It’s hard not to like Stan Lee. At 90, he’s an inspiring figure of energy. But, folks, you ought to know, if you don’t already, there’s Stan Lee but there’s also Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. For anyone versed in comics, they have some idea of how this story goes. Stan Lee collaborated on creating Marvel Comics characters and stories. But, at the end of the day, the payday, it was Stan who got sole credit for writing. Even when you have clear-cut examples of a 50/50 collaboration, Stan Lee got all the credit as writer and creator. Enter Arlen Schumer, who would like to share with you the true history of how things went down. You can read Michael Dooley’s piece on Schumer here. And you’ll want to read carefully and not miss out on these examples of Schumer’s lecture from Comic-Con. Click to expand! Yes, you can easily read them:
In an illustrated lecture, “The Auteur Theory of Comics,” presented at this year’s Comic-Con, Schumer explains the Marvel Method which, as a working method was cool and revolutionary: The artist lays down the art first and then the writer goes back and adds the words! Great. But not so great when it comes to crediting the artist. Schumer expands his argument in favor of Ditko and Kirby by explaining the auteur theory which holds that the artist was in charge of far more than mere illustration of the writer’s words. It’s more like the artist is in charge of all the details in a movie which overlaps into actual storytelling. There are numerous examples, to be sure, where the roles of writer and artist are more fixed but, in the case of Stan Lee working with Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, Schumer maintains it’s more like the early years of collaboration between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. There’s a wonderful recap of this lecture at the Jack Kirby Museum site.
So, that is not to put a damper of Stan Lee. Just a look at what history has to show us. You can take it any way you like. You can also enjoy more of Arlen Schumer’s explorations into pop culture at his site.