Joan Lee, the beloved wife of Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee, passed away Thursday morning after suffering a stroke and being hospitalized earlier this week. She was 93. Upon learning of her death, Marvel Entertainment and Kevin Smith paid their respects to Joan and offered their condolences to Stan and his family.
You could say Joan played a very important role in the success of Stan and Marvel Comics. In 1961, not liking the direction that his career and the comic book industry had taken, Stan considered quitting, but before doing so, Joan provided him some sound advice that changed his and Marvel’s fortunes. “Before you quit,” Joan told him (via THR), “Why don’t you write one comic you are proud of?” With his company demanding its own superhero team that could compete with DC’s Justice League of America, Stan and Jack Kirby went to work on Fantastic Four, and its success paved the way for all that followed.
Kevin Smith, the comic book-obsessed filmmaker who became pals with Stan after giving him his favorite cameo in 1995’s Mallrats, shared the story of how Joan helped give birth to the Marvel universe and showered her with some lovely compliments.
“He told us tales of heroes but Joan was Stan’s personal superhero – and without her, we never get our modern mythology. They say behind every great man is a great woman. In this case, the great woman was always standing right beside him. Joan and Stan were best friends for 70 years. My heart goes out to my hero Stan, his daughter JC, their right hand Max and anyone who ever met Joanie. Thank you, Marvel Muse. We’ll miss you, Madame Web.”
Knowing what she meant to Stan and the company, Marvel issued a thoughtful statement:
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to her husband and daughter. We are so saddened to hear about the loss of Joan Lee. We lost a member of the Marvel family today and our thoughts and prayers go out to Stan and his daughter Joan in this difficult time.”
Stan and Joan produced two children. J.C., whose birth name is Joan, was born in 1950. Three years later, Jan was born, but she sadly died only three days after coming into this world.
Like any great Hollywood romance, Stan and Joan – who spent the past 69-years together – had a delightful meet-cute. Their story really begins when Stan was just a youngster, continuously sketching a beautiful, fictional face of a woman that occupied his mind and his heart. Years later, he would meet his dream-girl in the flesh and never let her go.
After serving in the military, one of Stan’s cousins tried to set the struggling writer up with a woman named Betty that worked as a hat model in New York. But when Stan went to her place of work to ask her out to lunch, it was Joan (also a model) who opened the door and greeted him. Instantly, Stan was in love. Being a sucker for English accents, he hung on every word that came out of the mouth of the Newcastle-native. More importantly, Stan’s jaw hit the floor when he realized that Joan had the same gorgeous face of the ideal woman he dreamt of and sketched.
Nothing would prevent him from marrying her, not even the fact that Joan was already married to someone else. See, Joan made the mistake of rushing into marriage after her childhood crush married another woman. While on the rebound, Joan got hitched to a U.S. serviceman that she hardly knew and traveled to New York to live with his family until he came back home. But because that marriage took her to New York, she met the true love of her life: Stan. She was granted a divorce in Las Vegas, and within the same day, she and Stan tied the knot.
And although Joan is no longer with us, her family and friends have a wealth of wonderful memories to look back upon that should ease the pain of her absence. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.
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