Comic legend and king of the cameos, Stan Lee, has passed away.
The editor, publisher and writer has died at the age of 95, according to the Associated Press.
Born on December 28th 1922, Stanley Martin Lieber – better known to the world as Stan Lee – was an American comic book writer, editor, publisher and producer. For many he was both an icon and an inspiration.
Here’s his story.
In 1939, Stanley Lieber joined Timely Comics as an assistant – he fetched lunch for his colleagues, conducted all the mundane work in the office and filled inkwells. The job may not have been taxing, but Lieber stuck it out, hoping that one day it would lead to his dream role of becoming a writer.
Stan’s determination paid off and although it took him two years, he finally saw his work in print via a filler story in Captain America #3 (1941). Although this would prove to be Stan’s big break, he wasn’t quite convinced, so he adopted the pen name of ‘Stan Lee’ in order to preserve his real name for future stories.
Over time, Stan progressed from writing filler material to writing backup features and from there he worked his way up to interim editor. Meanwhile, following a stint writing materials for troops during World War II, Lee married his sweetheart Joan Clayton Boocock and continued to write for Timely Comics, now going under the name of Atlas.
During this period, Stan penned a range of stories, from horror and Westerns to romance and science fiction tales, but despite a fairly successful career, he still longed to write his masterpiece. Finally, after much soul-searching he decided to quit the comics industry for good.
While Stan was looking for a career change, National Comics (later known as DC Comics) began experiencing success with its superhero stories thanks in large part to the introduction of the Justice League of America. Keen to replicate that success at Atlas, publisher Martin Goodman, asked Stan to create a similar super hero team which could rival the JLA.
Lee wasn’t keen on the idea and planned to turn down the offer, but Joan saw this as a perfect opportunity for Stan to pen the kind of stories he had always wanted to tell. Joan pointed out that if Stan was going to quit his job anyway, he might as well write whatever took his fancy before he left the building.
After much thought, Lee thought that was pretty good advice and giving it one last shot, he worked on a new superhero team with artist Jack Kirby. That team became the Fantastic Four.
Combining interesting characters with fantastical powers, the Fantastic Four was a big hit, and this newfound success convinced Lee to stick around a little longer. Over the next few years – and as Atlas morphed into Marvel Comics – Stan worked with yet more artists to co-create a range of heroes, including the Hulk, Iron Man, Dr Strange, Thor, Daredevil, the Avengers, the X-Men and the most popular Marvel character of them all – Spider-Man!
But it wasn’t just the introduction of Spidey that cemented Lee’s books as the ones to look out for, it was the ‘shared universe’ approach to his books which really got readers returning to Marvel time and time again. Lee loved the idea the X-Men could meet up with the Avengers or Daredevil; so he and his colleagues would regularly include guest characters in their books, to expand and explore the Marvel Universe – an approach that in more recent times has been repeated with huge success in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Lee remained with Marvel Comics throughout the ‘60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, writing stories and columns, developing Marvel’s TV and movie properties and effectively becoming the spokesperson for the company. He even briefly became the President of Marvel Comics.
Eventually Stan parted ways with Marvel to develop his own business interests (Stan Lee Media, POW! etc), but that didn’t mean his association with the company was over – far from it. Into the ‘00s Stan appeared in cameo roles within many of Marvel’s biggest movies, gaining a new legion of fans in the process, and continued as representative of the Marvel brand.
In 2017, Disney – the owners of Marvel Comics – made Stan Lee a Disney Legend. To his fans, Stan has always been a legend.