Alan Moore comments on Stan Lee/Kirby/Ditko; thoughts about the creation of Spider-Man


Alan Moore answers a fan’s question on his opinions of Stan Lee. In his response he brings up the creator disputes between Lee, Kirby and especially Steve Ditko. He references the “Searching for Steve Ditko” documentary that he took part in with Jonathan Ross five years ago, (which can be viewed here) and Stan Lee’s response to the notion that Ditko created Spider-Man.

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(22) Comments

  1. Roxie

    Alan Moore's memory is incorrect regarding Stan Lee taking credit for creating Captain America in the Origins books. Captain America isn't covered till the Grandson of Origins and Stan's name isn't on the book and the text in the book doesn't give any credit to Stan for the character's creation. Steve Ditko never takes credit for creating Spider-Man. The creation is fuzzily between Stan and Jack Kirby. Steve Ditko was given a 2-page synopsis to create the character's origin. Over the years, Steve added many elements to the series and eventually unilaterally took complete control over the plotting of his stories when he and Stan stopped talking. Between Stan and Jack Kirby's poor memories, different semantics about what a creation is, and a lack witnesses to corroborate one story or the other, the exact origins of Marvel's heroes will remain nebulous. It seems likely that Stan is at least responsible for the early direction to focus on realism and distinctive characterization. Jack rarely, if ever, talked about the character personalities of the Marvel heroes in his interviews, but discussed at great length the motivations and personalities of his later creations such as the New Gods. Marvel's success isn't inherently due to the superheroes, but to the more realistic human characteristics built into the characters. Fantastic Four did not become Marvel's early top selling comic because it had a Plastic Man clone, a female Invisible Man, a revamped Human Torch, and a monster. It was the new approach to writing superheroes that made the difference. Stan has very likely taken more credit than he should for the creations of the heroes, but as the editor and lead scripter, and often co-plotter, he still has a creative legacy in Marvel's heroes. Many of the best tales after the first few years were often from Jack Kirby's imagination. Unlike Steve, Jack never took control of the comics away from Stan. They continued to collaborate over the years with varying degrees of contribution with Jack probably contributing the bulk of the most creative storylines and Stan reigning him in to keep the human drama alive. The best way to understand Stan's role in the work is to compare the comics Jack did with Stan to the later comics he did without Stan.

  2. tony savage

    Most of you commenting are young and stan lee has sold himself to you the public as the creator of all marvel ,this man's main revenue of income is to keep pushing his legend himself. He's like a gunfighter who shot five gunslinger with one bullet he will never tell the truth because he lives off the legend if you believe it he will live forever. A legend sometimes is a story blown out of poportion were someone tells someone else and so on it may be true or not in stan's case he finally was exposed by a real writer alan moore. Making a profit and living off of others hard work is sad and under handed selfish thing to do he doesn't care about anyone but himself....stan tell the truth and give respect and the profits back to the families whom they belong to.

  3. Michael

    I saw the 'Searching for Steve Ditko' documentary Jonathan Ross made and that Moore is referring to, and it's a great piece made by a comic book fan, so check it out. If I remember correctly, Stan Lee didn't say 'In my opinion I say Ditko was the creator of Spider-man"... He says something like: 'I'd consider Steve Ditko to be the CO-creator of Spider-Man.' That's a big difference, especially from a legal point of view. Stan wrote a letter once that had the same message. Lee is willing to share that credit although he does believe that the guy who comes up with the character, his personality, his backstory and so on, is the creator of the character. I do agree: you have to have an idea first before someone can draw it. Now, I am not saying that Ditko didn't have a big part in the creation of Spidey, because the way a character is visualised is an important part of its appeal. Especially when we're talking superheroes and their costumes. The Spidey suit is a major attraction. So calling both Lee and Ditko co-creators of Spidey seems to me like a fair assumption. Whether you feel like Ditko has been failry compensated financially for his co-creation is another matter that has to deal with what 'work for hire' exactly means in legal terms and such, and is a tough thing to discuss without having insight in the contracts the artists signed back in the day.

  4. Matt Oldham

    What I find amazingly ironic is that here's Alan Moore, a guy who's entire career is built on writing other people's creations, is weighing in on this whole creator debate.

  5. Sano

    He's pretty much saying stuff everyone knows but as the end of the day you still have to give credit to Stan Lee. His goofy hipster dialog made those characters resonates with the audience.You also have to give credit to the entire Marvel staff for keeping these characters relevant so that they are still popular and known throughout the world.After Marvel Kirby created the New Gods for DC, minus the hipster dialog. Ditko created The Question. Does anyone outside of comic fans know who they are compared to the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men, etc.?Sometimes it's better not to know how the sausage gets made. Even so I'm grateful to anyone even remotely involved in Spider-Man's existence.

  6. Spider-Dad

    From my perspective, it was the genius of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko that gave us the great visuals and the genius of Stan Lee's sunny disposition/marketing savvy that made Marvel fun. All the elements, the look, the style, the attitude and the fantasy of the "bullpen" is what made the Marvel revolution popular. Jack, Steve, Stan, Roy Thomas and others all had their roles to fill and made history. Sure some of their individual stuff was good, but their most impactful stuff was when they worked together. And to me, there is no "I" in team...I am not surprised that Stan won the public hearts and minds because he is a great salesmen and has an upbeat personality. Jack and Steve? Not so much...and I am not surprised that Alan Moore is down on the "company" man Stan Lee. Talk about poles apart in style and personality.

  7. Donovan Grant

    I wouldn't suggest the Comics Journal Jack Kirby. Dude comes off as a bitter, raving maniac in that one.

  8. fantasyfreak

    I´ve heard good things about that book(The Untold Story, that is). Didn´t know about the Comics Journal though. Deep down I agree with most of your point, I´ve just heard the point repeated so many times now I overreacted a little I guess ;)

  9. Irishlad

    @fantasyfreak Frankly and respectfully, that's a cop out. There's too many times I see or read "hey you know how stan lee created marvel comics, Spider-man, FF, Hulk, x-men?" and so on (tick as applicable) that it's just not enough to say "ah well that sucks let's move on" because there's been a real human cost behind the creative "theft" of these characters. Once upon a time I was a a Satn Lee devotee but over the past 20 years I've been looking into all this, reading interviews, books and finding oiut that Stan has very definite feet of clay in this regard. Take a read of "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Take a read of the Comics Journal archives interviews with jack kirby... there's plenty out there that'll help square the circle.

  10. fantasyfreak

    I´m seriously getting so tired of this discussion. I´m sorry for sounding so negative, but I just think that no matter how you put it, you will unintentionally badmouth one or the other side, and I just don´t think they deserve that. Why can´t we just go: yeah, these guys should get more attention for their part in creating these characters, and it sucks that they don´t, and then just leave it at that?

  11. Irishlad

    Stan Lee believes that the guy who comes up with the idea is the creator. Translation: "I came up with the name Spider-Man". Well no he didn't because Joe Simon had already come up with this name and chracter and the changed it to Silver Spider and then The Fly. Simon gave Jack Kirby the conceptual sketches for the character and years later he'd show them to Stan. They tweaked the concept but Lee didn't think it suited. Ditko got his hands on it and totally changed it into what we now know. Stan's part in the "creation" of Spider-man was giving him his snappy patter and personality. On paper this would make Ditko 80 per cent the creator of Spider-Man, Stan 25 per cent and Joe Simon 5 per cent. Then again if it's Spidey's personality, wit and humanity that you like you would have to bump Lee up to, wha,t 40 per cent? If it's the look, feel and style you like then it's more Ditko. Either way I don't know why Stan can't just come out and say that Steve is the main creative force behind Spider-Man. Obviously Stan's lawyers would not want him saying that nor Marvel's. I doubt Ditko would sue - it's not his style. Also wouldn't it be nice if Marvel/Disney went to the likes of Ditko and the Kirby estate and offered them a thank you payment for their part in creating Marvel? 20 mill each? A drop in the ocean for Disney. Stan Lee has enriched himself on the backs of giants. These giants and their families should also get their reward.

  12. Irishlad

    Telling what he believes to be the truth doesn't make him (Moore) bitter. When people such as Kirby and Ditko have been robbed of their legacy by people such as Stan Lee and Martin Goodman then he's within his rights to call it as he sees it.

  13. Max A. Frankow

    Man, Alan Moore has got to be the most bitter, negative person out there. He's like the anti-Stan Lee.

  14. Big Al

    Maybe I am naive in thinking this but the way I sort of fathom it is if you compare the book during and after Ditko left, all the stuff which stays more or less the same, was the stuff Stan actually did. So, Peter's humour, Jonah's sunny disposition, that was all Stan. Mind you this is an iffy situation because I view Spider-Man and other characters more like works in progresses than anything else. I mean how important is Gwn's death to the mythology of Spider-Man and his personality, and Stan had little to do with that and Ditko had literally nothing. So Lee and/or Ditko created a foundation which then took off. Really Spider-Man is one big co-creation of everyone who's ever worked on his series, they just didn't all work on him at the same time.

  15. Nat

    I always thought the trouble came with Stan admitting that Ditko was a co-creator. I remember seeing an interview where Stan explains how he felt the guy that comes up with the idea created the character. It is also known that the marvel way of doing things, at the time, was for the writer to do the plotting and the artist actually flesh out the story.As to Moore's comments on Stan's writing, I believe that Stan's target audience were kids and Moore writes generally for adults.

  16. Irishlad

    @aziz Ditko plotted the book from around issue 15 or 16. lee never knew what the stories would be about till he saw the artwork. That's why when Ditko left the tone of the book was different. Peter was less morose and bitter. Romita injected the soapy elemnet that was grist to Stan's mill

  17. Aziz

    Does that mean..... Stan Lee didn't read the book?@1: I'm having the same thoughts Al, what about after Ditko's departure? Did Stan just blot the humor over Ditko's dialogue since Ditko is not for humor?

  18. Jack Brooks

    From what I've read from different sources over the years, the story methodology was so mixed that it became very hard to pin down who created what (except obviously that Stan didn't draw anything). What got everyone angry is that Stan cheerfully went forth as the public face of Marvel and claimed to be the sole creator of just about everything. Lee also did nothing (that I'm aware of) to return the artist's work to them; it was the much-despised Jim Shooter who pushed that reform through. Stan was marketing, with some writing ability. We can thank Stan for the fact that Spider-Man didn't have Peter Parker quoting Ayn Rand for thirty odd issues. But by all accounts it also seems that for a long time Stan was a thief, at least of credit.

  19. Jeremy

    @Big Al Stan did all the dialogue I believe(which is good, because Ditko's dialog is generally terrible, didactic stilted stuff, and Lee's characterization is a huge part of the appeal), but Ditko did do plenty of story ideas himself. The famous Master Planner sequence where Spidey lifts the huge bit of machinery off his back is entirely Ditko's idea, for example.

  20. Big Al

    I have to disagree. I don't know about the FF situation but did Ditko do dialogue suggestions for Spider-Man (I honestly am asking here)?Also...what about AFTER Ditko left? I mean when Romita came on the contirbutions made then with Stan and Romita wouldn't have had anything to do with Ditko. Plus if Stan was doing the dialogue, wouldn't he have been responsible for fomring Spidey's wit which is a core part of his personality which (and correct me if I'm wrong) Ditko had little to do with because he was generally not a comedy guy.

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