Early Monday, Nov. 12, Stan Lee, one of the greatest storytellers in recent history, left this world. In his 95 years of life, he has created a lasting legacy and captivated millions.
Lee was born in 1922 and spent his entire life in comics and storytelling. It wasn’t until the 1950s that he truly made a name for himself.
Alongside Jack Kirby, Lee co-created the staple of Marvel comics, The Fantastic Four, which is often referred to as Marvel’s first family.
Kirby and Lee did not stop there, however. The pair would go on to create even more heroes that still loom large today. Together they created the X-Men, Iron Man, Hulk and Thor.
These characters were all magnificent and powerful, but they also had many flaws. They weren’t perfect white knights, but rather flawed individuals trying to do the right thing, something that really was not mainstream for comics at the time.
Lee even went on to co-create one of the world’s most recognizable super heroes, Spider-Man. Co-created with Steve Ditko, Spider-Man would become one of Marvel’s most popular characters.
Alongside Ditko, he also helped create the mystical Doctor Strange, which introduced magic into the shared comic world they were creating. But what shared universe is complete without a blind lawyer? Lee and Bill Everett fixed that by creating Daredevil.
With this large universe of newly created characters, Lee and Kirby sought to bring them together and thus the Avengers were born. This encompassed many of their newly created characters as well as reviving characters from the 1940s like Namor the Sub-Mariner and Captain America.
Through Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett and Jack Kirby, Marvel pioneered new ways to approach comic books. They addressed more serious themes, attracting readers from a diverse age range to their shared comic universe.
Lee did not stop revolutionizing there, as he was the first to introduce a credits panel on the splash page of each story. It not only credited the writer and penciller, but also the inker and letterer. Everyone involved was being credited.
He also introduced the “Bullpen Bulletins” page. Regular news about Marvel staff members and upcoming storylines were presented in a friendly conversational style. Lee wanted to build a relationship with the readers and have them think of the creators as friends.
Throughout the 1960s, Lee scripted, art-directed and edited most of Marvel’s comic book series. As well as moderating the letters pages, Lee wrote a monthly column titled “Stan’s Soapbox.” It was during this time that he coined “Excelsior!” after often signing off promotional writings with the catchphrase.
Upon Ditko’s departure from Marvel in 1966, Lee began working alongside John Romita, Sr. on “The Amazing Spider-Man.” It did not take long for Spider-Man to become the company’s top seller.
Spider-Man was different in that it focused on the social and college life of a young student as well as the adventures of a super hero.
They also used Spider-Man to address real world issues like the Vietnam War, political elections and student activism. Through Spider-Man, they also introduced one of the first African-American characters in comics to play a serious supporting role, Robbie Robertson.
From here, Lee began creating new African-American heroes. He helped create heroes like Black Panther, an African king that became the first mainstream African superhero. During this time Lee also created Falcon, the first African-American superhero.
Lee was not afraid of going against the grain. He took a stand against the Comics Code Authority (CCA) when they refused to grant him the seal of approval because one of the Spider-Man comics depicted Peter Parker’s friend getting addicted to prescription drugs. It was meant to be an anti-drug message, but the CCA felt that was irrelevant. Lee published it anyway, and it sold well, gaining Marvel praise for its efforts. The CCA loosened the code afterward and allowed for negative depictions of drugs.
Lee would go on to make an internet-based superhero creation studio, Stan Lee Media, after his retirement as Marvel Comics’ figurehead. His business partner ended up illegally manipulating stocks, and the company went bankrupt in 2000.
Lee would try again, and alongside Gill Champion and Arthur Lieberman formed POW! (Purveyors of Wonder) Entertainment. They produced smaller series like “Stripperella” for Spike TV.
Lee would also go on to host a TV show and launch a short-lived subscription service.
He would also go on to make many smaller comics and even launch a YouTube channel with shows created by various stars. During this he remained the face of Marvel.
Lee would also famously appear in almost every single Marvel movie apart from a couple “X-Men” movies. It became a game by many to try and spot the Stan Lee cameo.
Lee would also make regular public appearances at San Diego Comic-Con.
In his 95 years, Lee received many awards for his work. His most well known awards are the National Medal of Arts in 2008, Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995, the Vanguard Award from the Producers Guild of America in 2012 and his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011.
Lee revolutionized storytelling and helped bring Marvel to the center stage. His characters are known and beloved by many, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe being the largest movie franchise of this decade.
Stan Lee will be remembered for all that he has done for this world through his storytelling. His characters will never die and will live on in the hearts of many.
Thank you, Stan Lee, thank you for everything. Excelsior!