It’s Stan Lee’s birthday, true believers! The man behind Marvel’s most successful characters turns 89 years old today and shows no sign of slowing down his cameo appearances. He also continues to create new heroes, most recently unveiling Chakra the Invincible, an Indian super-hero (see concept art here).
Born Stanley Lieber in New York in 1922, the young Lee worked a series of odd jobs before landing an assistant gig at Timely Comics. His first writing was done on ‘Captain America Comics’, a book created by his future collaborators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Stan Lee was made the interim editor of Timely at nineteen years old. By the 1960’s, Timely would be Marvel Comics and Stan Lee would help create some of the most iconic characters of all time: The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Doctor Strange, Thor, Daredevil, Iron Man, and, of course, Spider-Man.
Stan Lee, alongside Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others, created the Marvel Comics version of Manhattan. It was a place where Spider-Man could crawl up the side of the Baxter Building and meet the Fantastic Four before running into Daredevil in Hell’s Kitchen or see Cap in Red Hook. The world was more grounded and naturalistic than other comics’ portrayals and housed superheroes the way that the Village used to house musicians and artists. His distinctive writing not only produced the dialog for the comics but the “Stan’s Soapbox” columns found in many books up through the 1990’s. It is no wonder that Lee became the face and voice of Marvel.
More recently, Lee has taken advantage of his position as an elder statesman of the comic book world. Aside from his public appearances, he worked for longtime rival DC Comics, re-imagining their most famous characters. He was falsely (but intentionally) credited with the creation of Marvel’s Sentry character, which was purported to be a “lost creation” of the legendary scribe.
Most famously, however, Lee has had a cameo in every one of the films based on Marvel characters since 2000’s ‘X-Men,’ appearing as an Army officer, a guy who wrecks his pickup truck trying to tow Mjolnir and a slew of other faces in the crowd. Last year was busy for Lee, as he kept his crown as the King of Cameos by showing up in ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger.’ Next year you can catch him just as often in ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ and ‘The Avengers.’
Truly one of the great creative minds and the godfather of superhero comics, we all owe a big “Happy Birthday” to Stan the Man (or do you prefer “Smilin’ Stan Lee?”).