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Disney+’s Stan Lee Documentary Met with Objections from Jack Kirby’s Family

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Disney+'s Stan Lee Documentary

Disney+ has recently unveiled a documentary dedicated to Stan Lee, honoring his contributions to the Marvel Universe. The documentary is named after the celebrated figure and investigates the life of the man many attribute to the success of some of the world’s most cherished characters. This recognition became more apparent after the 2002 release of the Spider-Man movie featuring Tobey Maguire, where audiences identified the cameo of the glasses-clad man.

However, this narrative fails to capture the complete picture. Marvel’s multi-decade triumph can’t be assigned to one person alone. Characters like Ant-Man and the Fantastic Four have Jack Kirby’s undeniable genius behind them. Jillian Kirby, the granddaughter of this iconic artist, utilized her social media platform to share a statement from her father, Neal Kirby, expressing his concerns about how his father’s role is depicted in the documentary.


Kirby equates his father’s contribution to many miscredited accomplishments in the arts, expressing his dissatisfaction with Disney+’s recent production. He emphasizes that the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t be as vibrant in terms of characters and visual inspiration without the many years Jack Kirby dedicated to the company. His statement reads:

“[I] comprehend that, as a “Stan Lee documentary,” most of the narrative is literally and figuratively in his voice. The debate over the roles played in creating and propelling Marvel’s characters has never been a hidden fact. Stan Lee had the privilege of having access to the corporate and media megaphone, which he used to construct his own mythology regarding the creation of the Marvel character roster. He made himself synonymous with Marvel. Therefore, for several decades, he was seen as the “only” man responsible, and given his long life, the last man standing (my father passed away in 1994). It should also be mentioned and is generally agreed that Stan Lee had a restricted understanding of history, mythology, or science. In contrast, my father’s knowledge of these subjects, as I and many others can personally affirm, was extensive. As Einstein said, “More the knowledge, lesser the ego. Lesser the knowledge, more the ego.” If one were to examine a list and timeline of Marvel’s characters from 1960 through 1966, the period in which most of Marvel’s key characters were created during Lee’s tenure, Lee’s name appears as a co-creator on every character, except for the Silver Surfer, which was solely created by my father. Are we then led to believe that Lee had a part in creating every Marvel character?”

Stan Lee And Jack Kirby’s Silver Surfer Becomes a Reality in Sideshow Collectables’ Latest Maquette

The statement continued to address the ongoing issue of attribution in the comic book world, with Kirby mentioning the famous dispute between Lee and Steve Ditko:

“Should we assume it was never the other co-creator who came to Lee’s office proposing, “Stan, I have a fantastic character idea!” According to Lee, it was always his initiative. Lee spends considerable time discussing the creation of the Fantastic Four, with only a brief mention of my father. Most comic historians acknowledge that my father based the Fantastic Four on a 1957 comic he created for DC, “Challengers of the Unknown,” even naming Ben Grimm (The Thing) after his father Benjamin, and Sue Storm after my older sister Susan. The disagreement between Lee and my father regarding creator credit is barely touched upon, with more emphasis placed on the friction between Lee and Steve Ditko. Lee asserts, “it was my idea, therefore I created the character,” while Ditko counterargues that his artwork and storyline brought Spiderman to life. In 1501, the Opera del Duomo commissioned a young Michelangelo to sculpt a statue of David for the Cathedral of Florence – their concept, their funds. Yet the statue is known as Michelangelo’s David – his talent, his vision, his creativity.”

The statement concluded by saying:

“For over 35 years, Lee enjoyed unchallenged publicity, often backed by Marvel as it amplified the Marvel brand and inadvertently promoted himself. Lee’s self-promotion peaked with his cameo appearances in over 35 Marvel films, starting with “X-Men” in 2000, thus solidifying his image as the creator of all things Marvel to millions of moviegoers unaware of Marvel comics’ true history. My father’s first on-screen credit didn’t surface until the end of Iron Man in 2008, after Stan Lee, Don Heck, and Larry Lieber. The fight for creator’s rights has been ongoing since the inscription of the first Babylonian tablet. It’s high time this one chapter of literary/art history is corrected. ’Nuff said.”

What’s the Future of Jack Kirby’s Legacy?

Considering Kirby’s legacy continues to be leveraged by Disney to augment their long-standing franchise, Kirby’s work will be further explored in cinemas in the coming years. A new version of the Fantastic Four is slated to hit the theatres in 2025. Although the new team’s members haven’t been cast yet, it is likely that the visual imagery established by Kirby will be incorporated when Marvel’s first family debuts in the MCU. In addition, Paul Rudd’s portrayal of Ant-Man may continue, reminding viewers of the artist’s significant legacy within the company.

You can find the full statement about the Stan Lee documentary below:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Disney+’s Stan Lee Documentary

What is the controversy surrounding Disney+’s Stan Lee documentary?

The controversy surrounding Disney+’s Stan Lee documentary stems from the allegations that it overlooks the essential contributions of Jack Kirby, another key figure behind Marvel’s success. Kirby’s family claims that the documentary fails to give him proper credit for his role in creating and shaping the Marvel Universe.

Who is Jack Kirby?

Jack Kirby was a legendary artist and writer known for his significant contributions to the comic book industry, particularly his work with Marvel Comics. He co-created numerous iconic characters, including the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk, among others. Kirby’s artistic style and storytelling have had a lasting impact on the superhero genre.

What are the concerns raised by Jack Kirby’s family?

Jack Kirby’s family is concerned that the Stan Lee documentary downplays or ignores Kirby’s substantial influence and contributions to Marvel’s characters and success. They argue that Kirby’s extensive knowledge and creativity played a vital role in shaping the Marvel Universe, and he should be recognized accordingly.

How does the controversy involve creator credit?

The controversy surrounding the documentary touches on the issue of creator credit in the comic book industry. Kirby’s family suggests that Stan Lee, through his self-promotion and Marvel’s support, positioned himself as the sole creator and face of Marvel, while downplaying the contributions of other co-creators like Kirby. This raises questions about the true extent of Lee’s involvement in the creation of Marvel’s characters.

What is the significance of Jack Kirby’s legacy?

Jack Kirby’s legacy is immensely significant in the world of comic books and the Marvel Universe. His unique artistic style, innovative storytelling techniques, and creation of iconic characters have left an indelible mark on the superhero genre. Kirby’s work continues to inspire and influence new generations of artists, and his contributions are highly regarded by comic book enthusiasts and industry professionals.

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