News / Illustration

Marvel’s Stan Lee, the man who helped reimagine superheroes, dies at the age of 95


Stan Lee (Via Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

One of the 20th and 21st century’s most influential cultural figures, Stan Lee, has passed away at the age of 95. The Marvel Comics publisher died at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Monday 12th November. CNN and other news sources are reporting that the cause of Lee’s death are still unknown.

Born in New York in 1922, Lee’s career in the comic book industry began in 1939, when he began working at New York’s Timely Comics. Timely would, in time, become Marvel, and it is through Marvel that Stan Lee made both his name, and his fortune.

Working closely with hyper-influential and much-loved artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko – who himself passed away in June 2018 – Lee was at the forefront of a comic book revolution that took place in the early 60s. This was, as any scholar of comics will tell you, and likely tell you at length, a period in which DC was the dominant force, thanks to the mega-success of characters like Superman and Batman.

Charged with offering readers a selection of flawed superheroes, superheroes who were able to display the same human vulnerabilities their readers felt, the Famous Four were born. A collaboration with Jack Kirby, based, in fact, on Kirby’s own DC-published superhero squad, Challengers of the Unknown, it captivated audiences and led to a deluge of Lee-and-Kirby helmed series’ including the X-Men, the Hulk, and Iron Man.


Stan Lee (Via Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Spider-Man, one of the most familiar figures of the past hundred or so years, and one of the most bankable, too, was the result of Lee’s work with Ditko. In fact, it was Spider-Man himself who led to Marvel becoming one of the runaway success stories of this decade. Following on from the Sam Rami-directed 2002 silver screen adaptation of the Peter Parker story, a glut of sequels arrived hot on Parker’s webbed heels. With the superhero ball firmly rolling to the bank, Disney paid around $4 billion for Marvel Entertainment.

It was then that the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as fans and insiders know it, was born. A license to print money was born, too.

Despite his inarguable importance in comic book history, Lee is a figure surrounded by some controversy, with critics alleging that Stan Lee stole credit, and thus cash, from Steve Ditko and others.

Marvel and Disney released the following joint statement earlier today:

Today, Marvel Comics and The Walt Disney Company pause and reflect with great sadness on the passing of Marvel Chairman Emeritus, Stan Lee. With a heavy heart, we share our deepest condolences with his daughter and brother, and we honor and remember the creator, voice and champion of Marvel.

Celebrate the life of a influential, if divisive, creative by watching a compilation of the cameos he made in every Marvel-related movie going. Or dig out one of those massive anthologies of early Hulk stories you’ve been saving for a rainy day. Your call.