Stan Lee will always be known as one of the greatest comic book writers of all time. He has created more iconic mainstream characters than perhaps anyone else in literary history. All of these creations came with them compelling backstories that Stan Lee also wrote in each of their introductory issues.
From various superteams to some of the greatest superheroes ever created, Stan Lee has taken part in creating truly great, entertaining stories about extraordinary humans accomplishing extraordinary things in the name of what is good. For every character Lee has created comes with him/her a great origin story. Here are Stan Lee's ten most iconic origin stories, ranked.
One of the first superheroes with a disability as debilitating as blindness, Daredevil is now an A-list hero. Stan Lee truly understood what it took to make a great superhero story. You stack the deck against your main character and give him something to overcome.
In Matt Murdock's origin, we see him become blinded as a child and gain incredible powers in the form of his other senses. After his father is murdered by a gangster, Matt decides to use his powers to fight crime with his fists and his intelligence to fight crime in the courtroom as a lawyer. This beautifully plays off the idea that justice is blind. Matt promised his father he would never use physical violence, so he takes up the alter ego Daredevil. That way, it wasn't actually Matt using violence. This poetic and emotional tale is definitely a hit and one of Stan's finest works.
Stan Lee wanted to create a superhero team that represented the dispossessed. So he created the X-Men. A metaphor for different groups fighting for their civil rights, Stan Lee originally intended for the X-Men's fight for equality to mirror the African American civil rights movement going on at the time. Professor X was even meant to represent Martin Luthor King Jr., with Magneto representing the ideology of Malcolm X.
The first issue of X-Men was a hit. Readers related to the team and wanted to read more. The one aspect that really stood out about these characters was that they were all teenagers (aside from their leader Xavier). Most of the readers of comics at the time were also young, so seeing a team that represented their age and the struggles they were going for helped readers identify with the X-Men.
8 Black Panther
When Stan Lee first created T'Challa aka the Black Panther, he was one of the only black heroes at the time. Lee wanted a change of pace from the usual characters he wrote about and decided to create an African king/superhero.
First appearing in a Fantastic Four comic book, Stan Lee later went on to write T'Challa's origin. It was a heart-wrenching tale that showed a man with great perseverance that was willing to do whatever it took to defend the innocent and take on the great responsibility of leadership.
The Hulk is essentially an amalgamation of a few different monster characters from different stories. He has a Jeykll and Hyde nature, switching back and forth between Bruce Banner and a monstrous green beast. More interestingly, he is also a lot like Frankenstein's Monster. The public misunderstands the Hulk and believes him to be a monster simply because of his scary appearance.
This combination of ideas is perfectly mixed together in Hulk's introduction. Stan Lee had great ideas for this character, and those ideas that were initially introduced in Hulk's very first issue are still carried on in Marvel comics today.
6 Silver Surfer
One of Stan Lee's favorite characters to write about was Norrin Radd aka the Silver Surfer. Originally a citizen from an alien planet nearing utopia, Norrin Radd sacrificed his freedom and the chance to be with his love in order to save his planet.
Agreeing to be Galactus' herald, Silver Surfer traveled the cosmos with his new master until ultimately betraying him in order to save Earth. A cosmic wanderer with extremely powerful abilities, what made Silver Surfer stand out in his origin was his pure moral center.
Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe has fully taken over mainstream entertainment, they have become the premier superhero team. Originally created by Stan the man himself, this group of heroes will no doubt continue to be very popular for years to come.
In their original debut, seeing many of these characters join up with other heroes to form a team for the first time is truly exciting. Although superhero teams had been done before, this was the first time Marvel's flagship characters joined together, making it a very important event and an even more important story.
4 Iron Man
Although Iron Man didn't become an A-list hero until Robert Downey Jr. played him in the 2008 movie, he always had one of the most compelling origin stories. Partially this is why that film did so well.
Debuting in Tales of Suspense #39, Iron Man showed readers that not all industrialists and successful capitalists are bad people. At the time, Stan knew that writing about a millionaire weapons dealer was almost doomed to fail. Nonetheless, he set out to not just create that character, but also make him likable and popular. He succeeded.
3 Fantastic Four
When DC first created their superhero team, it was selling like crazy. Marvel needed to respond. So, they tasked Stan with creating a superhero team of his own. Despite his editors telling him the idea wouldn't work, Stan decided rather than simply bring a group of superheroes together, he would write about a family that gains special abilities.
Now dubbed Marvel's first family, the Fantastic Four has cemented itself as one of the greatest superhero teams of all time. Their origin is without a doubt one of the greatest things Stan ever wrote.
2 Doctor Strange
The tale of Stephen Strange is a very compelling one. His origin story perhaps has one of the biggest character arcs of any other character on this list (save the hero waiting at the number one spot).
Originally an arrogant surgeon, Strange loses the use of his hands and is forced to seek out spiritual means in order to get his life back. After finding the Ancient One and training in the mystic arts, Strange gives up his selfish ways, realizing there's much more to be had in life than simple selfishness.
Perhaps the greatest comic book issue ever written, Amazing Fantasy #15 tells the origin of Spider-Man. This short story of Peter Parker learning to be a hero is beautifully crafted. It's narrative perfection.
In the one moment that Peter decides to use his powers for selfish gain and refuse to take a moral stand, he inadvertently kills his Uncle Ben. This event shocks him into realizing that with his great powers must also come great responsibility to use them for the betterment of everyone. This issue is Stan Lee's magnum opus, and no origin story since has come close to its greatness.