The Late Stanley Martin Lieber - A Real Life Superhero
Stanley Martin Lieber was born on 28th December 1922, in New York City. He is responsible for some of the greatest characters and cinematic moments of all time. Stan Lee attended DeWitt Clinton High School, during which he entered an essay competition which was sponsored by the New York Herald Tribune. This was the start of one of the best creative minds to ever live. He won the competition 3 weeks in a row, causing the paper to suggest he should take up professional writing. If only they knew how influential that quaint piece of advice would be.
In the year 1939, Lee's uncle, Robbie Solomon, got him a job working as an assistant at Timely Comics (which to you and me was the original name of the esteemed Marvel Comics). The early days of his career were mainly spent performing menial tasks such as filling the inkwells, fetching lunch and proofreading. Stanley's comic book debut was an opportunity to work on Captain American Comics #3. This is where he adopted the iconic
name, Stan Lee.
Lee made his way up the company quickly, co-creating characters such as Destroyer, Jack Frost and Father Time, still being only 19 at this time! After Simon and Jack Kirby left the company in 1941 following a dispute with publisher Martin Goodman, Lee was promoted to interim editor. This led to him being named as the comic book division's editor in chief, until he succeeded Goodman to become publisher in 1972.
Just after Stan Lee's career started to take off, he was enrolled in the United States Army as a member of the Signal Corps. Later, due to his experience in writing, he was transferred to the Training Film Division, where he was ascribing training manuals. He was one of only 9 men to be given the title "playwright". Whilst Lee was still serving in the military, he received regular correspondents from Timely Comics, detailing assignments. One day, Lee went to the mail room, which was closed at the time, and saw a letter with his name on it. Wanting to continue with his work, Stanley asked the officer to open the mail room, but was denied. Being ultra-determined, Lee unscrewed the mailbox hinges to gain his assignment. Lee was caught doing this, and if it wasn't for the colonel, could have ended up being charged with tampering and sent to prison.
By the end of the 1950s, Stan Lee had become disinterested and dissatisfied with his career, and even considered packing in the job all together. How fortunate we are that he decided to stick at it. In the late 1950s, Lee was given the task of creating a new superhero team. Lieber's characters revolutionised how we look at superheroes/villains. He introduced a more flawed personality, giving even the greenest superhero "negative" personality traits.
The first superhero team created by Lee and Kirby, was the Fantastic Four. This immediately gathered popularity, and gave Lee the creative freedom to create iconic characters such as Hulk, Thor, Spiderman and Iron Man. As you probably are aware, this began the cornerstone of all super hero teams... The Avengers. (R.I.P Tony Stark, we love you 3000).
Lee's influence went way beyond creation and writing. He created a sense of community and belonging, and the idea that you are never too old for anything. Many people used his work as a way to escape the real world, and I'm sure he has helped people in ways he never thought possible.
In 1966 Steve Ditko, the co-creator of The Amazing Spiderman, left the company now called Marvel Comics, giving Lee sole creative control over the character. Within a year, it had leapfrogged Fantastic Four as the company's best-seller. Lee also introduced the first African-American main characters into comic books, such as the Black Panther, and we all know how that turned out (estimated $1 Billion box office).
Lee was regularly contacted by agencies such as the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to include important topics in his writing such as drug use. This was detailed in The Amazing Spiderman #96-98, in which Peter Parker's best friend becomes addicted to prescription drugs. The influence Lee had was surely beyond anything even he could have imagined.
In 1972, Lee wrote his final issue of The Amazing Spiderman, and took on the role of company publisher, finally realising his dream.
It would be a near impossible task to summarise what a massive influence Stan Lee has had on everything in the comic book universe. However, I am sure that everyone can agree that he was a pivotal part in moulding the landscape of superheroes, and has brought everyone involved every emotion imaginable. A true legend who will forever be remembered. Thank you, Stan Lee.
December 28, 1922 – November 12, 2018