In recent years, Stan Lee has taken a heavy amount of criticism regarding his treatment of former partner Jack Kirby, with many saying that the Marvel creator took entirely too much credit away from Kirby.
To some, this has put a bit of a blemish on Lee's legacy. To Image co-founder and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane however, that criticism is out of line.
McFarlane recently sat down with SYFY Wire, in honor of Stan Lee Week, and he was asked about Lee's influence on comics. Having worked with Lee at Marvel more than 20 years ago, McFarlane had some words for those looking down on the iconic creator.
"Stan is just one of the cogs that was in the system back then and I don't think it's right for us to be looking at the creative people against each other as the bad guys," McFarlane said. "Whether Stan stood up for Jack, I don't know what his position was when the fight was going down for the original artwork. But Stan doesn't own any of those characters any more that Jack Kirby did or I did or anybody else so it's not like he's the CEO of the corporation. And at some point he's become an ambassador. I think one of the things that's hurting Stan, which may be an odd comment that I'm about to make, is that he's lived so long. And so, all those people he's worked with… that vast majority has passed away. So what they see is Stan now gets a lot of the limelight of it."
To McFarlane, Stan Lee's longevity is at the root of these criticisms. He claims that, if the other creators were still alive, this kind of conversation wouldn't be happening.
"There's people that are going 'well, why is he getting the limelight and the other guy didn't,' well, they're just physically not here to share the limelight and I think that Stan understands it," he added. "Maybe he didn't at some point — I don't know — but he does now that it's a light to be shared with others. And people go 'ah the creator of Spider-Man' and he's the first to correct that. 'No, no, I co-created, right, with some very good artists and stuff.' But they're not around for him to share. He's this ambassador that has just outlived everybody else."
You can watch the full interview with Todd McFarlane in the video above.