Stan Lee: A Legacy


Darin Martin, Editor

Just over three years ago, the world lost one of its most influential comic book and entertainment legends. Stan Lee was a comic book writer, editor, producer, and publisher who rose through the ranks of a family run business called Timely Productions. Lee became the primary creative leader of Marvel for two decades and helped lead its expansion from a small division in a publishing house to a multimedia corporation that dominates the comics and film industry. 

Stan Lee was born on December 28, 1922 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. From a young age he showed great interest in writing and entertainment. He spent time working part time jobs. Those jobs included writing obituaries for a news service and press releases for the National Tuberculosis Center. With the help of his uncle, Lee became an assistant at Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel Comics.

Around this time DC comics editor Julius Schwartz’s Justice League comics became widely successful. In response, Lee was asked to come up with a new superhero team of his own. Lee changed the way superheroes were viewed among comic book readers. At that time, superheroes were known as perfect beings with very few to no flaws or weaknesses. Lee introduced superheroes with flaws and lasting problems. The characters he created were complex and naturalistic, and dealt with problems that normal humans would go through on a daily basis. 

The first superheroes Lee and artist Jack Kirby created together were the Fantastic Four. The immediate success of the team prompted Lee and Kirby to co-create other successful titles like The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and The X-Men. With Steve Ditko. he created Doctor Strange and Spider-Man. Lee and Kirby gathered all these characters together to create the Avengers. 

Lee stepped away from regular duties at Marvel in 1990 but would continue to be a public figurehead for the company. He frequently made cameos in movies and TV shows based in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Lee was inducted into the comic book industry’s Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995. He also received the NEA’s National Medal of Arts in 2008. He continued to pursue independent ventures into his 90s until he died in 2018. 

Stan Lee’s willingness to experiment and change the boundaries on the way superheroes in comics were viewed has had a big influence on modern day pop culture. The movies and characters we all enjoy so much today can all be credited back to Stan Lee.