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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...

Thursday, February 25, 2016


From a current argument on THE BEAT:

First I wrote:

The point IMO is that Stan is there to communicate the fact of authorship at all, as opposed to the days when outsiders never gave a thought as to who created Superman and Batman. Even when Jerry Siegel tried to sue over ownership of Superman in the 70s, it took considerable time for wire services to even bother to cover the story, according to Larry Tye’s findings.
If you want to believe that Stan stole all the credit for the Marvel works, you’ve got a lot of company, because it’s a familiar knee-jerk response in fandom. But the question of authorship is one that anyone can investigate if they care to do so.I believe that while Lee’s claim to complete authorship is exaggerated, but I believe the claims of Ditko and Kirby are just as exaggerated. But why do fans only attack Lee for his exaggerated claims, but allow Ditko and Kirby to skate on by? (Reisman comes close to this as well; he just barely mentions any questionable aspects of these artists’ outsized claims.)
I know that mainstream audiences are not likely to investigate anyone’s claims in detail, just as they were willing for many years to think that Walt Disney created all the Disney projects. The important thing is not the masses, who will never remember such details. My concern is that at least some of the intelligentisa– genuine or would-be– can even grasp the fact of comics-book authorship. If THEY don’t do their bloody research, that’s not Lee’s fault.

And then I wrote:

Lee certainly can't be blamed for the media's indifference to the careers of the many people who didn't work with him in any significant way. Such names would include the aforementioned Jerry Siegel (who just barely contributed a few scripts to Marvel before he left, possibly with the intent of biting Lee's style with the Archie line of "Mighty Comics"), Joe Kubert, John Broome, Gardner Fox, Alex Toth. The media didn't care if any of them were doing great work or crappy work, because all comics were crappy by definition. You can blame Lee for his own crappy work, but he didn't create the dominant prejudice against comics of all kinds.

Lee was the only one the media paid attention to, and that's not because he kept all of his employees in obscurity. It was because he knew how to perform in public, how to give audiences what they wanted. He sold his comics as being different from everything that had come before. That was some truth and some falsehood to that, as there was in his claim to have originated everything. I don't believe that he originated everything, but I do believe that he gave Kirby, Ditko and everyone else who worked under him some degree of guidance, always oriented on what he felt would sell to the public. 


I'm talking about authorship, and have been since I mentioned "the presence of real comics creators" in my first post. I'm sure his position on character-creation is influenced by legal considerations, so that it has to be taken with a grain of salt. Legally, an "honorary co-credit" is all that Lee had the power to bestow in terms of the matter of creation, at least as long as he was a Marvel employee. But because he wanted to sell the personalities behind Marvel Comics as much as he wanted to sell the characters, Lee frequently praised his collaborators to the heavens. That's one of the big reasons that I credit him with creating much of the debate we have today about authorship. Even the fact that Lee credited Kirby with inventing the Silver Surfer ironically abetted many of Kirby's later outsized claims that he Kirby did everything.

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