A Manhattan native, Stan Lee’s career in comics started when in 1939, at just the age of 17, he became an assistant at New York-based publisher Timely Comics which had been founded that year. 

Lee – aka Stanley Martin Lieber – was a relative of the wife of the company’s owner, Martin Goodman. While his job initially meant filling the artists’ inkwells and getting their lunches as well as proof-reading, Lee, a long-time fan of adventure stories and films starring the likes of Errol Flynn, had long wanted to create stories of his own.

Stan Lee

Stan Lee's star in Hollywood was covered in tributes after news of his death. PICTURE: Sidrao21 (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

He got his chance in the May 1941 issue of Captain America Comics #3. The issue included a prose story, "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge", under Lieber's pseudonym of Stan Lee (which he later adopted as his legal name). Soon after he produced his first comic feature and his first superhero creation came the same year – a character known as the Destroyer.

Lee was made editor (later editor-in-chief) soon after. While he was in that role (albeit with a stint in the US Army during World War II including working as a playwright in the Training Film Division), the company changed its name, first to Atlas Comics in the 1950s and then to Marvel Comics in 1961.

Lee wrote almost every Marvel title himself using his so-called "Marvel Method" and, working with such luminaries as his younger brother Larry Lienber as well as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Gene Colan and John Romita, began to build a stable of characters with intersecting stories which included the likes of The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and the X-Men.

Unlike other superheroes of the time who exuded a sense of invulnerability, Lee's characters were flawed, bringing a humanity to them which was out of the ordinary for comic book heroes at the time.

In 1972, Lee stopped writing monthly comics and took over as publisher at Marvel. He moved to California in the early 1980s to develop Marvel’s TV and film assets.

Lee, who was known for the catchphrase "Excelsior!" (a Latin word meaning "ever upward"), stepped back from his heavy involvement with the company in the 1990s and in 1998 signed a lifetime deal with Marvel Enterprises in which he would devote 10 per cent of his time to the company. It also stipulated he appear in Marvel films and he's been making cameos ever since (his favourite was apparently in Avengers: Age of Ultron).

Lee has at times had a rocky relationship with Marvel - in 2002, for example, he sued the company for a share of the profits of the first Spider-Man movie and received a $10 million settlement.

In 2009, Marvel Entertainment, LLC, became a wholly owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.

The past couple of decades have seen a resurgence of Marvel on the big screen - starting with X-Men in 2000. There have also been numerous intersecting TV series including Marvel's Agents of SHIELD.

Lee, whose wife Joanie died in July last year, died in the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, on 12th November at the age of 95.