The comic-book creator Stan Lee is one of the most revered figures in popular culture. He introduced us to superheroes such as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Doctor Strange and the Fantastic Four for Marvel Comics.
Stan Lee was born in 1922 in New York City to immigrant parents. He and his family endured poverty during the Great Depression. His surname is actually ‘Lieber’, which he later shortened.
He started work with the company that would later become Marvel in 1939 – Timely Comics. His first role was as an office assistant but he later became an editor. He worked alongside Jack Kirby, an artist, to bring the Fantastic Four to the world in 1961. The aim of this comic was to act as a rival to the Justice League of America, brought out by DC Comics.
With the other characters that followed the Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics went from strength to strength, becoming one of the most popular franchises around. In 1972, Stan Lee became the editorial director and publisher of the company and moved from New York to the West Coast. This gave him the opportunity to get involved with the film ventures being pursued by Marvel. His title with the company evolved to chairman emeritus.
The characters and storylines that Lee helped to create are known for their humanity and along the way he tackled a number of real-life issues such as drug use and bigotry. This trend would help to influence other comic books for years to come.
Stan Lee has been able to get involved with a variety of different types of projects over the years. However, there has been some friction with Marvel and he has filed several lawsuits against the organisation. Marvel has been able to develop several blockbuster film franchises such as Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers and the X-Men, which have been very popular and taken hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.
In 2001, Lee founded POW! Entertainment, an intellectual property company. His autobiography was published the following year and was entitled ‘Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee’. He was the recipient of a Medal of Arts, awarded to him by President George W. Bush and developed the TV show ‘Stan Lee’s Superhumans’ for the History Channel. This show investigated people who had amazing abilities.
In 2012, Lee launched a number of new ventures. He was the co-author of a new graphic novel – ‘Romeo and Juliet: The War’. With Lee’s name attached this was never going to be anything other than a hit and it did features on The New York Times’ best-seller list. He also embraced modern technology and developed his own YouTube channel, called ‘Stan Lee’s World of Heroes’. The videos that feature are a mix of comic, sci-fi and comedy. It was in 2012 that Lee celebrated his 90th birthday.
It was in July 2017 that Lee lost his wife, Joan. They had been married for almost 70 years. Lee himself had his own scare in the early part of 2018 when he had to spend a short time in hospital for treatment for an irregular heartbeat and breathing problems. However, his stay in hospital was not long and he soon announced that he was ready to get back to work full-time, even at the age of 95. Around the same time, Black Panther, the latest feature film from Marvel was released to great reviews.
Stan Lee has become something of a cult figure to many and he is often referenced by the nerdy, comic book-loving characters in shows such as The Big Bang Theory. He even made an appearance in one of the episodes, as himself.