Stan Lee, the iconic creator and publisher of much of the Marvel Comics universe, has died. He was 95. He passed away while at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles early this morning.
Lee’s final few years were tumultuous. His wife Joan of 69 years died in July 2017. He sued executives at POW! Entertainment — a company he founded in 2001 to develop film, TV and video game properties — for $1 billion alleging fraud, then abruptly dropped the suit weeks later. He also sued his ex-business manager Keya Morgan and filed for a restraining order against him. (Lee’s estate is estimated to be worth as much as $70 million.) And in June 2018, it was revealed that the Los Angeles Police Department had been investigating reports of elder abuse against him.
On his own and through his work with frequent artist-writer collaborators Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko (who died in July) and others, Lee catapulted Marvel from a tiny venture into the world’s No. 1 publisher of comic books and, later, a multimedia giant.
In 2009, The Walt Disney Co. bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, and most of the top-grossing superhero films of all time — led by Avengers: Infinity War’s $2.05 billion worldwide take earlier this year — have featured Marvel characters.
Lee’s fame and influence as the face and figurehead of Marvel, even in his nonagenarian years, remained considerable.
Born Stanley Martin Leiber, the boy was raised in New York City by his parents Celia and Jack in 1922. As a child, Lee discovered his love of stories and movies. When Lee was a teenager, he would spend his free-time writing and doing part-time work creating press releases or obituaries.
After Lee graduated, the budding writer began working as an assistant at Timely Comics, a pulp magazine and comic book division of the Martin Goodman’s company. At first, Lee’s job consisted of standard office work, but he slowly began to take on more work. The creator went from writing filler content to actual comics. Barring Lee’s time in the military, the writer spent his time creating at Timely Comics before a new era was ushered in during the 1960s.
With artist Jack Kirby, Lee launched the superhero team the Fantastic Four in 1961, and went on to create dozens of the most iconic heroes in comics, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, The Hulk, and Thor.
He rose to being Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief in 1972, and used that position to put together some of the finest creative teams the world of comics has ever seen. His biggest talent seems to be putting people together who go on to create the amazing, the astounding, and the enthralling – and he’s still doing it.
Lee was Chairman Emeritus of Marvel, as well as a member of the Editorial Board of Marvel Comics.
“I used to think what I did was not very important,” he told the Chicago Tribune in April 2014. “People are building bridges and engaging in medical research, and here I was doing stories about fictional people who do extraordinary, crazy things and wear costumes. But I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed.”
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this man to comic books and the entertainment industry as a whole. He has created hundreds of our favorite characters, and written the archetypal stories that define the art of comics as it stands today.
And we will miss him. He was an inventor of superheroes, and in the end, in all the ways that count, became one himself. Well done, Stan. And thank you, from all of us.