|Famous For: Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics and the creator of Spider Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, and the X-Men||Currently Known For: Comic Book Writer, Editor, and Publisher|
Currently Known For Comic Book Writer, Editor, and Publisher
“Coming from your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man…” An obituary writer turned comic book genius and Marvel millionaire, Stan Lee is one of the biggest names in Hollywood today as the mastermind behind superheroes like Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four and X-Men, Daredevil, and Black Panther. Over the last decade, Lee has seen his characters come to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thanks to blockbusters like Iron Man, The Avengers, and Captain America: Civil War as well as television series like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, and Marvel’s Runaway. Because of this, Lee has become a household name as the most famous comic book writer, editor, film executive producer, and publisher in the business!
The son of Romanian-born Jewish immigrants, Stanley Martin Lieber was born on December 28, 1922 in New York City, New York. Because of the Great Depression, his parents struggled to put food on the table, but Lee enjoyed a happy childhood and immersed himself in books and movies featuring his idol, Errol Flynn. Entertaining dreams of one day writing a novel, he got his first job as an obituary writer in his teens and later expanded to writing press releases for the National Tuberculosis Center. He sold sandwiches, worked as an office boy, and ushered on Broadway before graduating from high school at 16 years old in 1939. After graduation, he joined the WPA Theater Project and, with the help of his uncle, landed a job as an assistant with Timely Comics, a company that would later be known as Marvel Comics.
In his early role, Lee filled the inkwells, proofread, and delivered lunches. He made his debut as a writer in the 1941 edition of Captain America Comics #3 where he wrote “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge.” He adopted “Stan Lee” as his pseudonym and eventually graduated from writing filler to actual comics with a backup feature. Then, a few vacancies opened up within the company and the 19-year-old Lee was promoted to interim editor where he showed a keen insight into the business that earned him the title as editor in chief and art director. He held both titles until 1972 when he took over as publisher.
Amid his success with Timely Comics, he served in the United States Army in the early 1940s and used his talents to write manuals and produce training films. He was only one of nine men in the Army given the title of “playwright,” an honor Lee cherished throughout his service until his return to Timely Comics, which was then known as Atlas Comics. By then, Lee’s time in the war made his feel incredibly self-conscious about his role in the comic book industry, a feeling he’s struggled to shake throughout his career.
“It wasn’t self-loathing,” he said in a recent interview. “I don’t know exactly where it came from. I suppose it was a hold over from the early days when I started doing comics and most parents didn’t want children to read comics. I’m thinking the ‘40s, the ‘50s. I was embarrassed to talk to people about what I did then. I would meet someone at a party and they would ask what I did, and I would say, ‘I’m a writer,’ and then start to walk away. They would grab me, ‘What do you write?’ I would say, ‘Uh, magazines.’ They would keep following me, so finally I would say ‘comic books’ and they would walk away from me. That’s changed and a lot of it has to do with the success of superhero movies in recent years. They have made those stories more relatable. Until those movies, a lot of people probably didn’t feel much that way.”Stan Lee’s Marvel Revolution
The Flash and the Justice League of America revived the superhero archetype throughout the 1950s and gave Lee even more material to work with as he developed his own style of writing and characters. For him, it was all about creating a personal relationship with his readers by creating characters he liked. “To me, the best thing about what I was doing was the fact that I had that personal relationship with the readers,” Lee said of creating superheroes like Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, and Doctor Strange.
Lee’s talents built a community between readers and the storylines that extended for decades until 1972 when he penned his final issues—The Amazing Spider-Man #110 and Fantastic Four #125—and stepped up as publisher. Eventually, he became the public face of Marvel Comics and started making appearances at conventions around America, a pastime that quickly became a favorite for Lee since it gave him a chance to connect with fans. By the new millennium, Lee pushed for a comic book revival and, through the Marvel Cinematic Universe, brought that vision to life when MCU released its first film, Iron Man, in 2008.
With Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Lee making the first of many cameos on the silver screen, the 2008 film was a blockbuster and marked the reemergence of superheroes as MCU followed up with The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and many more. With each film, Lee delights audiences with special cameos that range from a man crossing the street in Daredevil to mail carrier Willie Lumpkin in Fantastic Four and an astronaut in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Most recently, he appears as the driver of Peter Parker’s school bus in Avengers: Infinity War and as a servant to the Grandmaster on Sakaar in Thor: Ragnarok.Beyond Superheroes and the Marvel World
Apart from appearing in his own films, Lee loves to make special appearances on television and joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory during the third season in the March 2010 episode titled “The Excelsior Acquisition.” Playing himself, he makes his debut at the front door of his house wearing Fantastic Four pajamas. Yelling out, “Joanie, call the police,” he’d just been returned home after Sheldon kidnapped him from a comic book signing. Once again, Sheldon is served a restraining order and isn’t to step within 500 feet of the comic book legend!
While the appearance was a huge hit with The Big Bang Theory fans, some couldn’t help but wonder, “Who’s Joanie?” During his early career in the 1940s, Lee lived in a small Manhattan apartment in the East 90s. He married his sweetheart, Joan Clayton Boocock, on December 5, 1947, and bought a house in Woodmere, New York on Long Island where they lived and raised their daughter, Joan Celia “JC.” As Lee gained even more fame, the couple sold their home and moved to a larger estate in Hewlett Harbor, Long Island, where they lived from1952 to 1980. During this time, they also had a condominium in Manhattan and a vacation home in Remsenburg, New York before they made a huge move to the West Coast in the 1980s and bough comedian Jack Benny’s beautiful estate in West Hollywood, California.
In 2017, Lee lost his wife of 69 years to complications from a stroke. Over the last year, the 95-year-old comic book writer and publisher has had a few health scares himself and suffered a minor fall in 2018 that landed him back in headlines and in the hospital. “All I really want to do is tell ya that I’m feeling great,” he said. “I’m glad I spent that evening in the hospital. It did me a lot of good. Now I’m home and looking for new trouble to get into. You know, the usual.” Staying true to form, Lee later joked that his hospital stay was good “because it got me a lot of publicity. I didn’t realize the whole world was worried about whether I was in the hospital or not.”
Making a full recovery, Lee’s primary job today is to sit back and enjoy the world of superheroes he’s expertly created decades ago!