Multiple outlets are reporting that Stan Lee, the editor and writer who guided the Marvel Universe from a scrappy small comics publisher to one of the worlds' leading entertainment brands, has died. He was 95 years old.
You will see an uncountable number of tributes to Lee over the next few days, months, and years. It's true that Lee shaped the direction of American popular culture in a way that few others have — Walt Disney is the only other name that immediately comes to mind. But the truth is more interesting and more complicated than just a Horatio Alger story about a writer with a dream. Seattle's own Fantagraphics famously published an entire issue of their magazine in 1995 The Comics Journal devoted to Lee's complicated relationship with artists at Marvel.
But there will be plenty of time to tease out the tangled questions of ownership and creator rights that Lee leaves behind. For now, I prefer to reflect on the fact that Lee was once an aspiring novelist named Stanley Lieber who purposefully created the Lee persona so he could save his real name for a Great American Novel that he would never write. But now, looking back on his career, very few writers in the history of the world can claim the kind of successes that Lee enjoyed: he's changed the world in a very real, very palpable way, and his passing will be mourned by millions.