Thursday, August 21, 2003

Found links at both Neilalien and ADD to the forthcoming book Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book. This could be very interesting. There's already a few noteworthy items to be found in the "extras" section, mostly correspondence from the Smilin' One to Jack Kirby and others.

There are few more controversial topics in the comics world than who did what in Marvel's glory years. It seems fairly obvious to me that Kirby, Ditko, and many others had as much to do with the creation of these stories and characters as Lee did, and I've always bristled when I would see Stan get sole credit for the creation of the FF, Spidey, and others in the Marvel pantheon. It should be apparent that Kirby in particular was a creative and imaginative force in that period. I always have to ask: what did Stan create after Jack and Steve left? That being said, it's always seemed equally as obvious that Lee's greatest contribution was his snappy, fresh dialogue. Some of those early Marvels are a joy to read because of it. Sure, he could be melodramatic at times, but even then Stan had a recognizable style. One of the first comics I remember owning was Amazing Spider-Man 16, in which he teamed up with Daredevil against the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime. I recently re-read this story in an Essential collection, and I got just as many chuckles from the back-and-forth between Spidey and the Circus as I did over thirty years ago. I think Stan fed a lot from his collaborators-witness how stilted and bland his last scripting efforts were in the early 70s, the waning days of Marvel's Golden period after Ditko and Kirby had gone and Lee was phasing himself out of the editor position. That being said, I'm sure that Lee did contribute some story and character ideas as well- but his greatest contribution was as a scripter. Witness, also, the post-Marvel efforts of both Kirby and Ditko: Ditko always needed a scripter when he went over to DC, but his character ideas were as idiosycratic and interesting as always. When Ditko wrote his own dialogue, as in his Mr. A stories, it was as flat and dull as dishwater. Post-Marvel Kirby, especially his Fourth World, Demon and Kamandi series were bursting at the seams with energy and imagination, but Kirby's dialogue was, to be charitable, odd- even though it worked in the context of the stories.

And that's my two cents worth on that great debate. I'll try to keep an eye out (not literally-ouch) for this book- sounds like it could be a good read.

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