Stan Lee, Pulp Fan

Nov 15, 2018 by

Comic book legend Stan Lee passed away on Monday, November 12. He was 95 years old.

Nearly sixty years ago, Stan Lee — along with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others — introduced the world to The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The X-Men, and other superheroes. Together, they “revolutionized entertainment and the then-dying superhero-comics industry by introducing flawed, multidimensional, and relatable human heroes — many of whom have enjoyed cultural staying power beyond anything in contemporary fiction, to rival the most enduring icons of the movies (an industry they’ve since proceeded to almost entirely remake in their own image).”

Marvel’s greatest success of the period was Peter Parker, The Amazing Spider-Man. Debuting in the August 1962 AMAZING FANTASY, Spider-Man blended a mixture of “unconventional humor and emotional agony.” In short, Spider-Man mirrored the rather unconventional pulp hero that Lee claimed as inspiration: Richard Wentworth, The Spider.

“When I was about 10 years old, I used to read a pulp magazine called THE SPIDER and sub-titled ‘Master of Men.’ Perhaps it was the Master of Men that got me, but to my impressionable, preteen way of thinking, the Spider was the most dramatic character I had ever encountered. He ranked right up there with Doc Savage and the Shadow. Even better, he wasn’t as well known as the others, which gave me the warm feeling that his fans belonged to an elite club. At any rate, in searching for a title for our newest superhero, I remembered by old pulp favorite — and the title Spider-Man instantly hit me. I didn’t mind borrowing the Spider part of his name because everything else about our new character would be completely different. I was determined to make our next production the most original, most unique comic book character ever to swoop down the pike.”

Although it’s debatable how much credit Lee actually deserves for the creation of Marvel’s now iconic characters, Stan was “The Man” who sold The Marvel Universe and, in turn, the comic book medium. “Stan, because of his personality and ability to talk in front of people, became the spokesman for all the comic books.”

So rest in peace, Stan Lee, comic book creator, promoter, and . . . pulp fan.

(Spider-Man made his debut in the final issue of AMAZING FANTASY, dated August 1962. Featuring the cover art of Jack Kirby, the fifteenth issue would be one of Marvel Comics’ best selling issues to date. Seven months later, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN would make its debut.

Beginning on Thursday evening, August 15, and running through Sunday, August 18, PulpFest 2019 will celebrate the many ways that pulp fiction and pulp art have inspired creators such as Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby. We hope that you’ll join us for “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories,” an examination of the pervasive influence of pulps on contemporary pop culture. We’ll be back at the wonderful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry.)