How Stan Lee brought humanity to superheroes and altered entertainment

adminNovember 13, 2018


13:53 PST 11/13/2018


Marc Bernardin

He did not invent comic book heroes, but Marvel's deceased intellectual brain took them to earth, creating a universe of ultra-lucrative superhumans whose humanity altered the face of entertainment.

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There were superheroes before Stan Lee. Superman from DC Comics and Captain America from Marvel had existed since the 1930s. But it was Lee, who died on November 12 at age 95, who brought a sense of humanity to the superhuman.

The heroes he created for Marvel Comics, starting with the Fantastic Four in 1961, were, first and foremost, people who dealt with both the burdens that came with power and the wonder of those powers. Bruce Banner wanted nothing more than to get rid of the Hulk completely of his life. The X-Men were walking metaphors of both puberty (my body is changing in ways I do not understand) and racism (people hate me for what I am, not what I've done). And Spider-Man, Lee's greatest creation, in 1962 in collaboration with artist Steve Ditko, was just a teenager, struggling with the guilt of not stopping the thug who killed his uncle.

While the heroes of DC lived in fictional places like Metropolis, Gotham City and Atlantis, Lee built his Marvel Universe in the same New York where he grew up. And he gave his characters the same types of faults as the people around him. Dr. Stephen Strange was a medical surgeon whose ego steals the use of his hands. The millionaire Tony Stark fought against alcohol dependence. Matt Murdock would face not only the criminals of Hell & # 39; s Kitchen as Daredevil, but also the drug addictions that would attack those closest to him.

The decade, from 1961 to 1971, in which Lee actively wrote monthly comics, in addition to being the editor-in-chief and art director of Marvel Comics, was perhaps the most sustained burst of creative innovation in the history of pop culture. Not that it was without controversy. His collaborators were often in the shadow of Lee, never sharing credit or profits. When Lee wanted to "go to Hollywood" with Marvel, he moved to Los Angeles in 1981 and proceeded to sell Marvel's intellectual property to anyone he bought, a catastrophically short-sighted movement that dispersed the Marvel Universe to the winds: Spider-Man to Columbia (later Sony), X-Men to Fox, Fantastic Four to Roger Corman (later Fox) and Blade to New Line Cinema, among others.

When Lee left Marvel, he launched some companies, like POW! Entertainment – that never really took off. But it remained the face of comics for decades. And when Kevin Feige wrapped his arms around the Marvel movie universe, as of 2008 Iron ManLee was there: making cameos in each movie, giving interviews on each red carpet. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is now a $ 17 billion machine that shows no signs of slowing down, and Hollywood still has the world created by Lee.

The secret of Marvel's success? The same as Lee's: tell human stories with superhuman characters in a vast canvas and join them so that the fans will be hungry for the next. Lee converted us all into true believers comics.

This story first appeared in the November 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.


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