Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Double Edged Sword of NPR (which I still enjoy, nonetheless) 

One of my favorite collaborators is now featured on NPR speaking with Neda Ulaby, Science-Comics publisher and writer Jim Ottaviani. Here's a panel from GT-Labs most recent bio-epic on Niels Bohr...

--which Jim wrote and Leland Purvis drew, but the NPR website credits the panel art to Jay Hosler. While also a fine cartoonist, Jay is in fact the creator of Sandwalk Adventures and Clan Apis. I'm extremely happy NPR is taking such an interest in comics (they featured Derek Kirk Kim just over a week ago), but I worry at some of the sloppiness in facts like this, nevermind that they actually called the piece "Holy Evolution, Darwin! Comics Take On Science!" Man, that never gets old.

Jim is all over the network too, not just talking evolutionary theory. He's also in the latest letter column of On The Media giving them a dopeslap about repeating the 60 Minutes take on Stan Lee vs. Marvel without poking into it more. Doubly infuriating since the show is about turning the spotlight back onto the media and showing the real mechanics behind journalism and entertainment. Jim was nice enough to post the content of his letter in my comments section, so I'll reprint it here. I imagine the overlooking of Steve Ditko is one of the points that bugs Jim most, since his publishing company is named for the place that irradiates spiders so they can imbue teens with groovy powers.

Letter to On The Media from Jim Ottaviani:

In your piece about Stan Lee and his lawsuit you didn't cover two
significant parts of the story.

1) Stan Lee did not sue to get profits he thought he was entitled to
merely on ethical grounds as co-creator of the properties. He sued to
enforce a contract he'd signed with Marvel.

[edited out: Like Bob Kane,
whose situation Gerard Jones noted in the previous segment, Stan Lee
was savvy enough (and in the early days also connected enough, as the
nephew of Marvel's publisher in the 1960s) to get himself in a
position for a piece of the action.]

2) Contrary to the hedging you did in your introduction ("...created
or co-created") Stan Lee created none of the characters you mentioned
by himself. He never drew a single line of art, and in a visual medium
that's significant. There were *always* co-creators:
Fantastic Four, co-created with Jack Kirby

X-Men, co-created with Jack Kirby

The Hulk, co-created with (you guessed it, Jack Kirby)

Spider-man, co-created with Steve Ditko

Daredevil, co-created with Bill Everett.

I'll spare you the geeky details of how Lee and Kirby (x3) or Ditko or
Everett typically created their characters and stories. It's common
knowledge in the comics industry and published material on the process
is very easy to find. [edited out: Heck, Gerard Jones even wrote a
book covering it.] [The had Gerard Jones on as a guest minutes
before on that very program.]

In the "60 Minutes" soundbite you aired, Mr. Lee sounded hurt about
his company's treatment of him. In most interviews he gives, the fact
that his co-creators have not received even 1% of the profits from the
vast earnings their creativity generated never gets on the air. He
also rarely even mentions their names, and reporters rarely do either.
You didn't.

[edited out: Stan Lee has earned most of his money and stature and
successfully for all of it. He now has a lot of both. What he hasn't
earned is an unshared spotlight for his co-creations. Nor has he
earned uncritical reporting of the things he says.

To editorialize: Forgetting about the money, the least he could do is
share the co-creation credit verbally -- that's what one of the "good
guys" he talked about in his interview would do. The least you could
do is check the facts and find out what Stan Lee actually did to earn
him his profits.

Returning to the two points above, "60 Minutes" didn't check those
facts and report the story accurately, and you did little better than
repeat what they broadcast. I had come to expect a whole lot better
from a show I admire and enjoy as much as OTM.


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