Stan Lee Tells the Truth!

Once Upon a Time, Stan Lee Told the Truth.

“For example, all Stan [Lee] has to do with the pros like Jack “King” Kirby, dazzling Don Heck, and darlin’ Dick Ayers is give them the germ of an idea and they make up all the details as they go along, drawing and plotting out the story. Then, our leader simply takes the finished drawings and adds all the dialogue and captions! Sounds complicated? Maybe it is, but it’s another reason why no one else can bring you that old Marvel magic!”

Discussion (13) ¬

  1. Henry R. Kujawa

    If Stan Lee said to Jack Kirby, “Sub-Mariner kidnaps Sue!”, that is NOT a “plot”. That is NOT a “story”. That’s an “IDEA”. Jack Kirby would have WRITTEN the story himself. WRITING, get it, folks? (I continue to feel the words “plot” and “plotting” diminishes the level and extent of what was actually being done- which is exactly why I feel Stan and his acolytes keep using it.)

    Was Stan Lee’s dialogue entertaining? 9 times out of 10, yeah. Was it an improvement? Debatable. Was it “writing”? Yes– it was writing DIALOGUE. It was not and never was writing STORIES. Except when he would try to deliberately CHANGE the already-written, already-existing STORY into something else. And guess what? EVERY single time he did this, it was to the detriment of the already-written, already-existing story. You can bet your A** that if there are any major plot holes or total lapses in logic, it’s because the “Editor” made uncalled-for changes to satisfy his EGO, rather than the story requirements.

    I’d have a lot more respect for Stan Lee if he was credited (and paid) for what he DID, and not for what he didn’t.

    “If you think that nutty oversized KAZOO is gonna stop me…”
    “It HAS to stop you! It can stop a herd of BUFFALO! It can fell the tallest REDWOOD! It’s the concentrated, solidified, converted energy of pure SOUND!”
    “Yeah? I’ll try’n REMEMBER that– while I’m CLOBBERIN’ ya!”

  2. patrick ford

    As I point out endlessly at least in the case of Kirby (and with Ditko after a point) it is either known for a fact (Ditko) or highly unlikely (Kirby) Lee “gave” them anything to work with.
    Kirby’s Spiderman is an excellent example. What kind of logic does it follow Lee gave Kirby an idea for a character called Spiderman when Kirby had co-created THE FLY with Joe Simon based on an old script by Jack Oleck, and a SPIDERMAN logo Simon had given to Kirby in 1959?
    And that is at the very start of the so called “Marvel Age.”
    Lee’s contributions obviously began when Kirby was finished with his story. People like to confuse this issue. It isn’t confusing. It isn’t that Lee wrote nothing. It’s that Lee wrote nothing for Kirby.
    I would imagine there were dictates from Lee along the lines of Kirby being ordered to include Deadman in the FOREVER PEOPLE, but that is not a story. On the whole it’s simply laughable that Lee was creating the characters which is the real point of contention. Since the stories spring from the characters it’s inconceivable Lee was the seminal idea man.
    People ought to consider how absurd that idea is. Isn’t Kirby always described as bursting with ideas? Yet when working with Lee he needed Lee to feed him ideas? And how is it all the early Marvel characters have direct connections to prior Kirby work?

  3. patrick ford

    John Romita: Jack got a chance to knock the stuff out, and use his own characters. Jack used to surprise Stan with new characters almost every time he turned in a story. Take Galactus who devours planets. Instead of knocking down buildings, Kirby is talking about eating planets.
    I told him once he threw away more ideas than I could think of. His throwaway bin was probably worth millions. I can imagine going through his wastebaskets, and “coming up” with all the ideas he didn’t use.

    Lee’s 2010 deposition
    Stan Lee: I wanted to have a villain called Galactus.
    I was looking for somebody who would be more powerful than any. So I figured somebody who is a demigod who rides around in space and destroys planets.
    I told Jack about it and told him how I wanted the story to go generally. And Jack went home, and he drew it.

    Stan Lee (The Origin of Marvel Comics): “Myself when born was christened Stanley Martin Lieber— truly an appellation
    to conjure with. It had rhythm, a vitality, a lyricism all it’s own. I still remember one of my earliest purchases being a little rubber stamp with my name on it, which I promptly stamped on every book I owned,and even some I didn’t.

  4. patrick ford

    Stan Goldberg: “Jack would sit there at lunch, and tell us these great ideas about what he was going to do next. It was like the ideas were bursting from every pore of his body. It was very interesting because he was a fountain of ideas.
    Stan would drive me home and we’d plot our stories in the car. I’d say to Stan,”How’s this? Millie loses her job.” He’d say,”Great! Give me 25 pages.” And that took him off the hook. One time I was in Stan’s office and I told him, “I don’t have another plot.” Stan got out of his chair and walked over to me, looked me in the face, and said very seriously, “I don’t ever want to hear you say you can’t think of another plot.” Then he walked back and sat doen in his chair. He didn’t think he needed to tell me anything more.”
    Jim Amash:” Sounds like you were doing most of the writing then.”
    Goldberg: “Well, I was.

    Kim Aamodt: I really sweated out plots, unlike Jack Kirby. Jack just ignited and came out with ideas, and Joe’d just kind of nod his head in agreement. Jack’s face looked so energized when he was plotting that it seemed as if sparks were flying off him.Joe was on the ground, and Jack was on cloud nine. Jack was more of the artist type; he had great instincts.

    Walter Geier: Jack Kirby was great about that; he always came up with the plots. Jack had a fertile mind. Joe used to sit there when the writers came in for conferences. They sat there and made up the plots for the writers. Jack did most of that. Joe would say something once in a while, but Jack was the idea man. Joe didn’t talk much. He could come up with decent plots, but it was usually very sketchy stuff. A lot of times Joe would say, ” Awww…you figure out the ending.” Jack would give me the ending, because he was good at figuring out stories. It was not hard to work with Jack. They were Jack’s plots. I just supplied the dialogue.

  5. patrick ford

    BTW It’s well known that many of the “plots” Lee passed on to Don Heck are Kirby plots. Kirby was writing in layout/breakdown form containing simple sketches and heavy blocks of text stories for which Lee was crediting himself as the plotter and or writer. Kirby was paid a reduced rate for layouts, nothing for writing, and Lee by having figured out a way to get more Kirby stories was able to collect more writers money which should have gone to Kirby.
    Clearly Lee didn’t want Kirby doing crude drawings in order to get more Kirby art. It was in order to get more Kirby writing, for which Lee was paid.
    Is this really more Kirby artwork? Or is it another Kirby story for which Lee collected the full writer’s page rate?×1024.jpg

  6. Matt Kennedy

    That’s a great collection of quotes, Patrick.
    It’s astounding to me that these may not have been introduced in court, and if they were that they were dismissed in judgment. It is common knowledge in the industry that Stan Lee was about as consequential to the creation of the classic Marvel characters as Queen Elizabeth II is to the politics of the United Kingdom. And more to the point, it is in the job of the high courts to correct injustice. It’s one thing to allow a theft that took place fifty years ago to exceed the statute of limitations but is quite another thing to enable that theft to continue to take place again and again. By dismissing the cases presented by the estates of the actual creators, the courts are complicit in an aggregate injustice. With every new use and media format, the original deals need to be revisited, and blocking revenue due to the folks that got screwed out of their due originally is repugnant and censure worthy.

  7. patrick ford

    Matt, A load of Lee’s old lies were introduced in court. Those old lies are where Lee gave little nuggets of credit to people like Kirby and Ditko.
    Now remember that it was Lee’s old lies, his phony story from before 1968 which is what pissed off Kirby, and Ditko. Lee’s old BS was a cover story designed to brush a few crumbs off the table to his dogs while he got the credit and payment for their writing (Ditko was able to get credit with ASM #26).
    Lee’s old lies are so entrenched they have become the official history of comics.
    Since 1968 Lee has increasingly taken more and more credit, and now says his old lies, the ones where he gave “his artists” some credit for creation, were told because.

    “I wanted to make Jack feel good, like we were doing it together.”

    So Lee’s old ’60s BS, the lies which so angered Jack Kirby, were in Lee’s mind an act of kindness. Just as in his old lie he came up with the Marvel Method, not so he could get more stories out of Kirby and Ditko which he would be paid for writing, but because good old Stan didn’t want to leave Ditko and Kirby waiting for a script.
    How people can’t see through his BS would amaze me if it weren’t for other examples in other areas of life. FOX NEWS for one. Sarah Palin, Professional Wrestling, L.Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith.

  8. James Robert Smith

    The only thing that Stan Lee did was edit. People need to get that fact clear in their minds. Was he a good editor? I think that often he was, and often he was a walking, talking disaster of an editor. Which proves the power of the work of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. A man with no creative talent could step in behind Kirby and Ditko and punch up the dialog (which was rightfully his job as managing editor) and yet not be able to screw up the books.

    There is the legendary fuckup concerning FANTASTIC FOUR #66-67 wherein Lee DID manage to wreck Kirby’s story. But mainly he was a competent editor and an unparalleled promoter.

    Bottom line is this: Stan Lee created nothing. Jack Kirby created almost the entire Marvel Universe at early Marvel. Steve Ditko created the Amazing Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Lee rode those brilliant men like they were beasts of burden.

  9. Henry R. Kujawa

    Patrick Ford:
    “Lee’s old lies are so entrenched they have become the official history of comics.”

    Yet an A**H*** like Richard Gagnon the other day insists that what it says in the printed credits was accurate. (Never mind that Stan Lee wrote the credits.)

    You read enough stories, you begin to recognize the various styles of the writers. The main point of my 4-page DAREDEVIL blog article was that you had several different writers on DAREDEVIL, not just the ONE listed in the credits. And for the 3-part Ka-Zar story, my belief is that there were 5 writers who “contributed” to the final story. No wonder it was such a mess. It’s too bad we never got to see Wally Wood do the entire thing on his own, since it’s clear to me HE initiated it. (Of course, he wanted it to be a SUB-MARINER story… which would have made a HELL of a lot more sense.)

    James Robert Smith:
    “Steve Ditko created the Amazing Spider-Man and Dr. Strange.”

    One of the most insidious websites online is Wikipedia. It’s written entirely by “contributors” (which in the case of comics & music, means, “fans”). A few months back, I made some changes to the DR. STRANGE page. Yesterday, I saw that someone had changed it back. The Steve Ditko illustration at the top of the page, which I put there, is still there. I’m a firm believer that when it comes to comic-book characters, the main illustration at the top of the page should be by that character’s CREATOR, not whoever the hell is the “flavor of the month” illustrator. Very FEW Jack Kirby characters have Jack Kirby art at the top of their pages. And I got very annoyed that DR. STRANGE didn’t have a Steve Ditko illustration.

    But the text was altered. Not only does it list Stan Lee as “co-creator”, it lists him BEFORE Steve Ditko. Wikipedia often INSISTS that you have documentation, which usually means articles & interviews which have been published, and usually, published online. Well, DR. STRANGE is one of those rare instances where Steve Ditko actually said, in a published INTERVIEW, and this was way back in the 1960′s, that HE created DR. STRANGE entirely on his own with no input whatsoever from Stan Lee. And I’m sure I referenced that interview with a footnote link. But it’s NOT there now.

    This is the kind of CRAP that keeps going on. I suspect I’ll be doing more long-winded articles at my blog in the future. If someone else has a different opinion, they’re welcome to write their OWN articles– at their OWN blogs.

    I stand by what I write. If someone can intelligently convince me some details are wrong, I’ll be happy to modify it. That’s what detectives do when they’re on a case! : )

  10. Rob Imes

    The crucial thing to note is that in the March 1966 Bullpen Bulletins admission, it plainly states that the artists are “drawing and plotting.” They weren’t being credited for the plotting in the books at the time.

    (Ditko WAS being credited for plotting, but note that he is not listed among those that Lee cites as “drawing and plotting” from his “germ of an idea.” Ditko and Lee were not speaking, so Lee was not even providing Ditko with any “germs” — including not the “germ of an idea” of the famous lifting sequence in ASM #33. Lee later too credit for the suggestion in a CBM interview, which prompted a rare letter from Ditko to the magazine denying any Lee involvement in that sequence’s plotting.)

    So… Ditko is listed in the credits as plotter, but not listed in the Bullpen Bulletins admission of plotter/artists who are given “germs” of ideas from Lee.

    Kirby, Heck & Ayers are NOT listed in the credits as plotter, but given a brief one-time mention in a Bullpen Bulletins page as being plotters of the books as well as the artists. They were still speaking to Lee, receiving his “germs,” and thus denied the plotting credit that Ditko received in the books.

    Despite the Bullpen Bulletins admission, I believe this means that Lee felt he was still “plotting” the books because he had given the artists (aside from Ditko) a “germ of an idea” first. (He may not have given them even that.)

    There are frequent cases of editors supplying writers with ideas for stories, but such editors usually don’t take credit for having plotted or written the story as a result. A famous example is Isaac Asimov’s well-regarded short story “Nightfall,” written for John Campbell’s ASTOUNDING magazine in 1941, where Campbell provided Asimov with the “germ of an idea” (to use Lee’s words) (assuming he wrote the Bullpen Bulletin piece). If Julius Schwartz, to use an example of a comics editor who worked this way, took credit for creating every story for which he provided someone the “germ of an idea” his name would be all over 1960s DC comics (like Lee’s all over 1960s Marvel comics) giving readers the idea that he was plotting the books.

  11. Henry R. Kujawa

    I once read an interview in ALTER EGO (I can’t recall with who) where a typical Monday morning editorial meeting in Mort Weisinger’s office was described. Mort’s writers would come in, one at a time, and tell him ideas they’d come up with over the weekend for his approval. He’d rip them all to shreds, belittling the ideas and the writers. Then he’d tell them HIS ideas, for stories he wanted them to write. They’d go away dejected, forced to write stories that weren’t theirs, that they had no interest in.

    The next writer in, Mort would then give them the idea the previous writer had given him. That’s where he got all his idea to begin with. It was his way of keeping the “freelance scum” (my term) in line.

  12. Richard Caldwell

    I remember an interview of John Romia Jr from many years ago where he mentioned how when he was working with John Byrne (I think on Iron-Man), how Byrne would give him a one page plot summary, which Romita would then have to stretch into a 22 page story. But Romita was never given any writing credit, of course. I’m grateful as a fan of comic books in general and of the truth in particular that all of this stuff about Lee is coming to light, but I wonder how singular such a thing really is. Who else might be fallible of the same grievances?

  13. Henry R. Kujawa

    IRON MAN was a particularly odd animal on that score. From the moment David Michelinie & Bob Layton got on the book (for two separate runs eeveral years apart), they were always listed as co-plotters, whether Layton was doing inks or doing his own layouts (and the layouts were ALWAYS better when someone else was doing them). Yet, to m reccollection, whoever was doing the layouts NEVER got co-plotter credits (John Romita Jr., John Byrne, Carmine Infantino, Jerry Bingham, Luke McDonnell (he actually got his start on the book on ONE issue with M&L), Mark Bright, Bitch Guice, Denys Cowan, Alan Kupperberg. It was virtually unheard of for an inker to be co-plotting a book, but that’s what was going on there. I guess they didn’t want to split the money 3 ways…

    I’ve never been that impressed with JR Jr.’s art, except when Bob Layton (or JR Sr.) was inking him, while Bob Layton’s layouts just don’t grab me either. But JR Jr. & Layton together, really did some terrific stuff. Each seemed to be able to cover what the other was missing.

    On the other hand, within a year or so of getting on IM the first time, it seemed Layton’s head exploded. As my comics-shop guy at the time said to me, following one of Layton’s store appearances… “I don’t know what happened to Bob. He USED to be such a nice guy!” : )

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