The Origin Story of Comic Luminary Stan Lee

Extraordinary: Stan Lee - Arrivals
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During the 1950’s Stan Lee, with artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, helped rejuvenate Marvel comics by helping to create a large portion of Marvel’s key characters. He was later the editor as well as a chief scriptwriter and art director of Marvel, at the same time. After ceasing his editing and writing duties, he remained on at Marvel as its public figure and spokesperson. He also went on to be executive producer of the X-Men and Spider-Man movies. Stan Lee died November 12, 2018.

Stan got his start in comics writing western and romance comics. He was unhappy with his career and thinking of quitting when his wife convinced him to try writing the story he wanted to write. What came out of that encouragement was the comic series The Fantastic Four. He was one of the first comic book creators to give his character’s human flaws. Previous superheroes had all been largely impervious to harm while also being of supreme moral character. Lee gave his character's faults like Iron Man’s alcoholism, in order to make them more relatable and to add depth to them.

The popularity of The Fantastic Four led Lee to create other characters like Spider-man and The X-Men. Each would set comic records in their own right. Lee fought to push the envelope with his comics. In his Spider-man comic the death of the hero’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy at the hands of his enemy Hobgoblin changed the course of comic book history. It was the first time a superhero had failed to save the day. It allowed other writers to similarly raise the stakes in their own comics. When heroes were allowed to fail readers could no longer predict what was coming. This added gritty reality made for much more interesting stories.  

His group the X-Men was seen by many as an allegory for the civil rights movement. While the original team was comprised of three white men and one woman the reboot brought a much more diverse cast. With several female characters and a group of men from across the globe the reboot literally changed the face of comics. Lee’s comics and characters changed the comic book industry. He helped make Marvel a household name and saved the company. His contribution to comics is hard to overstate. 

Interesting Facts:

  • Stan Lee sued Marvel for what he felt was his share of profits from the Marvel comic book movies. He won his case in Supreme Court, but Marvel lawyers plan to appeal.
  • Lee refers to his audience as “true believers”.
  • Lee has made a cameo in every major Marvel feature film and due to his advanced age, he has already filmed cameos for several upcoming films.