Legendary Marvel comics, writer, editor and publisher Stan Lee has died at the age of 95. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lee died at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
As the obituary reports, Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber, was behind many of our favorite Marvel characters, including Black Panther, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Thor, The Hulk, Ant-Man, Fantastic Four and many others. Lee also became a popular figure in every MCU film, with his cameos becoming fan favorite moments. Lee found media company POW! Entertainment in 2001.
Lee’s characters featured racial and gender diversity as well as social commentary on the issues of the day. “You were always aware of all those social issues, but I wasn’t writing political stories or social stories. I was just trying to write stories that people of all ages and sexes would enjoy reading,” he said to The Huffington Post in 2016. But, as the article states, quoting Lee’s 2008 National Medal of Arts award, Lee used his regular “Stan’s Soapbox” column in the comics “to speak to the comic book reader about social issues such as discrimination, intolerance and prejudice.”
Lee’s penchant for being outspoken for diversity continued throughout his life. For instance, during 2014’s Fan Expo Canada, Lee announced Black Panther and Black Widow solo movies before the studio ever officially committed to the films.
“The chances are she will have her own movie because eventually, all the superheroes are going to have their own movies,” he said at the time, according to Comic Book Resources. “They are already working on Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and the Black Panther, and there are others I am not allowed to talk about.”
Before Lee’s announcement, however, Marvel felt like making a Black Panther film would somehow be too hard. In 2012, Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito told MTV News during San Diego Comic-Con that even though they were full steam ahead on Guardians of the Galaxy, they felt like Black Panther would prove too much of a challenge.
“It’s always easier basing (a world) here. For instance, ‘Iron Man 3’ is rooted right here in Los Angeles and New York. When you bring in other worlds, you’re always faced with those difficulties.”
“I hear the taint of…fear in D’Esposito’s statements,” wrote Comics Alliance’s David Brothers in 2012, explaining that he felt that D’Esposito and Marvel as a whole possibly feared inaccurately representing Black characters or creating live-action interpretations that could be seen as racist. “What other reason could there be for a movie about a talking raccoon in outer space being a great idea while a movie about a Black superhero being more difficult?”
Thankfully, Marvel got the fortitude to follow through with making Black Panther, and part of that might have been due to Lee forcing their hand.
Last year, Lee’s wife of 69 years, Joan, died at 95 years old from complications due to a stroke. In 1953, one of Lee and Joan’s daughters, Jan, died when she was three days old. Lee’s survivors include his brother Larry Lieber and Lee’s eldest daughter J.C.