Stan Lee. Comic book writer, editor and publisher. Co-creator of some of the most popular and famous super-heroes of all time: Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Daredevil, Iron Man, Thor, The X-men, The Avengers and on and on.
Stan Lee turns 88 next Tuesday the 28th, and for the next week here on my blog I'll be posting several stories about Stan the Man, particularly how how much of an influence he had on me as a kid, and how that affected me as an artist and publisher.
I started reading comics at about age 8, having been given a box of Marvel and DC Comics from my older brother Albert. This would have been around 1974 or '75. My brother had collected comics for a couple of years (1969-71), and one day gave me his stash, as he slowly moved away from collecting them.
What was in that box were comics featuring Batman and Superman, but the ones that really struck me were the Marvel Comics, most of them written by a man called Stan Lee, working with such artists as Jack Kirby, John Romita Sr, John Buscema, Gene Colan and others.
The sheer excitement of the stories, with such an array of colorful superheroes, had me hooked right from the start. The distinctive look each artist brought to the books was captivating, and with their credits displayed at the beginning of each story (a policy initiated by Stan Lee), I was able to quickly identify each artist and their unique style.
But it was Stan's name that tied all these books together, he was the writer on the majority of titles I was given. Roy Thomas had written some of the books in that collection as well, but Stan's name was associated with the greatest number of books I read.
Besides writing exciting stories to go along with the fantastic art, I also enjoyed the editorial side of Stan, the give-and-take with the fans in the letter pages, and also his monthly column, STAN'S SOAPBOX, in which he would frantically tell the readers all the latest news in the world of Marvel. It was Stan's voice that permeated the whole line of Marvel Comics, even when he wasn't the writer of the story.
As a young kid, I was totally enthralled with the world of Marvel. The most exciting and dynamic characters, told in colorful adventures by Stan the Man and his team of collaborators. By the time I started buying my own comics off the spinner racks in the mid-70s, Stan wasn't actually writing any of the stories, but was now the publisher and still had a hand in running the show. His STAN'S SOAPBOX column continued every month, and each comic started out with a 'Stan Lee presents:" along the top of the first page.
As the 70s progressed into the 80s, Stan still hovered over the whole Marvel line, 'presenting' every imaginable story they published. But the 1960s is really were his writing output really exploded. (He had started writing for Marvel in the 1940s, but it's really in the 60s that his collaborations with Kirby, Steve Ditko and the other artists created the modern Marvel Comics). Over the last several decades he's written a few issues here and there, such as the first issue of a character he created in 1979, THE SAVAGE SHE-HULK:
In the 80s Stan moved from New York to California, helping to launch Marvel's move into live-action television and cartoons. Stan, the constant cheerleader for all things Marvel, would occasionally appear in the cartoons as a narrator or in an introduction.
Even today, Stan appears in most of the Marvel movies in cameo roles, showing up right alongside some of the many characters he co-created years ago.
It's amazing to me when I think about the presence he's had in my life for the last 35 years or so. Decade after decade, Stan's always there, talking about Marvel and his latest projects. While his main creative legacy, at least the things that I really responded to, occurred before I started buying comics off the racks, I've always followed along with his current endeavors, enjoying them to varying degrees.
In the next post, I'll share with you one of the recent times I met Stan the Man, and talk about how his method of creating comics has left a definite impact on my own creative process.