Today marks the 98th anniversary of the birth of Jack Kirby, King of Comics. And all corners of the comics internet are celebrating the contributions of the most legendary artist in the history of the medium (see CBR’s gathering of 98 mind-blowing Kirby images or Comics Should Be Good’s artist tribute for starters).
But the birth of Kirby also marks another strange anniversary for comics historians as 28 years ago today, the artist and his longtime Marve collaborator Stan Lee had one of their very few public arguments about what went in to the creation of the Marvel Universe.
In 1987, Kirby celebrated his 70th birthday with an interview on “Earthwatch” — a cultural program on New York City public radio station WBAI. During the broadcast, hosts Robert Knight, Warren Reece and Max Schmid asked Kirby about a range of fan topics from the origins of the Red Skull and the Cosmic Cube to comics perceived readership in the Golden Age and beyond. But the journalists pulled a somewhat stunning “Gotcha” move on their guest by asking him about the legend of the Marvel Bullpen before inviting Lee on as a caller.
The resulting conversation starts cordial and then becomes strained in one of the few instances where the pair whose specific contributions to Marvel Comics stories have been contested for years actually spoke together publicly about the matter. “No matter who did what…I guess that’s something that will be argued forever,” Lee says on the tape, which has been posted to YouTube by the Jack Kirby Museum. The whole conversation is posted below, and Lee is introduced after the 17:00 minute mark.