Last Monday, we lost a pop culture legend who made some of the most memorable characters pop off the pages of Marvel comic books for decades, and was perhaps the most prominent figure in the silver age of comics: Stan Lee.
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who is unfamiliar with Stan Lee. Whether it be from reading the comics he wrote, or watching for his “Where’s Waldo”-like cameo appearances in the television and film adaptations of Marvel’s works, you’ve seen Stan Lee somewhere before. Chances are, you know quite a lot about his story already, which comes as no surprise given his notability and natural talent to entertain. I have seen a lot of tribute articles and videos explaining details of his life, yet I feel like this one from YouTuber Captain Midnight provides the most honest look at what made Stan Lee such a revered writer and creator, as well as how making the Marvel empire was not a one man job:
Lesser known, is Lee’s early life prior to being the big man at Marvel, but his ability to bring a smile to those invested in his media was ever-present. In 1939, Stanley Lieber began working at Timely Comics. He would, of course, later become Stan Lee, just as Timely Comics would later become Marvel. For the first couple of years he served as a glorified gofer, until Stan’s earliest work as a writer came in 1941 with “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge”, which happens to be the comic that first featured Captain America using his shield as a frisbee to beat the bad guys.
The next year, following the United States’ entrance into World War II, Lee joined the Army and served as a member of the Signal Corps, ensuring that communications devices worked properly. He eventually was moved the the Training Film Division, tasked with making training materials, as well as cartoons. Obviously, it was a good fit for him.
After the war, Lee worked as a writer for a hodgepodge of comic styles, but started to lose interest until that key “fuck it” moment where he teamed up with Jack Kirby and created the Fantastic Four. From there, he, Kirby, Steve Ditko, and many others went on to introduce the world to a cavalcade of characters with fantastic abilities, yet relatable human traits and flaws, and through numerous business ups and downs, those characters are enshrined in the global popular culture, and we just can’t get enough of them.
There will be more new faces in Marvel and other comic distributors (as there have been for a long time since Stan Lee downgraded his duties at Marvel in the 1990s), but we will always remember the first ones who shared our daily struggles despite their superpowers, and we’ll always remember the man who helped make them that way.
Thanks for watching and reading! Be sure to silver surf back her next week, and enjoy your Thanksgiving celebration(s) with friends and family! Maybe you all can watch a Marvel movie and look for the smiling man with glasses to say something funny.
P.S. My favorite of the many cameos just happens to be the most recent: