The world recently lost one of its most amazing, fantastic, incredible creators of superheroes. Stan Lee died at the age of 95. He lived from 1922-2018, almost an entire century. He lived a long life and saw the world change. We will all miss him. (Read this heartfelt tribute to Stan Lee by our Editor-in-Cape David Molofsky).
Every single one of his creations, however, will live on for the foreseeable future. A part of him will remain with us fans because he really did put everything into these characters.
There is no question of Stan Lee’s creative genius or his ability to write compelling, long-lasting characters. The direction of superhero comics could have gone in a very different direction (meaning down the drain, post-WWII) if it weren’t for Stan Lee and his various artist partners and co-creators like Steve Ditko and Jack “The King” Kirby. The characters and worlds he created were the basis for the entirety of the Marvel Universe as we know it today. Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and the other early Marvel artists and writers) laid the foundation for the writers and artists of the 1980s and 1990s to expand on the Marvel Universe. Without that foundation and eventual expansion, there would be no MCU for us to enjoy.
This is, by no means, a complete nor comphrensive list of the heroes, villains, and supporting characters created by Stan Lee and his co-creators. I grouped a lot of the characters (heroes, villains and supporting cast alike) under labels (i.e. Avengers, X-Men, etc.) to make the list halfway manageable. Primarily though, I will be talking about the heroes unless it’s a villain like Dr. Doom, Magneto, and Galactus.
So here the list of breaking down some of Stan Lee’s Creations:
1. Fantastic Four
The First Family of Marvel, the Fantastic Four was the superhero team that kick-started the Silver Age of Comics and revived superhero comics to allow others heroes to be created. Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman (originally named Invisible Girl), the Human Torch and the Thing were not just a superhero team, but they were a family.
While they were gifted with powers from the space accident in their origin, they were undoubtedly human. They fought and argued like any other family, but at the end of the day, they loved each other and took care of each other. Reed and Ben’s friendship is one of the epic ones in Marvel comics. Sue and Reed got married and eventually started a family. And the Human Torch was a typical teenager who was the hothead and the troublemaker of the team, the team little brother.
Along with the FF came their villains. The most important of these villains was Victor Von Doom, AKA Dr. Doom. He is one of the most dangerous and capable villains in Marvel Comics. Doom rivals Reed in intelligence. He runs his home of Latveria with an iron fist, but does what he can for his people. (You, however, wouldn’t know it if you just watched the movies. They adapted Dr. Doom so poorly both times).
But it was not just villains and heroes that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created, but also worlds. The FF discovered the Negative Zone and other micro-verses. They messed with time travel. The Marvel Universe began here.
Spider-Man is one of three of the best known superheroes in the world (the other two would be DC’s Batman and Superman). He is one of Stan Lee’s greatest creations. Average and nerdy Peter Parker became Spider-Man after he got bitten by a radioactive spider on a field trip.
Spidey was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko as almost a response to the idea of children sidekicks. Stan Lee didn’t like kid sidekicks much, so he decided that a kid, fifteen-year-old Peter would become a hero all on his own. The teenage superhero was born. Peter was relatable–he messed up, he was broke most of the time, and even when he tried to do the right thing, the world kicked him when he was down anyway. He struggled being a superhero and his teenage life with friends, dating and family. I honestly can go on and on about the importance of Spider-Man for the genre as a whole.
3. The Avengers
“And there came a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes were united against a common threat! On that day the Avengers were born! – To fight the foes no single hero could withstand!”
Sorry, I just like that quote.
The Avengers assembled many of the pre-existing heroes that were under the Marvel Comics label, except the FF and Spider-Man. The original Avenges team in Issue #1 were Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Hulk and Thor, all of whom were Stan Lee creations. These characters were already established before the founding of the team in their own comics. The original Captain America was found in the iceberg in Issue #4 and joined the team from then onward. By the way, Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, although Stan Lee did write Captain America comics before he joined the Army in WWII.
One of the major reasons why the Avengers were formed was to compete with DC’s Justice League (which started in 1960). Certainly, Marvel had hits with Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, but the Avengers changed the face again for the Marvel Universe. Now, the heroes operating out of New York regularly met up to fight bigger and scarier bad guys than before. The Avengers said that hey, all these Marvel heroes here, they know each other, they exist in the same world.
The Avengers team became an ever-changing roster with other Stan Lee created heroes like superspy Black Widow Natasha Romanoff, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, villains-turned-heroes Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver
4. The X-Men
The X-Men original team of Professor X, Cyclops, Marvel Girl/Jean Grey, Beast, Angel and Iceman and the Brotherhood of Mutants lead by Magneto were created around the same time as the Avengers. This superhero team was created with the idea that Stan didn’t have to explain how they got their powers like all the other Marvel heroes. Mutants (those born with powers) were created
The X-Men is definitely one of those comic that is about prejudice and racism, the battle between good and evil. I mentioned Magneto earlier because he’s one of the greatest villains from Marvel and he’s been treated well by the X-Men (young and old). But Magneto is one of those villains that you can sympathise with, someone that you understand.
5. Black Panther
Black Panther was created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He is the first mainstream superhero of African descent and created well before any African-American superheroes (like Falcon, Luke Cage and Blade). The name Black Panther, according to Stan, didn’t have anything to do with the Black Panther Party, but instead inspired by a pulp adventure hero’s helper and various historical and biblical figures. Creating Black Panther was a very revolutionary moment in the history of comics. It was 1966, after all and race relations were tense. It truly was a statement.
The title of the king and protector of the fictional nation of Wakanda is Black Panther. While the mantle of Black Panther is hereditary, T’Challa still had to earn the right to it. In the context of the Marvel comics, Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation in the world and home to the largest and only store of the metal known as vibranium, one of the strongest metals known to the Marvel Universe.
Daredevil was created in 1964 by Stan Lee and Bill Everett. Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer is hero of this tale. He became blind due to an accident in his youth which also gave his other senses enhancement. The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and the Man Without Fear had his own little section of Marvel’s New York. He also doubled occasionally as a lawyer for various other heroes throughout his history.
A complex and compelling character, the Man Without Fear brought another bit of representation (before the idea of representation was all the rage) with a character with a disability but also had powers who still could be a superhero.
Kingpin is one of notable enemies, one he shares with Spider-Man. Along with Daredevil, there came his supporting characters like his best friend Foggy Nelson and love interest Karen Page.
7. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange was created in 1963 like many of Stan’s creations in the Silver Age of Comics, debuting in Strange Tales #110. Amongst the science-gone-wrong powered beings like the FF, Hulk and Spider-Man, or the geniuses who gave themselves powers or tools to be heroes like Ant-Man and Iron Man or the born-this-way X-Men, Doctor Strange added a level of mysticism to the Marvel Comics. Doctor Strange started off as a rather unlikable fellow, an arrogant surgeon who only helped the wealthy. When he lost the use of his hands (his livelihood) because of a car accident, he goes on a journey of self-discovery and eventually meets the Ancient One, an old mystic, who teaches Strange magic and martial arts.
Doctor Strange combats all sorts of supernatural, mystical and magical threats against the world as the Sorcerer Supreme. His assistant Wong is another of Stan’s creations, as is Dormammu of the Mindless Ones from the Dark Dimension. The creation of Doctor Strange and everything that came with it brought another level of stories and adventures to the Marvel Universe.
8. Nick Fury, the Howling Commandos, and SHIELD
Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos was the first series that Nick Fury and his elite team of soldiers were featured in 1963. The comic series was set during WWII. In 1965, Fury became a Colonel and now a Cold War spy working for the intelligence agency SHIELD to combat their enemy, HYDRA.
Nick Fury is the top spy/cop in Marvel, across universes. Be it the cigar-chomping hard-ass of WWII and the Cold War, or the modern super amazing but still a hard-ass just with no cigar incarnation that was based off of Samuel L. Jackson, Nick Fury is a man that does what’s best for the country. While the brightly coloured heroes are running around New York City, Fury and his teams are cleaning up after them and handling other situations.
9. Skrulls, Inhumans, Kree, and Captain Mar-Vell
Amongst the creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and others, Captain Mar-Vell and the alien empires of the Skrull and the Kree really began to shape the cosmic level of Marvel Comics. In addition, the Kree did experiments on early humans of Earth and as a result create the Inhumans.
The Kree and the Skrulls are two of the major alien races that impact the stories of the various heroes of Earth and beyond (the Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova Corps, etc.). Captain Mar-Vell led way to Kree-human hybrids which gave us Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel, later Warbird, back to Ms. Marvel, and eventually Captain Marvel. The Inhumans gave us Kamala Khan and other newer heroes. These initial creations gave way to an expanded universe.
10. The Guardians of the Galaxy
While Stan didn’t create the team that gave us the hit movie in 2014, he and Roy Thomas created the original 1969 team. The 1969 Guardians were actually from another timeline in the 31st century and featured members that were the last of their kind to band together to defeat the Badoon, who threatened to conquer Earth’s galaxy. The original team members included Major Vance Astro (later known as Major Victory), an astronaut from 20th century Earth who spends a thousand years travelling to Alpha Centauri in suspended animation; Martinex T’Naga, a crystalline being from Pluto; Captain Charlie-27, a soldier from Jupiter; and Yondu Udonta, a blue-skinned “noble savage” from Centauri-IV (the fourth planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B). They were space-travellers and time-travelers too, teaming up with various other Marvel characters.
The original 1969 team got a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, known as the Ravagers in the MCU.
11. Ka-Zar and the Savage Land
Now, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby didn’t create the first Ka-Zar. That was Bob Bryd in 1936 under Marvel’s previous company name of Timely Comics. It didn’t last very long.
Stan and Jack created the second Ka-Zar, the more well-known Ka-Zar. Ka-Zar was very reminiscent of Tarzan and the similar theme of the “wild jungle man” popular in the Victorian age pulp fiction. Ka-Zar lives in the Savage Land alongside still alive dinosaurs. The Savage Land was hidden under Antarctica by aliens. Along with the Savage Land world and Ka-Zar, Stan and Jack also created Zabu, Ka-Zar’s sabertooth companion.
One of the last creations I’ll touch upon because this list got way too long is Man-Thing. Created in 1971 by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas (with a couple of others), Man-Thing is a large, slow-moving, empathetic, humanoid swamp monster living in the Florida Everglades near a Seminole reservation and the fictitious town of Citrusville in Cypress County, Florida.
And yes, Man-Thing predated DC’s Swamp Thing, just by two months. Their origins were similar because Roy Thomas and Swamp Thing creator Len Wein were roommates at the time (probably) but the character diverged quite a bit afterwards.
Man-Thing was a homage to classic horror and science-fiction monsters.
13. Beyond Marvel
Stan Lee’s creations didn’t stop just at the Marvel Comics line. No, Stan Lee branched out into other areas, including Japanese manga Ultimo (with Shaman King creator Hiroyuki Takei) and Blood Red Dragon (with Yoshiki). He also created a new hero name called Stan Lee’s Mighty 7, which had a couple of comics and a cartoon movie. And DC Comics even let the comic book legend recreate 12 of their heroes in the limited series Just Imagine.., where he was able to treat characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as if he were the one that created them. Stan was always busy working on some project or another, when he wasn’t busy making cameos in all the Marvel movies or making convention appearances.
There’s an uniqueness to Marvel characters. Barring the fact that every one of the superheroes live in New York or its surrounding areas (i.e. Upstate New York or Jersey City across the way for instance) or its fictional worlds and realms, Marvel heroes are not gods living amongst men, but they are just humans with special abilities, powers or responsibilities, who juggle hero life with personal life. These heroes fail sometimes. They mess up sometimes. They can be angry and hurt and lash out when its the last thing they want to do. And they can have happiness, no matter how fleeting.
The best thing about Marvel comics is that there’s something for everyone. And that what Stan gave us. Want to read about magic and the supernatural? Read Doctor Strange. Want to read about adventures in Space? Read the Guardians of the Galaxy. Want to read something with mythology? Read Thor. Want grand clashes between good and evil? Read the Avengers. Want a story about the outsiders trying to make a difference? Read the X-Men. Want a war and/or spy story? Read anything with Nick Fury, the Howling Commandos or SHIELD And on and on, I could go.
It’s the beauty of the Marvel Universe.