Stan Lee, the creator of Marvel comics characters like X-men, Iron Man, Thor, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man etc. has died at 95.
He was taken to Cedars Sinai Medical Center from his Los Angeles residence on Monday by ambulance, where he later died. The cause of death has yet to be mentioned, according to Kirk Schneck, an attorney for his daughter.
Lee started his career in 1939 at what was then Timely Comics. He worked many years as an occasional illustrator, writer, and editor, work he found unfulfilling and was about to leave when things changed.
At the time, the comic business was led by DC (then National) Comics, creators of otherworldly heroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern.
Things changed in the early 60’s when Lee was asked to come up with a team of superheroes to compete against DC’s Justice League. With help from Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he started what history now affirms was a revolution in the comic world.
‘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,’ he said in an interview.
Marvel invented more relatable and human superheroes, far from the demi-gods in the DC Comic world. First came the Fantastic Four, a superhero team probably most famous for the grumpy, rock-skinned Thing. Following that success, Lee and Marvel introduced such characters as Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, and Daredevil. The catch was perhaps the internal struggles these characters had, everyday troubles that challenged their flawed personalities and laced their enhanced abilities with more meaning.
All these characters were created in a burst between 1961 and 1964 and overtook DC ‘s character in sales and fashionableness. Spider-Man became the company’s signature character; a photographer, Peter Parker, who, after being bitten by a radioactive spider, develops spider-like powers.
‘I never thought that Spider-Man would become the worldwide icon that he is. I just hoped the books would sell and I’d keep my job,’ Lee said in 2006.
Many of the characters were adapted into movies with varying degrees of success. It wasn’t until the development of the ‘Marvel universe,’ the X-Men franchise, and Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man that the brand became ultra-successful. In 2009, the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment — the licensing arm of the comic-book brand — for $4 billion.
It wasn’t all joy for Lee though. He often complained he got only little of the cash from the characters’ success. Even so, Kirby, the artist credited with a number of the characters by historians got less. There have been multiple court cases over compensation over the years and some, involving Kirby or his family sometimes.
Marvel characters are known the world over, and its films have become huge successes.
‘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,’ he told the Washington Post. ‘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.’
He retained a lifelong passion for the medium he helped mold, and wouldn’t tolerate disdain.
He stayed a constant brand ambassador for the Marvel Comics even after the death of his wife of 69 years, Joan Lee at 95 years.
The couple had a true partnership and Marvel fans came to know Joan Lee for her voice-over work as Miss Forbes and Madame Web in the animated versions of ‘Fantastic Four’ and ‘Spider-Man.’ She also had a cameo in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ in 2016.