ing them success in all their endeav­ors; and yet, we never quite want them to succeed too much. If a close friend or relative does well, you rejoice for him. But if he does an awful lot better than you, it wouldn't really break your heart to have him stumble once in a while. We never really want anyone to be too much better, richer, handsomer, smarter, sexier, or luckier than we arc. Not too much. In fact, if a loved one can be something of a loser now and then, it's usually a lot easier for that love to flourish and grow. Nothing breeds genuine, long-lasting affection as much as the knowledge that the recipient is just a teensy bit—just slightly, mind you, just the merest soupcon—inferior to you!

Well, that's how it is with Spider-Man. For all his power, brains, and fame, the poor kid has far more prob­lems, far more hang-ups than a ster­ling soul like you. As you read his weird and wondrous adventures, even as you thrill to his superhuman prow­ess, you find yourself pitying the guy, sympathizing with anyone who can have as many tough breaks and as much crummy luck as he does. Sure, he's a superhero. Sure, he's a regular one-man army. Sure, he's practically indestructible. But you're a lot better off. You seem to handle life's little vicissitudes far better than he can. Even though he's a living legend, you can feel superior to him. Now, how can you help but love a guy like that?

And perhaps, when all is said and done, that's what Spider-Man is tell­ing us about ourselves and our time. Even though it is fashionable to lament our lack of heroes—the van­ishing of our Joe DiMaggios or Win­ston Churchills—it's just possible that the day of the bigger-than-life hero is gone forever. We've grown too sophis­ticated. We've become too cynical. The events of the past few decades have made us suspicious, have made us distrust our leading citizens, our public figures, our politicians. What­ever happened to the time when we could refer to a politician as a states­man without feeling foolish?

All our Vietnams, Kent States, and Watergates have taken their toll. It's not that we don't want heroes. It's not that we don't search for someone to emulate, to admire, to idolize. But until the shock waves of our recent past have worn off, and we're finally ready and able to believe once again, our heroes will have to be fashioned of a different mold. They'll be flaky, fallible, and fault-ridden. They'll be no better or worse than we ourselves. We've endured too much. We won't let ourselves be hurt anymore.

So here's to Spider-Man. Here's to the new breed of superhero. He'll never disillusion us because we'll never expect too much from him. We can understand him and sympathize with him. If his powers arc greater than ours, so arc his problems. He's our kind of guy.

Quest July/August 1977


  1. Nicely researched. Stan was all about self-preservation. Were it not for pressures from the comics community and industry, I doubt he'd ever have acknowledged Ditko and Kirby as co-creators of any Marvel properties. But again, even in doing so, he continued to preserve himself. By eventually going public with the co-creator stuff, he could be seen as a good guy and continue to sell autographs at conventions for ridiculous sums. I know that artists need to self-promote in order to survive, but Lee took it to a new level. In this respect he was not unlike Walter Keane, with Jack and Steve cast in the role of Margaret. The only difference is, Stan was largely exonerated.

    I've read that the Kirby estate has, after many years, been compensated for Jack's creations. Was Steve also compensated? I found it sad that he died alone in his New York apartment.

    1. In 1961, Lee was facing absolutely no pressure from the comics community or industry to include both his and the artists' names on any of the stories Marvel published. While EC comics had included the names of the writers & artists in their stories, that was many years in the past and none of the other prominent comics publishers, certainly not DC, gave credit to the writers or artists. Oh, yes, DC did credit Bob Kane on Batman stories, but only due to contractual reasons and it gave Kane credit for stories he didn't actually writer or draw and credit for many ideas that were not his at all. Stan Lee was certainly not perfect, and certainly in his Origins collections, his stories about how he came up with the characters had little resemblance to the truth, but at least as editor during Marvel's Silver Age and into the early Bronze Age, he regularly gave credit to the writers, artists, and eventually the inkers and even letterers at a time when that was not standard procedure at all in comics.

  2. Stan was a great promoter for Marvel in those early days and his sharp, snappy and irreverent dialogue was an important aspect of the Marvel gestalt, but without the artistic vision and creative genius of Kirby and Ditko he would have had nothing to build on. His achievement in shaping the Marvel brand was significant in itself and he should have been satisfied with that legacy. Instead, he chose to take credit that wasn't his, and thereby severely diminished his reputation. If he had dealt fairly with his collaborators he would now be respected. As it is, those of us who understand the history of comics now tend to regard him as something of an embarrassment.

    1. Nobody is perfect. I don’t perceive that he is seen as an embarrassment. I think that there is some regret that under the marvel method he did not mention his partners enough. But he changed Comics and he made them better and he did it with the help of a lot of good people.

  3. You'll forgive me saying so I'm sure, Barry, but you seem to be backtracking a little on your previous high regard for Stan's contribution to the Marvel Age, and I'm curious as to why. That aside, I think you're over-egging the pudding somewhat in your interesting post. Here's why:

    In the early days, Stan was always quick to credit his co-creators, admitting that Jack was 'as much the writer' as he (Stan) was in the mags they worked on. Some of his later pronouncements have to be viewed in the context of the vocal anti-Stan Lee sentiments that were doing the rounds, so is it any wonder that, with people seeking to deny him ANY creative input at all, he'd focus a bit more on himself than on his collaborators? Jack did exactly the same thing. In his various one page editorials in his '70s DC mags, when he was talking about his work in the '40s, he didn't mention Joe Simon once.

    Each man is the hero in his own story, and each person thinks that what he brings to the table is more important than the other guy's contribution. Stan certainly gave more credit down the years than most of his collaborators ever gave him. Regarding the Jonathan Ross programme, it's clear (to me anyway) that Stan is claiming sole credit for dreaming up the CONCEPT of Spider-Man, not the published realisation of him. Steve designed the costume, which was brilliant, but there's debate over who came up with the web-shooters - was it him or Eric Stanton? But DID Stan come up with the concept of Spidey? Didn't Jack Kirby pitch him the idea of what had been The Fly and kickstart the process? Perhaps, but there's nothing that precludes Stan wanting a 'Spider' character, telling Jack, and Jack responding by dusting down one of his and Joe Simon's old ideas. We'll never really know, and Jack's memory was at least as bad as Stan's, so neither of them can be relied upon for 100% accuracy in the memory department.

    Here's an interesting aside: I write poetry, and occasionally someone has asked me what prompted or inspired a particular poem. Once someone asks you a question, it sort of shapes your response by sending your memory down an avenue that it's perhaps never actually visited before. I once wrote a poem about a fear of the dark, and when someone enquired as to its origin, I found myself saying that I wrote it because I recognised that many people had this fear and I'd wanted to address it. Then one day, I realised that this was complete bunkum, regardless of how rational and logical it sounded. I wasn't lying (at least not deliberately so), but I'd assumed that there must be a reason for me writing the poem and related what seemed the most obvious cause - without realising that I was, in effect, manufacturing an answer to suit the requirements of the question. The truth is that, with the odd exception, most poems write themselves; one line pops into your head, then another and another, and you find yourself following where the poem seems to be going, rather than leading it in that direction.

    So what's that got to do with Stan Lee? I'll answer that in the 2nd part of this response in case I'm running out of room, so join me there.

    1. Hi kid, thanks again for your input.
      I think Stan Lee did a stupendous job during them all the Legion and my opinion of him is still incredibly high. I just think he made one omission and that is not mentioning his cocreator’s. But I think if I put that in a blog like I just people will somehow feel That I don’t have a high opinion of Stan. No this was just one mistake. But sometimes when I hear him talk and not mention his partners well, I just give A sigh

  4. I think that's what happened with Stan. Whenever someone asked him what led to him coming up with an idea for a character, without fully realising it, he gave what seemed to be the most rational explanation as to why he probably did so. He remembered The Spider radio show, so that must've been (in Stan's mind) something to do with it. Hadn't he once seen a spider or fly walking up a wall? That probably was an influence (in Stan's mind) as well. So he likely believed that these 'influences' must've had something to do with it, but, more importantly, they made for more interesting reminiscences than simply saying "I can't remember." If Stan were to admit that he couldn't remember, there was always the danger that someone might claim that someone else's alleged memory of events was the more accurate one.

    Doctor Strange? "'Twas Steve's idea." To do what? Do a strip about a Necromancer? Nothing terribly original about that. Doctor Strange's origin is so similar to Dr. Droom's that it's obvious that Stan had a hand in shaping the character when it came to how the public perceived him. If Steve's various contributions to Spidey earn him a co-creator credit (and I'd say they do), then Stan's contributions to Dr. Strange and the Silver Surfer earn him the same credit. You can't apply it in Jack and Steve's case and withhold it from Stan.

    When it comes to the writing credits, I firmly believe that Stan thought of a writer as someone who scripted the dialogue and captions, tied up all the story elements together, and crafted the characterisations of the various players. He was doing the 'writing' so he was the writer. And it's undeniable that Stan's writing was a major factor in the success of the comics he worked on. Jack and Steve, left to themselves to script their various tales, always delivered great artwork and competently told tales - but there was always something missing in my estimation. Were the ideas still there? Sure. And the imagination, and the great art - but, somehow, the magic was absent. Even if you were to reduce Stan's contribution to 'mere' scripting, it was that scripting that had a disproportionately beneficial effect on the finished result. Arguably, without Stan, Jack and Steve's Marvel mags would still have LOOKED as good, but they'd never have been as witty or entertaining or magical as they were if it hadn't been for Stan Lee's finger in the pie.

    Ultimately, I don't think it's fair to accuse Stan of not giving credit to his collaborators - he's always done so. However, just as Jack and Steve did, Stan's perfectly entitled to focus on his own contributions. And remember, if it hadn't been for Stan trumpeting Jack, Steve, Don, etc., to the rooftops in Marvel mags, they might well be forgotten today. It was Stan who raised their profiles and also crowned Jack as 'king'.

    The others drew great-looking comics, but it was Stan who had the vision. Anyway, that's my two cents worth, it'll be interesting to read the responses.

    1. Actually, it was The Spider 'pulps' that Stan remembered - I don't know if there was a radio show or not.

    2. Great post. I agree completely about how we all retro-rationalise answers to unexpected questions. On the burning issue of the hour ('how much was Stan and how much was Jack/Steve?'), I'd like to echo your point about the Kirby & Ditko books that were done after their break with Stan & Marvel. Much as I love both artists, it seems only honest to look squarely at the books they produced without Lee & appraise them with a clear eye. In Kirby FF there was a coherence in the continuity & in each character's back-story that lends valuable depth and it isn't there in the Fourth World stuff. There was a sense of playfulness & fun in Ditko Spidey that's gone missing by the time of Ditko Hawk & Dove. I spent ages convinced that Lee brought little to either FF or Spidey, but this was the argument that brought me round. I still think Lee has shamelessly poached the credit that belongs to Kirby & Ditko, but I don't think we can disregard his co-creator status.

    3. You bring up an important point. People get on Stan‘s case when he does not mention his co-creators but when the co-creators don’t mention him they seem OK with that.

  5. It's pretty easy to see who was responsible for what. Look at anything Kirby scripted himself. His dialogue is...interesting. When Kirby edited himself when he returned to Marvel in the '70s it was downright disastrous. Without Kirby and Ditko you wouldn't have Marvel. Without Stan you wouldn't have Marvel. None of them were ever able to do work on their own that matched what they did together, so that speaks volumes.

    1. Kris, You are absolutely correct in my opinion. This was a partnership. What is the most important leg on a three legged chair? Each of them had unique contributions to this era and were irreplaceable

    2. This is it. Stan was important. So were Kirby and Ditko. Stan took too much credit, that is his greatest sin. He's made some strides, probably not enough, to backtrack on those omissions. But when I get angry are the people who speak as if he did nothing. Kirby's dialogue often gave me a headache as a kid. Stan's was a breeze and hooked me.

  6. As a consumer of picto-fiction, I want excellent art and excellent writing. But, it also takes a competent promoter or publisher to get the end product to the consumer. As writer and promoter, Stan Lee accomplished that goal. Art is what sells comics but artists are often not the best distributors.

    1. Stan Lee was a great promoter and what the industry needed and whar Marvel needed at the time. We forget what a huge sensation the Batman TV show was and it could’ve buried marvel at the time. But Stan Lee became the face of Comics, replacing Adam west. 😀

    2. And Adam West was an actor who had nothing to do with actual comics, while Stan Lee had very much been involved with comics for decades before he became the most famous comics personality in the U.S. Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman have since become famed comics personality, although by now more people may know Gaiman for his novels than for his comics, but thanks to the massive success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Lee's fame as a comics creator has become greater than ever, even though for work he had done decades earlier and much mis-understood by the masses who may give him credit for creating characters he had very little to do with or sole credit for characters that came about through a very collaborative method.
      Based on various articles and research I've read, seems clear that with the success of the Fantastic Four, in 1962 Lee made it clear to Kirby that he was eager for new ideas and within a short period out came the Ant-Man, a retooling of an earlier short suspense tale by Lee & Kirby; Thor, a retooling of an even earlier short suspense story Kirby collaborated on over at DC; and Spider-Man, which was a retooling of a character Joe Simon came up years earlier, the Silver Spider, but which Simon & Kirby refashioned into the Fly, and Kirby's initial pages of Spider-Man for Lee were much influenced by the published Fly comics, which Ditko noticed and brought to Lee's attention, prompting Lee to take Kirby off the series and have Ditko take over, with Ditko making substantial changes, including a costume that was very different from what Kirby had come up with, and webshooters on his wrists rather than a web gun as with Kirby's concept. And to my understanding, many aspects of Peter Parker's life as depicted in those early comics echoed those of Ditko's own life as a high school student, aside from the obvious fact that Ditko never became a superhero with the powers of a spider. Myths and legends tend to take root because they can be simplified to appeal and be easily understood while reality is much messier and complicated, but still worth trying to figure out, IMO.

  7. One other thing, Barry - I think you CAN blame the reporter for that Herald Tribune article, because Jack was there with Stan and the reporter drew his own conclusions from watching the two of them confer. Stan can hardly be blamed for reporter Nat Freedland's description of Jack's physical appearance, and he (Lee) wouldn't have been aware of what was written until after the article was published.

    1. I happened to notice recently that Freedland has a somewhat bizarre history (and just google, there's more where this came from):

  8. I agree that the Quest article might have had some significant editorial interventions. I've had the experience of interviewing Stan about Spider-Man for a mainstream publication, having him take pains to credit Ditko at nearly every turn, including those quotes in the copy I turned in, and then seeing the printed version excise any mention of Ditko!

    1. If you look at my sources I tried very much to make sure I put in radio and broadcast television. That is because there is no reporter involved just an interviewer. While an editor might take things out you would see that in the splice.

  9. Very fair article. I am a fan of Stan, and also of Kirby and Ditko. For me, both Kirby and Ditko were at their best when working with Stan, even if Stan wasn't doing all that much. Creative partnerships are difficult to dissect, as to who contributes what. I just don't like Van Halen much without David Lee Roth. Or Mick Jagger's solo stuff. As Chris Rock said about Hall + Oates, "I don't know what Oates does. But Hall never had a hit without him." (Not totally true, but the big ones were all with Oates.) Thanks for a fair and balanced look at this issue.

  10. Really well written, even handed, thoroughly backed up and sensible bit of writing Barry Pearl, thanks! It makes a refreshing change from the "Love Kirby/Hate Lee" or vice versa rigid dichotomy that you often read on the net. One thing that can't be denied is that none of the players, be it Kirby, Lee, Ditko or Wood, could individually recapture that "lightning in a bottle" time of the 60s, and regardless of what bits each creator brought to various projects....the sum of the parts were distinctly Marvel and had the right flavour for the right time. Kirby came closest with his Fourth World stuff at DC, but his awesome imagination was often battling against his tin ear for dialogue and his scattergun story structure. Ditko's bizarre propaganda style stuff like Mr A and the Question was alienating, ranty and just downright odd. Lee's imagination, when left to its own devices, just produced lots of "I was Vlorrgu, the Tomato that Walked Like a Man". But in combination, the gears meshed beautifully, for a brief period in the 60s, when the audience was ripe for the stuff they were producing. And how quickly that style of doing things dated, which again supports the notion that the Marvel phenomenon of the 60s was the result of an idea whose time had come. By the mid 70s, Lee's catch phrases and bombast were sounding pretty corny and self-parodying, and Kirby's various re-iterations of Captain Infinity and the Galactic Boy Scouts were looking very "of a bygone era". If that magical period of mid 60s success had never happened, i doubt anyone would be searching through the entrails, trying to figure out who did what, and what their contribution was worth to the entire scheme of things. But that's the thing with has to happen first, then people retrospectively try to understand it, and make it make sense....and in so doing, it can be all too easy to assign hero and villain roles to the players, for the sake of an easy to understand, neat narrative. But history is rarely neat, and a lot of what occurs is the result of personalities, fluke, circumstance - none of which may seem "fair", but that's just our desire to fashion a narrative that gives us an ending we like. All that can be said with any certainty is that all the players contributed, to create something unique that could not be recreated later on.

  11. Glenn, You bring up so many important points and observations. There is one I would like to expand on. What stars aligned to bring us the marvel age of Comics and how come nothing like that has ever happened again. Martin Goodman was never known for innovation, he was a comic book publisher who what was successful. And copied it. Stan Lee was not a writer in great demand. Jack Kirby, at that time, was not incredibly successful. And Ditko was not widely known.

    Yet, as if it was magic in a bottle they created something that is still going on today.

    And while we might think of Bob Kane for Batman, and Segel and Schuster for Superman, when we think of those three we have the fantastic four, Spiderman, the avengers, X Men, Iron Man, Thor, Shield, Nick Fury, Sgt Fury, Hulk, Silver Surfer, Inhumans, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Ant Man and Irving Forbush...and so much more. And I have left out the westerns!

  12. There's a Doom drawing by Kirby where he's taking off his mask to reveal only a small scar on his face. So, while what you say may be true as to how the story started, I suspect Jack may have come to like the idea and sort of retroactively adopted it. I say that because I remember reading something where Jack was talking about the scar, and he seemed to be saying that that's what he intended from the start. I'll have to see if I can find that interview.

    I'm not sure why Joe Simon would be 'phoning Stan to talk about Jack in the '70s, because Jack didn't rejoin Marvel until '75 or '76 and then he was doing his own thing. However, Stan did become a bit defensive later (after always being full of praise for Jack) when his own achievements were under attack by Lee-haters, though I'd say his response to Simon (if what Joe said was true) would have been made in jest. Stan wasn't against milking the perception of himself as a glory hog, saying "I'll take any credit that isn't nailed down." The criticism by rabid Kirby fans who denied Stan any credit must've hurt though.

    The Golden Age villainous Thor doesn't prove that Jack created the Marvel Age Thor, even though the hammer was pretty much the same. All that proves was that Jack remembered and liked the design. Larry Lieber says that he supplied full scripts on Thor, and he's never made an exception for Thor's origin as far as I know, even though it was based on Stan's plot.

    Jack's memory was just as selective as Stan's, because in his one page 'editorials' in his '70s DC mags, he never mentions Joe Simon once when recounting his career up to that point. I hear what Barry's saying, but no one has given more credit to his collaborators than Stan, so I think he's entitled to focus on himself from time to time - just as Jack did. He's not obliged to mention them every single time, especially as, when he did, he had nothing but good to say about them. Unlike what Jack and Steve ever said about him unfortunately.

  13. Seems like the Barry's August 15 post has opened some old and deep wounds.

    To my mind Stan's lack of giving credit where credit is due comes from corporate requirements. Corporate Marvel could not be seen as giving creator credit outside of Marvel. In representing Marvel, Stan could not admit that top characters had been created by individuals, let alone individuals no longer part of Marvel. To give this information would be tantamount to opening Marvel up to potential copyright litigation. By saying he, Stan, created the characters, Stan was underlining that the characters were Marvel characters and characters created by Marvel. Yes in the early years at Marvel things were different, and Stan seemed to be happy to share creator credit. In my opinion the tide turned once Goodman started seeing the marketing potential of his characters ( i.e. tv rights) and once Joe Simon tried to reclaim copyright on Captain America (see Joe's excellent Comicbook Makers book). The tide turned on creator credit once more when Neal Adams successfully caused so much public embarrassment for DC that they had to reinstate the Siegel and Shuster by-line for Superman.

    Stan was a great comic creator, but even more importantly to corporate Marvel he was a marketable commodity. He became the face of Marvel and of comics. Eloquent, smooth, he had an ireverent repartee that appeared to touch and speak to the youth audience. Remember that we are talking about the late 60s and 70s here, when the establishment/ corporate world was seen as ugly, distasteful and distrustful. With Stan corporate Marvel had its Pied Piper.

    Re Kirby: I am a total Kirby zombie, but the Funky Flashman and Houseroy lambasting of his former employer was short-sighted and embarrassing. It was fun comics but poor judgement and bad business. Jack should have kept the vitriol to himself/shown himself to be above such spite. He really damaged his own brand there.

    One final point. Whatever the personal disagreements lets give real credit: in an industry where only the young have the enthusiasm, imagination ( and naivety) to make any notable or artistic mark, in the 60s, the era of youth creativity, two middle-aged men more than rejuvenated comics. Stan, Jack ( and of course Steve, but he was not middle-aged!) thanks for enjoyment and wonderment you (and those that followed in your footsteps) provided at the House of ideas.
    Spirit of '64
    p.s. the creation of the Silver Surfer was always given to Kirby, and can be used as a counter-argument to some of what I have written above. How paradoxical that the (arguably) one character that Stan truly cared for was one that he openly admitted he did not create.
    p.p.s Was Ditko's Peter Parker based on Ditko himself? Once Ditko left, Pete became more handsome and heroic....although the angst remained!
    p.p.p.s Isn't there the saying 'success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan'?

  14. A big part of Lee's contribution can be described in terms of "boys comics" and "girls comics." This is maybe hard to grasp in an era when it has suddenly become "sexist" to notice such distinctions. But they were regarded as real distinctions at one time and they are still useful to understand. Patsy Walker, Millie the Model and such were girls comics. Rawhide Kid, Tales to Astonish and the rest were boys comics. Lee and Kirby both had a background with doing some romance comics as well monster comics.

    But Lee had a much higher grasp of the idea of taking a broad picture of boys comics, lacing it through with some strands of girls comics, occasionally blowing them into what seems to have filled the picture, before carrying the audience into the world of boys comics once more. Kirby never showed any sense of what it really meant to play these things off against each other. If he was doing the art for Lee then he might know in advance that he needs to include some scenes with Jane Foster alongside of Mr. Hyde. But his work when writing on his own showed that he had no real grasp of how to play off different elements. It was Lee who did that and made it work.

    One of the worst examples is Captain America #198. In that issue Kirby came off like a Soviet factory manager who had gotten a call from the politburo that his product is supposed to include a dash of romance. So Kirby sticks in out of nowhere "Cap's Love Story" as something which just feels like it's being ka-plunked in there to fill the party quota. But otherwise Kirby seems clueless as to why he did he put it in there at all.