Stanley Martin Lieber (Lee) has been a leading figure in the comic book world for over 5 decades. As Marvel Comics’ former publisher, he helped create some of the world’s most iconic super heroes.
Here are 42 facts about Stan Lee.
He became an editor at Timely Comics in 1941. Timely Comics would eventually be renamed “Atlas Comics” in the 1950s and was re-branded again as “Marvel Comics” in 1961. The same Marvel we all know and love today.
In collaboration with several artists, including Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he created Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Daredevil, Thor, the X-Men, and many other well known fictional characters.
He was inducted into the comic book industry’s Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995. Lee received a National Medal of Arts in 2008. Sometimes it takes a long time to get recognized for your hard work.
39. Higher Power
Lee was raised in a Jewish family. In a 2002 survey of whether he believes in God, he stated, “Well, let me put it this way… [Pauses.] No, I’m not going to try to be clever. I really don’t know. I just don’t know.” None of us do, Stan.
Lee’s favorite authors include Stephen King, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Harlan Ellison.
When Spider-man married Mary Jane in 1987, Marvel held a publicity event at Shea Stadium in New York, featuring actors dressed like Spider-Man and Mary Jane. Stan officiated the wedding ceremony. Sadly, Stan’s not available for weddings.
In 1998, Stan signed a lifetime deal with Marvel Enterprises, Inc. The contract only requires that he spend 10 percent of his time with the company. In a 2012 Reddit Q&A thread, he told a fan, “I don’t have any spare time.” We can tell, Stan.
It is no secret that Stan has cameo roles in many Marvel movies, but did you know that it is actually part of his contract? A special clause in the agreement specifies that Stan must appear in any film based on one of his characters. He is of course, paid for his time, so it’s not terrible.
34. Still Got It!
In 2012, Stan co-wrote a New York Times bestselling graphic novel for 1821 Comics called Romeo and Juliet: The War. The graphic novel is a retelling of the classic tale, but both families are super human soldiers who, after having crushed all their mutual enemies, turn on each other.
When asked which Marvel super villain he would want to become, Stan said he would want to be Dr. Doom. He thinks that Dr. Doom is misunderstood and that just because he wants to rule the world doesn’t mean that he is 100% a villain. Perhaps he would do a better job than we are currently.
Stan’s trademark catchphrase, “Excelsior!” means “Ever upward.” It is also the New York state motto. It is also Al Gore’s motto in South Park’s ManBearPig episode.
Stan is the recipient of the 2,428th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is located at 7072 Hollywood Blvd, in front of the Live Nation Building.
Stan Lee reveals the secret of his slicked back mane on the second page of his memoir. “My whole adult life, I’ve never been to a barber,” he writes. “Joanie always cuts my hair.” Sadly, Joan passed away earlier this year. Our condolences to Stan and his family.
Before writing about the fantastic lives of fictional characters, Stan Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He says that he eventually quit that job because it was too “depressing.”
28. First Shot
A week into his job at Timely Comics, Lee got the opportunity to write a two-page Captain America comic. He wrote it under the pen name Stan Lee (now his legal name) and titled it Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge. His first full comic script would come in Captain America Issue 5, published August 1, 1941.
After being transferred from the army’s Signal Corps in New Jersey, Lee worked as a playwright in the Training Film Division in Queens with eight other men, including a few who went on to be very famous: Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life) and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. What a team that must have been!
26. Good Guy Stan
In 1971, Lee received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to put an anti-drug message in one of his books. He came up with a Spider-Man story that involved Spidey’s best friend Harry abusing pills after a bad break-up. The CCA would not approve the story because of the mention of drug abuse, but Lee convinced his publisher, Martin Goodman, to run the comic anyway. Just like his heroes, Stan does what needs to be done.
The Hulk was supposed to be gray, but Lee writes that the printer had a hard time keeping the color consistent. “So as of issue #2,” Lee writes, “with no explanation, he turned green.”
24. Typographical Mistake
According to Lee, during an argument, Joanie destroyed the typewriter he used to write the first issues for iconic characters including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. “This happened before eBay,” he writes. “Too bad. I could’ve auctioned the parts and made a mint.”
23. Lost In Time
When Lee moved his family to Los Angeles, he set up a studio in Van Nuys where he stored videotapes of his interviews, along with a bust of his wife that he commissioned. The building was lost to a blaze that the fire department believed was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.
22. Wedding Crashers
Beginning with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Stan Lee has made cameos in Marvel films as a service to the fans. He says that his appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was inspired by the story of Reed and Sue Richards’ wedding in Fantastic Four, in which he and artist/writer Jack Kirby attempt to crash the ceremony but are thwarted.
21. Feel The Beat
In late September 2012, Lee underwent a serious surgery to have a pacemaker implatned, cancelling planned appearances at conventions. Fans were disappointed but ultimately happy their idol was going to be sticking around.
Four years earlier in 2008, President George W. Bush presented Stan with the American National Medal of the Arts. Stan is the only comic book writer to ever receive the honor.
Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four with Jack Kirby is considered the greatest and most influential superhero comic of all time.
Since 2000’s X-Men, Lee has appeared in 16 films based on Marvel Comics characters that he either created or helped create during his time with Marvel.
One of the exclusive offers for the game adaptation of The Amazing Spider-Man was playing a short side-quest via DLC where you play as Stan himself, looking for lost pages of his manuscript while using all the powers at Spider-Man’s disposal. It’s actually quite fun to see someone other than Spider-Man doing Spider-Man things, let alone Stan freaking Lee!
16. Fan Service
Stan Lee owns his own comic book convention, sort of. In 2012, Stan Lee and Regina Carpinelli, founder and CEO of Comikaze Expo, announced that Stan Lee would become a partner in the company and soon after Comikaze was rebranded as Stan Lee’s Comikaze. Talk about getting closer to your fans.
Stan Lee has donated large portions of his personal effects to the University of Wyoming at various times, between 1981 and 2001.
The Stan Lee Foundation and was founded in 2010 to focus on literacy, education and the arts. Its stated goals include supporting programs and ideas that improve access to literacy resources, as well as promoting diversity, national literacy, culture and the arts.
Lee championed close collaboration between comic book writers and artists. The collaborative approach was known as the “Marvel Method.” In 2010, he told CNN, “All of my life in comics I have worked with artists, so I’ve collaborated with them. I would write down the original story, they would draw it and then I would edit it and do the art direction. So everything I’ve done has always been a collaboration.”
12. First Steps
Lee and his Marvel collaborators unveiled the Fantastic Four in 1961. The group is known as Marvel’s answer to the Justice League from rival publisher, DC Comics.
11. New Ventures
In 2001 Stan started POW! Entertainment. The Company is a multimedia development and licensing company that creates and licenses animated and live-action fantasy and superhero entertainment content and merchandise, leveraging the creative output and branded image of Stan Lee.
10. IRL Part II
The History Channel launched the series “Stan Lee’s Superhumans” in 2010, which documented people with extraordinary skills and abilities. The show was moderately successful but was cancelled four years after it first aired.
Stan partnered with the NHL in 2011 to form Guardian Media Entertainment. The company creates superhero characters for each NHL hockey team. The promotion was also short lived, but thanks to the internet, the heroes are available for your viewing pleasure.
After leaving Marvel in the late ’90s Stan Lee was approached by a man named Peter Paul who pitched Lee on a project called Stan Lee Media. This was a company where Lee could release any project that he wanted to without having the Marvel executive approval. Lee thought this was great, but there was just one problem. Paul was using the Stan Lee brand to rob their investors. While Lee was releasing new characters like the web series The 7th Portal, and a sci-fi version of The Punisher called The Accuser, Paul was exaggerating the company’s profits to their investors, and manipulating stocks. The SEC eventually caught up to Paul and busted him for fraud in 2001. Lee was cleared of all wrongdoing but was embarrassed in front of the comic book community at large.
7. Tongue In Cheek
Stan created an animated one season wonder for Spike TV, Stripperella, that starred Pamela Anderson. The show wasn’t renewed for a second season, something Anderson was happy about. In an interview with Vulture, Anderson simply commented, “Stan wanted nudity, I didn’t.”
6. Messing With Us
Lee admitted that when he created Iron Man (and Tony Stark) that the character was designed so audiences not relate to him and even dislike him. Lee also wanted to see if he could market the character so well that audiences would buy the comic despite their reservations around the character. “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.” Given the success of the Iron Man franchise, we’d say this was a huge success.
Stan Lee told Newsarama in 2015 when there was a dust up about the notion of creating of a black Spider-Man: “I wouldn’t mind, if Peter Parker had originally been black, a Latino, an Indian or anything else, that he stay that way. But we originally made him white. I don’t see any reason to change that.” We’ll chalk this up to old people being old.
4. Spread the love
Lee has received a ton of acclaim as THE creator in his time in the comic book industry, but he rarely spreads any of that around. While Lee was definitely a part of the creation of many famous characters he wasn’t the sole creator of any of them. He’s oddly reluctant to give credit to any of the others that he worked with on characters like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Thor, etc. According to veteran comics writer Gerry Conway, “Stan’s gotten far too much credit. People have said Stan was out for No. 1, and to a very large degree, that’s true. He’s a good guy. He’s just not a great guy.”
Although Stan is known for his midas touch, not everything he has done has been a hit. For one example theres Dragons vs. Pandas, a children’s book targeted at the Chinese market. There’s also Stan Lee’s Hero Command, a mobile game where you play as a super hero you’ve never heard of. Then there’s his Backstreet Project, a comic book and web series featuring the members of the Backstreet Boys.
2. Not For Kids
At the height of Lee’s fame he pitched a comic to Playboy that would be drawn by John Romita, an Eisner Award winning artist who worked on The Amazing Spider-Man among other massive projects. According to Romita the comic would have featured characters named “High Priestess Clitanna” and “Lord Peckerton.” Wait a minute…
1. Money Trouble
Even though Stan was receiving a nice payout from Marvel through much of the ’90s and 2000s, he owned no equity in Marvel when it was sold to Disney for $4 billion. Lee later said: “One of my lifelong regrets is that I’ve always been too casual about money. It’s been made abundantly clear to me, by friends others, that I should have realized I was creating a whole kaboodle of characters that became valuable franchises, but I was creating them for others.” We’re glad to see his luck has changed.
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