Why I Discuss Stan Lee

Because of a bunch of factors: the new Avengers movie coming out soon, the  recent release of Thor on cable, the recent release of X-Men First Class on  cable, the various online discussions concerning the Kirby Estate appeal, the new “Give Kirby Credit” petition at the Museum site, plus the release of Theakston’s “Jack Magic Volume 2,” Alexander’s “Wonder Years,” Hatfield’s “Hand of Fire,” and various other online essays like the Shumer and Pearl artcicles, I’m going to do something I don’t do too often here — I’m going to spend a couple days discussing Stan Lee.

Now, I know some of you are going to go crazy when I do this because there is going to be an element of satire to these posts. There’s going to be some irony in these posts. There’s going to be some pretty fierce criticism of Stan Lee in these posts. If you are a Stan Lee fan and that sort of thing upsets you: STOP READING THIS SERIES OF POSTS! Right now! Enough! Don’t read things you don’t like if they’re going to make you mad.

For those of you who are going to stick around for this, if you go through the archives here, you’ll see I don’t discuss Lee a lot: most of the posts at Kirby Dynamics are about Jack and his art, because that’s what interests me. I take a moment every week to post a bunch of Kirby scans into the Kirby Museum WordPress site, and sometimes I add a little text. My hope is that people enjoy seeing some Kirby art every day — especially if it’s a piece they’ve never seen before — it’s my tiny way of trying to celebrate and promote the legacy of Jack Kirby.

But for a few days I want to discuss Stan Lee a bit because I’m seeing a resurgence in anti-Kirby, pro-Stan Lee rhetoric online and I want to weigh in on that in my own way. I know that is going to either bore or upset a few people reading this. Whenever I or anyone else criticizes Lee, inevitably we get a bunch of hateful emails calling us “Stan-bashers” — why are we “disparaging” and trying to “tear down” their beloved Stan? I’ve only been studying Jack since 2002, so I don’t know who came up with the term “Stan-bashers,” it existed when I jumped into the conversation. I’ve never understood this mentality. If I criticize Obama, am I an Obama-basher?” If I criticize Romney am I a “Romney-basher?” Can’t we discuss the history without trying to demonize each other with wacky names?

And I’ve also seen these same people try and demonize Jack’s fans with nutty names like “Kirby Kultist,” “Kirby Krowder,” in his new book Mark Alexander mentioned what he called “Kirby-centric zealots,” etc., etc. Jeez. Somebody call the cops! We have dangerous Jack Kirby terrorist cells in America! What’s up with this nonsense? Are comic book collectors still in kindergarten? Enough of the infantile elementary school name-calling. Let’s discuss Kirby and Lee, not each other. So despite the inevitable hate emails full of personal insults I’ll get for discussing Saint Stan, here goes.

Here’s why I discuss Stan Lee:

Stan Lee is alive.

I talk about Lee because he’s here on earth with us — he has the ability to speak up for himself. He can answer his critics. I’m not criticizing a dead guy who can’t defend himself. I’m not badmouthing a dead person who can’t set the record straight. I’m talking about a living, breathing person who is probably online right now doing a google search for “Stan Lee” to see if he’s trending. I’d love it if Stan would answer some of my questions here — so I discuss Stan Lee to try and see if we can almost embarrass him into telling us something new — like…. the truth.

I’m not sure how old he is but no one lives forever, and when Lee passes away (and may he rest in peace either one with the universe or in that great bullpen in the sky), I may never discuss the dude again. I find him boring. He sticks to his talking points and we rarely learn anything new or get any kind of meaningful insights from the guy. He didn’t even write his own autobiography. He hired a ghost writer  and made up a name for it — a “bio-autography.” To me Lee is a comedian. Doing Shtick. He’s amusing in a creepy 70s used-car salesman kind of way. Stan Lee is funny… unless your name is Jack Kirby.

I’ve met people who know Stan. Or at least they have the ability to schedule an interview with him. So I put my criticisms out there with the hopes that maybe one of these people (who Stan will actually talk to) will try and get him to set the record straight. Most of these people will not ask Lee my questions because (1) they love him, (2) they don’t want to offend him or they might face the wrath of his true believers, (3) they don’t want to ask tough questions because Lee is older and that might seem cruel, (4) they don’t want to ask Lee questions with some meat because he might never do an interview with them again, and (5) as one interviewer said to me: Lee would just claim he doesn’t remember, so what’s the point of asking him specific quesitons.

On Jack’s birthday, why doesn’t Stan sit down with someone like John Morrow or Mark Evanier and do an extensive, thorough, thoughtful interview for the Jack Kirby Collector focused purely on the Kirby/Lee collaboration? Can’t Lee at least do that for Jack? A two hour phone interview to celebrate his partner’s birthday?

If Stan agreed to sit down with me tomorrow and do an interview, in my next post, I’ll give you the main questions I’d have for Stan.