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Stan Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber, is an American writer and editor, who, along with co-creators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, introduced complex characters and a thoroughly shared universe into superhero comic books. His success helped change Marvel Comics from a small publishing house to a large multimedia corporation.
In his teens, Stan Lee began working as a copyboy for publisher Martin Goodman at Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel Comics. His first published work, a text filler page under the pen name Stan Lee, appeared in a Captain America comic book in 1941. He soon graduated from writing filler to actual comics, becoming the youngest editor in the field at age 17.
During World War II, Stan Lee enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the Signal Corps, writing manuals, training films, slogans, and occasionally cartooning. His military classification was playwright; only nine men in the U.S. Army were awarded the title. After World War II, Stan Lee returned to his position at Timely Comics.
In the late 1950s, DC Comics revived the super hero genre and experienced a significant success with the super team “Justice League of America.” In response, Martin Goodman, Marvel’s publisher, assigned Stan Lee to create a new superhero team. The superhero group Stan and artist Jack Kirby produced was the superhero family “The Fantastic Four.” Its immediate popularity led Stan Lee and Marvel’s illustrators to produce a cavalcade of new titles. Stan Lee created the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, the Mighty Thor, and the X-Men with Kirby; Daredevil with Bill Everett; and Doctor Strange and Marvel’s most successful character, Spider-Man, with Steve Ditko. These characters helped reinvent the genre of the superhero comic. Stan Lee gave the superhero a flawed humanity, with heroes that had bad tempers, melancholy fits, vanity, and greed. They bickered amongst themselves, worried about paying their bills and impressing girlfriends, and were sometimes physically ill. Stan Lee wrote characters that readers related to, rather than idealized. Throughout the 1960s, Stan Lee scripted and edited most of Marvel’s series, moderated the letters pages, wrote a monthly column called “Stan’s Soapbox,” and wrote endless promotional copy.
In later years, Stan Lee became a figurehead and public face for Marvel Comics. He made appearances at comic book conventions around the country, lecturing and participating in panel discussions. He has been an executive producer for, and has made cameo appearances in, recent Marvel film adaptations. Stan Lee appeared as a hot dog vendor in X-Men, as a festival salesman in Spider-Man, about to cross a street with a newspaper in Daredevil, leaving a building in Hulk, and as a pedestrian in Spider-Man 2. Stan Lee also made a cameo in Kevin Smith’s motion picture Mallrats, recorded an interview with Smith as Stan Lee’s Mutants, Monsters, and Marvels and appeared as himself on The Simpsons. He also voiced a character on the 2003 Spider-Man animated series produced by MTV.
In the 2000s, Stan Lee did his first work for DC Comics with the Just Imagine... series, in which he reinvented several DC superheroes including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and The Flash. In August 2004, Stan Lee announced the launch of Stan Lee’s Sunday Comics, to be hosted by Komicwerks.com, where subscribers will be able to read a new, updated comic every Sunday. As well, Stan’s Soapbox will be a weekly column run alongside the Sunday strip.