Stan Lee, the charismatic co-creator of Marvel Comics and brains behind the superheroes and supervillains we know so well, has died today at the age of 95. Beloved by many for his witty cameos and vivacious internet presence, Lee will be remembered for bringing the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to life in a way that has touched millions of people in audiences across the globe.
Born in 1922 as Stanley Martin Lieber to a family of Jewish Romanian immigrants, Lee grew up in New York City experiencing the devastation of the Great Depression for a number of his childhood years. At the age of 17, Lieber, undertaking the name “Lee” as a pseudonym that he later legalized, began work as an office assistant for Timely Comics. After becoming an editor for the company, Lee enlisted to serve in the army, officially joining in 1942. As a part of the Signal Corps until the war’s end in 1945, Lee wrote manuals and scripts for military training films, which earned him the nickname “playwright“.
In the ’60s while working for Marvel (formerly Timely Comics), Stan Lee got to create his own truly unique comic book stories for the first time, taking the opportunity to attack injustice and societal norms through subliminal (and not-so-subliminal) messages. Against the idea that comic books were just a medium for children, Lee opted to interject social relevance into stories of heroism. In sharp contrast to the polished superheroes of DC Comics, Lee didn’t want his characters to be perfect; he wanted them to hold up a mirror to humanity.
“And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to; they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and—most important of all—inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay,” said Lee in his 1974 Origins of Marvel Comics.
Lee co-created leagues of superheroes, including X-Men, The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, The Savage She-Hulk and Black Panther, which each spoke to different themes including the Civil Rights movement, drug use, intolerance and women’s rights. Even though Stan Lee was a big proponent of keeping characters the same as they were intended to be in writing, he said that he was completely in favor of people (himself included) creating new, more diverse superheroes. He also had no qualms with the actors who were portraying the characters to be different than they were in writing, so long as they were “the right person for the role“.
And always, Stan Lee was a crusader against hatred. As he said nearly 50 years ago, “Racism and bigotry are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed supervillains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal from the insidious evil they really are.”
In addition to his signature catchphrase, “Excelsior” and other soundbites of wisdom, there are countless inspirational and memorable comic book quotes written by Stan Lee that also speak to profound, worldly truths.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Stan Lee, Spiderman
“Your humans slaughter each other because of the color of your skin, or your faith or your politics – or for no reason at all – too many of you hate as easily as you draw breath.” -Stan Lee, Magneto
“There is only one who is all powerful, and his greatest weapon is love.” – Stan Lee, Silver Surfer
Many MCU actors and fans took to Twitter and other social media to cherish Lee’s memory and exalt what he has done for others.
THANK YOU, @TheRealStanLee. You gave us characters that continue to stand the test of time and evolve with our consciousness. You taught us that there are no limits to our future as long as we have access to our imagination. Rest in power! #EXCELSIOR #StanLee #rip pic.twitter.com/hnSmnHIDln
— Winston Duke (@Winston_Duke) November 12, 2018
This is the kind of man we lost today. Just listen 😢 pic.twitter.com/XlCy5VLM0u
— emjay 🇭🇹 (@mikedjoseph) November 12, 2018
The legacy of Stan Lee is one that will live on forever in the hearts of those who knew him and his work. From comic books to kid’s cartoons, to X-men and The Avengers, Lee helped create something special for everyone to enjoy. So, in the midst of mourning his death, let’s take a moment to remember his life; all of the beautiful, uproarious laughter and good times he has given us over the years.
Thanks for the memories, movies, and fun, Stan Lee.
“‘Nuff said!” -Stan Lee