Stan Lee, the creative dynamo who revolutionised the comic book and helped make billions for Hollywood by introducing human frailties in Marvel superheroes such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, died on Monday.
He was 95.
As the top writer at Marvel Comics and later as its publisher, Lee was widely considered the architect of the contemporary comic book.
He revived the industry in the 1960s by offering the costumes and action craved by younger readers while insisting on sophisticated plots, college-level dialogue, satire, science fiction, even philosophy.
Lee was recognisable to his fans – he had cameos in Marvel films and TV projects – his hair grey and his glasses slightly tinted.
“I think everybody loves things that are bigger than life. … I think of them as fairy tales for grown-ups,” he said in a 2006 interview.
Lee considered the comic-book medium an art form and he was prolific: By some accounts, he came up with a new comic book every day for 10 years.
He hit his stride in the 1960s when he brought the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man and numerous others to life.
His heroes were a far cry from virtuous do-gooders such as rival DC Comics’ Superman.
The Fantastic Four fought with each other. Spider-Man was goaded into superhero work by his alter ego, Peter Parker, who suffered from unrequited crushes, money problems and dandruff.
Some of Lee’s creations became symbols of social change – the inner turmoil of Spider-Man represented 1960s America, for example, while The Black Panther and The Savage She-Hulk mirrored the travails of minorities and women.
The first big-budget movie based on Lee’s characters, X-Men, was a smash in 2000, earning more than $US130 million at North American theatres.
Spider-Man did even better, taking in more than $US400 million in 2002. A Marvel movie empire would emerge after that, one of the most lucrative mega-franchises in cinema history, with the recent Avengers: Infinity War grossing more than $US2 billion worldwide.
Stanley Martin Lieber was born December 28, 1922, in New York. He grew up a fan of Hardy Boys adventure books and Errol Flynn movies, and got a job at Timely Comics after graduating from high school.
Within a few months, the editor and art director quit, leaving the 17-year-old Lee with creative control over the company, which grew and was renamed Atlas Comics and, finally, Marvel. Lieber changed his name, thinking Lee would be used for “silly little comics” and his real name would be reserved for novels.
After a stint in the Army during World War II, writing for training films, he was back at Marvel to begin a long and admittedly boring run of assembly line comic book production.
He created The Fantastic Four, in 1960, with the characters, plot and text from Lee and the illustrations by famed Marvel artist Jack Kirby.
The characters were normal people changed into reluctant superheroes through no fault of their own.
The Amazing Spider-Man followed in 1962 and before long, Marvel Comics was an industry behemoth.
Lee moved to Los Angeles in 1981 to head Marvel Productions, an animation studio that was later purchased, along with Marvel Comics, for $US50 million by New World Entertainment.
In 2000, Lee agreed to write stories for DC Comics, reinventing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and other signature characters for Marvel’s one-time rival.