Martin was born in New York City a few days after Christmas. His parents had emigrated from Romania during one of the worst economic periods in American history. Martin didn’t have many toys, but he made up for it with a vast imagination. Riding his bike through the streets of New York, he often pretended it was a spaceship or a knight’s horse. His mother guided him to start reading at an early age, and his father helped instill a strong work ethic in his son. Above all, though, they encouraged him to dream.
When Martin was 9 years old, his brother and only sibling Larry was born. It was then, while his parents were preoccupied with their new infant son, that Martin discovered the magical world of movies. Going to movies nonstop fueled his creativity and brought to colorful life every swashbuckling tale of adventure and heroism he could think of. A few years later, he entered a writing contest in one of New York’s largest newspapers, and received an encouraging letter from the editor suggesting that he consider becoming a professional writer when he grew up. Finally, an outlet for his boundless imagination!
Martin got several writing-related jobs during high school, including writing obituaries for a news service and ad copy for a hospital. However, he was determined to write his own stories one day, and, after he graduated, he successfully landed a job as an assistant in the new comic book division of a magazine publishing company.
Still in his teens, Martin’s goal was to learn everything he could about how a publishing company worked, even as he handled menial tasks like filling inkwells, erasing pencil marks from finished pages, and getting coffee and lunch for the artists. Fortunately, the staff was very small, putting him in the right place to take advantage of any opportunities that arose.
Demand for hero comics grew, so the company kept adding titles to their output. The workload increased, and the creative staff grew increasingly buried. Finally, unable to meet all the deadlines themselves, they enlisted Martin to help. He was given the chance to write a two-page story in one of the more popular new titles. Two issues later, he graduated to writing regular backup features. Barely out of high school, Martin had become a full-fledged published author.
Things moved forward at an incredible pace. Less than a year after he was hired, the comic division’s editor, who was also their main writer, left over a dispute with the publisher. Martin, not yet 19 years old, was cornered by his boss and asked, “Do you think you can hold down the job of editor until I can find a real replacement?” Martin accepted without hesitation, and was installed as interim editor. Taking to the job with enthusiasm and vigor, he displayed such a knack for the business as well as the writing duties that his “real replacement” would never be hired. Eventually, he received an official promotion to editor-in-chief.
A number of years after his promotion, Martin found himself at a crossroads. Interest in hero-themed comics had dropped dramatically, forcing Martin to focus on writing romance, western, humor, science fiction, and horror comics. He found the subject matter tedious, and became so dissatisfied with the direction of his career that he considered quitting. Once again, though, his mind returned to the tales of heroism he’d loved since childhood. If he was going to leave the industry anyway, he had nothing to lose by writing the stories he wanted to tell.
Stanley Martin Lieber, under his pen name Stan Lee, began writing stories that, for the first time in comic book history, featured complex, well-rounded heroes who were truly human. They could be grumpy, jealous, vain, and worry about bills and impressing their girlfriends. The characters he created – including The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The X-Men, and Spider-Man – were so relatable that their popularity was instantaneous and lasting, and helped make the company where Stan had started as a gofer become the best-known and most popular comic book publisher in the world: Marvel Comics.
Last month, Marvel Comics celebrated its 75th anniversary. Along with his countless character creations, Stan Lee has held the titles of Head Writer, Art Director, Editor-in-Chief, Publisher, President and Chairman of Marvel Comics. He has never stopped writing and, now in his nineties, Stan continues to remind us that dreaming big and never giving up on your dream is at the heart of living the life you truly desire!
Until next week...
Live Your Dreams!