88 years young on December 28th, Stan Lee has done it all. He's been at one time or another a comic book writer, editor, publisher, and president -- as well as an actor, producer, and all-around TV personality. Lee is probably one of the biggest celebrities hailing from the comic book industry in the world, with near-universal recognition. And it is exactly that ability to cross over fandoms and touch the general populace that has helped make not only Marvel Comics a household name, but comic books as well.
Born Stanley Lieber in 1922, he grew up at the height of the Great Depression in New York City. Lee was a hard worker, and one of his first writing jobs was obituaries for a news service. He became an assistant at the new Timely Comics in the 1940s, and made his comic-book writing debut with a text piece entitled "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge" in Captain America Comics #3; he signed the work "Stan Lee," hoping to reserve his real name for more literary writings.
Soon Lee was writing back-ups at Timely, then features, then became interim editor, then editor-in-chief. As his roles changed, so too did the publisher: becoming Atlas, then Marvel. In the late 1950s, with the success of the Justice League of America, Lee was asked to come up with his own superhero team. Lee and Jack Kirby created The Fantastic Four in 1961, which started a new era not just for Marvel but for comic books as a medium. The rest, as they say, is history.
Stan Lee transformed again in the 1970s into the very public face of Marvel Comics, helping increase the popularity and visibilty of comic books with the general public. He also helped bring Marvel's characters into the realm of Hollywood, being one of the first from the comic book industry to recognize the enormous potential of comic material for TV and movies.
Post-Marvel Lee didn't slow down one bit -- if anything, he became a whirlwind of new ideas and projects, creating POW! Entertainment, The Stan Lee Foundation, and new properties for Spike TV, Paramount, and Walt Disney Studios.
2011 is going to be another busy year for Stan Lee. He's finally getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 4th, is going to launch "NHL Guardians" at the NHL All-Star Game on January 30th, and currently has a superhero design competition going on at Talenthouse (all of which we will be covering with exclusive interviews and video!). Lee has new titles out currently from BOOM! Studios, and even a whole awards ceremony named after him at the 2011 Kapow Comic Con. And his new comic from MTV Comics, The Seekers, will premier exclusively on MTV in 2011!
On a personal note, MTV Geek would like to thank Stan Lee for helping us launch one of our very first posts on the blog, and for being an inspiration to all of us. Happy birthday, Stan.