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How Steve Ditko Protested Spider-Man Teaming Up With Other Heroes

Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.

In the early days of Marvel Comics, obviously there was a rather strict hierarchy when it came to how decisions were made regarding what was released in Marvel Comics. Martin Goodman, Marvel's owner and publisher, had the ultimate final say. If he wanted something, like, say, a brand-new superhero series to compete with DC's then-recent hit series, Justice League of America, then that is what was going to happen. Below Goodman was Marvel's Editor-in-Chief and main writer, Stan Lee, who had a great deal of freedom to do what he wanted once Goodman approved a general concept. Below Lee was the artists, who either had to follow the scripts that they were given or, in the case of artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko who had more freedom to plot their stories out, they had a lot more freedom than the other artists to do what they wanted, but they worked under the understanding that Lee could change anything he wanted at any time. On top of that, if Lee wanted to do a certain story, then they were going to do that story.

In general, though, Lee was mostly hands off when it came to telling guys like Kirby and Ditko what to do. Later on, when he began to co-write pretty much every Marvel Comic out there, he was famous for actively wanting the artists (who were now all co-plotting the books with Lee) to take on more responsibility for the stories so that Lee could spend less time on plotting (since he was suddenly scripting so many books).

Eventually, this led to a situation where Lee stopped even really discussing plots with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Those two guys just plotted the comics as they liked, Lee would then script the books and occasionally make changes that Kirby and Ditko would have to then work into their next issue's plot (an annoying result of this would require the artists to re-draw pages to match the changes Lee made to the previous issue). Lee and Ditko stopped even speaking to each other with Amazing Spider-Man #25, so Ditko had full control over the plots of Amazing Spider-Man from #25 until his departure with Amazing Spider-Man #38.

However, while Lee was generally pretty laissez-faire when it came to plotting with Kirby and Ditko, at least early on he DID co-plot with them (in the case of "co-plot," it might literally just be talking over the issue in general terms, but still, they DID talk about the issues) and an area where Lee and Ditko clashed was over the use of other superheroes in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.

Obviously, the Fantastic Four guest-starred in Spider-Man's very first issue...

That, though, was different. Spider-Man not only did not team-up with the Fantastic Four, he actively fought them (in an attempt to show them that they should hire him on as a member of the team). Plus, that was the first issue of the series, which was a special situation. Ditko did not necessarily object entirely to superheroes meeting each other, but he felt that it should be a rarity, like, say, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange meeting in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2...

Or the various heroes who guest-starred in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (which even had a special guest-star pin-up)...

Note that the heroes who guest-starred in the first annual did not end up actually helping Spider-Man at all in the actual issue.

In general, though, Ditko did not like the practice.

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