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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #197

This is the one-hundred and ninety-seventh in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and ninety-six.

This week is a special theme week. The theme? “What’s in a name?”

Let’s begin!

These two Larry Lieber legends are similar enough that I’m counting them as basically one – so you folks get, in effect, a BONUS legend this week!!

COMIC LEGEND: You can tell which early Stan Lee Marvel books were ghost-written by his brother Larry, because the heroes didn’t have alliterative names.

STATUS: Basically False, Although Based on a True Enough Premise

Reader Matthew posted this in the comments a few weeks back:

I recall reading that you can tell which early Stan Lee Marvel books were ghost-written by his brother Larry, because the heroes didn’t have alliterative names.

This is an interesting subject, because it’s worthwhile examining exactly what Larry Lieber’s role was in the early days of Marvel’s superhero characters.

Larry Lieber was Stan “Lee” Lieber’s younger brother, and he still works with Stan today on the Amazing Spider-Man syndicated comic strip. At the time, though, Stan also got his younger brother involved in producing Marvel Comics. Although exactly what KIND of role he had has often been made not exactly clear, especially when the Iron Man film gave him a co-creator credit.

Lieber’s role in the CREATION of Thor and Iron Man really came down to basically one thing, and that is, indeed, as Matthew mentions, the NAMES of the characters. It was Larry Lieber who came up with the name Tony Stark and the name Don Blake (plus Jane Foster).

But the actual creation of Iron Man and Thor were both done before Lieber sat down to script the books (as to who created the comic book superhero version of Thor, well, I don’t know if we’ll ever know for sure if it was Stan Lee or Kirby – Iron Man, though, is basically a mix of Lee, Kirby and Don Heck – plus Ditko, perhaps, if you think the later armor is extremely important to the character’s “creation”).

But “ghost-written” is not a way to describe these comics. The first appearances of Thor in Journey Into Mystery #83 had no credit boxes, but Thor’s fourth appearance in Journey Into Mystery #86 did have a credit box, and Lieber is credited in the issue for the book’s script.

Iron Man’s first appearance in Tales of Suspense #39 makes it clear right from the first page that Lieber was the scripter.

So do characters named by Larry Lieber stand out in their non-alliterative nature? Certainly.

But non-alliterative names do not mean that Stan Lee did not still create the characters, and it also does not mean that his brother was ghost-writing for him.

Thanks to Matthew for the suggestion!

COMIC LEGEND: Larry Lieber came up with a name for Thor’s hammer when it already had a name!

STATUS: True

One of the interesting things about working with characters that are already famous myths is that a lot of the groundwork has already been done, like the names, the adversaries, etc.

However, when it came to Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjolnir (as seen here in a piece of art from Bullfinch’s Mythology)…

Larry Lieber decided to go in a different direction and just decide to come up with a name on his own for the hammer, and he went with the uru hammer, and it is name that has stuck ever since!

Lieber and Roy Thomas discussed it in a great interview for Alter Ego #2 (you can purchase that issue here, on the great site for Alter Ego, TwoMorrows Publishing)…

Lieber: One incident I remember with you and me was: I was in the office, and you came in. You’d been poring over Bulfinch’s Mythology or something, and you said, “Larry, where did you find this ‘uru hammer’ in mythology?” And I said, “Roy, I didn’t find it; I made it up.” And you looked at me like, “Why the hell did you make it up?” You went and found the hammer’s original name, Mjolnir.

Thomas: But I kept your name for it, too, because I thought “uru” could be the metal it was made of.

Lieber: I kind of liked it; it was short. It’s easy on the letterer; they’re going to be using it all the time. I don’t know where the hell I came up with it.

Thomas: Stan said he always thought you got it from a mythology book. I’d been trying to track it down before I talked to you.

Lieber: I used to get names out of the back of the dictionary, from the biographical section where you have foreign names, Russian, this and that. I used to go to it and gets parts of names to put together.

Amusingly enough, “uru” actually IS a word in a number of ancient languages, and some of them even have definitions that are pretty good for Thor (stuff like “great,” “large,” etc.).

Thanks to Larry Lieber and Roy Thomas for the information!!

COMIC LEGEND: Art Thibert “created” two new characters called Starwing and Nightfire.

STATUS: True

One of the more amusing gimmicks of the early 1990s was a trading card set called “Creators Universe,” where various then-popular comic book artists would debut a new creation on a trading card, so collectors would, therefore, have the FIRST appearance of some new star creation.

Of all the characters in the set, only a handful, of course, went anywhere past 1993, with Jason Pearson’s Body Bags basically being the only creation still going today (although there WERE a number of good creations in the list, like Howard Chaykin’s Power and Glory and Steven Grant and Gil Kane’s Edge).

In a lot of instances, though, it really did not seem like all the artists involved were putting a ton of thought into their creations. None, though, can match the creations that Art Thibert came up with.

You might recall the Comic Book Legends Revealed from two weeks ago, where I discussed the Nightwing mini-series by Thibert that never materialized.

Well, check out these excellent new creations by Thibert from the Creators Universe set…

Starwing and Nightfire.

How awesome is that?

Over at his blog, …nurgh…, Frank Lee Delano has more info on the characters. So check out Frank’s site here to see more about these bold new creations and their backgrounds. Also, check here for promo art Thibert did for the aborted Nightwing mini-series I mentioned last week (as Frank notes, while the end result was that Nightwing and Starfire were to be married, the specifics of the mini-series from the original plan by Jonathan Peterson, Marv Wolfman and Thibert to the promotional information about the mini-series changed a bit).

Pretty amazing, huh?

Thanks to Frank for the scans! Click here for a checklist of characters created for the set! Thanks to Jeff Allender for listing the checklist!

COMIC LEGEND: When Strikeback! changed companies, Savage Dragon was re-named Savage Finster!

STATUS: True

A couple of things worth noting regarding Image Comics.

1. The way it works is that there is no upfront money. The benefits of creators to do books at Image are that you own the book yourself and you get Image’s marketing and brand name to help sell your book.

2. Erik Larsen is INCREDIBLY open to sharing his creation, Savage Dragon, with other artists if they think having Dragon guest-star will help their book. Larsen might be the most open comic book creator out there in that regards.

Here are a sampling of books from other creators that Savage Dragon guest-starred in during 1992/1993 (a couple of them, Larsen had direct interests in, like Vanguard, but still!).

So when Kevin Maguire was going to do his creator-owned series, Strikeback!, at Image Comics, Savage Dragon, naturally, was going to be in the first issue.

Then Maguire, though, decided NOT to go with Image Comics. He instead chose to go with Malibu Comics’ new Bravura line of books. Malibu, at the time, was known for being the initial distributor of Image Comics, but they did not publish Image themselves. They had their own comics, including the Ultraverse and the Bravura creator-owned line of comics.

There was no harm, no foul – he thanks Larsen and Image Comics in the first issue…

And a few years later, when Bravura folded, Maguire DID end up taking the book to Image.

But at the time, suddenly, Maguire had a book with a character that he felt he could not use (Larsen very well might have let him use Savage Dragon ANYways, but for whatever reason Maguire did not feel right doing that) sooo….

Pretty darn funny.

When the series was later picked up by Image, they reprinted the original mini-series as a trade paperback, and in the new edition, Finster became Dragon as it was originally intended.

Thanks to Goerge Khoury for his great interview with Kevin Maguire in Modern Masters: Kevin Maguire, edited by Eric Nolen-Weathington. Buy a copy of the book here! Check out George’s CBR column here! Thanks to Darrell for the info about the change in the Strikeback! trade paperback.

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

As mentioned last week, Plume Books (a division of Penguin Books) is publishing a collection of my Comic Book Legends Revealed columns (half expanded “best of”/half new stuff) and it is due out on April 28th.

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to pre-order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you next week!

81 Comments

OK, I officially don’t get why Maguire had to change any character’s name to Savage Finster. Nor what the character’s name was before, if Savage Dragon was removed from the first Malibu issue.

What the heck are Kirbychrome cards?

Me neither, could you give us more background, Brian? Is Finster accepted as a funny name?

as to who created Thor, well, I don’t know if we’ll ever know for sure if it was Stan Lee or Kirby

Perhaps the funniest line I’ve read today. I’m sure somewhere, there’s a Viking priest rolling in his grave. Or something.

Especially as the Finster doesn’t even appear to have a fin on his head. Looks more like a Dragonball haircut…

I never would have guessed that “uru” was a Marvel invention, let alone the creation of Larry Lieber. Good call, Lar. (Although for a type of “metal,” uru has always struck me as looking more like stone.)

Oh Finster – oh Finster baby!

I am not sure if that is where the reference originated, but there is a Warner Brothers/Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs is taking care of a baby (actually a mobster in disguise) that he calls Finster. At one point in the cartoon, he is searching for the baby and says “Oh Finster, O Finster baby” – maybe that is the source of the name Finster.

Ah, that rings a bell, ta!

I’m so dumb I never even made the connection between Finster and the head fin. Mind, I’ve never read a Savage Dragon comic.

“You can tell which early Marvel books were ghost-written by his brother Larry, because the heroes didn’t have alliterative names.”

Perhaps you should say that he’s Stan Lee’s brother in the legend, since not everyone is familiar with the family of comic creators. It isn’t stated until the end of the legend who the brother is, so I was confused at first. I assumed it was just some other Lieber who I didn’t know!

Yeah, I was confused by the same thing.

as to who created Thor, well, I don’t know if we’ll ever know for sure if it was Stan Lee or Kirby

I remember reading in Kubert’s History of Comics that Jack Kirby had produced a strip starring a superhero called Thor way back in the 40s. So I’ve always assumed it was also Kirby’s idea to use that concept again at Marvel.

i always loved Thibert’s pencils (loved his inks as well, especially on X-Factor with Jeff Matsuda), but i always thought he had a great 90s vibe with his solo artwork. Art, you should totally start penciling a book now!!!

Not only did Art Thibert not have an original thought, he stole Jim Lee’s art style.

Is it just me or does the Nightwing (from 2 weeks ago) and Nightfire drawings by Art Tilbert look the same ?

Maybe it was already mentioned i don’t know for sure.

IIRC, the Malibu issues of Strikeback had Finster, but when it was released as an Image book, they replaced him with the Dragoin, as was apparently intended all along.

“(Although for a type of “metal,” uru has always struck me as looking more like stone.)”

Personally, I always thought that it referred to the TYPE of hammer rather than the composition.

Why would they not be able to use Savage Dragon when the comic was at Image?

Malfunction, that’s the point. When the Nightwing mini went south, Thibert recycled some of the art he did of NIGHTWING and Starfire to make StarWING and NIGHTfire for the trading cards.

OK, I officially don’t get why Maguire had to change any character’s name to Savage Finster. Nor what the character’s name was before, if Savage Dragon was removed from the first Malibu issue.

Why would they not be able to use Savage Dragon when the comic was at Image?

I think Brian just worded the legend in a confusing way. I had the same confusion when I first read the legend. I think Brian is saying that the first issue was at Malibu, and even though it eventually went to Image later on, at the time of the first Malibu issue he was unable to use Savage Dragon.

The Mad Monkey

March 6, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Stan “The Lyin’ Man” Lee is as notorious a liar as Bob Kane.
It’s no question in my mind who created the vast majority of Marvel’s characters (yes, including Spider-Man).
Jack Kirby.

Next time you read/listen/watch a Stan interview, note how many times he says things like, “When I created…”. Then go back and read any Jack interview. You’ll find that if he makes any mention of creating anyone at Marvel, he’ll usually say something similar to, “When Stan (or enter your own glory-monger name here) and I…”.
I also noticed that Stan never really mentioned “his” creations until after Jack passed on. Real slimy, Stan.

To me, Jack’s humility at taking credit for his creations only proves who really did what.

What about Ditko? I’d call Dr. Strange and Spider-Man his creations. And I think the X-Men were actually Stan Lee. Kirby’s art was terrible on that book. I doubt he would have done such a shoddy job on something that he had actually thought up.

Geez, did they just assign random words in the dictionary to those guys for the Creator’s Universe set? It’s hard to believe that characters with names like “Dichotomy” and “Singularity” didn’t catch on. Still, I bet All-American Girl by Adam Hughes was nice.

BTW, Brian, Steve Rude’s The Moth is still around.

“What the heck are Kirbychrome cards?”

My little brother had that issue of Bombast–as I recall, the Kirbychrome card was essentially just a trading card with that “chromium” treatment that was the rage on certain comic book covers at the time. Sort of a shiny ink treatment with a super-glossy finish.

Also, I’m a little unclear why Maguire couldn’t use Savage Dragon, since Dragon was appearing in other non-Image books at the time, such as the Topps Comics and Mirage books above. Did Malibu object? Was it going to cost them money whereas the appearance would have been free in an Image book?

Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, Hank Pym, Janet Van Dyne, Nick Fury.

Preordered the book the other day. Can’t wait to see what you packed in there.

And man, I have the whole Secret City Saga at work and I’m so very tempted to pick it all up.

KIRBYCHROME~!

Tom Fitzpatrick

March 6, 2009 at 3:50 pm

3 more to go … just 3 more comic book legends to go!

On those images alone, Thibert’s “Starwing” & “Nightfire” completely blow away the two jack-off characters that are set to be the focus of Action Comics…

@Thwacko:
Not only did Art Thibert not have an original thought, he stole Jim Lee’s art style.

Ohhhhh, I see! So that’s why Jim hasn’t been able to finish Wildcats or put out All-Star Batman in anything resembling a schedule. Someone STOLE his art style. That explains a lot. He must be out there, roaming the streets, trying to find it. Good luck Jim!

Of course, Stan Lee was doing things like crediting and even promoting artists while DC was still burying theirs with either no credit boxes, or “Bob Kane” and his contractually-guaranteed credit the4ft persisting to this very day.

And hey, it’s not as if Kirby and Ditko didn’t demonstrate how little they needed Lee’s scriping with the other classic, univserse-spine characters they indisputably created and wrote solo elsewhere….oh, wait.

Seems to me that the barest knowledge of publishing history at the big two would make it blindingly obvious that A) NO ONE in the 1960s was doing what we’d consider a good job by their creative personnel; B) That Stan Lee was giving credit to artists and co-plotters and scripters in a wya no one else at the time was; and C) Lee’s scripting and editing clearly contributed something to the work of Kirby and Ditko.

Thing is, because Kirby was…well, ‘King” Kirby, and Ditko is similarly outspoken, the “Stan Lee sucks the blood of widows and children and creators” thing somehow gets infinitely more traction than, say, “Mort Weisinger pissed all over guys like Otto Binder and Jerry Siegel, and Bob Kane screwed friggin’ everyone he ever worked with…on the rare occasions Kane did any work whatsoever.”

But yeah, that Stan Lee, he’s awful. If only Kirby and Ditko could’ve been employed at the workers’ paradise of 1960s DC or Harvey or Archie!

To clarify, I get endlessly annoyed that any online mention of Stan Lee invariably brings out aggrieved champions of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but in a thousand pages of Silver Age DC nostalgia you’re lucky if anyone even mentions the far worse treatment creators at that company were getting from editors like Weisinger and, yes, even the sainted Julie Schwartz.

“It’s no question in my mind who created the vast majority of Marvel’s characters (yes, including Spider-Man).
Jack Kirby.”

How do you figure Kirby “created” Spider-Man? Stan had the idea, went to Kirby, didn’t like Kirby’s design, then went to Ditko who came-up with a design that was completely different from Kirby’s.

Just want to say I agree with Omar Karindu that it seems that people in general seem to enjoy attackng Stan Lee a lot more than mentioning how overlooked the creators at DC were, like Bill Finger who had much to do with the creation of Batman but was not given the credit he deserves.

Bert Duckwall

March 6, 2009 at 5:57 pm

My brain hurts. And that is hard thing to do!

To clarify, I get endlessly annoyed that any online mention of Stan Lee invariably brings out aggrieved champions of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, but in a thousand pages of Silver Age DC nostalgia you’re lucky if anyone even mentions the far worse treatment creators at that company were getting from editors like Weisinger and, yes, even the sainted Julie Schwartz.

Yeah, amazing how that doesn’t even get mentioned in a post about… um… Thor. And Iron Man.

To bchat: You are just stating how Stan recalls the creation of Spider-Man went down. There are lots of sites on the net that state the more realistic creation of the Super Hero. We can’t take Stan’s words on how the characters were created as cannon.

Omar Karindu, back from an Internet Thogal ritual

March 6, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Yeah, amazing how that doesn’t even get mentioned in a post about… um… Thor. And Iron Man.

Or in many, many posts about Batman and Superman…which was, indeed, the point and content of my clarification which you quoted.

Omar Karindu, back from an Internet Thogal ritual

March 6, 2009 at 6:41 pm

To bchat: You are just stating how Stan recalls the creation of Spider-Man went down. There are lots of sites on the net that state the more realistic creation of the Super Hero. We can’t take Stan’s words on how the characters were created as cannon.

The problem with Spider-Man in specific is that pretty much everyone seems to think they created him. Steve Ditko makes the most modest claims, but both Jack Kirby and Joe Simon have given accounts incompatible with either Lee’s or Ditko’s…and to some extent Simon and Kirby have contradicted each others’ accounts. Frankly, without a time machine it’s never going to be possible to straighten out the four and counting stories.

And again, a lot of people seem deeply invested in calling Stan Lee out, but these same people are nowhere to be found when more serious and indisputable breaches of what we now call creators’ rights are contemporaneous with whatever Lee’s being blasted for this time.

If pretty much any publisher in the period was screwing its co-creators worse than Lee was screwing his co-creators, and I think this is simple and demonstrable fact, why is there apparently such special animus reserved for Stan Lee? The guy’s far, far from a saint, but who in that time period can anyone honestly point to and say “they did better by their artists and writers?”

Stan Lee was, sad to say, probably the best deal in a batch of really bad ones in the early 1960s. A good guy? Not by today’s standards, and not by the standards of most other creative fields in the 1960s. A bad guy in his own field at that time? Not so much.

You make a great point. I think Stan gets a lot of blame because he allows the media to make the claims for him and does little to correct them. He is quick to point out how great his artists were and how creative they were but always seems to insist the initial idea was his. We know in a lot of instances this is simply not the case. I think it should also be noted that although Jack claimed to bring the Spider-Man idea to Stan, he did state that the Spider-Man we all know and love was due to Ditko-Lee.

As far as the Strikeback/Dragon thing, remember that Image started out affiliated with Malibu, and there was some bad blood involved in the split. I guess Maguire thought better safe than sorry, even if Larsen would have been willing.

The guy’s far, far from a saint, but who in that time period can anyone honestly point to and say “they did better by their artists and writers?”

Y’know, that’s a good point and I agree completely.

It’s like I was saying to the jury just the other day. “*I* may have chopped up three prostitutes and buried them in shallow graves behind the canning shed, but HITLER committed genocide.

Relatively, I should be nominated for sainthood.”

The point here isn’t that I hatezors Stan Lee or that he’s a morally reprehensible scumbag, and there’s certainly a dozen different ways you could defend him.

I have huge problems with the “Someone else did something even more immoral, so the harm is mitigated” argument in general, and this one doesn’t even START to hold up.

Certainly both Kirby was instrumental in the creation of multiple multi-million dollar franchises, and Ditko was instrumental in creating Spider-man. There’s only one comparable franchise over at DC (or any other American comics company) during the ’60s, and I’ve never heard it argued that the Justice League wouldn’t exist without either Gardner Fox or Mike Sekowsky.

To get back to the point about Kirby doing a version of Thor in the 40s, that was in the Sandman strip by Simon and Kirby in Adventure Comics #78 and Roy Thomas brought him back (of course!) in All-Star Squadron #18.

And yet, despite being a pretty major comic fan (who worked in a comic store for a while), and knowing who Gardner Fox is, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Mike Sekowsky.

Pinkshirtbadman

March 6, 2009 at 9:07 pm

“(Although for a type of “metal,” uru has always struck me as looking more like stone.)”

Personally, I always thought that it referred to the TYPE of hammer rather than the composition.

According to Marvel history it’s a porous “stone like” metal

I think its pretty fair to say that Marvel was largely (and far moreson than DC) a collaborative effort.

As was stated earlier, clearly Stan Lee was a key if not primary contributor to most of the early output at Marvel. As brilliant as they were, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko’s solo output was MUCH different than what they put out at Marvel. Of course Jack and Steve brought a huge amount of creativity and ideas to the table, but Stan fleshed those creations out too.

Above and beyond his contributions as a writer and creator, Stan was the voice and frontman for the house of ideas. Without Stan Marvel would have never become the giant it is today.

For all the crap people want to sling around about him these days, I have never seen Stan claim that he was the sole creator of Spider-Man, the FF, or anything else at Marvel. It’s really easy to take things out of context. I doubt that when Stan said things like “when I created…” that he seriously meant to infer that he was the only person involved.

Stan Lee, together with giants like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, changed the face of comics. Its very telling that none of them ever achieved alone the greatness that they did in collaboration with each other.

I’m guessing Maguire didn’t feel comfortable using the Dragon since he went with Bravura over Image.

Larsen probably would have let him use Dragon either way.

Larsen did let Rob Liefeld use Superpartriot, Mighty Man and Dragon in a few Awesome Comics books when Rob left Image. Larsen also used Badrock in a few issues during that period (during the Madman/Atomics crossover funny enough).

@Thwacko:
Not only did Art Thibert not have an original thought, he stole Jim Lee’s art style.

Ohhhhh, I see! So that’s why Jim hasn’t been able to finish Wildcats or put out All-Star Batman in anything resembling a schedule. Someone STOLE his art style. That explains a lot. He must be out there, roaming the streets, trying to find it. Good luck Jim!”

Um… not that I agree or disagree or care or anything, but that’s a pretty stupid retort.

“Thing is, because Kirby was…well, ‘King” Kirby, and Ditko is similarly outspoken, the “Stan Lee sucks the blood of widows and children and creators” thing somehow gets infinitely more traction than, say, “Mort Weisinger pissed all over guys like Otto Binder and Jerry Siegel, and Bob Kane screwed friggin’ everyone he ever worked with…on the rare occasions Kane did any work whatsoever.”

Again, not that I disagree, but calling Steve Ditko, a man that has not given an interview in 40 YEARS “outspoken” is pretty dumb.

“And yet, despite being a pretty major comic fan (who worked in a comic store for a while), and knowing who Gardner Fox is, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Mike Sekowsky.”

Well, you should be a little embarrassed by that, because he’s only the original artist of the Justice League of America.

Wow, I’m just full of it tonight!

It’s like I was saying to the jury just the other day. “*I* may have chopped up three prostitutes and buried them in shallow graves behind the canning shed, but HITLER committed genocide.

With all respect, MarkAndrew, this is about as asinine an analogy as one could make. Certainly you can tell the difference between murder & genocide and business practices. Omar Karindu’s point is that given the prevailing business practices of the time, Stan Lee treated his co-creators far better than any other publisher did. Lee has a weakness for self-aggrandizement that has led to his receiving more credit than he’s due, but the assumption that he is some sort of credit kleptomaniac is absurd — Kirby, Ditko et al. have their own agendas to press in their stories.

And the attempt to compare whatever the hell it is people think Lee did to the systemic extermination of 6 million people, or even the murder of three sex workers, is indefensible.

Omar Karindu, back from an Internet Thogal ritual

March 7, 2009 at 7:39 am

Ken Raining said: Again, not that I disagree, but calling Steve Ditko, a man that has not given an interview in 40 YEARS “outspoken” is pretty dumb.

It’s hardly dumb, given that Ditko uses comics, letters, and even his refusals of interviews themselves to make his views crystal clear. He’s written lengthy essays on his particular views over the years, produced stuff like Mr. A, and so forth. Interviews aren’t his means of speaking out, but the man’s spent most of that 40 years doing nothing except speak out through many other available methods.

Ask the simple question: why are Ditko’s attitude towards Lee, his Objectivist politics, and so on relatively common knowledge among fans in a way that, say, the politics and attitudes of Gil Kane or Curt Swan or John Buscema or John Romita, Sr. are not?

I’d say that compared to the bulk of Silver Age pencillers and plotters, Ditko is pretty damned outspoken despite his refusal to give interviews (and, in fact, makes his points partly through that very extended and thorough refusal).

Mark Andrew said: [A lot more stuff than I can quote at once, really]

Again, you’re trying to find reasons that the guy who was arguably least crappy to his employees in the time period relevant is somehow the only one worth complaining about. That’s the problem I have with the general “Lee am evil” stuff.

You can argue that guys like Kirby and Ditko are geniuses, and I will agree 100%. But first, yeah, the JLA wouldn’t exist without Gardner Fox, not least because he co-created the JSA and the entire “team of solo superhero characters” CONCEPT about 20 years earlier. And even if you weren’t hilariously underinformed in that choice of examples, you’d still be straw-manning me by ignoring creators I have mentions, creators whose concepts and characters are or were easily as big or bigger financially than Marvel’s.

I mentioned Jerry Siegel, the guy who came up with Superman alongside Joe Shuster. I mentioned Otto Binder, whose writing made Captain “Shazam!” Marvel the top-selling comic of the Golden Age. And I could easily mention more. But those don’t let people defend Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, the modern martyrs or creators’ rights, and so they don’t come up as often in discussion period.

And let’s not pretend: that’s really what this is about. Kirby helped set off the creators’ rights movement by suing Marvel over his unreturned art, and as a result, pretty much all the creators’ rights examples end up focusing on 1960s Marvel and Stan Lee. But the thing is, Kirby could sue because Lee gave him credit, because that credit made him a name with built-in publicity.

By contrast, Siegel and Shuster only got their credit and lifetime stipend when third-party journalistic interest sparked by the Superman movie of 1978 drew a spotlight onto their plight. And Bob Kane never really did get his legal comeuppance, nor did people like Jerry Robinson and Bill Finger who genuinely created major money-makers and creative properties in the Bat franchise ever really get the recognition and rewards they deserved. Otto Binder saw his employers at Fawcett fold to DC’s lawsuits when superhero profits dried up generally, and then ended up one of a slew of anonymous creators at the company that cost him his original, high-profile, high-creativity job.

To put it another way, I’m damning Lee with faint praise, but the other guys wouldn’t even rate faint praise so much as straight damnation.

This isn’t excusing attempted murder by reference to Hitler, this is letting Hitler skip away humming “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” because dammit, that attempted murderer shot at a friend of yours, not a bunch of nobodies in a camp somewhere.

This is the most ridiculous argument.

Who cares if people talk shit about Stan Lee? Who cares if he’s a glory hog?

How does any of this affect anything at all?

Omar Karindu, back from an Internet Thogal ritual

March 7, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Apodaca said: This is the most ridiculous argument.

Nah, I’m pretty sure the most ridiculous argument would be me arguing with you over whether or not this is the most ridiculous argument.

That’s why I’m not going to do that, and will instead work on my macaroni duck. It’s the vague shape of a duck as implied by dry macaroni pasted to a sheet of construction paper!

Not that this proves anything… But I guess you never read the Comics Journal interview in which Kirby claimed to have invented everything in comics, up to and including Superman. Or have read that numerous contemporaries noted the horrible memories of both men.

Basically, Stan Lee stated when he remembered for sure that someone else created something (e.g., never claimed to have created the Silver Surfer). Both men erred on the side of “I created it” when their memories were probably fuzzy, which is human nature, I suppose.

Hardly Bob Kane, who according to “The Comic Book Heroes,” agreed with Bill Finger’s self-critique that he hadn’t accomplished much in his career (even though Finger co-created Batman and Kane took full credit).

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The Mad Monkey
March 6, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Stan “The Lyin’ Man” Lee is as notorious a liar as Bob Kane.
It’s no question in my mind who created the vast majority of Marvel’s characters (yes, including Spider-Man).
Jack Kirby.

Next time you read/listen/watch a Stan interview, note how many times he says things like, “When I created…”. Then go back and read any Jack interview. You’ll find that if he makes any mention of creating anyone at Marvel, he’ll usually say something similar to, “When Stan (or enter your own glory-monger name here) and I…”.
I also noticed that Stan never really mentioned “his” creations until after Jack passed on. Real slimy, Stan.

To me, Jack’s humility at taking credit for his creations only proves who really did what.

Yeah, Bravura imploded rather spectacularly. Then the owner of Malibu took his money earned off the books published for the Image creators and ran. He sold Malibu to Marvel, which then destroyed it and its characters forever.

Wonder what ever became of that jerk.

I have to step in here CL77. I have never seen anything written about Kirby’s contemporaries saying anything ill about him. There are panels every year at comic cons where his contemporaries line up to give him praise as he did them. The article you are referring to, happened in the middle of his trouble with obtaining his artwork from Marvel. He was quite bitter at the fact a lot of people had no idea that he had created these characters and that Marvel was trying to spread that ideology.

The uru story is recounted in Stan Lee’s Origins of Marvel Comics, although in that story he is the one who finds out that the metal name is made up. Although I should say, given some of the earlier posts, it is absolutely possible that Roy Thomas asked first and Stan Lee is recalling a later conversation.

Gee MarkAndrew. You’re offended by Omar’s statement that Stan was the least ‘immoral’ of an ‘immoral’ industry and then you put the holocaust in the same basket as comic book publishing in the 1960′s. That’s ripe. I don’t think that would offend anyone.

Greg Hutton: To clarify, I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Jack Kirby, and I get the sense that he was a really decent person. But, and I’d have to look back to try to find sources, I do seem to recall John Romita, Mark Evanier, and Roy Thomas all pointing out that both Lee and Kirby had less then stellar memories. (Keeping in mind that each person was influenced by their respective loyalties and time spent around the two gentleman.) Lee admits this. If you ever read some of his Comic Book Artist interview answers, he admits to not remembering a lot of details.

I stand by my point: Both Lee and KIrby claimed credit for some things but not others, and, when in doubt thought, “I did it.” Which is, again, human nature.

But to your point, more industry people from the time seem to point to Kirby as a class act, but I get the sense a lot of people had a (sometimes eye-rolling, exasperated) affection for Stan Lee as well. Kane stands out as being less likable.

PS Speaking of faulty memories, I remember an article either in Kirby Collector or Comic Book Artist pointing out suspicious similarities between an earlier Charlton story about Thor and Marvel’s Thor. Further details fuzzy in my mind. Anybody else remember this?

I remember Dragon sort of cameoing in a Spidey Team-Up story (during the Reilly years) with Howard the Duck. However, you never saw his face, he was still a Chicago cop, and wasn’t referred to by name.

Omar: The difference between Stan and the other editors you mentioned is that they didn’t write books & make public statements suggesting they were (more or less) the sole creators of various characters and stories they oversaw. They also weren’t in a position to make themselves the public face of their company or to slap their name on the credit boxes of each and every book published implying creation/ownership (i.e., “Stan Lee Presents…”) But then, I don’t think Schwartz or Weisinger were family with the publishers (as Stan was, yay nepotism) or worked nearly as hard to publicly toot their own horn.

As a kid, I grew up reading Stan’s Fireside books where he repeatedly makes claims about creating characters more or less on his own… and reading comics that all started with an opening page saying “Stan Lee Presents.” The clear impression was that Marvel was more or less Stan’s creation. It was an impression shared by many in the press and even by Marvel’s new owners when it got sold in the ’70s. Stan often didn’t outright lie but let people draw their own conclusions which he would not dissuade… just as Stan didn’t force Jack out, but tried to pressure him into a contract that would demand more work for less money while Stan was hogging all the accolades.

Many of the Marvel artists of this period have bitched that the “Marvel style” championed by Stan (loose story conference, art gets drawn, panels get dialogued) often forced the artists to handle the lion’s share of the actual non-dialogue “writing” — major plotting, devising characters, etc.

This is not to villainize Stan — without Stan’s unique dialogue, his penchant for marketing and promotion, and his relentless energy, Marvel would never have gotten anywhere. Stan was obviously a phenomenally talented collaborator; but as a sole creative force? Not so much. Just look at the track record: In collaboration with others, notably Joe Simon, Jack created characters like Captain America, Fighting American, the Newsboy Legion, and all-new genres of comics (he and Simon were pioneers in the Romance genre). Post-Marvel, Jack went on to create the New Gods, the Demon, Omac, Kamandi, the Eternals, Machine Man and other titles that inspired a new generation of fans. On his own, Ditko created the Question, Mr. A and the new Blue Beetle — quirky creations but ones that nonetheless made a lasting impression. Stan went onto create… what, She-Hulk and Stripperella?

That special Marvel magic owes a lot to Stan, but his legacy will always be tainted by the way he treated Kirby, in particular, while he leveraged his own advantaged position for greater fame and money.

Frank Lee Delano

March 8, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Brian, thanks for the highest hit count I’ve ever had at …nurgh… by about a factor of ten! :)

I agree with much of what Omar had to say. The argument isn’t that Stan Lee was a saint, but that he was a decent man for his time, and an important creator. On the other hand, you wouldn’t have so many people up in arms if Stan Lee didn’t remain such a public figure. On the rare instances Mort Weisinger’s name comes up, it’s vilified, but he’s not appearing from beyond the grave in “Superman Returns,” either. Personally, I think Stan was just smart enough to cut the best deal as a company man, where Kirby was a great idea man, but lousy at scripting and hustling. He was an object lesson that if you’re going to work freelance, take some business classes, because the pure “artiste” isn’t exactly known for securing bank. Same thing still happens to recording artists who should damned well know better by now. Finally, I’d say Stan Lee was the more important figure in Spider-Man’s success, but everything good about Dr. Strange came from Ditko (and the bad was stolen by Stan from Lee Falk besides.)

Oh, I’ll add that Gardner Fox never did much for me. Super-teams would have happened without him, and I hated how his formatting of JSA stunted team dynamics in comics for years through imitation of its inevitable success. I wish Sekowsky had written his own gonzo stories for JLofA, since Fox’s scripts are to this day a chore for me to read.

The Art Thibert stole Jim Lee’s style joke was great. So that’s why he can’t hit the broad side of a schedule!

Steve D:

“just as Stan didn’t force Jack out, but tried to pressure him into a contract that would demand more work for less money while Stan was hogging all the accolades.” Source?

I love this column. Please keep them coming.

I would really like to see you do a column that clears up a debate I have been having with other fans about whether or not Bishop (of the X-Men) was indeed African American up until Claremont retconned him into being Indigenous Australian (Aborigine). I would like to know that after Portacio’s original idea to make Bishop Filipino was rejected and Marvel told him to make Bishop Black, did they mean African American black or Indigenous Australian black? I also would like to know if Claremont intended Bishop to be half AA and half IA when he retconned his nationality and race?

The F F cartoon in the mid 60′s says “Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby”.

Alter-Ego reprinted a Lee interview from the late 60′s that had Stan going on and on about Kirby and Ditkos, and Heck and Liebers, contributions to the Marvel universe.

When was it that Stan took sole credit?

A couple things about the Malibu bit. The Image books that were done with Malibu do credit Malibu with publishing their books with a statement in the indicia like “An Image Comic published in cooperation with Malibu” or “An Image Comic published by Malibu.” Also the Bravura and Ultraverse lines didn’t kick off until after Image had left their “partnership” with Malibu. I’m guessing they started both imprints due to Image going out on their own.

Keep in mind that Stan seems to have a poor memory in general. It’s not like he has an excellent memory except when it comes to crediting other creators.

I think Stan gets a lot of blame because he allows the media to make the claims for him and does little to correct them.

In any interview with him about the movies, he always corrects whoever asks him about how he created this character or that by bringing up the artist involved.

One thing I’ve noticed about the Internet community is that, no matter what the subject is, be it comics, video games, movies, etc., people just love to hate. I’ve seen people say that Scorsese is a one-note hack, Super Mario Bros. is overrated, and now Stan Lee is the worst thing to ever happen to comics.

Well guess what? Comics wouldn’t be the same today if it weren’t for Stan Lee’s contributions to the medium. Put that in you’re haterade and drink it.

I’m not sure if this would qualify as an urban legend, but I remember something about how Mad magazine, during its comic book days or shortly after, offered straight jackets for sale, I guess as a mail-in premium or something like that. Any truth to that?

Stan Lee may hog credit at times (not always), and he may not have been a great boss, but he could write dialogue (not necessarily realistically, but always with style.) Kirby and Ditko both sucked at dialogue. Probably Marvel’s greatest innovation in the ’60s was characterisation, and that comes from the dialogue. I recently read the Essentials volume with the Lee/Ditko Spier-Man, and with their very first appearances the Vulture, Sandman, and Electro all behaved in character, even though they barely had any personalities yet. And they were recognisably distinct from each other. It’s very hard to produce a personality with so little story, but so many characters became real people quickly with Stan’s scripts. In comparison, the Eternals came across as pretty generic when Jack wrote them.

I opened a drawer and found this, which reminded me of this story.

http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y220/ManofTheAtom/cblr.jpg

bchat
March 6, 2009 at 5:38 pm

How do you figure Kirby “created” Spider-Man? Stan had the idea, went to Kirby, didn’t like Kirby’s design, then went to Ditko who came-up with a design that was completely different from Kirby’s.
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Stan’s whole “I saw a Fly walking up a wall” story was total bullshit, he admitted himself once that it was fabricated because, frankly, it makes for a good story. Spider-man was basically a hashing together of old Simon/Kirby pitches, aternatingly called the Silver Spider or Spiderman (no hyphen)

Have a look at this piece: http://s377.photobucket.com/albums/oo216/lucatavan/?action=view&current=Kirby_Spidey_originaljpg.jpg

Look Familiar?

Mary Warner
March 13, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Stan Lee may hog credit at times (not always), and he may not have been a great boss, but he could write dialogue (not necessarily realistically, but always with style.) Kirby and Ditko both sucked at dialogue.
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Have you read New Gods? The dialogue is far more poetic and masterfully applied than the majority of Lee’s Marvel work. The way he can change perceptions of characters within single pages and actions still amazes me.

Have a look at this piece: http://s377.photobucket.com/albums/oo216/lucatavan/?action=view&current=Kirby_Spidey_originaljpg.jpg

Look Familiar?
————————————————

It might if I could login to your private account. That’s what the link wants me to do.

Here is the pic:

It could just be because I’m so use to the usual design (although the non-brain eating black suit is my favorite), but that so doesn’t work for Spidey as envisioned, and I’m glad it was rejected. However, it’s too bad they didn’t devise a character that could use that. It’s not a bad design by itself.

I’m an enormous Kirby fan, but there are a few things that I think need to be mentioned.

- Someone said they’d never heard a bad word about Kirby. Check Dick Ayers’ autobiography. Dick was inking Jack’s newspaper strip, and one day Kirby dropped by to pick up or drop off some art. Dick was working on Western character designs. He told Kirby that Stan Lee had decided to revive the “Rawhide Kid” title and had asked Dick to draw it. As it happened, Kirby was on his way to the Marvel office from Ayers’ studio. A day or two later, Dick got a call from Stan saying that he’d decided to do Rawhide Kid with Kirby, and have Dick just ink it. Dick didn’t appreciate Kirby taking the job from him.

- That aforementioned comic strip was the cause of a lawsuit which Jack lost and which blackballed him from DC until 1970. In a nutshell, Kirby signed a contract and then didn’t honor the provisions of the contract. Which is dumb on the face of it, and even dumber when the person you’re refusing to pay is a senior editor at DC, who was his major employer at the time.

- the “Spiderman” proposal that Jack brought to Stan had very strong similarities to The Fly, which Simon & Kirby had created for Archie Comics in 1959 (based, like Spiderman, on the “Silver Spider” proposal that Harvey had rejected years earlier). I think that fact played a role in Stan’s rejection of the proposal.

‘Of all the characters in the set, only a handful, of course, went anywhere past 1993, with Jason Pearson’s Body Bags basically being the only creation still going today. ‘

I just thought it was interesting that another set of cards that came out in 1993, I think ,did the same thing but with relatively less known characters and that was the first appearance of David Mack’s Kabuki, who is stil around today.

And again, a lot of people seem deeply invested in calling Stan Lee out, but these same people are nowhere to be found when more serious and indisputable breaches of what we now call creators’ rights are contemporaneous with whatever Lee’s being blasted for this time.

Quite late, as I’m working my way through the archive… I’ve mostly tried to not get into old stuff, but this one needs a response.

Omar, has it occurred to you that a lot of people might be deeply invested in 1960s Marvel, but relatively unfamiliar or unconcerned with 1960s (or even pre-Crisis) DC material? That in and of itself would explain the seemingly unfair dichotomy you’re so perturbed with.

John Lennon was more of an artist, Paul McCartney more of an entertainer. Jack Kirby was more of an artist, as Roy Thomas said of him, maybe the only genius the comics industry ever produced, and Stan Lee was more of an entertainer. Certainly, the success of Marvel during the Lee and Kirby years is attributable to the efforts and talents of both creators doing what they did best. The artistic success of the gestalt was in turn fed by the phenomenal reception that the work received from a collective psyche still reeling from the epochal transformation of consciousness that was only beginning to be widely apprehended, and thus barely comprehended in the early’60′s.
It”s the visionaries who see the path ahead , first. And, I think that Stan’s great contribution to the world was in recognizing that The Source was providing the Visions and that Jack Kirby’s hand was Her instrument. Stan lightened the burden of Kirby’s dreams perfectly with his facility with words. You can’t just up and serve Ayahuasca to tea totallers, which is analogous to what The Source was having Jack build up to by the time The Silver Surfer blew in…
It seems to me that Stan was Jack’s biggest fan.It shows in his love of those stories, the foundation of which was the Art, specifically the magic of Visual Storytelling of which Jack Kirby was a Zen-like Master . The stories that people,including Stan Lee , tell of Jack putting his pencil to paper and creating each drawing as if he were tracing a picture that was already there, are true! Check out the YouTube video of Kirby drawing. If you are an artist, it will make you cry-in a good way. You can cry in a bad way, if you want, thinking about the many ways that Hydra, oops, Make Theirs Marvel Corp., continues to dishonor themselves at King Kirby’s expense. But ,that’s Jack,isn’t it, even in death, still playing with us and our Collective Visions, always updating the Archetypes, showing us the gap between who we are and who we may become, showing us our light, showing us our darkness, urging us to choose the light, to be our own heroes, rise above our darkness. Eventually, Kirby’s inspiration will reach into the dark heart of Marvel, and the human beings within the corporation will awaken to the understanding of the vastness of their increasing debt to the greatest Mythmaker since Homer, and to the soul killing effects of denying that indebtedness, and they will pay their debts and respects to him and his family and supporters.Unless Orion gets to them first.

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