Marvel’s The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man are the biggest blockbusters of 2012, and they are the brainchild of Stan Lee, who could be hailed as the original Shakespeare of superheroes.
Lee is also the creator of X-Men, who kicked off this genre on the big screen in the 2000s and beyond — launching the career of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, the mutant who is the best at what he does, but what he does isn’t very nice. Its success led to two sequels (2003’s X2: X-Men United and 2006’s X-Men: The Final Stand) and prequels (2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and last summer’s X-Men: First Class), and the upcoming The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Following X-Men came director Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (2002-07) with Tobey Maguire and Peter Parker and his friendly neighborhood wall-crawling alter-ego, who learns that with great power came greater responsibility. This summer, the web-slinger was rebooted a la Batman as The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield, who will reprise the role in the upcoming sequel set for a 2014 release.
2008, 2010, and 2011 were the years of “The Avengers Initiative”, where S.H.I.E.L.D superspy Nick Fury set out to assemble Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye to become “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”, a team to fight the battles that no one else could. 2012 was the long-awaited formation of that project, with The Avengers breaking box office records and reaching a billion dollars worldwide — becoming the highest-grossing superhero film of all time, with a sequel already in the works for a 2015 release.
Lee also created the Fantastic Four and Daredevil, who was played by Oscar winner Ben Affleck in 2003 as Matt Murdock, a blind attorney who fights crime and corruption as the Man Without Fear in New York. The movie introduced Affleck to future wife Jennifer Garner, who played his onscreen love interest, who was then given her own movie in 2005 as Elektra, a female assassin originally hired to kill a man and his daughter but protects them instead: getting caught in the middle of the war between good and evil.
Stan Lee turned 90 on Friday.