Celebrity Jews: Stan Lee and Veterans Day
THE PASSING OF A LEGEND
I could easily write five columns about comic book “king” Stan Lee, who passed away on Nov. 12, age 95. He was born Stanley Martin Lieber in Manhattan, the son of poor Romanian Jewish immigrants. “I changed it,” Lee has said, “because I felt someday I’d be writing the Great American Novel and I didn’t want to use my real name on these silly little comics.” He had one sibling, Larry Lieber, now 87, an important comic-book artist and comic creator in his own right.
Stan, who was always interested in writing, got a fairly menial job with Timely Comics (later Marvel) in 1939 (the publisher’s wife was a cousin of Lee’s). By the time he went into the Army, in 1942, he was an interim editor and had created several comic characters. He somewhat coasted through the ’50s, writing comic books in all genres (Western, romance, etc.). Then, in 1961, his publisher wanted to move back strongly into superhero characters and Lee decided to “go for broke” and create a whole universe of new comic characters that were more like ordinary people. He and his creative partner, Jack Kirby (1917-1994), began what has been called the “Marvel Revolution” with the “Fantastic Four.” This was quickly followed by the creation of the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Spiderman, Captain America and Black Panther.
Black Panther was the first black superhero character and throughout the “Marvel Universe” there was a strong ethos emphasizing the equality and dignity of all people.
Lee became publisher of Marvel in 1971. He was never a great businessman and in the late ’70s he was “kicked upstairs” and became the public-relations face of Marvel. Literally billions came to know Lee’s face from his cameos in the many recent films featuring Marvel characters. Many of the stars of those films posted tributes to Lee as his death became known. Hugh Jackman (“Wolverine” in X-Men) said: “He’s a creative genius, he thought outside the box, he created a whole universe, he changed the lives of many people, mine included.”
VETERANS’ DAY NOTES
This past Veterans’ Day marked the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. I happened to read that Australia had just opened a center in France to honor the Australian/New Zealand troops (called “ANZACs”) who fought in WWI. It’s called the John Monash (1865-1931) Center. Here is a brief Monash bio: The son of German Jewish immigrants, he served in the Aussie army, part time, until war in 1914; he became head of all ANZAC troops in 1917; he brilliantly led them to major victories using innovative tactics; he became the first general knighted on the battlefield in 200 years in 1918. If you want more, watch, on YouTube, the very good Aussie TV film: The Forgotten ANZAC: John Monash. Weird film sidelight: The father of Rupert Murdoch, Aussie journalist Keith Murdoch, was an enemy of Monash. Keith lost that battle.
Two Jewish Democrats, who are also veterans, were just elected to Congress. They both “flipped” a district. Max Rose, 31, of Staten Island, N.Y. (an Army soldier, he saw combat in Afghanistan and received the Bronze medal and Purple Heart) and Elaine Luria, 43, of Norfolk, Va. (Navy Commander). Also worthy of note: Democrat Dean Phillips, 49, of Deephaven, Minn., who also flipped a House seat. His (Jewish) Army captain father died in combat in Vietnam when he was a baby. His Jewish mother re-married a wealthy Jewish distiller, who adopted him. His adoptive grandma was columnist Pauline Phillips (aka “Dear Abby”). Dean worked for his adopted father until his death, then struck out on his own and now, with Talenti, is the biggest gelato-maker in America.