17 iconic Marvel characters that exist because of Stan Lee

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Stan Lee was one of the creators behind Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Thor. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid; Marvel

The legendary Stan Lee (né Stanley Lieber) was a comic book writer, editor, and publisher up until his death on November 12, 2018.

The late president and chairman of Marvel comics left behind legacies of superheroes who were human, flawed, and relatable, and he was instrumental in helping to change the comic-book world.

Here are some of the iconic Marvel franchises and characters that wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for Lee:


Lee and artist Jack Kirby debuted “The Fantastic Four” in 1961.

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A rendition of the Fantastic Four comic-book characters. Marvel

After its debut in 1961, the characters broke out of the superhero stereotype and were portrayed as individuals who dealt with real problems and sometimes made mistakes.

Often called “Marvel’s First Family,” the Fantastic Four have appeared in animated series, live-action films, and ongoing volumes of comics.


Spider-Man is one of Marvel’s most successful characters.

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Tom Holland in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming.’ Marvel/Sony

Lee was the mastermind behind Spider-Man, one of Marvel’s most successful characters of all time.

He created the character with artist Steve Ditko in 1962, and they wanted to introduce a unique hero that people could relate to. To that end, they developed Peter Parker, a nerdy photographer who gets bitten by a radioactive spider and develops an array of superhero powers.

The story has inspired many film series, comics, and TV shows over the years.


The Incredible Hulk has appeared in multiple movies and on shows.

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Mark Ruffalo played Hulk in ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’ Marvel

Lee also created the Incredible Hulk, and his alter ego, Dr. Bruce Banner, with Kirby in 1962.

After being exposed to gamma rays during the detonation of an experimental bomb, Banner started transforming into a giant, angry green humanoid with incredible physical strength whenever he was going through emotional stress.

The character has been the star of shows and many films, including the “Avengers” franchise.


Iron Man is another famous Marvel character created by Lee.

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Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. Marvel

Iron Man was created by Lee, developed by his brother Larry Lieber, and designed by artists Don Heck and Kirby.

The character was originally more reserved than Robert Downey Jr.’s popular portrayal of him, and Lee initially created him as a way to explore Cold War themes.

Iron Man’s alter ego is Tony Stark, a wealthy American business magnate/scientist who suffers a chest injury during a kidnapping and builds a suit of armour to save himself.

The character has his own comic and film series, as well as being at the centre of the “Avengers” franchise.


He also created a Marvel version of the Norse deity Thor.

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Chris Hemsworth as Thor. via Marvel Pictures

Although Lee didn’t technically create Thor – amythologicalNorse deity – he did help to envision the Marvel version of the superhero alongside Leiber and Kirby.

In the Marvel universe, Thor is the Asgardian god of thunder who uses the enchanted hammer Mjölnir to fly and manipulate the weather, among many other powers.

Thor went on to become one of the founding members of the Avengers, and the character has appeared in several successful films.


Loki has been causing mischief for years.

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Tom Hiddleston as Loki in ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’ Marvel

The Marvel version of Loki was created by Lee, Kirby, and Lieber, but like Thor, the character is inspired by Norse mythology.

First appearing in Marvel comics in 1962, the modern-day incarnation of Loki is Thor’s brother and the god of mischief, and the character has remained popular in comics and films today.


The X-Men are legendary Lee characters.

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‘The Gifted,’ a Marvel TV series, includes the X-Men. Eliza Morse/Fox

Created by Lee and Kirby, the X-Men are widely popular heroes.

The X-Men are a group of mutants – a subspecies of humans who were born with superhuman abilities thanks to the X-Gene – led by Charles Xavier (Professor X).

They consist of popular heroes like Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Iceman, and the comic series has inspired multiple films and TV shows.


Lee was one of the masterminds behind Daredevil.

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‘Daredevil’ is a series on Netflix. Patrick Harbron/Netflix

Lee, Kirby, and artist Bill Everett created Daredevil in 1964. His alter ego is Matt Murdock, a New Yorker who was blinded by a radioactive substance that fell from a truck after he pushed a man to safety and saved his life.

The substance heightens his other senses in a superhuman way, so when his father is murdered, he seeks revenge on his father’s enemies as Daredevil.

The character is popular today for the Netflix series, “Daredevil.”


Nick Fury has been around since 1963.

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Samuel L. Jackson portrays Nick Fury in ‘The Avengers’ franchise. Disney/Marvel Studios

You probably think of Nick Fury as the man who assembled the Avengers, but he’s actually been around since 1963 and started off with his own comic series, created by Lee and Kirby.

The character has been a part of dozens of comic-book series, video games, animated series, and live-action films – most notably, the “Avengers” franchise.


Scarlet Witch has been in multiple films.

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Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch. Marvel

Scarlet Witch (also known as Wanda Maximoff) first appeared as a supervillain alongside her twin brother Quicksilver (also known as Pietro Maximoff). They were created by Lee and Kirby as original members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

The character has the ability to alter reality, and she eventually becomes a member of the Avengers superhero team.

In addition to the “Avengers” film series, Scarlet Witch has appeared on shows, in animated films, and in video games, and her newest TV adaptation, “WandaVision,” is coming to Disney Plus in December.


Black Panther was one of the first Black superheroes created by Marvel.

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Chadwick Boseman played T’Challa/Black Panther in the film. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Black Panther, created by Lee and Kirby, became one of the first Black superheroes when he first appeared in a “Fantastic Four” comic in 1966.

His human persona, T’Challa, is the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and he has superhuman abilities along with physical strength and combat skills.

Black Panther has proven to be a successful character, making appearances on several TV shows, in animated films, and in video games, as well as in the 2018 movie “Black Panther” and the subsequent “Avengers” films.


Hawkeye has an interesting backstory.

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Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Marvel

Hawkeye was created by Lee and Heck and first appeared as a reluctant villain in 1964 before later joining the Avengers in 1965.

His alter ego is Clint Barton, an orphan who worked as Marvel’s Swordsman’s apprentice before becoming a master archer.

In addition to appearing in the comics, Hawkeye has become a leading Avenger in the film series.


Doctor Strange was one of Lee’s lesser-known heroes before the 2016 film was released.

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Doctor Strange was created by Lee and Ditko, and his origin story shows that he was once an egotistical surgeon who got in a car accident that left him unable to perform surgery.

He searched the world for a way to repair his hands and stumbled upon the Ancient One, who made him a student of the mystic arts.

His suit, the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto, give him added powers, and he later took on the title of Sorcerer Supreme to help defend the world.

Although he’s not quite as well-known as some of Lee’s other superheroes, his 2016 stand-alone film and recent appearance in the “Avengers” movie franchise have increased his popularity.


Ant-Man wasn’t meant to be a hero.

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Paul Rudd played Ant-Man in the recent film series. Marvel

Ant-Man, created by Lee, Leiber, and Kirby, first appeared in 1962. He got his abilities from a special superhero suit, which has been worn by different alter egos throughout the years.

The original Ant-Man was Hank Pym, who invented the suit and “Pym Particles,” which allow the user to alter their size.

Ant-Man wasn’t originally going to be a stand-alone hero, but his story was so successful that he became part of the Avengers.


The Wasp was also a Lee creation.

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Evangeline Lilly portrayed the Wasp in recent films. YouTube/Marvel

Created by Lee, Kirby, and Ernie Hart, the Wasp is another popular Marvel heroine, who made her debut in 1963.

Like Ant-Man, her abilities come from a suit powered by Pym Particles.

The Wasp has been featured in comics and more recently starred in live-action films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.


He was one of the creators behind Groot.

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Vin Diesel voices Groot in the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films. Marvel Studios

This loveable Marvel character was created by Lee, Lieber, Kirby, and Dick Ayers. The sentient alien has recently appeared in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films as a protector of the universe.

The character first appeared in 1960 as an alien invader who wanted to capture humans.


Black Widow first appeared in 1964.

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Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. Marvel / Paramount

Black Widow, also known as Natalia “Natasha” Romanova, first appeared in 1964.

She was a Russian spy and enemy of Iron Man who later defected to the US and joined the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers.

The character had played a big role in the “Avengers” movies, and her stand-alone film is set to premiere in 2021.

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