Stan Lee, born Stanley Lieber, was an icon of comic book writing. Along with the help of many others at Marvel, such as Jack Kirby, Lee led a revolution in the style and content of comic books. Decades later, his work is beloved by millions. His creations reach ever-higher in popularity thanks to the rise of the comic book movie. Lee characters such as Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Avengers have all become pop culture mainstays.
He was not a shy creator either – he happily wrote opinion pieces, gave interviews, showed up for documentaries, and made cameos in film adaptions of his work. Lee has 119 acting credits to his name on imdb, the majority of which represent quick cameos. This willingness to step into the public eye makes it possible to find Stan Lee quotes on all kinds of topics. We’ve gathered some of the best.
Here Are 21 of the Best Stan Lee Quotes
On work and success:
“Most people say, “I can’t wait to retire so I can play golf,” or go yachting or whatever they do. Well, if I was playing golf, I would want that to finish so I could go and dream up a new TV show.”
“If there are people who like the work you’ve done, because of that, they like you and want your autograph and to take a photo, that’s really gratifying. You have to be appreciative.”
“To tell you the truth, I never thought of myself as much of a success.”
“All I thought about when I wrote my stories was, “I hope that these comic books would sell so I can keep my job and continue to pay the rent.” Never in a million years could I have imagined that it would turn into what it has evolved into nowadays. Never.”
“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing. When you’re seeing how happy the fans are — as they [see up-close] the people who tell the stories, who illustrated them, the TV personalities — I realize: It’s a great thing to entertain people.”
On comics as art:
“Comic books themselves are getting more literate. And there are people who are screenwriters and television writers and novelists who are writing for the comics, for some reason, they love doing it and some of the art work in the comics, I mean it rivals anything you’ll see hanging on the walls of museums, they’re illustrations more than drawings and all the people are discovering this and they’re turning on to it.”
“Some people will say, “Why read a comic book? It stifles the imagination. If you read a novel you imagine what people are like. If you read a comic, it’s showing you.” The only answer I can give is, “You can read a Shakespeare play, but does that mean you wouldn’t want to see it on the stage?”
“I’m no prophet, but I’m guessing that comic books will always be strong. I don’t think anything can really beat the pure fun and pleasure of holding a magazine in your hand, reading the story on paper, being able to roll it up and put it in your pocket, reread again later, show it to a friend, carry it with you, toss it on a shelf, collect them, have a lot of magazines lined up and read them again as a series. I think young people have always loved that. I think they always will.”
“I don’t think you ever outgrow your love for things that are bigger than life and more colorful than the average life. And somehow I feel that these comic book stories are like fairy tales for older people, because they have the same qualities.”
“Marvel is a cornucopia of fantasy, a wild idea, a swashbuckling attitude, an escape from the humdrum and prosaic. It’s a serendipitous feast for the mind, the eye, and the imagination, a literate celebration of unbridled creativity, coupled with a touch of rebellion and an insolent desire to spit in the eye of the dragon.”
On movie adaptations:
“Comic books sort of follow with the movie – if people see the movie and if they’re interested in the character and want to see more of the character, they start buying the comic books. So a good movie helps the sale of the comic books and the comic books help the movie and one hand washes the other. So, I don’t think there’s any reason to think that comics will die out.”
“The only time I go on the set is when I have a cameo to do in the picture. I go to the set and I do my little cameo and I meet all the people. It’s a great way to spend the day. And then I go back to my own world.”
“Once you get the script, you then hope you can get the director that you want. Then you hope he can get the cast he wants. Again, you can go quickly or there can be a million stumbling blocks. There’s just no way to know.”
“To have an idea is the easiest thing in the world. Everybody has ideas. But you have to take that idea and make it into something people will respond to — that’s hard.”
“Comics are stories; they’re like novels or anything else. So the first thing you have to do is become a good storyteller.”
“I’m sort of a pressure writer. If somebody says, “Stan, write something,” and I have to have it by tomorrow morning, I’ll just sit down and I’ll write it. It always seems to come to me. But I’m better doing a rushed job because if it isn’t something that’s due quickly, I won’t work on it until it becomes almost an emergency and then I’ll do it.”
“The only advice anybody can give is, if you wanna be a writer, keep writing. And read all you can, read everything.”
“I don’t analyze things too closely. I find the more you analyze, the more you get away from spontaneity. I have only one rule: I just want to write a story that would interest me — that’s the only criterion I have. Am I eager to see how it ends? If these characters really existed, would I want to see what happens to them? … If I like something, there are bound to be millions of people who like it, too. And if they don’t, shame on them.”
“If I got a superpower I wouldn’t say, oh, I got to get a costume and put on a mask. I would say hey, I can do something better than other people. How can I turn it into a buck?”
“Just because you have superpowers, that doesn’t mean your love life would be perfect. I don’t think superpowers automatically means there won’t be any personality problems, family problems or even money problems. I just tried to write characters who are human beings who also have superpowers.”
“Another definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being, and will go out of his or her way to help them — even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”
If you’re interested in more Marvel, check out these quizzes. Excelsior!
Haley is a Content Moderator at Sporcle. She’s likely to walk into the office with a pastry and a book in hand, and a couple weird blog post ideas in her back pocket. Working at Sporcle is a constant learning experience, but she’s probably never mastering the capitals of the world.