Stan Lee was a comic book writer, editor, publisher, and producer. He rose through the ranks of a family-run business to become Marvel Comics' primary creative leader for two decades, leading its expansion from a small division of a publishing house to a multimedia corporation that dominated the comics and movie industries.
Lee created the superhero, Spiderman with writer-artist Steve Ditko. He first appeared in the anthology comic book "Amazing Fantasy #15 in August 1962, and has appeared in American comic books published by Marvel Comics and in movies, television shows, and video game adaptations set in the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man is the alias of Peter Parker, an orphan raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben in New York City after his parents Richard and Mary Parker died in a plane crash. Lee and Ditko had the character deal with the struggles of adolescence and financial issues. In his origin story, he gets spider-related abilities from a bite from a radioactive spider; these include clinging to surfaces, superhuman strength and agility, and detecting danger with his "spider-sense." He also builds wrist-mounted "web-shooter" devices that shoot artificial spider webs of his own design.
When Spider-Man first appeared in the early 1960s, teenagers in superhero comic books were usually relegated to the role of sidekick to the protagonist. The Spider-Man series broke ground by featuring Peter Parker, a high school student from Queens behind Spider-Man's secret identity and with whose "self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness" young readers could relate. While Spider-Man had all the makings of a sidekick, unlike previous teen heroes such as Bucky and Robin, Spider-Man had no superhero mentor like Captain America and Batman; he thus had to learn for himself that "with great power there must also come great responsibility" - a line included in a text box in the final panel of the first Spider-Man story but later retroactively attributed to his guardian, his late Uncle Ben Parker.
Here is a clip of Stan Lee explaining how he came up with the idea for Spiderman:
Marvel has featured Spider-Man in several comic book series, the first and longest-lasting of which is "The Amazing Spider-Man". Over the years, the Peter Parker character developed from a shy, nerdy New York City high school student to troubled but outgoing college student, to married high school teacher to, in the late 2000s, a single freelance photographer. In the 2000s, he joins the Avengers. Spider-Man's nemesis Doctor Octopus also took on the identity for a story arc spanning 2012–2014, following a body swap plot in which Peter appears to die. Marvel has also published books featuring alternate versions of Spider-Man, including "Spider-Man 2099", which features the adventures of Miguel O'Hara, the Spider-Man of the future; "Ultimate Spider-Man", which features the adventures of a teenaged Peter Parker in an alternate universe; and "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man", which depicts the teenager Miles Morales, who takes up the mantle of Spider-Man after Ultimate Peter Parker's supposed death. Miles is later brought into the mainstream continuity, where he sometimes works alongside Peter.
Spider-Man is one of the most popular and commercially successful superheroes. He has appeared in countless forms of media, including several animated and live action television series, syndicated newspaper comic strips, and in multiple series of films. In films, Spider-Man has been portrayed by actors Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Tom Holland. He was voiced by Chris Pine and Jake Johnson in the animated film "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse". Spider-Man has been well received as a superhero and comic book character, and he is often ranked as one of the most popular and iconic comic book characters of all time and one of the most popular characters in all fiction.
This clip is an interview Stan Lee did in the 1970's explaining the character of Spiderman:
Although the interior artwork was by Ditko alone, Lee rejected Ditko's cover art and commissioned Kirby to pencil a cover that Ditko inked. As Lee explained in 2010, "I think I had Jack sketch out a cover for it because I always had a lot of confidence in Jack's covers."
In an early recollection of the character's creation, Ditko described his and Lee's contributions in a mail interview with Gary Martin published in Comic Fan #2 (Summer 1965): "Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist & spider signal." At the time, Ditko shared a Manhattan studio with noted fetish artist Eric Stanton, an art-school classmate who, in a 1988 interview with Theakston, recalled that although his contribution to Spider-Man was "almost nil", he and Ditko had "worked on storyboards together and I added a few ideas. B ut the whole thing was created by Steve on his own... I think I added the business about the webs coming out of his hands." Ditko claimed in a rare interview with Jonathan Ross that the costume was initially envisioned with an orange and purple color scheme rather than the more famous red and blue.
Kirby disputed Lee's version of the story and claimed Lee had minimal involvement in the character's creation. According to Kirby, the idea for Spider-Man had originated with Kirby and Joe Simon, who in the 1950s had developed a character called the Silver Spider for the Crestwood Publications comic "Black Magic", who was subsequently not used. Simon, in his 1990 autobiography, disputed Kirby's account, asserting that "Black Magic" was not a factor, and that he (Simon) devised the name "Spider-Man" (later changed to "The Silver Spider"), while Kirby outlined the character's story and powers. Simon later elaborated that his and Kirby's character conception became the basis for Simon's Archie Comics superhero the Fly. Artist Steve Ditko stated that Lee liked the name Hawkman from DC Comics, and that "Spider-Man" was an outgrowth of that interest.
Simon concurred that Kirby had shown the original Spider-Man version to Lee, who liked the idea and assigned Kirby to draw sample pages of the new character but disliked the results - in Simon's description, "Captain America with cobwebs". Writer Mark Evanier notes that Lee's reasoning that Kirby's character was too heroic seems unlikely - Kirby still drew the covers for "Amazing Fantasy" #15 and the first issue of "The Amazing Spider-Man". Evanier also disputes Kirby's given reason that he was "too busy" to draw Spider-Man in addition to his other duties since Kirby was, said Evanier, "always busy". Neither Lee's nor Kirby's explanation explains why key story elements like the magic ring were dropped; Evanier states that the most plausible explanation for the sudden change was that Goodman, or one of his assistants, decided that Spider-Man, as drawn and envisioned by Kirby, was too similar to the Fly.
Author and Ditko scholar Blake Bell writes that it was Ditko who noted the similarities to the Fly. Ditko recalled that "Stan called Jack about the Fly", adding that "days later, Stan told me I would be penciling the story panel breakdowns from Stan's synopsis." It was at this point that the nature of the strip changed. "Out went the magic ring, adult Spider-Man and whatever legend ideas that Spider-Man story would have contained." Lee gave Ditko the premise of a teenager bitten by a spider and developing powers, a premise Ditko would expand upon to the point he became what Bell describes as "the first work for hire artist of his generation to create and control the narrative arc of his series". On the issue of the initial creation, Ditko stated, "I still don't know whose idea was Spider-Man". Ditko did, however, view the published version of Spider-Man as a separate creation to the one he saw in the five pencilled pages that Kirby had completed. To support this Ditko used the analogy of the Kirby/Marvel Thor, which was based on a name/idea of a character in Norse mythology: "If Marvel’s Thor is a valid created work by Jack, his creation, then why isn’t Spider-Man by Stan and me valid created work, our creation?"
Kirby noted in a 1971 interview that it was Ditko who "got Spider-Man to roll, and the thing caught on because of what he did". Lee, while claiming credit for the initial idea, has acknowledged Ditko's role, stating, "If Steve wants to be called co-creator, I think he deserves [it]". He has further commented that Ditko's costume design was key to the character's success; since the costume completely covers Spider-Man's body, people of all races could visualize themselves inside the costume and thus more easily identify with the character.
Here is a clip of Stan Lee speaking to UCLA students on his secrets to success:
A few months after Spider-Man's introduction, publisher Goodman reviewed the sales figures for that issue and was shocked to find it was one of the nascent Marvel's highest-selling comics. A solo ongoing series followed, beginning with "The Amazing Spider-Man" #1 (cover-dated March 1963). The title eventually became Marvel's top-selling series with the character swiftly becoming a cultural icon; a 1965 Esquire poll of college campuses found that college students ranked Spider-Man and fellow Marvel hero the Hulk alongside Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as their favorite revolutionary icons.
An early 1970s Spider-Man story ultimately led to the revision of the Comics Code. Previously, the Code forbade the depiction of the use of illegal drugs, even negatively. However, in 1970, the Nixon administration's Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asked Stan Lee to publish an anti-drug message in one of Marvel's top-selling titles. Lee chose the top-selling "The Amazing Spider-Man"; issues #96–98 (May–July 1971) feature a story arc depicting the negative effects of drug use. In the story, Peter Parker's friend Harry Osborn becomes addicted to pills. When Spider-Man fights the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn, Harry's father), Spider-Man defeats him by revealing Harry's drug addiction. While the story had a clear anti-drug message, the Comics Code Authority refused to issue its seal of approval. Marvel nevertheless published the three issues without the Comics Code Authority's approval or seal. The issues sold so well that the industry's self-censorship was undercut and the Code was subsequently revised.
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