By Mia Casey
Renowned for the contributions he made to the world of comics and his many cameos in the popular Marvel movie franchises in his later years of life, Stan Lee’s passing last week left many around the world reeling.
The early days
Born in December 1922 as Stan Lieber, he grew up wanting to be a writer with the view of one day writing ‘the great American novel’. But, like many whose careers we look up to, the world had other plans.
At the end of the 1930s, Lee began working at the comics company that would later be called Marvel. For the first few years of his career, he did mostly menial tasks – making sure inkwells were full, ferrying lunches, and erasing the pencil sketches from finished pages. It wasn’t until the early 40s that his writing career even began to take flight, and the name ‘Stan Lee’ was invented.
The start of something
In 1941 he had his first comic writing job at the same company, creating the filler text for an issue of Captain America. Here his pseudonym was born, in an attempt to protect the illustrious writing career he had envisioned from the low status comic books held in society.
Two issues later, he stopped writing filler text and starting writing the comics themselves. And as he rose up the ranks, age 19 saw him named Interim Editor after a few colleagues quit the company and the position was vacated.
Throughout his career he went on to create (and work on) an extensive number of titles that altered the comics landscape as we knew it, eventually becoming Editor-In-Chief at Marvel. His work included the creation of the Fantastic 4, Spiderman, Xmen, and the Incredible Hulk.
Unlike other comics of that era, Lee infused his characters with a humanity and empathy that was missing before. Up until that point, many leading comic book characters were idealised, perfect people – a fairly unrelatable standard for most people. His work in the 60s helped reinvigorate
His comics also named all of the people who worked on the comics, and included chatty letters signed with their first names that began breaking down the barrier between reader and creator, making the staff seem more like friends.
His works tackled many difficult and controversial social topics at the time, such as racism, war, and bigotry, creating a safe space for people to access these stories and helping to a new generation recognise and overcome these issues in their own lives.
Lee’s life and career is the perfect example of how creating work that’s meaningful to you can change so many lives. His experience also teaches us the benefits of those entry level jobs we may look over – and just how far they can take you!
Featured image courtesy of The Verge