Stan Lee - Remembering an Icon of the Comic Book Industry

by Alex Porter

Stan Lee - Comic Book Legend

Stan Lee is most well-known for co-creating Spider-man and Iron Man and set the standard for Comic Books and Graphic novels today. He was passionate and dedicated about producing engaging and well-written Comic books that everyone could read which lead to great fame and fortune World-wide.

Stan Lee was born as Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28th in 1922 in Manhattan, New York City Born to his Romanian-born Jewish immigrant Parents Celia and Jack Lieber. His career in comics first started (with help from his uncle Robbie Solomon) when he became an assistant in 1939 of the new TImely Comics division of the Pulp Magazine owned by Martin Goodman. He started low in the ranks of the company by refilling the inkwells, which the artists used to draw their comic strips with. Following this he became a Comic Book publisher. As he wanted to develop his own childhood ambition to be a writer, he was lucky to be able to produce his first comic story which was known as a ‘filler’ in the magazine and was called ‘Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge’, in Captain America Comics #3 which was published in May 1941. He used the name ‘Stan Lee’, which afterwards became his legal name. In this story he also first introduces Captain America’s famous ‘shield toss’ which was to become a significant hallmark of the character. Two issues later Stan wrote his first full story, which was still a ‘backup’ feature ‘headline’ story ‘Hunter, Foreign Correspondent’.

Later in the 1950s, due to the previous success that the DC comics archetype superheroes had already created, their editor Julius Schwartz produced updated versions of ‘the Flash’ and introduced Justice League of America. So in order to provide opposition and a chance of joining the fast-growing industry, Martin Goodman, who had recently created his new company, ‘Marvel Comics’, ordered Lee to decide on a new superhero team. Lee’s wife suggested that he should test out ideas so that he could then decide which types of stories he preferred. 

Following the advice, he made a decision to give his superheroes ‘flaws’, just like in humanity. This was a massive and unpredicted change from the ideal views/stories that were originally written at that time for preteens. Before this, superheroes were portrayed as perfect and had no weaknesses. Lee created complex characters that could be prone to outbursts of bad temper and mood changes. They also dealt with human problems like paying bills and characters that actually became ‘ill’.

The first Superheroes that Lee and his artist Jack Kirby created were the ‘Fantastic Four’, which were based on the DC Comics group ‘Challengers of the Unknown’, that Kirby had first designed and published. The sudden popularity that the group created had formed, and this then led to Lee and other Marvel illustrators producing hundreds of new titles. These four characters set the basis for the Marvel company as a whole, and led its huge success and profit. This also led to the co-creation of ‘The Hulk’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘X-men’, ‘Thor’ and the most famous and loved ‘Spider-man’. These characters all shared the same universe and would later join together in the team called the ‘Avengers’.

The stories that Lee shared with the rest of the world, engaged readers and built a sense of togetherness between fans and creators. Each comic, not only credited the writer but also the inker and letterer which was significant.

Stan Lee became the figurehead and the public face of Marvel Comics, constantly appearing at comic book conventions around America. Stan Lee’s final collaboration with Jack Kirby was concluded with ‘The Silver Surfer’, ‘The Ultimate Cosmic Experience’, which was published in 1978. This was considered to be Marvel’s first graphic Novel.

In 1981, Lee moved to California to develop and produce Marvel TV and films. He also made continuous cameo appearances in Marvel film adaptations and other movies. In 2000, he made his first cinematic live-action Marvel cameo as a hot dog vendor in the first X-men movie. From this, he starred in 35 movies concluding his final performance in ‘Venom’ this year.

In 2008 he was given a ‘National Medal of Arts’ by President George Bush for recognition of his huge service towards Art  and comics in the US. The ‘Stan Lee Foundation’ was founded in 2010 and focused on Literacy, Education and Arts. It’s goals were to improve access to literacy resources by providing supporting programs and ideas, diversity, literacy, culture and the arts. Lee donated parts of his personally owned items between 1981 to 2001 towards this.

Stan Lee was a productive, charming and sincere man who was proud of the stories that he supplied not to just to America, but to the whole world. From children to adults, parents to daughter and son, he provided interest and entertainment to all that read his stories and of course, to those that will continue to read them….

Stan Lee-(1922-2018)