There’s no question that long-time writer, editor, and creator Stan Lee forever changed the face of the comic book industry and, really, entertainment in general, through his creations and his work. From his first work in the industry as an assistant with Timely Comics (which would eventually become Marvel Comics) all the way back in 1939, Stan (we’re going to reference him by hist first name instead of his last name, because that’s just the kind of relationship he wanted with his fans) showed a passion and knack for the comic form of entertainment that was unparalleled. Stan is the creator or co-creator of such iconic characters such as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man.
Most “True Believers” know all of this. However, Presenting in loving tribute, here are 10 Non-Marvel Comics Characters That Stan Lee Created:
One of the few characters that Stan ever developed for a live-action format, Harry Clayton is the lead character of the TV show “Lucky Man,” which airs on the Sky1 network in Great Britain. By most accounts, Clayton himself is a fairly “normal” character: his day job is as a detective, and he enjoys spending his free time as a gambling addict (well… nobody’s perfect).
After one particularly disastrous evening at the tables, Clayton thinks he’s salvaged his “luck” by engaging in a lustful evening with a mysterious woman; when he awakens the next morning, however, he discovers that the woman has placed an antique bracelet on his wrist. Clayton finds that he is unable to remove the jewelry, and even worse, he soon discovers that it has the strange power of making people around him very unlucky the more lucky he gets.
The show has completed two full seasons, but no word at this time if it will continue further.
In 1988, Stan would open his own entertainment company, Stan Lee Media, with the intent on creating internet-based comics and animated series. Stan was such a pioneer on this online-specific wave of entertainment that he and his marketing team are actually credited with the creation of the term “webisode.”
Stan Lee Media soon declared bankruptcy, however, as they were one of the many companies to fall prey to the “dot-com explosion” and subsequent collapse in the early 2000s. Never one to be kept down, however, Stan started a new company, POW! Entertainment, and their first large-scale project was, of all things, “Stripperella,” an adult-themed animated television show that aired on the Spike TV channel. The show, one of Stan’s “dirtier” forays, was designed to be a tongue-in-cheek mix f superhero action and adult situations/humor: an exotic dancer named Erotica Jones (voiced by Pamela Anderson) turns into a crime-fighting special agent by night – er, later at night, I guess?
DC Superheroes (Sort Of)
Okay, so “partial credit” here, as Stan never technically created any super-heroes for Marvel’s biggest rival, DC Comics – but in the early 2000s, he did get a chance to have a go at “re-imagining” the origin stories for some of the company’s biggest names, so this is sort of accurate!
In a series of one-shot special issues, DC handed Stan the reigns to completely redesign and reinvent the stories for superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, The Flash, and more. Entitled “Just Imagine…,” the series had a very “What If?” type of feel to it, and DC appreciated the collaboration so much that they even kept Stan’s creations alive in their constant multiverse reshuffling, acknowledging that his heroes exist on “Earth-6” in the current-but-always-subject-to-change lineup of their multiple universes.
Ever wondered what a superhero that wins a reality show in order to become a hero would be like? Well, look no further than Feedback. In the mid-2000s, Stan and his POW! Entertainment collaborated with the Sci-Fi Network to air the show “Who Wants To Be A Superhero?,” a contest-driven reality show where ordinary people created their own heroic alter-egos for, ostensibly, doing good and stuff (probably mostly for fame and fortune, though).
The winner of the first season was Feedback, aka Matthew Atherton. A mild-mannered software engineer in real life, Feedback’s “super power” was to create powerful fields of feedback energy that had the ability to disrupt electronics. Although Stan did not create Feedeback directly, he and his show allowed the character to be born; in 2007, Dark Horse Comics created a one-shot special issue, written by Stan, that outlined the character’s origin story.
Post-“Stripperella” (a phrase I never thought I’d ever write), Stan collaborated with Manga Entertainment for two direct-to-video features: “Mosiac” and “The Condor.” Both were aired on the Cartoon Network in 2007, and both were, truth be told, largely forgettable. ‘The Condor,’ however, draws a couple of “did you know” type of trivia notes, so we’ll focus on that movie for this piece.
First, the hero itself: The Condor operates with a nano-tech suit, similar to what audiences are seeing with the current version of the Iron Man armor in Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so props to Stan for being a little ahead of his time here. The superhero’s alter-ego, Tony Valvez, is a pro skateboarder (not trying to cash in on the Tony Hawk mid-2000s craze, were you now, Stan?) who gets injured and has his tech-geek friend build him the “super suit.” There’s more back-story about evil skateboarder’s and Tony’s parents being killed, but it’s largely irrelevant at this point.
Jumping into the world of novel-length stories, Stan created “The Zodiac Legacy,” a trio of books released between 2015-2017. The story centers around Steven Lee, a 12-year-old Chinese-American youth who discovers during a trip to Hong Kong that he has superpowers granted from his Zodiac sign. The illustrated novel series follows Steven and his exploits in dealing with his new powers and how it affects his family and friends.
The books were published through Disney Press, and accompanying graphic novels have also been produced. The series is co-written by Stuart Moore and feature artwork by Andie Tong.
Boom! Heroes (Soldier Zero, Starborn, The Traveler)
One of the largest and most successful non-Marvel projects for Stan has been his collaboration with Boom! Studios, in which he was able to create three different titles in a “shared universe” of sorts. Boom! was smart enough to add some high-powered talent to the projects, lending such writing and artistry names like Mark Waid, Dan Abnett, Chad Hardin, Chris Roberson, Andy Lanning, Khary Randolph, Paul Cornell, Javier Pina, and more.
“Soldier Zero” revolves around a wheelchair-bound former Marine and current college professor who finds himself randomly bonded to a futuristic alien flight suit that grants him superhuman abilities. “Starborn” sees a failed fantasy novelist discover that the story ideas in his head weren’t just fantasy, but actually repressed memories of his time on his own home planet – he’s an alien! The Traveler is a mysterious time-traveling superhero who always seems to pop up at just the right – or wrong – time, and his actions leave the history of the universe hanging in the balance. No pressure!
When Stan had POW! Entertainment running “full throttle,” the projects and plans were a-plenty. The company struck a deal with Archie Comics to create a new imprint as a sub-division of the company; called “Stan Lee Comics,” the collaboration didn’t go quite as far as either party had hoped.
First up from Stan Lee Comics was “Stan Lee’s Super 7,” a planned six-issue mini-series. A toy company named Super7, however, slapped the parties with a lawsuit, so the name was changed to “Stan Lee’s Mighty 7.” In 2012, the first issue premiered and POW! also produced an animated movie for the series. The story of the series was very self-referential: in it, Stan himself finds that all his ideas for new series are rejected by Archie Comics, so he goes for a night-time country drive to clear his head (as one does), where he meets a group of super-powered aliens that have crash-landed on Earth, and voila! he has his idea for a hit series and gets to fight crime in “real life” with a team as well.
Sounds intriguing, right? Unfortunately, the six-issue planned mini-series only made it to issue three before it was cancelled, and the animated movie wasn’t picked up and aired by a network until two years later, making the “synergy” of the project largely useless. Two additional movies and an ongoing comic series that had been planned were, of course, cancelled as well.
POW! Entertainment, determined to get their beaks wet in a little bit of everything, decided to try their hand at creating anime in 2008. Building on their relationship with Manga Entertainment from collborating on “Mosaic” and “The Condor,” Stan worked with Japanese comic guru Hiroyuki Takei in creating “Karakuri Doji Ultimo,” which was serialized in Japanese manga magazine “Jump Square.”
The story revolves around Ultimo and Vice, two karakuri doji (“mechanical boys,” aka robots) who are meant to be the embodiment of good and evil. Created in the distant future by Dr. Dustan (who himself looked like an anime version of Stan, neat!), the series followed their exploits throughout time; Dustan deposited the duo in feudal Japan but much of the action takes place in the modern day. The story was serialized into English a few years later, first published in “Shonen Jump” and now available in its own collected volumes.
Building on the success of Ultimo, “The Reflection” is actually the most current entry on our list, just having premiered in Japan in 2017. A 12-episode first season brought the anime to life as one of Stan’s last original creations: a worldwide event known as The Reflection grants many of the population super-powers, and the story follows how some people choose to use their gifts for good while others opt for a more evil approach.
In addition to narrating the series, Stan also lent his voice to one of the villains, Mr. Mystic. The series was directed by anime veteran Hiroshi Nagahama, and Funimation has provided an English dub for the series, which is available on both home-video and (currently) streaming on Hulu as well.
Do you know of any Stan-created non-Marvel projects that we haven’t mentioned? Which of these on our list sound like something you might want to check out? Sound off in the comments and let us know!