Monday, June 04, 2012


Jack did fight for our freedom of speech over in Europe during the Second World War, so I think it would be a sad day if any criticisms of his former editor Stan Lee were deemed “Stan Lee Bashing” and those posts were not allowed at the Kirby Museum and censored because certain individuals threatened not to support the Museum project because they took offense to posts critical of Stan Lee.

Rob, dear heart, no-one is saying that "any criticism" of Stan Lee is to be deemed "Stan Lee bashing". You appeared to be arguing that Stan Lee made no contribution whatsoever to Marvel Comics; that Stan Lee never wrote a single word of good dialogue in his whole life. Some people, including some of Jack's biggest admirers, consider these claims to excessive. Other people consider them to be batshit insane.

This really is a pretty pathetic rhetorical device.

"I think that Mr Politician sleeps with goats and drinks the blood of teddy bears"

"Those, Sir, are outrageous claims, and if you do not withdraw them, I shall sue you for libel and or slander." 

"Ah, see what Mr Politician is like! The minute you make the slightest criticism of his economic policy, he threatens to sue you. Now we see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!"

What did Stan Lee create before and after he worked with Jack? 

After Stan Lee worked with Jack (and Steve) he produced about 60 issues of Spider-Man, the whole run of Silver Surfer, maybe 30 issues of Captain America. Someone can do the sums, but I would imagine that, in total, Stan's Marvel output with other artists is greater (in pages) than his output with Kirby. In my opinion the Romita-Lee Spider-Man and the Buscema-Lee Silver Surfer are inferior to the Ditko-Lee and Kirby-Lee versions. But they are the received versions of the character; the one everyone knows. Despite his credit, there was very little of Ditko's character (apart, obviously, from the costume design) in the three Spider-Man movies.

If the point here is that he didn't create or originate any characters except in collaboration with Kirby or Ditko, then I would tend to agree with you. The one exception is She-Hulk. (Although significant supporting characters and villains are introduced when he is working with other artists: Mephisto, Kingpin, Rhino, Mary-Jane Watson.) But every informed agrees that Stan Lee was not the sole creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Thor or Doctor Strange. (Many of these characters seem to be the result of a synergy between a number of creative individuals: I don't think anyone has ever claimed that Larry Leiber created Thor, but Larry Leiber clearly didn't have nothing to do with the creation of Thor, either.) It's the claim that his copy-writing made no contribution to the artistic success of those comics which makes us accuse you of Stan bashing.

After leaving the Beatles, Ringo Starr had two US number one singles, a top 10 UK album, a career as an actor and children's TV host, and is reckoned to be the 56th richest individual in the UK. He played the drums on John Lennon / Plastic Ono band, which is odd if Lennon considered him to be such a poor drummer. 

It's very hard to imagine the Beatles without Ringo. Pete Best walking along the canal in Hard Days Night? Pete Best singing Yellow Submarine? Pete Best composing Octopuses Garden? Of course, that Beatles, the imaginary non existent Beatles might have been better than the actually existing Beatles. But it would certainly have been different.

What I’ve always said is this: why doesn’t someone start a Stan Lee daily weblog and talk about something special Stan Lee did every day instead of complaining about Stan Lee’s critics?
I'm up for this. 

I've been wanting to do a detailed critical exegesis of the first 30 issues of Spider-Man for a while. Not "every day", but I would imagine we could a get together a group of people who actually used to enjoy Marvel comics and do something pretty regularly. Sensible people, I mean: not ones who think its clever to say "Jack Kirby never drew a single decent panel in his whole life." 

Anyone else up for this? (Seriously.) 


Gavin Burrows said...

"After leaving the Beatles, Ringo Starr..."

A better comparison for Stan Lee might be Paul McCartney. If I were to suggest Paul McCartney wrote some very good songs while in the Beatles, that would not be the most controversial thing I ever said. Whereas many of us like his solo output... um... a little less.

But I have never heard anyone suggest that means that all of Paul McCartney's Beatles songs must have really been written by Kurt Cobain. (Insert conspiracy theory of choice there.)

Furthermore, so many of the anti-Lee contingent's arguments amount to "isolate his contribution." Which of course is antithetical to the very concept of a contribution, where you add an element to a collaboration. Of course if you isolate his captions and dialogue the weaker elements of them become more obvious, such as their overblown quality.

But it's rather like the Tommy Cooper sketch where he goes to the Doctor and says "it hurts when I go like that." And the Doctor says "well, don't go like that." The answer is to not divorce Lee's captions from Kirby's artwork.

Frankly, his contribution seems so obvious that I have a hard time believing those who deny it aren't simply being wilfully blind.

Andrew Hickey said...

I've got too many writing commitments to volunteer to write anything (though I'm still sorely tempted) but I'm looking forward to reading it.

Andrew Hickey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Graham MF Greene said...

Like Andrew Hickey, I've got too much going on to contribute but would very much like to read that blog/project.

Arkadin said...

Ah, but don't you know that Stan Lee is literally the Devil?

I would love to participate in such a project, though if precedent is anything to go by I'd burn out within a month.