Have you ever seen the movies Spiderman, Fantastic Four or X-Men or read any of these comics? Did you know that these were all written by the same man? He was a very talented writer from New York named Stan Lee. This is the story of his life and how he became the creator of many of the superheroes that we all know and love today.
Stan Lee was born in New York City in 1922. His real name when he was born was Stanley Martin Lieber. Stanley’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Romania. Unfortunately when Stanley and his brother Larry were growing up, his family was quite poor. He was a kid during the Great Depression, which was a time when many people in America did not have much money and there were not many jobs available. Stanley’s family lived in an apartment that was so small that Stanley and Larry shared a room together and their parents slept on a fold out couch in the living room. But they were a happy family and the Lieber brothers played together and loved reading books and watching movies about heroes.
When he was a teenager, Stanley went to DeWitt Clinton High School where he loved writing and he dreamt that one day he would write a great novel. He worked part-time during high school writing short articles for newspapers.
When Stanley was 15, he entered a high school writing competition called “The Biggest News of the Week Contest.” He won the prize for three straight weeks in a row! This made Stanley start to believe in himself as a writer and think that he might be able to be a professional writer one day.
By the time Stanley graduated from high school, the Depression had finally ended but it was still very difficult for people to find a job. Stanley needed money, so he worked at a local movie theatre. He eventually heard that the publishing company that his uncle worked at was hiring, so he applied and got a job as an office assistant. A publishing house is a company that makes newspapers, books, or comic books. The company Stanley worked at was called “Timely Comics” and his job was to fetch things for the artists, proofread their writing and edit their drawings. In those days the artists dipped the pen in ink, so one of Stanley’s jobs was to make sure the inkwells were filled. He also went out everyday to get the artists’ their lunches.
When Stanley started working at Timely Comics, he didn’t realize he had started his lifelong career. At the time, comics were considered kind of silly and Stanley wanted to be a serious writer. So he didn’t think that he would work in the comic book industry for very long. However, he worked very hard in his job and as a result, Stanley was eventually promoted from office assistant to editor and writer. An editor is a person that is in charge of deciding what the final content of a newspaper, book or comic will be.
As an editor and writer, Stanley wrote his first comic-book for Timely Comics in 1941. It was called “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge. ” It was the third episode in the Captain America Comics series that the company was making. In this episode, Stanley invented Captain America’s ricocheting shield-toss, which later became Captain America’s signature move.
Around this time, Stanley Lieber started using “Stan Lee” as a fake name for his writing. He still wanted to be a serious writer and was afraid that serious publishing companies would not want to publish his books if he had been writing comics. So he used a fake name and after awhile, it stuck and he eventually changed this to be his legal name.
Because Stan Lee’s comic writing was so good, he started writing comics more regularly for his company. He was only in his 30s, but he showed a knack for business, so he kept getting promoted into higher level roles. Promoted means progressing into better things. Stan Lee stayed with the company for nearly 30 years until 1972.
When World War II started, Stan Lee left Timely Comics for a time to join the Army. He worked as a writer and illustrator for the Army along with a few other jobs. Stan Lee eventually moved to the Army’s Training Film Division, where he worked writing manuals, training films, slogans, and occasionally cartooning. His military classification was “playwright” which only nine men in the entire U.S. Army had. A few other famous people had this same job, including the children’s book writer and illustrator Theodor Geisel, or “Dr. Seuss.”
After the war ended, Stan Lee moved back to New York and went back to his old job at Timely Comics. In 1947, he got married to a woman from England named Joan. Together they had two daughters, Joan Celia or “J.C.” Lee and Jan Lee, who unfortunately died when she was just a young baby.
In the mid-1950s, Timely Comics changed its name to Atlas Comics and later DC Comics and then later, in the 1960s, the company changed its name again to “Marvel”. Stan Lee wrote stories in a lot of different genres, or categories of writing, including romance, Westerns, humor, science fiction, medieval adventure, horror and suspense.
In the late 1950s, superhero comics were starting to become popular. Stan Lee was getting bored of the stories he was writing and so his wife suggested that he try writing a superhero comic.
The first superheroes that Stan Lee were the Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four was made up of four astronauts Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm, who after being exposed to cosmic rays formed different superpowers. Reed became Mister Fantastic, who could stretch to incredible lengths, Susan Storm became the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm became the human torch and Ben Grimm became Thing, who had a body of stone and could smash his enemies.
Stan teamed up with an artist named Jack Kirby who helped create and draw the comic. The Fantastic Four comic was immediately popular. This led Stan Lee to start making a bunch of other new comic series such as the Avengers made up of such heroes as Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Today we know these superheroes from their movies, but for a very long time they only existed in comic books. Each character had super powers with an interesting origin story, how they came to be a superhero, and dangerous enemies. They went on adventures and battled their enemies.
Stan worked with artist Jack Kirby many times over the years and together they created new superheroes and series such as X-Men. He also worked with a different artist, Bill Everett and created Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and his most successful character, Spider-Man. Spider-Man was a teenager named Peter Parker, who was bitten by a special spider that gave him super strength, webs that shot from his hand and the ability to climb up anything and jump very far.
Kids and adults all over the United States and around the world loved the characters Stan Lee created.
Marvel Comics became a highly popular franchise, and Stan Lee became editorial director and publisher of Marvel in 1972. In 1981, Stan Lee and his family moved to the West Coast of the United States so that he could help oversee the process of turning the Marvel’s comic characters into TV shows and movies. Stan Lee bought a beautiful house in West Hollywood. Over the next 20 years, he helped make his characters into tv shows and movies. Most recently this became known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU and up until now includes 23 movies with 14 more on the way. It has made more money than any other film franchise, around $22 billion dollars. What’s also interesting is that Marvel Comics is now owned by Disney, who also owns the Star Wars franchise.
In 2018, Stan Lee worked on his last Marvel feature movie called Black Panther. He was 95 years old at the time! He died on November 12, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Stan Lee started his writing career as a poor but hard working teenager. He worked his way to eventually becoming the leader of one of the most successful comic franchises in the world through Marvel Comics.
Do you enjoy reading comics or watching movies about superheroes? Have you ever tried designing your own characters? What superpowers would your superhero have? What would his or her name be? What would their costume look like and what kind of adventures would do they go on? Now is a great time to start writing. Stan Lee started when he was just your age. And remember you can always start small with short stories or a daily journal. But little by little you can improve like Stan!