Stan Lee Characters: Spider-Man, Hulk, Black Panther, Which Marvel Comics Did Icon Create?

stan lee characters, spider-man
Stan Lee attends the world premiere of "Spider-man: Homecoming" at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, on June 28, 2017. VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images

For decades, Stan Lee served as the writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics. Lee passed away on November 12, but his legacy will continue in the iconic characters he created.

One of Lee's first iconic characters was Radioactive Spider-Man, who launched in 1962. The tale of Peter Parker, an ordinary high school student who gets bit by a spider, turning him into a superhero, has been made into multiple films.

"Lee's inspiration for Spider-Man came of his desire to depict an adolescent hero who wasn't relegated to sidekick," Marvel said. "Finding spiders 'spooky,' Stan and artist Steve Ditko created Marvel's most globally recognized hero."

Before Spider-Man, there was the Fantastic Four, which Lee created with Jack Kirby in 1961. The fictional superhero team consisted of Mister Fantastic, Invisible Girl, Human Torch and Thing. Each character gained his or her superhero power after being exposed to cosmic rays during a scientific mission to outer space.

Bruce Banner, a tortured man whose emotional distress transforms him into a muscular green Hulk, took the comic book scene by storm in 1962. Lee told Rolling Stone that his idea for The Hulk came partially from Jekyll and Hyde and Frankenstein.

"It always seemed to me that the monster was really the good guy; he didn't want to hurt anybody, but those idiots kept chasing him up the hill until he had to strike back," Lee said. "So why not get a guy who looks like a monster and really doesn't want to cause any harm. But he has to in self-defense, because people are always attacking him."

Long before Sir Patrick Stewart graced the silver screen as Professor Xavier, comic lovers were reading about the X-Men in 1963. In the first X-Men story, readers met Magneto, Cyclops and Beast. In the 2000 movie about the X-Men, Lee even makes a cameo as a hot-dog vendor.

Also created in 1963 was Iron Man, known to most people in ordinary life as Tony Stark. During an interview with Sci-Fi, Lee called the creation of Iron Man a "dare" he gave himself, explaining that it was the height of the Cold War and young readers hated war and the military.

"So I got a hero who represented that to the hundredth degree. He was a weapons manufacturer, he was providing weapons for the Army, he was rich, he was an industrialist," Lee said. "I thought it would be fun to take the kind of character that nobody would like, none of our readers would like, and shove him down their throats and make them like him."

Lee added that despite representing what readers hated at the time, Iron Man "became very popular."

One of the most recent Marvel movies to hit the big screen was Black Panther, but comic readers were introduced to T'Challa in 1966. Black Panther was the first superhero who was black, and Lee told the Huffington Post his creation was a "normal, natural thing," noting that the world would be a better place if his stories and books could make people realize everyone was equal.

"At that point I felt we really needed a black superhero," Lee told the Huffington Post. "And I wanted to get away from a common perception."

Lee said Black Panther was fashioned after Reed Richards and called him "a brilliant scientist" masked by surface-level "thatched huts" and "ordinary natives."

"If kids of all types can identify with our heroes, it's the most gratifying thing I can think of," Lee said.

Lee passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 95.