Archives On The Air 12: Superhero Stan Lee

Jul 9, 2018

Photo of Stan Lee looking at Spiderman, undated. Box 7, Stan Lee papers, American Heritage Center.
Credit American Heritage Center

The superhero business is booming now, but that was not always the case.

When young Stanley Lieber landed his first job in 1939 with Timely Comics, the comics industry was lowbrow publishing.

Those first decades were not easy for Stanley. By the 1950s, an anti-comics crusade began. It was thought that comics dulled a kid’s imagination by providing blood and gore instead of literature and fine art.

Stanley Lieber was ready to quit. But his wife urged him to write one more story, one that he really liked.

Lieber did just that. Under the pen name Stan Lee, he co-authored The Fantastic Four and changed comics forever.

Lee’s characters weren’t handsome and perfect. They were flawed with dysfunctional lives. They were kind of like us.

Timely became Marvel Comics and by 1967, was the number 1 comic book brand. And Stan Lee became the public face for Marvel Comics.

The Stan Lee collection available at UW’s American Heritage Center is almost 200 boxes of Lee’s work, including manuscripts and working drafts of many Marvel Comics productions.

Photo of Stan Lee in Army uniform at work in a studio, circa 1943. Box 7, Stan Lee papers, American Heritage Center.
Credit American Heritage Center