Stan Lee (born December 28, 1922; died November 12, 2018) was an American comic book writer, editor, publisher, and producer. He rose through the ranks of a family-run business to become Marvel Comics' primary creative leader for two decades, leading its expansion from a small division of a publishing house to a multimedia corporation that dominated the comics industry.
In collaboration with others at Marvel, particularly co-writer/artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. He co-created numerous popular fictional characters, including superheroes Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man and many more. In doing so, he pioneered a more naturalistic approach to writing superhero comics in the 1960s, and in the 1970s he challenged the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority, indirectly leading to changes in its policies. In the 1980s he pursued development of Marvel properties in other media, with mixed results. Following his retirement from Marvel in the 1990s, he remained a public figurehead for the company, and frequently made cameo appearances in films and television shows based on Marvel characters, on which he received an executive producer credit. Meanwhile, he continued independent creative ventures into his 90s, until his death in 2018.
Stanley was born in New York City, New York to Celia and Jack Lieber. Due to the Great Depression his father constantly changed jobs and moved to different neighborhoods. He loved to read and got part-time jobs like writing obituaries for a news service and press releases for the National Tuberculosis Center, delivering sandwiches for the Jack May pharmacy to offices in Rockefeller Center, working as an office boy for a trouser manufacturer, ushering at the Rivoli Theater on Broadway, and selling subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune newspaper.
Thanks to his uncle Robbie Solomon, Stanley would get a job at Timely Comics. Timely would eventually evolve into the current day Marvel Comics. Stanley's first work was Captain America, under the pseudonym Stan Lee. He felt he would save his given name for some more literary work, but would end up being famous by that name. When Joe Simon and Jack Kirby left in 1941 due to creative differences with publisher Martin Goodman, Stan showed a knack for the business which would led him to remain as the comic-book division's editor-in-chief, as well as art director until 1972 when he would succeed Goodman as publisher.
During World War II Stan entered the U.S. Army in 1942 and served in the Signal Corps writing manuals, making training films, creating slogans, and occasionally cartooning. Stan married Joan Clayton on December 5, 1947. The two had two daughters, Joan Celia "J.C." Lee in 1950 and Jan Lee, who unfortunately died three days after delivery in 1953.
In the 1950s rival Detective Comics (DC) saw a revival of superheroes with the Flash and Justice League of America. Martin Goodman assigned Stan Lee to create his own superhero team. Stan created heroes that had a flawed humanity, that would bicker between each other, drink, have anger issues, or trouble getting a girlfriend. A divergence from DC's indestructible Superman or billionaire Batman. Stan created the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, the Mighty Thor and the X-Men with Jack Kirby; Daredevil with Bill Everett; and Doctor Strange and Marvel's most successful character Spider-Man with Steve Ditko.
Stan also supported using comic books to provide some measure of social commentary about the real world, often dealing with racism and bigotry. In one famous Spider-Man story line, the wallcrawler's best friend became addicted to drugs. The Comics Code Authority refused to let it by but it was published anyways without their approval, winning great praise. Besides promoting an upcoming comic book project, "Stan's Soapbox" also addressed issues of discrimination, intolerance, or prejudice. Stan took to using sophisticated vocabulary for the stories' dialogue to encourage readers to learn new words, justifying this by saying: "If a kid has to go to a dictionary, that's not the worst thing that could happen."
In the 1990s Stan became friends with former lawyer Peter Paul who helped Stan get a non-exclusive contract with Marvel enabling him to start an Internet-based superhero studio Stan Lee Media in 1998. However, investigators discovered that Paul and corporate officer Stephan Gordon had illegally manipulated the stock. Paul fled to São Paulo, Brazil but was extradited and pled guilty. Luckily, Stan was never implicated, though Stan Lee Media did file for bankruptcy in February 2001. SLMI has repeatedly sued Marvel Entertainment, and The Walt Disney Company following its purchase of Marvel, for the rights though the company has not been able win in any court.
Stan eventually became the figurehead and public face for Marvel Comics. Stan was president of Marvel Comics but stepped down because he felt the position was more about numbers than it was about creative freedom.
Recently, Stan has done cameo roles in the various Marvel projects, including voicing himself in Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Spectacular Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man. He's provided the narrator in The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and "Pryde of the X-Men". He's played Cliff Walters in The Incredible Hulk, Frank Elsonin Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, and the Mayor in The Super Hero Squad Show. He's also done cameos in several Marvel Comics films, even if he was not involved in the original comics, including the role of Fred's Father in the film Big Hero 6 and series Big Hero 6.
His wife Joan passed away on July 5th, 2017. The time after was surrounded by controversies concerning his care with rumors that he was being abused by his daughter J. C. and their associates. Lee passed away at the age of ninety-five on November 12th, 2018. Coincidentally, this occurred on the observance of Veterans Day, with Lee himself being an Army Veteran. The official cause of death was heart and respiratory failure while also suffering from aspiration pneumonia. He was cremated with his ashes being returned to his daughter.