Stan Lee, the man with perhaps the most tireless imagination in the known universe, has died at the age of 95. Having created characters such as the Fantastic Four, the Hulk and Spider-man to name just a few, he will be sorely missed, he has made more of an impact on the world then one would ever have thought possible for a humble comic book writer.
Lee was born Stan Lieberman in 1922 into a family of poor Romanian migrants, meaning he started working in one of his relative’s businesses, Timely Publications. Lee saw himself assigned to the comic books branch of the company and saw himself become editor at the age of eighteen.
Some might think that this would be enough for the young man, but it was not. Lee was ultimately unhappy with the work that he was being forced to do and was ashamed of it, writing crime stories alongside westerns and horrors in order to satisfy his superiors and his audience. The publication insisted that characters be either totally good or totally bad, and words of more than two syllables were avoided where possible. It was due to having this strait jacket put on his imagination that the writer took on the name ‘Stan Lee’ in order to hide his identity and move his name in line with the two-syllable rule, a name that he saw as a ‘dumb’ name.
Whilst Lee found what many would call success at an early age, it wasn’t until his later years that, encouraged by his wife Joan, he began to write the characters that he truly loved. In response to a rival comic creating Batman, Superman and Wonder woman, Lee created the Fantastic 4, and so the golden age of comics, and Stan Lee’s imagination, was born. Lee created Spider-man, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-men and, so many more. At its peak, with Lee at its helm, Timely Publications, now called Marvel Comics, saw nearly 50 million copies sold in a single year.
Lee moved on as editor of the comic at the age of 49 in 1971, but he was by no means finished, he continued creating characters he loved through the medium of film and television with his company POW!
You could look at the numbers and break down the now massive Hollywood superhero industry that Lee helped to build, but through doing that you’re missing something. It was Lee’s ability to create characters that whilst having super powers, still struggled with everyday problems, that will stand as his true legacy. Spider-man is the ultimate example of this, struggling with girls, bullying and acne, things that all teens can relate to, whilst others combatted racism, blindness and social inequality. Lee’s heroes were more than just brawn, with many characters being blessed with brilliant minds as well, through Tony Stark, Dr Bruce Banner and, Hank Pym, Lee helped to make scientific literacy cool again.
As a generation we owe so much to Lee for creating the heroes of our childhood and for giving us so much joy. Lee helped to create a whole new genre of literature and this man’s immense talent and huge heart, as demonstrated by the number of people who have come forward to celebrate his life, will never be forgotten.
In the words of Lee himself in Spider-man 3, as part of one of many cameos that we’ve all come to enjoy in Marvel films,
‘you know, I guess one person can make a difference……nuff said’
R.I.P ~ Stan Lee ~ 1922-2018