Stan Lee, Marvel Comics legend behind iconic superheroes such as Spider-Man and X-Men, dead at 95

Stan Lee, creator of comic-book franchises such as "Spider-Man," "The Incredible Hulk" and "X-Men," smiles during a photo session in his office in Santa Monica, Calif. in 2002. Comic book genius Lee, the architect of the contemporary comic book, has died. He was 95.

Marvel mogul Stan Lee, the comic-book genius whose emotionally complex superheroes elevated a children’s genre to a pop culture phenomenon minting billions for Hollywood, died Monday in Los Angeles.

He was 95.

Paramedics responded to an emergency call at Lee’s Hollywood Hills address at 8:34 a.m., a local fire official told the Daily News.

The literary legend was later pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a lawyer for his daughter J.C. Lee confirmed.

A cause of death was not immediately revealed, but Lee suffered a number of medical issues in the last year, including an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath and pneumonia.

“He had been ill for quite a while, so it was a sort of progression. He lived a long life and it was not unexpected. But I’m still very sad and trying to adjust,” Lee’s brother Larry Lieber, 87, told the Daily News.

He said while legions of fans knew Lee for his creative talents, he admired his brother’s exceptional honesty.

“He was always true to his word. If he promised you something, you could count on him. His word was really something. I will miss him,” Lieber said.

Lee revolutionized the comic book industry as co-creator of a long list of fan-favorite superheros, including Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men.

“He felt an obligation to his fans to keep creating,” his daughter J.C. Lee said in a statement to Reuters. “He loved his life and he loved what he did for a living. His family loved him and his fans loved him. He was irreplaceable.”

Actor Chris Evans, who portrays Captain America in Lee’s Avengers universe, mourned the loss on Twitter.

“There will never be another Stan Lee. For decades he provided both young and old with adventure, escape, comfort, confidence, inspiration, strength, friendship and joy. He exuded love and kindness and will leave an indelible mark on so, so, so many lives,” Evans tweeted.

“You gave us characters that continue to stand the test of time and evolve with our consciousness,” Winston Duke, an actor in this year’s $1.3 billion box office behemoth “Black Panther,” wrote in a tribute tweet.

“You taught us that there are no limits to our future as long as we have access to our imagination,” he said.

A decade before his death, Lee called his creations “fairy tales for grown-ups.”

“We all grew up with giants and ogres and witches. Well, you get a little bit older and you’re too old to read fairy tales. But I don’t think you ever outgrow your love for those kind of things, things that are bigger than life and magical and very imaginative,” he told the Associated Press in 2006.

Born Stanley Lieber in Manhattan in 1922, Lee first broke into the comic book industry in 1939 as an employee for Timely Comics — a company that would ultimately turn into Marvel during the 1960s.

He started out filling inkwells and erasing errant pencil lines. He went on to collaborate with industry legends Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.

Lee was renowned for taking comic book heroes and villains to new levels of complexity, introducing characters who paired shortcomings with their superhuman strengths.

“The one thing that I think really separated the Marvel characters from the rest of the superheroes out there, from DC and other publishers, was that they were all very relatable,” said Vincent Zurzolo, an executive at “They were all great characters before even they were great superheroes in the sense that they all had a tragic flaw that people could relate to.”

In addition to his enormous creative contributions, Lee served as Marvel’s editor from 1945 to 1972 and as its publisher from 1972 to 1996.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created. A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a statement released by Marvel.

Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment in 2009 for $4 billion.

Comic book legends, fans mourn the death of Stan Lee »

Lee further endeared himself to fans with his comedic cameos in a wave of Marvel movies — including the ones produced by Disney, as well as others such as “Deadpool” and “Venom.”

During his on-screen turn in the 2015 flick “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Lee delighted audiences by invoking his distinctive catchphrase “Excelsior!” as he was carried out of a party.

Lee’s wife Joan, whom he was married to for more than 69 years, passed away in July 2017 at the age of 93. He and Joan had two daughters. He is survived by his eldest daughter, J.C. His second child died as an infant in 1953.

“He was a wonderful P.T. Barnum-type showman for the comics industry. He told people comics were for bright people, grown people, smart people,” friend Paul Levitz, who served as president of rival DC Comics from 2002 to 2009, told The News.

Levitz called Lee’s stable of characters “the most impactful group created by any single person.”

“Walt Disney had a much less direct hand by the time the whole Disney universe was developed,” Levitz said.

He called Lee an “incredible force not just on comics but on how popular culture exists today.”

“The idea of TV crossovers and a cohesive universe of stories that spill from one character and medium to another really have very strong roots in his work in the 60s,” Levitz said.

In this May 9, 1988, file photo, comics impresario Stan Lee, center, poses with Lou Ferrigno, right, and Eric Kramer who portray 'The Incredible Hulk' and Thor, respectively, in a special movie for NBC, 'The Incredible Hulk Returns.'
(Nick Ut / AP)

Longtime friend Clifford Meth, a writer who worked with Lee over the decades, said “comics were for children before Stan helped bring them up many, many levels.”

“By the mid ‘60s, he changed the demographics of the industry. He was lecturing on college campuses,” he said.

Lee dealt with a number of medical concerns ahead of his death. He was hospitalized in February with an irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath.

He was released after a night in the hospital, telling ABC Los Angeles shortly afterward that he was eager to connect with his fans again.

“It’s nice to know that somewhere in the world there are still people who care about what I say or do,” Lee said at the time.

He revealed later that month that he was battling pneumonia.

Lee later was the subject of a elder abuse investigation that ended with his former business manager facing criminal charges in June.

The ex-manager, Keya Morgan, also became the subject of a restraining order battle and was ordered to keep his distance.

“Stan was being picked apart by vultures. It was disgusting and broke our hearts. Those who knew him were appalled,” Lee’s friend Meth told The News.

Stan Lee poses for a portrait at the LMT Music Lodge during Comic Con in San Diego in 2011.