Stan Lee Opens Up About the Voracious Childhood Reading Habits That Led to His Marvel Storytelling

The late, great legendary comic creator Stan Lee sat down with the New York Times in 2017 and opened up about his early inspirations (including a bottle of ketchup), his voracious reading habits as a kid and how he started in comics despite the fact it was everything his mother hated.

He also talked about co-founding Marvel Comics and the process in which he gave a verbal outline of the story to Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and other artists, so they could illustrate the ideas before he put in the caption balloons. Lee stated that many times, the artists captured far more in the illustrations than he could capture in words. The priority for Lee, however, was ensuring that the characters were humanized with self-doubts, character flaws, and insecurities in addition to or even in spite of their incredible superpowers.

…I said, ‘You draw it any way you want. I’ll put in the dialogue and the captions later. So, he would work just from an outline — a verbal outline that I gave him. He’d put in a lot of details that I hadn’t even thought of and that was great. And I did the same with all the other artists. One reason that our stories were so successful was I had these great artists illustrating them. …Even though they were comic strips, it would be great if we could make them readable and enjoyable and having something to say.”

Stan Lee (Stanley Martin Lieber) passed away on Monday November 12, 2018. He was 96 years old. RIP Stan, you created a world of superheroes who were real people. You happened to be a real person who was a superhero. You will be missed. Exelsior!