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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > EASTSIDER STAN LEE
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Creator of Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk


With the current rage over Superman due to last year's hit movie, many people will purchase a copy of the comic for the first time in years, and may be disappointed to see how much it has changed. Once the largest selling comic book hero on the market, Superman was knocked out of first place long ago by Spiderman, the creation of a 56-year-old native New Yorker named Stan Lee. Besides selling about one million Marvel comics each month, Spiderman appears as a daily strip in some 500 newspapers around the world.

But even without this giant success, Stan Lee would be rich and famous. His fertile mind has also given birth to the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Doctor Strange, and a host of other modern-day mythological figures. As publisher of Marvel Comics, he rules over an empire that branches out into dozens of areas — prime-time television drama, animated cartoons, hardbound and paperback collections of comic reprints, novels about Marvel characters, toys, games, posters, clothing and much more. Most of these spin-off products are the work of other companies that have bought the rights, but Stan Lee remains the creative force behind the whole operation, as I discover during a meeting with Lee at the Marvel headquarters on Madison Avenue.

"I think the title of publisher is just given to me so I can have more prestige when I'm dealing with people," says Lee in his clipped, precise voice, as he stretches his feet onto the coffee table of his brightly decorated office. "I'm a salaried employee of Marvel — your average humble little guy trying to stay afloat in the stormy sea of culture. The company owns the properties, of course, but I have no complaints. I don't think I could have as much anywhere else. … My main interest is to see that the company itself does well and makes as much money as possible."

He is an intense, energetic man of wiry build who dresses in a casual yet elegant manner. As he shifts the position of his arms and legs on the couch, there is something unmistakably spiderlike in the movements. For all his politeness, he cannot mask the impression that his mind is racing far ahead of his rapidly spoken words.

"My involvement with this company goes back to about 1939," says Lee. "I was always the editor, the art director, the head writer, and the creative director [from the age of 17]. In the early 1960s I was thinking of quitting. I thought I wasn't really getting anywhere. My wife said, 'Why not g............
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