Welcome foolish mortals,
I hope you all had a nice Cinco de Mayo yesterday. Let me start with a shout out to ArtPatient.com for reviewing Black Snow! I thought it was pretty positive overall. There were a couple of small digs about my simplistic art style turning people off, and frankly that’s a valid criticism. I’ve seen this reaction from some people when I first show it to them, but then they give it a chance and it wins them over. When I drew Issue 1 I can honestly say that I had never read a full comic book, so I was just making my best guess of how it should be presented. I’ve always been interested in everything that relates to comic books, but not actually sitting down and reading them. For the most part I still don’t, though I will occasionally pick up some compilations of something I’m interested in. The comparison to storyboard was very apt, as that’s always been my approach. I’ve always wanted to meld the comic and film mediums and it’s nice to see someone appreciates my attempt. I felt like the reviewer really understood what we’ve been building towards with our story and overall tone. It brought some interesting insight that I hadn’t really considered. You can read the full review at ArtPatient.com or in the Fun Stuff section.
So lets talk about creating a comic and why it’s been controversial. This usually boils down to a fight between the artist and the writer, if they are indeed separate. As you know I’m happy to share my creator status with my partner Alex. I could go into detail about who thought of what, but really I don’t think it matters. I consider our contributions to be equal, but then I’ve always been a fairly humble man. Sure I have some ego, but not near as much as a lot of artist. Hell, it took me years of drawing this comic before I felt I could even refer to myself as an artist. I believe Alex feels the same way about our co-creator status, and can attest to his humility. Even though I do help with the writing I’m fine with being labeled simply as the Artist and letting him be the Writer.
Now lets talk about the man with the largest ego in the comic book industry, my nemesis, Stan “the man” Lee. I’ve had problems with the self appointed father of Marvel comics for a long time because of his insatiable drive to take credit for creating everything. He basically claims the creator status for every successful Marvel franchise, and more. I new he had hit a record low when I saw a commercial for “Stan Lee’s Stripperrella.” I’m sure he had a lot of involvement in that one. His name appears first and largest on my “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” book, while the artist’s name is secondarily placed and much smaller. It’s a book about artists, the man does not even draw and he’s taking credit for the whole Marvel style! Don’t even talk to me about his terrible movie cameos. I’m no comic book expert or historian, but I’ve seen this guy pop up in enough boring, long winded interviews proclaiming his greatness to know what he’s all about. I even intended one at Google, where I opted not to confront him for fear that the secret Google militia would have me fired and removed immediately. Don’t laugh, I saw them attempt to do this when Eric Schmidt interviewed his beloved hero Henry Kissenger and employees protested welcoming a war criminal as their special guest. Watch this video of the event I attended where old man Lee shills his shitty political humor caption book, which no one even wanted my free copy of, and mispronounces Obama’s name.
He takes credit for the genre of putting funny captions on pictures! I’ll say this, he does a good job of portraying himself as a humble lovable character, but if you pay close attention you can see some of his ego coming out. I have a theory that he knows he’s an asshole, but hides it well. Now lets look at the tragic comic book artist, Steve Ditko. If you don’t know his name, he’s probably best known as the “other” creator of Spider-man, amongst other things. You may not have even known there was another creator, as Stan Lee tries to take all the credit. Look closely and you’ll see Ditko’s name appear once, briefly in the credits for each Spider-man movie. Count how many credits Stan Lee gets.
I first learned the story of Spider-man’s creation while attending high school, but here it goes as I understand it. My research shows that it’s a very muddy grey area as to who came up with what, but Stan Lee, who was an editor at Marvel with considerable stroke at the time, originally approach his favorite artist Jack Kirby to come up with the Spider-man character. Apparently his sketches sucked (a web gun?) so Stan approached Ditko to try. Ditko came up with the look, costume, and a lot of the powers and Stan liked it. Ditko drew the first one, then ,as was the process at the time, Stan came up with the dialogue to be placed over the pages. There was some argument between Lee and Ditko as Steve stood up and tried to take some credit for creating the character and Stan tried to shoot him down. Ditko was punished by having the cover of the first issue redrawn by Jack Kirby before it was released. He was told his original cover wasn’t heroic enough, though Kirby’s original concept art was rejected for being too heroic.
For four years Ditko drew Spider-man and Lee wrote it. Reports say that Ditko took the character as being very autographical and always steered character in that way. He was actually very involved in the story creation and eventually Stan Lee reluctantly gave him plotting credit after 38 issues. Over time the two men grew distant as Ditko became more despondent from dealing with Lee and arguing over the way the comic book should progress. By the end they barely spoke and primarily worked separately. Ditko ended up quitting, and was instantly replaced by new artists. Eventually Stan stopped writing the comic and passed it along to other writers. So why is one man remembered as the creator of Spider-man and the other a mere asterisk? Because Stan talked loud and long enough, marketed himself, and played his political status within the company to erase the artist’s contributions to the creation of characters, stories, concepts and franchises.
Stan Lee has stated in interview and through his actions that he feels the writer is the true creator of any comic book. Ditko thought that the artist deserved at least equal credit. This is something that many people more knowledgeable than myself have debated. Of course I’m biased, being as I am an artist, but I’ve always felt the art was a bit more important. In the case of Spider-man I’d say that the cool looking costume and unusual poses were incredibly pertinent to the characters success, more so than the story or premise. I liked Spider-man my whole life, and it wasn’t until I was well into my teenage years that I even knew what about his origin or background. I knew he looked cool, had exciting powers, said goofy one liners and kicked some ass. I didn’t know he was supposed to be a teenager, and I didn’t care about the plots involving his aunt or other boring troubles. I just wanted to see him fight some weird looking villains.
I think people are a lot more likely to pick up and enjoy something that is well drawn but poorly written than the other way around. Style counts for a lot in the comic book world. Story is important, but how the story is conveyed to the reader is more important, and that falls upon the artist. You might think it’s weird for me when I draw something I didn’t write, which is sometimes the case when Alex really gets rolling and produces entire sections by himself. It’s really not that different though, as what I’m drawing is my interpretation of the events. So you know, most of what I’m given is dialogue, with some occasional action or descriptions of characters emotions or something along those lines. What I do with that is completely up to me as the artist.
I think it’s a pretty hard argument to make that the writer is more important, but please feel free to try and persuade me. I chose to discuss Lee and Ditko because the whole situation has always intrigued/upset me, and it’s a story that really sticks with you. It’s a sad tale and once I heard it I started hating Stan Lee. The more I saw of him the more he confirmed his place as my poster boy for greed and vanity. I can’t say I know a ton about Ditko, but I like his “imperfect” style, respect his passion and sympathize with his plight. Maybe now, after all these years, you’ll know understand those first couple fake quotes and my mocking learn to draw section a little more.
That’s all for now! I’ll write more when I think of something new to say. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on my trashing of one of America’s most beloved comic book icons.