Magazine
Latest Issue

Avengers assembling: Stan Lee was responsible for some of Marvel’s most iconic characters. Photo: Evans/Alamy Stock Photo

Stan Lee’s American pantheon

Why Stan Lee's comic creations are more than just men in tights

There’s a paragraph, early on in Liel Leibovitz’s life of Stan Lee, that pretty much causes the jaw to hit the floor and the eyeballs to pop out. It was late 1961 and comics were in the doldrums: the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham’s attack on the industry as damaging to children had led it to adopt a prudish Comics Code to avoid government regulation. Seriously considering quitting Atlas Comics (later called Marvel) for good, Lee hunkered down with the artist Jack Kirby and created the Fantastic Four. As Leibovitz ably describes, the Four were like nothing that had come before: superpowered, yes, but bickering and uncertain—polyvalent. They were morally and personally complex and relatable in ways that the old superheroes in whose shadow they were born were not.

The main axis of internal friction mirrored the friction between their creators. Ben Grimm, “The Thing,” was Kirby: saturnine, street-smart and…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect