Today is a sad day for the MCU. We lost Stan Lee. I can’t imagine how the fabric of the next Marvel movie will tie together without the old man himself. Nope, it can’t happen. Stan Lee was a crucial mark of any Marvel movie. It’s always been that way! So I don’t see how the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) can exist without him. But of course, I’m in denial after the world lost the adored 95-year old Monday morning.
If you don’t know who Stan Lee is, let’s just start by saying he was a real-world superhero. For most comic book lovers, at least. The Marvel Comics co-creator gave the world some of its most iconic superheroes, including the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk — just to name a few.
Unless you’ve been too busy saving the world from Thanos, you’ve probably noticed the wave of Marvel movies taking over the planet. The MCU is an important part of the entertainment industry as a whole. Almost all of the iconic Avengers were originally created by comic book writer, Stan Lee: including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk.
At its peak, Marvel sold about 50 million copies a year. Until he retired from editing in 1971, Lee wrote all the copy for Marvel’s covers. He was also known for making a cameo in every Marvel film. His characters brought the humans behind the heroes to life for the first time. Hugh Jackman, who played Wolverine in the X-Men films, called Lee a “pioneering force in the superhero universe”.
Stan Lee and the Marvel Comics
According to the Marvel website, it was at Timely Comics (which would later become the amazing Marvel Comics) that Stan Lee truly dived into his career in comics.
Lee scripted most of Marvel’s superhero comics himself during the ’60s, including the Avengers and the X-Men. In 1972, he became Marvel’s publisher and editorial director. Four years later, 72 million copies of Spider-Man were sold. As Lee put it at the time, “He (Spider-man) has become our Mickey Mouse”.
Despite his age, Lee hadn’t intended to stop being remarkable anytime soon:
“I love what I do. If I had to do anything else, I’d be miserable. If I weren’t coming into the office and working with the people here, I would be sitting at home, watching television.”
Stan Lee and the Marvel Movies
As Marvel comics became popular, more and more superheroes started getting their own movies. The recent projects featuring Stan Lee ranged all the way from the million-dollar hits “Avengers: Infinity War,” ”Black Panther” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” to fascinating TV series such as “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and “Daredevil.” Fans recognized Lee for his funny-old-man, grey hair, glasses look, as he featured in various cameos in Marvel movies and TV projects.
The first big-budget movie based on Lee’s characters, “X-Men,” was a huge deal in 2000. It earned more than $130 million at North American theaters. “Spider-Man” did even better, taking in more than $400 million in 2002! Soon after, the Marvel movie empire rose and took over Hollywood. Needless to say, it became one of the most lucrative mega-franchises in cinema history, with the recent “Avengers: Infinity War” grossing more than $2 billion worldwide. In 10 years, the MCU films have netted over $17.6 billion in worldwide grosses.
The Marvel Heroes
Meanwhile, Stan Lee ensured to not depict his heroes as unrealistic, flawless angels that could do no wrong (such as rival DC Comics’ Superman). In fact, he created them in a way that appealed to the audience’s sense of relatability and humor. Lee was known for bringing complex emotional life and authenticity to his superhero characters.
In elaboration: The Fantastic Four were portrayed to constantly fight with each other. Spider-Man took great responsibility for all his superhero work only because of his alter ego, Peter Parker. The latter of whom suffered from unrequited crushes, money problems and dandruff. The Silver Surfer, an alien doomed to wander Earth’s atmosphere, lamented on the woeful nature of man. The Hulk was marked by self-loathing. Moreover, Daredevil was blind and Iron Man had a weak heart.
As Jeff Kline, executive producer of the “Men in Black” animated television series, once said:
“The beauty of Stan Lee’s characters is that they were characters first and superheroes next.”
Besides, some of Lee’s creations became symbols of social change. For example, the inner turmoil of Spider-Man represented ’60s America. More recently, The Black Panther and The Savage She-Hulk were symbols of the struggles faced by minorities and women.
As Lee told Variety in July 2017:
“I think when it comes down to it, it’s the relatable nature of all of the heroes that makes them resonate [with people].”
Likewise, The Fantastic Four were no less. Writing in “Origins of Marvel Comics,” Lee described the four this way:
“The characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to; they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty and — most important of all — inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.”
Stan Lee and His Cameos
Furthermore, Lee had cameos in at least 56 Marvel-related projects. His first cameo came in 1989 when he pretended to be a concerned jury member in the TV film ‘The Trial of the Incredible Hulk’. Then, he went on to play a surprised bystander in Spider-Man. He also played a security guard in the Hulk. The entertaining cameos ranged all the way from Lee shown avoiding falling concrete, watering his lawn, delivering the mail, crashing a wedding, playing a security guard, etc.
Marvel fans know the complexity and beauty of the MCU or Marvel Cinematic Universe. It shows everything from a micro to a macro perspective. Moreover, the stories it encompasses are woven with great attention to detail and depth. But the Avengers universe wasn’t just created magically.
As a writer and editor with various stories in his hands at the same time, Lee was the one who wove them together into a seamless fictional world. He made a MCU where it was possible for Iron Man to join forces with the Fantastic Four, and for Captain America to find himself a wedding guest alongside Doctor Strange.
In a 2006 interview for The Associated Press, Lee said:
“I think everybody loves things that are bigger than life…I think of them as fairy tales for grown-ups. We all grew up with giants and ogres and witches. Well, you get a little bit older and you’re too old to read fairy tales. But I don’t think you ever outgrow your love for those kind of things, things that are bigger than life and magical and very imaginative.”
Moreover, Lee considered the creation of comic books as art. And he was beyond great at it. By some accounts, he came up with a new comic book every day for 10 years.
“I wrote so many I don’t even know. I wrote either hundreds or thousands of them,” he told the AP in 2006.
On his own and alongside frequent artist-writer collaborators Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others, Lee made Marvel go from a tiny venture to the world’s No. 1 publisher of comic books. And eventually, a multimedia giant.
Thus, in 2009, The Walt Disney Co. bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Now, most of the top-grossing superhero films of all time — led by the Avengers: Infinity War — have featured Marvel characters.
“I used to think what I did was not very important,” he told the Chicago Tribune in April 2014. “People are building bridges and engaging in medical research, and here I was doing stories about fictional people who do extraordinary, crazy things and wear costumes. But I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed.”
In Spider-Man 3 (2007), he chats with Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker as they stop on a Times Square street:
“You know, I guess one person can make a difference … ’nuff said.”
Here are some of the most inspirational quotes the legend ever gave us!