Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has inadvertently landed himself in hot water. During the D23 Expo, he credited “Disney Legend Jack Kirby” for creating The Eternals. The controversy here seems to be that Disney’s ‘claiming’ Jack Kirby as part of their history and naming him as a “Disney Legend” when in fact he had very little to do with the company.
So, what’s the story here? Well, first off, it appears that at least some people have gotten their wires crossed. A “Disney Legend” is an actual title bestowed by Disney on creators that it considers to have made an “extraordinary and integral contribution to The Walt Disney Company.” The awards are given every two years, with 2017’s inductees including Jack Kirby and Stan Lee (who, incidentally, was very happy to receive the award) for their characters that populate the MCU. The anger from fans though seems to stem from the idea that Disney is attempting to usurp Kirby’s contribution to comic books and claim it as part of their own.
Now, to be fair, Jack Kirby fans have a righteous bone to pick with Marvel Comics. Despite being as important a creator as Stan Lee, Kirby never received either the recognition or financial compensation he was owed for his work. In fact, in his last years, he spent a lot of time fighting with Marvel Comics executives over the ownership rights to his original drawings, many of which were given away as promotional gifts or simply stolen. He eventually received about 2,000 of the (approximately) 12,000 pages of artwork he did for the company, but publicly called Marvel Comics “thugs” for their treatment of him.
It’s ultimately impossible to say what Kirby would have made of being named as a “Disney Legend.” The closest we can get is the acceptance speech at the D23 2017 ceremony by his son Neal, in which he said he “knew his father would be very humble and proud to accept this award.” But while his son can get away with talking on his dad’s behalf, angry YouTubers who claim that Jack Kirby would hate “SJWs” should back the heck up and stop putting words in the mouth of a dead man.
Perhaps in the future though, Feige should just stick to calling Kirby what everyone else calls him: The King.