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MANILA, Philippines – Marvel Comics’ pioneering creative force Stan Lee died at the age of 95 on November 12, leaving the world to mourn the loss of a man who changed the way comic books were written, and made misfits everywhere feel a little less alone with his iconic characters.
Lee has become a beloved figure in pop culture, and his signature look – thick glasses, a moustache, and an ear-to-ear grin – became something comic book fans looked forward to seeing in Marvel films and fan conventions.
Here are some tidbits from Stan Lee’s long and storied life:
Stan Lee was initially just a pseudonym
His given name was Stanley Martin Lieber. “Stan Lee” was a pseudonym he used when he started writing for the Captain America comics. He shared on Web of Stories that he legally changed his name to avoid confusion, since he was becoming more and more known as Stan Lee.
“Which is really a stupid name. I mean, I love Stanley Martin Lieber. I should have run for public office with a name like that,” he said. “But anyway, that’s how I became Stan Lee.”
He served in the US Army in 1942
“Like an idiot I volunteered. I wanted to be a hero,” he said on Web of Stories, saying that he was placed in the Signal Corps where he started out climbing telegraph poles and setting up communications for the troops, before being asked to help produce training films for the army.
Lee said that while writing for the army, he churned out pieces so quickly that he was asked to slow down because he was making the other writers look bad. But as Lee explained:
“I love to write but I hate to write. I love to dream up stories but actually sitting down and writing them is a bore, because I’m trying to catch up with myself…So I don’t really like the physical part of writing, and because of that I write very, very quickly, ‘cause I want to get through with it fast.”
Fantastic Four kept him in comics
Lee was ready to quit writing comics because he felt that Marvel’s publisher at the time wanted him to talk down to readers. “He felt that comics were just for young kids or stupid adults,” Lee said on Web of Stories. His wife suggested that before he quit, he write one more comic the way he would want to do it.
He then came up with Fantastic Four which was illustrated by Jack Kirby, who would become his long-time collaborator.
Through Fantastic Four, Lee would begin to break from superhero archetypes, writing characters who were as flawed as they were powerful, and placing them in real world, everyday settings.
“Instead of making them heroes who wore costumes I figured, I’m not going to give them costumes, ’cause I always felt if I had a superpower, why would I want to put on a costume? First of all, I’m too much of a show off. I’d want everybody to know it’s me, I would never wear a mask,” he said.
“And why would I need a costume? If I could jump over a building, I don’t have to wear a colorful costume I’ll just jump over the building. At any rate, I didn’t give them costumes and I tried to make them real characters living in the real world. The hero wasn’t just a perfect guy, he was a fellow like me.”
After launching the Fantastic Four, he would go on to co-create iconic heroes such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther, Hulk, Thor, the X-Men, Daredevil, and Doctor Strange. The characters would live in a shared universe, and were eventually teamed up to form The Avengers.
Who’s his favorite character?
Lee has been asked many time who his favorite super hero creation was – and in an outtake from the documentary Superheroes, he said that “I really don’t have any, because of the ones I’ve written, when I was writing each one, that was my favourite at the moment, because I was all involved in him or in her…They’re all like my children anyway, I think I love them equally the same.”
However, he seemed to changed his mind later on. When he was asked the same question in a radio interview in 2014, he said “I guess it’s Spider-Man because he seems to be the most popular of all of them, and I will go with the way the world judges it.”
When Lee began writing a monthly letter to Marvel subscribers in the ‘60s, he would sign off with ‘Excelsior,’ a word that would become his signature catchphrase.
Explaining his catchphrase to i09 in 2007, Lee said: “I used to have a lot of expressions that I would end my comic book columns with: Hang Loose, Face Front, ‘Nuff Said, and I found that the competition was always imitating them and using them. So, I said I’m going to get one expression that they’re not going to know what it means, and they won’t know how to spell it. And that’s where excelsior came from, and they never did take up on it, thank goodness.”
The Stan Lee cameos
His first-ever cameo, according to The Guardian, was in a 1989 Hulk TV movie. He would then be part of pretty much every Marvel film since 2000, and his appearance would be something fans would watch out for.
This makes the upcoming films Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 particularly special – it was reported that Lee had already filmed his cameos for these films before he passed. – Rappler.com