Tag Archives: Marvel

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: Genndy Tartakovsky

Hotel Transylvania and Dexter’s Lab

Genndy Tartakovsky (Credit: Sony Animation)

Gennady “Genndy” Borisovich Tartakovsky (b. 1970) was born in Moscow. His family escaped the Soviet Union to Italy when he was still a child, and were soon forced to move again after experiencing tremendous anti-Semitism. They ended up in Chicago, where Tartakovsky grew up, enjoying his new-found comic books, American cartoons, Japanese anime, and comedy shows. Tartakovsky had a difficult youth. He was made fun of for being an immigrant, and always felt like an outsider. His father passed away when he was a teenager, and the family barely scraped by living in subsidized housing. Although he wanted to be a businessman and get his family out of the gutter, Tartakovsky was placed in an animation class and decided this was his life’s work. He would go on to study at the prestigious California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. After finishing his studies, Tartakovsky got a job in Spain working on a Batman cartoon. His big break came when he was hired by Hanna-Barbera and given the chance to come up with a show. Tartakovsky brushed off an old student project, Dexter’s Laboratory,which ended up on television and became hugely popular. It won three Annie Awards and was nominated for four Emmys. It would later be ranked among the 100 best cartoons and credited with launching ” a new generation of animated series that played on two levels, simultaneously fun for both kids and adults.” Tartakovsky then co-produced The Powerpuff Girls, followed by the hit Samurai Jack, which won him an Emmy and was also ranked among the 100 best cartoons. Tartakovsky’s shows boosted the Cartoon Network’s viewership from 12 million to 72 million. In 2005, Tartakovsky was hired by George Lucas to direct Star Wars: Clone Wars. The show won three Emmy Awards. In 2012, Tartakovsky made his film debut with Hotel Transylvania (originally created by Todd Durham), which was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes. Hotel Transylvania spawned two sequels, earning the trilogy nearly a billion dollars at the box office. Tartakovsky has worked on many other films and shows, including The Flintstones and Iron Man 2, and even wrote and illustrated for Marvel Comics. The key to a good comedy cartoon, he says, is writing with parents in mind and remembering that kids are really smart, too.

Words of the Week

I see Star Wars as taking all the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down into a more modern and easily accessible construct… I put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people – more a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system.
– George Lucas