Stan "The Man" Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28, 1922) is a Comic Book creator, writer, editor, "Chairman Emeritus" of Marvel Comics and creator or co-creator of just about every significant Marvel character, with the exception of those who carry a shield, wear a skull on his chest, or have metal bones.
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 and pulled 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 ambitions was to be a serious writer (writing the Great American Novel in particular) and he largely did see comics as kids stuff and deprecated, in particular, the superhero genre which he described in the captions of Amazing Fantasy #15 introducing Spider-Man as "long-underwear stories". As such in his entire time in the classic Marvel period, both in page and in person, he was insistent on positioning Marvel as being different and better than DC, in a manner not dissimilar from Malcolm McLaren's packaging of Punk 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, the former had worked in war comics, romance comics, Captain America comics and a bunch of other genres, while Ditko worked in horror comics.
Stan Lee was proud to boast for most of The '60s and The '70s that 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 allow 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). One 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 about 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. After Lee's departure, writers played a bigger role, with Gerry Conway and Chris Claremont insisting on a stronger hand in their collaborations with artists. In any case, Lee was co-creator of many of these characters and few can deny that the general universal quality of Marvel 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 major part in making Marvel into the sensation that it became.
Stan 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 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.
To say he's still active today, both in comics and other media, is a mammoth understatement. Among his recent projects, he hosted the Reality Show Who Wants to Be a Superhero? and the documentary series Stan Lee's Superhumans, and has a cameo in almost every Marvel movie adaptation - 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 has 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.
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)
- The Incredible Hulk (with Jack Kirby)
- 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 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:
- 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.
- 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, Doctor Victor Von Doom (double letter alliterations!), Dr. Otto Octavius, Dr. Curt Connors. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Mc Coolname: Let's be honest, his own name actually sounds like a superhero. Of course, he originally intended it as a pseudonym in the hopes that when he finally made it big as a novelist, he would use his real name (Stanley Leiber) for his work as a writer.
- 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 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!"
- City of Weirdos: 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!
- Comes Great Responsibility: The Trope Namer.
- 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 is the page's image.
- Cool Shades: One really can't imagine Stan the man without his dark specs.
- Creator Cameo: Enough to have his own page.
- 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.
- Grumpy Old Man: Often portrays himself this way for humor, such as in his "Stan's Rants" series.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- Narrator: Given half a chance.
- 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.
- Purple Prose: A peerlessly pounding pantheon of pulse-poundingly purple prose! Nobody does it better, true believers!
- Running Gag: Whenever he writes a letter to the letters page of a Marvel Comic, the traditional reply by the editor is always, "Stan who??"
- 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's not the Incredible Hulk! I'M the Incredible Hulk! [yells and tries to Hulk Out] C'mon change dammit! Grrr, I did it once before!
Comic Book Guy: Oh, please; you couldn't turn into Bill Bixby...
[Stan yells and tries to Hulk Out again]
Comic Book Guy: You almost had it that time.
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!
- 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.
- 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 recent 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!
- 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.