Marvel mastermind Stan Lee spent his life giving us heroic characters to look up to that had relatable flaws, trials, and insecurities. Way back in 1961, after working his way up from an assistant, Lee co-founded Marvel Comics with his co-creator, Jack Kirby. Together the pair created beloved superheroes like Spider-Man, Black Panther, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Iron Man, and The Avengers. Lee was also intricately involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing in every single Marvel movie from 1989 to 2018.
For Lee, creating superheroes was a pretty straightforward task. As a comic book writer, he wanted to be sure to create compelling characters who had interesting problems. If you’ve been paying attention, all Marvel superheroes have issues that don’t appear to be solvable, but in the end, they are always able to overcome their issues in an intriguing and fascinating way.
Lee passed away November 12, 2018, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, but he was intricately involved in Marvel until the very end. So which Marvel superhero of his own creation did Lee identify with most?
Just before San Diego Comic-Con in 2015, the late legend sat down with Yahoo! to talk about his iconic career. He revealed that Iron Man was the superhero that he identified with most. That makes sense because 2008’s Iron Man starring Robert Downey Jr. was the first film released from the MCU as we currently know it. Lee told Yahoo!, “Probably Iron Man. Yeah, [Tony] Stark, ‘cause he’s good looking, smart… [Laughs.] I’m only kidding. I identify with all of them in a sense. I think when you’re a writer, any character you write you have to have a feeling for or you won’t be able to write it well.”
The reason why we connect with the characters of the Marvel Comics and Cinematic Universe is because Lee made them as relatable and realistic as possible. In the 1950’s and ’60s, he watched DC Comics, Superman and Batman reign supreme. Instead of competing directly with DC, Lee sought to construct characters who were complicated and nuanced. He revealed to Yahoo!,
The normal person — the hero’s normal identity — has to be somebody that the reader can relate to and has to be credible. I don’t think a reader would like a superhero if his normal identity were somebody dull… if he had no particular personality, no problems, nothing. I always felt that way about Superman: Clark Kent was just a guy, a reporter. But I didn’t know where Clark Kent lived, what his problems were. The personal life of a superhero or superheroine is very important. And in some way, it should be associated with the superpower.
Though the world and the entertainment industry has certainly lost an icon, Lee’s creations will live on until the end of time. As his daughter, J.C. told TMZ, “My father loved all of his fans. He was the greatest, most decent man.” Until the next MCU film is released and we see him again, Excelsior!