On Nov. 12, 2018, Stan Lee, the face of Marvel Comics and the creator of several beloved comic book characters like Spider-Man and Iron Man, passed away at the age of 95.
Known for his famous comic book superheroes and movies, Stan Lee touched the lives of so many people, both children and adults. Lee once said, “People are building bridges and engaging in medical research, and here I was doing stories about fictional people who do extraordinary, crazy things and wear costumes. But I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed.” With all that Lee contributed to the worlds of dreamers and story-lovers alike, it seems that he was the true hero all along. The comic book superheroes Lee created had powers like telekinesis and superhuman strength. Lee, however, had possibly one of the most valuable and admirable powers anyone could have – imagination.
On Dec. 28, 1922, Stan Lee was born into a Jewish-Hungarian family in New York City. His real name was Stanley Lieber, but he would eventually go by Stan Lee (to avoid anti-Semitic discrimination) once he entered the comic book industry. Lee got his first stable job at 16 years old, after graduating from high school early. He was positioned as the editorial assistant for Timely Comics, and it would only be another four years until he became an editor himself and began writing comic strips. Timely Comics would later become what is now known as Marvel Comics, and, thanks to Lee, Marvel became the home of the world-famous superheroes, the Fantastic Four. This was the first major superhero storyline Lee had ever created, with Jack Kirby as his illustrator. It wouldn’t be long until other characters like Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and the X-Men were written. Several successful movies were made from the creations of Lee, including Daredevil (2003), Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012). Rish T, a freshman biology major, remarked, “I’ve always loved Marvel movies, and it’s crazy to think that the majority of characters from those movies all came from him.”
What set Stan Lee’s superheroes apart from the characters of other comic book brands was that he wrote his characters to possess both superpowers and human insecurities. John S, a freshman undecided major, said that this is what made Stan Lee “one of the most innovative writers there ever was.” Superman from DC Comics, for example is known as the quintessential superhero. He has perfect physique, unbeatable strength and the utmost confidence in himself. Lee didn’t want his characters to be perfect. He wanted his superheroes to have flaws and self-doubt, just like any regular person. In an interview with the Washington Post, Lee said he wanted, “to make them [his characters] real flesh-and-blood characters with personality. That’s what any story should have, but comics didn’t have that until that point. They were all cardboard figures.” When Lee sketched new heroes, he didn’t want them to just have extraordinary powers; he wanted them to have feelings and worries that readers could understand, relate to and sympathize with, and that was what has made his characters so successful.
With the huge impact Stan Lee had on the childhoods of people all over, celebrities were quick to reach out and share their condolences. Actor Seth Rogen went to Twitter to say, “Thank you Stan Lee for making people who feel different realize they are special.” Actor Jamie Lee Curtis also took to Twitter to write, “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!” Robert Downey Jr., who played Iron Man in several Marvel movies, posted a photo with Stan on Instagram and wrote, “I owe it all to you…Rest in Peace Stan.” Evidently, the work Stan Lee has done over the years has not gone unnoticed. He will forever live in the hearts of many across the world. Rest in Peace, Stan Lee. Excelsior!