A legend and hero, Stan Lee inspired millions of people around the world through the superheroes he helped to create, and through his numerous stories of inspiration and heroism.
Born in 1922 as Stanley Martin Lieber, Lee began his comic book career early on in his life by becoming an assistant for his uncle for Timely Comics in 1939, according to TIME. At Timely, Lee’s duties involved bringing lunch for his co-workers, along with filling the inkwells.
Timely Comics would eventually evolve into the the titan Marvel Comics later in the 1960s.
Always dreaming of becoming a writer, Lee got his first taste when he penned the text filler for “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge,” in 1941. Embarrassed by the low status of comic books of the time, Lee wrote his debut text under the pen name Stan Lee, according to his quote in TIME. The pen name would later become his legal name and become recognizable across the globe.
Shortly after obtaining interim editor status at just 19 years old in 1941, Lee entered the United States Army as discussed in a 2014 interview at “Comikaze 2014”. Lee began his service repairing telegraph poles and other communication equipment, but was later transferred to the Training Film Division. There, Lee obtained the title of “playwright,” a title that Lee said only nine men had in the U.S army. His work included writing manuals and slogans, along with some occasional cartooning. Lee’s division had several other notable stars including Theodore Geisel, or more commonly known as “Dr.Seuss.”
During his service, Lee was almost sent to prison. As Lee says in a interview on Web of Stories, during his time in the army, Lee was still writing for Timely Comics. Editors at Timely sent Lee letters describing what needed to written and by when. Lee would write and send back the stories every week until one week, the mail clerk overlooked a letter. Lee, upon seeing that he had received a letter from Timely, asked a mail-room officer to unlock the room so he could retrieve his assignment. When he refused, Lee set about taking a screwdriver where he then unscrewed the mailbox hinges so he could take his letter. The officer then reported Lee to the base captain. Facing charges on tampering, Lee was saved by the intervention of the colonel in charge of the finance department.
Lee’s true rise to fame came in the 1950s when he and his partner, Jack Kirby, set about creating the world’s most iconic heroes. Unlike the flawless heroes that came before, Lee stressed his characters have natural flaws and personalities. Lee’s heroes worried about impressing others or getting angry at times. The characters might focus on relationships or even about paying their bills.
Using this realistic human archetype, Lee and Kirby created The Fantastic Four. He also went on to create Thor, Hulk, Iron-Man, The X-men, and Lee’s most famous creation, Spider-Man. His characters followed his natural flaw guidelines. Hulk worried about hurting others, Iron-man struggled with alcoholism, the X-men were a thinly veiled example of racism in our world, and dear Spider-man struggled with maintaining a relationship with MJ while being a superhero.
Beginning with the TV-movie “ The Trial of The Incredible Hulk,” Lee cameoed alongside his characters in every major Marvel production since then. His last cameo was in the 2018 “Spider-Man” video game.
Lee started a revolution and amassed hordes of loyal readers. Now knowing he had a voice, Lee created “Stan’s Soapbox.” The soapbox provided Lee a way to write and influence many minds and, in them, he wrote messages of goodwill and love for fellow man.
“Although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits,” and “Let’s be good to each other — we may not be much, but we’re the only human race we got” were just a few examples of Lee’s soapbox writing. He would often end them with his trademark “Excelsior!”
Lee continued to be a major part of Marvel comics until he stepped away in the 1990s. Lee opened the Stan Lee Foundation in 2010 to focus on literacy and education. The foundation’s stated goals are “supporting programs and ideas that improve access to literacy resources, as well as promoting diversity, national literacy, culture, and the arts.”
Stan Lee’s wife of 69 years died on July 6, 2017. Stan “The Man” Lee died on November 12, 2018. They were both 95 when they passed. Roy Thomas, the successor of Lee at Marvel, mentioned that “Stan was always up to do some more cameos. He got a kick out of those more than anything else.”
Hundreds of fans visited Lee’s star of fame that he received on 2011 to pay homage to the fallen hero. The fans adorned his star with pictures and notes. Of the things that decorated the star, one was a quote from the man himself. “The person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt a real superhero, Excelsior!”