If there wasn’t already a character named “Captain Marvel,” Stan Lee could officially make that his name and no one would think he was crazy. Lee has been the driving force for the company since its earliest days, and is practically synonymous with the name Marvel. For all of his contributions to comics, film, and toy culture, he is a member of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.
Marvel comics has become such an entertainment juggernaut that it’s hard to remember they were once a humble new comic book publisher. Lee’s early ambitions were to be a novelist, but he discovered that using images could be a more effective way to tell stories. He started at Timely Comics (which would eventually become Marvel Comics) as a production assistant, filling ink wells and erasing pencil lines from original art pages. He eventually began submitting story ideas for other artists to illustrate, and quickly rose through the ranks at the company.
In the late 1950s, he was asked to develop characters for a superhero series. His complex, supernatural, yet rooted cast became the Fantastic Four. When he was teamed up with artist Jack Kirby, the format for Marvel’s future was set. They followed that success up with new heroes such as the Hulk, Iron Man, and the X-Men. He was so prolific that he was teamed with additional artists such as Steve Ditko to develop Doctor Strange and other titles.
Toys and action figures were a natural extension of the comic characters, and Lee helped steer Marvel into that territory as well. As publisher, and later as more of a figurehead and public face of Marvel the company would grow to a billion dollar enterprise of film, television, toys, and comics.
Lee gets a cameo role in most Marvel films, some more subtle than others. His first major appearance was as the narrator of the Incredible Hulk TV show in the 1980s. To this day, he remains as popular and recognizeable as many of his own creations. Excelsior!