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Marvel Superhero Creator Stan Lee Dies at 95

Los Angeles, California —(Map)

Stan Lee, who helped create Spiderman, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Black Panther, and many other comic book heroes, has died. He was 95.

Stan Lee speaking at the 2014 Phoenix Comicon at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Stan Lee, who helped create Spiderman, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Black Panther, and many other comic book heroes, has died. He was 95.
(Source: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.com.)

Stanley Martin Lieber was born in 1922. When he was just 17, he got a job at a company that made comic books. He wrote his first Captain America story in 1941. Before he turned 19, he was in charge of all writing for the company, which became Marvel Comics in the 1960s. As a writer, he started using the name “Stan Lee” (which sounded like his first name, Stanley) because he wanted to save his real name for a “real book”.

Photo of Stan Lee at the 1975 San Diego comic con, with the text "To amazin' Alan - Excelsior! Stan Lee '75"
Mr. Lee wrote his first Captain America story in 1941. But he didn’t get a chance to create his own heroes until about 20 years later. This picture of Mr. Lee is from 1975.
(Source: Alan Light, via Wikimedia Commons.)

After writing comic books for about 20 years, Mr. Lee got tired of it. At the time, most superheroes were shown as being almost perfect. They were strong and smart and always knew the right thing to do.

But all that changed when Mr. Lee was given a chance to create new comic book superheroes. Mr. Lee didn’t create the heroes by himself. He worked with artists to come up with the ideas. Some people have said that Mr. Lee did not try hard enough to let people know how much the artists did.

These US postage stamps show covers of Marvel comic books.
When Mr. Lee got the chance to create new comic book superheroes, he worked with artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to create characters unlike anything seen in comic books before.
These US postage stamps show covers of Marvel comic books.
(Source: Francis Storr, via Flickr.com.)

But with artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Mr. Lee was able to create characters that were different from anything that had been seen in comic books before. The Fantastic Four had weaknesses and argued among themselves. The Incredible Hulk was a really nice guy until he got angry. Spider-Man was never sure he was doing the right thing, but he always seemed to have something funny to say to the bad guys.

The Fantastic Four and the House of Agon (including Black Bolt and Medusa) team up and charge forward to do battle.
The Fantastic Four had weaknesses and argued among themselves. Mr. Lee made it okay for comic book heroes to have problems and weaknesses.
(Source: VCU Libraries, via Flickr.com.)

Mr. Lee made it okay for comic book heroes to have problems and weaknesses. He also brought them into the real world. Batman and Superman lived in made-up cities. But Mr. Lee decided that Peter Parker (who turns into Spider-Man) should live in New York City.

He also had the clever idea of having his comic book heroes appear in each other’s stories. For example, Spider-Man might show up in a Fantastic Four story. This made readers feel like there was a whole special world of Marvel superheroes.

Vintage Comic Book - Amazing Spider-Man #17, Oct 1964
Mr. Lee had the idea of having his comic book heroes appear in each other’s stories. This helped sell comic books. Here the Human Torch appears in a story with Mr. Lee’s most famous creation, Spider-Man.
(Source: Dave, via Flickr.com.)

It also made people buy more comic books. Readers loved it. Many people say that Mr. Lee’s characters and stories helped make comic books popular again.

In 1980, Mr. Lee moved to California. He wanted to try and get his superheroes onto TV and into the movies. He didn’t have too much luck at first, although the Incredible Hulk and X-Men became popular TV shows.

Poster for the movie Black Panther
After the success of the X-Men and Spider-Man movies in the early 2000s, movies with Marvel heroes began to come out often. This is the poster for 2018’s Black Panther
(Source: Internet Movie Poster Awards.)

But after the success of the X-Men and Spider-Man movies in the early 2000s, movies with Marvel heroes began to come out often. Marvel movies have now earned over $24 billion. Mr. Lee has played a small part in most of these movies, usually showing up on screen for just a few seconds.

Mr. Lee is no longer with us, but the heroes he created live on.

Los Angeles, California


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