Stan "The Man" Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber; December 28, 1922 – November 12, 2018) was a Comic Book writer, editor, "Chairman Emeritus" of Marvel Comics, and creator or co-creator of a large bunch of Marvel's most recognizable characters, with the major exceptions being Captain Americanote , The Punishernote , and Wolverinenote . He is without question the greatest editor in the history of Marvel comics and certainly the most famous and influential figure in superhero comics storytelling, having a profile, brand, and name recognition comparable to that of his famous creations, to the point where many see him, not Spider-Man, as Marvel's unofficial mascot.
His involvement in regular and active comics writing lasted from the late fifties to the early seventies. It was in that era, as per legend, during a time when Timely Comics was facing dire straits, that he teamed up with Jack Kirby and launched the Fantastic Four pulling the company, and superhero comics in general, Back from the Brink, starting a run of creative outpouring that saw Marvel start small, gather steam and eventually become such a major brand that it started outselling DC Comics who until then had enjoyed uncontested monopoly on the superhero genre, especially after EC Comics was driven out of business by the Comics Code. As per his own interviews and biographical anecdotes, while Lee had worked in the comics business since The '40s, his real ambition was to be a serious writer (writing the Great American Novel in particular) and he largely saw comics as kids stuff and particularly looked down upon the superhero genre, which he described in the captions of Amazing Fantasy #15 (the debut of Spider-Man) as "long-underwear stories". He was 40 years old when he and Kirby launched Fantastic Four and was already feeling like a Jaded Washout who didn't have much to show for his life. As such, in his entire time in the classic Marvel period, both in page and in person, he was insistent on making up for lost time. He did this by positioning Marvel as being different and better than DC, in a manner not dissimilar from Malcolm McLaren's packaging of Punk Rock and promotion of the Sex Pistols. This also led him to position and differentiate his characters as apart from DC, which was aided by the Genre-Busting sensibilities of Kirby and Ditko.
Stan Lee was proud to boast for most of The '60s and The '70s that his comics were made in the distinctive Marvel Method by which he would describe a basic idea and pitch which it fell on the artists to develop into full plots complete with scene breakdowns, action, and character blocking in each panel which they did entirely on their own, while Lee would come in and then fill in the dialogues based on how he interpreted the scene, and at times following the directions his artists left him. This allowed issues to come out at a faster rate and allowed him to work on multiple titles at once. And of course, artists like Kirby managed to work at his famous rate of drawing an entire issue in a week!
Bear in mind that in the context of the time, Lee was quite fair and generous to his fellow artists. He was quite open about promoting his colleagues and crew of talented artists (the Marvel Bullpen) in the vein of EC Comics (who started the whole shtick). While there was an element of self-promotion in this (as in virtually everything Lee did), a major side-effect was that many of Lee's collaborators became famous and even household names by comics fans. Thanks to Lee, Jack "the King" Kirby, "Sturdy" Steve Ditko, and "Jazzy" Johnny Romita became famous among comics fans, and this fame ultimately benefited both Kirby and Ditko in what is a fairly tragic irony. Another thing that gets lost is that Lee was one of the first to institute full credits on each and every Marvel issue. Not only did he put the name of the writer, publisher, artist, and editor, but also the inker and penciller at a time when DC Comics were notorious for denying the existence of a creative team. These have subsequently become standard issue for all comics (Marvel, DC, and others). But at the same time, this has also raised issues, complicated by Lee's bigger public profile and his many interviews over the decades, the extent to which the many comics of the Marvel era were really his creations rather than that of his artist/co-writer collaborators, especially Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Lee's own interviews in that eranote had him remark that at times, he often left plotting entirely to Kirby and Ditko, which as confirmed by the latter two in interviews and also by later collaborators, indicate that many of the in-panel moments, character, and costume design and the famous action by which Marvel became proverbial, belongs more properly to his artists than to Lee himself.
The Marvel Method itself was slowly phased out once Marvel's success allowed Lee to hire other writers and up-and-comers (many of whom were Marvel fans who went from Letter-column submissions to office interns to writing the stuff). After Lee stepped down from writing Spider-Man and others, writers played a bigger part in directing the collaboration, with Gerry Conway and Chris Claremont insisting on a stronger hand in their collaborations with artists.
Lee was co-creator of many of the Marvel characters and few can deny that the general universal quality of Marvel under his tenure as editor and the coherence and sense of Shared Universe from that era ("face front true believers", "Excelsior" and much Purple Prose) belongs to Lee and that he played a central role in making Marvel into the DC's major competitor, equal, and in the eyes of many of its most ardent fans, it's superior. This is no mean feat considering that DC had a reputation for buying and swallowing all its competitors (such as Quality Comics, Fawcett Comics, and Charlton Comics). For Marvel to not only resist but challenge DC, despite starting out with a weaker stable than its unfortunate peers was an incredible achievement. As an editor, Lee had a good sense of the zeitgeist, knowing that the teenagers of The '60s were Rebellious Rebel, college-going, and in tune with anti-establishment attitudes, which he leaned into with his more flawed and relatable characters who were also constrained by society and other institutions. In spite of that, Lee was studiously apolitical in the pages of Marvel, and he avoided taking explicit anti-war stances on Vietnam (as opposed to Jack Kirby who protested it) while voicing general anti-racist statements in his letters' pages. Most notably after Black Panther's first appearance, and the appearance of the Black Panther Party a few months later in an entirely unrelated coincidence, Lee briefly renamed the character "Black Leopard" to avoid association with the Party's more controversial statements and attitudes later. On the other hand, Lee played a major part in discrediting the authority of the Comics' Code as a result of the famous drug issue of Spider-Man where Harry Osborn becomes an addict.
Lee spent much of his time trying to interest Hollywood in Marvel projects and playing a role in getting the comics adapted into animated versions and movie versions which generally didn't come out until much later in The '90s, but he deserves credit for making Marvel into a Multi-Media brand. From very early on, Lee made it a point to appear in The Cameo in many cartoon adaptations, either in a small role or as a narrator, which started from comics, went into cartoons, and later games and then movies. Lee's intimate and grandstanding approach built a bond between readers and the company, creating and nurturing a fan culture that made Marvel the "cool" alternative to the staid and remote DC, and played no small part in nurturing and building comics fandom.
Among his projects before his death, he hosted the Reality Show Who Wants to Be a Superhero? and the documentary series Stan Lee's Superhumans, and had a cameo in almost every Marvel movie adaptation made prior to his passing - primarily those of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also films made by others - which, coincidentally, makes him the highest-grossing actor in history; his appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 implied that Lee actually plays the same individual in all his film appearances (or, at least, those in the MCU). He had also gotten into the anime and manga business, and worked on three series, Karakuridouji Ultimo with Shaman King creator, Hiroyuki Takei, Heroman with Studio BONES and The Reflection with Studio DEEN. He also worked on The Governator with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Sadly, on November 12, 2018, he was rushed to the hospital for a medical emergency and died a month shy of his 96th birthday. Tributes from Marvel, DC, and comic book fans worldwide poured in as a result. He died one year after the centennial of Jack Kirby during which he and Kirby were made into Disney Legends, and a little under five months after the passing of fellow Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko on June 27, 2018. Lee's passing marks the end of a major period of comics history, since he was one of the last living traces of comics history having started working during the Golden Age, oversaw and led the Marvel revolution of The '60s, and continued as elder statesman in The New '10s when superheroes became the major genre of 21st Century Cinema.
Not long after Stan passed away, as a tribute to his death, an edited version of the Marvel Studios logo was used at the start of the theatrical Captain Marvel (2019), which featured every cameo he's ever had in the MCU.
You might not be entirely aware of it, but he has had a YouTube Channel for quite some time now, and frankly you have no excuse to not check it out.
For an examination of his writing methods, see SoYouWantTo.Be The Next Stan Lee.
Notable comic-book characters co-created by Stan Lee:
- Black Panther (with Jack Kirby)
- Daredevil (with Bill Everett)
- Doctor Strange (with Steve Ditko)
- Fantastic Four (with Jack Kirby)
- Iron Man (with Jack Kirby, Don Heck and Larry Lieber)
- Spider-Man (with Steve Ditko)
- Mary Jane Watson
- Gwen Stacy
- Doctor Octopus
- Green Goblin
- The Amazing Spider-Man (Lee & Ditko) (The original run of Spider-Man)
- Spider-Man (The Newspaper Strip which he wrote from 1977-1990 or so before becoming editor with ghost-writers)
- Spidey Sunday Spectacular (2011, non-canon strips with art by Marcos Martin)
- The Incredible Hulk (with Jack Kirby)
- The Incredible Hulk (1962) (the original run of the Hulk)
- She-Hulk (with John Buscema)
- The Savage She-Hulk (the original comic)
- The Mighty Thor (with Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber)
- X-Men (with Jack Kirby)
- The Avengers (with Jack Kirby)
- The Inhumans (with Jack Kirby)
Notable Comic Book characters created by others but extensively written by Stan Lee:
- My Friend Irma (created for radio by Cy Howard and Marie Wilson; Lee wrote the comic book adaptation)
Notable shows co-created by Stan Lee:
Notable anime/manga co-created by Stan Lee:
Tropes associated with Stan Lee and his work:
- Adam Westing:
- Done hilariously in The Simpsons season 13 episode "I Am Furious (Yellow)", where he plays a somewhat crazy version of himself. He won't leave Comic Book Guy's shop, breaks a toy Batmobile in an attempt to fit The Thing inside it, and even believes that he can turn into The Incredible Hulk.
- He also voiced his animated self in How The Amazing Spider-Man Should Have Ended, berating the Avengers for having destroyed the library in which his The Amazing Spider-Man cameo appeared.
- His appearance in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies also falls under this — he appears doing a "subtle cameo", then learns that he's in a DC movie and quickly bails. He reappears during the climax, declaring that he doesn't care if it's a DC movie — he loves doing cameos!
- He appears in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, dealing with excited fanboy Sheldon Cooper, who has found Stan's home address and turns up late night, at the door, unannounced.
- He appeared in an episode of The Guild, having been accidentally kidnapped by Zaboo's assistants.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Smilin' Stan adores alliterations. Which inevitably leads to...
- Alliterative Name:
- Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Matt Murdock, Stephen Strange, Susan Storm, Scott Summers, J. Jonah Jameson Jr., Doctor Victor Von Doom (double letter alliterations!), Dr. Otto Octavius, Dr. Curt Connors, Betty Brant. This was parodied in an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
- Lee justified it, by saying that he was working on more than a dozen comics at any given time when he created those names, and the alliteration served as a mnemonic device, not only for him but also for readers. (Alliteration as a trope dates back to Siegel and Shuster and their love affair with the initials LL and it was a popular comics convention). Sometimes it didn't work, which is why the Hulk's full name is "Robert Bruce Banner" (one issue called him "Bob Banner" over and over), and why an early issue of Amazing Spider-Man listed Peter Parker as "Peter Palmer".
- Lee also averted it of course: Anthony "Tony" Stark (Iron Man), Ant-Man (Hank Pym), the Wasp (Janet van Dyne), Thor (Donald Blake), Professor Charles Xavier, Jean Grey, Bobby Drake (X-Men), Norman Osborn, Gwen Stacy, May Parker, Mary-Jane Watson, Flash Thompson (Spider-Man) and of course Johnny Storm and Benjamin Grimm (Fantastic Four).
- He even had this in real life with his brother Larry Lieber. He also ended up giving his co-workers alliterative nicknames — in addition to his own "Smilin' Stan", there was "Jazzin' Johnny Romita", "Adorable Artie Simek", and others.
- Apathetic Citizens: Stan uses these a lot. If something weird is going on in midtown Manhattan, count on seeing a jaded New Yorker who's certain that it's someone filming a movie or "Some Nutty Publicity Stunt". He even played one of those in The Avengers!
- Approval of God: With the exception of some that were too dark for his tastes or far too deviating from the source material, it's been made clear multiple times that Stan was simply happy and joyed that his work evolved beyond their comic page origins and into mediums he never considered they'd find homes in. Even some of the more critically panned adaptations got his seal of approval and he seemed to just be glad they got made in the first place.
- Author Appeal:
- Purple Prose, both in his fiction works, his non-fiction works and his interviews and public persona. And of course lots of alliteration since it serves as a mnemonic device.
- His work's calling card was flawed, humanized heroes with "feet of clay".
- Better known lately, for what he doesn't like in comic books — mainly excessive violence and teen sidekicks. This is partly because Lee initially planned to be a novelist and more or less did see comics as kids' stuff. He only came around to it when Martin Goodman made him editor and commissioned a new kind of super-team to counter the appeal of DC, leading to Fantastic Four, which allowed him and Jack Kirby and later Steve Ditko to position themselves against the establishment of the time, and try and make comics appealing to teenagers and adolescents, which needless to say, succeeded.
- He has said that comics (such as the DC Comics) using fictitious cities for their stories (i.e. Gotham or Metropolis), is a pet peeve of his. He always wonders what's so wrong with using a real city, note and has said in the past that he used New York City as the basis for the early Marvel stories simply because it was one less thing for him to have to remember.
- He's also stressed this as his personal philosophy when it came to creating. He's famously encouraged aspiring writers/artists to make stuff about what interested them rather than what people demanded. Considering the huge success of the Author Appeal-filled Fantastic Four, he's speaking from experience.
- Author Avatar:
- In Karakuridouji Ultimo, the Big Bad looks exactly like him. Even the American Shonen Jump lampshades this.
- In Heroman, Stan appears as a patron in the restaurant Joey works at who's always drinking coffee.
- He claimed to have originally created J. Jonah Jameson so there would be a character he could play in an adaptation, which ended up never happening despite the numerous adaptations featuring him (and hey, J.K. Simmons played such a good JJJ)
- Awesome, Dear Boy: After Stan's death, Kevin Smith explained that the reason why Stan kept agreeing to show up in his movies is because Smith gave him opportunities to play actual characters instead of fun cameos As Himself, having wanted to be an actor before taking up writing.
- Big Applesauce: He's a native, and it definitely shows. ("Excelsior!" is also the New York State motto).
- By "No", I Mean "Yes": When asked if Steve Ditko is the real creator of Spider-Man, Stan always responds in the affirmative, but never leaves out the phrase "in my opinion", which makes it sound like the real answer is no.
- The Cameo:
- As noted in the introduction, it has become traditional for Lee to appear in films based upon comics he created. Enough to have his own page.
- He appears in Guardians of the Galaxy as a Xandarian ladies' man. Not a Creator Cameo in this case, as he was not one of the creators of that comic. Though he did create Groot.
- He also bizarrely shows up in The Princess Diaries 2, years before Disney bought Marvel. He also shows up in a few scenes of the action comedy The Ambulance, in which the main character is an artist for Marvel. It's more than just a cameo, like he usually does. Like the Princess Diaries example above, this example is also somewhat bizarre, as The Ambulance is an original story, and not an adaptation of a Marvel franchise.
- He appears as himself in Mallrats, and gives Brodie romantic advice (though the latter keep trying to ask about superhero sex organs), and it turns out that TS went to him in secret to help Brodie win back Rene. (This is also somewhat bizarre in that Mallrats is an original story, but in this case Brodie is a comics super-geek and it was mentioned earlier in the film that he had been visiting a comic shop in the mall, so it makes sense).
- The sheer length of Stan's career allowed him to get recursive with this cameo. In Captain Marvel (2019), the movie's flashback 90s setting allowed the titular hero to meet Stan Lee as himself, on his way to play himself in Mallrats.
- The Casanova: His Marvel Cinematic Universe persona seems to be one of these: In his Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. appearance, he has two very lovely ladies with him when he stops to give Coulson crap for being a bad father (It's part of Coulson's cover), in Iron Man he's again got two ladies and is mistaken by Stark for Hugh Hefner, and he's seen hitting on a Xandarian in Guardians of the Galaxy.
- "Face front, true believers!"
- "'Nuff said!"
- Comic-Book Time: Lee was in charge when Marvel first began to abandon its real-time storytelling in favor of "Marvel time" in 1968. The statement that comics do not represent change, but "the illusion of change" is usually attributed to either him or Marv Wolfman.
- Cool Old Guy: So much so that he was the page's image for a long time.
- Cool Shades: One really can't imagine Stan the man without his dark specs.
- Creator's Pest: Was not a fan of Kid Sidekicks. This is why he killed off Toro in Namor and more famously Bucky Barnes.
- Deadpan Snarker: Like you wouldn't believe. As shown here and here. The videos are debates for DC's Injustice: Gods Among Us. Let's just say that we now know where Spider-Man got it from.
- Early Installment Character-Design Difference: The iconic Stan Lee mustache, hair, and sunglasses combo only actually came around the 1970s. Before that, he made public appearances looking like this.
- Game Show Appearance: Made two appearances on To Tell the Truth, once in 1971 and again in the early 2000s.
- Grumpy Old Man: Often portrays himself this way for humor, such as in his "Stan's Rants" series.
- Handicapped Badass: Stan was a big fan of this trope. Among his creations are Professor X (wheelchair-bound mutant telepath), Daredevil (blind lawyer whose Super-Senses allow him to be a vigilante), the Lizard (amputee veteran who occasionally turns into a humanoid lizard), Doctor Strange (former surgeon with crippling nerve damage in his hands trained in the mystic arts), and even Thor (crippled doctor transformed into a god upon picking up Mjolirnote ).
- Happily Married: To his wife Joan, almost to the point of Single-Target Sexuality. Before her tragic death in July 2017, the two were married for almost exactly 70 years! Lee's relationship with Joan probably inspired his acceptance of the idea for his superhero characters marrying, hence Reed and Sue Richards who got married, as well as Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, an actual Battle Couple who were married. He also hinted that Spider-Man and Gwen might have gotten married had he continued writing, albeit he admits his struggle to make the latter an interesting character and later openly acknowledged Mary Jane as Peter's real love interest. Most notably, he agreed to marrying Spider-Man and MJ in the newspaper comics strip.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: He actually caused this for another with an anti-drug comic (commissioned by the US Government) that The Comics Code Authority refused to approve because they did not permit any portrayal of drugs, whether positive or negative. He ran it anyway. The CCA looked like fools, and very quickly rewrote the Code to allow negative or cautionary portrayals of drug use (among other things), but it was too late; people had already realised how restrictive and unnecessary the code really was. Partly thanks to this, the influence of the Code itself began to wane, and eventually Marvel — among other companies - abandoned it altogether.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: "Stan Lee Presents" appeared on all Marvel issue titles for decades (because he was Marvel's publisher at that time, though not a writer except for the occasional special project).
- Stan often portrays himself as a bit of a Jerkass in comics where "Stan Lee" is a character.
- Stan has also said (presumably at least somewhat in jest) that he based legendary jerkass J. Jonah Jameson on himself, or at least the way he thought comics readers imagined him. Now of course, as per the Marvel Method, the visual design and look of Jameson and his role on the plot was made by Steve Ditko (while Stan Lee wrote the dialogues, based on Ditko's notes and directions) and Ditko might have based Jameson on Ellsworth Toohey as a strawman demagogic journalist defaming real heroes (like Spider-Man), which is not really Lee's hat at all.
- He was also kind of crusty when he appeared on The Big Bang Theory (then again, Sheldon did show up at his house and promptly went inside of it without his permission).
- Taken to its logical conclusion where he's the Big Bad of Ultimo.
- And then there's his role as "principal Stanley" in Mini Marvels, where once Spidey starts angsting — justifiably — about his status as a Butt-Monkey, causes Stan to look awkward once he mentions "who decided this to happen to me?"
- Ascends in X-Play, where "Roger the Stan Lee Experience" recounts tales of doing Jack Kirby's wife and stealing credit for Kirby's success.
- Also happens in his guest spot on Chuck — where it's implied that his whole career has been some sort of CIA operation.
- Likewise his cameos on Robot Chicken. Let's not forget, that as nice as Stan Lee is, the characters he helped to create and wrote for had very, very, very bad things happen to them.
- Incidentally, Jack Kirby when he went to DC modeled the character Funky Flashman in the New Gods on Lee.
- Kid Sidekick: He doesn't like the trope and has likened it to endangerment of minors, it also didn't suit his designs to target teenagers and adolescents, while the earlier trope targeted small children who still formed the bulk of the superhero reading audience in The '50s. In some ways, Lee updated this, by including teenagers like Johnny Storm and Bobby Drake in X-Men as a Rebellious Rebel in the mode of James Dean, but rather than being sidekick and The Watson to The Hero, they were merely the junior partner of a team and group, giving them ambitions of proving themselves to the rest and adding much tension (and Testosterone Poisoning) to the group dynamic that became a hallmark of Marvel's team comics. Likewise, Spider-Man became the first lone teen superhero of his kind who was neither a sidekick, nor had an elderly father figure to look up to, and more or less had to navigate both his teenage and adult worlds on his own. One exception is Rick Jones, who was sidekick to The Hulk and later to The Avengers. Bucky Barnes was also subtly retconned into having been a teenager for flashback stories, having been only a pre-teen in the original stories.
- Lampshade Hanging:
- "We were kind of corny in those days", but characters would occasionally call each other out on it.
- At least two blatant uses of the As You Know trope got comically lampshaded, too.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The foundation of several of his superheroes' origins.
- Large Ham: His public persona.
- Manchild: One of his appearances on Robot Chicken portrayed him as this. With him providing the voice, no less.
- My Real Daddy: The X-Men, and to a lesser extent Daredevil, were technically created by him, but it wasn't until later writers came along that they became popular and were truly developed into what they are now. On the other hand, his runs on Fantastic Four and Spider-Man remain defining to this day, being considered essential reading for all writers taking on the characters.
- Narrator: Given half a chance.
- Nice Guy: His persona was larger than life, cool, and incredibly friendly.
- The Nicknamer: Responsible for nicknaming the majority of the Marvel Bullpen and characters. And of course, for the readers and all the fans, Marvelites who were part of the Merry Marvel Marching Society.
- Non-Indicative Name: The Marvel Method, while used by many writers during Lee's day, wasn't used after he stepped down by later writers like Claremont and Conway who were quite insistent on their scripts being followed as they wanted, with the former butting heads with John Byrne who had expected and gotten used to the artist being the guy that called the shots.
- Outliving One's Offspring: A real-life example; he and Joan lost their second daughter Jan a few days after her birth in 1953.
- Purple Prose: A peerlessly pounding pantheon of pulse-poundingly purple prose! Nobody does it better, true believers!
- "Rashomon"-Style: Stories about Stan Lee's authorship are always full of mutually contradictory details as no one involved is 100% reliable and no one kept exact records of what happened back in those times.
- Running Gag:
- Self-Deprecation: Many times. See Jerkass above. He also appeared in an episode of The Simpsons, where he acts like a Cloud Cuckoolander:Bart: Stan Lee came back?
Comic Book Guy: Stan Lee never left. I am starting to suspect his mind is no longer in mint condition.
[then, after seeing Homer go on a minor rampage where he coincidentally got green paint all over him...]
Stan: He can't be the Hulk! I'M the Hulk! [grunts and rips his shirt, trying to Hulk Out]
Comic Book Guy: Oh, please; you couldn't even change into Bill Bixby.
Stan: Come on, dammit, change! Nnnngh... Ah, forget it. [grunts some more] I really did it once!
Comic Book Guy: Yes, yes. I just wish you had the power to leave my store.
[CBG takes Stan inside, from where he grunts again]
Comic Book Guy: You almost had it there.
- Even back in the 60s at the height of the Marvel Universe's popularity, Stan had been making fun of himself for supposedly stealing credit away from his artists.Stan: Looks like you've been learning how to draw with your eyes shut!
Steve Ditko: You should talk after that corny script you wrote!
Stan: What do you mean, corny? I copied it from one of the best classics I could find!
- He's well aware enough of his reputation among detractors as someone who's stolen credit from artists to poke a little fun. In the Jim Lee episode of The Comic Book Greats where both Lees demonstrate the creation of a panel, Stan reminded Jim to sign the piece and joked that it's so he can remember who he stole credit from.
- Even back in the 60s at the height of the Marvel Universe's popularity, Stan had been making fun of himself for supposedly stealing credit away from his artists.
- Self-Imposed Challenge:
- Lee later claimed that he created Iron Man to be the antithesis to what was acceptable at the time. Specifically, the idea of a wealthy superhero weapons manufacturer in the '60s, when they were universally hated. He wanted to see if he could get his readers to like such a character despite having such hated elements as his very premise. Overall, he succeeded albeit during the actual 60s he was distinctly below Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor and others in sales and it would not be until David Michelinie's run in The '70s and onwards that Iron Man became a significant Marvel hero.
- He created Spider-Man in response to the widely-held belief that teen heroes could only be sidekicks, despite that fact that most comic book readers were teenagers. The only reasons Spidey was able to debut in Amazing Fantasy #15 at all was because the publishers were convinced he would flop and the magazine was slated for cancellation anyway. Spidey's unexpected explosion of popularity led to him getting his own ongoing title.
- Shared Universe: Stan Lee and company were actually pioneers of this for Marvel, and by extension, entertainment in general.
- DC Comics didn't write their stories as though they shared a world. They had numerous writers working on different projects, and their main goal was simple: make the next comic to sell to kids. Marvel had the advantage of being much smaller when it started, consisting mainly of him, Jack and Steve with some others, making it much easier for the world to be consistent. It helps the vast majority of Marvel was set in the Big Applesauce, making it believable for heroes to cross paths with each other. That, and after observing DC's success over the years, they were able to take lessons from it and add their own ideas. This was done because he wanted Marvel to feel like a living, breathing world where anything can happen just like the real world.
- To put it in perspective: DC heroes never crossed over with each other unless it was a special issue, hyped as a true event. In Marvel, this happened all the time. Spider-Man met the Fantastic Four in his earliest issues, Daredevil's second issue had him fighting Spidey rogue Electro (which happened to be his second appearance ever), Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch left the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and made a Heel–Face Turn to become Avengers, while Hawkeye went from being an Iron Man villain to an Avenger as well, Spider-Man's fifth issue had him fighting Doctor Doom, Black Panther was introduced as an ally to the Fantastic Four and became an Avenger, Sandman was introduced in Spider-Man only to become a Fantastic Four villain, and the Avengers themselves were formed for a lesser-known heroes to find their footing. It's not all that uncommon to see heroes fighting the villains of other heroes, for there to be many, many teams, and heroes teaming up together is treated as another story as opposed to a big event. Many characters, story elements and details often appear in other books complete with captions telling you where to look.
- This is a major reason why Marvel's stories are much more intertwined than DC even to this day. Marvel has always worn the fact that it's a Shared Universe on its sleeve, whereas DC, even after adopting the concept around the '70s and '80s, still emphasizes the individual settings more. It dates back to the early days of Marvel, and it's a major reason why the cinematic version of Marvel took off so well as the blueprint was already there.
- Signature Style: The superheroes he has created are beloved by so many because they are a lot like real people which Stan Lee does on purpose to make them interesting and sympathetic.
- Slave to PR: A number of writers who worked with Stan as well as friends noted that Lee was a crowd-pleaser and he tended to be swayed and reactive to audience demand and outreach.
- This also comes because Lee as EIC was quite laissez-faire and supported the ideas and suggestions of writers without enforcing any editorial fiat. Lee was originally okay to the idea of Gwen Stacy's death but fan demand made him backtrack and he asked Gerry Conway for a backdoor leading to the first clone saga (as such Stan Lee is indirectly responsible for the second and more proverbial Clone Saga). By the time backlash cooled few years later and fans started telling him that actually MJ was better than Gwen, Lee decided to make Peter and MJ the official couple in the newspaper strip without any mention of Gwen.
- This also led to Spider-Man getting married. When he and Jim Shooter (at Lee's insistence) arrived at a Chicago convention, some fans asked Lee if he would have Spider-Man marry in his strip. Lee had no plans at the time, but since fans put him on the spot he said yes, and Shooter being on the spot said yes too. Based on enthusiastic fan demand and reception, they went ahead with it. After OMD, Lee while publicly supportive as company spokesman and mascot, briefly had his newspaper strip experience a OMD style retcon which removed the marriage before angry letters had him cancel it with his caption stating, "Because you asked for it".
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: His comics were more on the fun and idealistic end.
- Springtime for Hitler: If the What Could Have Been below is to be believed, Stan intended for the Fantastic Four to flop hard so he could get out of the comic business. Three guesses as to how that turned out.
- Status Quo Is God: The man zigzagged this trope:
- Lee was 40 years old when he started working with Kirby on the Fantastic Four, and his ambitions were always to write serious stuff and he disliked working in comics. So when he dove into Marvel, he approached it with an irreverence by playing, inverting, and deconstructing the tired superhero tropes, which included serial continuity, actual character progression, and shaking up the standard setting. By the time Marvel Comics had become uber-successful and "Here to stay" they had a slew of successful IP that Marvel's corporate overlords (of which Lee wasn't really one himself) wanted to be maintained for a long time leading him to change tracks.
- He's sometimes credited with coining the aphorism that "Readers don't want change, only the illusion of change" to describe the direction the Marvel Universe would take once they stopped Comic-Book Time. Of course, comics writers and others later note that Lee himself hardly followed it much himself, since he was the one who had Spider-Man marry Mary Jane Watson in his newspaper strip which unintentionally led it to migrating in the pages.
- Take That!:
- In his Just Imagine series, he makes Robin a bad guy. Knowing how he hates sidekicks, doing that to the character that popularized comic book sidekicks would seem more like this than just trying to make him a complex character.
- In his collab with How It Should Have Ended, he gave his views on how certain films should've ended. He then shows three more, each showing him interrupt George Lucas while he's writing each of the Star Wars prequels, then tossing the script of each into the fireplace.
- He's also usually on the receiving end of this whenever it comes to who "created" the main Marvel characters. Perhaps Jim Henson (via Epic Rap Battles of History) put it best:Henson: Let me mention I'm impressed by all the vision that it took for you to sign your name on all of Jack Kirby's comic books!
- His appearance on a show where he watched and commented on Todd MacFarlane and Rob Liefeld designing a character he jokingly prompt-named "Overkill" doubles as him throwing mountains of Stealth Insults at the conventions common within The Dark Age of Comic Books as well as Liefeld's artistic abilities.
- Throw It In: As an EIC, Lee was famously laissez-faire and hands off. Regardless of the issue of the Marvel Method and payment, it's acknowledged that his openness and support for writers and artists even when they made suggestions different from his, was part of the reason for Marvel's development.
- Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: It is noted that he isn't exactly fond of this trope, as shown in this video. Crunching numbers and feats to tell who would win isn't how writers decide who is the victor. Victory and defeat is decided by the writer alone, not numbers or power scaling.
- Villain Decay: While his heroes and writing style are still iconic today, his storytelling style is also somewhat infamous for really introducing a lot of this to Marvel villains — he'd have them say things like "This time my brilliant plan will destroy those meddling heroes!!!" without any sense of irony, even after the villain listed all the times they'd already gotten stomped. In the early 1960s, it still kind of worked; by 1969 or so, not so much. Much of his own later work — not to mention a great deal of comicry, that followed in his footsteps — had to spend time fighting the villainous clichés he himself constructed.
- What Could Have Been: The entire point of Just Imagine... Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe.
- In this interview from 1975, he mentions that before getting into comics, he wanted to pursue an acting career, which didn't work out. It's actually amusing in hindsight considering all the cameos he's done in films, and guest acting appearances on TV shows. Guess his original goal did eventually happen.
- He originally intended The Fantastic Four to be the swan song to his comic career due to being fed up with all the Executive Meddling he had to put up with while writing at Marvel. With plans for the title to be a big Writer Revolt and intentionally flop, Stan was going to pursue a career in Hollywood screenwriting. One has to pity the sad and depressing alternate timeline where Stan got his wish.
- With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: The Trope Namer.
- Wolverine Publicity: It's been said that Stan Lee's greatest Marvel character is Stan Lee himself, and that Lee the person, on account of his approachable nature, his constant touring of college campuses and lectures, his cameos, became just as big, famous and prominent a company mascot and figure as Spider-Man. This leads to problems as Lee tends to get praised and blamed far in proportion to his considerable contributions. For instance, Lee was an employee and editor at Timely/Atlas/Marvel but never its owner as such as he never got royalties for his creations, albeit by means of his promotion and his activity as salesman, he managed to get paid pretty well finally attaining a Chairman Emeritus status during the '90s where he was briefly kicked out by Marvel during their bankruptcy (to cut costs) but brought back in after public outcry. His period of active involvement writing Marvel comics was only in the '60s and early '70snote , but even then many credit later triumphs such as for instance X-Men and Daredevil when the most prominent versions of both IP were done by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller respectively.