Stan Lee FOOM poster by Arnold Sawyer

Article and above poster photo ©2018 Mike Pascale. All other photos copyright their respective owners.

In the wake of Stan Lee’s recent passing, there was a flood of tributes and remembrances from friends and fans and peers. And, sadly, several negative posts and articles from those without any semblance of propriety, respect or shame. (There’s nothing wrong with presenting both sides of a celebrity’s life or achievements, but during mourning is hardly the time to do so.)

Several of these bashings and laughable “exposés” were from anonymous cowards using fake names on social media, and others were from so-called “professionals” (including Esquire.com, of all places) who should know better. To illustrate how trustworthy and accurate these coal-rakings were, none of them were written by people who actually knew or worked with Stan. And none I saw took the time to interview or speak with anyone who actually knew Stan. You know, like a real journalist would. (Esquire didn’t even allow comments on its own article! Now there’s trust in your writer.)

They simply cobbled together old news reports and articles from websites, magazines or fanzines published ages ago. The issues were either allegations of “sexual harassment” from a couple of Stan’s nurses while in elder care in his 90s (not a single such report could be found before any age-related dementia) or credit and/or financial issues with Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby, the two creative partners whom Marvel (the company) arguably mistreated long, long ago. (Stan was an employee of Marvel, not its CEO or president, while Steve and Jack, like the other artists, were freelancers, i.e., independent contractors.)

 

Regardless of what you think of Stan Lee—hero or villain, genius or hack, sweetheart or snake, or something in-between, you should take every single article and post—regardless of who writes it—with a grain of salt. I’m here to tell you that NONE OF THEM are 100% factual. Nope. Nada. Because the only people who know exactly what happened and when, and who did what on which character and story, were those directly involved at the time.

When it comes to Marvel’s mainstays of Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, Ant-Man, Black Panther, Silver Surfer, The Avengers and all others both major and minor that were created by Stan Lee with Steve Ditko and/or Jack Kirby, those men are gone. Forever. No historian, journalist, author, friend, family member, peer, office worker, chauffeur, maid, restaurant worker, convention organizer or (especially) fan was actually there at the time Stan, Jack and Steve’s characters and stories were being created, from idea through final publication. (A precious few may have been present at certain points, but only those three dudes were there for the entire time.) Everything else is simply conjecture and speculation, and not worth more than the pixels this article is published with.

Sorry, folks, but that’s the way history works. There was no YouTube or cellphone video recording what Stan and his artists said to each other while those characters and tales were created, so we will never know for sure. You can choose whom you wish to believe and when and which version, but that’s it: it is your choice. IT IS NOT INDISPUTABLE FACT. (If it were, there wouldn’t be any disputes! DUH.)

I know people want everything cut and dry, good and evil, as black-and-white as Ditko’s Mr. A presented the world, but life ain’t like that. It’s all gray because people do good and bad stuff throughout their lives, memories are fungible and fleeting over decades and often unreliable. If you and I can’t remember what we wore or said two weeks ago, how can we expect guys to remember exactly who said and did what half a century ago?

All I do know with 100% certainty is that Stan Lee’s name and writing style was present on the first comic books I read and hundreds more that I have enjoyed since childhood; and that his writing influenced me more than anyone else in my own. And I know I’m not alone in that. (And the same goes for Kirby and Ditko’s work. Yes, you can respect and admire all the folks involved without dissing any of them!)

I know that when I met Stan he was kind and generous and personable and friendly to all who met him.

I also know from Clifford Meth (writer extraordinaire and advocate for several creators over the years during their hard times) that when talents like Gene Colan, Dave Cockrum and Bill Messner-Loebs were down-and-out, and Cliff called Stan, Stan asked how he could help and was among the first to send a check.

The other thing I know for certain is that I will miss Stan Lee’s larger-than-life personality, his enthusiasm for the art form, his exuberance for life itself, and his wonderful work, until I join him.

And that’s the truth.

Happy birthday, Stan.

Published by Mike Pascale

Mike is a freelance storyboardist, artist, writer, comic book/web comic creator, graphic designer, award-winning senior art director/copywriter, Kubert School alumnus, Spectrum Fantasy Art award-winner, guitarist/songwriter, future novelist and full-time, life-long comics fan, pop culture collector, and book hoarder. His creations include Bru-Hed™ (America’s favorite Blockhead™), The Game Buzz!™ weekly webcomic, Nasti: Monster Hunter™, Mikey Moo-Moo™ and more “™s” waiting to be unleashed from his crazy cranium.

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  2. Mike Pascale

2 Comments

  1. I would like to disagree with this article. If we subscribe to your rules for determining history, then none of us can know who wrote the Declaration of Independence because we weren’t in the room when it was written, none of us can know who the fourth president of the United States was because we weren’t present for his or her inauguration, none of us can know if Dr. Seuss actually wrote all of any of those Dr. Seuss books because we didn’t actually see him writing them, etc.

    I’m not even sure Mike Pascale wrote this article because I wasn’t present whenever it was written by whoever wrote it.

    There are facts about what Stan Lee did and what Jack Kirby did. There are instances where they both described what happened and their descriptions concur. There’s also some common sense that can be applied when you consider the history. We might not always be able to discern exactly who did what but would you like to argue with the statement that Stan and Jack were mainly responsible for the first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR? Or is your position that since we weren’t there, we don’t know for sure that they weren’t both employing ghosts and that it’s possible neither one of them did anything on it?

    I have a post coming up on my blog one of these days were I delve more deeply into this…but this sounds like an argument for denying any part of any history that you just plain don’t want to believe. Just because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean we don’t know anything.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to respond, Mark. Sorry you misunderstood. The things you cite like the Declaration of Independence are corroborated by enough universally-acceptable sources as to ascertain their validity. Same goes for who was President (multiple newspaper articles, first-hand eye-witness accounts, verified hand-written documents and such). How many reasonable people actually disagree on that stuff? When it comes to creation of fictional characters, however, there are lots of disagreements; many of them by so-called experts.

      It’s simply not as cut and dry because of the he said/he said nature of the beast (given the mostly male creator atmosphere of the times). I agree, there are known facts about what each guy did, but there is a lot more speculation. And each guy gave slightly and/or not-so-slightly different versions of what they did throughout the years. So we have to choose to a great degree who did what to what extent. Personally, I couldn’t care less. And that’s the point.

      The real fact was that we shouldn’t put so much emphasis on the minutiae of creation; what matters–and what the focus should be on–are the *results* of their historic collaborations.

      As to whether or not Mike wrote the article, he hasn’t denied it yet! Thank you for reading.

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