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Stan Lee and his wife Joan Lee in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse

R.I.P. Comic Book Legend Stan Lee

The Co-creator of Spider-Man, The X-Men, Black Panther, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, and More was 95

Nov 12, 2018 Marvel
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Stan Lee has died. He was 95. He is arguably the best known comic book writer of all time and co-created with various artists and writers many of Marvel Comics’ most iconic characters, including Spider-Man, X-Men, Black Panther, Iron Man, Thor, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and more. Without him Marvel Comics likely wouldn’t have endured and we certainly wouldn’t have all of the Marvel movies of the last decade, many of which were based on Lee’s characters and most of which he had funny cameos in. He has probably contributed more to the world of comic books or superheroes than any other single person and thus has also greatly influenced popular culture. He died today at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a year-and-a-half after his wife of 69 years, Joan, died of a stroke (she was also 95).

Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in New York in 1922 and got his start in the comic book industry early, at only 17 in the Golden Age of comics, working as an assistant at Timely Comics, at first making sure the artists’ inkwells were filled. His first comic book writing was to be found in Captain America #3 in 1941, which is when he began using the pseudonym Stan Lee (which he would later change to his legal name). Also in 1941, at just under age 19, he was named interim editor at Timely when editor Joe Simon and his creative partner Jack Kirby left the company because of a dispute. Timely became Atlas Comics and along with way Lee served in World War II, working in the Training Film Division, where his military classification was “playwright.”

Superhero comics fell out of fashion in the 1950s, but the Silver Age of comics was born in the late ‘50s when the Barry Allen version of The Flash was first published, which was followed by Justice League of America. By this point Atlas was now Marvel Comics and Lee seized on the resurgence of superheroes and created his best-known characters, including co-creating with Kirby: Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, Black Panther, and X-Men. With Bill Everett he co-created Daredevil. And with Steve Ditko he co-created Doctor Strange and perhaps his most famous character, Spider-Man. Unlike most previous superheroes, Lee’s characters had flaws and personal issues, that felt more like real people who also had super powers rather than square-jawed pulp heroes who were never wrong. And his comics also offered social commentary on racism and other issues. Throughout the 1960s Lee plotted most of Marvel’s titles, moderated the letters columns, and wrote his own Stan’s Soapbox monthly column.

In 1972 Lee stepped back from writing monthly comic books but stayed with Marvel as its publisher. As he got older, Lee stepped back from Marvel, but remained active in the comic book industry. He was also an executive producer on most of the films based on Marvel Comics characters and has had cameos in many of the Marvel films and TV shows, playing everything from a FedEx postman in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War to a beauty pageant judge in 2013’s Iron Man 3 to an alien who cuts Thor’s precious hair in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. In 2016 he appeared with his wife Joan in X-Men: Apocalypse, as an older couple worriedly watching nuclear missiles launch. This year alone he played a bus driver in Avengers: Infinity War, a dog walker in Venom, a casino patron in Black Panther, a pedestrian whose car is shrunk in Ant-Man and the Wasp, and in the animated film Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (produced by Marvel rival DC Comics) he appeared in voice form as himself, making fun of all the cameos he’s done in Marvel movies.

Lee is survived by his 68-year-old daughter, Joan Celia “J.C.” Lee. He had a previous daughter, Jan Lee, who in 1953 died as a newborn at just three days old. In the last year Lee reportedly had vision issues and a bout of pneumonia.

Simply put, without Stan Lee we wouldn’t have any number of beloved characters, comic books, and movies. Marvel Comics wouldn’t be the huge creative force it’s been over the years and may not even have lasted past the 1960s. The comic book industry as we know it, and thus current pop culture, would be radically different. To quote one of Lee’s favorite catchphrases, “‘nuff said.”

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