Stan Lee is an American comic book writer, editor and former president and chairman of Marvel Comics.
In collaboration with several artists, most notably Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the Silver Surfer, The Avengers and many other fictional characters.
Stan Lee is credited with introducing complex characters; characters that were not just the archetypal all American superhero, but those that had demons, those that could have a bad temper, or become unwell – making them much more human and easier to identify with. This type of characterisation and story-telling had rarely been seen in the industry before.
Stan Lee led the expansion of Marvel Comics from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation during an era now referred to as The Marvel Revolution.
Stan Lee’s Marvel Revolution extended beyond the characters and storylines, to the way in which comic books engaged the audience and created a community between the readers and the creators. Additionally, he pioneered and advocated the use of comic books to comment on social issues of the time, including bigotry, injustice and discrimination.
This got him into some hot water with the rather conservative Comics Code Authority but Stan wouldn’t yield, he continued to pursue what he believed in and what he knew his audience wanted; thus the code changed.
In summary, Stan Lee and his collaborations with some of the greatest comic book artists ever to have lived, changed the game.
In 1984, Stan Lee was awarded The National Medal of Arts by the United States Congress, the highest honour awarded to an individual artist in the United States. Previous recipients include Georgia O’Keefe, William de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Bob Dylan.
One of the medium’s most prolific artistic legends, Jack Kirby, “The King of Comics,” was an artist, writer, and editor whose work spanned the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Modern ages of comics. Kirby created and co-created a multitude of Marvel and DC’s most popular characters and many others, too. Kirby was one of the most respected artist of his time (though he didn’t have personal knowledge of that, until later on) and still is.
o Jacob Kurtzberg was born in New York City, in a tenement house on Essex Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan on August 28, 1917. In the spring of 1935, Jack Kirby got his first drawing job. He answered a newspaper ad and was employed by the Max Fleischer animation studio that produced POPEYE and BETTY BOOP cartoons. He started at the bottom, applying opaque paint to animation cells.
o Kirby was 22 and had already been experimenting for years with different genres and styles when he clicked with another young writer/cartoonist, Joe Simon, and the two men started collaborating, inventing characters first for Fox Feature Syndicate and then Timely Comics. It was for Timely that Simon and Kirby conceived Captain America
o By the end of the ’50s, Kirby was on his own, working as a freelancer. By that point he’d developed a more consistent style, with a blockier line, deeper shadows, and dramatic forced angles and he applied that technique to some of the Silver Age adventures of DC’s Green Arrow, working with writers Dick and
o Kirby began working for Atlas Comics, a re-branded incarnation of Timely and in
1961, shortly after the company had been renamed again—as Marvel Comics— Kirby started worked with his editor Stan Lee, where they developed and introduced—The Fantastic Four—which he continued working on for nearly 10 years.
o During the 60’s Stan Lee and Kirby created and defined four of the greatest and most recognisable Marvel creations – The Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor,
The X-Men & The Avengers, o The superhero work Kirby did for Marvel in the ’60s is considered some of the best that he—and the medium—ever produced
We are proud to present the third major release to Superheroes; a portfolio of iconic comic book covers, masterminded by the legendary Stan Lee.
Comic book narratives tell us of two very distinct and differing channels of heroism: team efforts and solo super figures. This collection both balances and juxtaposes this dynamic, showcasing the power of individuals who stand alone against evil, and those who draw strength from fighting shoulder to shoulder with their comrades in arms.
In the pantheon of comic book lore, the consummate lone wolf – pun intended – is Wolverine. Logan to those few whom are invited into his confidence and trust, Wolverine plays a pivotal role in the elite X-Men and now, for the first time in this Superheroes series, is portrayed as the leading character on his own cover, as if to highlight his fated path of solitude.
Wolverine’s self-imposed isolation is symptomatic of his great fear that the beast in him will one day take over, and he will cause irreparable damage to people for whom he cares more than he would like to admit. His sense of self is horribly degraded; he sees himself as a monster, and fights against the realisation that he is destined to be a heroic force for good. It is a bittersweet irony for Wolverine that his power to regenerate and heal his body does not quite extend to the emotional wounds he carries with him. Outwardly tough and indestructible, his inner turmoil serves to humanise him, and make him easier to relate to for the viewer or reader.
As a viewer or reader, one views Wolverine quite differently. Everybody loves a bad boy, especially one with an unerring sense of right and wrong, a tortured soul whose innate goodness and honour keep him just out of the reach of dark forces. Those following his adventures find themselves willing him to stay on the right path, to make the right decisions and to learn to love himself just a little.
Continuing along the road of standalone heroes in this collection of work, we can take Spider-Man as a comparable character to that of Wolverine. A young man, bestowed with powers not at his request or design, struggles to walk the line between humdrum and heroism, simultaneously drawing from and yet resenting his abilities. They dictate his difference from those around him, mark him indelibly as something ‘other’ and will govern every future life choice he makes. Adding to this considerable burden is the guilt over the death of his father figure, Uncle Ben; a death he could have prevented. This tragedy prompted Peter Parker to utilise his alter ego to serve and protect – much like Wolverine, here we see another hero whose life choices have been influenced by tragedy.
Spider-Man evokes the same response in his readers and viewers as Wolverine; we sit silently willing them to succeed. As mentioned previously, an audience wants to see
Wolverine battle his inner demons and emerge victorious, positively willing him on to do so at every twist and turn. Similarly, we cannot help but be on the side of Spider-Man, as he is seemingly out-manned, out-gunned and out-manoeuvred more often than not. Our sense of justice for the underdog prevails, and no outcome other than Spider-Man winning the fight and saving the day will placate our own sense of fair play. Happily, neither of these complex characters let us down too often, in their own self-sufficient and independent ways.
They are both able to make their way in the world keeping their abilities hidden. Spider-Man is only revealed when Peter Parker chooses, and Wolverine’s claws are only unsheathed in moments of violence. Should they so choose, they could both live a life removed from the repercussions of their powers and yet they opt not to, both acutely aware that, in the words of Peter Parker’s beloved Uncle Ben; “With great power comes great responsibility”. These are two men that teetered dangerously close to the dark side, but chose a different path, a better path, that would allow them to help those in need, do the right thing and atone for the sins of which they both respectively believe themselves to be guilty. Each victory against evil, each moment of self-sacrifice soothes their guilty consciences and, as they might deem, takes them one step closer to deliverance.
And yet, both Wolverine and Spiderman have found solace and solidarity from being part of a consolidated unit during their Marvel histories. So what makes these two inherent loners seek the company of others? What traits unite them as men, and as superheroes? Thus we see the beauty in the balance of cover artwork portrayed in this collection. For every strong individual, there is a team. For every power there is another ability to complement it. Whilst strength can indeed be found in numbers, it is there also that we find friendship, comfort, support and protection. As Aristotle identified, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. It is with this mind-set that one must view both these individual images, and the collection as a whole, and celebrate both the standalone superhero exploits, as well as the times when even these seemingly omnipotent beings need a little help, giving us, their firm fans, the courage to admit likewise.
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