No one can deny that Martin Goodman was the founder of Marvel Comics, one of the greatest comic book companies to ever exist. However, when it comes to the Marvel Universe and its individual characters things begin to get confusing. Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and Stan Lee created what is known as the Marvel Universe in the 1960s(Grand, 2017). The problem is who created what exactly? All three artists have differing versions of who should get the most credit. What we do know is that in the public’s eye Stan Lee is “Stan the Man,” creator of all the Marvel movies we watch today. The crime in this is that Kirby and Ditko are forgotten by future generations who are enjoying the works they created or helped to create depending on which character is being portrayed.
Many comic book fans who grew up in the ‘60s know that Stan Lee did not create this universe as well as it’s characters alone. When you look at the comic books they all show who the author is and who drew the images. Stan Lee never officially discredited the other authors, but he not stop others from doing so and he also accepted credit that he may not have really deserved. Stan Lee worked for Marvel officially and eventually rose in the ranks to be in charge. Steve Ditko was also employed by Marvel but left over arguments with Stan over how Stan represented their work and issues of who deserved credit. Jack Kirby on the other hand was a contracted talent who collaborated with Marvel but was always left in the background.
Some could argue that it was Kirby and Ditko’s lack of fame is self-inflicted. Stan Lee became the face of Marvel because he was always working on self-promotion and creating a brand(Lewis, 2018). Ditko and Kirby were more focused on creating great ideas that would excite their devoted fans. Kirby especially was invested in creating stories that could captivate his audience and teach them something about the world. He did not care so much about fame, as creating an experience for his readers. This would be somewhat of a downfall because he never would get the credit that Stan would and his estate had to fight for the ownership of his ideas, which they eventually lost.
Technically the creators of the Marvel Universe never really owned any of there work, but it is still important that they properly credit those who did. Any fan of Marvel who does not know about the comic will only know that Stan Lee gets a cameo in every Marvel movie because he’s the “creator of the Marvel Universe.” What about Kirby and Ditko though? To be fair both of them have passed on, but you would think that Marvel would include a big section for them before the movie or in the credits.
One could make the argument that since Ditko and Kirby were mainly artists for the comics that they technically do not have anything to do with the movie, but without the concepts, they created Captain America or Spiderman could look and act very differently(Gates, 2017). Drawings are what created the original storylines and actions that Lee would add dialogue too. Without the situations created in the artwork, there is no story.
There is a second art crime being committed here that could be seen as exclusive to superhero movies. Most of the superhero movies being consumed start off as comics, but you almost never see anyone highlighting the creators of the original concept. Directors and producers act as if they created the concepts in their movies all alone without help. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the great plotlines and crossovers we see in movies such as The Avengers or Captain America Civil War are taken directly from the comics. Any person watching the movies would never know that unless they researched the movies further online. When I first watched the Marvel movies I did this and was blown away by what I found.
The movies are not direct copies of the comic books, but piece together different lore surrounding characters and plotlines to create a movie out of the fragments. Essentially, it would be like writing a research paper by misrepresenting the original author’s ideas, calling the paper the same name, and then not attributing any of it. There are multiple kinds of art crimes being committed by a whole, but due to the capitalistic attributes of art in society like licensing and copyrights, they can get away with it. Although all the ideas created did not originally come from Marvel itself, they employed the artist who made it so it became theirs.
Kirby’s family already found out that legal action is pointless, but you would think that Marvel would have the decency to attribute there work more prominently. Kirby and Ditko do not deserve to have their names forgotten. The ideas they created bring joy to millions of people and these artists deserve to be remembered
Gates, C. (2017, June 08). Characters you thought Stan Lee created but he actually didn\’t. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.looper.com/69291/
Grand, A. (2017, July 8). MARVEL 1960S: JACK KIRBY, STAN LEE, & STEVE DITKO; THE CONTROVERSY OF WHO CREATED WHAT? Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://comicbookhistorians.
Lewis, A., & Couch, A. (2018, July 09). Steve Ditko, Spider-Man Co-Creator and Legendary Comics Artist, Dies at 90. Retrieved October 11, 2020, from https://www.hollywoodreporter.