Stan (Stanley Martin Lieber) Lee, to-date by far the most successful artist of any sort fo bridge to chasm between comic books and motion pictures, has passed, on November 12, 2018, at the age of 95.
Like many millions around the world, I mourn the New Yorker whose work often bore, in location, speech and attitude, the stamp of his birthplace.
Born in the most modest of circumstances in the apartment of his Romanian-born Jewish immigrant parents on the corner of West 98th street and West End Avenue on December 28, 1922, Lee's professional beginnings did not suggest the eventual Comic Book Kingpin whose work would transform generations and dramatically effect the world of motion pictures toward the end of his life.
At the age of 17, he managed to get a job through his Uncle Robbie Solomon, as an assistant at what was then called Timely Comics, eventually to be re-named "Marvel Comics". On this he said, "I applied for a job in a publishing company ... I didn't even know they published comics. I was fresh out of high school, and I wanted to get into the publishing business, if I could. There was an ad in the paper that said, "Assistant Wanted in a Publishing House." When I found out that they wanted me to assist in comics, I figured, 'Well, I'll stay here for a little while and get some experience, and then I'll get out into the real world.' "
His duties appear to the modern reader to be laughable considering the stratospheric success that was to come: Get coffee for the artists, make sure the ink wells were filled (ah, halcyon days!), proofreader and erasing the pencil lines on the art after the ink had dried.
He then started as a headline filler, graduating to writing backup comics. Stan Lee's first story was "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge" in Captain America Comics #3 in 1941. At the unbelievably young age of 19, he was made interim editor and eventually editor-in-chief as well as art director until 1972, when he succeed the original publisher as the official publisher of Marvel Comics.
In the late 1950's, responding to a change in style over at DC Comics, Marvel's original publisher, Martin Goodman, suggested that Lee come up with a new kind of superhero character, also. However, Lee had had more adult literary ambitions in mind, and drawing from those creative ambitions, he created a series of characters who had personal lives, were imbued with human flaws instead of the near-perfect archetypes otherwise found in comic book characters. His characters "had issues", and deep interpersonal relations which made for complex narratives. For two of endless examples, Spiderman was always deeply concerned that his exploits might backfire and ruin the fragile health of his Aunt May with whom he lived. Anger issues were never so dramatic as in the Jekyll and Hyde approach he utilized in creating The Hulk.
Not only was Stan engaging in very good comic book writing, it was also the mark of skillful screenwriting, so it is no surprise Lee's creative contributions over the years made the Marvel Universe fit so seamlessly onto the motion picture screen. While DC comic-based motion pictures needed to add complexities and emphasize what had been played superficial in the comic books, Lee's marvel Characters were ready to go up on the silver screen, already long-established with deep backstories that need only be be utilized, not invented on the spot.
It seems perfectly sensible that Lee's favorite authors include Stephen King, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Harlan Ellison.
Lee's complex character interaction already had played a good many years on the small screen. A syndicated marvel series ran five nights a week and in its style truly was a comic book come to life. lee played a BIG role in that. before long Saturday Morning cartoons has marvel comics as an action mainstay, with Spiderman and the fantastic Four leading the way. These hugely shows, it should be mentioned, were not cancelled due to poor ratings - they were phased out when the US Congress at the time decided to play Joseph Stalin and demand that all violent cartoons be phased out in exchange for entertainment more meant for peace and resulted in programs better suited for toddlers than grade-school kids . The older kids just turned off their TV's.... and went back to the comic books, where Lee's intelligent and mature dramatic stories carried them away without insulting their intelligence. Opening credits to the mid-1960's Monday-Friday 30-minute evening cartoons.
How things have changed...
Yes, things In Stan Lee's imaginative world have grown rather spectacularly...
Bearing in mind Lee's preferred more sophisticated writing style, it is no surprise that his favorite movies were intelligent classics which included Inherit the Wind (1960), On the Waterfront (1954), The Quiet Man (1952), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) as well as such classic actioners as the original King Kong (1933).
Lee was Executive Producer in the vast majority of TV series and motion pictures that featured his creations. He was rightfully protective of his creations, and the world of entertainment is better off for his personal integrity in this matter.
There is no point in recounting the titles of the movies and television series about his characters: they could fill a book. Everyone reading this has at least a vague awareness of the tremendous scope and popularity of these movies. Instead, here, in no particular order, is a partial list of the honors bestowed up him in his very long career:
1974 Inkpot Award
1994 The Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame
1995 Jack Kirby Hall of Fame
2002 Saturn Award The Life Career Award
2008 National Medal of Arts, bestowed personally by the President Of The United States
2009 Hugo Award Nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation- Iron Man
2011 A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
2012 Visual Effects Society Awards Lifetime Achievement Award
On Friday, October 28th, 2016, the City of Los Angeles' Mayor Eric Garretti declared that day, including the weekend of the 29th and 30th days, the first "Stan Lee Day"
On 16 July 2017, Lee was named a Disney Legend, a hall of fame program that recognizes individuals who have made an extraordinary and integral contribution to The Walt Disney Company.
But it was the countless millions of fans who were his greatest honor. There were no Oscars or people's Choice Awards or any other awards in Shakespeare lifetime, but he has been winning awards posthumously ever since. How wondrous to think that Stan Lee might also be winning awards 300 years into the future. The popularity of his work is so unbelievably massive that it is quite possible that that could prove to be true.
Of his work, Stan Lee was typically philosophical: "I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people's lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you're able to entertain people, you're doing a good thing."
Job well done.
RIP Stan Lee.
For move genre movie reviews and articles at Films In Review, see the list of most recent posts at https://www.filmsinreview.com/blog
Quick personal note: despite having a career in motion pictures and television, and having been absolutely wild about the "Marvel Universe" as it is known, as a kid, the author shares a truly minuscule fraction of the Marvel Universe: in 1987, coming off storyboards and character designs for The Adventures Of The Galaxy Rangers, I was doing freelance animation, illustration and special effects. One client was Putnum Publishing. I did some illustrated licensing. The only another artist on the same projects was Steve Ditko, who, with Lee, created Spiderman. So strong was the Marvel Universe in my own childhood, that even though I had no desire to be a comic book artist, happy I was at the time when I found out. If only I had been able to work with Stan Lee, himself... ~ The Author For move genre movie reviews and articles at Films In Review, see the list of most recent posts at https://www.filmsinreview.com/blog