Stan Lee, the legendary Jewish comic book writer, died on Nov. 12 at 95. Here are some things you may not have known about the co-creator of such legends as the Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man, Black Panther and Doctor Strange:
The Jewish angle
“With great power comes great responsibility,” the motto of Spider-Man, was one that Marvel Comics creator Lee once wondered might have been lifted from the Bible.
“I jokingly responded that it must be in one of the commentaries,” Rabbi Simcha Weinstein recalled was his response in a story published in Haaretz. But the Jewish influence extended to other characters, too: Magneto of the X-Men was the alter ego of Holocaust survivor Max Eisenhardt. And the Fantastic Four character the Thing, born Ben Grimm, was conceived as so spiritually Jewish that he was brought back to life by God.
Tikun olam from Marvel Comics
Born in New York City to Romanian-born Jewish immigrant parents, Stanley Martin Lieber shortened his surname for professional purposes – just like his original comic book collaborator Jack Kirby, who was born Jacob Kurtzberg. Lee later legally changed it, although he remarked that “Stanley Lieber” was the credit he was saving for when he finally wrote the great American novel. He never got around to write it, although Lee’s legacy includes a series of brief “Stan’s Soapbox” columns that appeared in Marvel Comics. One such clipping from 1968, in which Lee decried the social ills of bigotry and racism, went viral on the day he died.
Meeting the voice of Spider-Man
Lee went to Winnipeg in 1979 to appear on Beyond Reason, a CBC game show hosted by Paul Soles, featuring an astrologer, a graphologist and a clairvoyant. The questions they asked led the astrologer to unsuccessfully guess that the person sitting on the other side of the wall was Playboy magazine publisher Hugh Hefner. Soles himself has a deeper link to Lee’s legacy: the still-active actor was the lead voice on the 1967 Canadian cartoon version of Spider-Man, after having voiced the Hulk’s alter ego Bruce Banner in the animated series, The Marvel Superheroes. Soles also had a role in the 2008 movie, The Incredible Hulk, which was shot in Toronto.
A nonagenarian meets his fans
The older Lee got, the more publicly accessible he was, having made appearances at Fan Expo Canada in Toronto in 2010, 2013 and 2016: the last one was billed as his last Canadian appearance at age 93, yet he appeared at the 2017 Calgary expo by invitation of his comic book protege Todd McFarlane.
But these travels ended soon after, when Lee’s wife of almost 70 years, Joan, died in July 2017. That’s when he filed police reports about millions allegedly stolen from him and his daughter, around a time when Lee was battling pneumonia; his lawyers also denied sexual assault claims made by the staff of a nursing company.
The Chosen show remains unmade
Stan Lee’s The Chosen was the title of a Canada-set show about an indigenous cop with special powers, which was aiming to be produced for Global TV, only to be called off due to the lack of U.S. network backing; his production partner still has hopes of getting it made someday. Putting his name front and centre was part of Lee’s shtick, to the chagrin of estranged collaborator Kirby, who lampooned Lee in a DC Comics character named Funky Flashman. But he kept up the cameos right through last summer’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, where Lee’s character responded to his car being shrunk: “Well, the ’60s were fun, but now I’m paying for it.”