I was very saddened to hear the news of Stan Lee’s death today. I burst into tears if I’m being honest. I realize that it was to be expected at age 95, but it is still hard to say goodbye to such an icon. Stan Lee has impacted so many people through his work in the comic industry. The characters he has created have had impacts on people’s lives. He has always been an idol and an inspiration to me. When I was in high school, I had to give a speech about a person that had impacted us. I choose to tell everyone about his life, and it didn’t even bother me when people looked at me like I was crazy for being obsessed with a man in his 90s. I have included the speech below I updated the end to reflect his death, but the information is a few years old. It may not be much, but it’s the only way I know how to honor his memory. Rest in Peace Stan Lee.
The Amazing Stan Lee
Comic books have been a part of American culture since 1842 (“Platinum”). Characters such as Spiderman, the X-Men, and The Fantastic Four are recognizable to nearly everyone in the United States. These and other iconic characters were created or influenced by Stan Lee (“Stan Lee Comic”). He exemplifies the American Dream because he came from humble beginnings and now has a net worth of over two hundred million dollars (“Stan Lee Net”). Stan Lee is truly an American icon for his work in the comic book community.
Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28, 1922 in New York City. His parents, Celia and Jack Lieber, were Romanian immigrants. Lee’s father, Jack, was a dressmaker, but after the Great Depression, he had trouble finding work. The family was so poor that Stan, his brother Larry, and their parents shared a one room apartment. Stan was a fan of Errol Flynn films as a child. He also enjoyed reading books (“Stan Lee Net”).
After graduating high school at the age of sixteen, Stan Lee began working (Editors.). After several part time jobs, including writing newspaper obituaries, Lee finally joined the comic book world. Lee began working for Timely Comics in 1939 as an assistant. Timely Comics eventually changed its name to Marvel in 1960 (“Stan Lee on Famous”).
When Stan Lee started writing comics for Marvel, he shortened his name to Stan Lee. He later said he was saving his real name, Stanley Martin Lieber, for when he wrote a novel, which he never did. In 1941, the publisher of the comic book company, Martin Goodman, promoted Stan Lee to editor. He remained editor and art director for Marvel until 1972 when he finally became the publisher. While at Marvel, Stan helped develop many of the characters that are now iconic (“Stan ‘The Man’”).
Stan Lee had different ideas about comic book characters than some of his predecessors. He despised the idea of a character having a sidekick. Most of his stories also take place in New York City, which is where he was born and raised. Stan Lee’s characters are usually extremely intelligent and many are scientists. He often names his characters names like Peter Parker or Sue Storm so he can remember them more easily. Lee’s characters hardly ever wear capes. Often Stan Lee’s characters are ordinary people who have gotten caught in extraordinary events. His stories are sometimes metaphors for social issues. For example, the X-Men were created as a metaphor for discrimination. Three of the most famous characters Stan Lee created were The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, and Spiderman (“Biography”). The characters Stan created were more complex than many of the previous characters in comic books. He even helped weaken censorship by writing an issue of Spiderman in 1972 that dealt with the negative effects of drug use. The Comic Code Authority said they would not approve its release, but Stan Lee released it anyway. This led the CCA to change their rules for antidrug messages being used in comic books (“Biography”).
Stan Lee has become extremely popular in his later life. This is partly due to the fact that he makes cameo appearances in every Marvel movie featuring a character he is credited with helping to create. This was actually written into his contract with Marvel. With the sudden surge in America’s interest in comic book heroes, Stan Lee is practically a movie star (“Biography”). In the 2000’s, Lee worked for his rival, DC Comics, reinventing heroes, such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. In 2005, Stan Lee cofounded POW! Entertainment, which makes films, television shows, and video games. In 2006, to commemorate 65 years with Marvel comics, Stan Lee was featured in his own comic meeting and talking to characters, such as Spiderman. Stan also makes guest appearances on TV shows, such as The Big Bang Theory. At the 2005 Comic Con, Marvel Legends came out with an action figure of Stan Lee (“Profile”).
Stan Lee has a long list of accomplishments. In 1994, Stan Lee was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame (“Stan Lee Biography”). Lee also received the National Medal of Arts. The County of Los Angeles and the City of Long Beach both declared October 2, 2009 to be Stan Lee Day (“Profile”). In 2010, The History Channel Introduced a series called Stan Lee’s Superhumans. It features Stan Lee as the host and people with unbelievable abilities (“Stan Lee Fast”). In 2011, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (“Stan Lee”).
In 2010, Stan Lee started The Stan Lee Foundation (“Stan Lee Foundation”). The purpose is to fight illiteracy. One in seven US adults are illiterate. Lee’s Foundation helps underprivileged children get an education. It also helps bring the arts to communities (“The Stan Lee Foundation”).
Recently, Stan Lee has started his own comic book convention. It is called Comikaze. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, is his partner, and it is the only comic convention owned by true pop-culture icons. It takes place in Los Angeles and features comics, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Comikaze is rapidly growing into a popular event and had an attendance of over 55,000 people in 2013 (“About”). Comikaze also sells Stan Lee candy bars for $7.99. On October 1, 2014, the Sweet! Shop in Hollywood introduced the Stan Lee candy bar. Fans lined up for hours waiting to see the new candy bar (“Sweet!”).
Stan Lee has accomplished so many things in his 95 years. He has revolutionized the comic book industry with new and interesting characters. Comic book collectors and fans everywhere know the name Stan Lee. Although he has lived a long, full life, it is still so hard to say goodbye to this great legend. In the words of Stan Lee, “nuff said.” (“Quote”).
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Stan Lee (American Cartoonist).” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2014. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/860784/Stan-Lee>.