You say you're far from being an expert on Stan "The Man" Lee, all you knowledge-needing newbies of Marveldom? Well, fear not, faithful ones - what follows should help you out at least a bit in that direction.

Rhapsodic writer and erudite editor Stan Lee was born (as Stanley Lieber) in New York in 1922. (Yep, that answers the question of how his brother was always published as Larry Lieber.)

Armed with his more show biz-sounding name, Lee started stirring things up in the sleepy comic book world of the 1940s, an era in which the DC (Daunting Competitors) publishing company under Jack Liebowitz had been ruling the roost with one guy wearing a red cape and another wearing a dark blue one.

Although a mere stripling of 16, Lee's mind was already thinking much older thoughts. He had begun in the late 1930s as a writer and then assistant editor for the Timely Comics group, a printing concern run by his uncle, meticulous Martin Goodman.

In 1941, the Captain America comic was born, and the following year Lee was officially promoted to the post of editor.

World War II interrupted Lee's comfortable unreality but just like Captain America, he patriotically joined the Army. There he served diligently in the Signal Corps, and for three years he also wrote scripts for training films and manuals for all branches of the service.

After winning the war single-handedly (okay, he also had some help), Lee returned to Timely Comics, which was later renamed Atlas when it began entering a tough financial period in the '50s. Traditional super-hero comic sales were slowing down due to popular TV soap operas and monster movies promoting interest in romance and horror comics instead.

Atlas also took a fling at romance comics, but ironically their heart wasn't in it. Likewise, the "monster of the month" formula grew quite predictable after awhile.

Besides, Marvel had too many new and improved super-hero ideas waiting to bust out into action!

By 1961, after Atlas had changed its name to Marvel, the public had reached the saturation point with romance comics, so the super-hero adventure story was able to begin clicking again.

This was admittedly also due in large part to the recent "silver age" wave of revamped super-heroes started in the late '50s over at DC by their editor Julius Schwartz, but Marvel lost no time in capitalizing on it themselves, of course.

Lee quickly got into the groove, starting with a team takeoff on the '50s foursome that made up the Challengers of the Unknown which Jack "King" Kirby had drawn for DC. Lee was originally going to call it the Fabulous Four, but Goodman (his uncle, remember?) insisted that Fantastic Four sounded better. (The FF also included a revamp of an old '40s character, the Torch, by Charles Biro.)

But by now Kirby himself was working for mighty Marvel, so the comics world was in for a huge jolt. Soon came other stars, like Sub-Mariner (also a '40s Marvel revamp, formerly done by Bill Everett) The Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor and Iron Man, all drawn by Kirby.

Add to that the brilliant Spiderman and Doctor Strange, both drawn by "Sturdy" Steve Ditko, and Daredevil (another '40s revamp, formerly drawn by Jack Cole) now with artwork by EC horror master Wally Wood, and you had one awesome lineup, to say the least.

And, incredibly, all of them (and more) were written and edited by Stan "The Man" Lee! In fact, during his first 25 years at Marvel's helm, variously as head writer, editor and art director, Lee scripted no fewer than two and as many as five complete comic books a week!

That mind-boggling output easily equals the largest body of published work by any single writer. Additionally, Lee wrote newspaper features, radio and television scripts and screenplays (just to kill some of his downtime from comics).

Copyright © 2003 Chicago Review Press

After Kirby's passing in 1994, comic and magazine historians uncover evidence that both Kirby and Ditko had much more input into the actual creation of those various characters - and scenarios featuring them - than had been originally thought.

In fact during the late '90s even Lee himself began going on the record as acknowledging their contributions, saying that he considered himself lucky to have worked with many of the most talented artists in the business.

The main reason that fans stuck with Lee's plots over the years is that although he endowed them with super-human powers, he also left them with their human emotions intact, with which all readers could heavily identify.

In 1972, Lee became Marvel's publisher and editorial director. In 1974, he wrote a book called Origins of Marvel Comics. In 1977 Lee presented Spider-man to the newspapers as a syndicated strip.

This seven-day-a-week feature, which he ended up writing for over 30 years, became the most successful of all syndicated adventure strips, appearing wordwide in more than 500 newspapers.

He also wrote The Silver Surfer, Bring on the Bad Guys, The Superhero Women, and How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (the latter being made into a video with John Buscema).

More recently Lee wrote the introduction to the best-selling book Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World's Greatest Comics.

Going a step further, in 1981 Marvel started an animation studio on the west coast, so Stan Lee moved to Los Angeles where he became creative head of Marvel's Cinematic Adventures.

He transformed the Spider-Man and Hulk creations into Saturday morning television attractions, some of which, including Spider-Man, blossomed out into daily animated adventures during the 1990s.

This all paved the way for Marvel's entry into live-action feature films - maybe you've heard of some of them, including X-men, Spider-Man, and Daredevil? If not, surely there are a few extra copies laying around Blockbuster Video to bring you up to speed.

Lee also shocked and amazed many fans by going to work for DC Comics on a limited engagement series, retelling some of the classic DC Super Heroes in his own special style - you know, showing the competition how it should be done!

Related Reading:

Still can't get enough of Stan "The Man" - and who could blame you? Well, in 2003, Lee's legend was promoted yet again, this time in a book by Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon entitled:

Stan Lee Lee And The Rise And Fall Of The American Comic Book (2003). (The paperback version was released in August 2004.)

We could also mention another book, Excelsior!: The Amazing Life Of Stan Lee (2002) by Stan Lee and George Mair.

There's even a great long interview of Lee on DVD, featuring Kevin Smith (of Jay and Silent Bob fame) going over many areas of Marvel history, in Mutants, Monsters And Marvels (2002).

So check 'em out now, while they last, true believers! They probably only have a few million copies left of each - which should be carefully wrapped, of course, in excelsior!


Marvel Comics
Rise & Fall
Stan's Sundays

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