The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Here's an interesting one, for all comic book geeks past and present--especially past. Stan Lee is a name nearly synonymous with Marvel Comics, the home of characters like Spider-Man, The Hulk and X-Men. Stan is now suing the company he helped build, claiming he's not getting paid his share of the big-budget movie money his "creations" are now generating.

I put "creations" in quote marks because there's been a lot of controversy over the decades over just how much of a claim Lee has on all the Marvel characters he says he dreamed up. The short version is, Lee has said, in detail, that he came up with the bulk of the concepts behind many of the Marvel characters created in the early 60s, including those listed above, as well as the Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange, Iron Man and a dozen others (at least). The artists he worked with during that period, especially Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, counter that those characters came about through collaboration with them, to varying degrees (both Kirby and Ditko assert that certain characters, like Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, were created with little or no input from Lee). When they tried to get some appropriate compensation for this during the 70s and 80s, Lee, backed by Marvel, fought back in court and basically told the artists to buzz off.

Now, I stopped following the comic book industry some 13 years ago. There may have been some sort of compromise reached since then; I know Ditko got a co-creator credit in the Spider-Man movie, for instance. But, I think it's a rich bit of karma to see Lee now in essentially the same position he put Ditko and Kirby in for all those years. Excelsior!