Jack Kirby’s household units the file straight after “informercial” Stan Lee documentary

Over the weekend, a brand new documentary starring Stan Lee began streaming on Disney+ after debuting on the Tribeca Movie Pageant, drawing a fiery response from the household of Jack Kirby. 

Entitled merely “Stan Lee,” the movie was directed by David Gelb and options the Man in a voiceover telling the story of his creation of the Marvel Universe.

Besides, as we all know he DIDN’T create the Marvel Universe. He co-created it with Steve Ditko, Invoice Everett, Don Heck, and, most significantly, Jack Kirby – one thing the documentary skimmed over because it used Lee’s personal phrases to inform the story. And sadly, Lee wasn’t recognized for being significantly humble or truthful at instances. Certainly, a assessment in Rolling Stone labeled the doc an “infomercial


The documentary led Kirby’s son, Neal, to fireplace again in a passionate assertion posted on twitter by Jack Kirby’s grand-daughter, Jillian. Loaded with classical references, the assertion chastises the filmmakers and Lee for underplaying Jack Kirby’s foundational involvement in creating Iron Man, Thor, the Unbelievable 4, The Hulk and dozens of different characters who anchor the billion greenback MCU – as much as and together with Groot!

“If you happen to had been to have a look at a listing and timeline of Marvel’s characters in 1962-1966, the interval through which the overwhelming majority of Marvel’s main characters had been created throughout Lee’s tenure, you’ll see Lee’s identify as a co-creator on each character, aside from the Silver Surfer, solely created by my father,” Neal Kirby wrote.  “Are we to imagine solely had a hand in creating each Marvel character? Are we to imagine that it was by no means the opposite co-creator that walked into Lee’s workplace and stated “Stan, I’ve a terrific concept for a personality!” In response to Lee it was at all times his concept. Lee spends a good period of time speaking about how and why he created the Unbelievable 4, with just one fleeting reference to my father. Certainly most comics historians acknowledge that my father primarily based the Unbelievable 4 on a 1957 comedian he created for DC, “Challengers of the Unknown,” even naming Ben Grimm (The Factor) after his father Benjamin, and Sue Storm after my older sister Susan.”

Neal Kirby notes that the documentary gave extra airtime to the Lee-Ditko battle, with Stan stating of Spider-Man, “it was my concept, subsequently I created the character.” The youthful Kirby’s rebuttal is devastating: “In 1501, the Opera del Duomo fee a 26-year-old Michelangelo to sculpt the statue of David for Cathedral of Florence – their concept, their cash. The statue is named Michelangelo’s David – his genius, his imaginative and prescient, his creativity.”


Stan vs Jack (and the remainder of the world) is an argument that can by no means actually go away. Kirby died in 1994, lengthy earlier than his creations had been family names. Stan, who died in 2018, had 24 years to cement his model of the story in a keen media, whereas forging a seventh profession as a cameo actor. It’s left to these of us who knew and admired Jack Kirby to assist his household in retaining his identify and contribution alive.

I’m not going to enter all of the forwards and backwards of who did what right here, however earlier than working at Marvel Jack Kirby created or co-created Captain America, the Newsboy Legion, romance comics, Challengers of the Unknown and dozens more.  At Marvel he created or co-created Silver Surfer, Galactus, Physician Doom, Black Panther, the Inhumans, and so forth and so forth. After leaving Marvel he created Darkseid, Mister Miracle, Large Barda, the New Gods, and so forth. Returning to Marvel, he created the Eternals and Satan Dinosaur.


Later in his profession, Stan created a bunch of Silver Surfer graphic novels with Kirby, Moebius and Keith Pollard. You’ll recall the Silver Surfer was solely created by Jack Kirby. After leaving Marvel, Stan pacted with many many many corporations, however most likely essentially the most well-known character he created was Striperella, an unique dancer superhero whose animated adventures lasted on Spike for 13 episodes in 2003, with Pamela Anderson voicing the primary character.

Whereas it’s arduous to do a face to face comparability, this tweet from cartoonist Scott Gray affords an fascinating take:

I believe an fascinating litmus take a look at is Stan Lee’s Unusual Tales run within the 60s: identical forged because the Unbelievable 4, made on the identical time, however with Dick Ayers drawing as an alternative of Jack Kirby. Few memorable characters or tales created.

In some methods it’s unfair to check a author and an artist – an artist generally is a full cartoonist and a author can’t. However it’s simple to check Kirby’s work earlier than throughout and after Stan with Stan’s work earlier than throughout and after Kirby, and it’s fairly clear who was the IP powerhouse.

To be trustworthy, it’s additionally unfair to Stan’s very actual legacy to repeat the ugly lie that he created the Marvel Universe. I’m not right here to say Stan Lee was the worst one who ever lived, or that he didn’t have an irreplaceable function within the creation of the Marvel Universe. However he had the final phrase for twenty-four years, and it behooves those that worth the reality and unstinting creativity to cease parroting the “Stan the Auteur” line.

Jack knew all that, although. In 1986 he advised interviewer Mark Borax:

Kirby then tells Borax, “We did yesterday. However it resolves nothing. I can’t perceive why there’s a battle over who did what, trigger Stan and I do know. No one else is aware of. If Stan would solely come out of his hiding place and inform the world every little thing would go nice. It isn’t obscure. He is aware of it, and I do know it. There received’t be a decision. Folks don’t change. They’ll’t change. Typically it’s too late. You simply go on being what you might be. Human beings go on being human beings. I can predict every little thing that Stan will do. I do know I can’t change Stan. He says his piece, and I say mine. I might shake arms with Stan until doomsday and it could resolve nothing, the dance goes on.”

Jack Kirby trended on Twitter on Father’s Day one thing Jillian reported with  pleasure. There have been additionally many supportive tweets, only a few right here. Jeet Heer: 

As I wrote earlier, it’s dismaying that Disney has determined to double down on Stan Lee’s demonstrably legendary model of Marvel comics historical past. The more true tales of the artists who really created Marvel, amply documented by many researchers, is way extra fascinating.

And director Guillermo del Toro, definitely somebody who has felt Kirby’s affect:

Jack Kirby: One of many Gods in my Olympus. For any doubt concerning his World-building, have a look at his DC books. Demon / Jason Blood, New Gods Mythos or Kamandi- or his lisergic 2001. NO ONE beats his splash pages! A nimble, erudite, highly effective storyteller and a real mensch.

Lastly Jordan Blum, co-creator of the Modok cartoon on Hulu (sure, that existed) wrote:

It’s insane that there isn’t an enormous statue of Kirby at Avengers Campus in California Journey. He ought to looming over it just like the Celestials who gave life to the Marvel Universe.

That is completely true, however you’ll recall that the Kirby household and Disney had been locked in a long legal dispute – whereas it was settled amicably, Disney could also be sluggish to raise the work of somebody who fought his complete life for artistic freedom and wasn’t afraid to be vocal about it.

That stated they need to recover from it. Make Jack a Disney Legend! Put up that statue. Put up TWO statues. Stan and Jack are united perpetually of their work and must be remembered….collectively.

Photograph © Scott Anderson