Stan Lee, the man credited with bringing in a new renaissance in comic books with his many flawed, relatable superheroes such as Spider-Man and Iron Man, has died after a lifetime spent in redrawing the boundaries of the literary genre.
Lee, who heralded a new pop culture in the US in early ’60s with his complex and often morally twisted superhero characters, died early on Monday, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28, 1922, Lee introduced dozens of characters in collaboration with artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko during his stint at Marvel Comics.
In his collaboration with Kirby, Lee co-created the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and the X-Men, characters who formed an instant connection with the young audiences due to their social relevance.
It was through his uncle, Robbie Solomon, that Lee started his career at the age of 17. He became an assistant at Timely Comics, which eventually became Marvel.
He adopted the pseudonym “Stan Lee” and started writing comic books. His first credit as a writer was a Captain America story in 1941.
When Timely editor Joe Simon and his creative partner Jack Kirby departed from the company in 1941, Lee was made interim editor by publisher Martin Goodman.
He served in the United States Army after enlisting in early 1942. He was a member of the Signal Corps, repairing telegraph poles and other communications equipment.
Seeing the rise of DC comics, a breath of fresh air in the world of comics, Goodman asked Lee to introduce a new superhero team. The result was Fantastic Four that he created in collaboration with Kirby.
The two afterwards would work on a number of characters. Their process was that Lee would come up with a short plot outline and Kirby then would design and illustrate a comic based on a mixture of that synopsis and his own ideas. Lee would return to fill in the dialogue and captions.
He also worked with artist Everett, creating Daredevil. Through his work with Ditko, Lee introduced the world to Doctor Strange and Marvel's most successful character, Spider-Man.
All these characters have now been turned into major film franchises that have earned Marvel billions of dollars in profits.
Lee left Marvel in 1972, but retained the title of chairman emeritus throughout his life. His fame and influence as the face of Marvel, even in his nonagenarian years, remained considerable.
Lee appeared in cameos in several Marvel movies, where he is often shown avoiding falling on concrete, watering his lawn, delivering the mail, crashing a wedding, playing a security guard or driving a school bus.
He leaves behind his daughter JC and younger brother Larry Lieber, a writer and artist for Marvel. Another daughter, Jan, died in infancy. His wife, Joan, was a hat model whom he married in 1947. She died in July 2017.
“JC Lee and all of Stan Lee’s friends and colleagues want to thank all of his fans and well-wishers for their kind words and condolences,” a family statement read.
“Stan was an icon in his field. His fans loved him and his desire to interact with them. He loved his fans and treated them with the same respect and love they gave him,” it added.
The past few years were tumultuous for Lee. He filed a lawsuit against his company POW entertainment and later abruptly dropped it.
Earlier this year, a report in The Hollywood Reporter claimed that the nonagenarian was being subjected to elderly abuse by his daughter JC. It also said Keya Morgan, a memorabilia collector, was isolating Lee from his trusted friends and associates following his wife’s death to get access to his wealth, estimated to be worth $50 million.
‘Superheroes’ pay tribute to Lee
“There will never be another Stan Lee. For decades he provided both young and old with adventure, escape, comfort, confidence, inspiration, strength, friendship and joy. He exuded love and kindness and will leave an indelible mark on so, so, so many lives. Excelsior!!”
-- Chris Evans, Captain America actor
“I owe it all to you.”
-- Robert Downey Jr, Iron Man actor
“You let us be extra human... superhuman even.”
-- Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk
“We’ve lost a creative genius. Stan Lee was a pioneering force in the superhero universe. I’m proud to have been a small part of his legacy and... to have helped bring one of his characters to life.”
-- Hugh Jackman, Wolverine star
“Damn... RIP Stan. Thanks for everything.”
-- Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool actor