A couple of days ago, Vic Sage blessed all of us who said “Make Mine Marvel” with a short BBC documentary on Steve Ditko. Besides being a great review of Ditko’s career, including his early Marvel days, the doc touched on the subject of who created Spider-Man. Apparently, there was great animosity about this on Ditko’s side. The doc showed a drawing he had done in which he argued that he was more the creator than Lee. When Lee was asked if Ditko was the “co-creator” of Spider-Man, he said he was, but when further asked if he really believed that, he said that he was the creator because it was his idea. The point was also stressed that, this answer notwithstanding, Lee always gave credit to Ditko as co-creator, including in the 2002 movie.
Tonight, I embarked on a quest to read all the Amazing Spider-Man issues from the 1980s via my Amazing Spider-Man Complete Collection CD. The first issue just happened to be issue #200, and at the top of the first page of this issue, I found this statement:
By virtue of that statement, which appears in a Marvel comic and which Lee could have omitted if he wanted to, we can at least conclude that Lee, as stated in the doc, gave Ditko a lot of credit in this area, credit he no doubt deserved.
In honesty, I can understand both sides of the argument. It just depends on what you mean by “create”. If you mean, “Who created the idea of Spider-Man?”, then the answer is undeniably Lee. He came up with the concept of a person with spider superpowers. But if you mean, “Who created the character of Spider-Man?”, then the answer is “Both.” Lee still came up with the idea, but Ditko added the look that communicates that idea. It is the same with any collaborative medium, such as a movie. In one way, the screenwriter is the creator; he came up with the idea. In other, the moviemakers are the creators; they added flesh to the idea. You can make the case that either is really the creator (is it the idea or the character you think of? Probably the character. But would there be a character without an idea?). In truth, though, it is really both.