It was a sad day on Tuesday when the news broke, legendary comic book writer Stan Lee had passed away. Tributes began pouring in across social media from fans and celebrities alike all sharing how much he meant to them. He completely revolutionized comic books, changing the perception of superheroes and showing that it’s okay to be different.
“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created! – Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger
Born as Stanley Martin Leiber on 28th December 1922, he grew up in Manhattan, New York. Lee graduated school at 16 and began working at the new ‘Timely Comics’, which would go on to become Marvel Comics. Starting as an assistant his job consisted of getting people lunch, proofreading and erasing the pencil marks from the finished pages. It wasn’t until 1941 he made his comic book debut writing filler for Captain America #3 under a pseudonym Stan Lee. Unbeknownst at the time, Lee used the pseudonym because of the low status of comic books, he used a pen name so that no one would associate his real name with the comics when he wrote ‘the great American novel’.
“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”- Stan Lee
Lee entered the army from 1942 – 1945 as a playwright, which he admitted was one of his most significant accomplishments. It was also in the 40’s that Lee was promoted to interim editor at only 19 years old. During the late 50’s DC Comics soared as they revived superhero archetype as they created superhero team The Justice League, this led to Lee being tasked with creating a new superhero team for their comic. It was Lee’s wife who suggested to do something different and write stories he would prefer, as he was planning a career change he had nothing to lose.
A New Kind of Hero…
Acting on this advise he began creating superheroes with flawed humanity. Working with Jack Kirby they created The Fantastic Four, this was also the first comic to be released within the new branding of Marvel Comics. It was an instant success and this got Lee and the illustrators started on producing many more Marvel superheroes. Working with Kirby they co-created titles such as The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and the X men. He also co-created Daredevil and Dr. Strange with Bill Everett and Steve Ditko respectively. He was also a co-creator for Marvel’s most famous character, Spider-Man. All these characters lived in a shared universe and many of them came together to form The Avengers, along with revived characters such as Captain America.
Lee changed the way comic books engaged the readership to build a sense of community between the fans and creators and he continued to create new characters. In 1966 he co-created the character Black Panther, an African King who would become mainstream comics first black superhero. Lee created many more superheroes and became the figurehead and public face for Marvel Comics, attending conventions, lecturing in colleges and taking part in panel discussions. He carried on writing and even wrote comics for DC and manga! From 1981 – 2001 he donated many of his personal effects to the University of Wyoming and in 2010 he started the Stan Lee Foundation. He aimed to improve the access the literary resources, while also promoting diversity.
Of course, many of his creations are now on the big screen. As the biggest movie franchise in the world, the Marvel Cinematic Universe currently has 20 movies in its catalog, with 3 more being released next year. Also with every Marvel movie comes a fantastic cameo by Lee, it is reported that he had filmed cameos for the next two upcoming movies before his death, with the as yet untitled Avengers 4 being the last to feature an appearance from Lee. This scene will definitely be a bittersweet moment for the fans, but his legacy will live on through the characters he created. With the MCU getting ready to move into phase 4 of the movies it continues to introduce younger generations to these fantastic characters and stories.
During his career Lee meant a lot to so many people, it’s no wonder there have been so many tributes to him. He created a new way of storytelling, creating characters that we could relate to rather than admire. He taught everyone that being different is okay and that it can be a strength rather than a weakness, many people will feel his loss. None more so than his daughter J.C Lee who announced after his passing that they had been working on a new comic book together, so even though he’s gone, Stan has left us one last gift.
“We’ve lost a creative genius. Stan Lee was a pioneering force in the superhero universe. I’m proud to have been a small part of his legacy and… to have helped bring one of his characters to life.”- Hugh Jackman (Wolverine)
“I owe it all to you, Rest in peace Stan” – Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man)
“Stan…more than a master of stories, you always seemed like a master of living. I will look to you for inspiration for the rest of my life. You live on xoxo Your Wasp” – Evangeline Lily (The Wasp)
“How many millions of us are indebted to this guy, none more so than me. The father of Marvel has made so many people so incredibly happy. What a life and what a thing to have achieved. Rest in peace Stan” – Tom Holland (Spider-Man)
“There will never be another Stan Lee. For decades he provided both young and old with adventure, escape, comfort, confidence, inspiration, strength, friendship, and joy. He exuded love and kindness and will leave an indelible mark on so, so, so many lives. Excelsior!!” – Chris Evans (Captain America)
“RIP my friend. Thank you for the incredible adventures your stories took us all on. My love and support goes out to all your friends and family.” – Chris Hemsworth