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The world lost a truly imaginative pioneer on Monday. A man who created his own universe, heroes and alter-egos with a stroke of a pencil.  His death sparked a gratuitous explosion of thanks and condolences from celebrities and fans alike, and it’s become increasingly clear that it’s nigh on impossible to think of an individual who has influenced contemporary culture as much Stan Lee has.

Throughout his time as an editor, writer and publisher he co-created fictional characters including Spider-Man, The Hulk, Doctor Strange, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, and—with his brother, Larry Lieber— the characters Ant-Man, Iron Man, and Thor. In doing so, he pioneered a more layered approach to writing superheroes and made them what they are today.

Before his rise to his unprecedented status within modern society, Lee served in the US army writing manuals and cartoons. Upon leaving the army, Lee joined what is now known as Atlas Comics, writing stories for a whole host of genres including romance, Westerns, humour, science fiction, medieval adventure, horror and suspense. He became more and more disillusioned with the work that he was doing, eventually turning his gaze towards superheroes, joining a new superhero team which allowed his imaginative characters to really gain some traction.

The first superheroes Lee and artist Jack Kirby created together were the Fantastic Four. The success from this first project launched the team’s work into the mainstream, leading to the commissioning of a huge collection of new superheroes, all living through the same universe.  Lee and Kirby collated a group of there newly created characters together into the team title The Avengers, which is now the basis of one of the highest grossing film series’ of all time. 

The cross-universe nature of Lee’s creations has helped develop an endless narrative cycle that allows characters to jump in and out of films at the pleasure of the writer. Lee has been credited executive producer on most Marvel film and television projects beginning with the 1990 Captain America film. In the 46 films that Lee has been an Executive Producer, a remarkable $26,410,622,876 has been made across world-wide box offices. He has had cameo appearances in 42 films in total, thankfully completing the footage for his cameo in the upcoming Avengers 4 film prior to his death on Monday.

He eventually retired from Marvel, but continued as a public figurehead for the company, allowing him ton continue his own creative ventures into his 90s, right up until his death.

Stan Lee was a true creator who pushed the boundaries of our imaginations, and the entire world is sad to see him go – but, as he said himself… “Excelsior!”