Robot 6

Comics A.M. | A look at Stan Lee’s complicated legacy

stan lee

Creators | Writing for New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, Abraham Reisman takes a warts-and-all look at the career and legacy of Stan Lee in a lengthy article article alternately titled “It’s Stan Lee’s Universe” and “Why is Stan Lee’s Legacy in Question?” Peppered with quotes from the likes of Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Mark Evanier, Colleen Doran, Paul Levitz and Mark Waid, it’s a deep dive into Lee’s history, touching upon everything from his disputes with one-time collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Dikto to his more recent output to the state of his company POW! Entertainment, which by most indications is struggling. [Vulture]

Legal | The Japanese National Police Agency arrested 44 people for unauthorized uploading and sharing of copyrighted manga, anime, movies, music and software. The sweep included coordination with 29 local police departments and searches of 93 locations. The manga involved included Bleach and Attack on Titan. [Anime News Network]

From Breathed's tribute to Harper Lee

From Breathed’s tribute to Harper Lee

Creators | Berkeley Breathed shares four letters sent to him by the late author Harper Lee, who was a fan of Bloom County and of Opus in particular. When she heard Breathed was going to retire the character, she wrote, “depriving him of life is murder. A hard word to describe the obliteration of your creation, but Opus is real. He LIVES.” The admiration was mutual: Breathed said that the setting of Bloom County was inspired by Lee’s fictional Maycomb, Alabama, from To Kill a Mockingbird, and he occasionally alluded to the book in the strip, even putting a photo of Lee in the background of one panel. [The New York Times]

Creators | Al Jaffee talks about the use of Yiddish in MAD Magazine, and the origins of words like “furshlugginer” and “potrzebie,” which would have been meaningless to most Americans but familiar to Jewish readers. Writer Leah Garrett expands on this to point out how MAD helped bring Jewish humor into the mainstream, paving the way for shows like Seinfeld. [Forward]

DC Comics: Rebirth

DC Comics: Rebirth

Comics | Springboarding off DC Comics’ newly announced “Rebirth” initiative, Abraham Reisman looks around and determines there are just too many comic books on shelves. [Vulture]

Retailing | Rob Salkowitz critiques Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson’s recent ComicsPro address, in which he called for fewer “gimmicks” and variant covers. “Unfortunately for Stephenson (and most of us), all readers want a good story, but it’s not all that customers want,” says Salkowitz. “There’s still a portion of the comics market that remains motivated by collectability, brand loyalty, fear of missing out of continuity events, force of habit, shiny objects and ‘torture variant’ covers.” Comic shops are the only part of the market that serves these customers, making them essential to the direct market. And as long as those loyal customers keep spending their money, retailers and publishers will continue to cater to them. [ICv2]

Graphic novels | Crystal Paul suggests 13 comics and graphic novels for readers with literary tastes. [Bustle]

Digital comics | Jim Lynch reviews the iPad Pro as a comics reader. [CIO]


One Comment

For years, there has been a controversy in the comic book world about whether Stan Lee deserves as much credit as he has received for the creation of the Marvel Universe. This dispute has been revived by the prominent article this week in New York Magazine.

As an old-timer who grew up at the dawn of the Marvel Age, I am sick and tired of these attacks on Stan Lee. Even though I do understand them. There’s no question that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko played an enormous role in the early success of Marvel Comics, but I find it ridiculous to think that Stan Lee somehow stole the credit from them.

My “evidence”:

1. Stan Lee was always upfront about the “Marvel method” of creating comics: that he would outline a plot or premise, the artist would go back and do the drawing (including the pacing of the story) and Lee would then write the captions and dialogue. This enormous contribution by the artist was never hidden, but rather was celebrated.

2. As hugely talented as Kirby and Ditko were, they individually were unable to create any comic book stories that were as successful as those in which they collaborated with Stan Lee. As much as you might have enjoyed Kirby’s “Fourth World” for DC, it was a commercial failure. As great as Ditko’s art was on THUNDER Agents and Captain Atom and The Creeper, none of those stories achieved the creative heights as the Spider-Man and Dr. Strange stories he did with Stan Lee.

3. There were great Marvel stories drawn by artists other than Kirby and Ditko. Wally Wood (an admitted master) had a short but wonderful run on Daredevil, with issue #7 being an absolute masterpiece. Don Heck and later Gene Colan collaborated on Iron Man stories that lay the groundwork for the great success of that character. In short, Stan Lee found more creative success with artists other than Kirby and Ditko than Kirby or Ditko found without Stan Lee.

4. While giving full credit to Kirby and Ditko for the “look” and pacing of their Marvel stories, it was Stan Lee’s scripting that gave them their heart. For example, while Kirby deserves full credit for dreaming up the character of the Silver Surfer and giving him his distinctive look, it was Lee who provided his personality. And Tony Stark’s personality. And Peter Parker’s personality. And Reed Richard’s personality. And Stephen Strange’s personality. Much of Marvel’s success was based on the personalities of its characters.

5. Stan Lee was the editor and art director of Marvel. He hired Kirby and Ditko and gave them the opportunity to stretch their talents to the limit–an opportunity denied them at other comic book companies. Without Stan Lee, Kirby and Ditko likely would have been toiling in relative obscurity on DC’s lesser properties (Green Arrow, Challengers of the Unknown) or at lesser comic book companies.

6. Beyond the stories themselves, some of Marvel’s initial success can be credited to the overall relationship that the company had with its fans through the letters pages and Bullpen Bulletin pages and the Merry Marvel Marching Society. I’ve never heard anyone give credit for their existence or style to anyone other than Stan Lee.

I could go on, but this is already lengthy. I do, however, want to raise this issue on the assumption that this discussion thread will reach some long-time Marvel fans who have opinions on this controversy. In my view, Stan Lee doesn’t deserve all the credit for the success of Marvel, but he does deserve enough to warrant the attention he has received late in his life. I also believe that Kirby would have received more of his due if he had lived into the era of Marvel’s current cinematic success and that Ditko would be getting far more kudos if he weren’t a recluse.

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