Born as Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28th, 1922, in Manhattan, New York City, but was best known to the world as Stan Lee, the creator of some of the most popular comic book characters of the past century. With an interest in comic books and a knack for writing, Lee spent his early years working as an obituary press release writer, amongst other odd jobs. After graduating early from high school at the age of sixteen, Lee got a job as an assistant in 1939 at the Timely Comics division of a pulp magazine that belonged to publisher Martin Goodman. At first, Lee’s role at Timely didn’t involve any actual writing but he eventually started to write filler lines in comics such as Captain America. During this time, he began to use the pseudonym “Stan Lee,” a play on his first name.
Lee’s first superhero creation was the Destroyer in Mystic Comics #6, followed by Jack Frost and Father Time, all in 1941. This period in modern comic book history was called the Golden Age of Comic Books, starting from 1938 to 1956. Stan, then nineteen years old, was made interim editor at Timely Comics after the departure of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, also prominent creators in the comic book world. Lee proved to be talented in business and quickly became editor-in-chief, retaining the position until 1972, when he replaced Goodman as publisher. When the U.S. entered World War II, Lee served in the Army in the Signal Corps, repairing communications equipment before being transferred to the Training Film Division. There, Lee was in charge of writing manuals, slogans and scripts for training films, as well as cartooning. While in the Army, he also continued with his writing obligations at Timely Comics, receiving and sending back his assignments through the post. By the late 1950s, the publishing house became known as Atlas Comics.
After his discharge from the Army, Lee continued to write stories for Atlas. Around this time, a rival publishing house, DC Comics, became successful thanks to the revival of the superhero archetype and the creation of a superhero team-up. Goodman, wishing to emulate the success, asked Lee to come up with a superhero team. The result was a new facet of comic book superheroes in which they seemed more real, more flawed, and more troubled by mundane issues, as opposed to the seeming perfection they used to be before. Lee also collaborated with artist Jack Kirby to create the superhero team Fantastic Four, effectively initiating Marvel Comics. The pair later co-created the X-Men, Hulk, Iron Man, and Thor. The newly created characters would eventually get together to form the superhero team, The Avengers, joined by other Lee co-creations, such as Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Black Panther, Black Widow, and the iconic Spider-Man, which became the company’s best-seller.
By the end of the 1960s, Lee was involved in editing, script-writing and artistic direction for most of Marvel’s publications. He became known for his trademark motto, “Excelsior!,” which he used to sign his monthly column, “Stan’s Soapbox.” In 1972, when he stepped in as Marvel Comics’ publisher, he no longer wrote comic books. Instead, he became the publishing house’s visible face, and attended conventions. A decade later, Lee moved to California to take part in the development of Marvel’s movies and television series and occasionally returned to writing in one-shot comic books. After leaving Marvel in the 1990s, Lee created the short-lived production studio Stan Lee Media, and in 2001 co-founded POW! (Purveyors of Wonder) Entertainment. In 2006, he acted as host for the reality TV game show Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, airing for two seasons. Lee made cameo appearances and was credited as executive producer on several of the live-action adaptation film and series of his characters, starting in 1989 and culminating with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Until his death in 2018, Lee continued to be involved in different creative projects, including comics aimed at children, a YouTube channel, manga, and graphic novels. Stan Lee died on November 12th, 2018, at the age of 95, having spent more than seventy years in the comic book field.