Over on  Newsarama, Matt Fraction said, "Sometimes I think Defenders was doomed the minute the word Defenders was put on the cover."  I'm curious what other people think.  Is the Defenders a title doomed to fail or is it just that Matt Fraction's Defenders were doomed to fail?

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Allen Wayne Smith said:

True, although I'd think that portraying what was going to happen in a story via layouts constitutes plotting.  Kirby often "wrote" as he drew.  So it's equally likely that laying out those DD pages meant he was writing them, as well.  Stan didn't like writing plots, apparently, as artists like Kirby, Ditko, Romita, Steranko, Wood, Goldberg, and others have spoken of plotting out the stories.

I agree that if Kirby worked out the scene-by-scene breakdown of the story while laying it out, leaving aside other major details, he contributed to the writing. I think whether or not a story works well depends a lot on how the initial story idea is fleshed out, so working out the details is an important part of writing. When doing layouts for Daredevil Kirby may have been expected to provide a plot idea, or provided with a very basic plot idea (e.g. "Daredevil goes to the Savage Land and meets Ka-Zar"), or provided with a more detailed plot covering major story points (e.g. "Daredevil goes to the Savage Land and meets Ka-Zar, he gets there in such and such a way, this is who the villain is, the issue ends with Daredevil threatened by some Savage Land creature"). In theory he could also have been provided with a scene-by-scene breakdown, but it may be that Lee never did those when working Marvel-style.


John Romita has said, in this interview, that when he was doing Amazing Spider-Man he always got some kind of starting point from Lee. However, to judge from his examples the starting point could be very basic. (There's no way of knowing if the Rhino story he refers to is the first one or his return. If it was the latter, his account of Lee's leaving a "Next month, the Rhino" note on his board doesn't imply he was being asked to work out all the details about what the character would be like.) Neal Adams has said, in this interview, that he supplied the basic plot idea when he did Thor, for a couple of issues, with Lee (in 1970). On the other hand, it's also said to be the case that Lee sometimes acted out elements from the stories for artists, which implies he did sometimes supply story details.

Plotting for Stan Lee was probably a lot different that what most writers or editors would consider plotting. Since he was the writer AND the editor, a simple two-minute phone call or brief plot ("Thing meets bad guy who becomes him turning him back to Grimm, Imposter goes after Reed, no one believes Ben, Reed endangered in Negative Zone, bad guy has change of heart, sacrifices himself for Reed, Ben becomes Thing again. Lots of dramatic moments and mood!") would suffice. For Stan, that is. He had great trust in his artists.

Besides he must have had some plan for future issues!

I read that... but, I can't see how anyone could do that. Just, come up with random events which don't seem especially connected, then expect an "artist" to draw out the pages in some coherent fashion, and then figure they can "fix it" all in the dialogue stage? I'm sorry... I'm a writer, and that just doesn't make sense to me...

We really don't know the extent of how much Stan was in contact with his artists while they were working on a particular issue. There may have been two or three plotting conversations per book. And we don't know how often the artists called Stan with questions.

Philip Portelli said:

Plotting for Stan Lee was probably a lot different that what most writers or editors would consider plotting.



True that, Philip!


In this interview Dick Ayers talks about getting scripts for "Ghost Rider" at Magazine Enterprises. However, at some companies when artists were working full script they were expected to fill in the dialogue in pencil before sending the story to the letterer. This meant they could make changes. (John Romita talks about working this way and making changes when doing romance stories for DC in this interview. The paragraph begins "all the captions were done longhand".) I was struck when I read a 50s Dick Ayers story recently how well it flowed, like a 60s story, but I haven't heard that he made changes, so I don't know whether he did or not.


As for the Hulk, I'd draw a comparison with the Beast in X-Men. In the first issue the Beast didn't yet have his scholar persona. A few issues into the series it was present in the art, as out-of-costume the Beast was depicted as studious. In the Unus story it's an element of the plot, as in that issue the Beast builds a device that's important to the plot. I don't want to get my copies of the stories out now, but my recollection is it shows up in the dialogue before it shows up in the art, which could mean it was Lee's idea. If it was, at that point Lee and Kirby were working closely enough for it to be later reflected in the art.


Likewise, the dumb characterisation of the Hulk might show up in the dialogue before it shows up in the art, since the bruiser Hulk's way of doing things (lose temper; smash) isn't all that different. I don't have all the Hulk's early adventures, including the Giant-Man story. The story preceded his run in Tales to Astonish. By the end of Ditko's run on the Hulk's feature in Tales to Astonish the dumb version of the Hulk which we all know from later comics had fully emerged. When Kirby returned to the feature this was initially the version, but in Kirby's last issue as full penciller the Hulk was given Bruce Banner's brain. However, this idea was almost immediately abandoned, so in the latter part of the Leader storyline he was the bruiser Hulk (violent but not dumb) again. I don't have the stories from the Kirby outlines/Bill Everett pencils era, but I understand during it he went back to being the dumb Hulk again. Personally, I like the dumb version of the Hulk.


Incidentally, I think the first of Kirby's instalments in Tales to Astonish has the first occasion where the Hulk turns back into Banner when he calms down. In Ditko's run he turns back when he gets too excited. In the earlier Avengers #3 and Fantastic Four #25-26 the changes are mostly random.

Speaking of Stan's memory, after establishing him as Bruce Banner in the original Hulk #1, he called him Bob Banner in (IIRC) #2. When this was questioned in the letter column, Stan announced (tongue firmly in cheek) that it wasn't a mistake: his name was Robert Bruce Banner (in case some of you didn't know where the Robert came from). 

Kirk G said:

.......If I didn't know better, I'd swear that Stan couldn't remember from issue to issue what the Hulk was about.......

Robin Olsen said:

Luke, the Hulk's changes weren't always so random/caused by exitement,or calming down. In his original series, his changes were caused by the sun setting and rising - like a werewolf!

I think the Lon Chaney, Jr Wolf Man films may have been the actual inspiration. Banner's fear of his other identity is very much like Chaney's character's fear of his Wolf Man self in those movies. Also, Frankenstein's monster appeared in several of the Universal movies in which the Wolf Man appeared, and the Hulk was visually modelled after the Universal version of the monster (this is quite apparent at times during his first series).

As I wrote, I think Lee's contribution was probably greater early on. I'd guess the impulse to find different ways of doing things (as when Spider-Man was put out of action by a virus), the approach of giving the heroes weaknesses and making them imperfect, and the humour of Silver Age Marvel comics probably came from Lee (I don't mean all the jokes, but the impulse to include humour).


Also, even if he only had a slight hand in the plotting later, that's still a hand. Lee probably partly influenced the plots through the feedback he gave the artists on their work. If they set up a dilemma in an issue he may have discussed with them how they were planning to resolve it. And so on. I've read a statement from Gil Kane in which he described how Lee expressed doubts about one of his Spider-Man stories, so they did get feedback from him. (Kane said his response was to wonder why Lee didn't write it then, since he was getting paid for it.)

I will grant that Stan Lee usually gave his pencilers far too little in the way of plot and that there was a not-inconsiderable amount of simple mistakes, odd improvisations and all-around weak editorial supervision during the early 1960s.

To say that Stan Lee "gave his pencilers nothing" is probably overstating it, however.  It makes one wonder why so many pencilers put up with it for so long.  If nothing else, he gave them some ideas and ghost-writing opportunities.

Well, I think we'd all agree Stan didn't do NOTHING.  But, he often didn't do much, and IMHO wasn't entirely honest about what it was he did.  As far as anyone being bitter, don't know that Henry has shown any bitterness toward Stan Lee, is just stating the facts as he knows them, based on Stan's own statements and those of people who have worked with, and for, him.  I mean, maybe some people need a break from Stan's constant self promotion.  If he doesn't give us a break, why should we give him one?

Robin Olsen said:

All I can say, Henry, is that Kirby didn't create the Marvel universe ALL BY HIMSELF, and, yeah, I DO  kind of resent your talking down to me and other forum members about "childhood security blankets" as if you're the only "adult" in the room. I know youre an "artist" (I've seen it - yikes!), so maybe you just have a bias towards artists. I still maintain that Jack and the others NEEDED Stan's input and that without him the Marvel age would NEVER have happened. I'm not saying Stan didn't shaft his collaborators, just that he didn't just do NOTHING. I'm sorry you're so bitter towards him, but man, give the man (and us) a BREAK!

All this talk about Stan's writing and editing brings to mind an actual Defenders issue, Defenders: From The Marvel Vault.  According to Kurt Busiek, he was brought in years later to script a Defenders story that Mark Bagley had drawn from a Fabian Nicieza plot.  In the intervening years before publication, all Fabian's notes had been lost and neither Bagley or Nicieza remember much about it.  Busiek gets an idea and decides to go off in a far from obvious direction with the script.  Kurt relates the story here.  

I thought the story was kind of inventive, nothing ground breaking, but kind of funny and entertaining.  My question is, who should be considered the main writer on this issue?  Also, is Kurt's role here similar to what people are contending Stan's role was in early Marvel?

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