Earlier this month, Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95. Lee was likely the most famous comic book creator in the history of the medium and he was the Editor-in-Chief for Marvel Comics for a remarkable three decades stint from the Golden Age through the launch of the Marvel Age of Comics. Working with iconic creators like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita, Joe Maneely, John Buscema, Don Heck, Wallace Wood, Dick Ayers, Gene Colan and many more, Lee either co-plotted and scripted or simply scripted some of the most famous stories in the history of comics. We asked you to vote for your picks for the top comic book stories that Lee either scripted or co-plotted and scripted. Here are the results!
70."Hulk Versus the Leader" Tales to Astonish #62-74 (1964-65)
I made a distinct point about how I didn't want people to vote for, say, a run or anything like that. You had to break it down into smaller components. However, I will admit that I really don't know how you break this story down, exactly. I mean, I know how you COULD break it down, make it #62-64, 65-67 and then #68-74, but I really think that there is pretty much a through line from the story, it is just really thrown off by the wacky three-issue detour in the middle, so, what the heck, I'll count it as one big story (but in the alternative, maybe count it as #62-64, 68-74?).
In any event, the Hulk fights against the Spider-Man villain, the Chameleon, who is trying to steal a powerful new device on behalf of the Leader. The device can absorb the entire force of a nuclear explosion. The super-intelligent Leader, who cleverly was also affected by Gamma Radiation, only with the effects making him super SMART instead of super STRONG, hires the Chameleon to steal it and when that fails, he uses his android-like humanoids to try to steal it. However, right in the middle of the story, Bruce Banner tests the device and is kidnapped by the Soviets and there is a three-issue detour to Russia, before Banner returns and tests the device again, but when the Leader interferes, Banner is branded a traitor and SHOT IN THE HEAD! Rick Jones finds a way to save his life by turning him back into the Hulk, so that the Hulk cannot go back to being Banner or else he will die. Well, the Leader gets involved and the Hulk forms a partnership with him...
I think, "Mister, I'm from Missouri" should be everyone's go-to retort. You also have to love seeing the Watcher just chilling, drinking a tasty brew while spying on the Earth. Lee worked with Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Bob Powell and a million inkers on this mini-run.
69. "The Wondrous World of Dr. Strange!" Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 (1965)
In the world of Steve Ditko at Marvel, Spider-Man was like his Top 40 pop band and Doctor Strange was like his Velvet Underground band (you know, "Only 1,000 people bought the Velvet Underground's album, but every one of them was inspired to form their own band," that sort of thing). That was what made this annual so important, as Ditko and Lee were able to share the super weird world of Doctor Strange with their larger Spider-Man audience. Heck, that's literally what they titled the story!
And, of course, this is peak Ditko Doctor Strange trippiness...
Spider-Man has always been a surprisingly good team-up partner for wilder characters, in large part because Stan Lee helped to ground him so well with his dialogue.
68. "When Wakes the Sleeper" Captain America #101-102 (1968)
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby sure liked to use Cap storylines involving Sleepers. This one, involving the fourth Sleeper that Hitler came up with, was a robot that was designed to burrow into the Earth and cause eruptions that could destroy the whole PLANET (under the idea that if Hitler couldn't have the world, NO ONE should have it). Cap manages to wrest the key that theoretically controls the Sleeper from the Red Skull in a tremendous battle in #101 but now he doesn't know what to DO with the key. In #102 (which was inked by Syd Shores) Cap and Sharon Carter are all that stands in the way of the total destruction of Earth
Seeing Cap later take on this Sleeper mano a mano is an astonishingly well-handled sequence, especially since he doesn't know how to use the key to stop it.