Remembering Stan Lee


Anna Beshoar, Student Writer

Everybody knows what Marvel is. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan, you’ve definitely heard of it, and most can pick Captain America out of a lineup. Many artists, authors, actors, and others have contributed to the superhero empire. Yet there was one man who had been there since the beginning. Marvel’s backbone. The original superhero.

Stanley Lieber was born in 1922, to Jewish Romanian immigrant parents. He was followed by a younger brother. The family moved around NYC, and Stanley attended DeWitt Clinton High School. After graduating, with help from a relative, he was hired by Timely Comics, which would in time develop into Marvel Comics. Using the pen name Stan Lee, Stanley got his comic book debut, with a new character. ‘Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge’.

After a spell in the Army, making training films and cartoons, Stan returned to the company. In 1947, he married Joan Boocock, and they stayed together till her death in 2017. Together with Jack Kirby, Stan Lee created the Fantastic Four (1961). This was soon followed by Thor (1962), Hulk (1962), Spider-Man (1962), Iron Man (1963), the X-Men (1963), and Black Widow (1964). Their success fueled the fire for a new project. Using a handful of their new characters, as well as old favorite Captain America, Lee and Kirby created a team to rival DC’s Justice League. The Avengers.

Over the years, Stan Lee and Marvel Comics used their heroes and their comics to address real issues, like student protests, the Vietnam War, and racism. Black Panther was the world’s first black superhero. Stan used his own panel, ‘Stan’s Soapbox’, to discuss these issues. Over time, Stan Lee became the public figurehead for Marvel Comics.

Marvel Comics wasn’t Lee’s only contribution. Stan worked with Manga, literature, television, and, even Marvel’s rival, D.C. Comics, as he climbed Marvel’s social ladder. Finally, Stan started on movies. Film appearances of Spiderman, Daredevil, X-Men, Robocop, and others had already hit theaters while a spark was igniting behind the scenes.

In 2008 Iron Man was released, with Stan as executive producer, kickstarting the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the next ten years the rest of the Avengers, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Black Panther joined Tony Stark on the silver screen. Stan wasn’t directly in charge of these movies. This caused some friction and legal issues. Even if he wasn’t happy with his share, he stayed. His opinion was valuable, the cast and directors all liked and appreciated him, and he wasn’t about to leave his beloved heroes behind. He had his own role, too.

Stan had a tradition. In every movie, he had a cameo. He would appear on screen, as a janitor, a security guard, a general, and many more, interacting with the heroes he helped create. In a way, Stan became a character himself. He was featured in comics, TV shows, and even had his own action figure. Stan Lee was as beloved, maybe even more, as his characters.

Stan Lee lived a full life. He married and had two daughters. He had a successful career he loved, and a legacy that influenced millions. Adults and children loved his heroes. Little girls suddenly had Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, and Wasp to look up to. Ms. Marvel, Black Panther, Storm, and Falcon brought people of color to comic pages. But Stan’s last years weren’t easy. His wife Joan died in 2017. Knowing he might not have much time left, he filmed cameos in advance. He was a victim of elder abuse and spent his last months in the care of his daughter. Stanley Lieber died on November 12, 2018, after a long battle with pneumonia. He will be greatly missed.

Iron Man teaches us to be brave. Captain America teaches us to be kind. Thor teaches us to be forgiving. Black Widow teaches us to be strong. Hawkeye teaches us to laugh. Hulk teaches us to love ourselves. Stan Lee taught us what it means to be a hero.