The son of Jack Kirby, the late, revered comic book artist, has issued a scathing critique of a new Disney+ documentary celebrating the life and legacy of Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee. Neal Kirby released the sharp-edged statement, which was subsequently shared by his daughter Jillian on social media platforms.
In this message, he takes issue with the insinuation that Stan Lee was the sole creative force behind every Marvel character. Neal Kirby argues his father, Jack Kirby, who frequently collaborated with Lee and co-created many of Marvel's popular characters like the Fantastic Four, Hulk, and Thor, has been unjustly relegated to the background.
"There has always been controversy over the roles played in the creation and success of Marvel's characters," Kirby stated, recognizing that the documentary focuses on Lee. "Stan Lee was in the fortunate position to wield the corporate megaphone and media and used them to establish his narrative about the creation of the Marvel universe, making himself Marvel's voice."
Kirby Highlights Knowledge Disparity
Kirby also pointed out what he perceives as a contrast in knowledge depth between his father and Lee.
"It's widely acknowledged that Stan Lee had a limited understanding of history, mythology, or science," he wrote. "In contrast, my father's knowledge in these areas was vast. As Einstein rightly said, 'More the knowledge, lesser the ego.
Lesser the knowledge, more the ego.' " Questioning the portrayal of Lee's creative input, Kirby wrote, "Should we believe that Lee was behind the creation of every Marvel character? That it was never the other co-creator who came to Lee's office with a fantastic character idea? According to Lee, it was always his brainchild." He then brought attention to the fact that his father had retired from comics in the early 1980s and passed away in 1994, giving Lee over three decades of unchallenged publicity.
"Lee's numerous film cameos further cemented his status as Marvel's primary creator," Kirby noted. "My father's first film credit didn't surface until the end credits of the Iron Man film in 2008, well after Stan Lee, Don Heck, and Larry Lieber." Kirby concluded by acknowledging the longstanding struggle for creator's rights, tracing it back to the era of the first inscribed Babylonian tablet.
"It's high time to correct this literary/art history chapter," he urged. The documentary in question, Stan Lee, available now on Disney+, explores Lee's life from his childhood as Stanley Leiber to his ascendancy in the world of comic books and pop culture.
The film relies heavily on Lee's archival materials. Lee passed away in 2018 from heart failure, aged 95, while Kirby, a significant comic book figure and the creator of characters like the Black Panther, Captain America, the Celestials, and the X-Men, died of heart failure in 1994, aged 76.
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