Stan Lee: A tribute to a comic book legend

Posted on 14 November 2018
By Andrew Siddall
  • Share:

It is a truly sad time for True Believers, as the biggest name in the industry, Stan “The Man” Lee, co-creator of many iconic superheroes such as Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, X-Men and Spider-Man, has died at the age of 95.

Stan Lee was the editor in chief at Marvel Comics and would eventually become its publisher and chairman. His contributions would go on to change the face of the comic-book industry and have a lasting impact on pop culture.

Born on 28th December 1922 in New York City, Stanley Martin Lieber grew up with his parents and his younger brother Larry, where he found influence and inspiration from reading books and watching movies starring Errol Flynn.

He was a writer at heart, with his earliest jobs writing obituaries for a news service and press releases for the National Tuberculosis Centre. He even joined the WPA Federal Theatre Project after graduating from high school.

In 1939, he became an assistant at, the then named, Timely Comics, where he would mostly proofread and erase the pencil from newly created comic pages, before making his comic book debut with the text filler “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge” in Captain America Comics #3 under the pseudonym ‘Stan Lee’ because of the low social status comic books had at the time.

By 1942, World War II was underway, so Stan enlisted into the US Army. He started as a member of the Signal Corps, repairing communications equipment, but was transferred to the Training Film Division, where he wrote manuals, training films, cartoons and even a marching song for the troops until the war ended and Stan returned to Timely Comics.

In the late 40’s, Stan met his future wife and partner Joan Boocock, a model and future voice actress from Newcastle, who sadly passed away in 2017 at 95. They were married in 1947 and had two daughters.

By the 1950’s, Timely Comics had become Atlas Comics, where Stan would write various romance, western, sci-fi and horror stories, while rival company DC Comics had managed to successfully revive superheroes with updated versions of Flash and Justice League. In response, Stan was assigned with a new task by publisher Martin Goodman to create a new superhero line-up.

Even though Stan was dissatisfied and planned to change careers, Joan suggested he create stories the way he always wanted to and had nothing to lose should the publishers not like his ideas. So Stan started to develop characters with flaws and complexities that went against the superhero archetype. With the help of artist Jack “King” Kirby in 1961, the world was introduced to The Fantastic Four.

Stan, Jack and Stan’s brother Larry would pave the way for the modern era of, the now titled, Marvel Comics by creating iconic characters, the Hulk and Ant-Man. But with several titles being developed at any one time, they developed a story telling technique known as ‘The Marvel Method’, in which Stan would describe a story, then the artist would go away and create a fully fleshed out story based on Stan’s description. Stan himself would then write the text and dialogue.

In 1962, Stan pitched an idea for a character that would challenge what every comic book avoided, by having a teenage superhero, and not as a sidekick. This character would be have the same problems as the readers and be unlucky in love. After a struggle with the publisher, Stan managed to compromise and inserted the character into the 15th and final issue of Amazing Fantasy.

The artwork produced by Jack Kirby wasn’t what Stan wanted as he focused on the character being a superhero, so Stan brought the late Steve Ditko on board to craft the comic. And so, Marvel’s most iconic creation was born, The Amazing Spider-Man! Steve would later go on with Stan to co-create the Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange.

Following the success of Spidey, Stan started to develop several other superheroes, including Iron Man, Thor and the Silver Surfer. In 1964, alongside Jack Kirby, Stan Lee created the superhero team called the Avengers. It’s truly incredible to think that Stan’s characters are still around today and have become even more popular and relevant. Stan even got Marvel to become more accessible by publishing Stan’s Soapbox and fan magazine FOOM.

Even though he was the head of Marvel, that didn’t stop him being good friends with Bob Kane, the co-creator of DC Comics’ character Batman. In the early 2000’s, Stan developed a short series of comics in association with DC, the Just Imagine series, where Stan would rewrite iconic DC characters with a twist, including Aquaman, Flash and Batman.

Stan eventually retired from Marvel but remained a figurehead for the company and helped to produce all of the movies and TV shows, but his most notable contributions were his now infamous cameos.

First appearing in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, Stan became the enigmatic ‘King of Cameos’, who would appear in everything from big screen adaptations, such as Daredevil (2003) and Big Hero 6 (2014), to videogames, such as Spider-Man PS4 (2018) and even acted as the narrator for Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (2010).

He would also appear on the small screen shows of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013) and Agent Carter (2015). His presence is also felt over on Netflix, keeping a watchful eye on each of the Defenders from billboards and posters.

His most memorable appearance comes at the end of Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994), in which he appeared as his cartoon self when Spidey pays a visit to Marvel HQ. It’s a pretty touching scene, where he gets to talk to Spidey about his life, and even gets a chance to flirt with the mystical Madam Web, voiced by none other than Stan’s wife herself, Joan Boocock Lee.

He wasn’t just limited to appearing in adaptations of his work, having appeared in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, the Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, and even provided his voice talent for the YouTube series Bad Days and briefly appeared in the Spider-Man Vs. Darth Maul episode of Bat in the Sun’s Super Powered Beat Down.

Currently, he still has at least two more upcoming cameo appearances in Captain Marvel and the still untitled Avengers Four in 2019.

Stan even founded the Stan Lee Foundation in 2010, which focuses on literacy, education and the arts. Its aim was to include support programs and ideas that improve access to literacy resources, whilst promoting diversity and culture.

In 2015, he co-wrote and starred in his own comic book biography, Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir, in which he gives a light hearted but also touching insight into his life. It’s a brilliant read and gives a glimpse into why he meant so much to so many people.

Stan Lee had such an impact on the comic book industry and pop culture that it’s impossible not to have heard of him. He sparked the imagination of so many people and his work will continue to inspire long into the future. It’s fair to say that we won’t see someone like him again.

There’s only really one thing left to say. Stan, thank you for everything you brought us, we will really miss you and we hope that your legacy lasts until the end of time. EXCELSIOR!

“‘Nuff said.” – Stan “The Man” Lee