Stan Lee is a Jewish American comic book writer, editor and publisher and the former president and chairman of Marvel Comics.
Stanley Martin Lieber was born on December 28, 1922, in New York City to Romanian-born Jewish immigrant parents, Celia (née Solomon) and Jack Lieber. After graduating high school in 1939, he became an assistant at the new Timely Comics division of pulp magazine and comic book publisher Martin Goodman's company. In May 1941, Lieber made his comic book debut with the text filler "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge" in Captain America Comics #3, using the pseudonym "Stan Lee", which he would years later adopt as his legal name.
Lee's first superhero co-creation was the Destroyer, in Mystic Comics #6 (August 1941). Other characters he created, during the period fans and historians call the Golden Age of comics, included Jack Frost, debuted in USA Comics #1 (August 1941), and Father Time, debuted in Captain America Comics #6 (August 1941). In late 1941, when Timely Comics editor Joe Simon and his creative partner, Jack Kirby, left following a dispute with publisher Goodman, Lee was installed as interim editor at just 18 years old. Lee showed a knack for the business that led him to remain as the comic-book division's editor-in-chief, as well as art director for much of that time, until 1972, when he would succeed Goodman as publisher.
Lee entered the United States Army in early 1942 and served stateside in the Signal Corps, writing manuals, training films and slogans, and occasionally cartooning. Lee returned from his World War II military service to his editor position at Timely Comics in 1945. He married Joan Clayton Boocock on December 5, 1947, and the couple had daughter Joan Celia "J.C." Lee, born in 1950; another child, Jan Lee, died three days after delivery in 1953.
In the mid-1950s, by which time the company was known as Atlas Comics, Lee wrote stories in a variety of genres including romance, Westerns, humor, science fiction, medieval adventure, horror and suspense.
In the early 1960s, Lee and artist Jack Kirby created superhero group the Fantastic Four for the company now known as Marvel Comics. The team's immediate popularity led Lee and Marvel's illustrators to produce a cavalcade of new titles. With Kirby primarily, Lee created the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and the X-Men; with Bill Everett, Daredevil; and with Steve Ditko, Doctor Strange and Marvel's most successful character, Spider-Man. Throughout the 1960s, Lee scripted, art-directed and edited most of Marvel's series, moderated the letters pages, wrote a monthly column called "Stan's Soapbox," and wrote endless promotional copy, often signing off with his trademark phrase "Excelsior!"
In 1971, Lee headed the first major successful challenge to the industry's censorship organization, the Comics Code Authority, and forced it to reform its policies on depicting drug use in comics.
In later years, Lee became a figurehead and public face for Marvel Comics. He made appearances at comic book conventions around America, lecturing at colleges and participating in panel discussions. He moved to California in 1981 to develop Marvel's TV and movie properties. He has been an executive producer for, and has made cameo appearances in Marvel film adaptations and other movies.
In the 2000s, Lee did his first work for DC Comics, launching the Just Imagine... series, in which Lee reimagined the DC superheroes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and the Flash.
In 2009, The Walt Disney Company acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4.24 billion.
Lee has received several awards for his work, including the the National Medal of Arts, awarded to him on November 17, 2008. He was also inducted into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995.
The Stan Lee Foundation was founded in 2010 to focus on literacy, education and the arts. Its stated goals include supporting programs and ideas that improve access to literacy resources, as well as promoting diversity, national literacy, culture and the arts.