New Stan Lee documentary raises age-old question: Who created the Marvel Universe?

Originally published at: New Stan Lee documentary raises age-old question: Who created the Marvel Universe? | Boing Boing


I think it’s pretty clear to most people today that it was a collaborative effort. A lot of creators in those days got screwed by Marvel and DC, and Ditko and Kirby were certainly no exception. Lee, although he didn’t own Marvel, was always more aligned with the corporate interests than with the creator interests, so I suspect that’s the source of a lot of the animosity, which I can totally understand. Lee still did a lot to promote comic books as an art form and for keeping social justice issues an integral part of that art form, and so while he was clearly kind of a dick, I think it’s ok to also celebrate his accomplishments.


In comics, it is rare for there to be a single “creator” for a character. Especially in corporate comics where time lines necessitate a team, usually. (More indie comics will find books that are drawn and written by one person, though even then they are getting input from editors and friends.)

Initial sparks of an idea from one person are often fleshed out further by the writer or the artists. Bob Kane’s money making scheme for a new super hero was utter garbage until Bill Finger injected his ideas (both borrowing liberally from The Shadow at first).

Deadpool was a very one dimensional character with a cool costume when he first appeared by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza, but it was Nicieza’s later writings and others where we got the Merc with the Mouth.

So many characters started as one thing, and then became something new with later creative teams. And that includes What ifs…, multiverse, reboots, futuristic stories etc that re-envision the character, giving it a new iconic dimension.

Stan Lee was absolutely a creative force, and he was also someone who more or less pushed a book or character into the deep end, and the artist then made them do a triple back flip with zero splash and start so swim. The whole will always be greater than the parts.

Kirby was a class act, a legend, extremely prolific and creative. He defiantly deserved more monetary compensation for his contributions - but you can say that about most comic artists - and creatives in general.


The real question I want answered regards Lee’s hair. Where it went, how’d it come back? Is it sentient? Should it receive some credit for the MCU?


He was bitten by a radioactive toupee.


His kryptonite is syrup of figs.


Thanks, Ruben. I like your take.

Yes, there is collaboration on these things. But these particular comics, at least in this era, were not sold because of their writing. Kids/collectors bought them because of the covers, the splash pages, and the other visual elements that Kirby and Ditko created. Lee deserves some credit, but Kirby and Ditko deserve the lion’s share. The fact that the latter creators were shunned while the former had a bully pulpit is one of the greatest injustices in 20th century pop culture.

I will always have a place in my heart for Stan, but when I see that plaque to him at Disneyland and there isn’t one for Ditko and Kirby, I spit on the ground in front of it.

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I’d suggest it was both.

And yeah, how disney lionized Lee over the rest of the creators is a problem, but to imagine that kids were not just as interested in the stories these comics had to tell but were only interested in the art is just incorrect. As Kevin Smith said, comics are our modern day mythologies. Kids love stories as much as any other group, as much as they love visuals. What made/make comics great is precisely how it merges art and storytelling. That’s always been the case. :woman_shrugging: I don’t think it changed for a short period there.


“Kids don’t read, they only like the big pictures.”

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You definitely underestimate the significance of the text. “With great power comes great responsibility” has become the standard version of that saying, and it comes from Stan Lee’s writing. The entire point of comics is that there are both pictures and story – downplaying either seems unfair to me.


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The movie producer analogy doesn’t work for me. A person who writes every piece of dialogue in a movie is definitely a writer.
That’s not a small job they “happened to” also do.


… depends on the movie

e.g. Nicholas Meyer wrote much of the dialogue spoken in The Wrath of Khan, but other people are credited for it because credit was spelled out in contracts that had already been signed :thinking:

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It’s definitely one of those things that I feel Stan Lee didn’t give his fellow creators the credit they’re due. For example, his original concept of Spider-Man had a spider-web gun which Ditko realized was silly and would’ve been a pain to draw so he chose to do the whole wrist thing which worked wonders for getting the art done on time with the bonus that Ditko got to really work on hands since that was one of his flexes as an artist (well drawn hands). Then you have Doctor Strange where Ditko was basically deeply interested in abstract art and wanted to dabble in it via the magical aspect of the character. There were so many little things that made Marvel comics stand out and it was really a team effort that no one person can really say they were head and shoulders above the rest. I doubt Marvel would exist today without that collaboration. Or at very least it wouldn’t have been our Marvel comics.

In that case he was a writer whether he was credited or not. So no it doesn’t really depend (unless the film has little to no dialogue).

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