Before I wrap up this series on Stan Lee and the creation of the FF, I want to give you Stan Lee’s fans side of the story. These are a handful of the various theories floating around out there (mainly on private members-only comic book fan chat lists where they can censor those who criticize these various theories) that Lee’s defenders feel prove Stan Lee created characters like the Fantastic Four alone.
(1) The chain of command theory: This is a theory I heard many times from Greg Theakston on the old Kirby-l discussion forum. Based on his research, Greg says (I’m paraphrasing): (1) Martin Goodman assigned Lee a genre. For example, Goodman would say: “give me a super-team comic.” (2) Lee would create the property alone. Jack was not a part of this process. Never. The characters would be fully fleshed-out and created when Lee handed Jack a script. (3) Kirby would take the Lee script with the Lee-created characters and Kirby would pencil the Lee story following Lee’s instructions. So there is no way Kirby could have helped create characters like the FF because Greg thinks that was not how things were done in the chain of command.
(2) The name game: if Stan names a character, he created it.
If Lee names something “Invisible Girl” — Lee created it. Who cares if he doesn’t even know whether her clothes turn invisible in his “synopsis” of the first story, Lee still created it (Jack can figure out the rest later) — Lee created the Invisible Man with breasts, because he says he did.
Reminds me of Columbus discovering America — Columbus named it, so it must be his.
(3) Last call: As Editor, if Lee approved an idea… he created it.
For example if Jack has a character who is an alien colonizer with a big head appear in a story and Lee names the character “Tana Nile,” Lee created her. Hell, even if Jack named her “Tana Nile” in the margin notes, Lee still created her because Lee wrote the words in a dialogue balloon and that is “creation.” If Jack introduces a character like Blastaar in a story, and Lee names it, Lee created him. Etc., etc. etc., etc., times about 1000 Kirby-created characters. If the story passes through Stan Lee’s hands as editor, he created all the characters by approving them. So if Jack put Mole Man in FF # 1, Lee created him, alone, because he typed out the name and as editor had the final say.
(4) “Because I said so”: Lee created FF because he said so. “Nuff said.”
(5) Stan was the “writer”: even if Jack did tell the story with visuals, Lee’s text is what made the characters come to life. For example Lee’s “Forsooth, verily methinks thou doth thee in thine…” pseudo-Shakespearean Thor-babble convinced 5-year-olds they were reading a modern version of Milton, hence the success of Thor. Same with FF, Lee’s dialogue brought FF to life, in fact Jack’s art sucked on FF # 1. More evidence that Jack didn’t care and had no input into FF # 1’s creation.
(6) Invisible Girl is stupid: Jack would never have come up with a character as dumb as Invisible Girl. Lee must have created her.
(7) Human Torch was an old character: Jack hated working on old characters, so would never have suggested the Torch. Lee must have created the Torch in FF.
(8) The Thing is stupid: it’s just a dumb monster, Jack could have come up with something better than that, right? Therefore Lee created the Thing, alone.
(9) Mr. Fantastic was a Plastic Man rip-off: Lee must have created that. Jack could have done better.
(This next one which I broke up into 4 parts came from one individual on a comics chat list. I know it’s hard to believe and I’m paraphrasing, but I’m not making this up.)
(10) Lee gave Jack a script: so Lee created everything because the script is the first part of the process — the place where the story is written and the characters are created.
(a) A one sentence plot is a script: A one sentence plot is a script because a plot has text and a script has text so a plot is a script. If Lee gave Jack a plot, then that plot is a script which means Lee wrote a script which means Lee created all the characters in the story and wrote the story.
(b) A two-paragraph synopsis is a script: A two-paragraph synopsis is a script because a synopsis has text and a script has text so a synopsis is a script. If Lee gave Jack a synopsis, then that synopsis is a script which means Lee wrote a script which means Lee created all the characters in the story and wrote the story.
(c) A short one-page outline is a script: A short one-page outline is a script because an outline has text and a script has text so an outline is a script. If Lee gave Jack an outline, then that outline is a script which means Lee wrote a script which means Lee created all the characters in the story and wrote the story.
(d) A verbal discussion is a script: A verbal discussion is a script because a verbal discussion uses words that signify text and a script has text so a verbal discussion is a script. If Lee discussed a story with Jack, then that discussion is a script which means Lee wrote a script which means Lee created all the characters in the story and wrote the story.
(11) “I’m the boss”: even if Lee did not give Jack a plot, script, outline or synopsis, etc., and Jack had to write the story 100% on his own, Lee was the boss, therefore the creator. In a similar fashion to the way a man like Bill Gates gets credit for creating Microsoft despite the contributions of others, Stan Lee deserves credit for creating all the 60s Marvel characters because he was in charge. Lee is the Bill Gates of Marvel and should be celebrated as such.
(12) “Kirby was a liar”: Kirby said “Stan created nothing” in an obscure TCJ interview. We know Lee created She-Hulk, therefore Jack lied when he said “Stan created nothing,” which means everything Jack ever said should be called into question — Jack’s other stories might be lies too, so Kirby is a liar and Stan must be telling the truth, ergo, Stan Lee created everything, like FF.
(13) A token of gratitude: Lee does admit Jack created Silver Surfer. So maybe this shows Lee is honest, and generous in terms of giving Jack credit? Lee could have easily lied and said he created Silver Surfer. Since Lee told the truth, maybe he’s telling the truth about creating all the other 60s Marvel characters?
(14) Kirby has a bad memory: so anything Jack said about creating FF must not be true.
(15) Lee is a showman: (I’ll start using some more visual aids now in honor of Lee’s showmanship). Lee didn’t really create FF alone, but it makes for an entertaining story, and Lee’s goal is to make us all happy, so that’s why he claims he created everything. Kirby fans who want to talk about the real history are wrong for trying to ruin the fun.
Stan Lee is Walt Disney, Mark Twain, and P.T. Barnum all wrapped up in one cute package. Why complain if he gets a fact wrong?
(16) (This is my favorite) Lee forgot what he forgot: Lee forgot what happened in the 1960s, so he made up a solo-genius-creator story to entertain audiences in the 1970s. Now it’s 2012! Lee probably forgot that he forgot what happened in the 60s so now he thinks he’s telling the truth!
(17) Jack was a cigar-chompin’ mumblin’ nitwit: Kirby never created anything on his own. Joe Simon helped him with everything before the 1960s. Fourth World failed in the 70s. Without Lee’s guidance, Jack would never have created anything of note. He would have been forgotten and alone without Lee.
(18) Stan’s gregarious, lovable persona is what made FF a success: Lee’s hip dialogue, happenin’ letters pages, and hoppin’ bullpen bulletins are what made books like FF a smash. FF would have been just as successful with someone like Don Heck on pencils, or any other artist in comics on pencils. Kirby was lucky to have that job. Lee made FF shine!
Lee is beloved the whole world over and his inner charm and bottomless imagination are the qualities that made him such a success, not Jack’s work on the 60s comics.
(19) Jack needed an editor like Lee to “rein him in”: Sort of like breaking a wild stallion. Jack should actually be grateful Lee was able to give him focus.
(20) Lee gave Jack his freedom: Lee allowed Jack to do things like deciding how many people to put in a crowd scene – this enabled Jack to spread his wings and fly solo for a brief moment. Because of Lee’s kindness (giving Jack his freedom) there were moments in the 1960s where Jack was like a hang glider soaring among the mountaintops on his own – for a fleeting moment in the production of a comic book — Jack Kirby was FREE!
Kirby was free, thanks to Stan! Free to be creative and to contribute an idea on his OWN! Finally flying high above the earth — Jack was able to experience the rush of CREATIVITY! Thanks to the generosity of Stan Lee, the comics God, Jack was given the freedom to insert an idea into a 1960s comic book!
So why is Kirby such an ingrate? How dare Jack expect to be paid for that extra work or ask for credit for that work? He was free! How dare Jack Kirby question his fearless leader’s version of the history when Lee gave Jack so much freedom? (Thinking of Lee’s kindness in granting Jack his freedom is bringing a tear to my eye).
(21) The cone of silence: Like in the Get Smart TV show, when Kirby and Lee were in a meeting creating characters, a cone of silence would drop out of the ceiling, except Jack was not allowed inside, therefore Lee was able to create concepts like FF 100% alone, without that pesky Kirby giving him ideas (okay, this was my theory — along with the theory that aliens from the planet Splortuu transmitted all the ideas for the 60s Marvel characters to Lee via ESP — but the cone of silence is one of the theories out there).
(22) There’s nothing new under the sun: There were other teams of heroes in mythology, so it’s no surprise Lee came up with one on his own — therefore Lee created FF alone because that’s what eveybody does.
There were other teams of heroes in movie history, so it’s no surprise Lee came up with a team of heroes on his own, therefore Lee created FF alone, because everybody comes up with hero teams.
There were other teams of heroes in literature and comics history too, so it’s no surprise Lee came up with one on his own, everybody does that, therefore Lee created FF alone because it was inevitable.
(23) “Because I said so”: Lee created FF because he said so. “Nuff said.” (Oops, sorry I repeated that one. I’ve just heard it so many times, I figured I might as well put it in the list again).
(24) Lee never saw COTU: even though there was another team of 4 heroes who traveled into outer space and crash-landed back on earth transformed into 4 complimentary elemental heroes in the comics, Stan was not influenced by Jack’s Challengers of the Unknown, because Lee says he never saw it. And of course, Jack never pointed out the similarities between FF # 1 and COTU, right down to the purple uniforms in FF # 1.
(25) Jack had bad breath: When Jack would try and give Lee ideas, Lee would kick Jack out of his office because Jack had bad breath (okay, I made that one up, but it’s just as likely as all of these other scenarios).
I’m sure there are many, many more theories that prove Lee created everything alone. I’m leaving some of the best ones out because I don’t want this list to go on forever. Y’know, like:
(26) Lee created Striperella, proving he had the ability to create new characters after Kirby stopped working for him in the 1960s.
I’m not a Striperella expert, but I’m going to guess based on the other clear patterns we see in Lee’s career, Lee did not create Striperella alone, I suspect he probably had some assistance.
(27) Lee created Millie the Model alone so Lee had shown before the 1960s that he could create characters on his own.
Ironically women’s comics pioneer Ruth Atkinson, who penciled and inked the first Millie the Model story (Winter 1945), said she created the character — so you can see this motif of Stan Lee claiming he created characters alone (when in reality other people helped, or may have created the concepts themselves) is clearly a pattern in Stan Lee’s history.
Above is a photo of Atkinson I got from this site: Comic Vine. Atkinson passed away in 1997 after a bout with cancer. One has to wonder if she’ll slowly disappear from the historical record and Millie the Model will simply be another credit Lee can add to his list of solo-creation properties.
Hopefully you get the point from this post that Lee has some pretty devoted fans out there that will bend over backwards to try and defend his version of the history at all costs. They come up with all kinds of crazy scenarios – anything except admitting maybe a person like Jack Kirby or Ruth Atkinson helped play a significant, pivotal role in the creation process.
In the next few days, I’ll finally wrap this up. I’ll go ahead and conclude my interview with Stan Lee by asking him some questions about the published version of the first appearance of the Fantastic Four. Then it’s back to Jack’s art.