As covered today on TNB, Stan Lee passed away today. News organizations and social media alike are abuzz with tributes and comments.
One inevitable result is the backlash from some in the comics fan community. Stan Lee was (theoretically) not beloved by many Marvel fans. In their eyes, he’d stolen the creator credit from artists – in particular, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko – for dozens of famous characters.
Let’s get this straight: Nearly every one of those famous characters was a collaborative effort. There were, in fact, a handful whose origin can be traced to one person as having the creative spark behind their existence… instances where an artist would create a character and give him a name and powers, and Stan would come along and fill in the backstory; or where Stan would detail a new character, their powers, their history, and a general look for them and the artist would create the visual. For most characters, though, Stan Lee plotted the comics, the artists would lay out and draw them, and then Lee would provide the dialogue for the finished pages.
So, no, Lee did not create most of the classic Marvel heroes and villains, but he absolutely co-created them. And let’s not allow a simple foolishness to pass: had most of those “true fans” speaking derisively about his contributions gotten the chance to meet him in person, they’d have been giddy, awestruck fanboys.
I encountered Stan Lee a couple of times. I didn’t talk to him, didn’t shake his hand, didn’t stand in line for an autograph. He was always mobbed, with people wanting to be seen with him or pay him money (anywhere from $50 to $100 each, just to keep the lines manageable) for his signature. And he was always very conscious and appreciative of the fans.
Most people loved him for his Marvel creations. Or even for his cameos in the Marvel movies (and in one notable instance, a DC cartoon movie.)
But Stan Lee did more. There are the comics he did for DC… yes, he did comics for DC, following (decades later) in the footsteps of his old collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. He provided his version of what classic DC characters would have been. (We already know what Stan Lee’s version of The Doom Patrol would have been… they’re called the X-Men.)
He also lent his name (and occasionally his voice and presence) to television shows… Superhumans on the History channel, which focused on people with abnormal abilities; and Who Wants to Be a Superhero? on the Sci-Fi channel in which people dressed and acted as real life superheroes.
And, of course, he created Stripperella with Pamela Anderson. Hey, he couldn’t always succeed.
But on top of writing comics, Stan Lee was a science fiction author. Once.
He’d created a setting and a general plot, the way he’d originally worked comics, and pitched it as “Stan Lee’s Riftworld”. The books were written by Bill McCay in the 1990s and were fairly well received by the readers who decided to pick them up. When the third book in the series, Odyssey, came around, Lee decided to do something unexpected… he stepped in and co-wrote the book.
For anyone wanting a taste of Stan’s actual prose, he left that as part of his legacy, too. Because, credit disputes aside, Stan was The Man.
Question of the night: What are/were your favorite superhero comics?