During his panel at Wizard World in Nashville this weekend, comics legend Stan Lee talked a little bit about the feud with artist Steve Ditko believed to be largely responsible for one of the biggest creative breakups in comics history.
It has been more than fifty years since Steve Ditko left The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel's flagship title based on a character he co-created, and in the decades since, neither Ditko nor the writer on the title, then-editor Stan Lee, have given an agreed-upon reason for Ditko's resignation. In recent years, Ditko even published an essay titled "Why I Quit" in the back of one of his self-published comics, essentially blaming it on a souring of his relationship with Lee. Lee, for his part, has occasionally commented on it, always maintaining that he did not know why Ditko had left.
“I had a big argument with Steve Ditko, who was drawing the strip at the time. When we had to reveal the identity of the Green Goblin, I wanted him to turn out to be the father of Harry Osborn, and Steve didn’t like that idea,” Lee explained. “He said, ‘no, I don’t think he should be anybody we’ve seen before.’ I said ‘Why?’ He said ‘Well, in real life, the bad guy doesn’t always turn out to be someone you’ve known.’ And I said, ‘Steve, people have been reading this book for months, for years, waiting to see who the Green Goblin really is. If we make him somebody that they’ve never seen before, I think they’ll be disappointed — but if he turns out to be Harry’s father, I think that’s an unusual dramatic twist that we can play with in future stories.’ And Steve said ‘Yeah, well, that’s not the way it would be in real life.’ And I said ‘In real life, there’s nobody called The Green Goblin.’ And so Steve was never happy about that, but since I was the editor, we did it my way.”
This is a familiar story to longtime Spider-fans, but it is certainly interesting to see that decades later, Lee still has some sense of exasperation and sarcasm attached to his telling of the story.
It also lines up with parts of what Marvel staffers of the time claimed -- that Ditko walked out as a result of the decision. Ditko's later claim would be that he had left for a number of reasons, but that it all came together after the Green Goblin argument because he believed Lee had started to avoid him and refused to speak with him.