Stan “the MAN” “Excelsior” Lee... there’s no bigger figure in comics than he. Stan Lee and Marvel are synonymous… so much so, that some people actually believe that he founded the company. Seriously, how else could one score all those cameos? In reality however, he started small and worked his way up from the role of office assistant at Timely Comics, which would eventually become Marvel. You can forgive the mistake however, as, from an outside perspective, one gets the impression that Stan Lee single-handedly shaped the company. While he certainly contributed his fair share, some, like artist Dave Baker, feel he was simply the loudest voice among his equally, if not more essential peers, including Steve Ditko, Joe Simon and the aforementioned Jack Kirby.
If Marvel has once again become a household name, it is because of the Cinematic Universe, with its impressive output of films that have kids worshipping comic book characters like never before. For this very reason, people tend to assume that Marvel only publishes superhero comics. But that’s not the case. As you are likely aware, Marvel is a property of Disney, and since the more recent acquisition of the Star Wars franchise, Disney has moved Star Wars comics from long-time publisher Dark Horse Comics to Marvel. Marvel was also behind the Dark Tower comics, which served as a prequel to the famed Stephen King fiction series.
We’re not interested in feeding the flame war. The more quality comic book content across various media from different publishers, the better. But there’s no denying that, after a quick tally of monthly sales and box office figures, Marvel is the undisputed industry leader. And with a few notable exceptions, Marvel Comics have consistently outsold DC Comics since roughly 1966. Before that however… DC held the crown. It might be hard to fathom considering their recent success, but in 1996, Marvel file for bankruptcy and very well could have disappeared for good. Thanks to the major gamble that was taking a more active role in the movie-making, they are now the juggernaut we know today.
Now… if we want to talk about bad blood within the comic book industry, there are few feuds more prolific than Jack Kirby and Marvel Comics. For the uninitiated, Jack Kirby is widely considered one of the most influential figures in the industry, having co-created countless iconic characters alongside Stan Lee. Historically however, Kirby’s contributions went largely unrecognized both financially and legally. This feud has grown to legendary status, to the point where many now believe Kirby and Marvel had lengthy legal battles. In reality… Kirby never sued the company. And while his heirs eventually wound up in court with Marvel, according to fellow comic book writer Kurt Busiek, it was Marvel that sued the heirs, after they filed for “termination of copyright assignment”.
While fans love to pit the “Big Two” against each other, the companies in question don’t feel the same. Just look at their shared history. In 1996, the DC vs Marvel Comics crossover event saw the two companies pitting characters against each other, much to fanboy delight. At the end of it all, they came together under the Amalgam imprint for a series of stories about hybrid Marvel/DC characters. In 2001, Stan Lee presented his own spin on famous DC characters as part of parallel “Just Imagine…” universe. Even those involved with the respective films franchises, with a few notable exceptions, have largely spoken positively about one another or at the very least, downplay the rivalry.