Steve Ditko's Role in the Creation of the 'Marvel Method'

As I talked about in my earlier pieces about Steve Ditko's work at Marvel in the 1960s, Ditko was the main plotter of both Spider-Man and Doctor Strange right from the start of both features. Heck, Ditko literally just drew the first Doctor Strange story and handed it to Stan Lee and effectively said, "Here's a new character" and then Lee came up with the name of the character and then did the dialogue for that first story.

Ditko was irritated at the lack of credit for the fact that he was increasingly coming up with the plots of the stories by himself, so eventually, Stan Lee capitulated and noted that Ditko was the plotter of the Amazing Spider-Man issues that they worked on together.

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Around that same point, Lee and Ditko actually stopped speaking to each other and Ditko would plot the books entirely by himself and just send them to Stan Lee with notes so that Lee could add dialogue to the pages (of course, there would still be notes back to Ditko from Lee through intermediaries to make certain corrections).

At the same time, Jack Kirby was doing the exact same thing with the Fantastic Four. Kirby was coming up with whole issues, drawing them and sending them to Stan Lee with notes, but Stan Lee would then just dialogue as he saw fit. This often meant that Kirby would have to change the plot of the NEXT issue since Lee would make a change via the dialogue that would alter the direction of the story. The most notable example of that is probably when Kirby came up with a group of Objectivst scientists who decided to make the perfect man, only the perfect man then couldn't stand them because they were "objectively" beneath him, since he was perfect. Lee changed them to just generic mad scientists trying to create the perfect man as a weapon.

In any event, Ditko and Kirby were the exceptions to the rule, in the sense that they just went off and did their own thing and then Stan Lee would add dialogue. Lee tended to do more collaboration with the other Marvel artists that he worked with.

However, that basic concept, to a much lesser degree, is what we now call the "Marvel Method."

The Marvel Method of writing a comic book involves a comic book writer coming up with a plot for a story, whether by himself or with an artist, and then the writer gives that plot to the artist, who decides how to implement that plot in the standard amount of pages allotted them. Then the writer comes in and adds dialogue to the story. As you can obviously tell, this would allow a single writer to work on a whole bunch of stories at once, as he could be plotting one book, scripting another while the artists are out there laying out a couple of other books.

It is a novel idea, but how did it actually come to pass at Marvel Comics? And what role did Steve Ditko play in its implementation?

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