Jack Kirby, the abandoned hero of Marvel’s grand Hollywood adventure, and his family’s quest [updated]

Sept. 25, 2009 | 3:00 p.m.

This is a longer version of my story that will run Sunday in the Los Angeles Times Calendar section…


Jack Kirby, 1965

You’d be hard-pressed to find a recent comic book that didn’t have the stylish scrawl of the artists somewhere on the cover, but that was not the case when Jack Kirby was making pop culture history back in the 1960s with his wildly kinetic drawings of the X-Men, Hulk and the Fantastic Four. “I think I have a highly unique and unusual style, and that’s the reason I never sign my drawings,” the proud Kirby told an interviewer in 1987, seven years before his death. “Everybody could tell any of my covers a mile away on the newsstand, and that satisfied me.”

The satisfaction was fleeting. The artist may be reverently referred to as “King” Kirby by the pop scholars and younger artists who celebrate his genre-defining work but Kirby is, in some ways, an overlooked figure in the broader view of American culture. He didn’t live to see his creations fly across the movie screen over the last decade and his four children made nothing from those lucrative films, although they are now pursuing legal action to claim some of the future Hollywood wealth. “There is,” daughter Lisa Kirby says, “a bittersweet legacy to my father’s work.”

On a recent afternoon, in Beverly Hills, a different man was autographing a giant lithograph reproducing one of Kirby’s classic Fantastic Four covers. It was Stan Lee, the writer who was Kirby’s most famous collaborator until they became estranged over creative credit, artwork custody and money. An art dealer had brought stacks of limited-edition lithos, some to be priced at $850, to Lee’s Santa Monica Boulevard office along with a check in his pocket to pay the 86-year-old Lee for his autographs.

Lee had written the stories for the classic comics, of course, but considering all the history, it was still odd to see his name etched on the cosmic Kirby tableau from 1966.

Stan Lee in his office 2009

“Yes, there was a time when there was some hard feeling on his part ... but he got over that and we were friends,” Lee said. “It really is sad that he didn’t get to see all the big movies. None of us could predict that we would get to this point with the films. I don’t dwell on it too much because I’m always so busy doing what I am doing today. Unfortunately the guys back in the day did not make as much as they do today. Years ago also you had artists doing these comics who, well, there was nothing else they could have done. Their style wasn’t right for advertising or magazines like Saturday Evening Post or Collier’s. And as for us writers, well, we weren’t qualified to write for the New Yorker. Comic book writers were considered hacks, and artists weren’t really thought of as much beyond that.”

Journey into Mystery 83

Lee studied one of the other art pieces, a dazzling revisiting of a Kirby cover for Captain America. “Wow, look at this one.” The pieces are being sold by the Santa Monica gallery called Every Picture Tells a Story as part of a new licensing deal with Marvel to create high-end wall art from illustrations that were, in their day, the most gaudy and disposable entertainment imaginable. “As far as I’m concerned,” Lee said with his endless zeal, “it is fine art.”

 The story of two “hacks,” as Lee would frame it, will be scrutinized much more considering recent events. Last month, the Walt Disney Co. paid $4 billion to scoop up Marvel Entertainment and its vault of florid characters who over the last decade have become Hollywood box-office heroes. Many of the most valuable properties in that vault were created by the wildly prolific tandem of Lee and Kirby in the 1960s; there are two big-budget movies now in the pipeline for Marvel Studios that are based on Lee-Kirby creations (“The Mighty Thor” and “The Avengers”) and a third (“First Avenger: Captain America”) based on the work of Kirby and writer Joe Simon. The Kirby brood watched the Disney deal happen and within days were conferring with attorneys and accelerating their bid to reclaim copyright.

A day after Lee sat signing that artwork, attorneys representing the four children of Kirby sent out 45 notices of termination to Hollywood studios and players with an interest in assorted Marvel films; it was the opening salvo in a legal battle to gain copyright control of certain characters and the name on the legal letterhead was Toberoff & Associates, the same firm that last year won a intriguing victory by reclaiming a share of the copyright for the first Superman story for heirs of that character’s co-creator, Jerry Siegel.

Fantastic Four 1

Under copyright law, creators or their heirs can seek to regain copyrights they previously assigned to a company 56 years after first publication, so the Kirby family is starting that process now with hopes of gaining an interest or, perhaps, a settlement. Lee, meanwhile, struck assorted deals through the years with Marvel and has been an executive producer on every Marvel film made to date, movies with worldwide box office now in the billions of dollars, and has had prominent cameos in many of them.

Lee is by far the most famous creator in comics history thanks to his longevity, success and a Barnum-like flair for self-promotion. He became a media figure in the 1960s when journalists jotted down his dizzying hyperbole about Marvel’s brightly hued, counterculture ethos. Kirby, laboring at home with far less credit, looked on and chafed about his status as a freelancer, essentially working for Lee, whose family connections by then had taken him to the top of the small and scruffy publishing venture. By 1970, Kirby had had enough and defected to rival DC Comics. Lee would go on to accumulate considerable wealth and fame, sometimes selling comics, sometimes selling his own persona with a long list of splashy but short-lived ventures. Kirby’s fortunes were not as grand; when he talked about his old creations he had the weary tone of a man who long ago watched the family coin collection scatter on a crowded street.

Lee knows that fans like to set up the partners as rivals. Kirby is portrayed as the irascible purist with staggering imagination and Lee reduced to the tireless huckster — the pop-culture prophet versus the corporate profiteer. From Lee’s present vantage point, though, he prefers to look back on their shared tale as the unexpected odyssey of two kids who grew up in a business of cruel deadlines and lowbrow aspirations and found in each other a go-to guy.

Avengers 4

“My favorite thing about Kirby’s artwork was his storytelling,” Lee said. “He was really a film director doing comics.”

In that, Kirby was certainly ahead of his time. Comics are a huge part of Hollywood now, thanks to the modern era of computer-generated special effects that, finally, can match the galactic visions and super-powered mayhem that Kirby put to paper in the 1960s. Kirby’s influence is nothing less than massive on several generations of artists and filmmakers.

“There was power in the work of Jack Kirby that changed the way I looked at things,” said Guillermo del Toro, writer-director of “Pan’s Labyrinth.” “There was no one else like him and there never will be.”

Nevertheless, Kirby remains a distant second to Lee in name recognition, which Lisa Kirby said rankles. “A lot more people know the name Stan Lee than the name Jack Kirby,” she said. “I’m not putting down Stan Lee’s talents but it’s difficult for us to see that he does dominate the credit. That doesn’t reflect the work or the reality. To see Jack Kirby in small letters and Stan Lee in big letters, that’s hard for us.”

Mike Richardson grew up under the thrall of Kirby’s drawings and was inspired to found his own comic-book company, Dark Horse, which has grown into a Hollywood player after seeing titles such as “The Mask,”  “Hellboy” and “300” jump to the screen. Through the years, he reached out to the Kirby family to help them find some sort of compensation.


Jack Kirby self-portrait 2

“There was a lot of anger in the Kirby family with the way that Jack was treated, more than they will express in public,” Richardson said. “There’s no way you can say enough about the impact of those Marvel comics in the 1960s. They changed the rules. Lee and Kirby were the Lennon and McCartney of comics and Stan Lee became a well-known figure in popular culture and Jack did not. Neither were as great on their own, it’s true, but Jack had decades of work that was really special. To me, there’s no doubt that Jack Kirby was the truly brilliant creative genius behind the success of Marvel.”   

If there’s a battle to come, it’s one Kirby never took on in life.

“Jack didn’t have the resources or the stomach lining to fight Marvel over copyrights, character ownership or past contractual sleights that he believed he suffered,” says Mark Evanier, who was Kirby’s assistant in the early 1970s and later his biographer. “He fought to get back his pages of original art. That was the fight he believed he could win.”

Evanier, now a comics historian and creator, testified in the Siegel suit and it seems certain that he would be in the deposition seat for any Kirby legal case. A longtime friend to Kirby and respectful acquaintance of Lee, he spoke glowingly of the partnership as lightning in a bottle, the zenith of each man’s career.

Stan Lee 2006 photo by Robyn Beck AFP Getty Images

Kirby contributed mightily to the plots and character creation; the workload at Marvel was so intense in the 1960s that there were no “scripts” handed to Kirby, he would just draw the story and Lee would go back and craft dialogue that fit the action. Still, Evanier said, while it’s now fashionable to view Lee as the lesser figure, he also had the separate success of Spider-Man (with artist Steve Ditko) and set the singular tone and culture of Marvel.

The pair had met in the Roosevelt years. In late 1940, Jacob Kurtzberg, 23, drawing under the name Kirby, had his first taste of real success in the young comics industry, which soared after the debut of Superman in 1938. Kirby and writer Simon’s Captain America was a hit for Timely Comics, which would later morph into Marvel. There was an eager assistant in the office named Stanley Lieber, just 18, who had gotten the job through a family connection (and would later shorten his name).

“In those days they dipped the pen in ink, I had to make sure the inkwells were filled,” said Lee. “I went down and got them their lunch, I did proofreading, I erased the pencils from the finished pages for them.

Jack Kirby's Hulk in action

Whatever had to be done. I remember Jack would always be sitting at a table puffing on his cigar, kind of talking to himself as he was doing those pages.”

Lee’s first credited work was a 1941 Captain America story where the hero threw his shield for the first time. That would become a trademark for decades, suggesting an instant flair for the medium. Kirby left Timely not long after. Years later, with comics in the doldrums, Lee and Kirby would reunite and create a new sort of comic book, with frenetic energy, mutant outsiders and misunderstood monsters. Superman and DC Comics instantly seemed like boring old Pat Boone; Marvel felt like the Beatles and the British Invasion. It was Kirby’s artwork with its tension and psychedelia that made it perfect for the times — or was it Lee’s bravado and melodrama, which was somehow insecure and brash at the same time?

“Jack was the best partner you could ask for, dependable and imaginative,” Lee said, sitting in an office cluttered with all those old heroes and villains. “And it was never dull. Nothing with us was ever dull.”

— Geoff Boucher


Iron Man Hwood


Jack Kirby’s heirs put Hollywood on notice

Mickey Mouse mutants? Reaction to the Disney-Marvel deal

ELSEWHERE: Check out the Jack Kirby Museum

Leterrier’s dream: An ‘Avengers’ epic told in four films over one summer

Marvel is on a mission in Hollywood

Hammer time: Chris Hemsworth ready for “Thor”

Fred Hembeck salutes Captain America

Photos: Jack Kirby at work in 1965; Credit: The Jack Kirby Museum. Stan Lee in his office in 2009; Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times. Stan Lee in 2006 with Marvel characters; Robin BeckGetty Images. All artwork: Marvel

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post had the word “narrow” in the description of the Siegel copyright victory but in delving further into that victory I decided to delete the misleading adjective. It also will not appear in the abridged print version of this story.  


61 Responses to Jack Kirby, the abandoned hero of Marvel’s grand Hollywood adventure, and his family’s quest [updated]

  1. Wayne Beamer says:

    You wrote a great story sorting out the Lee/Kirby spectacle while acknowledging both sides. The biggest problem for many of us: For the longest time, Stan sucked up ALL the credit, I suspect, due as much to Marvel's editorial and corporate masters not wanting to feed any future lawsuits as it was to Stan's ego. That said, a portion of a documentary about Jack's work at Marvel (attached to the two-disk version of the first FF film) was devoted to Stan giving the King his just due reverently, solemnly and realistically.
    What bothers me the most: Jack and Roz aren't around to see all of his creations on the big screen. That would've been the bomb…

    • moonlardy says:

      Yeah well, Stan Lee is a charming guy with a butt-load of personality, Jack Kirby was a grouchy asshole who got along with no one (the Alan Moore of his day, if you will).

    • NYJ says:

      Nope, not true. Stan ALWAYS gave Kirby credit for design and co-plotting where applicable, as he did for Ditko, going back to the 60s. Kirby, on the other hand, was an out-and-out liar, taking full credit for Captain America (whose creation he contributed exactly nothing to), lying under oath – in support of Marvel – aginst Joe Simon's (his friend and mentor) attempt to reclaim Cap, claiming credit for Ditko's work (Ditko and Simon both called BS on Kirby's Spidey claims), Stan's work, even claiming at one point to have created Superman.

  2. Cal Godot says:

    Jack Kirby: genius artist.
    Stan Lee: genius marketeer.
    A fantastic team-up, a marvelous pair.

    • sarko says:

      People always carry on about how Kirby was the real originator of the Marvel universe and that Stan was just the guy hitching a ride on his coat tails. Well that's bull, if you take a look at the stuff they did separately the facts speak for themselves. Stan was responsible for creating Spider-Man, Dr Strange and Daredevil while the only thing Kirby created without Stan Lee were pastiches of the Inhuman Royal family such as the New Gods and The Eternals and Ettrigan the Dragon which was suspiciously similar to The Incredible Hulk's "man turns into a misunderstood monster" story.

  3. Great smart article. Thanks.
    Lennon – McCartney is a pretty perfect analogy for the Kirby – Lee team.
    As a young artist, with a deep interest in comics, who was 14 in 1965 when Lee/Kirby Marvel was pretty close to peak, I spent many hours studying and copying Jack's art so as to better understand the deep magic. The power and draftsmanship are so top-notch.
    thanks again

    • Michael says:

      Besides the Beatles analogy, I liked the Pat Boone analogy. LOL! In all fairness, however, DC, with Denny O'Neil and Neil Adams, did "catch up" in the characterization department on "Green Arrow/Green Lantern."

  4. very nice blog
    well done,

  5. Frankie Raye says:

    Stan was a lot more than a genius marketer, he was a genius storyteller and character creator– a genius writer. The idea of heroes with flaws, with feet of clay, with angst, was his. Treating them like two-dimensional characters as opposed to one-dimensional archetypes was his idea. Did Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko do a ton to work on this initial base? Of course.
    There are reasons why Stan is in big letters, according to Lisa Kirby, and Jack is in small letters.
    a) Stan co-created Marvel's by far most popular character — Spider-man. Jack did not.
    b) In early interviews, the interviewers liked to focus on one person — echoes of the stupid auteur theory in film — as the creative mind behind the project.
    Stan, even in early interviews, goes out of his way to give Kirby and Ditko credit, but the interviewers framed the story as Stan being the brains behind it all. Given that Stan had an outgoing personality that greatly helped bolster sales of the product, and Jack did not, they focused on Stan and gave him all the credit. He did not write those articles. He DID write almost the entire line of Marvel comics during its glory years and deserves his props.
    The Lennon/McCartney analogy doesn't work because Stan had even bigger success with Ditko (and John Romita) on Spider-man.
    The article says, "Lee had written the stories for the classic comics, of course, but considering all the history, it was still odd to see his name etched on the cosmic Kirby tableau from 1966."
    Why? He co-created these characters. There would be no Marvel Universe without Stan. He deserves all the props he gets. We should be thankful he lived to see a time when his co-creations are such a part of the culture. It's sad that Jack did not.
    While there were no scripts, as the article points out, there were plots. Plots Lee came up with. And in time, plots Ditko and Kirby came up with. And then Stan added the dialogue that gave the characters their amazing characterization that was just as incredible as the art. It was a collaboration. Stan also edited the entire line, promoted it, and created a world, "the House of Ideas", "The Mighty Marvel Bullpen" that fans wanted to be a part of.
    The article has a quote by Mike Richards that, "…there's no doubt that Jack Kirby was the truly brilliant creative genius behind the success of Marvel." This is just as bad as the old articles that would give Stan all the credit. There were three geniuses at Marvel in the earliest days — Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. They all deserve their due. But only Stan was involved with ALL the early successes of the 1960s. Sorry, if that makes the Kirby family upset.

    • tony savage says:

      stan was a tyrant at marvel he never owned marvel he was the art director.
      He helped make comics not created charcters kirby ,ditko,simon did all the work
      stan puts his two cents in anyway he could to make sure he was part of making it
      he changed things to his way so he was sure of getting credit.
      If you change things even just a little you are part of the creation so of course he made
      himself look more and more threw the years like the true creater, he believed if he kept
      talking and telling everyone this who would not believe him.
      He does not own any of the characters check for yourself stan owe's alot of people
      money including ditko ,kirby and simon so stop praising stan if you don't know what you are talking
      I used to work on pages for marvel ,marvel owns everything no matter what you create working as an artist ,you do not own it marvel does.
      Right now stan is getting sued and his lawyers can't find any proof that he created anything
      or owns anything.

      • Halquin says:

        In the post your are replying to there is no mention of Stan Lee either owning Marvel or being it's creative Director? If this was in a previous post submitted by Frankie Ray, then replying it to this one is just confusing.

        You say he did not create characters. What evidence do you have for this? In all interviews and articles I have ever read it states quite clearly that Stan co-created the characters he's credited for. Spider-man for example was a fully thought-out, conceptualised character (according to Lee), before Ditko ever put pen to paper. Though no one can say Ditko did not have a huge part in how the character developed.

        You mention a Lawsuit that I have been unable to find. Lee has Sued and been sued many times. He is a wonderful writer, but apparently a not so wonderful busines partner.

        Another thing I cannot find mentioned in the post you're replying to is a mention of Stan Lee owning any of the characters. All writer and Artists working on comics up until recently would have most likely worked on a 'play for pay' contract. meaning any creative work they do for a company is owned by the company. Stan Lee, Ditko and Kirby don't own any of the work they created. But as stated in the original article they (or their families) are trying to get ownership of them back.

        I feel your reply is not based in fact but of some disagreement with Mr Lee.

      • M. Shipley says:

        In Joe Simon's book he stated that he and Jack owned the copyright to Captain America until Cap was put into the Avengers. Steve Ditko also wrote some of the last issues of Spider-Man that he worked without Stan.Just two examples of no Stan Lee in the creative process.

  6. Thomas Boyd says:

    Loved your story on Jack King Kirby in last Sunday's Times. I think it's wonderful and richly deserved that Kirby is finally getting a little–although far too little too late–for his contributions to comics and American culture.
    I was a huge Marvel comics fan when young and stopped reading them in my teens. I thought it was disinterest, but I realized late in life that I lost interest mainly because Kirby had left Marvel. They had a lot of artists go through Marvel and DC, but only a few were magic for me, people like Kirby, Steve Ditko, Barry Smith, and Jim Steranko. So, instead of a Marvel fan, I guess I'm really a huge Kirby fan. I have high hopes that Lisa Kirby and her kin can get some of the rewards that the King never saw.
    I read a story a few years ago about Kirby. Late in life, the story said, his wife took pains to never let him go into a Toys R Us store. Why? Because, she said, whenever he went into one–or a Wal-Mart or some other large store with an extended toy section–his blood pressure would go up and he'd become almost speechless with rage. The cause of his anger? The sight of all those action figures like Captain America and Thor, hugely successful comics and coloring books featuring the X-Men, and Halloween costumes featuring, say, the Fantastic Four–all characters that grew from his fertile mind, a mind that worked in artistic sweat shops for decades. The overwhelmingly frustrating realization that so many–including Marvel, Toys R Us, entrepreneurs, Hollywood producers, even the workers in, say, China or Thailand–were profiting from his creations, while he didn't make a dime from the sales rankled. What's more, Kirby was prohibited by Marvel, which owned the copyrights to all the characters, from drawing his creations.

  7. Jose says:

    How could you not mention the sequence in Crimson Tide while writing about the influence of Jack Kirby?

  8. Solo500 says:

    The article is balanced & well written. But c'mon, the Hulk is GREEN not BLUE.

  9. Geoff Boucher says:

    He wasnt green in the first issue…but you knew that right?

  10. Seth says:

    Stan Lee is a fraud and this article didn't do any justice for Jack Kirby. I'm not impressed with your attempt at digging at the truth yet you don't want to beat up Stan because you don't "beat up on old men". If The Israel is STILL looking for Nazi's and some have been caught while they were old men, why should Stan get a pass? I'm not saying Stan is a Nazi, but the point I'm trying to make is that you don't forget the people who screwed the other guy or YOU for that matter. Jack is not alive to reap and see the fruits of his labor and how he was a part in effect, employing people in the ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY to this day.
    I'm certainly not going to give Stan 'kudos' for giving Jack credit on The F.F. Stan continues to lie and considering he wrote some memorable comics on some controversial subjects (Neal Adams and Roy Thomas's Green Lantern and Green Arrow-Hard Traveling Heroes is still the best in terms of controversial stories), Stan is a big hypocrite.
    Expose this cruddy old man for what he and Marvel did to him. I'm sure for Jack some measure of bravery to bring justice for him is warranted.

  11. Fred Janssen says:

    Ironic–and typical–that a story about unsung artist Jack Kirby would be accompanied by a photo of Stan Lee, his more-famous co-creator of many of the most recognized Marvel comic book characters that are now worth billions to Disney.
    While Lee is, in my opinion, the Mastermind of the entire Marvel Universe, Jack Kirby, his most prolific artist, was essential to the success of the company by conceiving and designing characters, devising multi-issue storylines, creating the visual style followed by other staff artists, and pushing the creative boundaries of the entire medium. It's no exaggeration to call Marvel, "the house that Jack built."
    I think it's only fair that Disney provide significant compensation to Kirby's heirs, since Disney will be generating income from Kirby's creations for years to come.
    That Marvel owes Kirby is a given. But a lot of older comic fans who recall Kirby's "Fourth World" series that he did for DC when he left Marvel in 1970 agree that there's someone else who has a debt to Jack.
    Kirby's ideas from those comics, such as an unseen power called "the Source" and a villain named "Darkseid" who eventually was revealed as the father of the hero who fought him were known only to fandom in the early 70's, and completely off the radar of mainstream media.
    If these concepts seem oddly close to a much more popular mythos that has generated billions for Hollywood, it's worth pointing out that the first "Fourth World" title preceded "Star Wars" by seven years.
    I think at the very least, George Lucas should give Jack Kirby some long-overdue credit.

  12. Phil says:

    I love Kirby's artwork and imagination. But they worked best as a creative team. We saw how well Jack did with no writer when he went to DC. On the other hand, Stan also had Ditko, Gene Colan, Dick Ayers, Buscema and the other great Marvel artists to draw for him.
    Undoubtedly Kirby had many of the ideas for Marvels creations in his head, you can see precursors to all his characters in his previous work. Challengers of the Unknown (FF), previous incarnations of Thor, the Fly (Spider-man), etc. And certainly the Silver Surfer was Kirby's creation.
    But they were all working for Marvel at the time. Stan knew how to work the system and Kirby didn't. Stan didn't own Marvel.
    I thought this was a fair article as far as it went.

  13. OsT says:

    stan lee and marvel/disney should burn in eternal hellfire 4 what they have done 2 the kirby family/estate. Why come up with an idea when u can just steal it. great mesage 2 send the kids stan/marvel/disney…….

  14. lamas says:

    Poor Kirby, that mean old Stan Lee took all the credit and locked him in the basement and wah! He was a grown-ass man, if he felt he wasn't being treated fairly why didn't he grow a pair?

    • Charles says:

      "Why didn't he grow a pair?" Don't confuse Kirby with yourself.

      • John L Eklond says:

        Jack was a Army scout in ww2 ,after the war the mafia tried to take over the comic biz , when they tried to lean on Jack he dangled the wise guy out a skyscraper window , and how brave was your day ?

      • waltkovacs says:

        i think it was towels…not the entire comic industry…the mob wanted the studio to only use their towels

        and jack was one tough sob…even in his 70s

  15. Jason Waters says:

    Another opportunity to point out that there is a legitimate charity, the Hero Initiative, that lends a hand to artists and writers who find themselves in the position of needing help. Many of those people find themselves in a similar position as Kirby did, watching as the characters and situations they created are turned into lucrative multi-media properties, while they themselves receive nothing more than the original money paid for the work. They receive no retirement, no medical, etc., and when they find themselves on hard times, the Hero Initiative is there to help out.
    Please point out that there is a way to help the older generations of creators who gave so much to what the current generation enjoys in entertainment. <a href="http://www.heroinitiative.org” target=”_blank”>www.heroinitiative.org

  16. 婚紗攝影 says:

    it's very good , i love it. by the way,
    please let me post a link…….you know that,thank you very much

  17. Tim says:

    I have a lot of respect for both of these guys. Lee and Kirby are both equals as far as I'm concerned. That being said, I do believe that Kirby's family are being shafted. Why should Lee get all the credit? Kirby came up with many of the characters and the design of their costumes as well as most of the look and feel of those old comics which revolutionized the medium. I had the honor of meeting Jack at a Science Fiction/Fantasy Art show back in the late 80's. A very respectful, down to earth sort of guy. I just have one question…why is Stan Lee signing a Captain America cover anyway. Captain America is a Joe Simon/Jack Kirby creation, not a Lee/Kirby creation. Lee wrote many of the stories for the 60's incarnation of the character, but he's not a creator…again I ask–why is he taking credit? With that being common knowledge, Lee shouldn't have a cameo in the upcoming Cap movie.

    • NYJ says:

      Taking credit for what? Lee wrote that issue, why wouldn't he sign it? Is it wrong for Geoff Johns to sign a Green Lantern comic? It should also be noted that, while he is credited as co-creator by virtue of their partnership, Kirby contributed nothing to Joe Simon's creation of Cap- thoughin interviews he would VERY often take full, sole credit for it without even mentioning Simon.

      My question is this: Why do you think Lee is getting all the credit? He has credited Kirby, Ditko, etc. with designing the characters and plotting stories since the 60s.

  18. Mike Smith says:

    When i was a kid , I never picked up a comic and said wow Stan Lee !

  19. patrick ford says:

    Stan Lee "collaborated" with Jack Kirby the way B.P. collaborated with the Gulf of Mexico.

  20. Joe says:

    Jack kirby is still the man!

    I don't care how great a writer Stan Lee may be, if it wasn't for the absolutely jaw dropping, powerful, amazing, fantastic, awesome to look at art of Jack the King Kirby, no one would care!

    Comics is more of a visionary art form than a literary one, if the art doesn't rock, no one will pay attention, and Jack Kirby is the ultimate artistic rock star!

  21. Arnaldo says:

    Does Jack Kirby deserve more credit? Undoubtedly. But to crucify Stan Lee for it is wrong also. If it wasn't for Stan Lee's marketing, the characters would not be what they are today. Why didn't Kirby's family seek out money before Disney bought Marvel? This law suit has nothing to do with honoring Jack Kirby as it does his family and some lawyers going after a big pay day. Without BOTH Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Marvel would've been dead. At the same time, there were other great artists that filled the "House of Ideas" But if you read the lawsuit, most of the characters and movies they are after, are not characters co-created by Kirby. He may have drawn those characters at some time, but he was contracted for it. The rights to the characters were Marvel's. They paid Kirby for his work. By him getting paid, he gave up his rights. Had he kept the rights, and then charged Marvel for the right to use the characters, that would be different. It's sad, but it's the tough part about business. Kirby should get more recognition, but the way his family is doing it is not honoring to his legacy.

  22. Carl says:

    Jack was not work for hire, he was freelance. He was pressured into signing away his rights years later when Marvel was being sold. Stan had to say he created everything in order for the company to be sold. Stan always gave proper credit in his soapbox and at conventions. but to keep his job he had to exagerate his contribution.

  23. sprot says:

    If you read the article you would know why stan lee is signing jack kirby’s work. Some guy paid him to do it.

    Excellent article. Jack kirby does deserve credit. Stan lee also deserves credit. They were a team. Jack kirby was an excellent artist!

  24. RAT BOY says:


  25. RAT BOY says:


    • George says:

      Typical Stan basher. Doesn't know that Denny O'Neil wrote Green Lantern/ Green Arrow. Kirby is the most creative artist there ever was + could plot a story with anyone, but he was HORRIBLE at dialogue!! Without Stan's dialogue, giving heroes their problems, drama,editing + salesmanship, the whole industry would've tanked. Jack was the greatest, but no one's making any movies on the stuff he did before or after Jack. Even Cap wouldn't be a movie unless Stan didn't bring him back to the Avengers. Weren't his covers great on his other stuff? What happened? They eventually got cancelled because the stories were all the same with all these perfect, boring heroes. As great as it looked, if Stan didn't create all their problems + not make them perfect, these characters would've disappeared like the Sandman, Cap (twice), Challengers of the Unknown, the New Gods, Omac, Kamandi, Fighting American + everything else Jack did + we wouldn't be arguing. They were at their best TOGETHER + made MAGIC. Thank God they found each other.

  26. Galactalicious says:

    For all of you defending Stan Lee, I have two words. Funky Flashman

  27. latino56 says:

    Wow, I'm a little late for the party but anyway. I am a product of the 60's and a comic collector since '64. When I was a kid trying to decide what to buy, one thing made it easy, Kirby. Kirby was Marvel back then to many of us. I followed Kirby to DC when he started his fourth World. The ideas that we saw at Marvel were there, but the words weren't. Whereas the magic was gone at Marvel during that time period. After the Fourth World series failed, you could tell that Kirby was done. He returned to Marvel but it wasn't the same. Lee to me was the wordsmith while Kirby was the idea man. What an imagination, they worked well together. Kirby deserved better then he got from Marvel.

  28. […] The giveaway will be part of our big Marvel presentation on Sunday. We’ll be showing, for the first time anywhere, the new trailer for “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the wartime adventure directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans as the star-spangled character that has been fighting the good fight for 70 years. At 4 p.m., we’ll be screening the hit film “Iron Man” and, after the credits roll, director Jon Favreau will come to the stage for a lively Q&A that you will not want to miss — there may a big surprise in store for the audience. Also, Neal Kirby, the son of the late, great Jack Kirby, will be attending, for a special acknowledgment of his father’s amazing legacy. […]

  29. […] during the great Marvel renaissance of the 1960s and his collaborations with artists such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck and John Buscema created a vast and history-making tapestry of heroes and […]

  30. […] comments pages sprinkled with “bon mots” about Jack not fighting hard enough — growing a pair — for his […]

  31. J says:

    I lived for comic books. Growing up,I bought every Marvel and DC issue available. I would scour two towns to make sure I never missed one. I saved them all only to have my parents toss them when I was away at college.

    For me it was all about Jack. It appears now that it is all about Stan. That is what I have a problem with. Stan has grandstanded his success with little recognition of Jack.

    That is not fair or accurate. Signing that pic says volumes about how the story has played out.

  32. Kirbyfan says:

    The greatest work of Jack Kirby's career is the Fourth World books!!

    When he was left alone to work, he turned out his best material! It doesn't get much better than a character like Darkseid!!

  33. Dek Baker says:

    Stan Lee was a good at writing script for the already drawn stories, but as an ideas man, nothing!
    What characters did he create after Jack Kirby left marvel? She Hulk?
    Look at the terrible and short lived New Universe line Marvel created when they thought they were going to lose out to Jack I think back in the nineties.
    Stan Lee also fell out with original Spider man artist Steve Ditko who refused to attend the spider Man movie premiere with Lee.
    Comics is a visual medium and Kirby was most definitely the King of visuals and master of design.
    His family is owed big time, Jack Kirby was a great artist, a great man, and a war hero to boot.
    Stan has done very well out of his collaboration with the King, it's time he came out on the side of the Kirby family to speak up on Jacks behalf.
    Disney owes the Kirby's, Marvel owes Jack.
    Make no mistake, Kirby will never be forgotten and is without doubt the most loved comic artist of all time.
    Regarding an earlier post, the Star Wars franchise has definitely been influenced by Jack Kirby's Fourth World series, I'd be surprised if George Lucas would say otherwise.

    • Alek Samm says:

      Stan will never side with the Kirby family because that 1 mil a year he gets from Marvel stipulates he can’t talk against them. If he had told the truth at the most recent Kirby Estate/Marvel legal war in court, he’s lose his big payday. Why the Kirby Estate lawyer didn’t bring this up is beyond me.

      I don’t think Stan shouldn’t get any credit, but certainly a lot less than he does. Stan has never created a working character without anyone else’s input, let alone anything new. Fact is, without Kirby and Ditko, Marvel would’ve never gotten the universe they enjoy today.

      Lucas owes both Kirby, Mesieres (and later Moebius) for Star Wars and a lot of it’s visual cues (especially the prequels). Google Valerian and Laureline George Lucas.

  34. Bill Smith says:

    Kirby was the vision and Lee the personality of Marvel. How fortunate and blessed we all are to have experienced their collaboration. The fact is the other Marvel artist's followed Kirby's lead and example in dynamic story telling. In doing this Lee was able to work his magic on the non Kirby titles. John Romita said out right that had it not been for Kirby he would have put out the same boring work the rest of the industry was doing. Marvel's Silver Age. Never to be repeated.

  35. Gary Harrison says:

    I remember trying to immolate jack Kirby's drawings. When started coping his style all of my drawings got better. The way he used to use shading made the figures almost jump out of the page. I would take one look at something he had drawn and I knew right away it was his work. No one and mean no one could draw and make comic book characters come to life like he could I remember when he left Marvel Comics and went to DC Comics. He created the Demon, that was a really great comic book. When I used to draw that everyone stated steal my art an saying they had drawn it. Jack Kirby's family should get paid for the creative artwork of their father, he was great he was really something special. Pay the man Stan Lee pay him.

    Gary Harrison
    Jack Kirby admirer

    • Mark says:

      Stan Lee has no control over paying the Kirby family. He is little more than a figurehead and hasn't had an impact on comics since the 70's.

  36. Steve says:

    This is not about taking anything away from Stan Lee, it's about giving Jack Kirby his due!!! For too long big companies have forced (yes I said forced as the creator had no choice if he or she wanted to work) to give up their creative rights for a paycheck. Now that these creations are making incredible amounts of money theres no reason why they can't cut a small percentage off the top to reward the people who made it possible….period.

  37. arlen schumer says:

    Geoff, what an INCREDIBLE article you just wrote! Hope you'll read my essay that I've been circulating the last 9 months, my "defense" of Jack Kirby, "The Auteur Theory of Comics," that goes into a lot of the same territory your excellent piece covered; it's at: http://comicbookinterviews.com/2012/03/article-th… …and join me at the San Diego Comicon this summer, during the Auteur Theory of Comics panel & presentation I'll be doing with Rand Hoppe, director of the online JK Museum, "Hand of Fire" Kirby bio author and leading comics historian & academic Charles Hatfield, and John Morrow (of The Jack Kirby Collector and the TwoMorrows line of comics history publications par excellence–and who'll be publishing my Auteur theory as a 16-pg verbal/visual essay in this fall'sKirby Collector #60–a special Fantastic Four issue–as well as a stand-alone piece for Rand's Kirby Museum)!

  38. Wilson14 says:

    Stan was an editor/writer and later the smart and charismatic producer that kept the property in the spotlight with live TV productions, animation, and theatrical films. But it has been sad that Stan hadn't really put more spotlight on Jack, and he still doesn't promote Kirby as much as he should. It's left up to those that really want to go to the real source behind the development of most of the Marvel universe characters: Jack Kirby. Kirby was at the heart of those books. Even the new Avengers movie, as good as it is, still seems somewhat vacant compared to the original stories in those comics. I'm not anti-Stan, I just wish he'd open up more on Jack's contribution.

  39. Andrew S. says:

    Make mine marvel. MMMS class of 67.

  40. […] fans are shocked to hear that the Kirby family doesn’t get a single cent when his creations are turned into toys, video games, cartoons or even a historic blockbuster […]

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