Stan “The Man” Lee was one of the most famous figures in comic book history. Everywhere he went, there was an eager fan waiting to shake his hand, snap a photo, or get his autograph. He appeared in just about every Marvel project since the Incredible Hulk went to court, and he became something of a cultural icon and a legend in the industry.
Lee’s massive army of devoted fans read his books and listened to what he had to say, and as a result, the details of his life became relatively well-known. If you’re a fan of the Man, you probably know a lot about him. Still, it’s likely you don’t know everything, and that’s what this list is all about – learning everything there is to know about Stan Lee!
This list highlights the most interesting details fans uncovered about Stan Lee’s amazing and influential life. Take a look, and if you see something you didn’t already know, be sure to give it an upvote to see which one rises to the top!
He Was Concerned About Offending Blind People With Daredevil
When Stan Lee co-created Daredevil with Bill Everett, he had some concerns about how the character might be offensive to the blind. This was due to the fact that Matt Murdock’s other senses were highly advanced, well beyond the minor improvements the blind have in real life.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long before his concerns were assuaged, as letters came pouring into the House of Ideas indicating the exact opposite. Lee explained his concerns and what took them away in an interview with Alter Ego in 2011:
The one thing that worried me about Daredevil – I wondered if blind people would be offended, because we were exaggerating so much what a blind person can do, and they might have felt that we’re making it ridiculous. But I was so pleased – after the books were published, we started getting letters from charities for blind people, like the Lighthouse for the Blind in New York. Letters saying, “We’ve been reading these stories to the people here, and they love them, and they’re so pleased you have a super-hero who is sightless.” And, oh boy, that made me feel great!
He And His Wife Had A Whirlwind Romance
Stanley Lieber and Joan Boocock were married for 71 years, and the way their relationship began was something out of a storybook… or even a comic book! Joan was a hat model in her native England, where she became a war bride to Sanford Dorf Weiss. Once WWII came to an end, she left England and moved to the States, where she began working at a modeling agency.
Stan was set up on a blind date by his cousin with a model at the same agency, but Joan answered the door, and both their lives were forever changed:
When I first went to meet her, a stunning, drop-dead beautiful redhead opened the door. When she spoke, her soft, Geordie accent ran up and down my spine. When that door opened, I was looking at the girl I had been drawing all those years.
Within two weeks, Lee proposed, so they went to Reno, NV, to annul her marriage to Weiss. Once that was done, they went into the office next door, and the same judge officiated their wedding.
He Received $1 Million Per Year Just For Being Himself
Stan Lee was a big part of what made Marvel successful, but while he worked there for a long time, he hadn’t been employed by the company for decades prior to his passing. Still, he was strongly associated with the classic Silver Age characters that ultimately saved the company and was very much the public face of Marvel.
Consequently, the company paid him a salary of $1 million each year for life. The reason for his salary revolved around his status as the public face of the company, which he continued to promote for the entirety of his life – long after leaving Marvel’s employ.
Stan Lee’s Marvel salary was essentially given to him for only one thing: being Stan Lee. Just being Stan Lee in public amounted to amazingly cost-effective publicity. Stan got paid a million bucks a year to be Stan, and by most accounts, he deserved it.
He Created Iron Man As A Challenge For Himself
Iron Man, or rather, Tony Stark, isn’t a typical superhero. Back when Stan Lee created him in 1963, that was especially true, and it’s all due to Stark’s personality. He’s a staunch capitalist, a weapons designer/seller, and has serious personality problems. He’s also an alcoholic and womanizer, so he was hardly the typical superhero back in the ’60s.
Lee wanted to create someone who was antithetical to the typical superhero. He said in an interview:
I think I gave myself a dare. It was the height of the Cold War. The readers, the young readers, if there was one thing they hated, it was war, it was the military… So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist… I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him… And he became very popular.
Casting Robert Downey Jr. to play Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe somewhat parallels the character’s origins. At the time, Downey wasn’t a particularly “liked” actor. He had some serious personal problems, including issues with substance use. In the end, he managed to get the fans on his side, a parallel to how the comic book character grew in popularity.
He Nearly Quit The Industry In The Early 1960s
When superheroes came back into fashion with a revamp of the Flash and Green Lantern, the Silver Age of Comics was born, but Stan Lee was heading out the door. At the time, he had grown tired of the industry and was looking for a change. Before that could happen, Marvel’s publisher, Martin Goodman, handed Lee an assignment to develop a new team of superheroes.
His wife suggested he create a team of characters the way he wanted to, seeing as he had nothing to lose. What Lee created was the Fantastic Four, which were a complete tonal shift from the standard archetypal superhero types being published up to that point. The characters were complex – they had problems just like real people, they could become depressed, and they were vain.
The FF was like nothing that had been published previously, and the immediate success of the series didn’t just keep Lee working at Marvel; it revitalized him to continue co-creating characters alongside Jack Kirby, Bill Everett, and Steve Ditko. Together, the writer and artists came up with the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, and Spider-Man.
He Made All Of His Deadlines While Serving In The US Army
Like most of the artists and writers working in the industry at the time, Stan Lee was drafted into service during WWII. Stan Lee entered the United States Army in 1942, where he served as a member of the Signal Corps. His primary job was to repair telegraph poles and other communications equipment.
Because of his creative talents, he was eventually transferred to the Training Film Division, where he worked on writing manuals, creating training films, coming up with slogans, and drawing cartoons. He was officially classified by the military as a “playwright,” making him one of only nine personnel serving under that title.
Lee served alongside Frank Capra, Charles Addams, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and many more. Throughout his service, he received letters from Timely Comics asking for story content. While he was serving Uncle Sam, he never missed a single deadline – but there was one time when he almost did.
When a mail clerk overlooked the letter he was expecting, Lee broke into the mailroom to retrieve his letter. He was nearly court-martialed over the incident, but the colonel in command of the Finance Department intervened on his behalf, saving him from punishment.
He’s The Highest-Grossing Actor Of All Time
While it may be passed off as a technicality, the truth of Stan Lee’s many cameos is that his appearances in some of the biggest movies over the years make him the highest-grossing actor of all time.
For some, it is a technicality because Lee wasn’t an actor and his work was all done via cameos, but the Man was in a ton of movies and television shows over the years – so if you add up all the money made from those projects, it comes to a whopping $32,041,690,233 at the global box office.
Just below Lee on the list of highest-grossing actors of all time sits another Marvel movie alum, Samuel L. Jackson. Of course, he’s an actor, so his work is certainly different than Lee’s. While it’s likely that Jackson or another actor will be in enough movies to one day pass Lee, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, leaving Stan “The Man” Lee at the top spot for years to come.
He Did Some Work For DC Comics Over The Years
At the turn of the century, Stan Lee was given the opportunity to reimagine the majority of DC’s characters in the Justice League under a new imprint titled “Just Imagine…” The series covered a single character in each book, and he applied his Marvel-esque way of writing to the characters, including Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Robin, Shazam!, Aquaman, Catwoman, Sandman, and the JLA.
For Batman, he imagined Wayne Williams, a character who has no superpowers and is Black. He has the same sort of physical conditioning as Bruce Wayne, but in his origin story, he loses his police officer father, and Williams is framed for a crime and sent to prison.
While in prison, he devotes his time to developing his body and mind, and when he is released, he becomes a wrestler who calls himself “Batman” in an effort to earn some money. After finding the one who framed him and slew his father, he defeats him and dedicates his life to finding justice as a crimefighter. The other characters are similarly altered – some more than others.
One Of His First Creations Was Groot
Stan Lee is well-known for creating the Silver Age’s best Marvel characters, but he was busy creating characters for the company much earlier in his career. Many assume he created the likes of Captain America and Namor, but others created those characters shortly before a young Stanley M. Lieber began working at Timely Comics.
As it happens, the first character Stan Lee co-created was actually Groot, the Monster from Planet X! He was a villain who made his first appearance in the pages of Tales to Astonish #13 in 1960. Groot seems to have ignited Lee’s creative fire, because the following few years saw the subsequent introductions of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man, Thor, and a host of other superheroes who have stood the test of time.
Groot was eventually reimagined as a hero, not a villain, and he became a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Few could have imagined that he would ultimately become a favorite character in the MCU, but that’s precisely what happened. (It didn’t hurt that his best friend is an anthropomorphic raccoon.)
He Wasn’t Paid What He Was Owed For 2002’s ‘Spider-Man’
As the co-creator of Spider-Man, Stan Lee had a standing contract that entitled him to 10% of the net profits made from anything that was based on the character. That amounts to a lot of money over the years, but when Spider-Man hit theaters in 2002 and nabbed an impressive $800 million at the global box office, Lee didn’t receive a dime.
The producers of the film argued that the movie didn’t make any net profits, as defined in Lee’s contract, and as a result, he wasn’t entitled to any of the money. This sort of thing comes up often due to the way Hollywood accounting works. Basically, a movie typically has to make more than twice what it cost to reach a break-even point due to marketing, production, distribution, and other costs associated with making a movie.
Lee opted to file a lawsuit against Marvel Comics in 2002 to contest the wonky accounting that kept his 10% from him. The suit was eventually settled in 2005, with Marvel Comics opting to pay Lee $10 million to “finance past and future payments claimed by Mr. Lee.” It didn’t give him everything he deserved, but it settled the matter from that point forward.