Stan Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics who revolutionised the modern comic book by elevating what was commonly perceived as kid’s stuff into a serious art form, has died. He was 95.
According to TMZ, he died at Cedar-Sinai Medical Centre on Monday (Nov 12). At press time, cause of death is unknown but Lee reportedly had battled pneumonia earlier this year.
Born Stanley Martin Lieber on Dec 28, 1922, in New York, he started at 17 at Timely Comics as an assistant. His first writing gig was in 1941, in an issue of Captain America: it marked the debut of his pen name Stan Lee. He opted that name “because I felt someday I’d be writing the Great American Novel and I didn’t want to use my real name on these silly comics.”
At 20, he was made chief writer and editor, the youngest in the industry. In 1961, he became editor-in-chief for what would later become Marvel Comics, and then its publisher in 1972.
In the 1960s, Lee countered rival DC Comics’ new creation, the Justice League, with The Fantastic Four, which he co-created with frequent collaborator Jack Kirby. Other soon-to-be iconic characters like Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Hulk soon followed. All in all, he’s behind 90 per cent of Marvel’s household characters.
While the DC superheroes were “square and well-adjusted”, Lee’s characters were flawed and messed up. To him, they are more than about superpowers, hidden identities and outrageous costumes. “Superman was never really interesting to me because I was never worried about him, Lee once said of the Man of Steel. “And if you’re not worried about the jam your hero is in, there’s no excitement.”
In the 1980s, he took charge of Marvel’s animated TV and live-action movie projects. Yes, he was embarrassed by some of those early efforts. “The Punisher [starring Dolph Lundgren] was okay,” he told this writer in 2000. “It was a low-budget movie. It wasn’t so bad as you might think but it wasn't a great movie either. Captain America was really bad.”
In the new millennia, he was the CEO of Stan Lee Media, a multi-media enterprise aimed at exploring the Internet as a medium for comic-book art. “The Internet is just another means of entertainment and communication,” Lee said in 2000.
Does it improve storytelling? “Storytelling is storytelling, it won’t make a difference. If you’re a good storyteller, you’ll tell good stories. The [Internet as a] delivery system has nothing to do with how good or bad the story — that has something to do with the writers.”
These days, Lee is known for his cameos for in the Marvel movies. His more recent cameos were in Avengers: Infinity War, and Venom. (Okay, he appeared as a graffiti portrait on the side of building in Deadpool 2.)
Lee’s life in the last few years was fraught with personal issues — including his wife Joan’s death last year, allegations of elder abuse investigated by the LAPD, and lawsuits against his ex-business partner and executives at POW! Entertainment, a company he founded in 2001. However, others will remember him for the joy he’s given them through his works and work ethic.
Filmmaker and comic book artist Eric Khoo, who met Lee in LA in the 1990s, tells 8 DAYS via WhatsApp, “I’m glad I sat in his office for close to two hours. He had compassion and a love for life. He told me, ‘When I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to open my bedroom door ̕cos I can’t wait to see what’s behind it."
When he was in town to promote Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tom Holland told 8 DAYS: “I think we need to make a movie about Stan Lee. If you think about it, [these comic book movies] are part of an industry he created.” ‘Enuff said.
Thanks for the superhero memories, Stan The Man.
Photo: TPG News/Click Photos