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10 Amazing Stan Lee Comics Marvel Fans Must Read –

 

In his 95 years, Stan Lee was the man who shaped and influenced modern comics, and in doing so, modern pop culture. As a leader, he created the juggernaut of Marvel Comics, and with some of the best talent, started a revolution in the industry that would reverberate for decades afterwards.

When talking about why he got into writing, Lee once brought up that in high school, he wanted to write the Great American Novel – the concept of prolific prose that reflects the life and culture in America. Everyone who gets into writing in the US always mulls over that notion but Stan Lee never got around to that.

Stan didn’t get to write the Great American Novel, but he did get to write the Great American Comic.

So, in celebration of that, let us reflect upon Lee’s bibliography with a look back at his 10 greatest works, spanning the pages of Marvel, and even DC too.

10. Ravage 2099 #1-8

Marvel Comics

When anyone thinks of the 1990s, Stan Lee does not come to mind as a creative force. Marvel Comics was in a very different place than it would be at the turn of the century, so when Lee’s name is given credit as creator and writer for an ongoing series in 1992, it was a big deal. Ravage 2099 was co-created by the artist Paul Ryan, but the plotting is definitely all Lee.

For the first seven issues of Ravage 2099, Stan Lee brought his unique flair for storytelling into the 2099 banner of books with a wholly original character. Originally the CEO of a environmental conservation subsidiary of the evil mega-corporation of the 2099 universe, Alchemax, Paul-Phillip Ravage is set up and becomes a fugitive standing against the villainous conglomerates with an adventure stretching throughout the 2099 world.

These first few issues certainly weren’t the best works Stan Lee ever put out, but it was great to see Lee in new surroundings. It’s still Lee, only with the veneer of nineties comic book-dom.

9. Solarman

Marvel Comics

It is rare for Stan Lee to have written characters he did not help create from scratch, but Solarman was a bit special. Originally, the character was created in the 1970s by David Oliphant and Deborah Kalman for Pendulum Press, but in the late eighties, Lee and then-president of Marvel Jim Galton got in touch and brought Solarman into the Marvel folds. They reworked the character to fit within the Marvel Universe, and off Lee’s imagination went.

Only spanning two issues, the premise may actually sound familiar for long-term comic readers. A teenager receives a mysterious bracelet that allows him to become an adult superhero as he fights against an evil alien overlord. For the Marvel-educated, it is basically the way the original Captain Mar-Vell would switch places with Rick Jones using the Nega-Bands. However, Solarman’s powers were based on direct sunlight and the teen, Benjamin Tucker, was also an aspiring comic book artist.

It is that last bit which makes this a must read. Stan Lee, while writing a character he didn’t create, was able to infuse him with the zeal and originality that made the Marvel Age happen, only instead of being in the sixties, it was in 1989.

8. Daredevil #7

Marvel Comics

Daredevil debuted in the pages of his own solo series as a creation of Stan Lee, Bill Everett and with massive input from Jack Kirby. He’s become iconic in his own right, having been the focus of several live action efforts, as well as countless legendary comic book runs. One of the most unique facets of his character since his introduction, however, has been his day job as a lawyer.

One of the first Daredevil stories that embraced this aspect to create a genuine “must-read” was Daredevil #7, titled “In Mortal Combat With… Sub-Mariner!”

The story begins with Namor walking into the law offices of Nelson & Murdock out of the blue, because he needs a lawyer to sue the entirety of the surface world for the exploitation and pollution of the oceans. He doesn’t take it well when Murdock tells him that’s impossible, which leads Namor to embark on a rampage. Daredevil then leaps out of the dark and the two begin to fight, with the Man Without Fear donning a brand-new costume, which would go on to become his definitive look.

The magic of this isn’t that the fight is epic or operatic. Daredevil actually loses (his opponent was Namor). It is the fact that the anti-villain of the story is able to be talked into letting the law try to help, though that doesn’t quite go well. It uses the Murdock side of Daredevil to bring a unique twist into the genre, and in doing so defined one of the character’s most compelling elements.

7. Sgt. Fury And His Howling Commandos #6

Marvel Comics

Stan Lee is not a name you’d associate with military comics and were it not for a bet, Sergeant Nick Fury would have never existed. It was originally created as a bet from Martin Goodman, the publisher for Marvel at the time, who said that the pairing of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby could sell any title, no matter how ridiculous it was.

Though there are arguments to be made that the later spin-offs Capt. Savage or Combat Kelly had sillier names, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos was made to prove that Goodman’s statement was true.

The premise is similar to many war comics of the Silver Age, this time focusing on the adventures of Sergeant Nick Fury and the First Attack Unit, also known as the Howling Commandos. This particular issue has the Howling Commandos already suffer some heavy events in the five preceding issues, including the death of a team member. This issue, they’re deployed to North Africa to face off against the Desert Fox himself, Erwin Rommel.

However, Stan Lee infused a deeper meaning into this deployment for the group, as they’re paired with a bigoted officer who can speak German. The message is simple but powerful, as Lee and Kirby effectively lay bare the horrendous ideology that America and her Allies strove to defeat from 1939-1945.

6. Strange Tales (#125-127)

Marvel Comics

The Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Stephen Strange, first appeared in Strange Tales #110, co-created by Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko. Unlike many other heroes of the Marvel Universe, the Sorcerer Supreme was created to battle evil warlocks and demons from alternate planes of existence, rather than your average everyday criminal.

Ditko is more known for this series than Lee, with the artist having created a surrealist atmosphere through some truly unique art. However, Stan wasn’t slacking off on the writing department, with the ‘Marvel Method’ having paid dividends once again.

When the letters started pouring in for more stories about the character, Lee really began to show his stuff. For the fifteen or so previous issues, the dreaded Dormammu was referenced and whispered hints were given that there was a reason for him to be feared. It wasn’t until Strange Tales #126, however, that he truly made his presence known, which resulted in a massive confrontation between the being and the Sorcerer Supreme.

5. Just Imagine…

DC Comics

From 2001 to 2002, DC Comics did one of the weirdest things they’ve ever done without Grant Morrison being attached. They released the ‘Just Imagine’ line of comics, in which Stan Lee would reimagine the entirety of the DC Universe as if they were original characters from his mind. Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and the Justice League were reworked into heroes that Lee would have made, and it makes for a pretty surreal experience.

The story of Wayne Williams coming out of prison to become both a wrestler and a masked crimefighter known as Batman is solid. Superman being a cop from a far off planet with special tech trying to put mankind on the right path so our space program can advance enough to get him home is a bit gelatinous, but still, it too isn’t so bad.

The reason these are amazing and Must Reads is because the novelty of seeing Lee reimagine DC greatest characters doesn’t get old. Each story, and Stan’s take on a Crisis event, is worth reading to compare and see the What If? nature unfold. It isn’t even a standalone anymore, because after the Convergence event at DC, the Just Imagine universe is now Earth-6!

4. Silver Surfer: The Ultimate Cosmic Experience

Marvel Comics/Jack Kirby

The plot of Silver Surfer: The Ultimate Cosmic Experience will be all too familiar to those who know of the character: he comes to Earth to scout for the world-eater, Galactus, but finds the potential greatness in humanity too precious to be lost, and so he rebels against the Devourer of Worlds.

This tale, however, continues with Galactus trying to sway his herald back to his side with a gold-skin woman. She inadvertently falls in love with the Surfer which leads to heartache later. Similarly, when the Surfer tries to befriend humanity, they shun him, with their memories of him saving them having been erased. In the end, the Silver Surfer does go back to Galactus, realizing there’s no escape.

This beautifully drawn book never gets the attention it deserves. While Stan Lee and Jack Kirby came together for this book, it was a story that people had read before. That doesn’t detract from the fact that Lee pulled out all the stops for this story however, with the writer adding to the Surfer’s subtle religious connotations and in doing so, creating one of the character’s defining tales.

3. Stan Lee Meets…

Marvel Comics

In 2006, Stan Lee was given several standalone comics to honor his 65 years as an employee of Marvel Comics. In these comics he gets kidnapped to Latveria by Doctor Doom, zipped across the cosmos to help Galactus deal with his rogue herald, gets tangled up on Yancy Street with The Thing, and catching up with Doctor Strange who he hadn’t seen since the sixties. The most sensational one, though, is him and Spider-man palling around.

It’s not unknown for creators to write themselves into the story in some way. There’s a famous Fantastic Four issue that shows how that can go, but these books make for a genuinely riveting celebration of Lee’s contributions to the Marvel mythos. The glee that the generalissimo takes in being able to write himself pairing with his favorite creations is joyous and (as with most of Stan’s work), it has plenty of heart.

There’s an almost deprecating nature to the book, with the characters actually not exactly liking Stan, but it only adds to its charm.

It may not be the greatest stories Stan Lee ever written, but they are – purely and simply – fun.

2. Fantastic Four #48-50

Marvel Comics

When the Silver Age is thought of, readers typically think of Batman being turned into a kid by magic fruit from vegetable-based aliens. The Fantastic Four, in their own unique way, changed the era completely.

Instead of outlandish and wacky adventures, they would be grounded, even when dealing with aliens or mole men, and each member of the group would have flaws, with each issue being driven by its characters, as opposed to action on its own.

“If this be Doomsday!” – published over the course of three issues in Fantastic Four #48, #49 and #50 respectively – could be considered a decompression of Silver Age suppression, and though there are conflicting statements on who truly created the Fantastic Four, there is no ‘or’ when it came to the script. Stan knew how to write what he wanted to read.

This three-part introduction of Galactus introduced so much, and exploded the cosmic territory of Marvel as a whole. Similar to the build from Strange Tales and the intro to Dormammu, these issues from Fantastic Four turned the dial all the way up to 11 and had so much going on that, in the letter pages relating that came afterwards, people were actively showing their concern that doomsday was coming, so engrossing was the arc in question.

1. Amazing Spider-man #87

Marvel Comics

Stan Lee’s greatest creation is Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man.

The web-slinger was created for Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, but when the sales on that book boomed, Marvel spun the teen hero into his own title in 1963, where he’s been going strong ever since. Everyone knows who Peter Parker is and where he comes from, while never even needing to have read a comic book in their life, an has been voted the most popular Marvel character for years.

It’s important to remember, however, that this legacy was founded on Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and eventually John Romita’s original run on the character. Perhaps the best story to come from this run was Spider-Man #87, “Unmasked At Last”.

Peter Parker’s powers had been waning, and at Gwen Stacy’s birthday party, he decides to tell all his closest friends that he’s Spider-Man. No one actually believes him, save for Gwen, who’s not convinced that it’s Peter just making things up. Harry also brings up past continuity where Peter was unmasked as Spider-man.

This is one of the quintessential reads not because something over-the-top happen – such as the Sinister Six’s first appearance – but because it laid out what makes Spider-Man’s comics so compelling: the characters contained within their pages.

 

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