Illustrator fights back against Marvel Comics

Arlen Schumer wants everyone to know that Stan Lee didn't create comic superheroes alone

Topics: Imprint, Comics, Art, Design, Movies, on,

Illustrator fights back against Marvel Comics
This article originally appeared on Imprint.

ImprintNever mind whether Captain America is more powerful than Iron Man or Dr. Strange. The real problem is that Marvel Comics editor and publisher Stan Lee is vastly more powerful than Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and many others who originally drew those superheroes for the company. And Lee presently enjoys 100 percent ownership of the Marvel Universe, in both the public’s perception and the legal arena. And what do the artists own? Zilch, that’s what!

And this makes Arlen Schumer pretty pissed off!

Schumer is intensely passionate about the comics medium. For decades he’s created an enormous number of powerful and iconic comic-book-style illustrations for advertising and editorial clients, including me. He’s also one of the field’s foremost historians: His Silver Age of Comic Book Art is a classic treatise on the Marvel and DC artists of the 1960s, and his “New Superheroes” feature was the supreme highlight of Print‘s special 1988 “comics” issue.

Schumer is also one of those guys who believe artist-creators deserve not only top billing but also their fair share of appreciation. And he considers last year’s New York federal court ruling for Marvel against the Kirby estate as a gross injustice. As he recently told me, “I find it bittersweetly ironic, in such a visual society that we’ve been told we live in, and in such a visual medium as comic book art definitely is, that the actual visualization, and visualizer, is still somewhat taken for granted — especially when they do their ‘job’ well — and is considered subservient and second class in thought and reward to the verbal writer.



“Hopefully my auteur theory of comics will level the playing field.”

Auteur?

Oui! Schumer is currently proposing that the French “director as author” concept of film should also be applied to Stan Lee’s style of comic book authorship. In his argument for his theory, Schumer describes the “Marvel Method” of comics production, begun in the 1960s, like this: Lee gave his artists “anything from a typed synopsis of a story to a verbal springboard of an idea — the equivalent of the screenplay in film — and the artists drew out/plotted/staged/paced the story visually to fill the page count given, using two-dimensional versions of the same tools and devices a movie director uses to craft a film: casting, editing, lighting, sound, choreography — after which Lee would add the dialogue and captions to the artists’ work.”

Schumer is currently engaged in a battle against the perceptions of the comic book audience and, by extension, the wider pop literary mainstream culture, that the artist-creator is not the author. To that end, he’s employing his powerful arsenal of design skills. This includes his “VerbiVisual” broadsides, unique and innovative histories that he custom-creates. His first was on DC editor Mort Weisinger. His latest, a 16-page Auteur Theory of Comics comic, premiered at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. [Click images to enlarge.]

He also presented on the auteur theory at Comic-Con which brings us to another Schumer secret weapon: his “VisuaLecture” series on pop culture subjects, primarily comics, with titles like “Jews ‘n’ Comics” and “The Graphic Design of Comic Book Art.” To describe his presentations as “dynamic” is to put it mildly: Schumer’s a master raconteur with an off-the-cuff speed rap and superbly structured slide shows that can enthrall and enlighten audiences for hours.

Schumer’s upcoming appearance was already generating buzz, as his theory has stirred up controversy and debate among comics fans.

In the words of the Fantastic Four’s Thing, a huge, super-strong orange mutant co-created by Kirby and Lee, “It’s clobberin’ time!”

.

This is my third column on comics artists scheduled to speak at Comic-Con. Previously, I interviewed JT Waldman on Harvey Pekar, and talked with Stan Mack about his American Revolution book.

.
For a decade-by-decade look at comic books, check out 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, available at MyDesignShop.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>