I was sitting on a delayed and diverted train from London Charing Cross when I heard the news. Aptly enough I was watching a fight scene between Wolverine and The Hulk on Youtube when the story broke. As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now the legendary comic book writer Stan Lee has passed away. His death wasn’t unexpected but it is still heart wrenching. His impact on the comic book world and our world as a whole, is undeniable and he has shaped the lives of thousands of children around the globe, including myself.
Here is a quick run through of Lee career in the writing industry.
Lee started working in Timely comics, later renamed Marvel comics, in 1933 doing grunt work in an office. Lee would proofread issues, refill ink pots and complete other small menial tasks. He was finally given the chance of write his own comic in 1941, his first comic was called Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge and was met with positive reviews. Shortly after this publication World War Two broke out and many of Lee’s characters fought in the Second World War against the Nazi’s and the Axis powers. The American troops on the front line would receive care packages which would contain comics books as proper-gander, some of these comics were penned by Stan Lee.
After the Second World War ended, sales in comic books dropped. The situation was made worse by Doctor Fredric Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent which accused comics of corrupting America’s youth. Due to this, every comic had to be approved by the Comics Code Authority, some of their rules can be found below:
- Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
- Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
- In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
- Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
- No comic magazine shall use the words “horror” or “terror” in its title.
- All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
- Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
- Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
Lee was an avid campaigner against the Comics Code Authority and due to this campaigning, and his earlier works in the industry, he became known as the “Father of Comics”. Lee argued that comics books were an effective medium for teaching the readers about real world issues such as drug use, racism war and he defied the code on many notable occasions.
In 1961, Lee was about to give in his registration letter and retire from the world of comic books when he received a phone call from his boss. DC Comics had published their first issue of Justice League of America and Marvel wanted to compete with a superhero team of their own. Lee’s wife told him he should accept the commission and write the comic the way he wanted to, not the way that the bosses at Marvel wanted. Lee followed her advice and soon afterwards the Fantastic Four were created, the first superhero family. Following this success, Stan created The Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, Iron Man, The X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange and The Spectacular Spiderman to name a few.
Although Marvel almost went bankrupt in the 1990’s and had to sell the movie rights to many of their characters to stay afloat, Lee continued to work in the company, tirelessly producing comics. Today Stan is most well known for his cameo appearances in Marvel films, most notably films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Stan Lee is an inspiration for thousand of writers around the globe, he went from paper pusher to the head of a comic book empire.
Thank you for your work, sir. May you rest in peace.