In a career spanning over 70 years, Stan Lee had a hand in creating almost every single Marvel superhero you've ever heard of. Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor -- with his nonstop work at Marvel in the 1960s, Stan Lee and artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko built an all-new universe of superhero comics from the ground up. The characters, most of them situated in Marvel's Manhattan, were connected to each other in a cohesive shared universe. Thanks to Stan's desire to reinvent the then-stagnant superhero genre, the characters also read more like real people dealing with real everyday problems -- and, you know, Galactus.
With hundreds of issues to his name, sometimes writing as many as a dozen superhero ongoings at once, Stan Lee created a lot of characters. Some, like the Fantastic Four and X-Men, are obvious. There are others, some incredibly popular, that aren't as tied to Stan Lee's legacy. To celebrate Stan "The Man" Lee's birthday, here are 15 characters you may not have known he created.
15 Black Panther
- First Appearance: "Fantastic Four" #52, July 1966
- Co-Creator: Jack Kirby
After flirting with working names like Coal Tiger and Black Leopard, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby eventually landed on "Black Panther" -- a name that actually predates the political organization of the same name. Lee has said that a '40s pulp hero who had a black panther as a sidekick actually provided the inspiration for the character. T'Challa's a groundbreaking one, too, as he was the very first black superhero to ever appear in comics. There had been black characters before, like Gabe Jones of Sgt. Fury's Howling Commandos (also co-created by Lee and Kirby), but Black Panther was the first one with actual superpowers and a codename.
Movie audiences got a big screen look at T'Challa in this year's "Captain America: Civil War," and it's fascinating to see just how much of the character's mythology was present right from his first appearance. His debut in 1966 depicted him as a brilliant inventor and king of a technologically-advanced African nation, two traits that have defined the character over the past 50 years.
- First Appearance: "Daredevil" #1, April 1964
- Co-Creator: Bill Everett
After creating everyone from Ant-Man to the X-Men between 1961 and 1963, Stan Lee kicked off 1964 with another creation: Daredevil. The Man Without Fear sprung forth as one of Stan's latter Silver Age co-creations, although "Daredevil" didn't really catch on until Frank Miller took over the title in 1981. Still, Lee guided the blind lawyer/street-level vigilante through the first 50 issues of his solo series.
He was also responsible for coming up with a number of Daredevil's major supporting characters and villains. Foggy Nelson and Karen Page were introduced in "Daredevil" #1 along with Matt Murdock, and villains like the Owl and Gladiator also popped up in that initial "DD" run. Lee also cooked up one of the craziest "Daredevil" plotlines ever when he introduced "Mike" Murdock, a fake brother created and portrayed by Matt Murdock to hide his secret life as Daredevil. Yep, for a few years in the '60s, Stan Lee wrote three characters that were all secretly the same guy.
13 Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch
- First Appearance: "X-Men" #4, March 1964
- Co-Creator: Jack Kirby
Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch have gotten lots of attention thanks to their inclusion in major motion pictures and some confusing behind-the-scenes stories. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby initially created Wanda and Pietro Maximoff as members of the X-Men's enemies the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. They debuted early on in that series' run alongside Mastermind and Toad. Not long after that, the villainous siblings went straight and joined the Avengers, beginning a relationship that would last for decades.
These characters quickly became stalwart members of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, with Scarlet Witch becoming one of the team's most prominent members. Legal issues made their jump to the big screen a bit muddled; Fox owns Marvel's mutants while Marvel Studios has practically everyone else. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch's history with the Avengers apparently put them in a legal gray area, meaning both Fox and Marvel could use them. Now these Stan Lee creations are active in films, with Evan Peters' Quicksilver appearing in Fox's X-Men movies and Elizabeth Olsen playing Scarlet Witch in the MCU.
- First Appearance: "Tales of Suspense" #57, September 1964
- Co-Creator: Don Heck
Stan Lee's connection to characters like Hulk, Iron Man and Thor seems to be brought up all the time, but he also created two more of the MCU's founding Avengers. If you want to know who thought being really good at archery qualified as a superpower, well, the answer is Stan Lee himself. Hawkeye's attitude and trick arrows were all present in the character's earliest appearances in Iron Man's stories in the anthology series "Tales of Suspense." There's one thing that was different, though: he was a villain. Okay, Hawkeye was a reluctant villain.
Stan was also responsible for turning Hawkeye's career around. He joined the Avengers alongside Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in 1965's "Avengers" #16, another issue written by Stan Lee. By placing Hawkeye on the Avengers and pairing his brash hotheadedness with Captain America's steadfast leadership, Lee created a character dynamic that would become integral to many Avengers lineups over the following decades.
11 Black Widow
- First Appearance: "Tales of Suspense" #52, April 1964
- Co-Creator: Don Heck
Lee also had a hand in creating the Black Widow, although the version he worked on alongside artist Don Heck would be unrecognizable to fans of the modern incarnation of the character. Stan Lee introduced Black Widow as a femme fatale villain and adversary of Iron Man. A behind-the-scenes manipulator, this version of Black Widow preferred to recruit men to do her dirty work -- one of those men was Hawkeye in his earliest appearances.
Like Hawkeye before her, Stan Lee brought Black Widow into the pages of "Avengers" in 1966. This time around, she wore a superhero suit (although not the one she's most known for) and, after battling the Avengers as a brainwashed Russian operative, defected to the United States. While Lee didn't have her join the Avengers outright, she did serve as an ally for Hawkeye and the team. Stan Lee was also responsible for introducing the physically capable version of the character we know today; the modern Black Widow, black jumpsuit and all, debuted in 1970's "Amazing Spider-Man" #86, written by Lee with art by John Romita.
- First Appearance: "Fantastic Four" #45, December 1965
- Co-Creator: Jack Kirby
Like the rest of the original Inhumans, Lockjaw is a genuine Stan Lee creation. Lockjaw's on this list, though, because of just how weird he is. The rest of Lee and Kirby's original Inhumans (Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Karnak, Gorgon, Triton) all make sense: they're all humanoids with quirky but still traditional looks. Black Bolt, Medusa and Crystal all look like superheroes, Triton's a fish man and Gorgon has bull-like legs and hooves. Even Karnak, whose cranium is usually depicted as larger than normal, doesn't look out of place with the rest of Marvel's heroes.
Then there's Lockjaw, a... well, giant bulldog with a tuning fork sticking out of his forehead. On top of that, Lockjaw has the weird power of teleportation. Yes, the Inhumans get around the cosmos by hitching a ride with their giant, teleporting bulldog. This idea is pretty out there, but Lockjaw is 100% a classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creation.
9 Batroc the Leaper
- First Appearance: "Tales of Suspense" #75, March 1966
- Co-Creator: Jack Kirby
While he's not as weird as Lockjaw, Batroc the Leaper has earned a reputation amongst Marvel fans as one of the odder villains in the publisher's canon. Dressed in villainous purple and orange and possessing the sharpest mustache in comics, Batroc first leaped onto the page as a Captain America villain in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's "Tales of Suspense" run. Right from the start, Stan Lee hit home Batroc's French origins by having him exclaim "sacre bleu" and "zut alors" at the start of almost every sentence.
Batroc would reappear time and time again, with Lee writing the villain into a number of Captain America's adventures in the early '70s. However silly his origins, Batroc got a modern makeover for his appearance in 2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Played by UFC champion Georges St-Pierre, that version of Batroc kept hints of the character's color scheme and his feet-first fighting style, but smartly ditched the super French catchphrases.
- First Appearance: "Amazing Spider-Man" #50, July 1967
- Co-Creator: John Romita
Thanks to Vincent D'Onofrio's captivating turn as Wilson Fisk in two seasons of Netflix's "Daredevil" television series, even casual fans would automatically place Kingpin as one of Daredevil's most notorious foes. That's definitely a correct assessment, but the character originally started out as a member of Spider-Man's rogues gallery. Lee and John Romita added the mob boss to Spider-Man's world in "Amazing Spider-Man" #50, depicting him as a ruthless villain who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty.
It might surprise you to learn that Kingpin was actually one of Stan Lee's most regularly used villains during his latter years on Spider-Man. Kingpin actually stayed in the wall-crawler's corner of the Marvel Universe for over a decade, until Frank Miller got hold of him in 1981. With the start of his "Daredevil" run, Miller took the Lee/Romita creation and paired him up with the hero he was born to battle: the Man Without Fear.
7 Adam Warlock
- First Appearance: "Fantastic Four" #66, September 1967
- Co-Creator: Jack Kirby
Thanks to his role as one of Marvel's earliest cosmic characters and his strong ties to Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock has evolved over the past few decades from being a mysterious minor character to one longtime Marvel fans are dying to see on the big screen. After all, he has strong ties to characters like Gamora, Drax and Star-Lord thanks to his tenures with both the Infinty Watch and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Considering how closely tied he is to Marvel's cosmic comics of the '70s, '90s and '00s, it's a bit surprising that Adam Warlock is a Stan Lee creation with roots in the '60s. Of course, the character Lee and Kirby introduced in a 1967 arc of "Fantastic Four" was known only as "Him." That storyline detailed Him's creation as an artificial and ostensibly perfect being. Lee wrote Him one more time in a 1969 arc of "Thor," before the character was taken over by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, who gave him a superhero look and the name Adam Warlock.
- First Appearance: "Tales to Astonish" #13, November 1960
- Co-Creator: Jack Kirby
Adam Warlock's not the only cosmic player with surprising ties to Stan "The Man." A full year before the birth of the modern Marvel Universe in 1961's "Fantastic Four" #1, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a monster that would go on to become one of the company's surprise breakout characters in the 2010s.
The walking, talking tree named Groot debuted in a story in a 1960 issue of the anthology series "Tales to Astonish;" of course, he was a bit different than the Groot you know now. He started off that issue saying "Fool -- none can withstand the mighty Groot! You are doomed! You and your town shall perish!" That's a bit more complex than "I am Groot." At the time, Groot was just one of many done-in-one monsters churned out for proto-Marvel's horror-filled anthology titles. He wasn't meant to make a comeback, but he managed to pop up once a decade until he was revamped in 2006's "Nick Fury's Howling Commandos" series. After that, Groot joined the Guardians and became the character fans love today.
5 Madame Masque
- First Appearance: "Tales of Suspense" #97, January 1968
- Co-Creator: Gene Colan
In recent years, Madame Masque has grown from being one of Iron Man's regular foes to an adversary of characters like Moon Knight, Kate Bishop and all of the Avengers, as well. This villain has grown a lot from her initial debut, which Stan Lee wrote. Before she took on the Madame Masque moniker, this villain was simply known as Big M -- the mysterious and feared leader of the crime organization known as the Maggia. Lee introduced Big M and established that, in a rare twist for the 1960s, the big villain in charge this time was a woman.
When Archie Goodwin took over scripting Iron Man's adventures in "Tales of Suspense" and later the first "Iron Man" ongoing, he furthered Big M's criminal aspirations and made her an active participant in the action. That's when she went from being the shadowy figure that Stan Lee wrote to the gold-faced evildoer that fans know and love to hate. She even made the leap to live action as the villain of "Agent Carter's" second season.
- First Appearance: "Savage She-Hulk" #1, February 1980
- Co-Creator: John Buscema
After co-creating the foundation of the entire Marvel Universe in the '60s, Stan Lee created one character for the publisher in the 1980s for a very unique reason. With the success of the "Incredible Hulk" television series, Marvel feared that the executives in charge of that series would introduce a female Hulk -- a character they would own instead of Marvel. After all, female spinoffs were popular at the time, like "The Bionic Woman" and the "Six Million Dollar Man." The solution: Marvel could preemptively create their own female version of the Hulk and ensure that they would own the rights to any female Hulk character.
Spurred to action, Stan Lee knocked out the script for "Savage She-Hulk" #1 in a hurry, introducing Bruce Banner's cousin, a lawyer named Jennifer Walters. After getting shot in her driveway by criminals, who she defiantly insisted on holding accountable for their crimes, Banner gave her a blood transfusion that saved her life and made her She-Hulk. Lee didn't stick around for more than one issue, but he created a character that dominated the '80s with two ongoing series and long stints as a member of the Avengers and Fantastic Four.
3 Purple Man
- First Appearance: "Daredevil" #4, October 1964
- Co-Creator: Joe Orlando
If you've seen Netflix's "Jessica Jones," then you've met the disturbingly selfish and sadistic Kilgrave, played by David Tennant. That character, one whose profile rose considerably after Brian Michael Bendis made him an integral part of Jessica Jones' comic book backstory, actually has origins that date back over 50 years to the first issues of "Daredevil."
During his run on "Daredevil," Stan Lee created a number of villains, one of whom was the mind-controlling Purple Man. In his lone appearance in Stan Lee's "Daredevil" run, the writer established Purple Man's origin story and the basis of his pheromone-powered abilities. Lee also established that Purple Man could be defeated if he was wrapped up in a "specially-prepared plastic sheet," which the Man Without Fear deployed against the villain, much to his humiliation. After starring in that early issue, Purple Man wouldn't return until 1972's "Daredevil" #88 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, and he wouldn't become a major threat until his storyline with Jessica Jones in the early '00s.
2 Peggy Carter
- First Appearance: "Tales of Suspense" #77, May 1966
- Co-Creator: Jack Kirby
Through numerous movies and her own television series, Hayley Atwell took Agent Peggy Carter in a bold new direction as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger" showed viewers the growing romance between Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter, a romance first introduced in the comics via flashback scenes in the '60s "Tales of Suspense" run. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used Cap's first string of solo stories to flesh out previously unseen parts of his World War II adventures, including his relationship with an unnamed blonde member of the French Resistance.
In the comics, Peggy and Steve's relationship had two tragic ends. First, Peggy was rendered an amnesiac because of an explosion. Then, Captain America was reported dead, a development that caused the recovering Peggy to retreat from the world. Like with other entries on this list, though, other writers came along and fleshed out Peggy after Lee's initial storyline. In fact, it was writer Steve Englehart that finally gave Peggy Carter her name in 1972's "Captain America" #162.
1 Ravage 2099
- First Appearance: "Marvel Comics Presents" #117, December 1992
- Co-Creator: Paul Ryan
Lee helped create the bulk of the Marvel Universe in the '60s and returned to create She-Hulk in 1980 -- and then he came back for one more character in the '90s. This character, appropriately, would be extremely '90s. In 1992, Stan Lee returned to Marvel with an all-new creation: Ravage. Unlike the other 2099 titles like "Spider-Man 2099" and "X-Men 2099," "Ravage 2099" starred a completely original character. With artist Paul Ryan, Lee introduced Paul-Phillip Ravage, the CEO of a company that fought pollution and polluters in Marvel's futuristic 2099 setting. After being framed for murder, the fugitive Ravage took justice into his own hands.
Lee's run on "Ravage 2099" ended with issue #8, an issue Lee co-wrote with incoming writers Pat Mills and Tony Skinner. With this creative changeover, Ravage mutated from a vigilante with energy blasts to a full-on man-beast, complete with horns and an imposing physical appearance. Even without Stan Lee's direct influence, "Ravage 2099" lasted an impressive 33 issues. Still, the character disappeared with the end of the 2099 line, a peculiar fate for quite possibly the last Marvel character created by Stan Lee.
Who are your favorite Stan Lee creations? Let us know in the comments!