The word, hero, conjures up an image in Stan Lee's mind of a knight in shining armor on a white steed looking for good deeds to do, for figurative dragons to slay. When he was a young man, he loved the movies, and Errol Flynn was his knight in shining armor, his hero, because of the roles he played. When Stan began writing stories, he couldn't help but think about the heroes Errol Flynn played and how he portrayed them.
Stan Lee had other heroes, too, who inspired his writing, like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. As a heroic figure who led the nation in war time, Stan admired Roosevelt because he was an incredibly inspiring orator and because he looked and acted the way one imagines a president should look and act. When Roosevelt delivered his broadcasts, his "Fireside Chats" as he called them, and started by saying, “My friends,” Stan felt like he was truly his friend. To Stan, Roosevelt was like everybody’s uncle or father, and a true hero.
Winston Churchill was equally inspiring to Stan Lee as one of the great writers and one of the Great War leaders of his time because he held the nation of England together during WWII. He kept the nation's morale up with phrases like, “We shall fight, we shall never surrender,” and “Blood, sweat and tears.” Although Stan did not know anything about Churchill's private life, he still saw him as a hero because he was somebody who not only did good things himself, but inspired others to do the same.
There were two people much closer to Stan who gave him self-confidence as a young man and a belief in his ability to realize his dream of becoming a writer. One was his mother, whom he said thought anything he did was genius. If he read her four lines of a poem, she’d say, “John Barrymore couldn’t have read it as well!” With that kind of support and encouragement, Stan said he had to be confident.
Another person who influenced his life when he was about 8 or 9 years old was a teacher named Leon B. Ginsburg. This teacher made Stan's classes fun, because not only did he teach, but he did it in a humorous, cheerful, and exciting way. According to Stan, he would every so often stop the class and tell a little story about Swat Mulligan, a legendary baseball player. Although Stan never knew if there was such a guy, or if the teacher had made him up, whenever Leon felt the class was getting a little too tense or the work was a little too hard for the kids, he’d say, “Let’s take a break. Let me tell you about Swat Mulligan.” And for three or four minutes, Leon would tell the class an exciting, humorous Swat Mulligan baseball story. Because of Leon Ginsburg, Stan decided that whatever he did when grown up, he would try to make it fun for those who would read or listen to his work.
Every writer Stan had ever read from Edgar Rice Burroughs to H.G. Wells to Mark Twain to Cervantes, to Franklin W. Dixon who wrote the Hardy Boys, to Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and even Shakespeare has inspired his own writing. He said his love of the language in Shakespeare influenced a lot of the dialog and phraseology in the books he wrote such as Thor, God of Thunder and Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts. He loved making up his own expressions like, “By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, so let it be.”
When Stan got a job writing comics, he decided to change his name from Stanley Martin Lieber to Stan Lee. He felt comics were a far cry from writing the great American novel that he always hoped to pen, so he cut his name in half, never realizing that he'd be writing comics for half his life and that most people would come to know him as Stan Lee. In fact, he eventually changed his name legally to Stan Lee because, as time went by, hardly anybody knew him as Stanley Martin Lieber.
He has lots of advice for children who want to write. "Read! Read as much as you can! Read everything you can! Don’t limit your reading to comic books or mystery stories or science fiction stories or romance stories or any particular genre." He believes the more children read, the more the phraseology stays with them, the more the rhythm of the words sinks in, and the more their imaginations are stimulated. And he advises them to not only read, but to write and to care about what they write, to say to themselves, “How would Charles Dickens write this? How would Mark Twain or Edgar Rice Burroughs write this?”
Deeply impressed by his elementary school teacher, Leon Ginsburg, Stan sees many things that can be done with education to make it more beneficial to students. To him, there is nothing more exciting than history, geography, language or science, if those subjects are taught in an imaginative, entertaining way. He thinks teachers need to take a tip from show biz, to learn how to hold a youngster’s interest, to make him want to learn by making learning fun. One of Stan's dreams was to establish Entertainers for Education in which actors, actresses, singers and all types of entertainers lend their talents to teaching teachers how to keep their audience, in this case their students, enthralled and eager to come to class and share the excitement of learning.
In writing his own stories, Stan never tried to glamorize the villain. He only wanted to glamorize the good guy. He wanted his readers to identify with and emulate the hero. His main objective was to make his stories fun and entertaining. He has delightfully entertained and inspired people of all ages for years with his writing and larger-than-life characters who have captivated us with their daring exploits and good deeds to make other people's lives more pleasant, more bearable. Together with him, we hope that in the real world as in his stories, the good guys always triumph.