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Ditko & Lee: Anatomy of a Collaboration

August 24, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

The debate over the ratio of creative input between Stan Lee and his artists is one that has raged for years and is revived each time a new Marvel film is released or another member of the old bullpen passes away. Not surprisingly, these debates center on Marvel’s most iconic and popular characters, probably because that is where the money was, and continues, to be made. Any debate involving the comparative contributions of  Stan Lee and Steve Ditko inevitably revolves around Spider-Man. The major evidence in that debate are the evolving credits found on the splash pages of the first 38 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. (From “Written by Stan Lee; Illustrated by Steve Ditko” to “Scripted by Stan Lee; Plotted and Drawn by Steve Ditko”)

Curiously enough, nothing is ever made of the fact that the only writing credit Stan Lee predictably received (or took) in the years before the birth of the Marvel Universe with Fantastic Four #1, was on those stories drawn by Steve Ditko. In the Atlas years of the late Fifties and early Sixties, Stan and his brother Larry Lieber not only plotted many of the stories for artists like Jack Kirby, Don Heck and Paul Reinman but they also wrote all of the captions and dialog. Yet they were never credited as Stan was on the splash page of every Steve Ditko story. Mind you, the credit is in the form of Stan’s own signature, sometimes before and sometimes after Steve’s. To my knowledge, neither man has commented on this (at the time) unique convention.

Which brings us to this five-pager from Tales of Suspense #22 (Oct. 1961). Even with his face obscured, the writer before the typewriter on page two looks remarkably like a certain editor.

If I was a stickler for logic, I might be tempted to call shenanigans for the depiction of such earthly props as a mid-20th Century typewriter, waste basket and desk on page two, only to be replaced with the odd furnishings in the last panel. I don’t fancy the idea of  “nightmare pills”; that’s what I used to call Tylenol PM.

I don’t know if it was Stan or Steve who came up with the initial idea for this story but whoever did may well have been inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone  (“The Eye of the Beholder”) that aired the previous November. In that story, the props were also illogically earthly. And we all know that aliens all like a good smoke!



  1. Asdasdasd says:

    hes a crazy old bastard but i must say i love that man .not in a gay way but he hepeld create some of the most iconic characters that the human race will be exposed to .and that charm .a romodel if i ever saw one .and anyone can acheive what he acheived all you have to do is open your mind .i know i will but even at my max potential i will be lucky to become 25% of what stan lee acheived .and its not about the cash ..its about loving what you do the cash just makes it all possible

  2. Batton Lash says:

    Interesting article! Ditko has written in Robin Snyder’s “The Comics” that he never got a script frpm Stan Lee. The stories were either co-plotted or solely plotted by Ditko, and that included the pre-superhero fantasy stories like the one you posted. Also, you note that the frustrated writer in the story “looks remarkably like a certain editor.” I disagree– he looks more like a certain comic book artist! Compare the eyewear and hairline with Steve’s self-caricature. Regardless, those five pagers were little gems; thanks for presenting it. I wish Marvel would publish a companion volume to the “Amazing Adult Fantasy” omnibus and collect all those Lee-Ditko five pagers in one big edition!

  3. Patrick Lemaire says:

    What does your comments about credits mean. Lee has been credited as far as the early 40s, well before Ditko entered the business.

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