Festival of the Arts: The History of Comic Legend Stan Lee


Stan Lee, one of the most famous and arguably greatest comic book writers of all time, who along with Jack Kirby, created Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Spider-Man and the Avengers. With his unfortunate passing last year and the newest Avengers movie out, now might be the perfect time for a little history lesson about Stan Lee. 

Stan Lee was born on December 28, 1922 in New York City as Stanley Lieber. His father and mother, Jack and Celia, were immigrants from Romania who lived in a tiny apartment. Stan was pushed by his mother to get grades good enough to finish school early so that he could help the family. This resulted in Lee skipping a few grades and because he was so young, struggling to make friends. But he loved to read, write, and even draw, and found refuge in reading the Hardy Boys books about two adventurous brothers who loved to solve mysteries. 

When Lee was nine years old, another member of the family was born and Lee needed to get a job in a pinch– he began delivering sandwiches to office workers. When he was just 16, he graduated from high school and started to work at a publishing company and was assigned to the comics with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the top editor and artist. He was paid $8 a week.

One day, Lee was asked to write a new story for an issue of Captain America. He called it “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge.” The title wasn’t that catchy but he was only 17, and it was new opportunity. It wasn’t long after that he started to write more and more stories, and decided he needed a pen name. He finally settled on Stan Lee.

After both Jack Kirby and Joe Simon quit, Stan Lee, now 18 years old, was put in charge of the comic section. In 1941 when the the second World War found its way to America, Lee enlisted. As a writer, he was given the opportunity to work writing slogans, manuals, and even tracing films for the army, only one of eight people to do so. While enlisted, he wrote for both the Army and Timely Comics. After the war ended, Stan married Joan Clayton Boocock, a hat modeler. Lee stayed on at Timely as Editor. He would later have two daughters: Joan Lee born in 1950 and Jan Lee born in 1953, though she would sadly die just three days after being born.

In the 1940s, comics came under attack by many parents and doctors who claimed that comic books caused children to behave in delinquent and dangerous ways. This caused the the forming of the Comics Code Authority which outlined a list of guidelines that comic books had to follow. It had the power to approve every comic before being sold. If approved, it had a stamp on it saying, “Approved By The Comics Code Authority.” This caused sales to drop and comics became boring and stale.

So, Lee decided to write a new comic that dealt with the problems and issues of normal people. And that’s how The Fantastic Four was born! Lee would go on, along with Jack Kirby, to write Spider-Man, Thor, the Avengers and more. Timely became Marvel, and Stan would go on to become the publisher of Marvel. He passed away in 2018 at the age of 95.