Stan Lee: Remembering the Man Who Was the Hero Behind the Heroes

The world lost an iconic and beloved figure this week. At the age of 95, Stan Lee passed away. His loss was immediately felt around the world. Moments and thoughts were shared by fans, actors, and executives who all were suddenly saying goodbye to a man that was viewed as a friend.

Stan Lee started in the comic business in 1939. Throughout the course of his career, he would create or co-create countless characters that include Black Panther, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and Ant-Man, and so many more. Lee, along with others like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko helped propel Marvel from a small time business to the number one comic book publisher and then a multimedia company.

As Marvel grew, so did Stan Lee’s stature. While it wasn’t always without controversy, Lee seemed to rise above the fray to become the figurehead of Marvel. As Marvel’s heroes became more and more popular, so did Stan Lee. Often he was recognized as the man behind these comics, an observation that might not always have been entirely fair.

One of the great gifts Stan Lee gave the comic book industry was characters that were flawed. As he did this he also made the super-heroes relatable. “His stories taught me that even superheroes like Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk have ego deficiencies and girl problems and do not live in their macho fantasies 24 hours a day,” Gene Simmons of Kiss said in a 1979 interview. “Through the honesty of guys like Spider-Man, I learned about the shades of gray in human nature.”  Look at many of Lee’s characters and you find that there is a flaw (Iron Man’s weak heart, the Hulk’s self-loathing, Daredevil being blind) that is a part of a character that is destined for greatness.

Throughout the 60s, Lee would write, art-direct, and edit a majority of Marvel’s series and newspaper strips. He also began to write a monthly comic column called Stan’s Soapbox. This he would sign off with his signature phrase, Excelsior! Through this time he would collaborate with an artist and brainstorm a story. From there he would write a synopsis. From the synopsis, the artist would storyboard everything out and Lee would fill in the word balloons and captions. This process became known as “The Marvel Method.”

The process could lead to disputes over who received credit. Together with artist-writer Kirby, Lee helped create the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Silver Surfer, and X-Men. Artist-writer Ditko created Spider-Man and the surgeon Doctor Strange with Lee. Artist Bill Everett and Lee collaborated on Daredevil.

Stan Lee also helped address social issues with the characters he helped develop. His characters addressed both minority and women’s issues as comics for Black Panther and The Savage She-Hulk. With the stories he created, he addressed the turmoil that was being faced in the 60’s.

“I think of them as fairy tales for grown-ups,” Lee told The AP in 2006. “We all grew up with giants and ogres and witches. Well, you get a little bit older and you’re too old to read fairy tales. But I don’t think you ever outgrow your love for those kind of things, things that are bigger than life and magical and very imaginative.”

In 1972 Stan Lee was named the publisher for Marvel. In this role, he passed on the editorial duties and began to promote the company and its characters. By 1982 he had moved to Los Angeles to set up an animation studio and to cultivate relationships with studios in Hollywood. This would eventually lead to the Marvel characters being first on television, and then later in the movies.

Today, there is a Marvel movie and entertainment empire. There are still comic books. But there are also movies, television shows, cartoons, merchandise, and so much more! A favorite part of many of the movies for fans has been seeing Stan Lee’s cameos. They showed this man who made Marvel in various capacities in each of the films. It gave the opportunity to see a real-life hero in the middle of a fictional story.

A statement from Lee’s family said, “He worked tirelessly his whole life creating great characters for the world to enjoy. He wanted to inspire our imagination and for us to all use it to make the world a better place. His legacy will live on forever.”

Looking at the stories and characters from Marvel and it is fairly easy to see that Lee’s life work was a success. His characters do inspire fans to want to make the world a better place. His legacy will continue on and his stories will continue to inspire.





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