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Stan Lee - Comic Book Legend

Updated on December 17, 2015
Stan Lee
Stan Lee

Early Years

In partnership with several notable artists and writers such as Steve Ditko, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, Stan Lee has created some of the best known and beloved comic book characters that we know so well today. Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28 1922 to Romanian Jewish parents in New York. From an early age Stan enjoyed watching films and reading books and dreamed that one day he would write a great American novel. Still a teenager, with the help of an uncle, Stan got a job with Timely Comics the company which would eventually become Marvel. Stan performed many duties in his early days at Timely, initially he performed menial tasks such as filling ink wells and fetching the artists lunch, eventually Stan was given some minor creative duties writing text filler stories in Captain America Comics and was soon to create some minor characters of his own and by the still young age of 19, Stan was given the title of Interim Editor. Stan decided to write under the pseudonym Stan Lee rather than his given name of Lieberman reasoning that he wanted save his real name for the novel he planned to write, also comic book writing did not command much artistic respect in its early days.Having a good head for business Stan was soon elevated to Editor in Chief and Art Director, positions he remained in at Marvel until 1972 when he became publisher.

Fantastic Four # 1
Fantastic Four # 1

The Fantastic Four

Stan served his country stateside during the Second World War, after returning home Stan got married and had kids and returned to working for Marvel. During the late1950s Julius Schwartz the then editor of DC Comics decided to relaunch some of DC Comics line of superheroes, the sales of superhero comics had gone a little stale during the 1950s mainly due to the success of the horror comics that were so popular with the American youth, with horror comics being restricted in what they could print by a newly formed industry regulated comics book code ,and being greatly sanitized by these restrictions, Schwartz thought it was time to bring back the superhero.

DC were soon to introduce new modern reinterpretations of The Flash and Green Lantern but most importantly to the story of Stan Lee, DC introduced its new superhero team, The Justice League Of America. The JLA was a team made up of Superman, Batman , Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and Martian Manhunter.

Then Marvel chief Martin Goodman hearing of the great commercial success being enjoyed by DC with the sales of Justice League comics, commissioned Stan to write a new comic featuring a new team of superheroes, what Stan Lee came up with was The Fantastic Four. Encouraged by his wife, Stan decided to create a different type of superhero than had previously been seen, until the Fantastic Four superheroes were always displayed as morally superior individuals who never bickered with each other and were loved and respected by the general public, the Fantastic Four were portrayed by Stan as being a family, but like most families they argued and bickered with each other and had flaws like most people.

The Fantastic Four written by Stan and drawn by the great Jack Kirby was an immediate success and the Marvel Age Of Comics where Marvel sales would dominate the market during the 1960s was born.

Amazing Fantasy # 15
Amazing Fantasy # 15

With Great Power comes Great Responsibility.

This famous quote is spoken by Peter Parkers uncle , Ben , and comes from Spider-mans first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15, in the comic itself the quote is slightly different to how it is repeated in the Spider-man movie for example, " With great power must also come great responsibility " is how it is actually written in the comic.


In 1962 a little read comic called Amazing Fantasy was about to be withdrawn from circulation by Marvel due to poor sales. Stan Lee decided to try out a new character he had been developing known as Spider-man in what was to be Amazing Fantasy's last issue # 15. Stan had the idea that this new hero was to be a teenager called Peter Parker. Parker would be just a normal everyday teenager who would be prone to the problems that normal teenagers endure, problems with girls, bullying, shyness etc and wouldn't be a heroic sort of character at all. Jack Kirby Marvels lead artist was asked to draw a version of Spider-man but Stan felt Kirby's version to be too heroic looking so the task of drawing the initial version of Spider-man and the version we still see today was given to a young introverted artist named Steve Ditko. Ditko drew all the inside pages of Amazing Fantasy # 15 but the cover was drawn by Jack Kirby utilizing Ditkos design.

When the sales figures for this comic returned to Marvel a few months later Stan Lee was shocked to find that the sales figures were astounding, the kids had taken to Spider-man in big way. In March 1963 Spider-man was given his own title when The Amazing Spider-man #1 was launched and of course Spider-man is still incredibly popular today in comic books, film and related merchandise.

Arguments have raged between Stan Lee and Steve Ditko as to who actually invented Spider-man. Lee claims he should receive sole credit as he came up with the name and the idea, Ditko claims he should be given at least half credit as his design is the one we all know and Spider-man may not have been as successful if designed differently. In recent years Stan Lee seems to reluctantly agree that Ditko shoulld receive some credit for his part in the creation of Spider-man although as i am aware he receives no royalties on the character and yet his name does appear as co creator on the credits of the Spider-man films.


Notice how the comic book code seal of approval is missing from this issue, Amazing Spider-man # 96
Notice how the comic book code seal of approval is missing from this issue, Amazing Spider-man # 96

Comic Book Code

In 1971 published 3 comics that would help reform the restrictive comics book code. Stan had been asked by the US Government to write an anti drugs story showing the danger of drugs, Stan published his story in Amazing Spider-man 96 - 98, the story tells how Spider-mans best friend Harry Osborne gets addicted to pills. The Comics Book Code refused to allow their seal of approval to be shown on the front of these issues, Stan ignored the Code and published anyway. Marvel were to receive many plaudits for their socially conscious efforts.

Thor makes his debut in Journey Into Mystery # 83
Thor makes his debut in Journey Into Mystery # 83

The Marvel Age Of Comics

Success followed success for Marvel Comics during the 1960s and they soon became the number one comic book publishers in the world. The creative output of the company in those heyday years is incredible and the list of superstar characters created reads like a who's who of comic books. As well as Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, Lee and his co creators created Thor, Iron Man, The Avengers, The X-Men, The Incredible Hulk and a host of bad guys to be the on going nemesis of these characters. Unlike DCs cast of superheroes Marvels good guys were not perfect, for example Tony Stark, Iron Mans alter ego suffered from alcohol problems. The public lapped up Stan's stories and by the end of the 1960s Marvel had created a universe of characters that are still going strong today.

Stan Lee Today

Even at the ripe old age of 91, Stan is still a busy man today. Stan has appeared in 18 movies based on characters he created as well as a few other comic book related films. Stan has always been the showman and a wonderful ambassador for the comic book industry, indeed it is hard to think of another creator who has had as much influence on popular culture as Stan Lee and with superhero movies being such favorites of Hollywood it easy to see Stan's characters, mainly all created in the 60s , being at the forefront of popular culture for a long time too come.


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    • nuffsaidstan profile image

      nuffsaidstan 4 years ago

      Thanks Geekdom

    • Geekdom profile image

      Geekdom 4 years ago

      Great profile on one of the biggest names in comic book history.