The Creator Of Superheroes Dies At 95
Stan Lee, who died at the age of 95, was the last of the great comic book writers. He was former President of Marvel Comics and created lasting characters like The Incredible Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man. His superheroes weren’t one dimensional characters but people we could identify with. While they had great powers – strength, speed, or mental powers – they were also incredibly human and with that, human faults.
Born Stanley Lieber in New York City in 1922, he took the pen name Stan Lee to save his real name for more literary pursuits. Fortunately for comic book fans across the globe, those pursuits never came. Instead, Lee devoted more than six decades to the comics industry, co-creating Spider-Man, Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Iron Man and Daredevil. In 1970, he successfully challenged the restrictive Comics Code Authority with a story about drug abuse in Spider-Man.
The increased complexity of Marvel's characters broadened their appeal to older audiences. Lee, always a savvy businessman, spearheaded the expansion of Marvel Comics from a division within a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation which of course included multi-billion dollar film franchises.
These sprawling film franchises that created a universe of cross-pollinating characters turned superhero movies into the lifeblood of Summer blockbuster industry – a domain that used to be held be Steven Spielberg – and prompting Disney to buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. The movie business wouldn't look like it does today without him. Stan Lee probably couldn't have envisioned when he first put ink to paper in 1939 that he'd be dreaming up some of the most iconic, recognizable characters in pop culture.
After entering the comics industry as a teenager and helping the medium to mature and expand, Lee's impact on comics was recognized with numerous awards including the American National Medal of Arts in 2008.
After 95 years, Stan remained remarkably consistent. Walking down the street, he’d move faster than you, even in his tenth decade. He’d happily wave at people who would stop for autographs. He appeared as a cameo in Marvel movies, much like Alfred Hitchcock before him, stamping his name on his creations.
Lee's first original creation was the Destroyer, who debuted in Mystic in 1941, but he put comics on hold while he served in the Army in World War II. He rejoined what would later become Marvel Comics in the 1950s and worked in a variety of genres, comics then being a primary source of entertainment for boys and girls that included detective, romance, Westerns, horror and sci-fi stories.
When he was on the verge of quitting the whole business, Marvel tasked him with creating superheroes to rival The Flash, the Justice League of America and whatever else DC Comics was churning out. Lee with the help of Jack Kirby's first answer was The Fantastic Four, in 1961.
They would go on to create the characters who would make up The Avengers, as well as revive World War II-era heroes such as Captain America and the Sub-Mariner.
Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko created the most iconic superhero of all – rivaling even Superman. The Amazing Spider-Man would become Marvel's best-selling title in 1966 and most successful character of all time.
After Kirby's departure from the company, Lee became publisher of Marvel Comics and became the face of the Marvel Universe—a status that wouldn't change even when the business was no longer in his control.
Lee died Monday. He had been in frail health for some time, but still had been doing what he loved – writing, producing and appearing in his cameo projects.
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