When Stan Lee’s death was announced in November, tributes came in from around the world. Some of the most heartfelt of these came from celebrities – including a number who had appeared in films inspired by characters created by Lee, including Wolverine star Hugh Jackman and Deadpool’s Ryan Reynolds. But it was the comic world that was thrown into the deepest mourning for the simple reason that many of their favorite characters of all time – most of the Marvel universe – had come from Lee’s mind.
The roll call of Marvel superheroes is almost endless. Spider-Man is surely the most famous of all but the line-up also includes the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Ant Man and The Fantastic Four.
With such undeniable achievements, it’s no wonder that Lee was so decorated throughout his 70-year career, with several huge accolades to his name. Lee was given the Will Eisner Hall of Fame Award in 1994, the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame Award in 1995 and – the crowning glory for any writer – an NEA National Arts Medal in 2008.
So who was this man who has had such an influence on contemporary culture? Let’s look at how Lee became a master of the comic book, film and gaming worlds.
Stan Lee was born on 28 December 1922 as Stanley Martin Lieber to Romanian immigrant parents Celia and Jack Lieber. Leaving school at 17, he was helped into a job at Timely Comics – later to become Marvel Comics – by his uncle. His dream was to become a novel writer, but for this period of his life at least he had to satisfy himself with filling up the artists’ ink wells and running errands.
After serving in the US army during the Second World War, Lieber returned to work for the comic book company. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that he really started to make his mark. DC Comics had started to emerge as the leader in the field of graphic fiction and Stan was set the task by the publisher Martin Goodman of creating a competitor to them.
The birth of Marvel Comics
At this point Lieber decided to work under the pseudonym Lee in case he did ever go on to become a famous novelist. He was afraid that if he had a reputation for creating comic characters he would never be taken seriously as a novelist.
Yet he quickly became such a hit in the world of comics, so this never really threatened to become an issue. The secret of his success was in creating superheroes with all-too-human flaws that readers could relate to more easily than the clean-cut DC versions such as Superman and Wonder Woman.
The rest is history, with the likes of X-Men and Spider-Man becoming multi-billion dollar film franchises – not once, not twice, but several times over the intervening decades. At the last count, the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies grossed $17.528 billion at the box office worldwide.
The success of Marvel games
To start with, let’s take a look at how his most famous hero, Spider-Man, has shown up in games – and there are plenty to choose from. These date back to the earliest days of video games with the 1982 Spider-Man which was developed for the clunky old Atari 2600 by Parker Games. The game was, naturally, very simple indeed and the action mainly consisted of Spidey scaling huge skyscrapers while the Green Goblin did his best to blow him up. It might not have been a very good game, but at least it was a start.
At the other end of the scale there’s the game that many rundowns have chosen as the best ever – the appropriately named Ultimate Spider-Man from Treyarch. With superb graphics, an involving series of story arcs and numerous deadly encounters with Venom it was widely acknowledged as being as involving as the movies themselves.
Another of the strengths of Ultimate Spider-Man was the way in which it introduced a number of other characters from the Marvel pantheon. But this rose to even dizzier heights in Marvel Contest of Champions. This was like a roll-call of Lee’s most famous creations which players can put together in alliances in a battle to save the world. Great for multi-player gaming and an action-packed thrill ride, games developer Gabriel Frizzera has only ever had great things to say about collaborating with the Marvel team.
Winning ways with slots
Another arena that has used Stan Lee characters to great effect is the world of online slots. Advances in digital technology has led slots to emerge as the perfect medium to take inspiration both from the original comic graphics and the films that have followed on from them. The most sophisticated can even include excerpts from the movies and they all certainly have very impactful soundtracks.
They’ve also been a bigger hit for some of the characters than the more high budget video games that feature them. A prime example is The Incredible Hulk slot that has had many positive reviews for its combination of high prizes and arresting graphics. Compare this with the game of the same name which received a distinctly mixed reception when it was released in 2008.
Other slot games which will continue to act as a legacy for Stan Lee’s genius include Avengers as well as a whole series that feature Iron Man – currently up to 3 and counting. Top online slots providers, like Wink Slots, cover this niche and more. They have clearly recognized the demand for superhero slots – offering an impressive selection of online slots on their site.
The superhero niche is a particular hit with slots fans – and we’ve got Lee to thank for that.
An interesting side note to Lee’s influence on games includes a number of incidences when he became part of the game itself – something that mirrors the cameo roles he was often asked to play in the movies. In The Amazing Spider-Man game he was unleashed in Manhattan in a side plot that involved the virtual Lee having to hunt down the pages of a missing script. Luckily, he’d been given Spidey’s special powers to help with his mission.
His final game cameo came in Spider-Man for PS4 in which he played the role of a short-order cook. It might seem like a rather underwhelming appearance but, modest and unassuming to the last, few could deny that throughout his career Lee had certainly found more than one recipe for success.