6 Pop Culture Visionaries Who Get Too Much Credit

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

#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.

"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.


... 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.

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