Story ends for Marvel creator Stan Lee
Mastermind behind Spider-Man, Thor and the Hulk dies aged 95
Stan Lee, who dreamed up Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and a cavalcade of other Marvel Comics superheroes that became mythic figures in pop culture with soaring success at the movie box office, has died at the age of 95.
As a writer and editor, Lee was key to the ascension of Marvel into a comic book titan in the 1960s when, in collaboration with artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he created superheroes who would enthral generations of young readers.
Americans were familiar with superheroes before Lee, thanks to the 1938 launch of Superman by Detective Comics, the company that would become DC Comics, Marvel's archrival.
Lee was widely credited with adding a new layer of complexity and humanity to his superheroes. They were not made of stone - even if they appeared to have been chiselled from granite. They had love and money worries and endured tragic flaws or feelings of insecurity.
"I felt it would be fun to learn a little about their private lives, about their personalities and show they are human as well as super," Lee said.
He had help in designing the superheroes but he took full ownership of promoting them.
His creations included web-slinging teenager Spider-Man, the muscle-bound Hulk, mutant outsiders The X-Men, the close-knit Fantastic Four and the playboy-inventor Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man.
Dozens of Marvel Comics movies, with nearly all the major characters Lee created, were produced in the first decades of the 21st century, grossing more than $20bn (€17.8bn) worldwide.
Spider-Man is one of the most successfully licensed characters ever and he has soared through the New York skyline as a giant inflatable in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Lee, a hired hand at Marvel, received limited payback on the windfall from his characters.
In a 1998 contract, he wrestled a clause for 10pc of profits from movies and TV shows with Marvel characters. In 2002, he sued to claim his share, months after "Spider-Man" conquered cinemas. A legal settlement delivered a $10m one-time payment.
Some people assumed that, as a result, Lee's wealth had soared. He disputed that.
"I don't have $200m. I don't have $150m. I don't have $100m or anywhere near that," Lee told 'Playboy' magazine in 2014. Having grown up in the Great Depression, Lee added he was "happy enough to get a nice pay-check and be treated well".
In 2008, Lee was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest government award for creative artists.
Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in New York on December 28, 1922, the son of Jewish immigrants from Romania. At 17, he became an errand boy at Timely Comics, the company that would evolve into Marvel.
He soon earned writing duties and promotions, penning Westerns and romances as well as superhero tales, and often wrote standing on the porch of the Long Island, New York, home he shared with his wife, actress Joan Lee, whom he married in 1947 and who died in 2017.
The couple had two children, Joan Celia born in 1950 and Jan Lee who died within three days of her birth in 1953.
In 1961 Lee's boss saw a rival publisher's success with caped crusaders and told Lee to dream up a superhero team.
Lee at the time felt comics were a dead-end career. But his wife urged him to give it one more shot - and the result was the Fantastic Four.
He also made cameos in most Marvel films, pulling a girl away from falling debris in 2002's 'Spider-Man" and serving as an emcee at a strip club in 2016's 'Deadpool'.
"Stan was a character. He was a character as much as any he ever created," said former Marvel executive Shirrel Rhoades. "He created himself, in a way."