Stan Lee, the legendary creator of many of Marvel Comics' most enduring properties, has passed away at the age of 95.
Born Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922, the man who would later become known as Stan Lee began working in comics at the age of 18, when he was hired as an office assistant by his uncle Martin Goodman, owner of Marvel's predecessor Timely Comics. After writing his first story, a one-page text piece starring Captain America, Lieber, having assumed the pseudonym Stan Lee, quickly rose through the ranks - eventually becoming Editor-in-Chief of Timely when the comics market sank in the 1950's.
When DC Comics revived the superhero genre, long deemed unsavory and unprofitable, Lee was approached by Goodman to publish a comic book to compete with DC's Justice League of America. Frustrated with his job in comics and dreaming of an opportunity to express deeper ideas, Lee enlisted Jack Kirby, an artist who had worked for Timely and later Marvel intermittently for 20 years to help create the Fantastic Four, a team of bickering, familial heroes that broke almost every mold the superhero genre took for granted.
What followed was a flood of new characters from Marvel Comics, created by Lee in conjunction primarily with Kirby, but also artists such as Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, and Don Heck. Though debate has raged for years over the extent of Lee's involvement in the creation of these characters, Lee invented (or had a hand in creating) the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, and Iron Man, to name only a few.
Lee's work was characterized by a bombastic, melodramatic approach to storytelling. Working in the "Marvel method" (in which an artist drew pages based on Lee's plot, to be scripted by Lee after completion), Lee pushed for extremes in his stories, emphasizing the most beautiful women, the most heroic do-gooders, and the most menacing villains. And yet, Lee managed to turn the superhero into the superhuman, injecting the kind of realistic issues into his stories that his own readers dealt with on a daily basis. Lee's heroes had feet of clay, struggling to pay their mortgages, connect with their families, and find time to hold down steady jobs while simultaneously saving the world time and time again.
Lee's ego was as legendary as his imagination, leading to Lee popularizing the conception of comic creators as stars. He regularly peppered the credits of comic bookss he worked on with nicknames for the creators, such as Stan "The Man" Lee, Jack "King" Kirby, or "Jolly" John Romita. He developed a cult of personality as the mastermind and leader of Marvel's famous creative stable through his regular "Bullpen Bulletins," in which he addressed not only recent occurrences in Marvel's continuity, but also the antics of the cast of characters in the Marvel offices.
Despite all of this, the years after the "Marvel Age" of comics were marked with disagreements between Lee and his collaborators over the level of involvement Lee had in many stories. Artists like Kirby and Ditko in the wake of their respective fallings out with Marvel, maintained that they deserved more story credit for their work with Lee. Lee's own murky recollection of some events often fanned these disputes, though Lee maintained that Kirby, Ditko, and his other collaborators were treated as fairly as the realities of the publishing world allowed at the time.
After his time as Marvel's Editor-In-Chief, a job he left in 1972, Lee remained the face of Marvel Comics, regularly appearing in the news, and on television as the spokesman for the characters he created and popularized. After a move from his native New York to Los Angeles, Lee also began a long campaign to translate his creations into other media, resulting in numerous cartoons and live action television shows, and, eventually, some of the most popular movies of all time.
Lee's later comic work was rarely with Marvel, though he did occasionally return to write special issues, usually starring his favorite characters, the Silver Surfer, and Spider-Man - and continued writing the syndicated Spider-Man newspaper strip for years before handing it over to his brother Larry Lieber.
Lee also spearheaded a short series of one-shots at DC Comics, Marvel's longtime rival, wherein he re-imagined their most prominent characters as his own creations. He also embarked on a series of self-starting comic ventures, such as POW!, and Stan Lee Media. Many of these resulted in lawsuits between Lee, Marvel, and the former executives of each of these companies
In July 2017, Lee’s wife Joan passed away, leaving Lee without his strongest advocate. As a result, Lee was allegedly subject to elder abuse and financial exploitation by former business partners. A restraining order earlier this year seemingly ended Lee’s exploitation.
Most fans, however, will remember Lee from his eternal presence as the “Amassador of Comics,” a role he filled with glee for over 50 years of Marvel Comics, with an eight decade career in the medium. Until his final days, Lee was a fixture of comic conventions, events, and appearances, greeting millions with a hearty “Excelsior!” well into his 90s. Lee even fulfilled his boyhood dreams of movie stardom, appearing in cameos in dozens of films based on Marvel Comics characters.
Inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 1994, and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995, Lee was one of comics' most legendary figures, having served not only as the creator of too many beloved characters to truly name them all, the comics and characters that Lee created endure to this day, inspiring and thrilling countless fans and comic readers around the world.