Monday, 15 October 2018
WHO CREATED DOCTOR STRANGE? STAN LEE, STEVE DITKO - OR BOTH?
Take a look at the above extract from a letter by STEVE DITKO in response to a fan. In it, Steve candidly admits that his memory is not perfect and that there are some strips he drew (and maybe even wrote) in the 1960s that he can't even remember doing. Yet, when it comes to his written reminiscences about SPIDER-MAN and DOCTOR STRANGE, rabid Ditko fans (I mean the ones who are usually equally rabid STAN LEE haters), never question his accounts of his work on, arguably, the two most famous characters he collaborated on.
Why is this? Is it possible their critical faculty is blunted by their antipathy towards Stan Lee, in the same way that rabid JACK KIRBY fans take anything that Jack said as gospel, while dismissing everything that Stan says as an utter lie? For proof of the latter half of that sentence, check out this link. Read it? I'd say it's compelling evidence of Jack's memory being at least as unreliable as Lee's. So why do some people regard Steve's memory as being infallible when he himself never claimed it to be, and allowed for the exact opposite in fact?
It's a huge subject, but I'm going to focus on Doctor Strange in this post. Those who claim that Stan wasn't a co-creator of the sorcerer often quote from Stan Lee's 1963 letter to Dr. JERRY BAILS a few months before the strip debuted. "'Twas Steve's idea" they declare, as 'proof' that Stan originally admitted that he had nothing to do with the genesis of the character. In actual fact, it doesn't necessarily prove that at all. Read the full paragraph below. (Click to enlarge.)
It occurs to me that this can easily mean something other than the anti-Stan brigade say it does. Consider: "We have a new character in the works..." Who does he mean by 'we' - Stan and Steve, or MARVEL COMICS itself? If the former, this suggests that Stan was involved in the idea. "The first story is nothing great, but perhaps we can make something of him -- 'twas Steve's idea..." What was Steve's idea? Seems to me that this could well apply to the 'nothing great first story', not necessarily the character himself (otherwise wouldn't Stan have said "he was Steve's idea"?). But what about Steve's own account of events? I'm glad you asked.
"On my own, I brought in a five-page, pencilled story, with a page/panel script..." writes Steve in one of his much later essays. Assuming Steve's recollection is accurate, this does not preclude Stan - who was the commissioning editor remember - asking Steve to do a story about a 'magician'. Steve, therefore, may merely have meant that Stan left the story up to him and had no direct input into the plot. However, even if Stan didn't request such a strip, Strange followed in the wake of Dr. DROOM, a similar character (at least in the beginning, before he was turned into a mere hypnotist), whose debut Steve had inked and could well have been influenced by, subconsciously or otherwise.
What's important to remember however, whatever view you take, is that creator status in comicbooks is usually defined by the printed product, the comic itself. JERRY SIEGEL came up with the idea for SUPERMAN, but JOE SHUSTER gave him substance, based on Jerry's description. BOB KANE came up with the idea for BATMAN, but it took BILL FINGER to refine the concept and add much that made the character popular. (Though it was decades before his contribution was publicly acknowledged.) Jack Kirby originated a guy on a surfboard, but it was Stan Lee who gave the SILVER SURFER his back-story and motivation with which the comic-reading community are so familiar.
When it comes to Doctor Strange, even if we accept the by-no-means-certain assertion by nay-sayers that Stan didn't initiate the character by asking Steve to come up with something (commissioning editor remember), it was Stan's christening of Strange, his dialogue and captions - in short, his characterisation - which helped define the good Doctor, and shaped the readers' perception of who he was and how he came to be. (The fact that Strange's origin so closely mirrors Droom's is com-pelling evidence to the likely truth of that statement.)
So who created Doctor Strange? The Strange that you and I know was the product of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, whether you agree with the sequence of those two names or not.
"By the pow'r of the Faltine,
In the name of Satannish,
Let your hatred of 'Smiley'
Here's to Stan and Steve - together they were invincible!
Posted by Kid at Monday, October 15, 2018