Tag Archives: Comic Books

Jew of the Week: Stan Lee

The Genius Behind Marvel Comics

Stan Lee (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Stanley Martin Lieber (1922-2018) was born in Manhattan to Romanian-Jewish immigrants. He grew up in poverty, working all sorts of odd jobs from a young age, including delivering sandwiches and selling newspaper subscriptions. He dreamed of becoming the next great American novelist, and wrote obituaries in his spare time. Upon graduating from high school at 16, he got a job as an assistant at Timely Comics, a company started by his cousin’s husband, Martin Goodman. Lieber spent his time refilling inkwells, erasing pencil marks, and bringing lunches – for $8 a week. Eventually, he got a chance to write something of his own. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (also Jews) had recently come up with a new hit superhero – Captain America – and needed content. They gave the young man a shot, and he wrote his first story under the pseudonym “Stan Lee”. He would later explain that he did this because in those days comics were still unpopular and generally regarded as silly, and he was embarrassed to put his real name. His story was a success, turning Lee into a writer. When Kirby and Simon left Timely Comics over a dispute with Goodman, Lee was put as a temporary editor, despite being just 19 years old. As his stories continued to be hugely successful, Lee went from temporary editor to editor-in-chief, holding the position for over 30 years (except for a few years of service in World War II). Timely Comics would be renamed Marvel Comics, and Lee would co-create (mostly with Jack Kirby, who returned to the company) some of the most popular superheros of all time, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the Hulk; the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and the Avengers. Lee’s heroes and stories were unique in that they did not portray the typical, flawless protagonist. Instead, his characters were more complex, had everyday problems, and were sometimes just outright nerdy. The stories explored deeper, and at times darker, themes. These became wildly popular, opening up the comic book market to a much wider audience. Lee also pioneered a new approach of connecting comics writers with their fans to build a strong comic book community. Unlike others, he would credit writers and illustrators right at the front of the issue, and even name inkers and letterers that were typically omitted from mention. Lee was at the forefront of social change, writing about serious topics that were still taboo (like drug abuse), while introducing the first African superhero in comics in 1966 (Black Panther) and the first African-American superhero in 1969 (Falcon). Lee himself wrote countless stories, edited just about all the others, and also penned a monthly article, “Stan’s Soapbox”. In 1981, he moved to Los Angeles to take Marvel from print to television. He would serve as a producer on multiple TV and film adaptations of Marvel characters, most famously in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe – now the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. Lee was also a noted philanthropist and has done a great deal of charity work (especially through his Stan Lee Foundation). He was happily married for nearly seven decades. Lee struggled after his wife passed away last year, and a number of people sought to take advantage of him in his old age. Sadly, he passed away yesterday, at 95. Disney CEO Bob Iger called him “a superhero in his own right,” and said: “The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.” Click here to see a tribute to Stan Lee, featuring some of his best movie cameos.

9 Ways to Talk Like a Jew

Words of the Week

I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.
– Stan Lee

Stan Lee’s First Comic, 1941

Jew of the Week: Comic Books

What do Batman, Spider-Man and Superman have in common?

The now-ubiquitous superhero comic book was originally a product of poor Jewish immigrants to America. (Look closely and you’ll find Jewish themes in all of them. Superman’s real name? Kal-El!) During the Great Depression, Max Gaines’ (born Max Ginzberg) only solace was reading newspaper comic strips. He wondered how it would be possible to maximize this experience, and thus was born the comic book. Teaming up with Harry Wildenberg, who worked for a colour printing company, they debuted the first ever comic book in 1934. By 1938, comic books had already taken America by storm when two Jews changed the industry forever. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster came up with Superman, the first action superhero. In 1939, Bob Kahn (who became Bob Kane in America) and Bill Finger (a poor Jew from Colorado) brought Batman to the world. In 1941, Joe Kirzberg (who became Joe Kirby) and Joe Simon created Captain America. Meanwhile, a young Romanian Jew named Stanley Lieber, also known as Stan Lee, dreamed up Spider-Man, the Hulk, Avengers and the Fantastic Four, as well as X-Men, Thor and Daredevil, propelling Marvel Comics (which was founded by Martin Goodman) from obscurity into a comics powerhouse. So why the Jews? Will Eisner, the originator of Wonder Man, said it was nothing more than a re-branding of Biblical heroes: “We are people of the Book; we are storytellers essentially. Anyone who’s exposed to Jewish culture, I think, walks away for the rest of his life with an instinct for telling stories…”

 

 

Words of the Week

He shall be free to his home for one year, and he shall cheer his wife whom he has taken.

– Deuteronomy 24:5

A newly-married groom, for the first year following his marriage, is commanded to remain together with his wife, and should not embark upon journeys, join the army in battle, or anything of the like (including civic duties). Rather he must rejoice with his wife for a full year – this is one of the 613 commandments (#214)!