|Images copyright MARVEL COMICS|
Friday, 28 December 2018
STAN LEE - LIAR AND THIEF? HERE'S WHY I DON'T THINK SO...
First of all, apologies for the slight shadow down one side of each image on show here, but I couldn't open the books they came from wide enough to get a flat scan of them - not without risking serious damage. I'll try and replace them with superior scans at a future date. Above is the original 1941 version of this story from CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 by JOE SIMON & JACK KIRBY. Below, the 1965 version from TALES Of SUSPENSE #64, still drawn by Jack, though this time around scripted by STAN LEE. Who dreamed up the original plot - was it Joe or Jack, or did it emerge from both men putting their heads together and dreaming it up between them? We'll probably never know, but one thing's for sure - it wasn't Stan - though to be fair to him, he never claimed it was.
As commissioning editor, it's likely that the suggestion to produce updated versions of earlier Captain America tales was Stan's idea. (Or maybe publisher MARTIN GOODMAN's.) Merely reprinting the original versions (once the decision to place Cap back in a World War Two setting had been made) wouldn't have been as effective, as they lacked the visual impact of '60s Marvel strips - and readers would probably have been disappointed by them. Or maybe it was Jack's idea? Once again, we'll probably never know - not that it matters much at the end of the day. What we do know is that the 'modern' versions are far superior, mainly because Jack's art had evolved into an even more dynamic style, and Stan's scripting is a far breezier and better read than the originals, which, dialogue and caption-wise, are pretty underwhelming.
It's almost certain that Stan knew he and Jack were recycling an old plot and that, as he was scripting the tale, he felt entitled to credit himself as 'writer'. He was! After all, he wrote the dialogue which gave each character a personality beyond merely describing what readers could see occurring for themselves. That's all Stan meant when he claimed writing credit - I don't accept that he was always trying to claim he'd come up with the story, nor was he trying to steal credit from Jack Kirby or Joe Simon. It was simply that, even with a tale he hadn't provided the plot for, he was still writing the words in the speech balloons and captions, and therefore honestly believed that he was the writer. He never denied his collaborators' creative input into stories (even ones that he'd initiated and discussed with the artists), openly saying, in Kirby's case, that Jack was as much the writer on their strips as he was.
Think about it: Stan would've had to be incredibly stupid to think that claiming a writing credit would mislead readers into thinking that he always dreamed the whole thing up by himself. Mostly because it was at odds with his description of the 'MARVEL method' that he freely and frequently spoke and wrote about in interviews and magazine articles, and which he must've known was common knowledge. True, sometimes the credits read 'Story - Stan Lee' when the basic plot had been developed by Kirby or Ditko, but Stan had probably suggested the initial idea, or, in instances where he hadn't, mistakenly assumed (when the art was returned to be dialogued weeks or months later) that the story was one of his. Given his famously poor memory and enormous, rapid-fire workload, he likely just didn't remember precisely which plots were by him, and which were by Jack or Steve.
In conclusion, I don't think it's necessary to ascribe sinister motivation to Stan when credits didn't spell out each collaborator's specific and full contribution; any oversights or seeming 'credit-stealing' simply resulted from credit being attributed long after after-the-fact, when Stan had already moved on to future issues. Even Steve Ditko later admitted to being surprised when he saw work by him that he had no memory of producing, so why should it be different for Stan? Jack also erroneously claimed credit for things he hadn't done, most famously claiming that he'd designed SPIDER-MAN's distinctive (Ditko) costume when, as we all know, he didn't. People's memories are often far from reliable, yet Jack and Steve are given a free pass on their slips, but Stan is accused of being a liar and a thief.
In the words of the song - "It ain't necessarily so!"
Posted by Kid at Friday, December 28, 2018