Born Stanley Martin Lieber in December 28, 1922. Began working for publisher Martin Goodman as a copyboy while in his teens. He wrote text stories for Captain America comics under the pen name Stan Lee. He became the youngest editor in the field at 17. Enlisting in the army when America became involved in World War II, Lee served in the Signal Corps writing manuals and training films and earning the military classification of "playwright", one of only nine men in the US Army to be awarded the title. Returning to his position at what would become Marvel Comics Lee produced a variety of titles in a number of genres.
In 1961 Lee contemplated leaving the comic field. He and artist Jack Kirby produced the Fantastic Four, a comic imbued with both artists' sensibilities. Instantly and enormously popular Lee found himself producing a cavalcade of new titles featuring new characters. The exact division of creative credits on the many characters produced by Lee with artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko remains a point contested by many fans and historians. Many of them have accused Lee of hogging the credit for the creation of Marvel's stories and characters while shortchanging the significant creative contributions of his artists.
Lee scripted most of the comics published by Marvel. In order to maintain his workload and stringent publishing schedule Lee developed what came to be known as the Marvel-style of comic scripting. Aided by capable artistic partners Lee would brainstorm or provide a brief synopsis of a story rather than a full script. When his artists provided him with the pages Lee would then proceed to add dialogue and captions. In effect, the artists were de facto co-writers who fleshed out the outlines into full plots which Lee would then have to fit in with his own contributions. This revolutionary method of creation allowed comics to be produced in record time, but it also raised the above controversy as to what degree Lee or his artists actually contributed creatively to the finished work.
Lee also revolutionized the genre of the superhero comic. He did not strip away the surface elements of the genre such as codenames, costumes and action sequences but he gave the superhero a humanity previously lacking in the iconic characters published. His heroes were beset by human emotions, self-doubt, attacks of temper, and dark moods permeated his comics. His characters bickered amongst themselves, worried about mundane matters such as paying their bills, impressing girlfriends, or recovering from a flu. Lee created characters with whom readers could relate rather than idealize. He created figures who were beset, in spite of their powers, with the day-to-day stresses and headaches the common man faced.
Another of Lee's notable contributions was to begin the weakening of the draconian Comics Code Authority that straightjacketed the mainstream American comic book field since the mid 1950s. This came about when Stan Lee was approached by the US Department of Health about the proposal of writing a comic book story dealing with the dangers of drugs. Stan Lee agreed and wrote a suitable Spider-Man story dealing with the subject which was slated to be published in Amazing Spider-Man #96. To his surprise, the CCA refused to give their seal of approval on the basis that the Comics Code prohibited the depiction of drug use, regardless of the context. Frustrated with this senseless objection and feeling that this story was too important to kill, Stan Lee, with the support of publisher Martin Goodman, decide to defy the code and publish without the seal of approval. The issue enjoyed healthy sales and the publishers were praised for having the social conscience to use their medium to deal with an important issue in the real world. As a result of this, the CCA lost some of their power as a censor and the code was subsequently loosened to allow for the negative depiction of drugs among other things in the beginning of its slide into irrelevence.
In more recent years Lee has become a personable figurehead and public face for Marvel Comics. He has recently launched StanLee.Net, an on-line multimedia company dedicated to revolutionizing comics. Unfortunately, the company has faced problems due to poor financing. In 1981 Lee moved to California where he currently resides overseeing Marvel's cinematic adventures. He has executive-produced and made cameo appearances in a number of recent film translations of his familiar characters.