Stan Lee, who dreamed up Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk and a cavalcade of other Marvel Comics superheroes that became mythic figures in pop culture with soaring success at the movie box office, died at the age of 95, his daughter said on Monday.
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 enthrall generations of young readers.
Lee’s daughter J.C. Lee confirmed the death to Reuters.
Americans were familiar with superheroes before Lee, in part 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 superheroes. His characters were not made of stone – even if they appeared to have been chiseled 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 that they are human as well as super,” Lee told NPR News in 2010.
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 over $20 billion at theatres worldwide, according to box office analysts.
Spider-Man is one of the most successfully licensed characters ever.
In 2008, Lee was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest government award for creative artists.
Through it all, he kept connected with fans, writing a column called “Stan’s Soapbox” in which he often slipped in his catchphrase “‘Nuff Said” or the sign-off “Excelsior!” In his later years, he gave constant updates via Twitter.
“Stan was a character. He was a character as much as any he ever created,” Rhoades said. “He created himself, in a way.”
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.
The Walt Disney Co bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for $4 billion in a deal to expand Disney’s roster of characters, with the most iconic ones having been Lee’s handiwork.
By that point, Lee had all but parted ways with Marvel after being made a chairman emeritus of the company. But even in his 80s and 90s, Lee was a wellspring of new projects, running a company called POW! Entertainment.
“His greatest legacy will be not only the co-creation of his characters but the way he helped to build the culture that comics have become, which is a pretty significant one,” said Robert Thompson, a pop culture expert at Syracuse University.