"I always sympathized with the people who did work for hire; I was one of them." -- Stan Lee
Stan Lee (born Stanley Martin Lieber; December 28, 1922) is an American comic book writer, editor, actor, producer, publisher, television personality, and the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics.
In collaboration with several artists, most notably Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he co-created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and many other fictional characters, introducing complex, naturalistic charactersand a thoroughly shared universe into superhero comic books. In addition, he headed the first major successful challenge to the industry's censorship organization, the Comics Code Authority, and forced it to reform its policies. Lee subsequently led the expansion of Marvel Comics from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation.
He was inducted into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995.
"I have never had a lap dance in Tampa or any other part of Florida. If I ever did have a lap dance, I don't think I would be discussing television ideas with the girl that was giving it to me.""I love Marvel and the people there. I'm glad I'm still part of it."
Lee was born in New York City, New York, in the apartment of his Romanian-born Jewish immigrant parents, Celia (née Solomon) and Jack Lieber, at the corner of West 98th Street and West End Avenue in Manhattan. His father, trained as a dress cutter, worked only sporadically after the Great Depression, and the family moved further uptown to Fort Washington Avenue, in Washington Heights, Manhattan. When Lee was nearly 9, his only sibling, brother Larry Lieber, was born. By the time Lee was in his teens, the family was living in a one-bedroom apartment at 1720 University Avenue in The Bronx. Lee described it as "a third-floor apartment facing out back", with him and his brother sharing a bedroom and his parents using a foldout couch.
Lee attended DeWitt Clinton High School in The Bronx, where his family had moved next. A voracious reader who enjoyed writing as a teen, he worked such part-time jobs as writing obituaries for a news service and press releases for the National Tuberculosis Center; delivering sandwiches for the Jack May pharmacy to offices in Rockefeller Center; working as an office boy for a trouser manufacturer; ushering at the Rivoli Theater on Broadway; and selling subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune newspaper. He graduated high school early, at age 16½ in 1939, and joined the WPA Federal Theatre Project.With the help of his uncle, Robbie Solomon, Lee that same year became an assistant at the new Timely Comics division of pulp magazine and comic-book publisher Martin Goodman's company. Timely, by the 1960s, would evolve into Marvel Comics. Lee, whose cousin Jean was Goodman's wife, was formally hired by Timely editor Joe Simon.Lee's account of how he began working for Marvel's predecessor, Timely, has varied. He has said in lectures and elsewhere that he simply answered a newspaper ad seeking a publishing assistant, not knowing it involved comics, let alone his cousin's husband:
"I applied for a job in a publishing company ... I didn't even know they published comics. I was fresh out of high school, and I wanted to get into the publishing business, if I could. There was an ad in the paper that said, "Assistant Wanted in a Publishing House." When I found out that they wanted me to assist in comics, I figured, 'Well, I'll stay here for a little while and get some experience, and then I'll get out into the real world'. ... I just wanted to know, 'What do you do in a publishing company?' How do you write? ... How do you publish? I was an assistant. There were two people there named Joe Simon and Jack Kirby — Joe was sort-of the editor/artist/writer, and Jack was the artist/writer. Joe was the senior member. They were turning out most of the artwork. Then there was the publisher, Martin Goodman.... And that was about the only staff that I was involved with. After a while, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby left. I was about 17 years old [sic], and Martin Goodman said to me, 'Do you think you can hold down the job of editor until I can find a real person?' When you're 17, what do you know? I said, 'Sure! I can do it!' I think he forgot about me, because I stayed there ever since". IGN FilmForce (June 26, 2000): Stan Lee interview part 1 of 5
However, in his above-cited, 2002 autobiography, Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee, he says:
"My uncle, Robbie Solomon, told me they might be able to use someone at a publishing company where he worked. The idea of being involved in publishing definitely appealed to me. ... So I contacted the man Robbie said did the hiring, Joe Simon, and applied for a job. He took me on and I began working as a gofer for eight dollars a week...."
Joe Simon, in his 1990 autobiography The Comic Book Makers (cited under References, below), gives the account slightly differently:
"One day [Goodman's relative known as] Uncle Robbie came to work with a lanky 17-year-old in tow. 'This is Stanley Lieber, Martin's wife's cousin', Uncle Robbie said. 'Martin wants you to keep him busy'".
In an appendix, however, Simon appears to reconcile the two accounts. He relates a 1989 conversation with Lee:
Lee: I've been saying this [classified-ad] story for years, but apparently it isn't so. And I can't remember because I['ve] said it so long now that I believe it"....Simon: "Your Uncle Robbie brought you into the office one day and he said, 'This is Martin Goodman's wife's nephew'. [sic] ... You were seventeen years old".Lee: "Sixteen and a half!"Simon: "Well, Stan, you told me seventeen. You were probably trying to be older.... I did hire you".
His duties were prosaic at first. "In those days [the artists] dipped the pen in ink, [so] I had to make sure the inkwells were filled", Lee recalled in 2009. "I went down and got them their lunch, I did proofreading, I erased the pencils from the finished pages for them". Marshaling his childhood ambition to be a writer, young Stanley Lieber made his comic-book debut with the text filler "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge" in Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941), using the pseudonym "Stan Lee", which years later he would adopt as his legal name. Lee later explained in his autobiography and numerous other sources that he had intended to save his given name for more literary work. This initial story also introduced Captain America's trademark ricocheting shield-toss, which immediately became one of the character's signatures.
He graduated from writing filler to actual comics with a backup feature, "'Headline' Hunter, Foreign Correspondent", two issues later. Lee's first superhero co-creation was the Destroyer, in Mystic Comics #6 (August 1941). Other characters he created during this period fans and historians call the Golden Age of comics include Jack Frost, debuting in USA Comics #1 (August 1941), and Father Time, debuting in Captain America Comics #6 (August 1941).
When Simon and his creative partner Jack Kirby left late in 1941, following a dispute with Goodman, the 30-year-old publisher installed Lee, just under 19 years old, as interim editor. The youngster showed a knack for the business that led him to remain as the comic-book division's editor-in-chief, as well as art director for much of that time, until 1972, when he would succeed Goodman as publisher.
Lee entered the United States Army in early 1942 and served stateside in the Signal Corps, writing manuals, training films, and slogans, and occasionally cartooning. His military classification, he says, was "playwright"; he adds that only nine men in the U.S. Army were given that title. Vincent Fago, editor of Timely's "animation comics" section, which put out humor and funny animal comics, filled in until Lee returned from his World War II military service in 1945 and rented the top floor of a brownstone in the East 90s in Manhattan.
He married Joan Clayton Boocock on December 5, 1947, and in 1949, the couple bought a two-story, three-bedroom home at 1084 West Broadway in Woodmere, New York, on Long Island, living there through 1952. By this time, the couple had daughter Joan Celia "J.C." Lee, born in 1950; another child, Jan Lee, died three days after delivery in 1953. Lee by this time had bought a home at 226 Richards Lane in the Long Island town of Hewlett Harbor, New York, where he and his family lived from 1952 to 1980, including the 1960s period when Lee and his artist collaborators would revolutionize comic books.
In the mid-1950s, by which time the company was now generally known as Atlas Comics, Lee wrote stories in a variety of genres including romance, Westerns, humor, science fiction, medieval adventure, horror and suspense. By the end of the decade, Lee had become dissatisfied with his career and considered quitting the field. (1989), Lee's first appearance in a Marvel movie or TV project is as jury foreman in the trial of Dr. Bruce Banner.
In X-Men (2000), Lee appears as a vendor of a hotdog stand on the beach when Senator Kelly emerges naked onshore after escaping from Magneto.
In Spider-Man (2002), he appeared during Spider-Man's first battle with the Green Goblin, pulling a little girl away from falling debris.
In Daredevil (2003), as a child, Matt Murdock stops Lee from crossing the street and getting hit by a bus.
In Hulk (2003), he appears walking alongside former TV-series Hulk Lou Ferrigno in an early scene, both as security guards at Bruce Banner's lab. It was his first speaking role in a film based on one of his characters.
In Spider-Man 2 (2004), Lee again pulls an innocent person away from danger during Spider-Man's first battle with Doctor Octopus.
In Fantastic Four (2005), Lee appears for the first time as a character from the comics, in a role credited as Willie Lumpkin, the mail carrier who greets the Fantastic Four as they enter the Baxter Building.
In The Last Stand (2006), Lee and Chris Claremont appear as two of Jean Grey's neighbors in the opening scenes set 20 years ago. Lee, credited as "Waterhose man," is watering the lawn when Jean telekinetically redirects the water from the hose into the air.
In Spider-Man 3 (2007), Lee appears in a credited role as "Man in Times Square". He stands next to Peter Parker, both of them reading a news bulletin, and commenting to Peter that, "You know, I guess one person can make a difference". He then says his catch phrase, "'Nuff said."
In Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), Lee appears as himself at Reed Richards' and Susan Storm's first wedding, being turned away by a security guard for not being on the guest list. In Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), in which the couple married, Lee and Jack Kirby are similarly turned away.
In Iron Man (2008), Lee (credited as "Himself") appears at a gala cavorting with three blond women, where Tony Stark mistakes him for Hugh Hefner. In the theatrical release of the film, Stark simply greets Lee as "Hef" and moves on without seeing Lee's face; another version of the scene was filmed where Stark realizes his mistake, but Lee graciously responds, "That's okay, I get this all the time."
In The Incredible Hulk (2008), Lee appears as a hapless citizen who accidentally ingests a soft drink mixed with Bruce Banner's blood, leading to the discovery of Dr. Banner's location in a bottling plant in Brazil.
In Iron Man 2 (2010), during the Stark Expo, Lee, wearing suspenders and a bright colored shirt and tie, is greeted by Tony Stark as "Larry King".
Lee said he has met with Kenneth Branagh, director of the planned film Thor about his possible cameo in that movie and at Fan Expo 2010 Lee admitted to playing a truck driver in the film.
"Apokolips...Now! Part II" In the original broadcast airing of the The Animated Series episode "Apokolips... Now! Part 2", an animated Stan Lee was visible mourning the death of Daniel "Terrible" Turpin, a character based on Marvel Comics Universe co-creator and Marvel main artist Jack Kirby. The scene also included such Marvel characters as the Ben Grimm, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Nick Fury, Johnny Storm, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Peter Parker, Jack Kirby DC characters as Big Barda, Scott Free, Orion, Kamandi, comics artists Bruce Timm, Alex Ross and his father Norman Ross, and TV producers and writers Glen Murakami, Dan Riba, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett and Mark Evanier. This shot appeared in the completed episode and was aired in February 7, 1998 in WB Kids, but was later modified to remove the likeness of Marvel characters in the Superman: The Animated Volume 3 DVD box set.
Other film, TV, and video
He is the host of the 2010 History Channel documentary series Stan Lee's Superhumans.
Lee makes a cameo appearance as the "Three Stooges Wedding Guest" in the 2004 Disney film Royal Engagement.
Lee hosted and judged contestants in the SyFy series Who Wants to Be a Superhero?
Lee appears with director Kevin Smith and 2000s Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada in the DVD program "Marvel Then & Now: An Evening with Stan Lee and Joe Quesada, hosted by Kevin Smith".
One of Lee's earliest contributions to animation based on Marvel properties was narrating the 1980s Incredible Hulk animated series, always beginning his narration with a self-introduction and ending with "This is Stan Lee saying, Excelsior!" Lee had previously narrated the "Seven Little Superheroes" episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, which the Hulk series was paired with for broadcast.
Lee did the narration for the original 1989 X-Men animated series pilot titled Pryde of the X-Men.
Lee was interviewed on the History Channel Show Superhuman by Daniel Browning Smith, who held several Guiness Records for extreme flexibility due to having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic condition affecting collagen formation. Smith had created his own comic book to display his own struggles as an outcast for his flexibility, and legitimately surprised Lee with a quick demonstration of his talent.
In the animated series Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, Lee plays himself in a live-action scene of the "Comic Capers" episode.
Lee was an executive producer of the 1990s animated TV series Spider-Man. He appeared as himself in animated form in the series finale episode titled "Farewell, Spider-Man". Spider-Man is transported by Madame Web into the "real" world where he is a fictional character. He meets Lee and the two swing around until Spider-Man drops him off on top of a building; Madame Web appears and brings Spider-Man back to his homeworld. Realizing he is stuck on a roof, Lee muses, hoping the Fantastic Four will show up and lend a hand.
He also voices the character "Frank Elson" in an episode of The New Animated Series series broadcast by MTV in 2003, and titled "Mind Games" (Parts 1 & 2, originally aired in August 15 & 22, 2003).
He voiced a loading dock worker named Stan on The Spectacular Spider-Man in the episode "Blueprints".
Lee has an extensive cameo in the Kevin Smith film Mallrats. He once again plays himself, this time visiting "the" mall to sign books at a comic store. Later, he takes on the role of a sage-like character, giving Jason Lee's character, Brodie Bruce (a longtime fan of Lee's), advice on his love life. He also recorded interviews with Smith for the non-fiction video Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters, and Marvels (2002).
Lee appeared as himself in an extended self-parodying sketch on the episode "Tapping a Hero" of Robot Chicken.
Lee appears as himself in writer-director Larry Cohen's The Ambulance (1990), in which Eric Roberts plays an aspiring comics artist.
In The Simpsons episode "I Am Furious Yellow" (April 28, 2002), Lee voices the animated Stan Lee, who is a prolonged visitor to Comic Book Guy's store ("Stan Lee came back?" "Stan Lee never left. I am starting to think his mind is no longer in mint condition.") He asks if Comic Book Guy is the stalker of Lynda Carter - the star of the 1970s show Wonder Woman - and shows signs of dementia, such as breaking a customer's toy Batmobile by trying to cram a Thing action figure into it (claiming that he "made it better"), hiding DC comics behind Marvel comics, and believing that he is the Hulk (and fails trying to become the Hulk, while Comic Book Guy comments he couldn't even change into Bill Bixby). In a later Simpsons episode, Worst Episode Ever, Lee's picture is seen next to several others on the wall behind the register, under the heading "Banned for life".
Lee also appears as himself in the Mark Hamill-directed The Movie (2004), a direct-to-video mockumentary primarily filmed at the 2002 San Diego Comic-Con.
Lee also made an appearance on December 21, 2006, on the NBC game show Identity.
Lee appeared as himself in episode 3.16 of The Big Bang Theory.
Lee appears in the manga and anime series of Heroman as a regular at a diner. He is voiced by Atsushi Ii in the Japanese anime.
Lee voices the Mayor of Superhero City in the Super Hero Squad Show.
He plays a bus driver in the 16th episode of the first season of Heroes.
Lee appeared as himself in the 5th episode of the seventh season of the HBO series Entourage.
Lee is scheduled to appear on X Japan's music video "Born to be Free".
Lee narrates the 2000 video game Spider-Man, the 2001 sequel Enter Electro, and 2010's Shattered Dimensions.
He makes his first onscreen video-game cameo in Ultimate Alliance 2, lending his likeness and voice to New York senator Stanley M. Lieber (a reference to Lee's birth name), who is taken hostage late in the game's first act by Titanium Man. Lieber has unique dialogue with each of the characters upon rescue, and both his dialogue and in-game dossier make various references to both Lee and Marvel Comics (such as referring to his constituents as "True Believers" and citing "Excelsior!" as the New York state motto).
At the 2007 Comic-Con International, Marvel Legends introduced a Stan Lee action figure. The body beneath the figure's removable cloth wardrobe is a re-used mold of a previously released Spider-Man action figure, with only minor changes.
The Stan Lee Foundation was founded in 2010 to focus on literacy, education and the arts. Its stated goals include supporting programs and ideas that improve access to literacy resources, as well as promoting diversity, national literacy, culture and the arts.