The Marvelous Life of Stan Lee
December 15, 2018
Rarely has a man inspired so many people as Stan Lee. The visionary behind Marvel Comics died on November 12 in Los Angeles due to medical complications. Hundreds of celebrities took to social media in order to express their sorrow for his passing and their gratitude toward a man who had imparted so much joy into the world.
Stanley Lieber was born in Manhattan in 1922. Even as a child, he had a dream of writing the Great American Novel. As a teenager, he began writing comic books for Pulp Magazine, where he met his future Marvel colleague Jack Kirby. Lieber wrote them under the name “Stan Lee,” so that when he wrote his novels he would not be “embarrassed” by his comic books. His career was interrupted when he enlisted in the military in 1942, where he wrote many training films and manuals for the military. When he returned to his former comic book company in the 1950’s, now renamed to Atlas Comics, he was tasked with creating a superhero team that would counter DC’s Justice League. Lee struggled with this ordeal, until his wife advised him to make his characters more complex than the one-note, Justice League.
Stan Lee wrote his first comic, The Fantastic Four, which immediately sold well and single handedly overthrew DC’s monopoly of the superhero industry. He made sure that all of the characters were grounded and had real flaws and realistic actions. Expanding upon this theme, he created Hulk and Iron Man shortly after, both heroes with deeply flawed personalities. Shortly after, Lee would collaborate with Steve Ditko to create his most successful character: Spider-Man. After Lee had taken the comics industry by storm, Atlas Comics decided to undergo a name change once more: this time permanently settling on Marvel Comics. Since then, Lee’s creations have gone on to amass billions, if not trillions of dollars in revenue.
Stan Lee did not just write comic books for a living. He told stories and created characters that people cared about. He used these characters as a medium through which he taught valuable lessons to society. Yes, he wanted to entertain, but he more importantly wanted to use these heroes to inspire the world to do better. Students everywhere look up to Peter Parker and ask what he would do in a situation. Millions of Americans admire Steve Rogers’ unwavering courage and loyalty. Stan Lee did not set out to create gods; he wanted to create heroes.
Stan Lee often signed his work with “Excelsior!”, meaning “higher” or “soaring”. The stories that Lee wrote in his cramped New York City studio have gone on to inspire millions to soar. Those same millions now mourn for his passing. Excelsior.