People in my field have long understood that when an artist creates a piece of work, that work no longer belongs to them. That might seem contrary to commonsense (not to mention intellectual property rights). But in reality, art is communication. It takes two to tango, as the old saw goes. For true communication to exist, there must be both a sender and receiver.
Most texts contain a combination of conscious and unconscious intent. The receivers of these messages (for our purposes here, let’s just refer to them as ‘audiences’) will usually pick up on most of the conscious meaning, and to varying degrees some of the unconscious meaning that the sender didn’t intended to convey, but nevertheless did. We often describe this as the blindness or self-delusion of speakers, especially those we see as pompous, cocksure, egotistical, ignorant, and so forth. As illustrated in Johari Window diagrams, we have sides to ourselves that we never see, but others do. So, when we express, what lies hidden to us becomes visible to everyone else.*
Figure 1. Johari Window
Consequently, when an artist produces a text, he or she can still deny that it has an unintentional meaning specified by others, and be quite sincere about that belief. Moreover, the artist might attempt to control perception of the unintended meaning either by vehement denials or ridicule, public relations, or in rare cases finding some way to silence the observation. But, as stated earlier, the artist no longer has total control of the message once its disseminated.
This has enormous impact on both the validity of Steve Ditko’s genius and his attitude to art and comics, and more directly relevantly for current matters the Death of Marvel and the Fantastic Four as the Great American Novel.
This analysis above clearly shows how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby can genuinely validly produce something so much greater than the sum of its parts.