Stan Lee, Comic Book And Pop Culture Legend, Dead At 95

Stan Lee, the legendary comic book creator, writer, and editor, has passed away at the age of 95. A titan in the field of comics, Lee made his name in the early days of Marvel, co-creating characters like Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and more. In recent years, he transformed himself into an omnipresent pop culture icon, a smirking, charming, devil-may-care rogue with a quip for every occasion and a cameo in nearly every Marvel movie.TMZ reports that Lee passed away this morning after being rushed to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The comic book legend has been ill for several years and had even cancelled all future convention appearances.

Born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 22, 1922, Stan Lee is one of the most beloved (and quietly controversial) figures in comic book history. Lee backed into his career in comics, saving his "real" name for the great American novel he would one day write. However, he worked his way up the ladder at Timely Comics, which eventually become Marvel Comics, writing various comics and ultimately becoming editor-in-chief.

And in 1961, Lee changed comic books forever. He co-created the Fantastic Four with artist Jack Kirby, introducing to the world a team of heroes who were flawed and all-too-human. Unlike the unbeatable monoliths at other companies, these new heroes were as relatable as they were extraordinary. Other classic creations soon followed: Lee co-created Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Thor, Daredevil, Black Panther, and more. Lee, alongside one of the most talented stable of artists ever assembled, created a new pantheon of heroes, characters who were as defined by the flaws as they were by their powers. It's impossible to imagine the modern superhero landscape, and therefore, the modern movie landscape, without their work.

Lee would eventually become publisher of Marvel Comics and his creative work would be pushed to the back burner. Stan Lee would eventually stop writing comics, but he remained the face of Marvel, part mascot, part figurehead, part god-among-mere-mortals. Even as Lee drifted further from the medium that made him a household name, he remained a key piece of Marvel. Even in his final years, he continued to collect a paycheck from the company despite having no official duties there.

The truth is that Stan Lee never managed to recapture the burst of creativity that defined him in the '60s. And the truth is that his legacy will forever be tainted by accusations of him taking credit for the work of his artists, who had just as much a hand in creating his iconic characters as he did. Lee was an infamous showboat – it was part of his charm and his public persona – but it often got him into a great deal of trouble.

And yet, there's no denying how much Lee means to the comic book medium, to superhero stories, and to mainstream audiences, many of whom know no other comic book creators. Lee filmed cameos for virtually every Marvel movie, charming and often funny split-second appearances that paid tribute to the man and allowed moviegoers to chuckle with appreciation. Lee's willingness to self-deprecate, to poke fun at his image with a wink and a nod, became his defining trait in his final decades. Just look to his cameo appearance in Mallrats, which showcases a creator willing to offer up laughs at his own expense.

Stan Lee was many things to many people. A visionary. A braggart. A charmer. A sell-out. A revolutionary. A genius. A hack. A warm collaborator. A backstabber. We will spend literally years unpacking his legacy, exploring his contributions to the comic book world and his playful, cameo-laden final years. But one thing is an absolute certainty: Stan Lee was a legend. 'Nuff said.