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Rebecca Jansen
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 1:34pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I'm sure people have heard a lot of anti-Walt Disney rhetoric about how only his name was allowed on most things, as if he were a sole creator of it all. I think people very into that anti-Disney frame think they can apply it to Stan Lee because of all those 'Stan Lee presents' shown at the top of later comics' first pages. He was a figurehead, he gave personality to Marvel comics, his soapbox column was a regular fixture, and none of it was against someone else. Hhe even wrote in the soapbox about his dismay at fans who assumed the competition between Marvel and DC was anything other than friendly, pointing out all the real friendships and how many have worked for both! He drew attention to the artists and other writers all the time too, the opposite of Disney.

Jack Kirby was just not into being a salesman or publicity seeking kind of guy, and Steve Ditko really didn't seem to want to be in the spotlight at all. It's not a flaw that Stan Lee was and did. That's a valuable type of person to have around in any business, if they don't take themselves too seriously, and he was a model at not doing that from everything I've seen! Also, I love that bit in Iron Man where he's delivering a package to Tony Stank! :^)

Edited by Rebecca Jansen on 26 February 2021 at 1:37pm
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Jason Czeskleba
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 1:48pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Stan Lee always gave the artists plenty of credit for their artwork, that is true.  But in the early days of Marvel the credits usually said "script:  Stan Lee, art: artist" which did not acknowledge the artists were contributing to the writing.

Stan did begin to rectify that after a few years, by describing the way the Marvel Method worked (both in letters pages and on the Bullpen Bulletins page).  However, the credits themselves often still said things like Stan Lee: writer and Gene Colan: artist, which continued to obscure the artist's contributions to the writing of the story.  Some of the credits said things like "Produced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby" but a lot of them did not. 

And as the 60s wore on, there were more and more instances in which the artist was sole plotter, or did the bulk of the plotting with only minimal contributions from Stan.  Aside from Ditko getting plotting credit (after demanding it) this was never reflected in the credits, nor in Stan's statements on letters pages or Bullpen Bulletins.  A great many artists (Romita, Kane, Ayers, Wood, etc) have stories about being expected to plot stories almost entirely by themselves, and this was not something that Stan acknowledged back in the day (I know I did not become aware of how substantally John Romita contributed to the plotting of Spider-Man until he began talking about it in interviews in the 90s).

So yeah, I think an argument can be made that Stan at times took too much credit in subtle ways, even as he gave the artists credit in other ways.  He is not blameless for some of the misconceptions people have about his role in the creative process.
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Dave Kopperman
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 1:51pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I said about Stan when he died: It's because of Lee that comics are a thriving, legitimized art form today.  Without his energy, enthusiasm, and tireless promotion - not to mention his authorial voice and editorial instincts - there’d be none of it.  He laid so much of the groundwork for the building we live in that we simply forget what he did and complain about the wallpaper he chose.
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Jason Czeskleba
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 1:58pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

 Michael Penn wrote:
This is all just matters of opinion and taste, of course, but I don't much like most of the issues where Ditko was listed as the plotter -- the art is amazing, but the stories never hit the right note for me. But when Romita teamed up with Stan Lee, I feel like this was a kind of return to form, not as great as the first two dozen ASM issues, but just excellent Spider-Man stories.

Huh.  I know it's a matter of taste, but I sure am puzzled how any Spider-Man fan could think that issues #31-33 "don't hit the right note" as I consider that hands down the finest Spider-Man story ever.  I agree that the quality seems to tail off after that, and Ditko's final few issues seem to lack the spark of his earlier work.  If I were to speculate, I would guess that his frustration with the creative situation was starting to show in his work, as it did with Kirby's final Marvel work a few years later.

Most likely Ditko began solo plotting Spider-Man with issue #18, though he did not start receiving credit for this until issue #25.  Ditko said that the sole plotting began several months before the credits reflected it.  And we know he solo plotted issue #18, because Stan says so in the letters page of issue #17 (even though the gives himself his standard "written by" credit on the splash page of issue #18 itself).
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 2:32pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

But in the early days of Marvel the credits usually said "script:  Stan Lee, art: artist" which did not acknowledge the artists were contributing to the writing.
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If it had said Writer: Stan Lee, Art: artist I would say you had a stronger case of saying the truth was being misrepresented. Script: Stan Lee was absolutely true. No credit is given for who came up with the plot. That's ambiguous, yes, but without getting into the Marvel Method -- and 99% of readers probably knew nothing about this at the time -- it seems fair.

And, of course, as you say, Stan would later go on to make repeated efforts to educate people about how the process worked behind the scenes.
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Jason Czeskleba
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 3:08pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

 Peter Martin wrote:
If it had said Writer: Stan Lee, Art: artist I would say you had a stronger case of saying the truth was being misrepresented. Script: Stan Lee was absolutely true. No credit is given for who came up with the plot. That's ambiguous, yes, but without getting into the Marvel Method -- and 99% of readers probably knew nothing about this at the time -- it seems fair.

Prior to the first time Stan described it in the Bullpen Bulletins (which I think was circa 1965) no one knew how the Marvel Method worked.  I'm sure anyone who saw the credits assumed the person who wrote the script also came up with the plot.  And at any rate, a great deal of those early Marvel magazines do simply say "written by Stan Lee."  The first Doctor Strange story says "Story:  Stan Lee, Art: Steve Ditko" even though Ditko plotted that story entirely by himself.
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Doug Centers
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 3:13pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Seemed like into the early sixties there wouldn't be many credits shown, maybe the title page had the artist's initials or name in some small corner.
The Journey Into Mystery plot credit would disappear after about a year.



Edited by Doug Centers on 26 February 2021 at 3:19pm
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 4:17pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply


 QUOTE:
I sure am puzzled how any Spider-Man fan could think that issues #31-33 "don't hit the right note"

Hi Jason. I'd said "most" of the official Ditko-plotted stories aren't much to my liking. I didn't clarify that those issues are the exceptions for me. Those are, indeed. Cheers!
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Robert Bradley
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 4:30pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

I think a bigger issue was that Stan was making money as editor and writer, but the artists were doing a great deal of the plotting while only being paid as the artist.  They probably deserved a bigger piece of the pie for their work.

The matter of credit for character creation will probably never be solved to everyone's satisfaction.  Stan saw creation as the conceiving the idea of the character, while many others believe the visual design is just as important, particularly in a visual medium.

The disagreement of creation I can accept.  The lack of payment and credit for the monthly work is a little more difficult to shallow.


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Peter Martin
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 4:41pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I think a bigger issue was that Stan was making money as editor and writer, but the artists were doing a great deal of the plotting while only being paid as the artist.
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From the Roy Thomas article: 'Maybe the later-despised "controversial Marvel Method" (as Riesman anoints it) of doing a story is one reason that Marvel writers' rates generally tended to lag behind DC's for some years: so that the artists could be paid as well as possible.'

and

'It was begun primarily to benefit the artists — so that, at a time when Stan was virtually the company's sole writer, they wouldn't have to sit on their hands earning no money until he had time to bang out a full script for them'
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 5:52pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

From what I've seen and read and experienced myself as I've tried to dip my toe in the business (nothing you've heard of, I'm sure), comic artists often WANT to be involved in the plot!  If the writer is too strict and micromanaging, it's stifling.  It's hard to believe that these old pros were complaining about having too much artistic freedom!

Another example that sticks out in my memory is, after being the artist on DAREDEVIL for hardly any time at all, Stan Lee made a big deal in the credits box of Wally Wood writing a couple of issues too.  Why would Stan give full credit to a "new guy" in the bullpen but not to his two most important collaborators?  Unless he based the credit on the balance or percentage of the writing work?

The whole debate, it seems to me, comes down to expectation and job description.  When Stan Lee hired someone to be an artist, he expected them to do some of the plotting (probably the more page-to-page breakdown details, and they got paid more for it) and maybe sometimes the artist didn't get the memo.

This might make some people's heads explode, but plotting is easier than scripting.  (At least GOOD scripting!)

If the artists really were doing the plots and Stan Lee had to come in afterward and make sense of it all with his script, that's even MORE of an accomplishment!

Edited by Eric Jansen on 26 February 2021 at 5:54pm
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Eric Jansen
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Posted: 26 February 2021 at 6:38pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

MIGHTY COMICS--In the 60's, Archie/MLJ tried to duplicate the the success of Marvel Comics with "hip" writing and down-to-earth situations like the Web being a henpecked husband!  It was painful to watch.

CONTINUITY COMICS--Neal Adams, the industry's top dynamic-realistic artist, started his own company in the mid-80's, with the best paper and coloring of the time, starring some very solid characters with great names and even better designs.  He surrounded himself with a stable of artists that could mimic his fantastic style very well (and a few who retained their own great style like Michael Golden) and presented a cohesive house style across the line.  But the writing wasn't there and it folded.

IMAGE COMICS--In the early 90's, the hottest artists in the business defected from Marvel's biggest books and started their own company.  There was finally a third big super-hero universe that shot out of the gate lke gangbusters!  The excitement in the air (whenever I happened to visit a comic shop, which was rare back then) was palpable.  Cartoon and live action shows followed, and so did the toys.  And crossovers.  This was IT!  Until it wasn't, and the founders either went their separate ways or hunkered down in their little (ever-shrinking) fiefdoms.

DARK HORSE COMICS--This really solid and well-liked publisher tried to give us "Comics' Greatest World," another interactive super-hero universe with some solid characters...but without that certain charm or spirit to keep it going.

CROSS-GEN COMICS--They got some great talent together, doing some books people loved, all with a crossover aspect--but they expanded too fast and all of a sudden was gone.

DC COMICS--Even as DC revived the super-hero comic book in the late 50's and early 60's, missteps led to the cancellation of things that should have been sure winners--THE ATOM, HAWKMAN, SUPERGIRL, even GREEN LANTERN.  Even once-giant sellers like LOIS LANE, JIMMY OLSEN, and SUPERBOY lost their place, never to regain them.  A company-wide vision was lacking--something that continued to CRISIS and beyond.

All these companies didn't have what Marvel had--Stan Lee.  Whatever his supposed failings, he kept Marvel together with a solid vision that grew and solidified over ten years, twenty years, and more.  Whatever Kirby and Ditko's contributions, Stan hired them to begin with.  With limited distribution, he shepherded characters like CAPTAIN AMERICA, IRON MAN and the once-cancelled HULK, giving them space to become super-stars.  Even ANT-MAN--the two movies have made over a billion dollars!  When can we expect THE ATOM movie?

Stan Lee did what no other single man in the history of comics has ever done--like a man on a mission (whether he realized it at the time or not), he pulled together the characters and talent to start, hold, and progress an amazing comic book universe.


Edited by Eric Jansen on 26 February 2021 at 6:44pm
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