The man who made Marvel

The world recently lost an imagination that could be described as superheroic.

Stan Lee is the co-creator of many of the superheroes who are part of our culture.

His characters, like Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Hulk, have their likenesses everywhere from summer blockbusters to underwear, but it is really Lee’s influence that made these superheroes stand out in the public’s imagination.

He made superheroes more like us, giving them the neuroses and insecurities common to people who can’t fly or lift their cars.

By bringing superheroes to earth, Lee showed, like them, we can overcome the things holding us down and fly.

So don your capes and/or masks, check out these Lee characters, and prepare for takeoff. Excelsior!

Often known as Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four, despite fighting world-eating entities and defending Earth from outer-dimensional invasions, have issues like any other fictional and real family.

Scientist Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic, is often too enamored with his scientific studies to pay attention to his wife Susan, the Invisible Woman.

Johnny Storm is a literal young hothead who can become living flame.

The Thing is super-strong but horrified by his appearance, an appearance Reed Richards feels responsible for.

Nevertheless, when there’s invaders from below the earth or beyond the stars, they band together to save the day. Witness their early adventures in the “Marvel Masterworks” series in your Young Adult department (YA Fant/Graphic Novels).

It is in the Fantastic Four that superhero Black Panther appeared.

The character was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Jack Kirby, first appearing in Fantastic Four No. 52 (cover-dated July 1966) in the Silver Age of Comic Books, and has gone on to join the Avengers movie franchise as well as having his own record-shattering film.

Ta-Nehisi Coates continues the adventures of the king of Wakanda in “A Nation Under Our Feet” (YA Blac/Graphic Novel).

Peter Parker has a lot of bad luck. While Clark Kent gets to fly around and punch meteors while his hair stays perfect, Peter has to worry about mundane tasks like getting enough money to pay his rent, stitching up his Spider-Man costume and being stranded in the suburbs when he’s run out of places to swing from.

But Peter never stays down for long, and he always gets the bad guy, even if his rent is a little late.

Web-sling your way down memory lane in the children’s department and enjoy Marvel Age’s retellings of classic Stan Lee and Steve Ditko plotted stories where Spider-Man battles such baddies as Electro and Sandman (J Spid/Superhero).

To see how the infamous “Parker Luck” has held out over the years, check out “The Clone Conspiracy” (YA/Spid Graphic Novel) in which a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko villain plus an army of clones leads to multiple headaches for the Web-Slinger.

Perhaps one of Lee’s greatest creations is Stan Lee himself.

From being the public face of Marvel in the 1970s and ‘80s to his cameos in Marvel movies, he became as much of a face for Marvel as his creations.

Learn more about the man with “The Stan Lee Universe” (B Lee).

Filled with transcripts of Stan Lee interviews as well as interviews of those fortunate enough to have met and worked with Stan the Man, this allows you to get to know the man behind the cameos and a major creative force during Marvel’s formative years.

James Gardner, circulation librarian at Clark County Public Library and superhero enthusiast, can be reached at james.clarkbooks@gmail.com.