SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - Comic book legend, movie icon, and fan favorite Stan Lee passed away Monday at the age of 95.
Lee, with his signature mustache, eyeglasses, and superstar smile was the genius behind Marvel Comics' most iconic superheros, such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Black Panther, and Ant-Man, loved by generations of fans.
Lee created the characters by partnering with famous artists such as Jack Kirby to make the memorable comic book characters.
"Some people somewhere think I wrote and drew. They think that the scripts were just mine but they wouldn't have been nothing if it was not for the artists," said Lee.
I had the honor of talking with Stan Lee at the launch of the Silicon Valley Comic Con just two years ago in March 2016. You wouldn't have thought Lee was in his 90's. He had so much energy, a great laugh, and a great sense of humor. He signed autographs and shared stories about his favorite character, Spider-Man.
And he told me with a laugh that he never liked spiders.
"Hate all insects. I just thought it would be cute to have a hero who could stick to walls and I needed a name for him. So I went down a list and I tried Insect man, Mosquito man. I finally got to Spiderman and it sounded more dramatic than any of the other names. So I settled for that," said Lee.
Lee's said he was happy to see his characters move to the silver screen in big blockbuster films that brought new generations of fans to the Marvel Comics world.
Stan Lee was born as Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922.
His parents were immigrants from Romania and he grew up in New York.
At the age of 16, he began working at Timely Comics and briefly led the company at the age of 19.
During World War II, he joined the Army where he created cartoon training manuals for soldiers.
In 1947 he married his wife Joan, a British model.
He rejoined the comic book world with his former company which later became Marvel Comics.
Lee's superheroes had human flaws that touched fans.
Eitan Manhoff, the owner of Cape and Cowl Comics in Oakland, California says Lee will be missed.
"Stan basically created the Marvel universe as we know it and beyond that kind of created fandom as we know it," said Manhoff, "Stan would make these characters and you sit there and you read it and say I get it. I get what this character is doing. I see myself in it. That could be me. And that hadn't really been done before."
Lee himself became a superstar, with cameos in many films often saying his trademark motto "Excelsior".
He eventually gained presidential recognition, standing next to President George W. Bush at a ceremony in 2008 where he received the National Medal of Arts, honored as "one of America's most prolific story tellers."
Lee's storytelling was sorely missed Monday. Hours after his death, fans placed flowers and comic books on Lee's Hollywood star.
"He was a great representative for the medium because he loved it so much. And he loved the people that were involved in it, the fans, and the creators and the characters and it just, it always showed," said Manhoff.
Shane Duffy, the CEO of Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment released a statement Monday.
“We at Stan Lee’s Lee POW! Entertainment are saddened by the loss of our friend and mentor Stan Lee, the father of pop culture. His passing today marks a devastating and painful moment in time, but the legacy of Stan Lee, through his creative genius and his universes of characters, will continue to reach the world of true believers for generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the fans of not only his work, but of him, as a friend who made the world a better place. He was a true iconic pioneer with no comparable second. It has been an honor to work beside him," wrote Duffy.
Lee's wife passed away in 2017. Lee is survived by his daughter, Joanie, and a younger brother who also worked in comics, Larry Lieber.