Along with artist Jack Kirby, and other co-writers and artists, he created nearly every famous name that we know and love in the MCU. And yes, that includes the superheroes, villains, and the supporting characters. He began his career in 1939 filling inkwells and fetching lunch for the employees of Timely Comics (which would eventually rebrand as Marvel).
Rising through the ranks, he became the man to assemble The Avengers, the defibrillator behind reviving long-forgotten heroes from the ‘40s like Namor The Submariner and Captain America. If it weren’t for Stan “The Man” there wouldn’t be the modern superhero comics, the modern superhero films, or even the modern superhero. And now, we take a look back at the illustrious career of Stan Lee and his 15 best superhero creations.
After Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced them way back in 1965 in Fantastic Four #45, the Inhumans spent most of their existence in relative obscurity compared to the rest of the Marvel universe. They appeared here and there in different series including a self-titled run that ended in 1977 after 12 issues. And if you're going to ask us, they deserve more than a failed series.
Stan Lee created Hawkeye with artist Don Heck as a villain for Tales of Suspense #57 in 1964, going up against Iron Man. Yes, he was that big of a deal at first, but some have relegated him into a background hero who only shoots gimmicked arrows. We all know he’s more than that, and he might show it in the upcoming Avengers 4 movie.
Ant-Man was created by Stan Lee with his brother Larry Leiber and artist Jack Kirby in 1962 for Tales to Astonish #27 titled The Man in the Ant Hill. It was originally written as a one-off where a man is shrunk down and chased by ants and bees. But the story sold so well, that
We all know Nick Fury as the no-nonsense director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who assembled The Avengers in the MCU, played by Samuel L. Jackson. But he was really a soldier in World War II, and was white! But they created a version of the character appearing in Marvel's Ultimate Marvel imprint that was based on Jackson's appearance and screen persona, well before he was cast in the role. The recognizability of the character portrayed by Jackson in the films later led Marvel to retire the original character.
Scarlet Witch and her twin brother, Quicksilver, started off as villains to the X-Men in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. What many people don't know is that Stan Lee intended to have the characters leave villainy behind from the start. Villains up until that point were portrayed as bad guys through and through, and he wanted to write bad guys that weren't really bad deep down. And when they finally made their MCU debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron, we weren’t disappointed at all, especially since Elizabeth Olsen turned in a whole new take on the character.
Stan Lee created "The Man Without Fear" with artist Bill Everett for Daredevil #1 in 1964. He was the first disabled superhero to carry his own solo series and has been an extremely popular character from the very beginning. Stan Lee also created his arch-enemy, Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, who has terrorized many a Marvel hero and the city of New York. And if you’ve been watching the Daredevil series on Netflix, you can’t deny how far the character has gone since his inception. Let's just forget about that terrible film adaptation in '03.
Doctor Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, was created by Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko in 1963 as a way to bring a different kind of character and themes of mysticism to Marvel Comics. The Good Doctor may have never reached the level of popularity of other Marvel characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man, but the MCU's Doctor Strange in 2016 raked in $677 million worldwide, making it Marvel Studios' 7th most profitable film ever.
Black Panther was the first black superhero in mainstream American comic book history, first appearing in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966. He's one of the smartest, richest, and most deadly humans in the Marvel universe. And we can’t talk about Black Panther without mentioning his 2018 solo film. You have to be honest, that’s got to be at the top of your list of the best Marvel films ever made.
Stan Lee created the big green monster with artist Steve Ditko for his own solo series, The Incredible Hulk, in 1962, which was canceled after just six issues. However, Stan Lee liked the character so much that Hulk began appearing in Tales to Astonish until the series was renamed to The Incredible Hulk with issue #102.
Natalia "Natasha" Romanova, the Black Widow, made her first appearance in 1964's Tales of Suspense #52, plotted and edited by Stan Lee, scripted by Don Rico and drawn by Don Heck. She later defected to the United States and joined S.H.I.E.L.D. in The Avengers #29 in 1966, and later became a member of The Avengers. In the MCU, Black Widow is played by Scarlett Johansson and has appeared in five films, more than any character except for Captain America, Nick Fury, and Iron Man.
After a huge success with the creation of Hulk, Stan Lee wanted to create a character "stronger than the strongest person," and realized that the only way to do that was to make him a god. So Stan created Marvel's version of the God of Thunder along with his brother Larry Leiber and artist Jack Kirby. His first appearance was in Journey into Mystery #83 in 1962 and Thor went on to become one of the founding members (and some would argue, the strongest) of the Avengers.
The Fantastic Four was Stan Lee's first creation with artist Jack Kirby and they were an instant success for Marvel. With their 1961 debut in Fantastic Four #1, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced a new level of realism to the comic book genre that would go on to mold the future of comics and superheroes. These characters were flawed, argued with each other, dealt with self-doubt and made mistakes.
These days, thanks to the MCU and Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man is one of the most popular superheroes in the world, known for his snarky humor and quick wit. Stan Lee initially created him as a vehicle to explore Cold War themes, such as the role of American technology and business in the fight against communism. Stan's thoughts on the character: "I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him." Well, you've succeeded, Stan.
The X-Men are possibly the most widely recognized superhero team among any age group in the world. The original group started off with just Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Iceman, but that small roster soon grew to include hundreds of new mutants often splintered into different sub-teams of the X-Men in different titles. There were several movie reincarnations of the team, all of which, by the way, were massive box office successes. What’s next for the mutants now that they’ve just transferred to Marvel and Disney?
Spider-Man is Marvel's most successful character of all time and the most profitable comic book character ever. He's been a smash hit ever since his debut in 1962 with the now legendary Amazing Fantasy #15. With the growing teenage comic book audience, Stan Lee wanted to create a character that teenagers could relate to—an individual dealing with the problems of adolescence. We’ve seen different reincarnations of the web-slinger over the past two decades, and in our humble opinion, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man probably nailed the character the most.