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Stan Lee the Comic Book Legend

Updated on May 18, 2015

Marvel's most recognizable writer

Stan Lee is the iconic writer, cartoonist, actor and former chairman of Marvel Comics who for sixty years transported millions of teenagers worldwide with his graphic novels. Lee was responsible for turning Marvel Comics from a small publishing house to a corporate multimedia entity. In the 21st century, Lee’s superheroes became celluloid reality when they were turned into multi-million dollar blockbuster movies.

Born on 28 December 1922, Stanley Martin Lieber, (later changed his name to Stan Lee). New York, America, grew up in poverty, his parents were Romanian-Jews, his father Jack Lieber a skilled dress cutter, and his mother Celia Lieber. During the Great Depression, his father struggled to find as a dress cutter and only managed to work occasionally. At nine years of age, his family moved to the cheaper Manhattan heights in uptown New York. Lee Enrolled at DewittClintonHigh school, in the Bronx, New York. Lee enjoyed reading books and watching Errol Flynn adventure films in his spare time. His brother Harry Lieber was born when Lee was nine years old. As a youngster, Lee dreamed of the day he would become a writer, his first job at school was writing obituaries for a News service and for the NationalTuberculosisCenter. Including delivering sandwiches, working as an office junior for a trouser manufacturer and a theater usher.

In 1939, at sixteen years old, Lee graduated from High school; Martin Goodman was the director Timely Comics, a new comic book publishing house. Lee's cousin Jean was Goodman's wife; it wasn’t until his uncle, Robbie Solman, who managed to help Lee gain employment at, Timely. Lee Simon, the editor at Timely hired Lee as an assistant at the publishing house. In May 1941, "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge" was Lee’s first published work in Captain America Comics, text filler in the magazine. A young man with the body of a superior athlete, wielding a shield. Using the pseudonym Stan Lee, a name which he would change many years later. Eventually, Lee had the opportunity of working on actual comic book stories instead of text fillers. In August 1941, Lee's first comic book superhero was ‘Destroyer' in Mystic comics. December 5, 1947, he married Joan Bocook, whom in 1950 she conceived his first daughter, J.C. Lee.

Simon Ditko and Jack Kirby, both artists Timely comics left after an argument with Goodman. Lee was promoted to interim editor in the comic book, at the young age of just nineteen. The new interim editor would remain editor of Timely comics for many years to come.

In 1942, Lee was conscripted in the U.S. Army, his new role involved writing training manuals, films, slogans and drawing cartoons for the signal corps. ‘Playwright' was a title that was jokingly given as Lee would describe to only nine soldiers in the Army. In 1945, the Second World War was over and Lee returned to Timely comics.

In the mid-1950s the comic changed its name to Atlas Comics, Lee was writing for a range of genres science fiction, westerns, romance, horror, and suspense. As comic books sales started declining rapidly amongst teenagers. Lee created a new series of Superheroes, The Destroyer, The Black Marvel, Jack Frost, Wizzer, and Witness. Dr. Fredric Wertham and Senator Estes Kefauver led a campaign to stop graphic violence and sexual imagery in the comic book industry. Publishing houses now had to enforce a strict code of conduct on all comics that were being published. Lee felt increasing unhappy with the industry and considered looking for a new career elsewhere. However, in the late 1950s, Julius Schwartz of DC comics reinvented their one of the superheroes' Flash, as well as the Justice team of America. Goodman instructed Lee to create a new range of superheroes for the comic. With an encouragement from his wife to stay on, Jack Kirby advised Lee to create some superheroes with flaws. Acting on Kirby's suggestion he gave his new superheroes human flaws, for example they would struggle with human relationships, financial worries, along with feelings of greed, envy, and jealousy. Before then superheroes would be perfect in every way without having to endure life’s struggles. With the readership now soaring in America, Lee changed his mind and continued to stay on.

In 1961, Atlas changed its name to Marvel Comics. Lee created The Fantastic Four a new team of superheroes, in which four astronauts develop superpowers after a cosmic accident. The following year, Spiderman was born, about a young man who can climb walls with superhuman strength after being bitten by a spider. With a growing list of Marvel characters, including The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Strange, The Silver Surfer, and in 1963, The X-Men. Lee was working flat multi-tasking various responsibilities at Marvel as Art Director, Editing most of Marvel's comic series; 'Stan's Soapbox' became a written monthly feature in comic books. With his demanding work schedule planned out, Lee was able to meet deadlines on time. He put this down to what he termed as "The Marvel Method" or "Marvel Style".

In 1971, Lee unintentionally reformed the comics code of conduct, when the US department of health, welfare and education, encouraged Lee to write a story specifically about one of Spiderman's friends who was involved in drug abuse. The story was a successful with the comic's readership; Marvel was recognized for its efforts. As a result, the US department of health, welfare and education allowed publishers to write about stories, not just about the dangers of drug abuse. Including a vast range of social issues and its impact on society.

In 1972, Lee became chairman at Marvel comics after Goodman stepped down as publisher at Marvel. Lee’s growing celebrity status in the comic book industry meant he was being invited to comic conventions across America. In the early 1980s Lee moved to California to start work as a producer adapting Marvel's comic book characters into movies and television.

In 2006, Marvel celebrated Lee's sixty-five years with one-off comics of himself meeting his comic creations. Covering well-known adventure stories that Lee had written himself, including short stories by comic writers Joss Whedon and Fred Hembeck. In 2008, Lee was awarded the National Medal of Arts by the US Congress as a lifetime honor award.

In 2015, having retired as Chairman of Marvel, he is still actively involved giving lecturers at University's, sitting on panel discussions and making cameo appearances in films. Lee is still one of the most recognizable figures in the comic book industry.

Stan Lee interview


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