Stan Lee, Marvel Comics’ most influential icon, dead at 95

November 12, 2018

by Carla Hay

Stan Lee (Photo courtesy of Tinseltown Shutterstock)

Stan Lee, a co-creator of numerous iconic Marvel Comics characters, including Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on November 12, 2018, according to the Associated Press. He was 95.

Lee (whose real name was Stan Lieber) was born in New York City, and began his career in 1939 as an illustrator’s assistant/gopher at Timely Comics (which would later morph into Atlas Comics and then Marvel Comics), eventually rising to editor-in-chief in 1941 and publisher in 1972. Along with several collaborators (including Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber and Don Heck), Lee co-created the characters that became Marvel’s most famous and the basis of most of the mega-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies.  In addition, to Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk, Lee was a co-creator of such Marvel characters as Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Black Panther, X-Men, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Nick Fury, Daredevil, Hawkeye, Black Widow and War Machine. The Avengers are a group of superheroes that were mostly co-created by Lee, who helped Marvel’s business expand into movies and television, with Lee being a producer or executive producer on the vast majority of film and TV releases with Marvel characters.

Lee had cameos in all of the MCU movies that were made before his death, from 2008’s “Iron-Man” to the still-untitled fourth “Avengers” movie that is set for release in 2019. He also had cameos in Sony Pictures’ movies starring Marvel characters (such as all of the “Spider-Man” movies and 2018’s “Venom”), as well as Fox’s movies starring Marvel characters, such as the “X-Men” series, the “Fantastic Four” movies, the “Deadpool” movies, 2003’s “Daredevil” and several Marvel-related TV series.

In the 1990s, Lee left his position as Marvel Comics publisher, but for the rest of his life, he was still tied to Marvel as chairman emeritus and as a producer/executive producer on various Marvel-related projects. He and Peter Paul co-founded the company Stan Lee Media in 1998, but the company filed for bankruptcy in 2001, after a stock-manipulation scandal that did not involve Lee but involved Paul, who eventually pled guilty to the crime. Lee then went on to co-found POW! Entertainment in 2001. Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009.

The last two years of Lee’s life were filled with grief and turmoil. In 2017, his wife, Joan, died at the age of 95, after 39 years of marriage. He was also caught up lawsuits and counter-lawsuits surrounding control of POW! Entertainment and his estimated $70 million fortune. (Lee’s $1 billion lawsuit against POW! Entertainment was dropped in July 2018, two months after the lawsuit was filed.) And there were stories of abuse and Lee’s alleged mental-health issues, with Lee accused of being both an abuser and a victim. A former caregiver claimed that Lee sexually harassed her, while a separate accusation claimed that he was the target of elder abuse by caregivers.

Before his health problems, Lee was an active and regular fixture at comic conventions around the world. From 2012 to 2018, Lee’s POW! Entertainment partnered with Comikaze Expo to present the Los Angeles comic convention Stan Lee’s Comikaze, which in 2016 was renamed Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con. In October 2018, Comikaze announced the end of its partnership with Lee and POW! Entertainment, and the event has been renamed Beyond Fest Expo LA. Lee’s last major public appearance was at the Los Angeles premiere of “Avengers: Infinity War” on April 23, 2018. Lee is survived by his daughter Joan Celia “J. C.” Lee.