Stan Lee revolutionized the world of comic books. While Jack Kirby is the greatest comic creator of all time, Stan is the brain that elevated modern comics.
Stan Lee left a big stamp in the world before he left us in November 2018, almost exactly two years ago. While he’s the father of modern comics, he left a bigger impact across pop culture as we know it today.
Creating The Legend
Born Stanley Martin Lieber, Stan grew up in Manhattan during the hardship of the times. His parents are Romanian-born Jews who immigrated to the country.
Much of Stan’s influence come from Errol Flynn, a fact that he confirmed. As he grew up in poverty, his dream was to write the “Great American Novel,” a dream shared by many of his cohorts.
Much of his early years were spent working odd jobs to make money for the family. His publication career started in 1939, when his uncle Robbie Solomon helped him to become an assistant at Timely Comics. Timely would eventually become Marvel Comics.
From Stanley to Stan Lee
Stan’s early years in Timely were nothing of note. His job was menial, mostly filling inkwells and proofreading. His first debut was for a text filler on Captain America, wherein he used the name Stan Lee.
In many interviews, he notes that he used Stan Lee to separate himself from the industry. At the time, comics had a lowly status, and hence he wanted to reserve Stanley Lieber for his Great American Novel debut.
Among Lee’s early creations were Mystic Comics’ Destroyer, USA Comics’ Jack Frost, and Father Time in Captain America #6.
Stan Lee had to serve in the Army in 1942, a year after he was given the interim editor position at Timely. While in the Army, he continued his duties writing for Timely, which went on for four years.
Influencing The Comic Book Industry
By the 1950s, Lee considered quitting the industry and was given one last assignment by Martin Goodman. At his wife’s behest, he tried to add whatever flavor he wanted to the superhero team Goodman tasked him to make.
Lee created superheroes with flaws – many of which have problems like the average person. He created complex, naturalistic superheroes that had issues. They quarreled, had family problems, financial issues, and more.
During this time, Lee and Kirby created The Fantastic Four. The heroes were a hit, and Lee made more heroes with Jack Kirby. These include the Hulk, Thor, Iron-Man, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and more.
Stan Lee also made sure they shared the same universe, and many lived in New York. He named specific streets in the comics to make their stories more lifelike too.
Lee also revolutionized the comic industry through various editorial processes. He credited not only the writer and penciler, but the inker, letterer, and colorist too. He also created bullpen bulletins at the back to connect with the fans.
He created more improvements to the industry, including the Marvel Method. Lee also helped reform the stringent Comics Code and added social commentary to his stories. He eventually created more heroes, creating the Avengers, the Inhumans, and even Black Panther.
The Legend of Stan Lee
Stan Lee’s mark in the comic book industry goes beyond Marvel Comics. It goes beyond the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and every hero that he ever created.
Stan Lee gave us comics that we can care about. He gave us stories that we can related to – ones that reflected the good things and the bad things about life.
While comic books were usually escapism, they showed us that we can be better versions of ourselves. Stan Lee revolutionized comics, and elevated it into the respected industry it is today.
Jack Kirby, the abandoned hero of Marvel’s grand Hollywood adventure, and his family’s quest – La Times, 2009 (archived)
Stan Lee : The Man Behind Marvel – Batchelor, Bob (2017). Royman & Littlefield
Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America – Wright, Bradford W. (2003). The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Stan Lee – Wikipedia