Stan Lee, the legendary writer and editor who co-created such iconic Marvel Comics characters as Spider-Man, the Avengers Black Panther and the X-Men, has passed away. He was 95 years old.
His daughter, J.C. Lee, told TMZ.com that Lee was rushed from his home in the Hollywood Hills this morning to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he died.
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Long spry, despite his age, Lee's heath had begun to decline in recent years, resulting in pacemaker surgery in 2012, repeated hospitalizations, and failing eyesight. "My eyesight has gotten terrible and I can’t read comic books any more," he lamented in 2016. "The print is too small. Not only a comic book, but I can’t read the newspaper or a novel or anything. I miss reading 100 percent. It’s my biggest miss in the world.”
Born in New York City in 1922, Lee began working in comics in 1939 as an assistant at Timely Comics, a predecessor of Marvel, owned by his cousin's husband, Martin Goodman. He quickly moved from filling inkwells and erasing pencil markings to writing first backup features and then full-blown stories. When editor Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby left Timely in 1941, the teenage Lee was named interim editor -- and he didn't look back.
When DC Comics met with success the resurgence of superheroes in the later 1950s and 1960s -- the so-called Silver Age of comics -- Lee responded with the Fantastic Four, which he created with Kirby, launching what would become the Marvel Universe. But they were only the first in a long line of complex, and very flawed, heroes who would go on to become some of the most recognizable, and profitable, characters in the world: Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, the Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther and Daredevil, created with such titans of the comics industry as Kirby, Steve Ditko, Gene Colan and Don Heck.
The extent of Lee's role in the creation of those characters would be disputed time and again over the decades, and was central to a long-running legal battle between Kirby's heirs and Marvel. (Lee, who has been accused of diminishing Kirby's contributions, paid tribute to his former collaborator on what would have been his 101st birthday, describing him as "a legend.")
Lee served as editor-in-chief and art director, as well as the principal writer, of Marvel until 1972, when he succeeded Goodman as publisher. Forever the showman, Lee cemented himself as the face of the company with his monthly letter page column "Stan's Soapbox," which he signed off with "Excelsior!"; faithful Marvel readers were, of course, "True Believers."
Both trademarks would follow Lee to California in the early 1980s, where he took point on Marvel's early push into Hollywood. In many ways, that was also the beginning to Lee's ascent to pop-culture figure and household fame. He narrated the 1982 Incredible Hulk animated series, signing off with "This is Stan Lee saying, Excelsior!," and made a cameo as a jury foreman in the 1989 TV movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. But that, of course, was only the beginning.
Since 2000's X-Men, Lee has become famed for his film and television cameos, most recently in Ant-Man and The Wasp. Lee has appeared in 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to date, and in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 it was confirmed he's been playing the same role all along: an informant of the race of ancient aliens known as The Watchers. He'll next be seen, in animated form, in Sony's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Following the 2017 death of his wife of 69 years, Joan, Lee was surrounded by controversies, including reports of forged checks by associates, accusations of stolen blood and elder abuse, and a restraining order against his one-time gatekeeper, Keya Morgan. However, last month Lee seemingly shrugged off reports of behind-the-scenes drama, saying, "As far as I’m concerned, we have a wonderful life. I’m pretty damn lucky. I love my daughter, I’m hoping that she loves me, and I couldn’t ask for a better life."