NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A native New Yorker, a war veteran, and a comic book visionary.
On Monday, family, friends, and countless fans mourned the loss of the legendary king of Marvel, Stan Lee.
With superheroes like Black Panther, the Hulk, the X-Men, and Spider-Man, Lee revolutionized pop culture using his own super power – his imagination.
Lee was as recognizable to comic book fans as the characters he created.
“I tried to keep him realistic and I don’t know of anybody more realistic than I am. So whatever little things worried me, I’d have Spider-Man worry about them too,” Lee said in 1986.
He was born Stanley Lieber on Dec. 28, 1922 in New York. He grew up in Washington Heights and graduated from Dewitt Clinton High School.
At the time, he decided to sign his comics “Stan Lee,” as the profession wasn’t as glamourous as it is today.
“I didn’t want to be known by my regular name as a comic book writer, because it was embarrassing,” the Marvel icon once said.
When Lee was 16, he took a job as an assistant at a comic publisher that eventually grew into Marvel Comics. Lee would rise to become its president.
But in 1998, Marvel forced Lee out. He spent years in lawsuits with Marvel and Disney – their new owner – to get a share of the profits from movies and TV shows that were based on his characters.
Lee went on to start his own companies and even joined forces with his longtime rivals at DC Comics; putting his own spin on their superheroes including Batman and Wonder Woman.
“I think you never outgrow your love for things that are that colorful and things that are bigger than life. Along comes superhero comics. They’re really, I think, fairytales for grown-ups,” Lee said in 2014.
He thought he’d move on to more serious writing, but ultimately embraced his role as the ultimate character creator.
He made frequent cameos in the movies based on his characters. His famous appearances in every Marvel movie – including this summer’s blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War – became some of the most anticipated moments for fans.
Those who worked with Lee in Hollywood also reacted to the icon’s death. Several of his “Avengers” took to social media to honor him.
Actor Chris Evans, who plays Captain America in the Marvel films wrote, “there will never be another Stan Lee.” He ended the tweet with Lee’s famous catchphrase, “excelsior!”
Robert Downey Jr., who has player Iron Man since 2008, posted a picture of himself and Lee with a large heart saying, “I owe it all to you, rest in peace Stan.”
Actress Evangeline Lilly, who recently joined the Marvel universe as The Wasp, added “Stan…more than a master of stories, you always seemed like a master of living. I will look to you for inspiration for the rest of my life. Your wasp!”
Stan Lee was 95 years old. His wife of 69 years, Joan, died last year at the age of 93. Lee is survived by his daughter, Joanie, and his brother, Larry Lieber, who also worked in comics.
WEB EXTRA: More members of the Marvel universe share their memories of Stan Lee