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Home > Letters to CR

Michael Grabowski On Creating The Avengers
posted May 15, 2012
 

It's been decades since I've read it but your Avengers feature today reminds me (hopefully correctly) that Stan Lee's Origins of Marvel Comics begins with a "Prologue" that recasts Genesis 1 in terms of Marvel creating the Fantastic Four. Literally, "Marvel" replacing "God" in a paraphrase of the creation story. While in that book and Son of Origins Lee makes note of Kirby's contributions to the development of The Avengers et al, for all the times I reread those books as a kid what mainly sticks in my head is that prologue. Very "ooh, ahh, cool" to a kid buying into the Marvel myth, but very telling considering the legal view. For all practical purposes, "Marvel" created these characters, and so it shall be, so say we all.

Pulling that veil aside, even revealing that there's a veil to pull aside, doesn't do much good. My sister-in-law's family saw The Avengers and loved it but have no familiarity with the background comics and their creation other than vaguely remembering the 60s cartoons, occasional live action shows, and recent films. But when my wife told her why we weren't planning on seeing the movie, my sister-in-law proudly pointed to Stan Lee's appearance in all these flicks as evidence that the guy who created these superheroes was in fact being rewarded.

I tried to explain the bit about multiple creators, and that the artist did a lot of work to sell those comics that made these characters, but it fell on deaf ears. I think that's partly due to Lee's decades of self-promotion, branding his face and name in indelible ways that even his own spoken compliments towards Kirby, Ditko and co. can't compete. I think it also has to do with the misperception that you've pointed out before, that the person writing the words is the creator, the other person "just" did all the drawings. The guy who did the costume design, blocked out action sequences, and constructed the scenes that tell the story from the barest of outlines or plot descriptions -- might as well be in the same category as Oscar award winners for technical achievement.