Stan Lee and his most famous creation, Spider-Man.A text filler in Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941) was Lee's first published work. Cover art by Alex Schomburg.Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962), the first appearance of Spider-Man, Lee's most famous co-creation, with cover art by Jack Kirby

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Stan Lee

Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28, 1922, at home at West 98th Street and West End Avenue, New York City) is an American writer, editor, and memoirist, who — with several artist co-creators, especially Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko — introduced complex, naturalistic characters and a thoroughly shared universe into superhero comic books. more...

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His success helped change Marvel Comics from a small publishing house to a large multimedia corporation.

Early career

Lee was born to Celia and Jack Lieber, Jewish immigrants from Romania. His father, trained as a dress cutter, worked only sporadically after the Great Depression. The family moved further uptown to Manhattan's Washington Heights neighborhood. When he was nine, his only sibling, brother Larry Lieber, was born. Lee attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. A voracious reader who enjoyed writing as a teen, he worked such part-time jobs as writing obituaries for a news service and press releases for the National Tuberculosis Center; delivering sandwiches for the Jack May pharmacy to offices in Rockefeller Center; working as an office boy for a trouser manufacturer; ushering at the Rivoli Theater on Broadway; and selling subscriptions to the New York Herald-Tribune newspaper. He graduated high school early, at age 16 1/2, in 1939, and joined the WPA Federal Theatre Project.

With the help of his uncle, Robbie Solomon, a relative of pulp magazine and comic-book publisher Martin Goodman, Lee was brought in as an assistant at the newly formed Timely Comics division of Goodman's publishing company. Timely, by the the 1960s, would evolve into Marvel Comics. Lee, whose cousin Jean was married to Goodman, was formally hired by Timely editor Joe Simon.1

Lee's first published work, the text filler "Captain America Foils The Traitor's Revenge" in Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941), used the pseudonym "Stan Lee", which years later he would adopt as his legal name. He graduated from writing filler to actual comics with a backup two issues later. When Simon and his creative partner Jack Kirby left later that year, following a dispute with Goodman, the publisher told Lee, just under 19 years old, to be the interim editor. The youngster showed a knack for the business that led him to remain as the comic-book division's editor-in-chief until 1972, when he would succeed Goodman as publisher.

Lee enlisted in the U.S. Army in early 1942 and served in the Signal Corps, writing manuals, training films, and slogans, and occasionally cartooning. His military classification was "playwright"; Lee has said only nine men in the U.S. Army were awarded that title. Vincent Fago, editor of Timely's "animation comics" section, which put out humor and funny animal comics, filled-in until Lee returned from his World War II military service in 1945.

In the mid-1950s, by which time the company was now generally known as Atlas Comics, a decency campaign led by psychiatrist Dr. Frederic Wertham and Senator Estes Kefauver blamed comic books for corrupting young readers with images of violence and sexuality. Comic-book companies responded by implementing strict internal regulations, and eventually adopted the stringent Comics Code.

During this period, Lee wrote comics in a various genres including romance, Westerns, humor, science fiction, medieval adventure. horror and suspense. By the end of the decade, he had become dissatisfied with his career and considered quitting the field.

Marvel revolution

In the late 1950's, DC Comics revived the superhero genre and experienced a significant success with its updated version of the Flash, and later with super-team the Justice League of America. In response, publisher Martin Goodman assigned Lee to create a new superhero team. Lee's wife urged him to experiment with stories he preferred, since he was planning on changing careers and had nothing to lose.

Lee acted on that advice, giving his superheroes a flawed humanity, a change from the ideal archetypes that were typically written for pre-teens. His heroes could have bad tempers, melancholy fits, vanity, greed, etc. They bickered amongst themselves, worried about paying their bills and impressing girlfriends, and even were sometimes physically ill. Before him, superheroes were idealistically perfect people with no problems: Superman was so powerful that nobody could harm him, and Batman was a billionaire in his secret identity.

Lee's superheroes captured the imagination of teens and young adults who were part of the population spike known as the post World War II baby boom. Sales soared.

The first superhero group Lee and artist Jack Kirby created was the family the Fantastic Four. Its immediate popularity led Lee and Marvel's illustrators to produce a cavalcade of new titles. With Kirby, Lee created the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, the Mighty Thor and the X-Men; with Bill Everett, Daredevil; and with Steve Ditko, Doctor Strange and Marvel's most successful character, Spider-Man,

Throughout the 1960s, Lee scripted, art-directed, and edited most of Marvel's series; moderated the letters pages; wrote a monthly column called "Stan's Soapbox"; and wrote endless promotional copy, often signing off with his trademark phrase, "Excelsior!" (which is also the New York state motto). To maintain his taxing workload yet still meet deadlines, he used a system that was used previously by various comic-book studios, but due to Lee's success with it, is now known as the "Marvel method" or "Marvel style" of comic-book creation. Typically, Lee would brainstorm a story with the artist and then prepare a brief synopsis rather than a full script. Based on the synopsis, the artist would fill the alloted number of pages by determining and drawing the panel-to-panel storytelling. After the artist turned in penciled pages, Lee would write the word balloons and captions, and then oversee the lettering and colouring. In effect, the artists were co-plotters, whose collaborative first drafts Lee built upon.

Because of this system, the exact division of creative credits on Lee's comics is still disputed, especially in the cases of comics drawn by Kirby and Ditko. Although Lee has always effusively praised these artists, some observers argue that their contribution was greater than for which they are given credit. The dispute with Ditko over Spider-Man has sometimes been acrimonious.


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