Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stan Lee is a dick.

I've never met the guy, so that's pretty harsh. He's arguably responsible for half of the shape of modern super-hero comix. Who's responsible for the other half? This guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M50Mjdsh_iw&eurl=
I've got this interviw with Jack Kirby on tape somewhere. It was a christmas gift sometime in the mid-eighties. "The Masters Of Comic Book Art" or somesuch. It also included Dave Sim, Frank Miller, a very lengthy pre-recorded statement (more like a manifesto) from Steve Ditko, and others, hosted by a very zombie-looking Harlan Ellison. I was aware of Kirby at the time, but his stuff didn't thrill me. But I remember watching this. It must have planted a seed in me at the time cuz as the years progressed I became a devotee. I remember wishing this guy was my Grampa.
Now, there has always been a great deal of speculation regarding credit for the early Marvel Universe. There have been lawsuits and settlements and there seems to be a pretty clear party line that involves the Mighty Marvel Method. Stan wrote outlines (plots) which he gave to the artists, they then had the freedom to craft the beats of the story and even contribute a character or two here and there. The final pages would then be returned to Stan, who would then write the dialogue (scripts). So this is seen as a pretty even split. Stan Lee co-created the Marvel Universe. But I guess Stan's contribution comes into question when you consider the specifics of the plot. How much of this was Stan's, and how much belonged to Jack Kirby, or Steve Ditko? Those specifics aren't available to us. They're lost to the sands of time and legal settlements. But I can tell you how much he contributed to a recent story: Stan Lee Meets the Silver Surfer. Or, more accurately, Mike Weiringo can. From his Blog: "STAN LEE MEETS the SILVER SURFER hits the stands at comic shops today. I drew the lead story that was written by Stan "The Man" Lee himself... and it was a unique experience to be able to work on that story. It's special in that I can say that I worked with Stan Lee on a comic book story (albeit a very short one)." ..."Stan's plot was incredibly brief in length... and so I had to do a lot of extrapolation for the 10-page story... but that gave me a little taste of what it must have been like back in the early days of the "HOUSE OF IDEAS" when the stories published then were more often than not the result of a short phone conversation between Stan and his artist about the overall theme of the book they were working on-- and the artist would then draw the story in its entirety from that conversation. What a different working world it was then compared to now"
I imagine Stan Lee is a pretty busy guy, but then again, I imagine he's always been pretty busy. In his prime he wrote pretty much all of Marvel's schedule on a monthly basis. No mean feat. But maybe not quite so mean when the the first appearance of Galactus might have been plotted as a phone call to Jack calling for something "big and cosmic, that'll threaten not just the FF, but the whole world, you know what I mean, right Jack?" Then Jack comes back with Galactus and the Silver Surfer. Stan then fills in all the bubbles with words. Makes Stan's workload a little more plausible and fits with Ringo's account. Add Jack's pretty possesive account of coming up with Galactus and what his thinking was behind the character from the interview, I'd say Stan's role is at best questionable. Granted this is just one guy telling his version, but I don't recall, in all the years of discussion over this topic, anyone ever calling Jack a liar. Lee has been called worse. Jack's word and character have never, to my knowledge, been called into question.
I'm pretty biased on this one, I'll admit that. If there ever was one guy I wish I had met in the comix biz, it's Jack Kirby. I met John Romita Sr once. He was great. Looked at my portfolio, gave me advice that I'll always remeber, and generally treated this fifteen year old fan with respect. Met Chris Claremont once too. He was a dick. Wil Eisner was very gracious, as was Mike Allred, but I gotta say, Laura Allred was even nicer to me (no disrespect to Mike, he was swamped at the time). I'm getting off topic, sorry.
Stan Lee has done a lot for comix, no argument. Kevin Smith seems to think pretty highly of him, but he did name his daughter Harley, after the Batman character, so his judgement can be called into question. And Jack Kirby gets a lot of credit too, but I just don't know how fair a share. I suppose the only one who knows that is Stan, and he sure as hell isn't telling.


BradInOttawa said...

Soo...you hate Stan Lee now?


The idea-raping-plagerizing bastard!!!
Free Jack Kirby!!

Hate Stan Lee!

Do you need a hug?

Troy Little said...

I've got that "Masters of Comic" VHS kicking around here somewhere. Mind you it was for the Dave Sim bit... I'll have to take another watch and see what "The Man" has to say.

I think Stan Lee's contribution was pretty weak myself, and the "Marvel Way" of creating comics he pioneered is not in any way, shape or form the best way to make comics. Write an outline (maybe a paragraph), get your artistis to do all the work, then step in and fill in the blanks with wordy nonesense and take half the credit.

I wouldn't say he's a dick, but he sure is overblown.

Anonymous said...

Stan Lee never wrote or illustrated anything ... ever. He is a figure-head. His biggest accomplishment was marrying the daughter of the original publisher of Marvel. I know this is a hard pill for youngsters to take ... but ask any veteran cartoonist.

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old article. But, the thing is Stan Lee never denied any of this. In repeated interviews he has given Kirby, Ditko and other artists most of the credit for the stories they told together. He has always maintained that he hired artists that could tell a story. He would give them the outline and let them tell most of the story.

For example: Lee has always given total credit to Kirby for the creation of the Silver Surfer. Lee said that the Surfer was not in the original plot and that Kirby added the character to punch up the story.

I have never understood why people act like Stan Lee is some ego maniac running around taking credit for things he did not do. All you have to do is listen to "The Man" himself speak. It is clear he gives the credit to Kirby, Ditko et all.

On the other hand if you want to see what Lee added to the stories, just look at what Kirby and Ditko did without Lee. None of it is anywhere near as great as what they did with Lee and much of it is just plain bad. Whereas Lee worked with many different artists in the early days of Marvel and most of it is greatness.

Whether Stan Lee is a creative genius or (more likely) a terrific editor and idea man who brought out the best in those he worked with is open to endless debate. The fact remains that Stan Lee was the one constant in what is perhaps the most creative and influential period of comics history, and without him very few of us would remember Jack Kirby or
Steve Ditko. In fact without Stan Lee it is likely that comic books would no longer exist as an art form today.

Anonymous said...

I was going to read your post about Stan Lee being a dick but your color scheme, font & type size literally made my eyeballs bleed after the first two sentences. I'm assuming you don't like having readers?

Anonymous said...

what will stan lee do at 100.

Anonymous said...

Stan Lee is a hack and a thief. Its a shame he's gotten away with claiming so much as his work.

Anonymous said...

Stan Lee never created anything, except the myth that he created everything. He's a liar and a thief who was a corporate shill for his uncle.