Never before have I felt such dread at the prospect of putting my thoughts down in writing as I am currently experiencing. This is a topic that unfortunately seems to have engulfed our national consciousness in a way that few have before and hopefully few will in the future, as it shines such an ugly light at the flaws of mankind as a species. Seemingly everyday yet another allegation of sexual misconduct is brought forward, touching folks from all walks of life.
Earlier this afternoon, the living legend himself, the face of the medium I love for almost 60 years, Stan Lee became the focus of claims of sexual harassment (for the details of said allegations be sure to check out Chris’s post mirrored from CBR.com). He and his attorneys refute the claims and I can honestly say that I deeply hope they turn out to be groundless, but as much as I want to dismiss them and move on, as much as I love “The Man”, there is a shady side to the legend that our readers may not be familiar with and I see it as my job to give you the other side of the story.
The House that Stan Built?
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Lee’s biggest claim to fame is revolutionizing the superhero genre introducing the “Marvel Age”of comics. You know the list, from the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, to the X-Men and the Avengers, Stan Lee is attributed with the creation of them all. As he always claimed, he did it in the “Mighty Marvel Manner”. What wasn’t mentioned in said claims however, is that in point of fact, this generally meant he would come up with a basic plot and then turn it over to his artist to actually plan it out and lay in the beats of the stories where he would then fill in the word balloons describing what the artist had come up with.
This is fact, what has always been in dispute however, was exactly how much of even the basic plots and ideas can be attributed to him. His primary collaborators during his most prolific era were undoubtedly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and their version of events differ significantly from Lee’s, each claiming that it was their work, not Stan’s that made these properties what they were. We have no way to verify whose account is the true telling of events, that will probably go unanswered to the end of time, nor was he ever as adamant about his being solely responsible as his close friend Bob Kane was with Batman, but it had long been a point of contention between these industry icons. Lee did eventually began acknowledging their contributions in a much more significant way than he had at first. A look at his projects since leaving Marvel shows a string of disappointing releases (not the least of which was Striperella which doesn’t exactly show a progressive view towards women) and many endeavors that, while he heavily hyped, never came to fruition. It seems to suggest that his collaborators certainly helped him fine tune his ideas at the very least.
Not His First Rodeo
This is not the only time in recent memory that the conduct of Stan Lee has been called into question. In August of 2015, former assistant Shawn Lukaszewicz, filed suit against Stan, his wife, and his daughter for having been subjected to verbal abuse and humiliation, stiffed on his wages and then was terminated after he demanded what was owed to him. He painted a picture of extremely derogatory behavior from the Lee’s that if true I could only describe as alarming. However, despite attempting to find the disposition of the case, I came up empty. I’d like to think that this is just a relationship that has soured and Shawn is looking to cash in, this wouldn’t be the first such case, but I don’t know.
In spite of all that I have written above, I still think highly of Stan, who at this point is innocent of the charges until proven otherwise. Should the unwanted sexual advances allegation prove to be true, I’ll reevaluate my position. Until such time, even if Kirby and Ditko were in fact responsible for much of the characters development, Stan was the one beating the drums for the medium. He has championed the cause and raised their profile more than any other person. Without him out in the forefront, I most likely wouldn’t have the opportunity to rant on about this business that I hold so dear. A product only gains recognition with the right pitchman, and without a shadow of a doubt, Stan was the right man for a very long time. I’ll continue to hold out hope that he gets exonerated and that this 95 year old living legend can indeed live up to the hype. Only time will tell.