Who is Stan Lee? Stan Lee is without a doubt one of the most influential popular artists in American history. Most people know him as a comic book writer and publisher. But his career was and is much more than that.
As a writer and editor with Marvel Comics, Lee co-created many of today’s most beloved superheroes. Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, the X-Men and many more all sprang from his pen. As a publisher, Stan Lee helped Marvel grow from a small imprint to a multimedia powerhouse. He has received many awards, including the National Medal of Arts. He’s a popular speaker at conventions and has made cameos in dozens of films, TV shows, videos and video games. He also helped to build a community of fans and creators that continues to thrive. His incredible career has spanned over seventy years, and shows no signs of slowing down.
A Short Stan Lee Biography
Stan Lee began his career in 1939, as an assistant at Timely Comics. Lee’s job included refilling the artists’ inkwells and getting lunch for the artists and writers. Later, the seventeen-year-old Lee moved on to erasing pencil marks from finished panels, and from there to proofreading text. Stan Lee made his writing debut in 1941, writing text filler in Captain America Comics #3. Two issues later, he was writing actual text, rather than filler. At age nineteen, Lee became a temporary editor, then soon after, a permanent editor. He would eventually become editor-in-chief and then publisher. You can read the exciting details of his career in the Stan Lee biography Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel by Bob Bachelor, or in Lee’s own autobiography, Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee.
Stan Lee Marvel Comics
It was sometime later, in the late 1950s, when Stan Lee’s career took a familiar turn. DC Comics had brought superheroes back to popularity, and Lee’s publisher, Martin Goodman, wanted to respond. Goodman assigned Lee to come up with a superhero team to rival DC’s Justice League of America. Lee’s response was the Fantastic Four. This success led to more new titles, including the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man. Unlike earlier superheroes, Lee’s heroes were flawed and complex. And readers loved them.
At the same time, Stan Lee was building a sense of community among creators and readers. For the first time, Marvel’s comics credited inkers and letterers, along with writers and artists. Comic books included a new bulletins page, which told of upcoming storylines and events in creators’ lives. Lee wanted the fans to think of the creators as friends. His vision for a community that included readers and creators equally, laid the groundwork for modern fandom.
In 1961, under the guidance of Stan Lee Marvel Comics was born. Unlike earlier superheroes, Marvel’s characters were often outcasts, freaks, and misfits. Marvel also brought the Cold War and other real-world political tensions into their stories. In his book, Superhero Comics of the Silver Age, Mike Benton wrote, “there were more communists [in Marvel Comics] than on the subscription list of Pravda.” Lee intended these complex, conflicted characters and situations to appeal to older readers as well as children. And it worked. Today, Marvel fans include people of all ages, races, genders, and nationalities.
I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.
STAN LEE, The Washington Post, July 23, 2010
The late 1960s saw the rise of one of Stan Lee’s most popular creations: Spider-Man. Part of Spider-Man’s appeal was the focus on Peter Parker’s double life. Lee gave equal time to Parker’s life as a normal college student, and as a superhero. Stories touched on student activism and the Vietnam War. It was in the pages of Spider-Man that Robbie Robertson appeared. Robertson was one of the first African-American comics characters with a serious supporting role. The Black Panther, the first mainstream Black superhero, also appeared at this time. And fans loved it all.
During this time, Lee scripted and directed much of Marvel’s output, and came up with “The Marvel Method” of production. In typical Lee fashion, this method was collaborative. Artists, as well as writers, helped to develop the plots. Lee also interacted with fans, and worked hard at building the fan community. Stan Lee would also use his comics to discuss various social issues, including racism and drug abuse.
Stan Lee Comic Con and Other Ventures
In 1972, Stan Lee stopped writing to continue his work as Marvel’s publisher. Since then, Lee has been the public face of Marvel. He’s a popular figure at conventions and panels, and has made numerous appearances in films, on TV, and in video games. He has headlined at numerous comics conventions around the country. In 2012, Lee partnered with Comikaze Expo to form the Stan Lee Comic Con of Los Angeles. Guests at Stan Lee’s L.A. ComiCon have included Mark Hamill, Lou Ferrigno, Adam West, Dwayne Johnson, and many more.
Stan Lee Movies
Stan Lee has made appearances in dozens of movies, TV shows, videos and video games. Some of his more memorable appearances include voice work and Cameos.
Voice work for numerous Marvel animated productions, including:
The X-Men (1989)
Various Spider-Man projects (Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man)
- Super Hero Squad Show
- Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
- Big Hero 6
Cameos in various live-action productions, such as:
- The Trial of the Incredible Hulk
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Agent Carter
- Marvel’s Netflix series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders.
Between 2000 and 2017, Lee appeared in almost three dozen Marvel superhero movies. Among these are Thor, the various Spider-Man movies, Guardians of the Galaxy, and numerous X-Men films. Considering his part in creating most of these characters, one might well call them Stan Lee Movies.
Is Stan Lee Dead?
As of this writing, thankfully not. Stan Lee’s name has come up in at least one recent celebrity death hoax, though. In addition, Joan Lee, Stan Lee’s wife of seventy years, passed away in 2017, at age 93. This, too, has contributed to the misconception. At present, though, if you’re wondering, is Stan Lee dead, the answer is a resounding, and grateful no.
Stan Lee is lucky enough to be able to witness his own cultural legacy. Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Lee has created a host of beloved characters and stories. He turned a small publishing division into a four billion dollar enterprise. And he has created a vibrant community of fans and creators around the world. If you want to read more about Stan Lee, try some of these:
- A&E’s Stan Lee Biography
- Stan Lee: Childhood, Life and Achievements
- Stan “The Man” Lee at Comic Book Database
- CNN’s Fast Facts: Stan Lee