- Annika Santhanam
Stan Lee: Honoring Our Real-Life Superhero
On November 12th, 2018, the biggest source of inspiration when it came to creating comics and superheroes passed away. His name was Stan Lee.
Stan Lee, for decades, was one of the most successful and inspirational people in his field. He invented Marvel comics and co-created all of the famous superheroes that are household names today: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Spiderman, Black Widow, The Hulk, and Hawkeye just to name a few. Ever since his very first comic was published, people around the world were inspired to do what he did: take up a passion in drawing and change the world one comic at a time. He brought a whole new, fantastical, amazing world to the lives of children and adults everywhere, and he is nothing less than a real-life superhero himself. Today, we honor Stan Lee, his legacy, and the positive change he brought to this world in his lifetime.
The Early Life of Stan Lee
Stanley Martin Lieber was born in 1922 and grew up in Harlem and The Bronx. From a young age, Stan was obsessed with adventure books and movies from the likes of Errol Flynn. He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School and joined the WPA Federal Theatre Project. There, he wrote obituaries and appeared in a few stages shows. When he was just 17, he got an $8 a week job at Timely Comics, the company that would be transformed into Marvel Comics by Stan Lee’s hand. He worked at the office doing small jobs, like refilling writers’ ink jars. But in just two years, he got the opportunity to write a two-page story text filler called “The Traitor’s Revenge!” for Kirby and Joe Simon’s Captain America No.3. He used the pen name Stan Lee. At only age 19, he was named interim editor when the previous editor quit. A year later, he enlisted in the Army, serving in the Signal Corps. Here, he wrote training films and manuals in a team that included Oscar and Pulitzer winners Frank Capra and William Saroyan, along with the famous Theodor Geisel. You may know him better as Dr. Seuss. Stan Lee came back to Timely Comics and worked for decades as editor after the war.
From Comics to Marvel
One of the most famous Marvel superhero teams was created as a result of the release of the Justice League from DC Comics, putting that company in the lead. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, his artist-writer collaborator, created the Fantastic Four for the newly renamed Marvel Comics. Soon after, the now-famous heroes, Doctor Strange, Hulk, Daredevil, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, were created. And in September of 1963, Marvel Comics hit a huge milestone: The Avengers launched as its own title. In 1972, Lee was named publisher, and he completely relinquished his editorial reins to focus entirely on promoting Marvel. He moved in 1980 to L.A. to build connections in Hollywood and to hopefully set up an animation studio.
Way before these Marvel characters hit the movies, they were a huge part of television. The Spider-Man show with its ever-lasting theme song ran from 1967 to 1970 on ABC. The Incredible Hulk was a CBS drama that ran from 1977-1982. The fame of his heroes slowly grew into the billion-dollar franchise it is today, with Stan Lee appearing as part of a cameo in every Marvel movie. In 2002, he released his autobiography, "Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee." Excelsior was the famous phrase he used to sign off on his "Stan’s Soapbox" monthly comics section. Stan tackled so many social problems, from racism and sexism to drug abuse, which he talked about by working in an anti-drug storyline into The Amazing Spider-Man. Stan not only created a beautiful, action-packed fantasy universe, but he also tackled extreme problems in society through his comics.
Stan Lee’s legacy can be wrapped up in one sentence, which he said to Peter Parker in his cameo in Spider-Man 3 with Tobey Maguire:
“I guess one person can make a difference…’nuff said.”