Stan Lee. A name forever etched into the geek Hall of Fame. Let it be known that Lee made over 200 comic book characters and over 40 of them have made it into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
To be clear, this can also include characters or organizations (S.H.I.E.L.D. anyone?) that have made it into movies produced by Marvel Studios, Universal, Sony Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. Let’s not forget Netflix specials!
Stan Lee started out as an intern. He would refill the artists’ inkwells, proofread, and get the comic book writers lunch. Stanley Martin Lieber wouldn’t go by Stan Lee until he used it as a pseudonym during his first shot at writing filler in Captain America #3.
At one point Lee had a real shot at creating a new superhero team to rival the DC Justice League. Lee was about to move on from comics, so his wife encouraged him to take a chance and write something true to his vision. Since he was going to leave the comics industry anyway, it couldn’t hurt to try something new.
Thus, the Fantastic 4 was born. This team would bicker among themselves, struggle with balancing their dual identities, and even make mistakes. This was a far cry from the standard superhero archetype at the time; near perfect metahumans who were practically invincible.
The Fantastic 4 exploded in popularity and Lee began to launch more comics like Spider-man and the Hulk. Lee even created organizations like the X-Men who were persecuted for being different. A new age of comics had arrived.
In honor of Lee and how prominent Marvel has become, we will be breaking down five characters created by Lee that made it into the greater MCU. This will be part of a weekly series by yours truly, Andrew Sanchez, the biggest Marvel Comics fan at Metahuman Entertainment. This week, I’ll be breaking down six of the Avengers.
Stan Lee wrote The Avengers #1 way back in September 1963, thus, making him the creator of the team itself, regardless of the rotating roster. The original Avengers were composed of Antman, The Wasp, The Hulk, Ironman, and Thor.
Guess how many of those heroes were created by Lee? All of them. Add Hawkeye and Black Widow to the list and you have the characters we’ll be talking about in today’s article. We won’t talk about Thor just yet, let’s save him for another week when I breakdown Odin and Surtur. Yup, Stan Lee made them too. Makes you wonder how much he’s made off royalties huh?
Fans of the smash hit Ant-Man (film) will recognize Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd, but it was Hank Pym who first donned the Ant-Man mantle.
Hank is just one of the many mad scientist geniuses of the Marvel world. Hank was the original Antman and creator of the ‘Pym Particle’. These special particles make it possible to change the size and mass of an object, person, or anything really.
Scott Lang takes the mantle of Ant-Man after being cherry-picked by Hank Pym to take his place.
Epic fights atop a train- I mean a Thomas the Train toy set, felt all too real for our pint-sized heroes. Ant-Man infiltrating Avengers HQ and taking down Falcon, added to the over the top and wholly exaggerated scenes that make Ant-Man so funny and enjoyable.
Ant-Man even shrinks so far that he reaches the quantic realm. A dimension so small that time and space become infinite. This is also where Hank lost his wife, the original Wasp. Lang makes it back and in doing so, gives himself a shot at becoming a superhero.
During Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man takes Captain America’s side. It is here that we are introduced to Giant-Man, another character created by Stan Lee. But what about the Wasp?
Oh, Evangeline Lilly. Any fans of the series Lost definitely had the hots for Lilly. She plays Hank Pym’s daughter, Hope Van Dyne, in the first Ant-Man. In the comics, she goes by Janet Van Dyne and has the ability to shrink, grow wings, and fire blasts of energy.
In the MCU, it doesn’t really work that way. Instead, Hank begins working on a new suit that has the aforementioned ‘wings’ and comes with blasters. If you watch the first Ant-Man and The Wasp trailer, Lang gets upset that Hope’s suit comes with wings, to which Hank simply adds, “and blasters.”
Thus, we have The Wasp! She has all of the Pym-particle capability of Ant-Man, but with wings and blasters. Other than that, we know that Ant-Man and The Wasp takes place between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.
This means that after Civil War, Lang is now under house arrest. After watching the trailer, we also learn that Hank and Hope are in hiding. The gang decides to take on one more mission with the addition of The Wasp to the team. Vigilantes or not, they won’t stop before the day is saved.
She makes her MCU debut in Ironman 2 where she is sent to spy on Tony Stark (Ironman). She acts as a double agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. working for Stark Industries with the primary objective to keep an eye on Stark.
Natasha gets discovered but ultimately becomes a founding member of the Avengers. She’s played an integral role in each of the Avengers titles, from saving New York from alien invaders to protecting Wakanda from the Mad Titan, Thanos.
Black Widow, born Natalia Romanova, made her comic book debut in Tales of Suspense in 1964.
Natasha is a killer combat operative. Her signature weapon, Widow’s Bite, is an electroshock weapon created by S.H.I.E.L.D. disguised as bracelets.
Despite the amount of time that she has spent in the MCU, Black Widow still does not have her own movie. Until then, we’re going to have to wait to see her backstory, which depicts her as a Russian spy, brainwashed to work for the KBG.
Rumors say that Marvel Studios is still looking for a director for a Black Widow film.
Anyone remember that Universal Picture’s movie, The Hulk? I hope not. Let’s just say that it was met with mixed reviews. That Hulk, played by Edward Norton, never grew with the Marvel Studios MCU. However, the newer Hulk, who made his debut in the first Avengers, has smashed expectations.
Bruce Banner (The Hulk) is a world-renowned scientist who, after an experiment goes wrong and exposes him to radiation, has the power to transform into a human tank when he loses temper.
The angrier he gets, the more powerful he becomes. He becomes so powerful that Ironman has to use special Hulkbuster armor to neutralize him (barely). Banner struggles with controlling the Hulk and is always worried that the next time he transforms could spell disaster for those around him.
The Hulk debuted in Incredible Hulk #1 back in May of 1962. Boy, the 60’s were a great time for new IPs. Lee cites Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde as his inspiration for the character. I’m starting to see a resemblance.
Other inspirations for The Hulk include the fear of radiation from the Cold War and the potential for nuclear fallout leading to the rise of mutated people. This was commonplace at the time during heated exchanges between the U.S. and Russia.
The Hulk has been in each Avengers movie thus far. He also played a large part in Thor Ragnarok. It’s in Ragnarok that we begin to see another side of the Hulk. The Hulk loses confidence in himself and his sense of invulnerability. This continues in the Black Panther movie.
The Hulk’s future in the MCU is yet to be seen. But the conflict between Bruce Banner and his inner Goliath will be further explored in future movies.
Ironman. Some pretty credible sources list Ironman as the movie that saved Superhero movies. Remember how you felt watching Robert Downey Jr. onscreen? That feeling was the realization of your childhood hopes and dreams coming true. Superhero movies can be and ARE good.
Ironman debuted back in March 1963 and also rode the Cold War wave. Tony Stark is an industrialist and weapons manufacturer who represents the technological showdown between the U.S. and Russia.
But at his core, Ironman wasn’t happy with what his weapons wreaked upon the world. This was shown in The Avengers: Age of Ultron when Tony and Bruce (The Hulk) work together to create an advanced AI that would keep the earth safe. This of course ultimately ends in disaster as their AI turns into Ultron.
This brings us to Captain America: Civil War. Tony becomes a MAJOR player, leading the way for superhero reform and accountability. After all, it was his invention that caused so much damage. For a movie named after Captain America, Ironman steals the show.
Let’s not forget that Stark also mentors a young Peter Parker (Spider-Man), the newest hero to be offered a spot on the Avengers roster. Ironman’s influence is felt throughout the MCU. Having three of his own movies, and appearing in almost every other MCU film, Ironman can easily take the crown when it comes to fully realized comic book characters.
Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, has no powers but is skilled in bow and arrow craft and technology. He is a former agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and is responsible for recruiting Black Widow.
Hawkeye made his comic book debut in September 1964. He was originally portrayed as a villain, but after a few comic book appearances, he joins the ranks of the Avengers.
Hawkeye may not be a metahuman but he is at the peak of human conditioning. Trained by Captain America, he is an exceptional acrobat, marksmen, and lethal in hand-to-hand combat. He is not only great with a bow but also skilled with any ranged weapon.
Hawkeye has been in every Avengers movie other than Infinity War, as he is with his pregnant wife and kids. Not to mention he’s on house arrest after Captain America Civil War.
The next Avengers installment should see the return of Hawkeye, as well as how he balances his personal life with his life as a superhero. Hawkeye embodies Lee’s vision for the human element of the superhero.
Struggling to live a normal life, fall in love, and raise a family, Hawkeye is a very grounded hero.
Lee’s legacy doesn’t end there. Every week we will break down another set of heroes created by the legend himself that now grace the massive MCU. Another set of regular Joe’s just trying their best to keep not only the world but those close to them safe.
Photo Credit: NME, IGN, SuperHeroHype, & GeekAndSundry