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Heroes of Cult: Stan Lee – A Comic Book Legend

There isn’t a single person in the civilised World that hasn’t heard of, or influenced by, Stan Lee, or Stanley Martin Lieber as he was known at birth, he legally changed it to Stan Lee later on.  Stan Lee, for those who have been off the planet for the last 60 years, was a mortal who created immortals, who will forever be immortal in the eyes and hearts of mortals.  In short, Stan Lee was an American comic book writer, editor, and publisher and brought joy to millions of kids, and older kids, and influenced minds and inspired the very same creativity in others.  Through collaboration with other artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he co-created the most well-known characters of comic-book fiction such as Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and the X-Men.

Stan Lee was born on December 28th in the heart of Manhattan to Romanian-born Jewish immigrant parents.  In his very young childhood days he aspired to write and dreamt of writing The Great American Novel.  He had some writing jobs in his youth, writing obituaries for a news service and press releases.  He graduated high school at 16 in 1939 and promptly joined the WPA Federal Theatre Project.

Stan Lee got his foot in the door, via his Uncle, Robbie Solomon, as an assistant in a small organisation called Timely Comics (which would evolve in the 60’s to Marvel Comics) and his duties, initially, were as an artist’s assistant, such as making sure the inkwells were filled, running errands, getting lunches, and proofreading.

Stan Lee got his first break as a writer as a text filler on a Captain America story under the pseudonym Stan Lee.  By the time he was 19, Stan had gained the title of Interim Editor, he showed massive potential and ended up being the Editor-In-Chief as well as Art Director right through to the early 70’s when he became the publisher of Marvel Comics.

During World War 2, Stan enlisted in the Army as a member of the Signals Corps, but he ended up becoming one of nine men in the US Army who had the title of Playwright when he joined the Training Film Division.

In the late 50’s in response to DC Comics creation of the super-team Justice League of America, Stan’s Boss, publisher Martin Goodman, asked Stan to create a Marvel Superhero team.  Stan, at this time was considering a career change so had nothing to lose, decided to go with his thoughts and create some humanity and flaws within his Superhero team and created complex and naturalistic characters with attitude, concerns, flawed human traits that the perfect, problem-free DC Superhero team lacked.

Stan’s first Superhero collaboration with Jack Kirby was The Fantastic Four and they continued to co-create The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man and they all lived in a shared Universe.  Stan and Jack joined some of their created characters together to form the team Avengers.

It was Stan Lee who influenced the change in how comic books were designed and published.  Instead of publishing a story book he included news about Marvel staff and what they intend to do in future publications, he also created “Stan’s Soapbox” a column where he could talk moralistically about social issues, often signing off with Excelsior as his signature. Stan gave his artists plenty of ability to help develop a story that he started by brain-storming it with Artist who would then use the story knowledge to create a synopsis in pencil and then expand on the story, thus allowing the story to evolve through a conscious team effort instead of one man’s story.  It worked very well and was used throughout Stan’s time as Editor-in-Chief.  Stan became Marvel’s publisher in 1972

In 1981, Stan’s life took off in so many directions and collaborations.  Stan and his wife, having lived in and around the New York City area since 1945, moved to California where Stan continued to act as a figurehead for Marvel Comics by going to conventions around the USA and lecturing at colleges and he also contributed to numerous projects involving new characters and also stories involving the characters he co-created whilst also writing for other comic book organisations as well as starting his own media company.

Hollywood turned the Marvel comic 2d characters into living breathing, and moving, characters.  Stan was credited as Executive Producer on most of Marvel’s film and television projects since the 1990 direct-to-video film, Captain America, not to be confused with the latter films starring Chris Evans.  Additional to this, Stan had a cameo appearance on every production, even on films about Characters he didn’t create.  His favourite cameo was during Avengers: Age of Ultron where he appears as a World War 2 veteran and says that he can handle a shot of Asgardian liquor from Thor and is then seen being carried away drunk muttering “Excelsior”, his catchphrase.

There is so much more to tell you about Stan Lee, how he created, with the help of 1821 Comics, a multimedia imprint for children, how he has received numerous awards and accolades for his dedication to Comic Books (at one time in the 40’s Comic Books were regarded as embarrassing literature but Stan stuck with it), he has even been fictionalised in character within his comic books, along with Jack Kirby.

Tragically he lost his wife, Joan, to complications leading from a stroke in August 2017.  They had a daughter, Joan Celia (JC) in 1950.  In 2012, Stan was fitted with a pacemaker.

Stan Lee died at the respectable age of 95 in Los Angeles, California on November 12, 2018, earlier in the year he had publicly revealed that he had been battling with Pneumonia.  Prior to his death, Stan had completed his cameo for the fourth Avengers film, but I can tell you that subsequent films won’t seem the same without Stan’s cameos.

Stan Lee lived a truly awesome and action-packed life.  Excelsior!!

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