Joan and Stan Lee's Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn't Know it Needed
Joan and Stan Lee’s Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn’t Know it Needed

Joan and Stan Lee’s Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn’t Know it Needed

Trista - February 13, 2019

Stanley Martin Lieber, better known as Stan Lee, was behind the creation of some of the most iconic comic book characters, including Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. His name and characters have become synonymous with the Marvel Comics brand, as it likely would not have survived in the competition against DC Comics – creator of the likes of Superman and Batman – without him. More than just characters with superpowers, though, the figures that Stan Lee created were dynamic individuals who had their own life experiences which challenged them and turned them into advocates of social justice.

Take Spider-Man, for example. He created Spider-Man to help kids deal with teenage isolation and depression, and Peter Parker is the epitome of those things: raised by his aunt and uncle, he struggles to fit in at school. When his uncle is murdered in cold blood, he uses the anger to fuel his vigilante nightlife of fighting crime and rescuing victims. The X-Men, also his creation, was the ultimate outcasts who find their way in a society that does not want them. The X-Men comics eerily parallel the tragedies of the Holocaust, something that should not come as a surprise, as Stan himself was a non-practicing Jew.

Joan and Stan Lee’s Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn’t Know it Needed
Stan Lee with his wife, Joan. Getty Images.

Stan didn’t just create comic book characters with a mission of social justice. He was a maverick who broke all the rules that he didn’t like. When his comics featured the realities of inner-city squalor, mainly drugs and crime, the Comic Code Authority – which censored cartoons for content – disapproved. He went on and published his comics anyway without seeking their approval. Eventually, the CCA was revised to allow for accurate representation of real-life social problems. Additionally, the US government asked him to create comics that dealt with realities of crime and other ills. The result was an edition of Spider-Man in which Harry Osborne takes a near-fatal dose of LSD.

Joan and Stan Lee’s Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn’t Know it Needed
Stan Lee and President George W. Bush. Zimbio.

Stan Lee began working for Timely Comics – which later rebranded itself as Atlas Comics and then Marvel – in 1939, the year that World War II broke out in Europe. During the war years, he served in the United States military but never went overseas; he was actually one of less than a dozen individuals who served as authors and illustrators to boost the morale of troops serving overseas. During this period, Stan Lee began writing Captain America comics, which helped raise patriotism both at home and abroad. Later he would start creating his iconic characters to compete with the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

Joan and Stan Lee’s Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn’t Know it Needed
Stan Lee with some of the comics he created including Spider-Man and Iron Man. Soleciology.

Stan Lee passed away in 2018, after becoming a Disney Legend and receiving a Medal of Honor from President George W. Bush. By the time he had died, the epic artist had made cameos in dozens of movies based on his characters and had also shot cameos for films to be made after his death. Stan Lee had appeared on his favorite show, The Simpsons, multiple times and even had a day named after him in Los Angeles. He pushed the boundaries at every juncture in his life, including his personal life. This quality is particularly evident in his marriage to Joan, who passed away just a year before he did.

Joan and Stan Lee’s Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn’t Know it Needed
Joan B. Lee pictured with husband Stan Lee and daughter J. C. Lee in the 1950s. Wikimedia.

Stan and Joan Lee

Stan and Joan Lee’s 69-year marriage was a love story that should have never happened. The reason why is simple: she was already married to someone else when Stan professed his undying love for her. Stan himself had a reputation for being a bit of a player, especially among the guys at Timely Comics. One of his cousins dared him to ask out a gorgeous redhead, so, ever the ladies’ man, Stan took him up. He went to knock on the door of the lady in question to ask her out, but instead, Joan Clayton Boocock answered the door.

Joan Boocock was born in the Castle Ward Rural district of what is now the Newcastle Metropolitan Borough in the United Kingdom, in the year 1922. Following World War II, she followed the American serviceman Sanford Dorf Weiss, whom she married in 1943. The two knew each other for less than 24 hours before getting married, but Joan said that the marriage was happy. The problem was that it was, well, boring. She had established herself as a hat model in the United Kingdom and worked as one in the United States, as well. She was at work at the modeling agency when Stan Lee knocked on the door, looking for someone else.

Joan and Stan Lee’s Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn’t Know it Needed
Stan and Joan were married for 69 years. Chris Pizzello/AP/Do You Remember.

Of Stan and Joan’s first date, Joan fondly recalled, “He wore a marvelous floppy hat and scarf and spouted Omar Khayyam when he took me for a hamburger at Prexy’s. He reminded me of that beautiful man, [British actor] Leslie Howard.” Though she was content with her first husband, she wasn’t all that interested in him. Stan, though, had her enamored from their first meeting. She had nothing but good things to say about him in the following few days.

Joan was ready to divorce her boring first husband, so Stan sent her on a plane to Reno to get a divorce. He knew from their first date that he would marry her. The reason why is simple: he had grown up drawing his “dream woman,” and Joan resembled her perfectly. While in Reno, she sent him a letter addressed, “Dear Jack.” Stan grew worried that he would lose the love of his life to some second-rate cowboy, so he flew to Reno to meet her. They ended up getting married by the same judge who issued Joan’s divorce, in the room right next door.

They flew back to New York and bought a home in Long Island in 1949, where they lived until 1952. They had two daughters, Joan “JC” and Jan. Sadly, Jan died three days after birth, but JC survived. JC and Stan were present when her mother passed away in 2017 at the age of 95. Her death was due to complications from a stroke. She had dedicated much of her life to her husband and his career, while also enjoying her own spotlight by being cast in many of the movies that were based on Stan’s comics.

Joan and Stan Lee’s Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn’t Know it Needed
Stan Lee and his wife, Joan, making a cameo appearance together in a film. Disney.

The Dynamic Duo

Joan Lee stands as the inspiration for many of her husband’s creations, especially the early versions of the Fantastic Four. She may have been somewhat behind Mary Jane in Spider-Man, an unattainable girl that Peter Parker is smitten with. She was referred to as “the Marvel muse” because his wife helped him create real-to-life characters that were relatable, dynamic, and personable. Joan was the model on which some of his female characters were based. Of her, he said, “My wife and I are really so close. And yet, I’m not sure if she’s ever read a story I wrote. She’s not into comics at all.”

After a successful career as a hat model, Joan went on to act in some of the films based on her husband’s creations. She did voice acting in the 1994 renditions of Iron Man and The Fantastic Four, as well as the 1996-1998 series Spider-Man. She also did some cameos alongside her husband, notably in X-Men: Apocalypse, when she and Stan play a husband and wife. In addition to acting, Joan wrote a novel in 1987 called The Pleasure Palace. After she passed away, her family discovered three unpublished books among her things.

Joan and Stan Lee’s Marriage Is The Love Story the World Didn’t Know it Needed
Stan Lee. Gage Skidmore CC BY SA 3.0.

Early on in Stan’s career at Timely Comics, he became depressed about his lack of direction and considered leaving the comic book industry altogether. Joan convinced him to stay when she said, “Before you quit, why don’t you write one comic that you are proud of?” Ready to leave behind something meaningful instead of just writing “reruns” of Captain America, he created the Fantastic Four. They showed the world his comic book genius, that he could create characters that resembled everyday people yet had superpowers that they could use as a force for good. All of his later characters followed the same style that came to be definitive of Stan Lee.

As the saying goes, behind every great man is a greater woman. Without Joan in Stan’s life, he may have never achieved the success that he had, and people all across America would be denied the genius of characters like Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Thor, and many others. All of his creations have gone down as pure Americana and have shaped many aspects of American culture. He helped open people’s eyes to social evils and spurred generations to do something about them. Perhaps the saying should be revised to say, Behind every Stan the Man is his Joan.

When Joan passed away, Marvel Comics issued a statement saying, “We are so saddened to hear about the loss of Joan Lee. 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.” The family requested privacy as they grieved her loss, but the entire nation went into a state of mourning. The next year, Stan passed away and was reunited with his wife of nearly 70 years.

 

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

“Stan and Joan Lee – One of the Greatest “How Did You Meet” Stories Ever,” by Jerry Byers. The Vintage News. December 21, 2018.

“Stan Lee’s 69-Year Marriage With Late Wife, Joan, Almost Didn’t Happen,” by Jane Kenney. Do You Remember?

“Joan Lee, Wife of Marvel Comics Legend Stan Lee, Dies at 95,” by Andy Lewis. July 6, 2017. Hollywood Reporter.

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