Stan Lee 100: Stan the Man’s Amazing, Fantastic Centennial!

This year marks one hundred years of Stan Lee! To some, he’s known as the King of Cameos. To others, Stan the Man or True Believer. No matter what you call him, Stan Lee is a beloved figure in the world of comic books and super heroes.

Over time, Stan Lee became a larger-than-life character all his own. Marvel is celebrating 100 years of Stan Lee with plenty of history, quotes, and collabs from one of the most famous faces in comics. In honor of his enduring legacy, let’s look at Stan Lee’s life, starting with his origin story up until his endless string of pop culture cameos.

Stan Lee: The Early Years

Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28, 1922, in New York City. His parents were Romanian Jewish immigrants and he had a younger brother, Larry, who also ended up working at Marvel Comics.

Since an early age, Stanley was a storyteller. He rode around on NYC on his bike, absorbing everything he saw as fuel for his later tales of the human spirit. His need to spin stories would lead him to a place where some of today’s most well-known stories began: comic books.

Stan Lee Enters the Publishing World

At a time when the comic book industry was rapidly changing, many of its leading voices were Jewish creators. These innovative leaders would create heroes in their likeness, heroes who were not always perfect but had heart, soul, and above all, humanity. Among those creators would soon be Stan Lee.

Lee’s uncle plus his cousin’s husband (Martin Goodman) helped him get his foot in the door at Timely Comics. Goodman even promoted Lee to interim editor at 19 years old. He would continue to work for the company while serving in the army during World War II, specifically in the Signal Corps and then the Training Film Division. After the war, Lee returned to Timely Comics which had become Atlas Comics.

The Silver Age of Comics

Though Lee was working steadily in the comics industry, he considered leaving at the end of the 1950s. Goodman saw the renewed success of the Justice League over at DC Comics, so he charged Lee with a mission: Do the same for Timely Comics, which had become Marvel Comics in 1961.

With the help of other talented artists and writers, Stan Lee gave new life to the comics the company produced. His wife Joan encouraged him to write super hero stories that he wanted to read, which led to super heroes who possessed marvelous powers but still had to endure the struggles of everyday life.

Stan’s Soapbox

As editor, Lee also made sure Marvel’s stories had staying power. That meant appealing to a wide range of fans and encouraging the growth of a diverse roster of characters. From 1967 to 1980, “Stan’s Soapbox” was published monthly, expressing his personal views and philosophies.

In one column, he responded to criticism that Marvel Comics were too wrapped up in moralizing. He wrote, “It seems to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul.”

Major Characters Co-Created by Stan Lee

Stan Lee was an expert at collaboration and marketing. The most famous characters associated with Stan Lee’s legacy were the result of partnerships with other creators like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. During this time, Marvel Comics began using what’s now known as the “Marvel Method,” in which writers and artists work closely together to create the comic book. You might even say Lee’s super power was the gift of collabs.

Along with this method of production, Lee instated the inclusion of a credit panel at the start every book, listing the names of the creators behind each issue. Marvel characters are the product of many brilliant minds coming together, not all of whom receive initial or proper credit, but here are some of Lee’s most famous character collaborations:

Stan Lee Cameos and Easter Eggs

Following the Silver Age of Comics, Marvel became a powerhouse in the super hero publishing realm. Of course, no rise can exist without a fall and in the 1990s, Marvel declared bankruptcy. However, the X-Men film of 2000 and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films would breathe new life into the world of Marvel super heroes, launching many other films which all paved the way for the immense success of today’s Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Throughout it all, Stan Lee acted as the face of Marvel. He made cameos in nearly every major Marvel production — film, TV, video games, and even comics! Stan Lee cameos became a staple of Marvel media, beginning with X-Men in 2000 when he appeared as a hot dog vendor.

Among his favorite cameos was X-Men: Apocalypse because he appeared alongside his wife, Joan. Stan Lee passed away on November 12, 2018, at 95 years old.

How will you be honoring Stan Lee today? Share with us your favorite Stan Lee characters, cameos, and anecdotes over in our Local Comics Society Facebook Group, and don’t forget to Let Your Excelsior Sideshow!