Here’s a comment on “Fill in the Blanks” from the Kirby Museum FaceBook page:
“I had no idea that there was such enmity between Kirby and Lee. Too bad. Together, they created some of the best memories I have of my childhood.”
I read the Kirby/Lee comics as reprints as a little kid in the 1970s, I have wonderful memories of the Kirby/Lee comics as well, buying them off the spinner racks at the 7-11 at the top of the hill, reading them in the backyard on a cool spring afternoon, and nothing will change those great memories. But as an adult, I’m interested in the real history behind those comics, not the propaganda in something like Lee’s Origins books or the self-promotion in Lee’s Bullpen Bulletins. Studying the actual history to me is enlightening.
Based on my research, I suspect Lee and Kirby got along pretty well from 1960 – 1968. I doubt they were buddies hanging out at Yankees games, or going on vacations at the Hamptons, but I think they had a cordial, polite boss/employee working relationship. Certainly Jack would have loved to dialogue his books and collect the writer paycheck — and the fact that Lee would not let him do this must have been very frustrating — but Lee did give Jack plenty of work so Jack probably appreciated having the chance to make some good money.
We have to remember Stan Lee was Jack’s boss — they were only “partners” in the comics credit box — they were not financial partners or business partners. When Jack realized he wasn’t going to get any royalties for his 60s Marvel creations, and it became increasing clear to him Lee was taking 100% of the credit for creating all the major Marvel characters — Jack stopped giving Lee and Goodman new characters, and eventually Jack left for DC.
I doubt Lee and Kirby saw much of each other after that. Maybe they crossed paths once or twice at conventions. They did work on the Silver Surfer Graphic Novel (1978) together which probably consisted of some phone conversations, but other than that, after the 1970s, Kirby and Lee lived totally separate lives… although their names would be linked forever in the minds of comics fans who loved their work.
I don’t know if there was “enmity” between Kirby and Lee. “Enmity” being hated or ill-will.
Stan has talking points he has been sticking to for decades, so it’s really difficult to know how he feels about Jack (or anything for that matter). Lee basically won the lottery — Marvel has been paying him millions of dollars a year to maintain his solo-genius, creator persona so I can’t imagine why Lee would feel any anger or hatred towards Jack, or anyone. You’d have to think Stan Lee must be one of the happiest people in the world.
Apparently, starting in the late-1960s, Jack was pretty angry at Stan for a long list of reasons, so if there was “enmity” if was pretty one-sided. I don’t know if Kirby “hated” Stan Lee though, but I do think it was incredibly upsetting and deeply painful for Jack to see Lee taking 100% of the credit for Kirby stories and 100% of the credit for Jack’s creations. So I don’t think enmity is the right word, Stan and Jack remind me more of a divorced couple: one member of the marriage (Stan) got an incredible deal, made a tremendous amount of money from the relationship, and completely moved on. The other half of the couple (Jack) got a bad deal, felt tremendous bitterness at times, but still went on to live a happy, productive, and fruitful life. I’m sure all of you may know several couples like that — I know I do.
So I hope I’m not suggesting Lee and Kirby hated each other. There is evidence Jack was pretty angry at Lee at times, but I don’t think you could call that “hate,” in the way, say, Osama Bin Laden hated America. For Jack, there were probably just moments of anger that would pass like a short storm.
One other thing: although maybe I come of as a “Stan Hater” at times, all I can say is that I’m not. I find Stan funny — he reminds me a lot of Rodney Dangerfield doing his shtick. It’s just that Stan never comes out of character, or that “Smilin’ Stan” character has really become his persona. Either way, I’m very critical of Stan because his story is so full of holes, not because I hate him. I made fun of George Bush for sending us to Iraq claiming there were WMDs; I made fun of Clinton for lying about Monica Lewinsky; I make fun of Tiger Woods, Oprah, you name it. I don’t hate any of those people, I just like picking on public figures, because it’s fun, and we all do it to a degree. Everybody I have ever met makes fun of somebody. Satire and parody is one of the great things about living in a country like America where we have a large degree of freedom of speech.
And of course I could be wrong about a lot of things, we’ll never really know what took place between Kirby and Lee unless the CIA wiretapped their phones and we have tape recordings of their conversations. I’m just a humble FOK (Fan of Kirby) giving my 2 cents, so I hope everyone will please take my opinions with a grain of salt. I certainly hope I’m not ruining anyones childhood memories of reading Kirby/Lee comics, I hope you all will always relish and smile at those memories.
And of course if Stan Lee wants to respond to some of my remarks, he’s more than welcome. We’d all love to hear from him. Anything new we could learn from Stan about the Kirby/Lee collaboration would be wonderful.