clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The comics world reacts to the passing of Joan Lee, Stan Lee’s wife

She inspired Marvel’s superhero revolution

Stan and Joan Lee, at the ceremony honoring Stan Lee with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in 2011.
Stringer/AFP/Getty Images
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

The comics world shook last night at news of the death of Joan Lee, long-time wife of long-time Marvel Comics editor and writer Stan Lee. Joan was 95, and she and Stan were married for 69 years.

"I can confirm the sad news that Joan Lee passed away this morning quietly and surrounded by her family," a spokesperson for Stan Lee and his family told The Hollywood Reporter. "The family ask that you please give them time to grieve and respect their privacy during this difficult time."

“We are so saddened to hear about the loss of Joan Lee. We lost a member of the Marvel family today and our thoughts and prayers go out to Stan and his daughter Joan in this difficult time,” said Marvel Comics in an official statement after the news of Joan’s death broke.

Stan and Joan met when a friend of his set him up on a blind date with someone else — but when Joan answered the door, the writer was so smitten that he asked her out to lunch instead. But you should really hear Marvel Comics’ supreme storyteller spin the yarn himself:

According to Stan, Joan looked exactly like the ideal female face he had always doodled in his notebooks, a match made in comic book heaven. They married in 1947.

A decade later, Stan was challenged by Marvel editor Martin Goodman to create a new team superhero comic — one to rival the runaway success of DC Comics’ very first character reboot of the Flash and its Justice League title. Joan urged him to write the sort of superhero comic he’d like to write, one with complex emotions and motivations. He’d been thinking of quitting comics anyway, so if it failed, what did he have to lose?

Stan listened, and, with Jack Kirby, created the first issue of The Fantastic Four, kicking off a seismic shift in American comics and the beginning of the Marvel Universe as we know it today.

Comics community members and fans voiced their condolences quickly after news of Joan Lee’s death spread, some having just walked out of the first screenings of Spider-Man: Homecoming, in which Stan Lee has a traditional cameo.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon