Stan Lee (Stanley Martin Lieber), the founder of Marvel Comics and co-creator of Spiderman, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and other modern comic book heroes, was born in New York City on this date in 1922. Lee worked most notably with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in the 1960s to create a stream of comic book characters who were psychologically complex and ambivalent about their social role as superheroes. Lee’s stories also dealt with controversial issues such as drug use, racism, war and peace, and more. Marvel quickly rose up as an appealing alternative to DC’s more simple-minded tales of Superman, Batman, et al., and paved the way for the emergence of the contemporary adult graphic novel. Lee was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1994 and into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2008 he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts.

“I always felt that if I had a super-power, I wouldn’t immediately run out to the store and buy a costume.” —Stan Lee