Following the recent passing of Marvel Comics legend, Stan Lee, the world has honoured him with tributes, kind words and gratitude but most importantly sharing his life story and the many aspects that have almost been overlooked until recently. Lee’s characters undoubtedly inspired people with their very relevant and relatable lives, though many have noted “Stan Lee’s greatest creation was himself”.
I have to agree with this statement, (though Spiderman is pretty cool) but for a slightly different reason to what most people would expect. Yes, he was a great man for building the Marvel universe we all know and love, being the fun energetic face of the industry and for making his way into every good Marvel film to engage with his loving fans, but there is more to the man which should inspire us just as his creation has.
His origin story
Born on 28th December 1922 in Manhattan to Jack and Celia Lieber who were Jewish immigrants, his father Jack worked as a dress cutter when work was available. Lee, was encouraged by his parents to read, and pursue creativity, which at the time was different to other families whose children were encouraged to work to help support their families, especially during the great depression.
At age 17 Lee became an assistant at Timely Comics, running errands, cleaning, re-filling ink and other fun stuff. At the time, comic book writers weren't taken very seriously and when Lee was given his first shot at being published he decided to write under the name ‘Stan Lee’ rather than his birth name, Stanley Lieber, to avoid being associated with comic books when he wrote the great American novel (his goal).
In 1942 at age 20, Lee enlisted in the United States Army Signal Corps Division, repairing communication equipment such as telegraph poles. This role led him to be transferred to the Training Film Division where his official classification was ‘play-write’, only nine men were given that title one of which was Dr Seuss. After the army, Lee continued working for Timely Comics which was now re-branded as Atlas Comics and began building a solid reputation as one of the creative drivers behind the business that would eventually become Marvel Comics.
As major competitor, DC Comics, gained traction after releasing the Justice League of America, Marvel Comics asked Lee to come up with a super hero team of his own. At this point in time he was considering a career change so, his wife encouraged him not to hold back and create whatever he wanted, as it wouldn’t matter once he had left.
As a result of this freedom, Lee created characters with human flaws who were incredibly relatable and experienced nothing different to what a teenager would with the obvious exception of having super-natural abilities (The Fantastic Four).
These stories generated huge popularity and kept readers engaged through their teenage years and beyond. Most heroes before this were portrayed as perfect, flawless beings. Lee and Jack Kirby went on to make some of the most popular characters of all time including The Hulk, Iron-Man and Spiderman.
Stan’s hard work and creativity continues to impact the modern world, even though at age 20 he couldn’t possibly have known that his time in the army would contribute to his career. Or that the small comic book company that he ran errands and swept floors for would end up honouring him as one of the sole contributors of their multi-million-dollar success. There’s something to be said about his perseverance.
Stan Lee inspired good values and integrity in the minds of children in a similar way that Jesus explained heavenly concepts using parables for human understanding. I couldn’t tell you Stan’s religious views or relationship with God because I genuinely don’t know but, although he might not have been a man of God, he was certainly God’s man.
As a kid, I remembered the quote “with great power, comes great responsibility” from the Spiderman movies and with the legacy that Lee left behind, it has become evident that this was just as much Stan Lee’s motto as it was Spiderman’s when it came to the weight of his influence.
Jesse Moore draws from the Bible and classical literature for insight into life’s tough questions. He is currently studying at university to become a film-maker.
Jesse Moore’s previous articles can be viewed at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jesse-moore.html