By Thomas Rodriguez
Let’s start with Stan Lee, the writer.
Before the creation of the Fantastic Four and the start of the Silver age of comics, the thought that a superhero would have faults like the rest of us was absurd. Before his creations were brought to the
Marvel didn’t have those kinds of characters, those modern mythological gods. No, they had a teenager who tried to balance school, a job, and responsibly as the friendly
This was the world of Marvel. This was the world made by Stan Lee.
Stan Lee was like McCartney to Jack Kirby’s John Lennon. Taken apart, they left
And the crazy thing was, it almost didn’t happen.
The story goes that Stan Lee was ready to quit comics. His wife suggested he write one last book, something that he would want to read.
And out of that frustration, the Fantastic Four was born.
And an industry evolved. Perhaps even saved.
Now let’s talk about Stan Lee, the pitchman.
Stan modelled himself as the late 20th-century version of Walt Disney. He took on the role of company pitchman with an energy like the creator of the world’s most famous mouse. It was almost a way to hold on to ownership of the characters,though he created them as an employee of Marvel. He wanted to see them succeed, and so he sold the hell out of them.
He narrated books and video games. He appeared in both print and television commercials. He made cameos on almost every Marvel related film and television adaptation produced. He put himself out there as the face of Marvel Comics. When you thought of Marvel, Stan Lee was the first person you thought of. Some even thought that he still wrote the books, though he stopped writing comics with any regularity in 1972.
He believed in Marvel comics, and he did everything he could to let you know that.
Finally, let’s talk about Stan Lee, the innovator.
He was the first writer to truly collaborate with his artist. He achieved this by developing what was then called the Marvel Method of writing comics.
The premise was simple. Stan would provide his artist with a plot outline of the story he wanted to write (often over the phone). From that outline, it was up to the artist to break it down and draw a 22-page comic. Stan would then receive the artwork, and write dialogue based on what he saw in the panels. Marvel would publish that book, and the process would begin again. He did this to keep up with the demands of both the publishing schedule and the artist whom he was working with. Using this method, he could write five different comic books for five different artists and have all the comics come out on a monthly basis.
He popularized the use of the shared universe in Marvel comics by having most of the characters live in New York
And he allowed artists to be as famous as the characters they worked on. With his monthly “Stan’s Soapbox”, the prominent display of the artist’s name in the credits, and the use of nicknames, he was able to connect names with the art and allow the artists, and himself, to become niche celebrities. The comic conventions you go to today don’t happen if Stan Lee didn’t help popularize the people who draw your
Modern pop culture wouldn’t be what it is today without Stan Lee. His creative vision and innovative storytelling in the comic book medium have been refined but never topped. Like those who followed the Beatles, the writers and artist working in comics today follow in the footsteps of Stan the Man. He has achieved a level of immortality those in the creative arts can only dream of.
We mourn the man we lost. We celebrate the work he’s left behind. We thank him for
And that with great power, comes great responsibility.