Who Created The Amazing Spider-Man? Amazing Fantasy #15 - The Complete Original Art

Who created The Amazing Spider-Man?

It’s a question that raises more answers than it really should.  On the surface of things it seems simple – Stan Lee says he had the concept and fleshed it out with Steve Ditko, who designed the visuals; thus the credit should read, “Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko” and, indeed, the official credit does read just that.  In the 1970s Jack Kirby began to muddy the waters by claiming that he, alone, created the Amazing Spider-Man and that Lee, and by proxy Ditko, stole the credit out from under him.  This resulted in rebuttals from Lee, but Kirby didn’t falter.  Adding to the confusion was Joe Simon, who claimed that HE created the concept and saw Kirby stake it from him, and Lee and Ditko taking credit.  Simon based his claim on the fact that Jack Oleck and C.C. Beck had written and drawen, respectively, a character for him that was not used.  How Simon could claim credit for a character written and drawn by others is beyond most people, and when considering Simon’s claims it is worth bearing in mind that he also claimed to have created Captain America on his own, sans any Kirby involvement, and that he also created The Red Skull – Kirby certainly claimed that he had a large hand in Captain America and others all remember Ed Herron creating The Red Skull without Simon.  

In the mid 1970s Stan began to jot down his memories about the early days of Marvel Comics, including the creation of Spider-Man, much to the overall annoyance of many, as he appeared to elevate his own involvement to the detriment of others.  Even the normally silent Steve Ditko has now said his piece on the creation of the character, which was more a rebuttal to Jack Kirby’s claim that he’d created it and handed it to Ditko to draw.  As recently as the copyright claim that the Kirby family lodged against Marvel a claim was made for the character and furthered to puzzle people as the Kirby’s claimed Jack Kirby had an active hand in the writing and/or editing of the first dozen or so issues, issues that bear no Kirby hallmarks at all.

So, who did create The Amazing Spider-Man?  No matter who says what, the confusion will remain.  Unless noted otherwise quotes were taken from the Marvel vs Kirby case.

STAN LEE:  Martin said, "We're doing pretty good, let's get some more characters."  I was trying to think of something different.  I always hated teenage sidekicks, so I felt it would be fun to do a teenager who isn't a sidekick but who is the real hero. So that part was easy.  Martin said, ‘You can’t have a teenager. A teenager can only be a sidekick.’ Then I told him I wanted him to have problems....he’d get ingrown toenails or an allergy attack while he was fighting. “You’re crazy, Stan. That’s not a hero, that’s a supporting character. That’s a comedy character.”  But the toughest thing is dreaming up a superpower. 

So I thought, what superpower can I give him? And it finally occurred to me, a guy who could stick to walls like an insect, crawl on a wall and stick to a ceiling. I didn't recall ever having seen any character like that before.  I thought that's what I'll do. I'm going to get a teenager who can crawl on walls.  But then the second most important thing is a title. Titles are very -- the names of the characters are very important. So I went down the list. Could I call him Mosquito Man? Insect Man? Fly Man? And I got to Spider-Man. It sounded dramatic. And I remember I had read a pulp magazine when I was a kid called Spiderman.  The guy didn't have a superpower. He was just a guy who went around fighting bad guys. But I thought Spiderman sounds great, I thought Spiderman would be a good strip. 

JACK KIRBY:  That was cooked up by me! Spider-Man was discussed between Joe and myself. Spider-Man was not a product of Marvel.[i]

JOE SIMON:  I had done the Silver Spider for Harvey. I turned it in to Harvey in pencil. Charlie Beck did the pencils for me. Then when Goldwater was at Archie's, he asked me to do a superhero for him. I took the Silver Spider which was just languishing at Harvey's and changed the name to the Fly. I gave Charlie Beck's pencils - it was a ten page story - to Kirby and told him to change it to the Fly. So Kirby did that. So when Stan Lee asked for characters, Kirby just gave him Beck's Silver Spider!

Silver Spider was what Jack Kirby took over to Stan, and then he gave it to Ditko. I spoke to Steve Ditko a couple of months ago and I asked him the story that he knows. He said Stan Lee gave him the pencils that Jack Kirby had given him, and Ditko said, "Hey, this is Simon's Fly!" So Stan said: "Well, why don't you just create a new costume." [ii]

JACK KIRBY:  I took Spider-Man from the Silver Spider - a script by Jack Oleck that we hadn't used in Mainline. That's what gave me the idea for Spider-Man. I've still got that script.[iii]

JOE SIMON:  The Fly was originally called the Silver Spider, then it was taken to Marvel after we changed the name. And became Spider-Man. Stan Lee called me and asked me who created Spider-Man. I said: "Why do you ask?" He said that Jack Kirby in an interview with Will Eisner for his magazine said that Simon and Kirby created Spider-Man.

Kirby told Eisner that Simon & Kirby created Spider-Man for Crestwood Publications. That was completely wrong. He just doesn't remember.[iv]

JACK KIRBY:  It was the last thing Joe and I had discussed. We had a script called "The Silver Spider." "The Silver Spider" was going into a magazine called Black Magic. Black Magic folded with Crestwood, and we were left with the script. I believe I said this could become a thing called Spider-Man, see, a superhero character. I had a lot of faith in the superhero character, that [superheroes] could be brought back, very, very vigorously. They weren't being done at the time. I felt they could regenerate, and I said Spider-Man would be a fine character to start with. But Joe had already moved on. So the idea was already there when I talked to Stan.

STAN LEE:  I gave Kirby Spider-Man first. I told Jack I had this character I wanted to do, I described Spider-Man, and I said, "You know, Jack, what I want you to do for once-don't draw him the way you draw all these characters," because Jack drew the most handsome, heroic, glamorous heroes you'll ever find. I wanted Spider-Man to be just an ordinary guy-a little bit of a nebbish, no broad shoulders, glasses. And Jack brought in a page or two of Spider-Man and he sure as hell didn't hear me, because the character looked like Captain America in a Spider-Man suit. I said, "Look, Jack, forget it. You have enough work."

Then, I asked Steve Ditko to do it. To this day, I don't know who made up the Spider-Man costume. It might have been Kirby who did those first few pages and Ditko might have copied Kirby's costume. Or Ditko might have just made up the costume and disregarded what Kirby did. I can't remember.[v]

JACK KIRBY:  The only book I didn't work on was Spider-Man, which Steve Ditko did. But Spider-Man was my creation.[vi]

STAN LEE:  I hyphenated Spider-Man for very distinctive reasons, specific reasons. I didn’t want it to resemble Superman. I was afraid Spiderman and Superman were a bit similar anyway, so by putting the hyphen in, it makes them more different.  And again, I went to Jack, and I gave it to him.  And I said, Jack, now you always draw these characters so heroically, but I don't want this guy to be too heroic-looking. He's kind of a nebbishy guy.  

I saw a few pages; I hated the way he was doing it. Not that he did it badly, Jack, who glamorizes everything, even though he tried to nerd him up, the guy looked still a little bit too heroic for me.  He didn't make the teenager look as wimpy or as nerdy as I thought he should.  And I realize that really isn't Jack's style. Jack mostly draws glamorous heroic Captain America type. Not that he couldn't have drawn it, but he would have had to force himself. So I figured I will get somebody that it comes easy to.  And nobody, Jack nor I nor anybody, thought that Spider-Man was going to be a big strip, so it didn't matter. So I said, "Forget it, Jack. I will give it to someone else."  

Jack didn't care. He had so much to do.  He said okay and he went back to Fantastic Four or Thor or whatever he was drawing, and I gave it to Steve Ditko. And Steve had that kind of awkward feeling.  It was just right for Spider-Man, so I gave it to Steve. His style was really more really what Spider-Man should have been. So Steve did the Spider-Man thing.  

JACK KIRBY:  I created Spider-Man. I drew the first Spider-Man cover. I created the character. I created the costume. I created all those books, but I couldn’t do them all. We decided to give the book to Steve Ditko who was the right man for the job. He did a wonderful job on that.  He was a wonderful artist, a wonderful conceptualist. It was Steve Ditko that made Spider-Man the well-known character that he is.[vii]

STAN LEE:  In no way, shape, manner or means did Jack Kirby create Spider-Man. I don't even know how he can dare to say that. It is the one strip that we did that he had virtually nothing to do with at all, except for a few pages that we never used.[viii]

STEVE DITKO:  Kirby had penciled five pages of his Spider-Man. How much was pure Kirby, how much Lee, is for them to resolve.

The splash was the only one with a drawing of Spider-Man. A typical Kirby hero/action shot. But the costume is what is important. I'm uncertain about the abstract chest design. The closest thing to it is the one on Ant-Man. Kirby's Spider-Man had a web gun, never seen in use. The only connection to the spider theme was the name.

The other four pages showed a teenager living with his aunt and uncle. The aunt was a kindly old woman, the uncle was a retired police captain, hard, gruff, the General Thunderbolt Ross type (from the Hulk), and he was down on the teenager.

Next door or somewhere in the neighborhood there was a whiskered scientist-type involved in some kind of experiment or project. The end of the five pages depicted the kid going toward the scientist's darkened house.

That is the Spider-Man "given" to me..[ix]

STAN LEE:  I saw a few pages, I hated the way he (Jack Kirby) was doing it. Not that he did it badly-it wasn’t the character I wanted, it was too heroic.  I said, ‘Jack, forget it. You’ve other things to do. I’ll get another artist,’ and I called Steve, and Steve did it the way I wanted.

I wanted Spider-Man to be fuel an ordinary guy-a little bit of a nebbish, no broad shoulders, glasses. And Jack brought in a page or two of Spider-Man and he sure as hell didn't hear me, because the character looked like Captain America in a Spider-Man suit.  To this day, I don't know who made up the Spider-Man costume. It might have been Kirby who did those few pages and Ditko might have copied Kirby's costume.  Or Ditko might have just made up the costume and disregarded what Kirby did. I can't remember.[x]

JOE SIMON:  Ditko said that they gave him a story that was the Fly. Kirby tells me that he gave that to Stan Lee. Stan Lee was looking for new characters. And the title was changed to Spider-Man. I talked with Jack last night and he admitted that was what happened. But he said he created the costume. [xi]

JACK KIRBY:  I never worked with Steve Ditko, he’s kind of a shy fellow and I saw him very rarely.  He’s very likable and very intelligent and I’m a real admirer of his work.  He’s a very creative man.  Actually Steve created Spider-Man and he got to roll and the thing caught on because of what he did.[xii]

STAN LEE:  I never really butted in much in costume design. It’s the one thing, strangely enough, that I left up to the artist. ‘Draw me a Spiderman! What would a guy look like who’s Spider-Man?’ and Steve did that, and he happened to do it without the face showing and I thought it was great. ‘Fine! We’ll go with that!’ The reason it turned out to be brilliant-I think Spider-Man is one of the few characters that any kid in the world can relate to, because a black kid could read it, an Oriental kid, a Mexican kid, Latin - it could be anybody under that mask.  

I think it’s very easy for kids to identify and to empathize with. It wasn’t intentional. I wish I had been smart enough to think of it, but it worked out beautifully. And I’m delighted that it did.

JACK KIRBY:  Steve Ditko did Spider-Man by himself. He built Spider-Man. He's the one that refined the character. He's a thorough professional and he's an intellect. He's a little withdrawn but he has a fine mind. Stan Lee didn't even have to bother with it. Steve developed Spider-Man - I just did one cover.  In Steve's hands, I felt that Spider-Man would be a great book, and it was. I have a high regard for Steve Ditko, and for John Romita, who is a fine artist.[xiii]

STEVE DITKO:  One of the first things I did was to work up a costume. A vital, visual part of the character, I had to know how he looked, to fit in with the powers he had, or could have, the possible gimmicks and how they might be used and shown, before I did any breakdowns. For example: A clinging power, so he wouldn't have hard shoes or boots, a hidden wrist-shooter versus a web gun and holster, etc.

The creation of the costume is a story in itself. Some brief points: The obvious one is the use of the spider theme and the webbing design; I wasn't sure Stan would like the idea of covering the character's face but I did it because it hid an obviously boyish face. It would also add mystery to the character and allow the reader/viewer the opportunity to visualize, to "draw," his own preferred expression on Parker's face and, perhaps, become the personality behind the mask.

STAN LEE:  Steve Ditko is a little bit of an enigma to me. He is a very private person, I don't think he likes to be interviewed. He is incredibly talented and is a little bit like Ayn Rand - he's got definite convictions and he sticks with them and he's true to them. There is nothing I could say about Steve that wouldn't be totally positive and flattering... I'm a big fan of his. I don't think Spider-Man would have been as successful if he hadn't drawn it in those early years. I think he gave it so much of the look it needed and the quality it needed.

It's not common knowledge, but Steve's also a good story man. I didn't write out detailed scripts for him, I would just tell him (as I did with Jack) what I thought the story should be and he went home and drew it any way he wanted to... and the way he drew these things was fantastic.

It was very easy for me to write them because visually the stories were just so beautifully laid out and so clear and exciting. There is a very famous scene he did in a Spider-Man story where he was trapped in a subway tunnel and had to lift some heavy weight over his head. I just mentioned the idea but Steve drew it incredibly…devoting I think 3 or 4 pages to Spider-Man lifting those heavy weights. I hadn't thought of devoting that many pages to it, but it was a brilliant, brilliant move on Steve's part and made that episode absolutely unforgettable and as dramatic as anything could have been. I'm still Steve's biggest fan.[xiv]

I presented that to Martin Goodman and he said, "Nah, nobody likes spiders. That's no good."  So I said, "Well, it's not a case of people liking spiders. Remember there used to be a Green Hornet. I don't think people are turned on to hornets."  "Nah, I don't like it. Forget it." I had a feeling I hadn't hit pay dirt with that one as far as Martin was concerned, but I always liked the idea. So sometime later we had a magazine we were going to drop. It was called Amazing Fantasy.  Strangely enough, Steve Ditko had drawn all the stories in that one, now that I remember. Anyway, it wasn't selling well, and we were going to drop it.  

Now, when you drop a magazine, nobody cares what you put in the last issue because you're dropping it anyway.  And we threw it in Amazing Fantasy in the last issue. And just for fun, I put him on the cover. I had Jack sketch out a cover for it because I always had a lot of confidence in Jack's covers.  And the book sold fantastically. So a couple months later when the sales figures were in, Martin came to me and he said, "Hey Stan, you remember that Spider-Man idea of yours that we both liked so much? Why don't we make a series of it?"

JOHN ROMITA:  When it comes to characters, Stan would ask me "give me a character called The Shocker." I would create -- he would tell me the -- he has the powers to shock people with electric bolts from his wrists. So he shocks people.  So I would create a costume for it. I didn't create the name. I didn't create anything else. I didn't create the powers. I just created the costume. I put him in a quilted outfit, believe it or not. I thought it was going to be laughed at. Stan accepted. He was quilted so he could absorb his own shocks. The next time it would be The Rhino. He is a man in a rhino skin. He could drive himself through a wall. Just butt head right through a wall. I just did a guy in a rhino skin with his face showing through the open mouth of the rhino. Brilliant. Stan accepted it. And then he would take the character and make him valid. He would make him valid by his behavior, by his dialogue, by his -- the results of what he does, the mayhem he caused, and he would give the guy a personality. That's all it was.

STAN LEE:  I was surprised to learn, years later, that even Jack Kirby also claimed a piece of the action, saying he had done a Spider-Man comic years ago and that I had copied it. If it really existed, I've never seen it and no one's ever shown it to me, and to this day, I don't know what he was talking about.

I later learned that C. C. Beck and Joe Simon (Jack's ex-partner) had earlier worked on a character they called the Silver Spider, but it was an entirely different concept and the only similarity was the word "Spider."[xv]


A few years ago the original art to the Amazing Spider-Man's first appearance - Amazing Fantasy #15 - was quietly and anonymously donated to the USA Library of Congress.  The donor was the person who, allegedly, had stolen the art from Marvel back in the day.  According to people in the know, the same person made a habit out of stealing art from Marvel, in particular Steve Ditko art, and managed to pay off their house from the proceeds of the sales from the stolen art.  Luckily this art wasn't sold, it was donated, complete, and now can be viewed.  However, when people rally against Marvel Comics for denying Steve Ditko money from the many Spider-Man movies, remember that it wasn't just the company that stole and profited from Steve Ditko's creative vision.  The company profited from his creations, a trusted colleague profited from the physical artwork that Ditko created.

Thieves come in many guises.  Imagine how much money Ditko could have made by selling this art today?  Enough to be comfortable for a number of years, still, we do have it to view and, for what I believe is the first time, here's the entire original art, as drawn by Steve Ditko, for Amazing Fantasy #15, minus the cover.

Joe Simon's Spiderman logo

What Jack Kirby's Spiderman might have looked like- this isn't the original art, this is a fake presentation piece by a fan as created a year or so ago

[i] Will Eisner’s Shop Talk (Dark Horse Pubs 2001)
[ii] Comic Book Marketplace #62 (August 1998)
[iii] Comics Feature #44 (May 1986)
[iv] Comic Book Marketplace #62 (August 1998)
[v] Comics Scene Special #1 (1987)
[vi] Comics Scene #2 (March 1982)
[vii] The Comic Feature #25 (1984)
[viii] Comics Interview #5 (1983)
[ix] Robin Snyder's History of Comics #5 (May 1990)
[x] Comics Scene # (198 )
[xi] Comic Book Marketplace #62 (August 1998)
[xii] Tim Skelly Show, WNUR-FM (May 14, 1971)
[xiii] Comics Feature #44 (May 1986)
[xiv] Comic Book Marketplace #61 (July 1998)
[xv] Stan Lee Excelsior (Fireside, 2002)


Kid said…
If I remember correctly, Joe Simon claimed in The Comic Book Makers that The Silver Spider came from a discussion he had with Jack Oleck, and that Jack and C.C. Beck then worked on the finished (but unpublished) result.
Heckboy said…
In The ComicBook Makers, I recall a letter from the editor that the Silver Spider was submitted to. He suggesting the idea of the character shooting webs and swinging through the streets instead of using a gun. Do you have a copy of that to post? I find the Silver Spider/Fly/Spider-Man timeline fascinating.
Ger Apeldoorn said…
You confirm what I hae been thinking for years now - that they are all telling the same story, with only on epoint of contention. Either Stan Lee thought up Spider-Man on his own as he said, asked Jack to draw it, Jack came in with his version, Stan didn't like it, gave it to Ditko, was able to formulate his intentions better and Ditko went on and cocreated Spider-Man, including the costume, the school characters and the'morality' play set-up which lead Lee to wite the imortal line: with great power comes great responsibillity. Or Sta and Jack were discussing new superheroes, Jack told him aout the Silver Spider, Stan didn't like it and started formulating his own take on the superhero with prblems, egged on by his wife (not mentioned here, but another recurring part of Lee's story), Jack came in with new pages, way to heroic and from there it went.
I don't think the jdge who threw out the claim was lazy, misinformed, dumb or biased.
Z Man said…
The confusion arises because Joe Simon misunderstood & misinterpreted what Steve Ditko said to him.

As explained in Blake Bell's book "Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko," Ditko first saw the Jack Kirby drawn pages when Stan Lee called him into the office & asked him to ink Kirby's unfinished story.

When Ditko saw Kirby's treatment of Spider-man, he warned Stan Lee that it was a retread of a story that Kirby did for Archie Comics (Red Circle Comics), based on the origin of The Fly, a character that failed on the comic book market (Kirby/Simon abandoned the character after 4 issues). Stan Lee, always mindful of lawsuits & not wishing to copy a creation that failed anyway, then told Steve Ditko, "Well, see what you can do with it."

The biggest change Ditko made was the costume & web shooters. But he also stayed faithful to Stan Lee's desire for a teenage superhero. No one ever mentions this but Kirby had the teen protagonist transform into an ADULT superhero Spider-man (similar to the 1950s Captain Marvel with his "Shazam!") with a magic ring. Ditko got rid of the ring, steered clear of any magic or mysticism in the Spider-man books, leaving it for Dr. Strange, and centered all the stories around a realistic & plausible life of an American teen in the 1960s.

Thank God he did. Because it is my feeling it would have been a dud otherwise.

What made Spider-man so great was Peter Parker. While Stan wanted to see Spider-man in action as soon as possible on the page (probably why Ditko often starts a story with him), Ditko always gave Peter Parker & his cast of teen cohorts, his girlfriend & especially J.Jonah Jameson ample page space. I am always awestruck by how great a story-teller Steve Ditko was, because all the Spider-man exploits derived from what was happening in & around Parker's private life. The two were inseparable & bound together in story after story, affecting & impacting each other, something rare in today's comic books.

But anyway, when Steve Ditko told Joe Simon the "Kirby pages were The Fly," Simon construed that to mean that the actual story were the pages he had worked on with Kirby (changing the Fly to Spider-man). From that, he derived that Kirby must have brought the concept of the Spider-man character to Stan Lee, if Lee was looking at those previous pages by Kirby/Simon.

Get it?

Steve Ditko didn't mean the actual pages. Just that Kirby relied on a prior hero that he did for another company a few years previous, for the origin story. But Joe Simon didn't realize that.

And so this whole other 'urban myth' has grown around the creation of Spider-man that it was a Kirby creation or idea. It wasn't.

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