I recently posted on a review of Jack Kirby as Auteur by Barry Pearl. In the comments section of that post Arlen Schumer placed text “adapted from the visual presentation at the New York Comic Con panel, Saturday, October 15th, 2011”. I felt that Schumer’s text was much too important to leave in the relative obscurity of a comment section, so with his permission I have posted it below. I believe this is the first time I have ever had a guest posting in my blog.
I would like to add my two cents. Frankly when I first heard of the idea I already hated the term used. I rather dislike it when foreign words are wrapped around a simple concept. After all auteur is just the French word for author. However the term is relatively unimportant, at least compared to the underlying concept. I attended Schumer’s panel and found the presentation quite convincing. I do, however, have a couple of quibbles.
One has to do with the panel’s and text’s discussion of the legal issues between the Jack Kirby estate and Disney, Marvel’s recent owner. While the court battles concerning these issues might have been the instigation for the developing of the Auteur Theory of Comics, the legalities have no bearing on the theory and the theory has no bearing on the legal issues. As long as the work by Kirby is legally considered work for hire it does not matter if he is considered the author of the work, his estate cannot claim the copyrights.
The other quibble is not so much a disagreement with Schumer but rather an uncertainty on my part about how far the term author can be applied. While is seems eminently suitable for artists that work under the Marvel Method, should it be applied to artists who worked from a script? Such artists could be described as illustrators but I feel they have much more impact to the finished work than a typical book illustrator. However to me there still seems a great difference between artists who worked the Marvel Method and those who worked from scripts.
I believe ideas such as the Auteur Theory of Comics have great importance. We may not be able to correct past financial injustices, but we can correct failures to provide proper credits. While working with Stan Lee, the most credit Kirby (or Ditko) ever received beyond providing pencils was for supplying the plot. However artists who worked the Marvel Method did much more than plotting. While we normally think of authors as writers the definition includes creators. Therefore I think it is quite appropriate to describe Lee/Kirby (or Lee/Ditko, etc.) as the authors of the comics that they collaborated on.