Stan Lee — comic book icon and Marvel maestro — has died.
As reported by CNN, according to Kirk Schneck — attorney for daughter J.C. Lee — Stan the Man passed away at Cedars Sinai Medical Center Monday morning after being rushed by ambulance from his Hollywood Hills home.
The adventure auteur began his foray into the sublime in 1939, at Timely Comics. He worked as writer, editor, and sometimes illustrator.
At the time, “comics” was by no means exclusively defined by super-powered characters. Lee was asked to create a team of heroes to compete with DC’s Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. He remarked about the transition in 2013:
“If my publisher hadn’t said, ‘Let’s do superhero stories,’ I’d probably still be doing ‘A Kid Called Outlaw,’ ‘The Two-Gun Kid’ or ‘Millie the Model’ or whatever I was doing at the time.”
That was the early 60’s. Along with Jack Kirby, Stan revolutionized superheroes, writing them as more flawed and relatable than those in DC’s stable. Unlike characters hailing from Gotham and Metropolis, Lee’s creations lived in the real world — sometimes, in New York City.
Stan and the newly-named Marvel (after also being called Atlas Comics) gave the world the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men, Daredevil, and — best of all (in my opinion) — Spider-Man.
The result was none too shabby — in 2006, Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment (the company’s licensing branch) for $4 billion.
It hasn’t been all roses between Lee and Marvel — he sued the comics giant in 2002 for back royalties on the first Spider-Man movie, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Toby Maguire. Three years later, the case was settled out of court for $10 million.
The last several years have seen Stan become somewhat of a superstar, appearing in bonus content on Marvel Studios blurays and making cameo appearances in every cinematic release.
In 2017, he lost his wife of 69 years, Joan. In the last year or so, he’d had several bouts with illness, including vision problems and pneumonia.
J.C. remembered her dad fondly in a statement to TMZ:
“My father loved all of his fans. He was the greatest, most decent man.”
Whenever I think of Stan, my mind goes squarely to Spider-Man. For years, a big, bright, blue and red poster hung in my home, meant to inspire me in my creative space. The famed webcrawler spurred my imagination and many like me, as children growing up in a mundane world and dreaming of living the life Fantastic…having adventures of the Incredible…and doing Amazing things that would make the world Marvel.
He once described that revelation to The Washington Post:
“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”
Thank you, Stan. You did what we all hope to do: make the world a better place.
You made mine better. So much better.
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