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Stan Lee’s incredible love affair with his wife allowed Spider-Man

Like the other characters he drew, she did not exist. Or at least he didn’t think so.

The story that followed was told by Father Willy Raymond, president of Holy Cross Family Ministries, who heard Lee tell the story at a Hollywood luncheon about seven years ago. (Over the years, the comic book king has told versions of this story to dozens of journalists, with small variations.) The Catholic priest was then national director of Family Theater Productions, a faith-based film studio established in 1947 by Father Patrick Peyton. , which is now considered for sainthood.

Father Willy was there as a guest of his friend Adam Jablonski, whose wife had placed the winning bid for lunch with Lee at a charity auction. Jablonski, a big Lee fan, was there with his son Kevin. While eating salads at a posh Los Angeles bistro on Sunset Boulevard, Lee mentioned his wife, Joan, prompting a question about how long his marriage lasted.

“Oh,” replied Lee, “I’ve been married for 65 years to the most beautiful woman in the world.”

The comic book storyteller then told the unlikely story of how the two met. He described his post-war habit of drawing the woman of his dreams, with vibrant red hair, sparkling eyes and plump lips. He worked on the drawing every day, doing minutes improvements to his face.

Then, one day in 1947, his best friend saw the drawing. “I know her,” he told Lee, who replied that the sketch was not of a real person. “No,” insists his friend. “I know where she lives. It’s a hat pattern.

So Lee got her address and went to meet the girl of his dreams the next day. “Before me was the most beautiful creature on God’s earth,” he told the three men at lunch. “Then when she opened her mouth and spoke in a singsong British accent, which I loved, the first words that came out of my mouth were, ‘I’m going to marry you.'” (In other versions of the story, it was a cousin and not a friend who connected them, and it was Lee himself who decided that she looked like his drawings. It wouldn’t be out of place for a master storyteller to move a few details here and there to make an impact.)

Of course, since this was real life and not a fantasy sketch, there were some complications. For one, Joan was married to someone else at the time. She later admitted in an interview that her first marriage was a “big mistake” and that she was ready for a divorce when Lee proposed.

The other snag was that Lee wasn’t the only suitor. Other men had made clear their intention to marry a soon-to-be single Joan. When she flew to Reno for the divorce, Lee said he needed to maximize his chances by being there with her. An hour after Joan was released from her first marriage, she said “yes” to Lee in a ceremony presided over by the same judge who granted the divorce.

While it may not be your typical romance, theirs was enduring: The pair were married for 69 years – until Joan’s death at 93 in 2017. (Lee died a year later at age 95.)

And for superhero fans everywhere, that was crucial. Joanie inspired Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker’s first love in the Spider-Man saga. More importantly, she persuaded Lee to hold his own in the comic book business.

In 1961, Lee was ready to quit in frustration. He didn’t feel the love of his editor, Martin Goodman, who insisted on “lots of action, lots of fight scenes, not too much dialogue,” he recalled in a 2017 video interview with Marvel Creative Director Joe Quesada. Lee preferred witty jokes and compelling characters in his comics.

“Why don’t you make a book the way you want to make it?” he remembered Joanie telling him. “The worst that can happen is that he fires you, but you still want to quit. At least you will have him removed from your system.

So Lee did just that. He worked with freelance artist Jack Kirby to create the Fantastic Four comic book, which sold like boxes of chocolates before Valentine’s Day. With that, the Marvel Universe was booming. Lee and Kirby created new titles almost at will. Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk. Thor. Daredevil. The list goes on and on.

“[Joan] gave me the best advice in the world,” recalls Lee, then adds with admiration: “She is responsible for my universe.

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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson