“Marvel” means so much more than “wonder, amazement, astonishment and curiosity.” The word is synonymous with the most successful characterbased creative powerhouse in history, boasting 8,000 unique characters and a whopping total of 52 films (21 of which are cemented in the same cinematic universe).
Wherever creative freedom exists, Marvel tends to exist there also, a monument to humanity’s desire to see ourselves as something greater. The figurehead of this empire, the household name behind it all, signed off earlier this month, on Nov. 12, at the age of 95. Stanley Martin Lieber was a New York man, born in the metropolitan of Manhattan. In a struggling socioeconomic background, Lee adopted the American attitude of self-made men, working odd jobs such as writing press releases and delivering food. His first experience in comics was as a teenage assistant. He filled the inkwells for artists at what was once “Timely Comics.” By 19, he was serving as an editor and went by the playful pseudonym “Stan Lee” to avoid embarrassment for his early work.
After American entry into the Second World War, he partially disconnected from the industry to serve in the Army. He worked to repair communication lines, oversee the production of training films and produce creative writing works. This earned him an unusual position-“Playwright.” He would serve until the end of the war then return to business in comics. He rocketed up the power structure with unusual talent and vision for the company, spawning several entries in genres such as romance, sciencefiction and westerns. With growing stagnation at the company and fierce competition from other budding talents, Lee considered dropping out at the end of the 1950s. It was at this time he took advice from his wife, who recommended he study and then improve upon other successes in the industry. He did just that, working with artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to introduce “The Marvel Method.” Lee built the foundation of his company (now reestablished as Marvel) around the idea that the characters were people first, archetypes second. “Even if they have super powers, they have to be believable.
What they do has to be what any normal person would do in those situations.” By the late 60s, Americans of all types flocked to Marvel’s egalitarian ideals and knockout story-crafting. There seemed a hero for all types, ranging from the indomitable spirit of Captain America to the iconic wisecracking Spider-Man to the noble, multi-talented Black Panther. Women too found esteem within the predominantly-male industry, represented with characters like Black Widow, Miss America and Invisible Woman. As Marvel’s reputation grew to mythic proportion, so too did Lee’s. He became synonymous with the brand, wielding humor in all ventures with the motto of his home state: “Excelsior!”
After Marvel took to film in the 80s, it famously became a running joke for him to slip in each film for a short cameo. Lee continued his prevalence in the industry past his retirement, continuously participating in other properties such as POW! Entertainment and Comic-Con. Wherever he was taken, he continued to inspire and amaze the general public with his array of superheroes and supervillains. But despite all the feats and talents that Stan Lee’s characters have performed, he has achieved something that few among them ever could: immortality.