Stan Lee may never have written comics if he didn’t need to help his parents pay the bills

  • Marvel legend Stan Lee didn’t always want to go into comics.
  • He got a job as an assistant at a comic company at age 17, because he wanted to help his family pay their rent.

Marvel legend Stan Lee has died at the age of 95. The icon is behind some of the biggest comic characters, but he may never have gotten into the industry at all if it wasn’t for wanting to help his parents with bills.

In a 2011 interview with the Author Learning Center, Lee spoke about how his father struggled to find a job during the Great Depression.

“In order to help out, because our biggest problem was ‘how do we get the rent money every month,’ … I started working while I was still in high school,” he said. “I fell into writing accidentally, really.”

When he was around 17, he ended up finding a job as an assistant at Timely Comics, which was owned by his cousin’s husband.

“I heard that they were looking for an assistant so I went up and I applied for the job, and I must have been the only one who applied because I got the job,” he said. “I had never thought of writing comics, and in those days nobody thought of writing comics. Nobody had any respect for comics, really. People thought they were either written for semi-literate adults or very young children, so I figured I’ll keep the job for a while. I need some money.”

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Stan Lee had a great imagination. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Lee’s job initially consisted of menial work.

“In those days [the artists] dipped the pen in ink, [so] I had to make sure the inkwells were filled,” Lee told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. “I went down and got them their lunch, I did proofreading, I erased the pencils from the finished pages for them.”

Read more: Stan Lee, Marvel legend, dead at 95

But his role at the company started to grow. He contributed to his first comic by writing on an issue of “Captain America,” and by 19 he was made editor-in-chief. Timely became Atlas Comics and then Marvel.

Lee and artist Jack Kirby found success with “The Fantastic Four” in 1961, and Marvel began to take off. Lee and Kirby would go on to create iconic characters including the Hulk, Thor, the X-Men, as well as form the Avengers, while Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man.

Marvel started to find even more success with films starting in the early 2000s. The new Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched in 2008 with “Iron Man.” After Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, the comics were built into a multi-billion-dollar film franchise.

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Stan Lee served as Marvel’s editor-in-chief for a while. Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP File

The icon made it a tradition to appear in Marvel shows and movies. He had made more than 50 cameos.

Read more:
Stan Lee has made 56 cameos in the Marvel universe – here they all are

“I like to think because of the some of the work we did at Marvel, little by little people began to have more respect for comics,” Lee told the Author Learning Center.

He was right. Lee and the entire Marvel Universe had a profound effect on the lives of comic book and superhero fans. Many celebrities worked with Lee on Marvel movies and projects and shared their grief over the loss of the icon.

Read more:
Celebrities react to Marvel creator Stan Lee’s death

TMZ reported that he was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Monday morning.NBC News later confirmed with Lee’s representative, Dawn Miller, that the Marvel icon had died. No cause of death is known at the time.

He’s survived by his daughter, Joan Celia, and a younger brother, Lawrence Lieber.

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