Some would consider him the second Christ born as Stanley Martin Lieber a few days after the man himself. Stan Lee as we all knew him was the creator of the Marvel empire. The minds behind all our favourite heroins, Spiderman, Iron Man, The Hulk and too many more to mention. He was an animator, producer, actor but above all…He was a straight up awesome guy.
Raised in Manhattan, New York during the 1920s to Jewish-Romanian parents. Though he didn’t end up becoming a faith believer himself in the end, he has said his work was heavily influenced by books and movies he used to read and watch with his brother – Larry Lieber – when he was a child. By his teenage years, his literary interest led him to start writing obituaries and press releases. Anything he could get his hands on really. He also worked as a front of house member on Broadway as well as a paper boy. After his high school graduation, he got a job working artistically at his local theatre.
By the end of the 1930s, Lee’s uncle managed to get him a job as an assistant in the comic p-book division of Pulp Magazine. As you can imagine, this was a breakthrough moment for Lee who discovered the art of comic for the first time. Although his original assistant duties included tedious tasks such as getting coffee for the artists, he persevered and worked his way up and made his comic debut, ‘Captain America Foils The Traitor’s Revenge’ in 1941. This is where he first used his professional name Stan Lee (a play on words of his forename) that he would later adopt as his legal name. As the Marvel empire started to emerge, the company’s seniors where Lee was working previously had an argument that ended up working well for him as he therefore landed the job of interim editor.
A year later, Lee’s life spun around when he joined the US Army in 1942 during the second world war. However, his writing talents never went to waste as he was recruited to script and sometimes even cartoon training films and manuals. He was one of only nine US Army recruits to have this role. Coincidentally enough in the division of the army he met some soon-to-be upcoming talents such as director Frank Capra, cartoonist Charles Addams and author Dr. Seuss. Getting to spend time with people who shared a similar creative passion as Lee in the army was hugely important to him.
Interestingly enough, after returning home from the army, Lee had become dissatisfied and his passion for comic making began to deflate for some reason. A DC comics editor Julius Schwartz wanted to hire Lee to create a new superhero team. Lee was obviously uninterested, however his wife managed to persuade him in taking the job as he had nothing to lose if he was planning on a career change as he kept on saying. So he came up with the superheroes he wanted to come up with. He had a more naturalistic approach this time, giving the heroes more character. Humans with flaws, goals, complexities and emotion. He did what seemed to be the most obvious thing, that ended up changing the industry; he gave his characters a heart.
Thus success, ensues the company we know today as Marvel. The first superhero he created with illustrator Jack Kirby was the Fantastic Four, who’s immediate popularity led them to further successes such as the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, X-Men, Doctor Strange and of course, Spider-Man. Does the Avengers now ring a bell? He revived and adapted some of his previous creations such as Captain America and later on introduced new heroes such as the politically important Black Panther. Lee’s comic success spanned thirty years before he decided to stop writing monthly comic books to move to California and develop what we today know as Marvel Studios. Though he didn’t actually work at Marvel Studios for long, he notably made cameo after cameo appearances in the majority of his movies until he sadly passed away on November 12, 2018.
Stan Lee was a one of a kind figure that many of you might’ve had the privilege of meeting at Comic Con or similar conventions (lucky you). An artist and creative at heart, he shaped and developed a superhero empire with a timeless appeal that will persist for generations to come.