Earlier this week, DC announced Tales from Earth-6, a special issue marking the 100th anniversary of Stan Lee’s birth by spotlighting Lee’s early 2000s reinvention of DC characters in an anthology of new stories by contemporary creators. The announcement was surprising, not least because DC isn’t exactly the publisher most people would associate with the iconic comic book writer and editor — but, most assumed, Marvel’s own tribute to Lee would be announced as part of its own December solicitations.
Those assumptions, as it turns out, look like they were wrong. Taking a look at Marvel’s December solicits, there’s no Stan Lee book listed at all. Releases scheduled for December 28 — the actual centenary of Lee’s birth — include some big books, including Timeless (2022) #1, the third issue of Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckinham: The Silver Age (the first all-new Miracleman material by the creators to see print in almost three decades), and a reprint of Savage She-Hulk #1, but there’s no special issue to celebrate Lee’s birth or career.
Lee, of course, is arguably the creator most closely associated with Marvel by comic book fans and the general public alike. He joined the company as an assistant in 1939 when he was just 17 years old, becoming the de facto editor of the line just two years later — a position he held until the early 1970s, by which point he’d co-written and edited the majority of the company’s output, co-creating both the Marvel Universe as it’s recognized today, and the so-called 'Marvel Method' of creating comics, in the process. Even after he stepped away from the day-to-day business of working on Marvel’s comic book line, he remained linked with the company both through the installation of the legend “Stan Lee Presents” in every issue the company published for more than a decade, and his work providing voice work for Marvel’s many animated shows — an unofficial 'mascot' role that continued until his death in 2018, via his cameos in every Marvel Studios production through Avengers: Endgame.
It’s possible that Marvel could reverse course with a rush-solicit for a Stan Lee book in the next few weeks, of course, or otherwise release something digitally either via ComiXology or Marvel Unlimited. However, absent this plan of action, it’s looking very much as if DC will be doing more to mark Stan Lee’s life than the company that Lee was instrumental in building, at least in terms of comic books.
Perhaps no-one should be surprised; when the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lee’s creative partner Jack Kirby happened in 2017, DC marked the occasion with the release of a number of one shots pairing all-new material with classic Kirby reprints, all featuring characters Kirby created for the publisher. Marvel, in contrast, released a series of budget reprints under the banner True Believers: Kirby’s 100th.
In response to a request for clarification, Marvel told Popverse that it had plans to mark the anniversary of Lee's birth, although it offered no specific details. "We regularly pay respects to him and his impact at Marvel throughout the year of course, but will keep you updated on December as the year goes on," a spokesperson said.
When thinking about Marvel’s relationship with Stan Lee, let’s never forget that the company owns his likeness and name for the next two decades, thanks to a posthumous deal.