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Christian Hansen said on January 14th, 2016 at 10:53 am

Having no prior knowledge about the Kirby/Ditko/Media drama, it would have been nice to read about them from the guy who was at the center of all three. Oh well :/

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The thing is, and this is by no means a critique of the review, I think Stan’s lived with his stories for so long that he doesn’t have a deeper truth to explain anymore.

Not necessarily in the dementia sense, although I met James Doohan in 2001 and it was amazing just how well he could perform his anecdotes to a crowd while being pretty deep into Alzheimer’s, but simply in the sense that he’s invested so heavily into his public persona that I don’t know if he’s even capable of letting out his private self. I don’t think he was ever a particularly introspective person to begin with–I’m certainly willing to believe that he genuinely thought he was getting on well with his collaborators even as they got fed up with him–and as he gets older and those memories fade, I think it’s probably a comfort to him to remember the past the way he wants it to be. If there’s deception, I think that by this point it’s self-deception as much as anything else.

None of which invalidates MGK’s point that you can’t build an interesting biography on self-deception and an unwillingness to examine uncomfortable events, but I’m just not sure you can get anything like that out of Stan now. If you ever could.

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I feel like Stan, Jack, and Steve need a triptych of deeply researched biographies. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. And I don’t think Sean Howe had any particular axe to grind. But I do feel the book had its biases, and of course, it was trying to tell the story of a company, not just these three men. Personally, I’d like to see something like the Jim Henson bio that came out a couple of years ago; looking at their lives and careers with a clinical, yet entertaining, eye.

Unfortunately, we’re not going to see anything like this until all three men have passed, and that’s not a prospect in looking forward to either.

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Dane Lamont said on January 15th, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Stan Lee is as much a brand as a human being, so it’s not surprising to see that his book won’t showcase his faults or dark times.

I’m with John Seavey; at this point, I don’t think Stan Lee knows what he could have done differently. We all have a limited, deceptive perspective when it comes to our own lives.

What I appreciated from Marvel Comics: The Untold Story was how it slipped in a very humanizing portrait of Stan Lee. It’s the William Shatner story for comics. He was a guy that wanted to be a great novelist, and here was this industry he worked in to pay the bills and to support his family, and he gets to be the Smilin’ Uncle of it. His feelings about Marvel must be incredibly complex, because while it’s chained him down, it’s also treated him incredibly well (most of the time) and given him fame and fortune. That’s amazing when you see all the other work-for-hires that Marvel didn’t smile on. I’m sure there’s layers of gratefulness, regret, and even guilt there.

At this point, I think he’s made his peace with it, and I don’t think he’s going to cause any trouble on Marvel’s doorstep. Why would he at this point?

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@Seavey: I was thinking of of the first Spider-Man annual, which has a short story depicting Steve Ditko as a luckless, overworked guy and Stan Lee as an oblivious jerk who doesn’t work all that hard. I’m not sure if this story says anything about how introspective Stan Lee was – Steve Ditko made most of it and while Stan Lee wrote the dialogue and allowed it to be published, he might not have had any other choice in the matter.

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@Lupus753: I know the story you’re talking about–I’m sure Lee thought of it as friendly, affectionate joking between two collaborators, and never even gave a thought to the idea that Ditko might be venting about real problems in their working relationship.

That’s actually one of the points where there’s a real divide–Lee always felt like he was being very generous with his praise for Ditko and Kirby, talking them up at every opportunity in the Bullpen Bulletins and making sure they got credited for everything they did (even giving Ditko a co-plotter credit when he demanded it). Whereas Ditko and Kirby always felt like Lee talked himself up most of all and over-emphasized his own role in creating their iconic stories and characters. I can see both sides–certainly, Lee has never been shy about self-promotion, but as others have pointed out before me, the only reason everyone knows Kirby’s story well enough to be outraged is because Stan Lee never let anyone forget how damn brilliant Jack Kirby was. :)

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For an interesting take on the Kirby/Lee relationship, I’d recommend the podcast Wait, What’s Baxter Building episodes, where they do deep reads of Fantastic Four issues. Jeff Lester pushes his theory that Jack Kirby is working out his frustrations in the book reaaallly far sometimes, but if their account of the early Bulletin Bits/Letter Pages is accurate, Lee was pretty oblivious of any animosity between him and Kirby, to the point where he was talking up their collaboration going on for years in issue 100, two issues before Kirby left Marvel. (It’s also really interesting to go to those issues and see the cases where Lee and Kirby were clearly telling very different stories. The Marvel Method created some weird comics.)

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