Comic book legend Stan Lee would have turned 99 today had he not passed away at the ripe old age of 95 three years ago.

Largely responsible for many of our all-time favorite superheroes, Lee probably would have been thrilled this December, watching Spider-Man: No Way Home’s stunning $1B+ sweep through the box office.

The movie, made by Sony and Disney’s Marvel Studios, has become Sony’s highest grossing movie of all-time in U.S. box offices, Sony Pictures Entertainment said Sunday.

Lee’s work as a writer and conceptualist touched many lives throughout his career – to take just one example, here’s a tweet from Mark Ruffallo – famous for playing Bruce Banner/The Hulk within the MCU.

On the occasion of his birthday, let’s revisit some of Lee’s greatest characters that we didn’t know he was responsible for – from MCU giants to little-known, amusing, and well-loved cult favorites.

 

10. Black Panther

Black Panther Marvel

First Appearance: Fantastic Four #52, July 1966

Co-Creator: Jack Kirby

While Marvel had created black characters in their stories before 1966, none of them were superheroes. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were actively interested in changing this – drawing inspiration from a 1940s pulp fiction hero who had a black panther as his trusty sidekick.

After playing around with names like ‘Coal Tiger’ and ‘Black Leopard’, they (thankfully) finalized on ‘Black Panther’ – immortalizing King T’Challa in the Marvel lexicon.

From his debut in 1966 to his hit mainline film in 2018, he’s maintained the same great origins as a great monarch and scientist, defining the idea of a fully-realized, technologically-advanced African nation.

9. Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch

Scarlet Witch Quicksilver Marvel

First Appearance: X-Men #4, March 1964

Co-Creator: Jack Kirby

An interesting thing about Stan Lee’s plans for the Maximoff twins is that he intended them to become good guys right from the start. Back in the 1960s, most comic book villains were true-blue bad guys without a shred of good in them – something Lee was interested in flipping around.

After an intro as reluctant villains in the X-Men series, they would go on to become core members of the Avengers – saving the world many times over.

8. Hawkeye

Hawkeye Marvel

First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #57, September 1964

Co-Creator: Don Heck

Initially making his mark as a Iron Man villain, the deadly Hawkeye soon joined the Avengers early on in their #16 issue – repenting on his and Black Widow’s early transgressions. In one of Lee’s classic villain-to-hero flips, Hawkeye soon became a major Avenger – now with his own solo series.

Interestingly, Hawkeye was one of the few superheroes to be portrayed as deaf – a concept first introduced in 1983 and revisited for David Aja’s stellar 2012-16 series.

7. Daredevil

Daredevil Marvel

First Appearance: Daredevil #1, April 1964

Co-Creator: Bill Everett

As far as movie appearances go, Daredevil got off to a bad start. After the weak 2003 attempt, fans finally saw the light in 2015-launched Netflix series – where Charlie Cox and an incredible team of showrunners created one of the best-ever live action superhero series made.

Daredevil was created during Lee’s hot creative streak in the early 1960s – right after he created the X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four.

6. Black Widow

Black Widow Marvel

First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #52, April 1964

Co-Creator: Don Heck

While most of Stan Lee’s creations would be marked by strong origin stories that stand to this day, Black Widow turns out to be something of an outlier. Instead of the expert martial-artist-spy we know today, she adopted something of a femme-fatale persona – manipulating men to do most of her dirty work – Hawkeye in particular.

Lee eventually spearheaded the character’s modern, physically capable re-imagining in a 1970 Spider-Man issue – giving us the Natasha Romanoff we know and love today.

5. Batroc The Leaper

First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #75, March 1966

Co-Creator: Jack Kirby

True, Stan Lee is the mind behind most of the big-name MCU superheroes that are too popular to even be on this list – but for every Iron Man, there’s a few dozen little-known oddball characters that never made it past a few comic issues.

Surprisingly, Batroc actually gets his own MCU appearance in a well-choreographed fight against Steve Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Retaining some of his French-ness, foot-forward combat and eccentric color scheme, he made for a great action moment, played by UFC champ Georges St-Pierre.

4. Groot

Groot Marvel

First Appearance: Tales to Astonish #13, November 1960

Co-Creator: Jack Kirby

You read that right – Groot is actually older than pretty much everyone else in the MCU – making his debut a stunning two years before Spider-Man. Back then, Kirby and Lee were busy creating a bunch of horror-themed characters for what would eventually morph into a cohesive set of Marvel comics.

Before joining the Guardians, Groot’s catchphrase was a lot longer than the one we know today. He started off that issue saying “Fool — none can withstand the mighty Groot! You are doomed! You and your town shall perish!” Quite a mouthful more than “I am Groot,” isn’t it?

3. Kingpin

Kingpin Marvel

First Appearance: Amazing Spider-Man #50, July 1967

Co-Creator: John Romita

Like his now-adversary Daredevil, the Netflix show has catapulted crime boss Wilson Fisk into the top echelons of Marvel bad-guys – making him a longtime favorite amongst Daredevil fans.

What many don’t know is that Lee originally wrote Kingpin as a Spider-Man villain, as the two duked it out on comic pages for over a decade. Comic legend Frank Miller took the reins in 1981 – matching the ‘Man Without Fear’ against the titanic crime lord.

2. Peggy Carter

Peggy Carter Marvel

First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #77, May 1966

Co-Creator: Jack Kirby

Central to one of the MCU’s greatest romances, Agent Peggy Carter is one of the best-written characters in the modern Marvel universe – especially with her incredible life-action film and TV versions played by Hayley Atwell.

It’s interesting to note that back in the 60s, when pop culture was obviously more sexist, Captain America shirks off Carter’s wish to be at the WW2 front by telling her it isn’t ‘woman’s work.’ Carter, who wasn’t even named back then, stands her own ground – echoing the agency and strength she would come to display in appearances nearly half a century later.

1. Nick Fury

Nick Fury Marvel

First Appearance: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1, May 1963

Co-Creator: Jack Kirby

The cigar-chomping, no-nonsense super spy was relegated to the background of most Marvel catalogues – until the geniuses behind the MCU chose Samuel L. Jackson to become the legendary boss of SHIELD.

Played as more of a mind-games puppet-master today, the SHIELD version of Nick Fury started out as a James-Bond themed hero working for the CIA – but his true origins are even older – and quite amusing.

It’s said that the origin series Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos came about as a bet between Stan Lee and his publisher, Martin Goodman. Lee stated that the Lee-Kirby partnership that birthed many of our favorite heroes could sell even the worst title Lee could imagine – giving us a comic book title that took up a third of the entire front cover.

Happy birthday, Stan ‘The Man’ – we’re going to miss your cameos for a long time to come. Excelsior!

(Image Sources: Stan Lee Twitter, Marvel Entertainment)