Comic book genius Stan Lee, the architect of the contemporary comic book, has died. He was 95.
The creative dynamo who revolutionised the comics by introducing human frailties in superheroes such as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and The Incredible Hulk, was declared dead Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to Kirk Schenck, an attorney for Lee's daughter, J.C. Lee.
Lee, the face of comic book culture in the United States, had suffered a number of illnesses in recent years.
"My father loved all of his fans," his daughter told Hollywood website TMZ. "He was the greatest, most decent man."
The New Yorker, known for his distinctive tinted glasses and impish grin, frequently appeared at fan events where he was revered.
As the top writer at Marvel Comics and later as its publisher, Lee was widely considered the architect of the contemporary comic book. He revived the industry in the 1960s by offering the costumes and action craved by younger readers while insisting on sophisticated plots, college-level dialogue, satire, science fiction, even philosophy.
Millions responded to the unlikely mix of realistic fantasy, and many of his characters, including Spider-Man, the Hulk and X-Men went on to become stars of blockbuster films. Recent projects he helped make possible range from the films Black Panther and Doctor Strange to such TV series as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Guardians of the Galaxy.
"I think everybody loves things that are bigger than life. ... I think of them as fairy tales for grown-ups," he said in a 2006 interview. "We all grew up with giants and ogres and witches. Well, you get a little bit older and you're too old to read fairy tales. But I don't think you ever outgrow your love for those kind of things, things that are bigger than life and magical and very imaginative."
Lee considered the comic-book medium an art form and he was prolific: By some accounts, he came up with a new comic book every day for 10 years.
"I wrote so many I don't even know. I wrote either hundreds or thousands of them," he told the AP in 2006.
He hit his stride in the 1960s when he brought the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man and numerous others to life.
"It was like there was something in the air. I couldn't do anything wrong," he recalled.
His heroes, meanwhile, were a far cry from virtuous do-gooders such as rival DC Comics' Superman.
The Fantastic Four fought with each other. Spider-Man was goaded into superhero work by his alter ego, Peter Parker, who suffered from unrequited crushes, money problems and dandruff. The Silver Surfer, an alien doomed to wander Earth's atmosphere, waxed about the woeful nature of man. The Hulk was marked by self-loathing. Daredevil was blind and Iron Man had a weak heart.
"The beauty of Stan Lee's characters is that they were characters first and superheroes next," Jeff Kline, executive producer of the Men in Black animated television series, said in 1998.
However, Lee ended up in the comics business by accident, thanks to an uncle who got him a job when he was a teenager filling artists' inkwells and fetching coffee.
"I felt someday I'd write the 'Great American Novel' and I didn't want to use my real name on these silly little comics," he once said, explaining why he had forsaken his given name, Stanley Lieber.
Lee rose through the ranks to become a comics writer, making millions of superhero fans dream of his fantastic universes and humans with extraordinary powers, and eventually led the Marvel empire for decades as its publisher.
From Spider-Man to Black Panther to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, Lee collaborated with other authors and illustrators to put his lively imagination on the page. Iron Man, Thor and Doctor Strange would follow – and today, all three heroes have multi-film franchises that rake in hundreds of millions of dollars.
Lee has appeared in cameo roles in nearly every Marvel movie – including as a bus driver in Avengers: Infinity War, a film that united many of the indelible characters he brought to life.
"Awww man, heartbreaking. R.I.P. to a true pioneer and legend," tweeted Australian filmmaker James Wan, who directed many of the Saw and Insidious movies as well as helming Aquaman, an upcoming superhero film based on the character by Marvel rival DC Comics.
"My youth wouldn't have been the same without him. So grateful to have met the guy, and told him how thankful I was for his work. #stanlee."