Saturday, July 20, 2013

Who created Spider-Man?

The question in the header is an old argument. I don't really want to engage in it, as it's rather pointless. I am just putting out a little tidbit that I stumbled across while looking for material to include in NUELOW Games's "Science Sleuths" series.

A few years ago, there was a legal dust-up between Jack Kirby's heirs and Marvel Comics over character ownership, who created what during the 1960s at Marvel Comics, character ownership, and lots and lots of dollars in potential royalties and other payments.

One of the characters that the Kirby team threw onto their list of creations of Jack Kirby was Spider-Man. Now, from the outside, it seems clear that Spider-Man was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko--something Stan Lee has asserted in numerous interviews. The Kirby suit was relying on completely unused art and story concepts for their claim that Jack Kirby helped create Spider-Man.

While the suit was working its way through the courts and the claims and counterclaims were flying, fanboys divided into camps and much virtual ink was spilled all over the web.

But if and when such an argument starts up again--most likely just in the fanboy realm these days, when it comes to the question of "who created Spider-Man--Lee, Ditko, and/or Kirby?"--at least when it comes to many of the fundamentals, maybe the answer is none of the above?

Exhibit A: Pages 3 and 4 of the first "Spider Queen" story, published in 1941 in the pages of "Eagle Comcis" #2 by Fox Features Syndicate and credited to "Elsa Lisau."

In the first three panels on page 4, you see Shannon King (Spider Queen) shooting web-fluid from a gun (as Kirby's "original" Spider-Man did) and you see her eventually creating wrist-gadgets to shoot said fluid (as Lee and Ditko's "original" Spider-Man did). Hmmmm....

Kirby and Lee were both active in comics during the 1940s. It's entirely possible that either one, or both, came across Spider Queen during her very short life in comics; there's even a slight chance that Kirby had a hand in her creation, since he did a little work for Fox back then. Certainly, either Roy Thomas or Mark Gruenwald were aware of this character, as they retro-fitted her into the Marvel Universe as a Nazi agent in a 1993 issue of "The Invaders."

Spider-Man is much more than wrist-shooters and web-fluids, but the next time some court battle erupts over who owns what and who created what when it comes to that and related characters, and fanboys start huffing and puffing indignantly over creators' moral rights, someone will hopefully think about "Elsa Lisau" and Spider Queen... who was doing doing the Web-Slinging and Web-Swinging thing more than 20 years before he was.

Who created Spider Queen? At this late date, we may never know. However, a prevailing theory that behind "Elsa Lisau" are the artistic team of brothers Louis and Arturo Cazeneuve. (Comparing the art in the three Spider Queen stories to other known or attributed work of one or both of the brothers--such as "Agent 99" and "Phantom Sphinx" (from Harvey Comics, 1941), or "The Queen of Evil" (from Fox Features, 1941), it seems to be a sound one. Louis's hand in particular seems clearly in evidence throughout the three published Spider Queen tales. But whether they were the writers as well as the artists--that will remain a mystery.

And as for the claim Kirby created Spider-Man? Well, unless Fox stole the web-gun idea from him, I think we can toss that one out the window--as the courts did, if memory serves. Also, from what I've seen publically when it comes to the costume that Kirby's Spider-Man would have worn, it looked like a retread of his Golden Age redesign of Sandman, which was a retread of his Golden Age Stuntman character. I LOVE Kirby's work--I rank "Kamandi" among my top ten favorite comics of all time--but the Kirby heirs really should have left Spider-Man off the list of characters that he created/helped create.

(If you want to see more of the Brothers Cazeneuve right now, check out NUELOW Games's "John Kerry vs. The Queen of Evil" e-comic. Spider Queen and Jill Trent will be featured in "Science Sleuths" issues.)

For some background on this post, click here, here, here, and here. (Oh... and that Wiki page? It's a prime example of why you shouldn't trust what you read on Wiki.)

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