Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stan Lee

In a glossary at the back of his It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, Seth defines Marvel Comics this way:

“Back in the 1960s it was a wonderfully fun line of comics books — especially the Kirby and Ditko stuff. Now, it’s a hateful media conglomerate that popularizes bad drawing.”

By “hateful” I’m not sure if Seth specifically means the big-budget movies, the “bad drawing” or how Marvel has treated illustrators and creators — or all of the above. But to get some detail on the years-long battle involving Marvel, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jim Shooter and lots of lawyers over the rights to ideas, characters and art work, take a look at Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book.

Authors Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon try to be even-handed and give all sides equal space to air their recollections of who promised what to whom when. Chapter 19, “Step Right Up!,” details Kirby’s struggle to reclaim the 8,000 pages of art he did for Marvel and what Lee did — or did not do — to help his former colleague.

As a bonus, the rarely heard-from Steve Ditko pops up as a Greek chorus, pretty much to keep everyone else more or less honest. Which isn’t easy as, all things considered, it wasn’t pretty.

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