Stan Lee – The human behind Superheroes
The Godfather of Superheroes Stan Lee may have passed away at 95 but the legacy of Marvel Comics genius will remain with his fans forever.
He was the ‘human’ behind superheroes with extraordinary abilities and was the writer behind the countless occasions where these Marvel Comics heroes saved the day. It was at Timely Publications that he began his career but his rise at the turn of the century was timely, as he went onto become the bridge between generations.
It wouldn’t have been possible had Justice League not become popular from the opposing DC Comics camp in 1960, because the success of the first-ever superhero team is what propelled Stan Lee to come up with his own team, whose biggest obstacle was being human. Stan Lee and his frequent collaborators led by Jack Kirby devised a formula where they would go onto creating superheroes who had flaws, something DC Comics lacked. That’s the concept that made Spiderman every man’s favorite, The Hulk a confused giant, Iron Man the cool inventor and his very first creation The Fantastic Four set the blueprint for other superhero alliances to emerge from Marvel Comics.
Before coming up with Fantastic Four, Stanley Martin Lieber, son of Jewish immigrant parents from Romania was going through his stint as an editor at Timely Publications. The company which would eventually become Marvel Comics was just his office as he could only follow the work of his predecessors, not come up with his own stuff. They churned out crime stories, westerns, and even horrors but not what ‘Stan Lee’ desired. His heart and mind were into something ‘out of this world’ and that’s why he chose to adopt a dumb name to avoid embarrassment. Even he wouldn’t have thought how much fame the smaller name of Stan Lee would bring to him when he chose to go for Fantastic Four in 1961, just one year after Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman had joined hands as Justice League at DC.
It was at that moment that Timely Publications changed their name to Marvel Comics and also their theme from one-dimensional characters to ones with shades of grey and problems of the modern era; that’s something that clicked with the readers and the newly christened Company went onto become the next big thing. The Fantastic Four not only changed the way Comics were drawn (and written) at that time but also Stan Lee’s life as the young connected with his words more than they did with anything else on paper. These superheroes had a normal life where their alter egos battled angry parents and/or relatives, went through health issues, had problems at work and with friends, as well as anything that was going on at the time.
Many youngsters of the era owe their life to Stan Lee who kept them away from drugs, social inequality and issues like bigotry that were on the rise in the 60s and the 70s. It was at Marvel Comics that he chose to address racism and came up with the first African Superhero Black Panther. With Daredevil, he introduced a superhero with a disability that he used as an advantage; in Spider-Man Peter Parker had to look after his aunt besides worrying about his bills; Hulk was confused while X Men were considered outcast because of their extraordinary abilities; even Northstar was different as he came out openly and became the first gay Superhero to be introduced in a Comic book. These character flaws are what made Stan Lee’s creation long-lasting and even after half a century, they continue to appeal to youngsters and old alike.
Yes, his first stint on TV during the same era was a failure but he learned a lot from it and came back stronger after 2 decades with X Men film series in 2000. Their success prompted him to go full-throttle at movie making and that’s why Marvel Cinematic Universe is now considered the safest bet in Hollywood. X-Men was followed by the immensely successful Spiderman movies that paved the way for three Hulk and a handful of Captain America flicks, The Avengers series, The Mighty Thor franchise as well as the Iron Man trilogy. At the time of his death, Stan Lee was easily the most recognizable non-actor in Hollywood and people waited for his cameo appearances in big-budget films. He will surely be missed for his immense contribution to the lives of all Comic Book enthusiasts and they will all be teary-eyed when he would appear for one last time in the next Avengers movie next year.