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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, December 5, 2011


As I've recently gotten involved in some ongoing arguments on the old Lee-Kirby credit thing, I've decided to post a few of my observations here as well, starting with this one:


...none of the stories Stan Lee tells as to the origin of characters he originated are any more far-fetched than those of Kirby.

Remember how Kirby said he came up with the Hulk? Seeing some news story about a woman lift a car off her child, or somesuch. This is what I call a "foxy grandpa" story, because it makes gramps look really clever. Kirby doesn't mention any other factors in his creation of the Hulk-- not any suggestions from Stan about making the Hulk look like Frankenstein, nor whether he Kirby was aware of Dick Briefer's use of that character (I've heard someone claim JK knew of DB), or any influence from THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN.

Lee's spider-on-a-wall for me is not an insidious credit-hogging ploy. It's another "foxy grandpa" story, which we only know to be untrue because of the testimony of Ditko and a few others.

Consider too that by the time Spidey got popular, Stan probably didn't remember particulars as to who did what any more. Of course, even if you'd asked him at the time about Spidey's true genesis, he might not have cared to admit having derived any part of it from the Fly, given the reputation of litigious Archie Comics.

Did Lee hog credit at times? Probably, but you've also got to remember that in the 1960s nobody cared about the fine details of who did what but a handful of earnest fans.

Kirby's descriptions of how he came up with stuff are of a piece with Stan's; lots of generalized metaphors with very few details about corporate or cultural influences.


"100Aliases" said...

I must agree. While there's no denying that Lee gets the lion's share of praise (among the general public, at least), some of Kirby's admirers have a tendency to really whitewash the things he did.

Whatever way you look at it:

-Lee was a guy who didn't mention Kirby in a few magazine articles in the 60s and 70s, articles that were mostly about Lee himself's creative process. He still acknowledged that Jack drew everything and extolled the man's talents. He ddin't pull a Bob Kane and claim he drew the comics as well.

He also made sure to get his own name taken off of a poster that falsely claimed he created Captain America. Hardly the actions of an egotistical monster.

-Kirby denied he had ever had help from anyone, including Joe Simon. He claimed to have written everything, dialogue too. He also claimed to have created, on multiple occasions, Superman & Captain Marvel and denied the talents of almost everyone who worked with him in some form or another.

If Lee had done the same, especially claiming he created Superman, you can bet we'd hear it every single time a Lee-detractor opened their mouth.

Also, the idea of Banner becoming the Hulk at times of stress didn't even come into play until the Hulk's Tales to Astonish series.

Gene Phillips said...

The Hulk is also a curious case because in the initial six-issue run, neither Lee nor Kirby seems to know quite what to do with him. Is he the enemy of mankind? The puppet of Rick Jones? A tough-talkin' hero like the Thing? Well, all of the above.

As you say, the Hulk doesn't gather a consistent fan-base until Lee and Ditko come up with a consistent take on the character as a pidgin-speaking, misunderstood monster who also changes under stress-- though the first L-D adventure even had the Hulk reverting to Banner under extreme stress. I think the creators belatedly realized that would be pretty disadvantageous over time. Thus when they changed that up so that Greenjeans only reverted when he relaxed, they finally tapped the right mythological vein.

It's also noteworthy that Ditko has never claimed that, despite working in the Marvel method, he authored everything he and Lee worked on. He's been very specific about correcting Lee when Lee took credit for ideas Ditko promulgated during the period when Ditko did all the Spider-Man plotting. But to my knowledge he's never claimed sole credit for originating Spider-Man or even for coming up with the definitive Hulk.

Gene Phillips said...

On top of my earlier comments re the Hulk story, someone on a yahoogroup pointed out to me that Kirby's story about the woman lifting the car doesn't even represent well the kind of Hulk Kirby said he came up with. Later versions of the Hulk did a Hulk whose strength changed with his emotions, a la adrenalized rage. But the strength of Kirby's Hulk was consistent, not dependent on rage, and his transformations-- which showed strong borrowings from Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde-- didn't depend on rage either.