It’s understandable that Stan Lee is considered to be almost godlike due to his creation of the Marvel universe. The man who gave us The Hulk, Spider-Man, X-Men, and TONS of others has led a pretty fascinating life, to say the least. However, amidst all of the stories about the legendary comic book creator, there are some fake “facts” in circulation about him that just aren’t true. Yes, he did a lot for Marvel and comic books in general, but it didn’t go down quite like people think it did. The man has been built up pretty high, but the following facts circulating about Stan Lee aren’t actually true. Let’s address them so the man can stand on his own (true) merits.
Stan Lee Never Tackled Anything But Comics
The name “Stan Lee” sure does conjure up the comic book industry, but he didn’t JUST exist in the world of comics. Before the Marvel movie juggernaut was kickstarted by Spider-Man and X-Men over 15 years ago, Lee set out to get films of his work made. Of course, this meant that he was writing the scripts for the films himself, and, as lore would have it, they were just terrible. For a Fantastic Four film, he pitted the leader of the Black mafia, Sweet-Daddy Wisdom, against the gang. In the script, Sweet-Daddy Wisdom captures the Silver Surfer, whom he refers to as “the ultimate honky.” So while Lee did try to spread out into other aspects of entertainment… it didn’t take.
He Was The Sole Creator Of “His” Characters
This is kind of a tricky one, because when I say “his” characters, I mean the ones that he’s publicly, unofficially credited with creating. For instance, we credit Stan for The Fantastic Four in this piece, but it was Jack Kirby who created Silver Surfer and Galactus. Also, Lee co-created Spider-Man with Steve Ditko. But it’s more convenient for the public to lump many characters under Lee’s umbrella for the sake of a better story, and, as you’ll see below, Lee isn’t in a hurry to correct anyone on that front.
He Dreamed Up “Excelsior” As His Catchphrase
Sort of. But not really. Lee was reliant enough on the phrase “excelsior” that he used it to not only sign off in correspondence with fans, but he also made it the title of a book. However, it wasn’t on some whim or brainstorm. Lee’s from New York City, as many know, and the word “excelsior” is on the New York state coat of arms. Now, that’s not something people this day and age would know (not even NY residents), but back in the day, it was common knowledge. So while he certainly made the phrase his own through constant use, he took it from a pretty prominent source to begin with.
It Was Talent That Got Stan’s Foot In The Door
Don’t get us wrong… he proved to be very talented. That just wasn’t what got him hired at Marvel. The reason is both clear and painfully familiar – his cousin was married to Marvel’s owner, Martin Goodman. Yup. That helps. He started off in an editorial position, but his talent did get him over to the writing side of things, and the rest, as they say, is history.
He Used Alliteration Just To Be Cute
There are lots of reasons to use alliterative names, which includes the fact that they’re just easier for fans to remember. But that wasn’t the reason that Lee went to the alliteration well so often. Nor was it because he thought the names were cute. It’s because he had a bad memory. So he made the names as easy as possible to remember so he could keep his characters straight as he jumped between timelines, plotlines, and comic titles. It’s just a happy side effect that the alliterative names that were easy for him to remember (Bruce Banner, Stephen Strange, Peter Parker) are also very easy for comic and movie fans to remember as well.
He’s Loved By Other Comic Artists
Sure, he’s an icon and a universal touchpoint in the world of comics, but you know people well enough to know that the combination of success and allegations of stealing credit for creations would turn many other comic juggernauts against him. Comic book legend Alan Moore (Watchmen) even went so far as to call Lee “the beginning of the end.” Yikes. Others have created villains in his likeness. Not the most damning move, but one that suggests you’re not universally beloved. Does Jack Kirby’s “Funky Flashman” look like anyone you know?
He Got His Start Young
Lee’s so old that he’s like the concept of time itself – no beginning and no end. People assume that, because of his success, he must have been in the game extremely early in his life, but that’s not the case. Fantastic Four kicked off the Marvel universe we know and love, and that was when Lee was at the ripe old age of… 40. It doesn’t help that many of his most famous characters are eternal teenagers, leading many to think that Lee was a teenager when he dreamed them up. Nope. Just young at heart, I guess.
The Other Creators Got Their Due Credit
Nah. You don’t get to Lee’s level of prominence by sharing the credit. To be fair, it doesn’t seem as though there are many instances of him stealing credit, but many, many instances of him not giving it up when it was due. It seems like a fine distinction, but it still warrants being made. The fact that he acts magnanimously about sharing credit now doesn’t mean he didn’t keep the likes of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko from getting the notoriety they deserved back in the day.
Stan Lee Always Aspired To Be In Comics
That would make a nice story, wouldn’t it? Well, it’s not the case, unfortunately. In fact, he was so reluctant to take on the gig of comic writer that he used “Stan Lee” instead of his birth name “Stanley Leiber.” He was saving his birth name for his passion, writing novels. Maybe you can take heart in knowing that even someone as influential and successful as Lee initially just took on the gig to pay some bills, hoping for something better.