Born on December 28, 1922 in New York City to Romanian-Jewish immigrants, Stan Lee, would one day become synonymous with the word superhero. He spent his early childhood years writing newspaper obituaries and dreaming of writing the next Great American Novel. Beginning his career in the comic book business filling inkwells for artist, Lee would in 1961 step into comic book history when he and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four. From there, Lee would go on to create a long line of iconic comic book heroes: Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, and the Amazing Spider Man.
What made Lee’s creations standout from the crowd of other ideal heroes that came before was his characters’ genuine humanity. Unlike the other superheroes of his time, Lee’s heroes struggled with human problems like paying rent, alcohol addiction, managing their tempers, overcoming physical disabilities, and enduring prejudice. Lee humanized heroes and made them more accessible to readers of all walks of life.
Stan Lee’s works have touched millions of fans around the world in a way that makes him far more than a simple author of comic books. To many Lee’s heroes offer us an opportunity to look at the world and ourselves in a different light. Here his fans reflect on what Lee’s heroes meant to them.
Miguel Cruz: (Age 30) The Stan Lee hero that has meant the most to me is the gold-titanium alloy wearing Iron Man. My first encounter with an Iron Man comic was Iron Man Vol 1. 290. In that issue Tony Stark is paralyzed and bed ridden. So, in order to protect his friends he has to design a device that will allow him to control his armor remotely. All the cool Sci-fi tech aside, that was the first time I had ever seen a hero rise to challenge his own physical limitations. It taught me that a real hero’s greatest tool is their mind.
Josue Cruz: (Age 29) The Incredible Hulk is my favorite Marvel Character because he is a lot more complicated than what people think. A lot of people just see a big green rage monster or a puny nerd. What I took away from it is that there are two sides to everything, including being a hero. A hero can solve problems with strength and intelligence, not just one or the other. In other words, nothing is ever black and white, it’s all shades of green.
Lesley DeBacco: (Age 31) My favorite Marvel character is Thor. I’m a big fan of mythology and that is a big reason why Thor is my favorite. But I also love the character and how he had to face a lot of challenges within his own family, his brother Loki for example. Also he had the one of the coolest weapons without a doubt.
Janelle Gaudet: (Age 22) My favorite Marvel character is Black Widow. She’s just so amazing and badass that I can’t help but love her. Her story has inspired me to keep going no matter how tough life may seem and always put up a good fight.
Nicole Gaudet: (Age 26) Scarlet Witch is, hands down, my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe character. Besides the fact that she is arguably the most powerful Avenger (seeing as how she was the ONLY ONE who was able to hold off Thanos for more than five seconds), she’s made it through enough emotional trauma to fill a trilogy by itself and still came out pretty awesome.
Allie Ross: (Age 24) Unlike most, I didn’t start diving into the Marvel Universe until my late teens, but the universe Stan Lee created transcends the bounds of my imagination. Stan created an entire alternate reality, somewhere I could escape from the limits of my own reality. One thing I admire about his heroes was his choice to give them human flaws. Stan made me feel a different size, much larger than in life every time I immersed myself in his parallel universes. He made the kids who prefer the corners of the room feel special. It’s impossible for me to choose just one of his heroes because his characters were all so original, especially for an aspiring writer like me.
Andreia Soares: (Age 22) I like Marvel movies because they stray away from the average sappy love story and focus more so on life’s biggest hurdles without forgetting to pack punches of action. The snippets played after the end credits feel like a special preview showing because nobody ever stays past the end credits. My favorite Marvel character would have to be Black Widow because of her strong feminist qualities. Having her as such a strong character within the movie series really helps to empower young girls so that they can also be strong.
Ricardo Vargas: (Age 23) My favorite Marvel character would have to be Spider-Man. The costume and powers are what originally got me into him as a kid. But what really struck a cord with me when I was older was how hard he tried and never gave up, despite the odds he faced. He showed me what makes a hero isn’t the suit or the powers, but the person within.
Headline photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.