The comic writer Stan Lee, co-creator of iconic characters including Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Daredevil and the X-Men, has died aged 95.
Lee was born Stanley Lieber in New York City in 1922, and as a teenager during the depression, he worked odd jobs to help his cash-strapped parents. One of these jobs was as a gofer for Timely Publications, where Lee met Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the creators of Captain America. Lee learned everything he could from the duo, and when Simon and Kirby were let go from the company, Lee took over their jobs editing Timely’s comics. He was 18. Lee took a break from Timely to enlist during WWII, serving in the signal corps before eventually becoming a writer for the Training Films Division, making him only one of nine servicemen with the classification “playwright.” Upon returning from the war, he married Joan Clayton Boocock, who he remained with for over 70 years. The two had a daughter, Joan Celia, in 1950. In 1953, a second daughter, Jan, died after only three days.
Lee continued to run Timely’s comics department through the 1950s, simply producing whatever stories he was assigned. Westerns, horror, crime—at the time, there were a number of genres competing with superheroes on more or less equal footing, and Lee wrote for them all. But in 1961, Lee’s wife suggested that rather than writing simply to please his boss, he try telling stories his own way. Taking inspriation from Detective Comics’ hit Justice League, Lee came up with his own superhero team: The Fantastic Four. The title was successful enough that Lee launched one hit superhero title after another in its wake, and gave the company a new name: Marvel.
In 1972, Lee stepped back from his prolific writing duties to serve as publisher of Marvel. In that role, he continued shepherding ideas and tirelessly promoting the company, and comic books in general, and narrating Spider-Man and Hulk animated series in the early ‘80s. But in 1996, with comic sales in a slump, and the company’s finances overextended with investments in other entertainment properties, Marvel went bankrupt, and Lee was pushed out.
Tributes to Lee have begun pouring in on social media—many of them from people whose careers he helped advance, either at Marvel Comics or its film counterpart at Marvel Studios.