With Great Charm, Comes Great Irresponsibility

by clementinepumpernickel

Here’s a trailer for the new Stan Lee documentary:

It’s well known that not everyone trusts Stan Lee’s recollections as to who created what at Marvel Comics. For example, Jack Kirby has this to say to Gary Groth:

KIRBY: Stan Lee and I never collaborated on anything! I’ve never seen Stan Lee write anything. I used to write the stories just like I always did.

GROTH: On all the monster stories it says “Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.” What did he do to warrant his name being on them?

KIRBY: Nothing! OK?

GROTH: Did he dialogue them?

KIRBY: No, I dialogued them. If Stan Lee ever got a thing dialogued, he would get it from someone working in the office. I would write out the whole story on the back of every page. I would write the dialogue on the back or a description of what was going on. Then Stan Lee would hand them to some guy and he would write in the dialogue. In this way Stan Lee made more pay than he did as an editor. This is the way Stan Lee became the writer. Besides collecting the editor’s pay, he collected writer’s pay. I’m not saying Stan Lee had a bad business head on. I think he took advantage of whoever was working for him.

[...]

GROTH: Let me ask you something that I think is an important point: Stan wrote the way you guys worked — and I think he’s referring to the monster stories specifically here — he wrote, “I had only to give Jack an outline of the story and he would draw the entire strip breaking down the outline into exactly the right number of panels. Then it remained for me to take Jack’s artwork and add the captions and dialogue which would hopefully add a dimension of reality to sharply delineated characterization.” So he’s saying that he gave you a plot, and you would draw it, and he would add the captions and dialogue.

ROZ KIRBY: I remember Jack would call him up and say it’s going to be this kind of story or that kind of story and just send him the story. And he’d write in everything on the side.

KIRBY: Remember this: Stan Lee was an editor. He worked from nine to five doing business for Martin Goodman. In other words he didn’t do any writing in the office. He did Martin Goodman’s business. That was his function. There were people coming up to the office to talk all the time. They weren’t always artists, they were business people. Stan Lee was the first man they would see and Stan Lee would see if he could get them in to see Martin Goodman. That was Stan Lee’s function.

In light of this, I did wonder if there was a 90s parallel with the ‘Stan Lee’ method of character creation, where he challenged Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane to create a character around a name he came up with — Overkill — and then joked that they would do all the work and he would take the credit.

Of course, there is debate about how truthful the Kirby’s were being in the above interview, as detailed in an excellent article here.

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