Stan Lee, the legendary comic book writer, editor, and publisher of Marvel comics who co-created some of our most iconic superheroes, died today at the age of 95. Nat Freedland profiled Lee for the New York Herald-Tribune in 1966, and in it, a 43-year-old Lee describes how astonished he is at Marvel’s growing popularity:
Pre-college Marvel fans at times have taken to assembling on the corner of Madison and 58th Street, waving wildly with home-made signs whenever anybody appears at the second-floor windows of Marvel’s three workrooms. “Like we were the Beatles or something,” Lee muses.
In terms of the real world, all this adulation means that Marvel circulation has tripled in three and a half years. With an annual circulation of 35 million, Marvel (which puts out 17 super-type comic books) is now a comfortable number two in the comics industry, gradually edging up on the long-established Superman D.C. line. No other comic book publisher can show anything like Marvel’s phenomenal sales growth in the sixties. A secondary harvest of promotion tie-ins is starting to bloom, too. Forty thousand Marvelites have come up with a dollar for their Merry Marvel Marching Society kits. In the works are plastic models, games, a Spider-Man jazz record and a television cartoon series.
“We really never expected all this, you know,” Lee admits. “I mean it started out as a gag mostly. I just thought maybe it would be worth trying to upgrade the magazines a little bit. Audiences everywhere are getting hipper these days. Why not the comic book audience too? And then all of a sudden we were getting 500 letters a day about what great satire these stories were, and how significant. We used to get about one letter a year … before.”
Fifty years after this profile was written, Marvel superheroes are bigger than ever before. Thanks for all the stories, Stan.