It's been roughly 48 hours since news broke Stan Lee died; his contributions to the comics medium as a whole are nearly untouchable and in the time since his death, they've been extensively covered. Dearly beloved, we're gathered here today to discuss the myth, the legend, but most importantly the man, Stan Lee, the pen name Stanley Lieber created in order to save his real name for more literary pursuits.
Stan didn't create Marvel Comics in 1961 with Jack Kirby, as some places reported. Nor did he single-handedly create iconic characters such as The Fantastic Four or X-Men, as reported by other places.
Born before Edwin Hubble discovered the expanding universe, he ultimately created an expanding universe of his own - one of scientifically literate superheroes such as Spider-Man , The Hulk, Iron Man, & Black Panther.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 12, 2018
Stan Lee RIP: 1922 - 2018
What Stan did was popularize the use of the plot script, commonly known as the Marvel Method of script writing. With a plot script, an artist works from a story synopsis from the writer, rather than a full script. After the issue is drawn, the writer goes back in and dialogues based on the art.
Stan spoke in The Art of Ditko about his use of this writing method with Steve Ditko, artist and co-creator of Spider-Man.
"I'd dream up odd fantasy tales with an O. Henry type twist ending. All I had to do was give Steve a one-line description of the plot and he'd be off and running. He'd take those skeleton outlines I had given him and turn them into classic little works of art that ended up being far cooler than I had any right to expect."
With the Marvel Method, a script can be as simple as "Spider-Man stops Sandman from robbing a bank." The majority of the work falls on the artist to create, as opposed to the writer. There's even conflicting reports of Stan's input, with some reports stating that he received pages and stories created by artists including Jack Kirby, in which Stan would just dialogue.
In a 1966 interview with the Chicago Sun Times, for instance, Stan uses "we" denoting a group effort.
Then in the magazine's captions, it's said that "he" created these characters. Again, it could be misrepresentation by the media. But it's unknown whether the editor took it upon himself to credit Stan as sole creator or if he informed them.
Regardless, his collaborators weren't too happy with him singularly taking credit. Sick magazine #48 saw Joe Simon (Kirby's ex-partner) taking shots at Stan's need for credit at Marvel.
Angel and Ape #2, by Sergio Aragones, Wally Wood, and Bob Oksner, had characters mimicking Roy Thomas and Stan Lee discussing taking credit for work that wasn't theirs.
In Rocket's Blast Comicollector #81, Kirby says that Fantastic Four was his idea and it wasn't a co-creator situation, leading him to go to DC Comics.
By contrast, Stan claimed sole creatorship of the Fantastic Four in the 1974 book Origins of Marvel Comics.
Likewise, a 1963 fan letter has Stan giving Ditko sole credit for the idea of Dr. Strange.
But once again in Origins, Stan changes the story, explaining it was a childhood memory of Chandu, the Magician that was the inspiration for Dr. Strange and that Ditko just "took up the art chores."
In the end, it's unclear how much of a hand Stan had in creating the staples of the Marvel Universe. Especially when those with a voice echo his own view that he alone created all the Marvel characters. Someone tell Hugh Jackman that Wolverine was created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and John Romita Sr.
We’ve lost a creative genius. Stan Lee was a pioneering force in the superhero universe. I’m proud to have been a small part of his legacy and .... to have helped bring one of his characters to life. #StanLee #Wolverine pic.twitter.com/iOdefi7iYz— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) November 12, 2018
It's likely that your mom only knows Stan as "the old guy from the movies who created all these characters." And it's even more likely Stan wouldn't have wanted it any other way.