Stan Lee at the Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011. Lee was the writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics. GAGE SKIDMORE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS VIA CC BY-SA 2.0

Stan Lee, pop culture icon and leader of a superhero revolution, has died at the age of 95 on Monday morning.

Lee was immortalized for his part in the creation of Marvel comics, as well as his notorious cameos in the Marvel films.

Born Stanley Martin Lieber on Dec. 28, 1922, Lee was raised by Romanian Jewish parents in New York City during the Great Depression. The struggle of the average man and the grittiness of New York helped to develop a clear style in his early comics and characters. Lee focused more on the idea of a flawed hero than a perfect one, which was rather revolutionary in his day.

Lee started his work with the then named Timely Comics in 1939 at the young age of 16 — but it was not long before he began making history. Just a week into his work, he had already written a two-page Captain America comic. He would go on to write his first full comic script, the fifth Captain America issue, in 1941.

Stan Lee, along with co-creators and artists, created iconic characters from the Marvel universe: Iron Man, Black Widow, Doctor Strange, Juggernaut, the Hulk, Black Panther —  but none of his characters symbolized Marvel Comics like Spider-Man. Lee’s creation of humanized, relatable characters is what allowed Marvel Comics to surpass DC Comics in the 60s.

Stan Lee has been credited with the creation of hundreds of characters, alongside artist Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

With his characters, Lee began to build an entire universe that would enrapture multiple generations of comic fans. From its early beginnings as Timely Comics to its position as a cinematic giant, Stan Lee has helped mold Marvel Comics into the phenomena it is today. Six out of ten of the top grossing superhero films belong to Marvel Comics, with “Black Panther” coming in first with $700,059,566.

With these figures, it is easy to see that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will forever be a part of cinematic history.

Those who have worked closely with Stan Lee took to social media on Monday to share photos, memories and sweet words.

Tom Holland, the most recent actor to portray Spider-Man, shared a sweet sentiment through Instagram, “How many millions of us are indebted to this guy, none more so than me. The father of Marvel has made so many people so incredibly happy. What a life and what a thing to have achieved. Rest in peace Stan.”

Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, wrapped up how we all feel succinctly —  “There will never be another Stan Lee. For decades he provided both young and old with adventure, escape, comfort, confidence, inspiration, strength, friendship and joy. He exuded love and kindness and will leave an indelible mark on so, so, so many lives. Excelsior!!”

As Lee is known for his cameos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans will be relieved to know that he had already recorded his cameo for the unnamed Avengers 4, a bittersweet sight. Due to increasing age and a busy schedule, Lee had taken to recording multiple cameos at a single time, giving fans the possibility for cameos to come after the icon’s death.

To many, Stan Lee was not just a creator of characters, he was the creator of a movement. He gave fans characters they could relate to and made heroism seem all the more attainable for the average man. In Lee’s world, there was not just a single image of heroism; it was the average photographer for the local paper, the deaf master archer, the blind hero of Hell’s Kitchen, the son of an African king. Stan Lee gave millions of fans heroes that they could see themselves reflected in. His characters made the powerless feel powerful and inspired so many who felt they had never been represented before in the world of heroes.

In the comic world, Lee was known for breaking convention. In 1971, he wove in an anti-drug message into a Spider-Man comic, despite disapproval from the Comics Code Authority. He created “Black Panther” in 1966 with co-creator Jack Kirby amidst the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement. In 1968, he used his own column to speak out against racism, stating that, “Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today.”

Lee once summed up his feelings on his life’s work, explaining, “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”

Stan Lee will not only be missed as the creator of a pop culture phenomena —  he will be missed as an amazing man and friend to all.
May you rest in peace Stan “The Man” Lee and just as he always said, “Excelsior (ever upward)!”

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