UPDATED with Marvel statement: Joan Lee, the wife of Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee who co-created superheroes from Spider-Man to the X-Men, died today. She was 93. A spokesperson for the family confirmed the news that Lee’s wife of 69 years died this morning “quietly and surrounded by her family.”
The Lees’ marriage was as epic as any Marvel tale: Joan, born in the UK as Joan Clayton Boocock, married Stan in New York in December 1947. It was widely considered to be Joan, a onetime model, who urged Lee to write a new kind of superhero after comics up until then had generally favored prototypical flawless characters. Lee even considered quitting the business at Timely Comics (later called Atlas Comics and, eventually, Marvel Comics), where he had been since 1939.
The result, with artist Jack Kirby, was Fantastic Four with its more human, sometimes flawed quartet. It was a hit, and soon after came all those Marvel movie staples of today: Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and X-Men, as well as Daredevil with Bill Everett and Doctor Strange and Spider-Man with Steve Ditko.
“We are so saddened to hear about the loss of Joan Lee,” Marvel said on its website. “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.”
While her husband made a habit of doing cameos in Marvel film and TV fare, Joan (he called her “Joanie”) had some credits too, playing herself most recently in last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse. She also voiced Madame Web in a Spider-Man animated series from 1996-98 and Miss Forbes in the 1994 animated Fantastic Four series.
Stan Lee, who still is chairman emeritus at Marvel and a member of the Marvel Comics Editorial Board, is due to attend Disney’s D23 convention and Comic-Con this month. He also is scheduled to be the centerpiece of “Extraordinary: Stan Lee,” a tribute to his career that’s been set for August 22 at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.
Today’s statement said, “The family ask that you please give them time to grieve and respect their privacy during this difficult time.”