Saturday, 27 February 2016

THE ACT OF CREATION - FACT OR FICTION...?



As an occasional writer of poetry, I can tell you that only
a very small proportion of them were about subjects I set out
to write.  Although I'd occasionally decide on a poem's theme be-
forehand, the majority of my writings resulted from a line popping
into my head from nowhere, then following its own course with not
much direction or assistance from me.  My main contribution was
to juggle some rhymes and then polish the finished poem into a
composition that seemed to be the result of someone who'd
had something specific to say and said it.

Thing is, someone will then ask what your inspiration
or motivation was, and you find yourself relaying a perfectly
convincing account of why you wrote what you did.  A poem
about a fear of the dark?  Well, that was because you recognized
that such a fear was common to a lot of people and you wanted to
make a statementt about it, and...blah, blah, blah!  It's only much
later (if at all) that you may recall it was a random line that jump-
ed into your head, and that you merely followed in its wake.
Honest, take my word for it - however ridiculous that
may sound, that's often simply the way it is.

There's no conscious desire to deceive anyone over
the origins of what you've written, but in being asked what
your motivation was, your mind is misdirected into thinking that
you had one, and it automatically produces a rationalization that
seems entirely likely and reasonable.  If it isn't what actually hap-
pened, it should've been.  You even believe it yourself as you re-
late the creative genesis of your poem or story to your inquisitive
enquirer.  You simply accept it as fact and it may never occur
to you to question or doubt it.  Then, whenever you're asked
about it in future, your mind goes into automatic mode
and you trot out the same old story.

Which brings me to STAN LEE.  Where did he get
the idea for SPIDER-MAN?  Did JACK KIRBY give him
it, did he recall the '30s pulp hero The SPIDER, or was he in-
spired by watching an anarchid crawl up a wall and then decide
to base a comic strip on a character with spider powers?  I don't
think even Stan remembers for sure.  I think it's not unlikely that,
when asked years later what had prompted the idea, his memory
searched itself for a logical explanation and produced one which
seemed the most probable.  And you know what?  It may even
be the true one, with a little creative embellishment
to make it more interesting.

I don't believe Stan has ever consciously lied in an at-
tempt to steal credit for other folk's creations.  I think that
he genuinely believes his accounts of the origins of MARVEL
COMICS and, like I say, they may well be true.  If his version
of events has occasionally strayed from historical fact, it's likely
due only to the fickleness of memory and its ready capacity to
construct order and reason for that which is often the result of
sudden, random impulse and not the deliberate and con-
trolled act of conscious creative endeavour. 

        What think the rest of you?        

17 comments:

DeadSpiderEye said...

There are several points here: mis-attribution, out right plagiarism, stealing credit where it's not due, all those things take place, as I think we all understand just from our everyday lives. You don't have to be at the cutting edge of creativity to understand that principle, just work in an office or any other job for a day. Yes there is more at stake, when it comes to intellectual property and that's the reason why these incidents garner so much attention and are the cause of such conflict. You know when creative teams split, over what's termed creative differences, most commonly in the music trade? Well that's because of the conflict caused when individuals in a creative team, want to exploit the notoriety of that team, to assert their authorship, because it means bunce in the bank.

Regarding Stan Lee, while having no personal knowledge of the circumstances around any of the controversies, I would say yes, he probably has, quite deliberately, taken more credit than is his due. I would say that because of that's what coincides with my experience, I don't think it's just me either, I think a lot of people have similar experiences. That's not to say I infer any details of the creative controversies involving Stan Lee, I don't and I get bit weary of others when they do. Neither do I belittle Stan Lee's creative contribution, it seems to me to be obviously significant.

Going back to the point of people taking credit when it's not they're not due, that goes on a heck of lot and it's perpetrated so routinely, it becomes accepted in a lot of contexts. That's why I view the opinions that arise over such controversies a bit cynically, people just take sides, without any thought or knowledge of the instances they're offering opinions on.

Kid said...

"...people just take sides, without any thought or knowledge of the instances they're offering opinions on."

Isn't that what you're doing here, DSE? "Regarding Stan Lee, while having no personal knowledge of the circumstances around any of the controversies, I would say yes, he probably has, quite deliberately, taken more credit than is his due."

So, with "no personal knowledge of the circumstances", you're prepared to "take sides, without any thought or knowledge of the instances (you're) offering opinions on"?

And why? "I would say that because of that's what coincides with my experience..."

However, then you seem to say the exact opposite: "That's not to say I infer any details of the creative controversies involving Stan Lee, I don't..."

If I'm reading you right, part of what you're saying seems to be that Stan probably deliberately stole credit, because, according to your experience, that's what people do. By that standard, then you'd be compelled to conclude that so also did Jack Kirby. After all, he usually dismissed his partner Joe Simon's contribution (when he didn't neglect to mention him at all) as "taking care of the business side of things", and he claimed that Stan never created or wrote anything at all and was only an editor.

It's certainly an interesting comment, DSE, but it seems to be saying two things at once and then contradicting each of them in turn.

Want to take another stab at it?

DeadSpiderEye said...

Isn't that what you're doing here, DSE?

It's exactly what I'm doing Kid, I make no bones about it. Asked for an opinion I put it forward, not only that I stressed the basis upon which it's based, which is zip in terms of concrete knowledge. It's based purely on my comparative experience, which might not be that worth much, which is why I don't go round clogging up forums with: 'How Stan cheated [whoever]...'. How's that inconsistent with me stating I don't infer any facts from the scant hearsay that is circulated on these issues?

As for transferring the principle to Kirby, well the problem with that is, he didn't get the money.

Kid said...

It's seems inconsistent for the following reason, DSE. People on these forums say that Stan deliberately stole more than his fair share of credit. You say that you pay no heed to those people, even 'though you're of the same opinion as them, and that, like them, your shared opinion isn't based on any facts you're aware of, but just how you think these things pan out based on your experience. I don't see how that makes you any different from them, DSE. And that's not a criticism, merely an observation. To say that "I think this, based not on fact, but on experience" is to infer that something you have no inside knowledge of is probably nonetheless true. And whether Kirby stole credit or not has nothing to do with him getting the money - it's whether he stole more than his fair share of credit. The principle is that a thief is still a thief, regardless of how much or how little he profited from his act of theft.

DeadSpiderEye said...

My opinion, in this instance, doesn't distinguish me from those people littering the forums, if there is a distinction, I would claim, it lies with the regularity with which I choose to burden others with my insight into this topic. It's not my intention to prove any such difference, rather the opposite in fact, to demonstrate the similarities on which such opinions are founded. You're asking for facts, I don't have any, I think your opinions are pretty well qualified but you stated:-

I don't believe Stan has ever consciously lied in an attempt to steal credit for other folk's creations.

What, that's based on fact is it? Of course not, it's just what you think about the issue. Yeah, you've constructed a rationale to reinforce it, Stan's et al dodgy recollection of events etcetera but that's just a narrative, one that fits in with your perception of Stan Lee and this topic. Nothing particularly wrong with that, it's a point of view that's worth exploring but as for defining the truth of the issue, it remains unsatisfactory, at least from my perspective.

...is to infer that something you have no inside knowledge of is probably nonetheless true.

Yep that's pretty much a precis for what I'm saying.

The Kirby question remains distinct in this instance because who benefits? No one other than Stan Lee as far as I can see, so any questions of where credit is due, falls outside the frame of reference I used to base my opinion i.e. that of people seeking credit to secure financial gain. You could extend it in principle I suppose, argue that Kirby sought kudos by glossing over Simon and Lee's contribution but even then, that's not a topic I've given much consideration. Whereas the controversies surrounding Stan Lee are so frequently expressed that it's hard not to form an opinion. You could argue that's unfair, which is true to a degree, but it comes back to what's at stake again, it's hard for people to get exercised over incidents where not much was at stake, but when you're talking about significant financial gain, all of a sudden it becomes a topic of intense interest.

Kid said...

I still think there's an inconsistency in logic to say that, in the case of specific accusations against a particular person (Stan), you're prepared to accept the probability that he's stolen credit for the creations of others, based not on any knowledge of the facts or even the speculations of others, but merely on am assumption that because, in your experience, other people have done the same sort of thing, then Stan probably has too. In Jack's case, the money aspect is irrelevant (as far as the principle is concerned, if not the generation in interest) because, as I pointed out, it's the act of 'theft' we're considering, not the monetary profit derived from it.

Therefore, not to regard Jack as being just as guilty of claiming a disproportionate share of the credit due to him is an inconsistent way of thinking. Some people say that Stan claims all credit, but there are quite a few instances where he accords Jack in particular an extremely generous measure (deservedly so) of credit. Jack, on the other hand, says he did everything himself and that Stan never created or wrote anything in his life. Surely, regardless of monetary consideration, Jack's attempt to steal Stan's share of the credit far outweighs Stan's, if he did indeed do that which he's accused of.

Also, in suggesting that your opinion on the matter has also been influenced to some degree by the frequency of accusations against Stan, you reveal that you're not quite as exempt from 'inference' of the 'facts' as you originally claimed - which is surely inconsistent.

And note that I qualified my belief as just that - a belief. I never once claimed it was based on any specific facts, but it could be argued that it actually is to a degree. The fact that Stan claimed (in early interviews) that Jack was just as much the writer on the mags they worked on as him, if not more so; the fact that, in regard to Stan's favourite character (at one time), The Silver Surfer, he was never shy about crediting Jack with introducing the Surfer into the Galactus Trilogy with no initial input by Stan. Hardly sounds like someone determined to rob others of credit.

What must also be remembered is that Jack DID benefit from the perception in some circles that he was the creative force behind Marvel. His deal with DC Comics resulted from that perception, and he continued to work in comics for many years, based on the respect accorded him because of the notion he cultivated that he was mainly responsible for everything good at Marvel. Sure, he didn't make as much money as Stan did, but he decided to walk away from Marvel, rejecting Stan's offer to become Marvel's art director. Had he stuck around and fought his corner instead of doing a runner, who knows how much he would've benefitted from the decision.

Stan, like Jack, never owned copyright on any of the characters they collaborated on, but one thing is undeniable. Artwork apart, the mood that was Marvel (Bullpen Bulletin pages, the humorous responses in the letters pages, Stan's Soapbox, the cover copy, the characterization through captions and dialogue, the magic in other words), was mostly down to Stan. He deserves the fame, money and adulation as far as I'm concerned. Which is not to suggest that Jack and Steve didn't, but I'm far from convinced that that was Stan's fault.

Phil said...

Stan never hid the Marvel method. It was written about by Stan himself in the letters pages and multiple times since. Having said that -

If Stan wants to call himself creator of Spider-man he can. Should he go around calling himself - co creator along with Ditko? Maybe but that's not his business. He's promoting Stan Lee. He isn't contractually obligated to call himself co creator.
Should he call himself creator of Silver Surfer? No he should not. Stan himself wrote that he had never seen the character until he opened the artwork from Jack.
I think it's problematic with characters like Thor. Kirby did three different versions of Thor before our version. Kirby's subsequent fourth world, the Eternals etc.... Yeah Thor is a Kirby creation. But if Kirby had done the words instead of Stan the strip would probably have run ten issues and disappeared.

As far as Spider-man goes, I'm with Stan. Ditko wanted to take the strip into an objectivist area. Stan wanted to keep Peter Parker as the loser Everyman schlub. Stan was right. It made Spidey relatable to kids. If Spidey became an insufferable know it all who felt his flawed friends were beneath him the strip would not have lasted another ten issues.

Kid said...

Stan is certainly the creator of Spider-Man as far as the concept goes, Phil. However, the Spider-Man that the public received was a co-creation of Stan & Steve. Likewise with the Surfer. Jack threw in a guy on a surfboard, but it was Stan who provided his history and characterization, making the finished product a result of both Stan & Jack (or Jack & Stan to be more precise). I'd also suggest that just because Jack did previous versions of Thor doesn't mean that he initiated Marvel's Thor. Larry Lieber wrote the first Thor story (based on Stan's plot) and Larry normally worked full script, not the 'Marvel method'. Larry says that Stan gave him the plot, he wrote the script, and then it was sent to Jack; it was also Larry who came up with the names Don Blake and Uru, so it seems unlikely in this case that Jack initiated Thor and just took it in to Stan.

I think the best way to attribute credit is just to say 'by Stan & Jack' or Stan & Steve' - that way all three are given credit.

Rip Jagger said...

I don't remember where I heard this (see we're in trouble right away) but it seems according to some researchers every time we access a memory that memory changes in some subtle way. When you get to be as old as me, or heaven willing as old as Stan then memories becomes slippery things indeed I'd suggest.

But many of Stan's claims come when he was a younger man and I tend to imagine they are the result of carelessness and later attempts to clean up the record. It created inconsistencies which some have latched onto to smear Stan. I don't hold a grudge against him because he once pretty much gave the impression he created the Marvel Universe on his own (as much of the modern public believes if they care at all) and I give him credit for having taken steps to clean up that impression over the decades since.

But we all know that the Marvel characters were the synthesis of Stan and Jack and Steve and some others, hitting the right notes at the right time. Jack created mountains and Stan made you care to climb them.

Rip Off

Christopher Nevell said...

... or Jack & Stan (he says, thinking of the McCartney & Lennon reordering)

Kid said...

Thing is, Rip, in Stan's earliest interviews, he was extremely forthcoming about Jack's contributions, describing him as much the writer as Stan was. And I genuinely believe that in calling himself the writer in the credits, he did so only because he'd written the dialogue and captions - ergo, he was the writer. If Stan later became somewhat reluctant to correct people's misconceptions, it was in the face of people constantly trying to deny him even a small measure of credit in the creation of the Marvel Universe. When you're being besieged, you tend to get defensive. Stan certainly made you care to climb the Marvel Mountain, but I still think he had a hand in building it.

*******

Look again my previous response, Chris. I actually say Jack & Stan about half way in. I noticed recently that a recent Surfer story in MWOM said 'Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby', which surprised me as I'd have expected the reverse. However, I suppose Stan gets his name first because, back in the '60s, he was the commissioning editor and the boss. Besides, it was always Lennon & McCartney, regardless of which one of them made the biggest contribution to any particular song, but as long as we knew that, it didn't much matter. (Although it seems to have mattered to PM at a later date.)

Paul McScotty- Muir said...

Personally I think Stan probably did say "what about a hero that can climb wall like a spider" or something similar as that seems to be the way he worked (from reading others reminisces of that time) and cam e up with the concept idea - but is that creating the "character" for me its more than that for me the most important Spider-man character isn't the one with the mask its Peter Parker (even although both are different concepts and neither exits) that was the novelty / breakthrough character and again I would credit Stan as the major (but not only) force behind "Peter" as that seems to be they type of character he liked (relevant) to write about or get others to write about.

Next for me is the costume , very original no doubt or is it - Did Steve Ditko (a creator I love) create thi son his own as he seems to claim - well there is a great article / find on that over at Comic Bits On-line (link below) where a few years before the Spidey costume was "created" at Marvel a New York kids toy / novelty company created for Halloween a Spider-Man character actually named as such) and a dress up costume that is who we know as Spider Man- now I am assuming this isn't a hoax if its not then it cast a bit of doubt, and only a bit, as jack Kirby worked for this company and it seems Ditko may have as well.

http://hoopercomicart.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/have-you-heard-about-billion-dollar.html

Kid said...

That sounded interesting until I took a look, McS. The 1954 costume looks nothing like Ditko's, and the one that does turns out to be a 1963 licensed costume. The most interesting thing is the 'spiderman' name, but even that was nothing new back then - it had been used to describe skyscraper workers back in the '30s, if I recall correctly. And that 1954 costume certainly looks like nothing that Kirby would've designed.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Yeah, that Spidey costume is interesting, did a little bit of digging into that quite recently actually. Seems the Ben Cooper concern was run on a bit of a shoe string, with costumes altered to fit what was available at the cheapest price. It does seem that there was some kind of settlement over the issue, Ben Cooper being handed the rights to a Marvel themed Spidey costume. What's really interesting though, is the amendments to circulated versions of the press adds, where the black around the eyes and nose of the Ben Cooper costume has been touched out.

Lennon McCartney, now there's an example creators being swindled. Have a look at the Northern Songs arrangement to see just how bad that kind of thing can get.

Kid said...

That'll be the multimillionaires Lennon & McCartney? Now if only someone would swindle me in such a way that I ended up as rich as L&M.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Who are going to swindle, paupers? Yeah good luck with that one.

Kid said...

That comma after 'swindle' is confusing, but L&M started off as 'paupers' and, in the process of being swindled (allegedly), ended up multi-millionaires. That'll do for me.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...