Mike Cagle: I don’t think Lee said he wrote the stories alone and generously let the artists add a little something once in awhile. I think he claimed that he would give the artist a general idea for a story, or he and the artist would come up with that idea together in a conversation, or, with Kirby and Ditko, he would often give the artist little or nothing to go on – maybe a suggestion as to which villain to use – and they would come up with the story idea on their own. And then, so the typical description of the process goes, the artist would draw the story, and in the process, they would obviously work out the details of the storytelling – events, plotting, pacing, staging, page layout, etc. So by this conventional Stan Lee description of the process, obviously the artist (at least some of the artists, like Kirby and Ditko, who were skilled storytellers) were what you and I would call co-writers. The reason Lee doesn’t consider them writers (besides ego, and legal considerations) is that he has his own definition of the term: The writer is the one who puts the words in. That has a certain kind of logic, even though I would describe “writer’ as more than that – the person who decides what happens in a story is a writer, too, in my opinion (and yours I think) – but that’s not how Lee uses the term.
You make some great points, but again, Lee always suggests that the ideas were his so he was the one who created the characters and wrote the stories. There are really only a few rare interviews where Lee admits Jack came up with plots alone and I don’t recall him ever giving a specific book.
This is a typical quote Lee made recently. Actually I think this is in his documentary.
Lee does gush over the artists briefly, but he always adds that the original ideas were his. And this is typical Lee mumbo-jumbo. Just say, “I would have an artist like Jack Kirby write the stories, and I added text.” Why is that so impossible for him to do?
Listen, I’d love for a Lee scholar to put all Lee’s quotes together and give us a reference book on this. I’m not a Lee expert. I wrote about 800 posts here and very few of them are about Lee. Mainly I was throwing out a theory: that Jack helped create FF and Jack wrote the bulk of FF # 1 with visuals. If there are quotes where Lee credits Jack as a writer on 60s books like FF # 1 or there’s a quote where Lee says Jack created a particular character like the ones in FF # 1, I’d love to see it. That would certainly shut me up woudn’t it?
In most of the interviews with Lee I’ve seen, Lee talks about how the artists were great, but all the ideas were his.
Here are some additional Facebook comments on this from Patrick Ford and John Sagness:
Patrick Ford: The thing is Lee never credited Kirby for plotting in the pages of a Marvel comic book (Kirby did get two writing credits in the ’60s), and Kirby was never paid for his plotting. Prior to the time Marvel was purchased by Perfect Film and Chemical Inc. in late 1968, Lee did on occasion credit Kirby with plotting in interviews.
Patrick Ford: In his recent deposition Lee was asked about all of his old interview statements. Lee now says Kirby was not involved in the creation of plots and characters. Lee says in the old interviews he tried to make it sound like he and Kirby were working out stories as a team, because he knew Kirby would see the articles, and he wanted to make “Jack feel good, like we were doing it together.” Lee’s current sworn testimony is not a matter of bad memory, he was surrounded by lawyers (his own personal counsel, as well as attorneys representing Marvel and Disney) while delivering his deposition, and Lee was in consultation with the attorney’s during the breaks in testimony. The legacy under attack is Kirby’s. The idea Lee is being torn down is plainly ludicrous. It’s Kirby who is being torn down, and Lee is doing most of the damage.
Patrick Ford: What is most interesting about Lee’s fans is their opinion that Stan Lee is in some way the slighted party in Kirby/Lee debates. The fact is Lee took full credit for writing and the full writers page rate back in the Silver Age. In his typical televangelist style Lee described The Marvel Method as something Lee came up with out of a good natured concern for the well being of “his artists.” In his description of the Marvel Method Lee reminds me of a passage from Tom Sawyer: “At this dark and hopeless moment an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than a great, magnificent inspiration…” In Twain’s story Tom convinces his friend Ben to do his work for him, even convinces Ben Tom is doing him a favor by allowing Ben to do Tom’s work. Now Lee didn’t convince Kirby, or Wood or Ditko of this, they weren’t quite as gullible as Ben, but Lee did a wonderful job of convincing so called “comics scholars and historians” that he was doing Kirby, Ditko , and Wood a favor by taking credit and and the full writers page rate. For me it’s incredible to see Lee’s nonsense parroted almost word for word to this day. I would hope people couldn’t read Lee’s account of the Marvel Method without bursting into laughter, but it’s sadly not the case. And it isn’t as if Lee was averse to taking a plot credit himself for stories where he didn’t add the dialogue. Since the Silver Age Lee has continued to demean Kirby at every opportunity. It’s true Lee praises Kirby as a penciler, but that is the full extent of his praise. Lee’s claims are so entrenched his fans take any attempt to point out Kirby created characters and plotted stories as an attempt to tear down Lee. I suppose that’s logical because after all Lee says he created everything but the artwork all on his own. So Lee has placed himself in a position where anyone who tries to credit Kirby with creating characters or plotting is taking credit Lee has given himself, and giving some portion of it to Kirby.
John Sagness: Stan has been perpetrating a colossal lie for fifty years with the complete backing of a giant corporation. It was and is utterly unfair, disrespectful and cruel to Kirby and his family and it needs to be exposed once and for all to the light of truth. Just because Stan is “old” now doesn’t mean he should be absolved of all moral and ethical responsibilities! And it also doesn’t mean his lies should be allowed to go unchallenged. As you said, with the great power that Stan has, he also has a great responsibility to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But since he’s never even done that under oath in a court of law, I don’t expect him to do it any time soon — at least not until he has to testify in the Divine Courtroom (a date which is fast approaching)…at which time I sure as Hell wouldn’t want to be him!