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We all know that our favorite games, comics, movies and TV shows are probably collaborative affairs. There are dozens if not hundreds of people involved in bringing a successful franchise to life. But we as a culture just love the story of the creative genius so much -- one brilliant madman spawning ideas fully grown from his forehead, with no help or support from anybody -- that we heap tremendous praise on the rare few who manage to do it.

These ... are not those people.

6
Star Trek: Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry is world renowned for creating the original 1966 Star Trek series, which grew over the years to spawn 11 (soon to be 12) feature films, more than 700 episodes of television, dozens of video games and countless books. Star Trek itself also gave birth to both the modern fan convention phenomenon and the concept of slash fan-fic. So ... thanks, we think?

Wikipedia
We can't help but feel a little abused.

Roddenberry was the first human whose ashes were taken into space, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and even has an asteroid named after him.

We basically gave the guy dominion over space for making a sweet TV show, is the long and short of it. We assume he rules it with an iron fist.

© 1976 Larry D. Moore
And, apparently, a plastic shirt.

Who Actually Deserves the Credit:

It's a sad fact of life: There's only enough room in the human heart for one Gene at a time. That's why you probably haven't heard of Gene Coon. He served as producer for the original Star Trek in its first and second seasons, wrote eight of those episodes, and then wrote another four for the third season. Among his contributions to the franchise are the Klingons, the Federation, Starfleet Command and the Prime Directive. He also wrote the episodes with Gorn (the lizard man), Khan, those half-black/half-white aliens who taught us that space racism is bad (again) and the inventor of the warp drive. Basically, if there's something you remember from old Star Trek that's not Uhura's miniskirt or Kirk's dropkick, Coon did it.

Memory Alpha
"But the two-handed punch? That was all Shatner."

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have both called Coon the unsung hero of Star Trek. And without his over-arching structure and influence, Star Trek probably would've just been a show about unitard-wearing swingers screwing aliens across the galaxy. Which is ... kind of awesome, actually. We call dibs on the rights.

We shall call it: Sexual Predators Lost in Space.

Getty
We wouldn't even have to change the leading man.

5
Star Wars: George Lucas

Here's the general pop culture consensus on George Lucas: He sucks now, but he once wrote and directed the first Star Wars trilogy, which makes him another innovative, rebellious filmmaker whose creative fire has tragically guttered out.

But here's the truth: Lucas couldn't lose it because he never had it.

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Making prequel Anakin an autobiographical character.

Who Actually Deserves the Credit:

First things first: Lucas absolutely was the brilliant mastermind behind the Star Wars movie ... prequels. I through III? That was all Lucas. But IV through VI? The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were directed by Irv Kershner and Richard Marquand, respectively, and both screenplays were written by Lawrence Kasdan. But that still leaves Lucas as the writer/director of Episode IV, right? That's the big one: The Star Wars that put the "Star Wars" in Star Wars.

But A New Hope wasn't entirely Lucas, either: A fellow USC film grad, Gary Kurtz, who first collaborated with Lucas on his breakthrough film, American Graffiti, was producer for both Star Wars and Empire. Kurtz did more than an ordinary producer, however: Beyond running the day-to-day operations of the films, Kurtz also ended up coaching the actors (which is, technically speaking, the director's job).

The Chive
Pictured: Gary Kurtz (left). Not pictured: George Lucas.

Even minor characters like C-3PO weren't the juice of Lucas' mindgrapes. Lucas originally wanted 3PO to be an "oily, car salesman type" rather than our lovably gay robot butler friend. If that character archetype sounds familiar, that's because Lucas would later get his sleazy salesman in The Phantom Menace, in the shape of the flying anti-Semitic stereotype, Watto. The actually likeable, not-racist version of C-3PO that we know today was largely thanks to Anthony Daniels. Daniels was originally hired as just a mime inside the gold suit, with someone else providing the voice-over. But actor Stan Freberg convinced Lucas to not use a different voice and stick with Daniels -- which is particularly remarkable since Freberg was one of the actors considered to replace Daniels' voice. That's right: A struggling actor actually had to step up and sacrifice his own livelihood just to kill one of Lucas' terrible ideas.

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If all these men had committed ritual suicide, we might have been able to avoid Jar Jar.

The man is like the original sin of filmmakers.

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4
X-Men: Stan Lee Invented the X-Men, But Only Kind Of

Stan Lee hasn't written much since the early '70s, so it's easy to say that he gets too much credit for modern classics like the X-Men. And easy stuff is great, so let's do that:

Stan Lee gets way too much credit for the X-Men.

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"That's fine, Cracked. My VD has a higher net worth than your whole damn magazine."

Who Actually Deserves the Credit:

While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did create the core concept in 1963 -- teenage mutant superheroes living in a mansion helping Professor X fight Magneto -- their vision of the team was so unsuccessful that Marvel stopped creating new X-Men stories in 1969. They ran in reprints for a while, until the book was finally given to unknown writer Chris Claremont, who "transformed a single underachieving comic into the best-selling superhero franchise of its time." He did this with a host of new and reimagined characters, long, complex story lines, a fundamental shift in the book's focus on wish-fulfillment and so, so, so much mutant boning.


What does mutant healing do for his refractory period?

And Claremont did that for 17 straight years (Lee, by contrast, wrote X-Men for less than four). Before Claremont left the franchise in 1991, he started a second monthly X-Men series, and #1 of that series holds the Guinness World Record as the top-selling comic book of all time.

Excelsior!

... is a thing that Chris Claremont doesn't say, which also puts him one up on Stan Lee.

© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons
We'll give Stan the edge in facial hair, though.

3
Dungeons and Dragons: Gary Gygax

Madeline Ferwerda

E. Gary Gygax is considered the father of not only Dungeons and Dragons, but also the modern RPG industry itself. When, in reality, he was more like the weird uncle who lives in the garage and keeps clogging the toilet.

Alan De Smet
Gary, seen here explaining why THAC0 is superior to anything in 3.5 or 4th edition.

Who Actually Deserves the Credit:

During a nerd side quest, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax had an epic random encounter when they chanced to meet at Gen Con in 1969. Gygax was working on something called Chainmail, which was a war simulator only a bit more complicated than the average board game. With Arneson's influence, Chainmail was adapted to include:

- Exploring dungeons

- Using a neutral judge/dungeon master

- Conversations with imaginary characters (NPCs) to develop the storyline

- Hit points

- Experience points

- The concept of role-playing an individual character rather than just rolling dice

So, basically, he put the "R" in RPG.

Kevin McColl
In fairness, Gygax was the man who introduced Cheetos and Mountain Dew to tabletop gaming.

Then why did Arneson's name fail its saving throw against history? Because in 1976, Arneson left TSR, the company that published D&D, to pursue a career as an independent game designer. In 1977, TSR released a new version of the game, cleverly titled Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and insisted that they didn't owe him any royalties. Arneson started filing lawsuits, while Gygax just looked around, realized that somebody was paying him to play D&D and tried his best not to rock this boat that should not be.

Rocco Pier Luigi
"I just assumed I'd rolled a natural 20 at life."

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2
Lost: J.J. Abrams

Lost was an innovative epic that combined Survivor and The X-Files with Pretty People and Sexy Pseudo-Dirt. And it was all thanks to the genius of J.J. Abrams, creator of such other psychological science fiction thrillers as, uh ... Felicity?

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"I did something on Armageddon, but Mike had me too coked up to remember any of it."

Who Actually Deserves the Credit:

When Lost first started, J.J. Abrams was splitting his time with Alias, and he needed help. So Damon Lindelof came on board as executive producer and head writer. Together, Abrams and Lindelof fleshed out Lost's series bible and planned out the first few episodes, before Abrams disappeared to shoot Mission Impossible 3. Which, in all fairness, was the most taut and perfectly executed Tom Cruise marathon yet. You really believed that guy was running, you know?

Anyway, this left Lindelof holding a bag so heavy that he actually considered quitting Lost. He probably would have, too, were it not for the timely intervention of Carlton Cuse, who talked Lindelof out of leaving and joined the show as an executive producer halfway through Season 1. The two masterminded the whole series together afterward. After the pilot, Abrams' only real credit is co-writing one episode, whereas Lindelof wrote 45 episodes and Cuse 39.

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Making them responsible for those fucking polar bears.

Good God: 45, 39? If you subtract one from the other you get six, cubed is 216, two plus one plus six is nine ... 45, 39, six, 216, nine. These numbers! These numbers have great and important meaning! They're the entire basis of something amazing ... that we will now never discuss again.

Hey look, Kate's ass!

Evangeline-Lilly.net
And all is right with the world.

1
The Simpsons: Matt Groening

After writing a handful of episodes in the first few seasons of The Simpsons, Matt Groening took a backseat approach to his creation, becoming something like the J.D. Salinger of jaundiced Flintstones analogues. But he came up with the concept and the characters, and he plotted out the main arcs of The Simpsons, right? There's a reason that you only associate one name with the world's longest-running animated comedy: His.

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"All I ever really wanted was to draw cartoon rabbits."

But maybe it's the wrong one ...

Who Actually Deserves the Credit:

During his 15 years on the show, George Meyer was the de facto Simpsons guru. While he's only written 12 episodes, he has credit as a producer, creative consultant, writer, or story editor on a staggering 350. Most shows don't even get to 350 entire episodes. Meyer's primary contributions over the years have been behind the scenes: He was a script doctor, which means that he does all the work and gets none of the glory. But, as The New Yorker aptly put it, "[Meyer] has so thoroughly shaped the program that by now the comedic sensibility of The Simpsons could be viewed as mostly his."

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Incidentally, he looks like Gollum.

Based on revelations from DVD commentaries, some of Meyer's contributions include:

- The heartwarming ending to "And Maggie Makes Three"

- Ned Flanders' Leftorium

- "Whacking Day"

- The flying pig in "Lisa the Vegetarian"

- The lyrics to "Rock Me, Dr. Zaius" from the Planet of the Apes musical


Don't pretend you can't sing every word.

- Comic Book Guy

- Tyson-esque boxer Drederick Tatum

- Mr. Burns answering the phone with "Ahoy - ahoy" instead of "hello"


It's the little things that make a legend.

So basically, all the quirky character development, strangely authentic heart and bizarre leaps in logic that made the show what it is. Meyer is also overwhelmingly responsible for the religious elements of The Simpsons, having penned the classic "Homer the Heretic" and conceived the hurricane that tests Ned Flanders' faith.

One scriptwriter (Jon Vitti) once had an episode featured in Entertainment Weekly. They lauded praise on the author and enthusiastically quoted their favorite bits from the show in depth. Vitti would later go on record as saying that all the jokes EW referenced -- every single one of them -- were actually added by Meyer:

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"I am the Overmind of Comedy."

"That kind of thing happens to all the show's writers all the time. A show that you have the writer's credit for will run, and the next day people will come up to you and tell you how great it was. Then they'll mention their two favorite lines, and both of them will be George's."

Yeah, we here at Cracked don't understand that feeling at all.

Jared Whitley would like to thank Paul Melby, Ed Whitley and the Kolob Cabal for help with this article. Most people agree that Jared's blog, Whitleypedia, isn't as good as it used to be.

For more history of pop culture, check out 6 Disastrous Ways Pop Culture Influences The Real World and The 7 Most WTF Origins of Iconic Pop Culture Franchises.

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