“The Man”, The Myth, The Legend: Stan Lee

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WRITTEN BY: Ricardo Burks III

Avengers 4 will be the last Stan Lee cameo. The extraordinary author whose characters pioneered a comic revolution, has passed at the age of 95. Stan “The Man” Lee was born in Manhattan, New York and had attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx where he dreamed of writing the next Great American Novel. After graduating high school at the age of 16, he began working odd jobs until he got a spot at Timely Comics filling inkwells, getting lunch and proofreading. Timely Comicswould later become known as Marvel.

In 1941, Lee wrote his first comic story for Timely. It was a two-page short inside of a larger Captain Americacomic called Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge!It was the first time the superhero was seen using his signature shield as a throwing weapon. In 1942, Lee enlisted in the U.S. Army. The Army noticed his writing skills and had him write training films, operation manuals, and posters. This lasted until the end of WWII.

Not soon after, he met Joan Boocock while in New York where she was a hat model. The two married in 1947 and were together for 70 years. She passed in 2017.

After World War II ended, comic popularity decreased. Comic Code Laws were introduced in the 1950s forbidding comics to show any gore and real crime. This resulted in comics to decline because there were no real stories embedded in the plot.

In the 1960s, comics saw an increase again with the rise of the First Family. Lee’s Fantastic Four were created in late 1961 telling the story and adventures of four New Yorkers with extraordinary abilities–The Elastic Mr Fantastic, Reed Richards, The Invisible Woman, Sue Storm, The Human Torch, Johnny Storm, and The Thing, Ben Grimm. Each character was realistic because they suffered from human emotion. Reed is a character whose scientific smarts put him and his friends in jeopardy and turned his best friend into a sentient pile of Orange rocks (The Thing for those who aren’t aware). Sue wants to hold the team together. Ben is angry that he looks like this. That he cannot blend into society and Johnny wants to live his life like the young adult he is. He isn’t interested in science but fast cars and women. It’s believable.

Lee’s next big creation was The Incredible Hulk. A retelling of the human tale about a misunderstood monster. One of Lee’s the most famous Marvelhero, Spider-man, swung into the limelight in 1962 with the 15th issue of Amazing Fantasy. Lee’s publisher, Martin Goodman, didn’t think Spider-manwas good enough to stand on its own until the overwhelming support from Amazing Fantasyproved him otherwise. Immediately after, the first Amazing Spider-Mancomic was born. Spider-Man was just as about beating the nefarious Doctor Octopus and the wicked Green Goblin as it was about Peter Parker getting bullied, being nervous around a crush. Not to mention probably the most quoted comic saying in history “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Lee once again mixed the fantasy of being a superhero with the ordinary conundrums of life.

These characters were followed by: Iron Man, a war profiteer who has a change of heart, The X-men, a group of super powered humans who must endure prejudice from ordinary humans, and Black Panther, the world’s first mainstream black superhero. It wasn’t just the heroes that made the comics work however, they needed realistic foils. Lee helped create a few of the greatest storybook villains known to man such as Magento and Victor Von Doom. Magneto taught readers the shades of gray reality has. Readers were forced to ponder if Magneto’s hated and cold cynicism is afforded to him because of his background of a holocaust survivor and seeing the persecution of his people again. Whereas my favorite and all time-savage, Victor Von Doom is just a crazy comic book villain that’s scary enough to be real.

These stories helped propel Marvel from an ordinary comic book publisher to a household name. Television shows were made featuring Spider-man and Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk. Despite that, the 2000 movie edition of X-Mens tarted the train that would eventually get us to the MCU that we have today.

Lee began as a publisher for Marvel comics in 1972, and later on would become the chairman. He worked at Marvel for 60 years.

Stan focused on other ventures in the 2000 like his own company POW! Entertainment and his raunchy creator, Stripperella, and a reality TV show. He wrote a autobiography in 2002 titled, “Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee”.

Earlier in the year, Lee made it known to the public that he had been battling pneumonia. It wasn’t long after that he was taken to the hospital due to worsening conditions. In April 2018, The Hollywood Reporterposted an article stating Lee was a victim of elder abuse. Reportedly, his business manager and memorabilia collector, Keye Morgan, has been isolating Lee from peers, friends, and associates soon after his wife passed hoping to get access to his wealth. Lee has been given an estimated networth of $50 million. Morgan was issues a restraining order in August, just four months later. The restraining order would remain in effect for three years.

Lee was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles this past Monday, November 12th, and was later pronounced dead. He is survived by his daughter, JC, and his younger brother, Larry Lieber.

Members of the Marvel and DC community all around the globe paid tribute to the comic book legend. Hugh Jackman, who played “Wolverine” in the X-Men series, along with other Marvel superheros such as Chris Pratt (Starlord from Guardians of the Galaxy), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool from Deadpool) all took to social media to honor Lee.

In a recent interview with Larry King, Lee said how he wasn’t afraid of death. “I can’t imagine nothingness lasting forever.” His legacy will remain for generations to come. To all the future comic book artists, writers, and novelists, take these words that Lee had also stated in the same interview: “You have to have a character, whether it’s a superhero or not, that people care about.”

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