I have constantly struggled with trying to define the creator credit when it comes to a collaborative art form. As it stands right now a few creators have gotten their due. Jack Kirby (after years of court battles), Stan Lee (self-created grandstanding) , Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster (again after fighting for justice) and others except Steve Ditko.
I know many will say he has gotten credit for much of his work, but since Steve is not one to obtain lawyers and lives by a strong personal philosophy he is never going to stand up and say I created Spider-Man in court. Not counting on his many many other contributions to Marvel, DC and Charlton comics.
First let me get one thing clear, I understand that many of these characters have been enhanced and improved by the creators who came after the originators. Still for as much as people like Wally Wood and Frank Miller did to change the nature of Daredevil, you still have to give Bill Evertt and Stan Lee credit as creating Daredevil. The fact that Netflix Daredevil series has a F**KING created by Drew Goddard burns me up to no end. Credit someone as developing for TV – but creator – my ass. I know these types of credits are negotiated bullshit but over time people without knowing will think this asswipe created Daredevil.
So back the matter at hand. I say that Steve Ditko is the true creator of Spider-Man and Stan Lee can maybe get a co-creator credit as his dialogue and perhaps some story ideas were a part of the success of the character. Sadly Stan Lee has taken almost all the credit for Spider-Man and almost back handed Steve saying he can be called the co-creator.
My basis for giving Ditko first billing is due to comics being a visual medium first and foremost. Also Stan has constantly lauded the “Marvel Way” which means he often with artist came up with a story idea and the artist then turned it into 20 pages of story. Stan would then dialogue the entire thing. Many, many times the credits would read written by Stan Lee and art by Steve Ditko. When you see some of the original artwork by Kirby you often see margin notes where he is giving an idea what the characters are going to say. In many of the Spider-Man books by Lee and Ditko you can see where the dialogue does not even match what is happening on the actual page.
Ditko at one time produced a drawing showing what the Kirby Spider-Man may have been versus what Ditko created. If accurate (see below) Spider-Man would have never been the popular character he become.
When you read the first 38 issues of Spider-Man and the first 2 Annuals you can see tons of new villains and characters. The actual look and feel of the book is all dictated by the art. Spider-Man’s signature moves which are still used in the books and movies, 60 years later are basically the same. Without Ditko the Amazing Spider-Man could well have become very much just another generic guy in tights.
While I want to give the lion’s share of credit to Ditko for creating Spider-Man, I would give Stan Lee credit for the dialoguing of the books by Ditko and Kirby. As much as I’m sure Stan was grating on the nerves of the artists. It was the bombastic style of his and the fact that he did not write down Marvel comics like DC did to a younger audience that help make the books different and new.
The thing that constantly drives me crazy is hearing Stan Lee, Stan Lee, Stan Lee. Stan was the front man and was certainly a force that helped to make Marvel comics the success it was but he did it on the backs of a lot of great creators like Kirby, Ditko. Everett, Wood, Dick Ayers and many others.
Remember in today’s world the writers usually provide a full script. That means page by page with a panel by panel breakdown of what they want presented. The dialogue is even included with a full script. An artist may decide to change something here and there but still they have a roadmap of what they are producing. The Marvel way could be a page, a paragraph or a one liner. Spider-Man faces the Green Goblin again. Now the artist must layout the entire story and only gets writing credit if Stan decided to say plot by Ditko or whomever. At the end of Ditko and Lee’s run on the book the story is Ditko came by once a month and dropped off a complete Spider-Man story and left. Stan would look it over and add words.
The creator credit is important so we can properly give credit to the right people. In a collaborative medium like comic it can be difficult to pick out who should get credit at times. Other times it is pretty clear. With Spider-Man for me it is very very clear. Ditko is the creator of the Amazing Spider-Man and Stan Lee was the plotter (sometimes) and scripter for the character.
I could write about this stuff forever. I also think that a lot of credit for these characters go to the writers and artists who followed in the originators footsteps which keep the characters alive/ They have added new elements to the characters over time and sometimes made the character better (Daredevil).
The rich history of characters like Batman and Superman show that the characters can change and morph with each generation and with different iterations of the characters in movies and TV. Still the people who started still are deserving of the title of creator. No matter how much you may add onto or modify the character you are not the creator.