Stan Lee in 2017 (AP/Shutterstock)
Stan Lee—the face of Marvel Comics who brought comic books into the mainstream, and one of the co-creators of beloved characters including The Avengers, Spider-Man and the X-Men—has died. He was 95.
“No one has had more of an impact on my career and everything we do at Marvel Studios than Stan Lee,” said Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. “Stan leaves an extraordinary legacy that will outlive us all. Our thoughts are with his daughter, his family, and his millions of fans.”
Stanley Martin Lieber was born in Manhattan in 1922, and attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. He entered the comic books business in 1939 when he was hired as a gofer for $8 a week at Marvel predecessor Timely Comics. He first used his pen name, Stan Lee, in 1941 when he wrote a two-page story titled “The Traitor’s Revenge!” that was used to fill space in Captain America No. 3. After enlisting in the Army and serving in the Signal Corps, he returned to Marvel after World War II where he served as editor for years to come.
Rolling Stone notes, “Marvel was publishing 10 comics a month in 1961 – romances, Westerns, war stories, teen comedies and monster tales, almost all of them written by Lee himself. To save time, rather than writing full scripts, he’d come up with quick story synopses, pass them off to the stable of artists he worked with, and then fill in dialogue and captions when the artwork came back.” Between the early ’60s and ’70s, he helped co-create the legion of comic book superheroes who have become synonymous with Marvel, including Black Panther, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man.
He changed the way we look at heroes, and modern comics will always bear his indelible mark. His infectious enthusiasm reminded us why we all fell in love with these stories in the first place. Excelsior, Stan.
— DC (@DCComics) November 12, 2018
Lee collaborated with many artists and writers throughout his career, including Steve Ditko, which led to some disputes about credit later on: “I don’t want anyone to think I treated Kirby or Ditko unfairly,” he told Playboy in April 2014. “I think we had a wonderful relationship. Their talent was incredible. But the things they wanted weren’t in my power to give them.”
To this day, people will say that Stan diminished the contributions of Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko. Onstage, going back to nearly a decade ago, I can tell you firsthand he did nothing but praise them and the role of artists in comics. He went out of his way to triple-underline it.
— Moisés Chiullán (@moiseschiu) November 12, 2018
In particular, Lee scripted both the first 100 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man—which took place in Queens—and the first 114 issues of Fantastic Four. Lee talked to the NY Post a few years back about his approach to characters, and what differentiated them from earlier comic figures: “I just felt it made the characters more interesting if you cared about their private life. It started with the Fantastic Four, who I gave all kinds of problems. Reed would be jealous of his wife. The Human Torch would rather drive his Chevy Corvette on a date than chase criminals. But I did it most of all with Spider-Man. Peter Parker had to worry about his aunt, who was ill. He had to worry about getting enough money to pay the rent. Girls didn’t like him much.”
He was named Marvel’s publisher in the early ’70s and after moving to Hollywood, became the literal face of Marvel. He worked on bringing Marvel characters to the small screen, and eventually, the big screen. He has made a cameo in every Marvel movie to date, and reportedly filmed a bunch more cameos for future movies (including Captain Marvel and Avengers 4) before his death.
One of my favorite @DrewMcWeeny pieces ever: an attempt to explain all of Stan Lee’s MCU cameos as happening to the same guy: https://t.co/lpakDFiZVn
— Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall) November 12, 2018
.@TheRealStanLee was a true New Yorker whose limitless imagination helped create some of the most beloved characters in popular culture and made NYC just as big of a character. Excelsior! Mr. Lee and condolences to his many fans on behalf of the New York Family.
In addition, Stan The Man was beloved by fans for his monthly column, “Stan’s Soapbox,” which appeared in the backs of comics; his love for alliterations and his many catchphrases (No Prize, ‘Nuff Said, Excelsior!); and his unbridled joy in championing comics and connecting with kids. He was both a larger-than-life mythical figure and your kooky, chatty uncle all rolled into one.
As ScreenCrush wrote, “Lee’s willingness to slap his name onto almost anything may have diluted his brand, but there was something very endearing about how Lee filled his later years with enthusiasm, creativity, and boundless energy. Until very recently, his schedule was constantly full with convention appearances and, of course, his cameos in every Marvel movie based on his co-creations.”
— tim leong (@timleong) November 12, 2018
I suffered a lot of abuse when I was little and felt really alone. I became a writer because the books I read and the characters inside made me feel less lonely. Stan Lee played a huge role in that, and I didn’t realize how huge until just a few seconds ago.
— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) November 12, 2018
True story: My 10 yr old son was at the end of a Stan Lee autograph line at a con. Stan gets ready to leave & my son finds he doesn’t have enough money with him. Stan Lee sees him, signs his Spider-man comic, won’t take any money, talks to my kid for 20 minutes. #Excelsior #RIP
— Mo Ryan (@moryan) November 12, 2018
I was first interviewed for Stan Lee’s obituary about 20 years ago. I was happy he defied the reaper and carried on. With Stan gone, an era really does come to an end. He was the happy huckster that comics needed. And he really did alliterate like that when you talked to him.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) November 12, 2018
Thank u Stan Lee for everything.
— TRAVIS SCOTT (@trvisXX) November 12, 2018
In his last years, he was the alleged victim of elder abuse and was given a restraining order against his “caretaker.” Lee is survived by his daughter, J.C, who told TMZ, “My father loved all of his fans. He was the greatest, most decent man.” His wife of 69 years, Joan, died in 2017.
In 2016, Stan Lee explained why he would never retire.
“When you retire, you have a chance to do all the things you’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be involved in entertaining people.” pic.twitter.com/x3zGnUBy0O
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) November 12, 2018
Stan Lee dispensing some romantic advice in Mallrats. (This cameo’s a little NSFW compared to the Marvel movies.) https://t.co/mVILnvYqAe
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) November 12, 2018
Tons of actors and creators associate with Marvel have started posting tributes to Lee today:
There will never be another Stan Lee. For decades he provided both young and old with adventure, escape, comfort, confidence, inspiration, strength, friendship and joy. He exuded love and kindness and will leave an indelible mark on so, so, so many lives. Excelsior!!
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) November 12, 2018
I am not going to be able to speak about this this morning, I can see that.
But under the persona, Stan Lee was a real human being. I met him three times and three times he told me something literally life-changing.
I hope everyone knows, he cared about us. That was no act.
— GAIL SIMONE (@GailSimone) November 12, 2018
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R.I.P. Stan Lee. We have lost a Titan of Creativity and Industry. These are my last photos with Stan, taken in August at his home by Jon Bollerjack. I was summoned by “The Man”, he wanted a friendly face, a change of pace. I was up the next day. He was peaceful and comfortable and in great spirits. He sat in his favorite chair overlooking his pool and the beautiful canyons. I thanked him for being a visionary, not just creatively, but being a visionary in bringing Marvel to Hollywood, knowing how well they would be served by tv and film. Kids of the 1970’s, kids my age grew up with The Hulk tv show, live action Spider Man TV movies, Dr. Strange film on CBS. It was an exciting time and it was a result of Stan’s decision to travel west and present the Marvel characters to Hollywood. He started the Marvel Age Of Comics as well as the Marvel Age Of Film that we enjoy today. I have many stories from my history and travels with Stan. We never had a better Ambassador. And we won’t ever see another like him. All I know is the Good Lord has pulled up a chair and Stan is currently bending all the ears in the heaven’s with his amazing tales and lore. They are hanging on his every word and sentence. #stanlee #marvel #hulk #fantasticfour #xmen #spiderman #thor #excelsior
Damn… RIP Stan. Thanks for everything. pic.twitter.com/TMAaDJSOhh
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) November 12, 2018
— Jim Lee (@JimLee) November 12, 2018
Thank you Stan Lee for making people who feel different realize they are special.
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) November 12, 2018
Thank you Stan Lee. For your service in protecting our freedom and for your creativity and imagination! You were and will always be a SUPER HERO! pic.twitter.com/d1qpuImyzQ
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) November 12, 2018