The Life And Times Of Stan Lee: The Man Behind The Marvel Universe

celebrity | Rick Lax & Friends | 9/10/18

Stan Lee was a marvel in every sense of the word. This man created a universe of beloved characters that have been a huge part of our collective consciousness for decades. I think it’s safe to say that Stan Lee created pop culture as we know it.

However you feel about Marvel vs. DC, there’s no denying that Stan Lee has left a lasting mark on the world. Keep reading to find out interesting facts even the most die-hard fanboys don’t know about the late legend. Do you know why Spider-Man is hyphenated? Keep reading to find out.

The Early Days

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Stan Lee was born “Stanley Martin Lieber” on December 28, 1922, in Manhattan, New York. His parents, Celia and Jack, were Russian Jewish immigrants who lived in an apartment at the corner of West 98th Street and West End Avenue. His father was a dress cutter who wasn’t able to get much work during the Great Depression.

Later, Lee’s family moved uptown to Washington Heights. Lee has one younger brother named Larry Lieber who is also a comic book writer. Larry and Stan collaborated on a whole bunch of Marvel comics.

Stan Lee’s Boyhood

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Stan Lee was already interested in storytelling by the time he went to high school. His brother, Larry, started to become interesting in drawing. Lee had dreams of writing the great American novel.

While he was in high school, Stan worked odd jobs to support his family. He was already pretty good at writing, so he made some money writing obituaries and press releases for the National Tuberculosis Center.

Boy Genius

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Stan Lee graduated high school early when he was just sixteen years old. He started working as an assistant for a comic book publishing company. When Stan was nineteen years old, he was promoted to interim editor, and then editor in chief.

He entered the United States Army in 1942.

We Love A Man In Uniform

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Lee served in the US in the Signal Corps and it was his job to repair telegraph poles and other communications equipment.

He was later transferred to another division where he was tasked with writing training manuals. He said his military classification was “playwright,” and that only nine men in the army got to have that title.

After The Army

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After his stint in the U.S. Army, Stan Lee went back to his comic book publishing company. It was now known as Atlas Comics, and Stan started experimenting with different styles and genres.

DC Comics was also in the comic book game in the late ’50s, and the two companies were battling it out for comic book supremacy. DC’s Justice League was doing well, so Lee was given an assignment to create an even better superhero team.

The OG Marvel Superheroes

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Lee decided to make his superheroes flawed. He thought that the ideal, perfect superheroes of his youth weren’t really interesting enough for an adult audience. Lee’s characters had bad tempers, depression, and problems with vanity. They worried about real adult issues like maintaining romantic relationships and paying their bills.

Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby worked together to create the Fantastic Four— a team to rival DC’s Justice League. Fantastic Fourwas extremely popular, and it opened the door for a whole bunch of other Stan Lee stories.

The Birth Of The Heroes

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Lee and Kirby worked together to create The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Marvel’s most successful character, Spider-Man. All of these characters lived in a shared universe— the Marvel Universe. A lot of the characters were grouped together into a team called The Avengers. DC may have revived the idea of the superhero, but Marvel took that idea and ran with it.

Marvel superheroes appealed to people of all ages. Lee totally revolutionized the superhero genre.

The Superhero Revolution

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Lee’s comic books changed the way that fans interacted with printed material. These books created a community of readers who were in touch with the creative process behind the art that they love. Lee made sure to give every person who worked on the books proper credit. He named the writer, penciler, inker, and letterer in the credit panel of the books. Lee wanted his fans to think of these people as their friends.

This strategy made Lee’s brand super successful. By 1967, his name was so well known that a radio program he made a guest appearance on was titled, “Will Success Spoil Spiderman.”

Social Issues In Comic Form

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In 1969, Lee co-created the Falcon, the first African-American superhero. In 1971, the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare asked Lee to write a comic book about the dangers of drug use. Even though The Comics Code Authority refused to give that series its seal, Lee published the story anyway. A lot of people thanked Lee for his social consciousness and anti-drug stance.

Lee liked using comic books to comment on the nature of society and social issues. His work addressed racism, bigotry, intolerance, and prejudice.

He Is The Highest Grossing Filmmaker In History

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It’s no secret that Marvel movies make a lot of money. The Avengers alone is the third highest grossing film ever. It made more than two billion dollars at the box office. Stan Lee gets an Executive Producer credit on every Marvel film that’s ever made. Altogether, Stan Lee movies have made over eleven billion dollars.

It’s safe to say that this guy has made it big. Who would have thought a few drawings and some stories about superheroes could be this profitable?

He Briefly Worked For DC Comics

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In 2001, DC released a comic book called Just Imaginethat was written by none other than Stan Lee. The book reimagines iconic DC characters as Stan Lee would have written them.

Superman becomes a member of Kryptonian law enforcement, Batman’s name is Wayne Williams, and he’s a black man who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Wonder Woman becomes an environmental activist— basically, this all sounds way more interesting than the original DC storylines. Can you tell that I’m biased?

He Makes A Cameo Appearance In Every Marvel Movie

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Hardcore Marvel fans already know this, but if you’re a Marvel newb, don’t forget to look out for Stan Lee’s face in the next Marvel movie you watch. He plays a man with a different job in every movie.

In X-Menhe’s a hot dog vendor. He’s a postman in Fantastic Four, a Bartender in Ant-Man, a barber in Thor: Ragnarok, and a security guard in Hulk.

He’s Done A Lot Of Charity Work

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Stan Lee doesn’t just support social change in his comics, his does it in real life too. He created The Stan Lee Foundation in 2010 to focus on literacy, education, and the arts. It supports programs that improve access to literacy tools. It also promotes diversity in culture and the arts.

Stan Lee has also donated money to the University of Wyoming.

Family Life

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Stan Lee married Joan Boocock in 1947. They had a daughter, Joan Celia “J.C.” Lee in 1950. In 1953, the couple had another daughter, Jan, but sadly she died three days after she was born. Joan Celia, now in her late 60s, is pictured above.

Stan’s wife, Joan, died in 2017 after she had a stroke. She was 95 years old.

Stan Lee’s Health Issues

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In late September of 2012, Lee had a pacemaker surgically inserted into his chest. It seemed like everything was going well until Lee was rushed to the hospital in early 2018.

He was experiencing shortness of breath and he had an irregular heartbeat. After some time, Lee was in stable condition.

He Didn’t Mean To Kill Gwen Stacy

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Stan Lee only “okayed” Gwen Stacy’s death because he was in a rush to get to a meeting in Europe. One writer brought up the idea of killing off Gwen, to which Lee replied, “If that’s what you wanna do, okay.” He just wanted to get the writer out of his office and he didn’t fully realize what he had agreed to. When he came back from Europe, Gwen Stacy was dead.

He said, “‘Why would they do that? Why would Gerry write anything like that?’ And I had to be reminded later on that I had perhaps reluctantly or perhaps carelessly said ‘Okay’ when they asked me.”

The Real Reason Spider-Man Is Spelled With A Hyphen

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When Stan Lee first created Spider-Man back in 1962, Superman was one of the biggest comic books in the world. Lee was worried that Spider-Man, who also wears blue and red, and who has a name that starts with “S,” would be mistaken for DC’s superhero.

The hyphen was added so covers of Spider-Man would look different from covers of Superman.

Iron Man Was Supposed to Be Unlikable

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Stan Lee challenged himself to make a totally unlikable hero, and then make him likeable. That hero was Iron Man.

Lee said,”It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military….So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist….I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him….And he became very popular.”

The Real Reason Marvel Superheroes Have Alliterative Names

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Have you ever noticed that most Marvel heroes have first and last names that start with the same letter? Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, and Matt Murdock all have alliterative names (Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is an exception).

The reason for this trend? Stan Lee had a bad memory. He said that this strategy gave him a clue as to what the other name was if he could only remember a character’s first name or last name.

He Had A Catchphrase

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Stan Lee has created a whole bunch of fictional superheroes, but in doing so, he’s become something of a superhero himself. Lee even had a catchphrase, “Excelsior!” which means, “ever upward.”

It is also the New York state motto. What can I say, if you want to write a good superhero, you have to think like a superhero.