Monday, December 28, 2015


Stan Lee - my boss, my friend, my mentor - is 93 years old today. Wikipedia describes him as “an American comic book writer, editor, publisher, media producer, television host, actor and former president and chairman of Marvel Comics.”

Stan is all that and more to me. Professionally speaking, the man who will always be “Stan (the Man) Lee” to me was and remains the biggest influence on my comics life. He’s the reason I devoted my professional life to the comics industry. Without Stan, you would not be reading this bloggy thing of mine...and would not have read any of the tens of thousands of comics stories, articles, columns, introductions and books I’ve written over the past four decades plus. Second only to my own father, I am a son of Stan.

Wikipedia adds:

“In collaboration with several artists, including Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, [Lee] co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, X-Men, and many other fictional characters, introducing complex, naturalistic characters and a thoroughly shared universe into superhero comic books. In addition, he headed the first major successful challenge to the industry's censorship organization, the Comics Code Authority, and forced it to reform its policies. Lee subsequently led the expansion of Marvel Comics from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation.

“He was inducted into the comic book industry's Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995. Lee received a National Medal of Arts in 2008.”


In 2014, I was interviewed by two wondrous middle-school students -  Alyssa and Emily - for their National History Day project on Stan Lee. I ran the entire interview in March, but I want to again share some of their questions and my answers with you today.

Q: How do you think Stan Lee demonstrated leadership in the early years of Marvel?

ANSWER: Stan set the tone for the Marvel super-heroes in the 1960s and beyond. The stories took place in a fictional universe that was close to our real world. He made the heroes and the villains more human. His writing was much sharper and more witty than that of any other writer in comics; all of us writers who came after Fantastic Four #1 learned from Stan. He collaborated with artists in such a way as to make their work more visually exciting and investing them more fully in the stories. He started running credits for writers, artists and letterers in the comic books, adding colorists credits as soon as that became possible. He got readers excited about the comic books again and that resulted in great publicity for comics in general. He invited the Marvel readers into the world of Marvel Comics and even the Marvel movies reflect that sense of inclusion.  At the age of 92, Stan is still the grand master of comics, working harder than comics people half his age.

Q: Have you ever worked with Stan Lee on a project. If so, what was it?

When I came to work in the Marvel Comics offices in New York City in late 1972, I worked with Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Sol Brodsky. I had been hired to put together The Mighty World of Marvel, which was a weekly magazine which reprinted our early super-hero comics. The magazine was put together in New York, but published and sold in Great Britain. Roy got me started, Sol handled the production of the magazine and Stan would approve the covers I would design with various artists and the copy I wrote for those covers. Before too long, we had added Spider-Man Comics Weekly and Avengers Weekly to our British line. So I was editing three magazines each and every week for a while.

I also worked with Stan on Monsters Unlimited. This was an American magazine which mostly featured photos from monster movies to which Stan would add humorous dialogue balloons. After an issue or so, we added text articles about monster movies. I would buy and edit the articles and help Stan do the layout for the magazine. This was a lot of fun.

I did other things with Stan during my time at Marvel. I learned a lot about writing comics stories from him and Roy. I also learned about the production end of things from Sol. I could not have asked for three better teachers.

Q: Do you think Stan Lee made comic books popular during the time you were enjoying comics?

Stan made a real connection with the Marvel readers. We were drawn to the great characters, stories and art, but Stan took it a step further and made us feel like we were part of a select community of comics fans. I loved comic books from before I learned to read from them, but Stan and Marvel cemented that love. I continue to read and enjoy all sorts of comics from all over the world.

Q: Did Stan Lee influence you or your work?

Stan is probably one of my biggest influences. I studied the comic books he wrote and learned a lot from him even before I worked with him. I have also been influenced by Stan’s showmanship and the fun he brings to everything he does. As much as possible, I learned to incorporate that into my own public appearances.

Q: What are your feelings toward Stan Lee?

He has been one of the most important people in my life. His comics writing inspired me. Working with him was terrific. We still keep in touch today and I visited him in his Los Angeles office around this time (January) last year. I’m honored to call Stan my friend and my mentor.


I’ve written about Stan many times over the years. My two favorite Stan-inspired bloggy things are “A Salute to Stan Lee,” which was posted on December 29, 2012, and which originally ran in an issue of Comics Buyer’s Guide...and “Kid Stan Outlaw,” written after I’d visited him in his Los Angeles office.

Whenever I write or think about Stan, I do so with admiration and a joy that’s hard to describe. I can’t separate my many memories of Stan from my love of comics in general, nor would I ever want to. He means the world to me.

When I first started out in the comics business and civilians would ask what I did for a living, I would tell them I wrote comic books. Their follow-up question would almost always be: “Do you draw the pictures?” That has changed in the past several years.

These days, their follow-up question is always: “Do you know Stan Lee?” I’ve witnessed people squeal with delight when I tell them I know him and have worked with him. And when they ask me what he’s really like, I might tell them about my long relationship with him and all I learned from him. But, more often of late, I direct them to Stan’s cameo appearances in the Marvel movies.

That’s Stan. Bigger than life and bringing the fun. Even as I wrote those lines, I was grinning. I just plan love the guy.

Here’s me squealing a boisterous “happy birthday” to Stan (The Man) Lee. Thanks for all the magic and wonder. Thanks for all the life lessons. Thanks for your friendship.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.  

© 2015 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. Yep.

    Without Stan, there'd be no Marvel Universe (or one that is a lot less interesting and inviting).

    He is a national treasure.