"Origins of Marvel Comics" (1974), by Stan Lee

Thanks to Allen Smith for passing along this item: a collection of quotes from Dan “21st Century Danny Boy” Best’s weblog:

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby et al…The Birth Of The Marvel Universe

I have a few comments.

Dan Best writes of Stan Lee: “It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t have a strong opinion of the man and there are distinct camps, those who believe that Stan Lee had no input into the creation of the Marvel Universe as we know it and that he took credit for the work of Jack Kirby.  There are those who believe that both Stan and Jack collaborated, and those who feel that the Kirby camp continually try to dismiss Stan’s role and place in the history of comic books.”

I’ve only been studying Jack Kirby since about 2002, so I have much to learn, but I can tell you after talking to 100s — maybe close to a 1000 or more people about Jack — I’ve never met anyone who said, “I believe that Stan Lee had no input into the creation of the Marvel Universe.” So I’m not sure who Best has been talking to. Is there anyone out there who has written that Stan Lee had “no input into the creation of the Marvel Universe?” If Best could direct us to the people who are saying this, I’d love to speak to them.

Then Best says, there are people in what he calls the “Kirby camp” who “continually try to dismiss Stan’s role and place in the history of comic books.”

Again, I’m not sure who Best has been talking to. I’m personally not the member of any “camp” (although I am a fan and a student of Jack’s work), and after discussing this topic with 100s of Jack’s fans — 1000s of them — I don’t know of anyone trying to “dismiss Stan’s role and place in the history of comic books.” Stan Lee is a legend in comics. He will go down in history as the Walt Disney of comics. He is an icon in the industry. His role as part of the Marvel machine is well-documented.

There are some comics fans, students, and historians who have questioned Lee’s version of the history over the years, and that research has led many experts to suspect Jack was heavily involved in the creation of the 1960s Marvel properties (and Jack helped write a significant number of those stories). Comics students and historians searching for the truth and reporting what they find doesn’t “dismiss” Stan’s “role and place in the history of comic books,” the research simply sets the record straight and shows Jack deserves a place beside Stan Lee in comic book history. This research “adds” Jack to the record.

When I first started studying Jack in 2002, many comics fans and especially non-comics fans believed Stan Lee was the creator of the 1960s Marvel intellectual properties. Stan Lee stood alone. For example, at that time, suggesting Jack helped create a character like Spider-Man was considered outrageous. Since that time, thanks to the work of a lot of diligent comics historians, more and more people are beginning to learn Lee did not create the 1960s Marvel intellectual properties alone — Jack was involved in the process. Now Lee and Kirby stand together in the eyes of many comics experts and fans. 

One other comment about Best’s article: just about all of the quotes in this article were discussed at length on the old yahoo Kirby-l discussion forum. Maybe Best learned to have an open mind on the Kirby vs. Lee debate from the 8-or-so years he spent on that forum learning from the Kirby experts there who were very generous — sharing their research and addressing questions from comics fans like Best. It might be a good idea to thank some of those Kirby fans, students, and historians for what they taught you.

Some friendly advice: for the “Stan Lee, Jack Kirby et al…The Birth Of The Marvel Universe” article, it would be helpful if Best would add a list of the sources for these quotes so readers know what year each quote came from, and can seek out the source to see the context of the quotes.

Best did a nice job cutting and pasting quotes in this blog posting, but in my opinion, until comics researchers learn to accurately cite sources in a format like this: (Alter Ego Magazine, issue number, date, “Article Name,” Author, page number)  comics research is going to remain in the National Enquirer category in terms of credibility (dates next to each scan of artwork would also have been helpful with the artist’s name). That was one drawback to Ronin Ro’s Tales To Astonish book (which I really enjoyed, and highly recommend), with sources cited, that book could have been a valuable tool for comics researchers.

Back when I was in grad school, I took a lot of heat for asking for sources on the Yahoo Kirby-l discussion forum, for example one prominent comics expert famously proclaimed “I’m not going to do your homework for you,” and a lot of members of the Peanut Gallery found that amusing — so me asking comic collectors for sources has become a kind of running gag amongst Kirby fans.

But, in my opinion, anyone can go to a website, select all, and cut an article or interview, and then paste it on their website — so I like to know where a piece of information came from. For example, in Best’s blog post today, all of the sources could have been pulled from Kirby-l. Or they could be from some other online source like the terrific TwoMorrows publishing website.

Citing the source does several things:

(1) It gives you credibility as a researcher: it shows you at least know the source of the quote, even if you got it from a secondary source. It clears up where you got your information. It also makes you accountable. You stand by the veracity of your research.

(2) It makes your site useful to other researchers. If you’re doing a High School paper on Stan Lee, citing “21st Century Danny Boy’s blog” as your source may be an acceptable source to some teachers, but it’s not solid research that would be accepted for a more professional analysis.

(3) It helps readers know the context. They can seek out the material themselves and see if quotes were pulled out of context. They can see if the quotes were accurately transcribed. They can see if the quotes were just cut from a website. Knowing the date of the source helps. If Lee made a quote in 1968 or 2011 it is helpful to know. Citing sources encourages readers to seek out the source documents and interpret them for themselves.

(4) Citing your sources is just polite. People like John Morrow and Roy Thomas and all the people who write/publish the various comic book history magazines put a lot of time and energy into their work. I guarantee Dan Best would go ballistic if someone pulled an interview from his site for a book or article and didn’t cite his blog as the source.

So citing sources has nothing to do with me not wanting to do homework, it has to do with giving your own work credibility, and it’s just plain professional and polite to at least try and credit the people and publications that provide you with your information.


Here is Dan Best’s comment on my post.

Stiebel, as I have pointed out in the JackKirbyCreate list, in the intro to the blog entry in question is this text: “The main focus is on that eternal debate, Stan Lee vs Jack Kirby, with the Lee quotes coming from a few sources, but mainly from his 2010 depositions.  Kirby’s quotes are taken from various interviews, some from his Comics Journal interviews, along with interviews with Greg Theakston.  Other quotes come from interviews that I have done, such as Larry Lieber, Joe Sinnott, John Romita and Dick Ayers.”I’d appreciate a retraction and an apology with the same promptness as your original entry.

I’m not surprised you missed that, as it’s clear that you either didn’t fully read the entry, or deliberately chose to exclude that information to suit your own purposes.  Also your claims that ‘a lot, if not all, of those quotes were discussed at length on the old Kiby-L” is totally erroneous, the same as a lot of the false claims you’ve made on your blog.

Daniel Best

Here is one of my replies to Dan:

Dan, imo, those sentences do not constitute a professional list of sources. If you want to split hairs and claim that is a professional source list, fine. I just don’t understand why you didn’t take the extra step and make this a truly professional, scholarly article.

Add an appendix and give the actual source (publication or website, article, date, author name, and pg. number).

As it stands now, no one knows where each quote came from. It just makes you look like you were too lazy to add a basic bibliography or list of works cited.

Just offering constructive criticism.