The Never-Ending “Who Created Spider-man” Debate, Part 2

Here is another one of my posts, edited somewhat, from the “Spider-man” debate from the Ditko/Kirby Yahoo site on the The Never-Ending “Who Created Spider-man” Debate.

Sure, Lee might have decided to create a Spider character all by himself, and yeah, maybe Lee did create Spider-man alone with no input from Jack Kirby. But, here’s what I think happened. This is a fast, short speculation on the chronology. To repeat, only God knows what really took place, so I’m speculating.

There was an unused Spider-man concept in the Simon/Kirby files dating back to the early 1950s. Maybe Jack worked on it at some point with Joe Simon, maybe not. Jack certainly worked on the Fly. Fast-forward to 1962: Martin Goodman wants new hero comics. He tells Lee to get to work. Lee asks Jack for ideas. Jack suggests a Spider-man — a swashbuckling crimefighter. Lee green-lights the project.

Jack draws the first 5 pages. When Lee gives the art to Ditko to ink, Ditko (or someone else in the bullpen) points out that Jack’s Spider-man character resembles the Fly. This could create copyright problems. Ditko has ideas. Ditko can make the character different, more unique. Lee realizes Ditko can handle working “Marvel Method,” so Lee gives Ditko a short synopsis that includes most of Jack’s original story (the protagonist is a kid living with his Aunt  and Uncle, the kid is a science geek who tinkers with gadgets, the kid is transformed and becomes a spider-man who shoots webs, crawls on walls, becomes a crime-fighter), and Lee tells Ditko to get to work.

Ditko runs with it. Ditko makes major changes (Gruff Cop Uncle becomes lovable Ben, webgun becomes webshooter, no magic ring, etc.) and mainly Ditko redesigns the costume to fit his vision for a spider character. Ditko’s unique illustration style, anatomy, and perspective also resonates with readers. Lee adds text to Ditko’s art. Ditko goes on to write and draw the bulk of the stories after that. Lee adds text. Lee’s dialogue, bullpen bulletins, and letters pages resonate with readers. Eventually Ditko quits, he’s sick of writing stories for Lee without credit and writer compensation.

Lee works on the spider-character with Romita. Romita’s pretty style resonates with readers and the character starts to really take off. Eventually Lee decides to focus his time on self-promotion not editing/captioning comics. Fast-forward to the late 1970s: when he’s writing his “How I Invented Spider-man” article, Stan Lee composes a fairy tale, a flat-out fabrication: Lee claims he was gonna quit comics and write novels in 1962, but his wife gave him the ol’ “win one for the Gipper” speech, so Lee was transformed by that — like the Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree, like Mohammad receiving the Koran — Lee had a revelation, a miraculous vision: a SPIDER-MAN! A comic for ADULTS! A total revolutionary reinvention of the Super-hero genre!

Lee is a sensation at college lecture halls when he does this shtick. He wows audiences explaining how he created Spidey alone. The audience is in AWE. How could ONE MAN have created so many characters ALONE? (Indeed…) This is the beginning of Lee’s fake “Solo-creator/Genius” Mozart persona which has made him millions and a living legend. I do think Lee’s hip pseudo-teenager dialogue added a unique element to Spidey, and I’m sure Lee discussed plots with Ditko and gave Romita a lot of guidance, but I think just about everything Lee’s said about the actual origin of that Spider-man property is nothing more than self-promotional propaganda.

As far as firing Jack off Spidey in 1962 because Kirby failed to draw non-heroic anatomy? As I mentioned in one of my old Kirby Dynamics posts on the topic, they had this neat gadget called an eraser back then — Jack easily could have erased the muscles and drawn scrawny-looking depression-era characters if Lee so directed him. 40 years later, in 2011, Stan Lee still claims he created Spider-man alone. 100% by himself. Very few people believe him any more thanks to the internet and the research of several great comics historians.

I wish Lee would at least acknowledge Jack’s important role in the genesis of the Marvel Spider-man property in 1962, or I’d like to see Lee at least admit he has a bad memory and admit maybe Jack did indeed contribute important elements to the final version of the iconic Marvel Spider-man intellectual property. But as many of you know, currently Stan Lee claims he created 100% of the major Marvel 60s intellectual properties 100% alone (except Silver Surfer), which means I’m not holding my breath.

So in my opinion, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and even Joe Simon saying they created Spider-man is partially true — they are all great grandfathers of the character — and if a really good journalist ever writes a noteworthy article on the subject I hope in addition to Stan Lee, men like Simon, Ditko, and Kirby will also get a little recognition for their role in the creation of a character that truly has transcended the comic book genre. Spider-man may be the most popular fictional character in the world right now, and as a Kirby fan it was fun to learn Jack helped bring that concept to life.