With Marvel's The Avengers arriving amid the controversy surrounding DC Comics' Watchmen prequels and a new development in the prolonged battle over the rights to Superman, it was probably only a matter of time before Stan Lee was cornered about the apparent lack of film credit for his longtime collaborator Jack Kirby.
During an interview to promote The Avengers, as well as the documentary With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story, Moviefone asked the legendary writer and editor about concerns -- more like complaints, actually -- that his co-creator's name appears nowhere on the $220 million movie. Lee seemed genuinely perplexed, replying, "I don't know how to answer that because in what way would his name appear?" before offering that "it's mentioned in every comic book; it says 'By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.'"
Pressed, Lee said, "you're talking to the wrong guy because I have nothing to do with the credits on the movies. I'm credited as one of the executive producers because that's in my contract. But Jack was not an executive producer. So I don't know what he'd be credited as. Again I know nothing about that, I have nothing to do with the movie's credits. You'd have to talk to whoever is the producer of the movie."
It's probably not a fair question to ask of Lee. While he's made cameo appearances in nearly every film based on his Marvel co-creations since 2000's X-Men, and is listed as an executive producer, that credit was negotiated years ago by Lee's lawyers (along with a much more tangible percentage of profits). And despite his chairman emeritus title and lifetime salary, he doesn't wield any actual power at the company.
Still, fair or not, the question once again highlights the issue that Lee was in a position to make deals for credits and profit shares, while Kirby never came close. It's undoubtedly an uncomfortable matter for Lee, made clear by his attempt to pivot away from the question. "Is there anything you want to ask me about the documentary," he told Moviefone, "because I thought that's what I was supposed to be talking about."
UPDATE: According to some who have seen The Avengers, Kirby's name does appear, in the end credits.