When creative types get together, it’s understandable that there may be a certain amount of tension as ideas are bandied about and decisions have to be made about how a story or character needs to progress forward. After decades working as “The Man” at Marvel Comics, you’d think that Stan Lee would have earned the right to have his opinions and ideas go largely unquestioned, but as fans heard recently – as relayed in a story by Lee himself – that certainly wasn’t always the case.
Speaking at a panel at Wizard World in Nashville, Lee spoke about the now-infamous departure from Marvel of Steve Ditko, who worked extensively as an artist and writer on Marvel properties during the company’s formative years in the 1950s and 1960s. Ditko left Marvel for reasons never really specified, although Marvel folks often relay that it was because Ditko butted heads with Lee on creative decisions.
Lee reportedly related one particular story to the crowd:
“I had a big argument with Steve Ditko, who was drawing the strip at the time. When we had to reveal the identity of the Green Goblin, I wanted him to turn out to be the father of Harry Osborn, and Steve didn’t like that idea. He said, ‘No, I don’t think he should be anybody we’ve seen before.’ I said ‘Why?’ He said ‘Well, in real life, the bad guy doesn’t always turn out to be someone you’ve known.’ And I said, ‘Steve, people have been reading this book for months, for years, waiting to see who the Green Goblin really is. If we make him somebody that they’ve never seen before, I think they’ll be disappointed — but if he turns out to be Harry’s father, I think that’s an unusual dramatic twist that we can play with in future stories.’ And Steve said ‘Yeah, well, that’s not the way it would be in real life.’ And I said ‘In real life, there’s nobody called The Green Goblin.’ And so Steve was never happy about that, but since I was the editor, we did it my way.”
This certainly does seem to line up with information that has come to light previously about the break in Ditko and Marvel’s relationship and is obviously a shame. Business is business, however, and when the boss asks you to do something, odds are good you’re going to have to end up doing it. Especially when your boss is referred to in social circles as “The Man.”