SEVERE WX : Fire Weather Watch View Alerts

How Fantastic Four saved Stan Lee from quitting comics

Stan Lee was ready to give up on writing comic books in 1960 -- after 20 years in the business -- when his w...

Posted: Nov 13, 2018 12:14 AM
Updated: Nov 13, 2018 12:14 AM

Stan Lee was ready to give up on writing comic books in 1960 -- after 20 years in the business -- when his wife, famously, urged him to try writing one that he would like.

The result was Fantastic Four - a team of squabbling superheroes -- kicking off a string of creations with artist Jack Kirby that redefined their medium and, with the popularity of Marvel movies, has since come to occupy an enormous role in pop culture.

Arts and entertainment

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Celebrities

Comics and editorial cartoons

Companies

Marvel Entertainment LLC

Media industry

Publishing industry

Stan Lee

Visual arts

The Lee-Kirby collaboration has been likened, with some justification, to the comic-book version of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, another creative super-team of the 1960s. In short order, the duo launched the Hulk, Thor, the X-Men, Iron Man, a revived version of Captain America and Ant-Man, while Lee added perhaps Marvel's most renowned character, Spider-Man, with Steve Ditko.

Despite their colorful costumes and cosmic powers, the Marvel heroes grappled with real-world problems, and went on to address serious social issues. Lee -- who died Monday, at age 95 -- also developed a way of working with artists that empowered them, blocking out stories -- in part out of necessity, given the number of titles he was writing -- then adding dialogue when the illustrated pages came back.

Beyond his creations, in Lee, comic books had an ebullient cheerleader and goodwill ambassador, a self-described "ham" who toured college campuses proselytizing on Marvel's behalf. In later years, Lee reveled in his Hitchcock-style movie cameos and introduced himself as "Stan Lee, Creative Giant" on his business cards.

Still, Marvel's triumphs on the page didn't readily translate to the screen, yielding plenty of frustration and disappointment with early forays into movies and television, as Lee grappled with executives who didn't take the underlying work seriously.

It was only this century, in fact, first with "X-Men" -- a title Marvel notably had shed amid financial troubles -- that the company's properties began to enjoy the kind of popularity that has led to its box-office dominance.

Born Stanley Lieber, Lee stumbled into the comics business, going to work for Timely Publications, which later became Marvel, in his late teens. He got the job because his cousin was married to publisher Martin Goodman, who pushed into superheroes because of DC Comics' success with Superman and Batman.

When Lee began writing stories in the 1940s, he split his first name into a pseudonym, wanting to save his real name for more serious pursuits. Yet he lived long enough to see his work embraced and exalted by artists and filmmakers who were weaned on it, basking in the applause.

Lee remained active and immersed in creativity until the end, having lost his wife Joan -- to whom he was married for 70 years -- in 2017.

His later years, however, were also marred by discord and chaos, including accusations of elder abuse, and questions as to whether he was being exploited by a business partner. The interlude marked a sad end to his life, and reflected that Lee was often prone to getting drawn into deals with shady characters, including Peter Paul, with whom he co-founded Stan Lee Media, who was later convicted of stock fraud.

Lee signed his regular letter to Marvel readers "Excelsior!," and was fond of saying that he never wrote down to children. The worst that would happen, he noted in interviews, was if kids didn't understand a word, they might be motivated to go look up and learn its meaning.

Although some Kirby partisans have argued that the artist hasn't received his full due (he left Marvel for rival DC in the 1970s), Lee was able to see their influence come to full flower. Separate from that, part of the magic and energy that surrounded him was an enduring ability to meet adults, and -- as they reminisced about perusing those four-color pages -- make them remember being a kid.

Lee was no stranger to spinning tall tales. But given the giant legacy that he leaves behind, that listing on his business card, at least, wasn't mere hyperbole.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 793065

Reported Deaths: 15189
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2621336401
Riverside574821172
San Bernardino52873908
Orange523821150
San Diego45147765
Kern31572354
Fresno27843362
Sacramento21628383
Alameda20748390
Santa Clara20587299
San Joaquin20019421
Stanislaus16398339
Contra Costa16056201
Tulare15687256
Ventura12477146
Imperial11606314
San Francisco1086599
San Mateo9625144
Monterey956869
Santa Barbara8930110
Merced8820137
Kings753477
Sonoma7160120
Marin6613113
Solano619457
Madera442465
Placer350742
San Luis Obispo343827
Butte276940
Yolo276554
Santa Cruz22768
Sutter167910
Napa164113
San Benito131211
Yuba11307
El Dorado10744
Mendocino87518
Lassen7350
Shasta72414
Glenn5633
Nevada5246
Colusa5196
Tehama5134
Lake51211
Humboldt4896
Calaveras31114
Amador28616
Tuolumne2264
Inyo18714
Mono1652
Siskiyou1630
Del Norte1381
Mariposa752
Plumas500
Modoc250
Trinity150
Sierra60
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Chico
Scattered Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 84°
Oroville
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 68°
Paradise
Scattered Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 84°
Chester
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 54°
Red Bluff
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 64°
Willows
Scattered Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 84°
Mild temperatures, breezy south winds, and improved air quality are ahead for your Wednesday. Coastal showers will be possible on Thursday, and then hot temperatures and high fire danger return for your weekend.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events