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Stan Lee
Stan Lee by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg
Lee in 2014
Born Stanley Martin Lieber
(1922-12-28)December 28, 1922
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died November 12, 2018(2018-11-12) (aged 95)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Area(s) Comic book writer, editor, publisher
Notable collaborations
  • The Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame
  • Jack Kirby Hall of Fame
  • National Medal of Arts
  • Disney Legends
Joan Boocock
(m. 1947; died 2017)
Children 2
Signature of Stan Lee

Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber December 28, 1922 – November 12, 2018) was an American comic book writer, editor, and publisher. Lee was known for being Marvel Comics' lead creative leader for almost 21 years.

With his work alongside co-writer/artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he co-created many popular fictional characters, including superheroes Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man.

Following his retirement from Marvel in the 1990s, he remained a public figurehead for the company, and made cameo appearances in movies based on Marvel characters. Meanwhile, he continued independent creative works into his 1990s, until his death in 2018.

Lee was added into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995. He received the NEA's National Medal of Arts in 2008 from President George W. Bush.

Early life

Lee was born on December 28, 1922, in Manhattan, New York City, in the apartment of his Romanian-born Jewish immigrant parents. His parents were Celia (née Solomon) and Jack Lieber, at the corner of West 98th Street and West End Avenue. His father, trained as a dress cutter, worked only sporadically after the Great Depression, His family moved further uptown in Manhattan, in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Lee had one younger brother named Larry Lieber.

At an early age, Lee was inspired by books and movies, especially those with Errol Flynn playing heroic roles. By the time Lee was in his teens, the family was living in an apartment in The Bronx. Lee described it as "a third-floor apartment facing out back". Lee and his brother shared the bedroom, while their parents slept on a foldout couch.

Lee attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. He enjoyed writing, and had dreams of one day writing the "Great American Novel". He said that in his youth he worked such part-time jobs as writing obituaries for newspapers for the National Tuberculosis Center. He delivered sandwiches for the Jack May pharmacy to offices in Rockefeller Center, worked at the Rivoli Theater on Broadway, and sold subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune newspaper. He graduated from high school early in 1939 and joined the WPA Federal Theatre Project.

Early career

With the help of his uncle Robbie Solomon, Lee became an assistant in 1939 at the new Timely Comics division of pulp magazine and comic-book publisher Martin Goodman's company. By the 1960s, they would evolve into Marvel Comics.

His first role in the comics were, as Lee described in 2009: "In those days [the artists] dipped the pen in ink, [so] I had to make sure the inkwells were filled...I went down and got them their lunch, I did proofreading, I erased the pencils from the finished pages for them". Lee made his comic-book debut with the text filler "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge" in Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941). This is where he first used the pseudonym Stan Lee, which years later he would become his legal name. Lee later explained that he was so embarrassed that he used a pen name so that nobody would associate his real name with comics when he some day wrote the Great American Novel.

Stan Lee in the army
Lee in the army in the 1940s

Lee's first superhero co-creation was the Destroyer, in Mystic Comics #6 (August 1941). Other characters he co-created during this period, which was called the Golden Age of Comic Books, include Jack Frost and Father Time.

In 1941, Lee, just under 19 years old, became interim editor. He soon became the comic-book division's editor-in-chief, as well as art director for much of that time, until 1972, when he became publisher.

Lee entered the United States Army in early 1942. He was a member of the Signal Corps, repairing telegraph poles and other communications equipment. He was later transferred to the Training Film Division, where he worked writing manuals, training movies, slogans, and cartooning. The army called Lee a "playwright", making him one of the nine men in the U.S. Army were given that title. Lee returned from his World War II military service in 1945.

In the mid-1950s, the company was known as Atlas Comics, Lee wrote stories of many genres including romance, Westerns, humourscience fiction, medieval adventure, horror and suspense. By the end of the decade, Lee was not happy with his career and thought about quitting the field.

Marvel Comics

In the late 1950s, DC Comics created the Justice League making comic book superheros more popular. In response, publisher Lee was hired to come up with a new superhero team. Lee's wife, Joan, said that he experiment with stories he liked, since he was planning on changing careers and had nothing to lose.

Lee followed his wife's advice and created a set of heroes with character flaws because many heroes before were seen as nearly perfect beings.

Stan Lee 1975 cropped (3)
Lee in 1975

The first superheroes Lee and artist Jack Kirby created together were the Fantastic Four. They became popular which led Lee and Marvel's illustrators to create new heroes. Again working with Kirby, Lee co-created the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and the X-Men; with Bill Everett, Daredevil; and with Steve Ditko, Doctor Strange and Marvel's most successful character, Spider-Man. As a result, Lee created a shared universe between the fictional heroes. Lee and Kirby combined several of their newly created characters together into the team title The Avengers.

Lee's revolution extended beyond the characters and storylines to the way in which comic books engaged the readership and built a sense of community between fans and creators. He introduced the practice of regularly including a credit panel on the splash page of each story, naming not just the writer and penciller but also the inker and letterer. Regular news about Marvel staff members and upcoming storylines was presented on the Bullpen Bulletins page, which (like the letter columns that appeared in each title) was written in a friendly, chatty style. Lee remarked that his goal was for fans to think of the comics creators as friends, and considered it a mark of his success on this front that, at a time when letters to other comics publishers were typically addressed "Dear Editor", letters to Marvel addressed the creators by first name (e.g. "Dear Stan and Jack").

In the 1960s, Lee wrote, drew and edited most of Marvel's series and wrote a monthly column called "Stan's Soapbox". He wrote endless promotional copy, often signing off with his trademark motto, "Excelsior!". Lee would brainstorm a story with the artist and then prepare a short synopsis rather than a full script. Based on the synopsis, the artist would fill the number of pages left by determining and drawing the panel-to-panel storytelling.

After Ditko's left Marvel in 1966, John Romita Sr. became Lee's collaborator on The Amazing Spider-Man. Within a year, it overtook Fantastic Four to become the company's top seller. Lee and Romita's stories focused as much on the social and college lives of the characters as they did on Spider-Man's adventures. The stories talked about issues at the time such as the Vietnam War, political elections, and student activism. Lee created the Black Panther, an African king who would be mainstream comics' first black superhero.

Stan lee circa 80
Lee in the 1980s

Lee and artist John Buscema created The Silver Surfer series in August 1968.

The following year, Lee and Gene Colan created the Falcon, comics' first African-American superhero in Captain America #117 (September 1969).

Lee supported using comic books to criticize social events about the real world, often talking about racism and bigotry.

In 1972, Lee stopped writing monthly comic books to become publisher. His final issue of The Amazing Spider-Man was #110 (July 1972) and his last Fantastic Four was #125 (August 1972).

Later career

Lee in February 2008

Lee became a public face for Marvel Comics. He made appearances at comic book conventions around America, teaching at colleges and participating in panel discussions. Lee created the Spider-Man newspaper comic strip on January 3, 1977. Lee's final work with Jack Kirby, The Silver Surfer: The Ultimate Cosmic Experience, was published in 1978. Lee and John Buscema produced the first issue of The Savage She-Hulk (February 1980).

Lee moved to California in 1981 to work on Marvel's television and movie properties. Lee was briefly president of the entire company, but soon stepped down to become publisher instead. Lee said that being president of the company was too much about numbers and finance and not enough about the creative process he enjoyed.

Lee stepped away from regular duties at Marvel in the 1990s. He continued to receive an annual salary of $1 million as Chairman Emeritus. In 1998 he and Peter Paul began a new Internet-based superhero creation, production, and marketing studio, Stan Lee Media. After legal issues, Stan Lee Media filed for bankruptcy in February 2001.

President George W. Bush congratulates Stan Lee
Lee being awarded by President George W. Bush the National Medal of Arts, 2008

Following the success of Fox Studio's 2000 X-Men movie and Sony's then-current Spider-Man movie, Lee sued Marvel in 2002. He sued company because he believed they failed to pay him the 10% he was due under the terms of his contract for movies featuring the characters he had co-created. They settled in 2005 for an unknown amount of money.

At the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International, Lee announced his YouTube channel, Stan Lee's World of Heroes, which airs programs created by Lee, Mark Hamill, Peter David, Adrianne Curry and Bonnie Burton, among others. Lee wrote the book Zodiac, released in January 2015, with Stuart Moore.

At the 2016 Comic-Con International, Lee introduced his digital graphic novel Stan Lee's God Woke. The print-book version won the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards' Outstanding Books of the Year Independent Voice Award.

Lee was an executive producer on most Marvel movie and television shows beginning with the 1990 direct-to-video Captain America movie. He had cameo appearances in many Marvel movies and television shows, especially those within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Personal life

In a 2002, survey of whether he believed in God, he said: "Well, let me put it this way... [Pauses.] No, I'm not going to try to be clever. I really don't know. I just don't know".

From 1945 to 1947, Lee lived in Manhattan. He married Joan Clayton Boocock on December 5, 1947, and in 1949, the couple bought a house on Long Island, living there through 1952. Their daughter Joan Celia "J. C." Lee was born in 1950. Another child, daughter Jan Lee, died three days after delivery in 1953.

Lee lived in the Long Island town of Hewlett Harbor, New York, from 1952 to 1980. They also owned a condominium in Manhattan from 1975 to 1980. He moved in Los Angeles in 1981, they bought a home in West Hollywood, California.

In September 2012, Lee had surgery to add a pacemaker.

On July 6, 2017, his wife of 69 years, Joan, died of complications from a stroke, aged 95.

Lee died at the age of 95 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, on November 12, 2018. The cause was respiratory and congestive heart failure. Earlier that year, Lee publicly said that he had pneumonia in February and was rushed to the hospital for worsening conditions at around the same time.


Year Award Nominated work Result
1974 Inkpot Award Won
1994 The Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame
1995 Jack Kirby Hall of Fame
2002 Saturn Award The Life Career Award
2008 National Medal of Arts
2009 Hugo Award Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation- Iron Man Nominated
Scream Awards Comic-Con Icon Award Won
2011 Hollywood Walk of Fame
2012 Visual Effects Society Awards Lifetime Achievement Award
Producers Guild of America Vanguard Award
2017 National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Performance in a Comedy, Supporting

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