Obscure Stan Lee Characters from A-Z: The Bountiful B’s!

It’s trivia time! How stumped will you ‘B’ by this question: Which of these four characters did Stan write?

A. Breeze Barton

B. Balder

C. Beta Ray Bill

D. Betty Ross

Beta Ray Bill

And the answers are…

B and D! The odd guys out are Breeze Barton and Beta Ray Bill. We tried to slide the first one past you (again) with the alliterative name, but Breeze is actually a Jack Binder creation who first appeared in Timely Comics’ Daring Mystery Comics #3 back in 1940. As for Beta Ray Bill, he was conceived by Walt Simonson in 1983, making his debut in The Mighty Thor #337. Fun fact: As some of you may know, Beta Ray Bill is an alien who holds the distinction of being the first individual to brandish Thor’s hammer. He was eventually given one of his own that you may be familiar with: Stormbreaker.

Now let’s dive into the Stan-related characters, shall we?

Balder

Balder the Brave was brought to life by the team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962’s Journey into Mystery #85. Balder is actually the half-brother of Thor and fought alongside him during several battles; at one point in the 1970s, he even temporarily was appointed ruler of Asgard while Odin went missing.  Though Balder has appeared on TV, in video games, and even as a toy, he’s yet to enter the MCU. (He was, however, seen in the animated movie Hulk vs. Thor.)  

Betty Ross

Lee and Kirby struck again with Betty Ross, who debuted as a love interest for the Hulk in Incredible Hulk #1 in 1962 and holds the honor of being Hulk’s longest-running love interest in the comics. Stan wrote Betty as a determined, well-mannered woman, but later writers took her in new directions, and she’s appeared in subsequent Hulk titles as Harpy and the antiheroine Red She-Hulk.   

Every couple of weeks, we’ll spotlight some of Stan’s lesser known co-creations through trivia, starting with A and ending with Z! Stay tuned for ‘C,’ coming soon.

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Celebrate Mother’s Day with These Super Marvel Moms

Today is Mother’s Day here in America, which means now is the time to celebrate the power of moms! Superpowered or otherwise, Marvel Comics has perfected the term “super-mom” over the years thanks to some of the ladies we feature in this list. It’s not easy being a mom in the regular world, let alone in a universe filled with time travel, supervillains, and monsters to fight, but someone’s gotta do it! So, for those reading who are either a super-mom by way of superpowers or just by way of the powers that always come with motherhood, Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Mrs. Fantastic/Susan Storm Richards

Although Sue Storm doesn’t become a mother in the movies, in the comicbooks she’s actually the first Marvel superhero to become a mom. In 1963, Mr. and Mrs. Fantastic gave birth to their son Franklin, who goes on to become a very powerful psychic mutant in his own right. Eventually, she also gives birth to a daughter Valeria, which makes the two children of Mr. and Mrs. Fantastic a brother/sister superhero duo just like the Human Torch and the Invisible Woman before them!

Aunt May

Even though she is technically Spider-Man’s aunt, she’s taken on the necessary role of mother in his life. After Peter Parker’s parents died, his Aunt May and Uncle Ben became his support system and have been ever since their first comicbook appearance in 1962. Between Parker’s teenage antics and Spider-Man’s self-sacrificing desire to keep the city safe, Aunt May is one of the strongest “moms” Marvel has to offer, and she doesn’t even have any real superpowers.

Janet Van Dyne

Janet is another one of the first supermoms in the MCU and has always been an integral part of the Ant-Man comics. She takes her role as a mother to Hope Van Dyne very seriously, as we can see in her onscreen portrayal in the Ant-Man movies. Her career as a superhero is what motivated her daughter to go down the same path of righteousness and self-sacrifice (and winged suits). Talk about securing a legacy!

Frigga

This “Asgardian All-Mother” is the biological mother of Thor and the adoptive mother of Loki. As queen of Asgard, she set an example of how to rule over a kingdom of immortal beings in a much less strident way than her husband, Odin. Frigga also taught both her sons about the importance of strength tempered with compassion, and even taught Loki a few magical tricks, knowing his aptitude for mischief.

Scarlet Witch

This particular path was unexplored in Wanda Maximoff’s MCU portrayal, but in the comics, the romance between Wanda and the Vision was not the tragedy that unfolded in Infinity War. In 1986, Vision and Wanda defied the odds and had a set of twins thanks to a combination of their love and Wanda’s magical probability altering abilities. The twins, Tommy and Billy, eventually went on to become young Avengers nicknamed Wiccan and Speed.

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Stan Lee’s Cameo in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and Paying Tribute to Stan in ‘X-Men: Dark Phoenix’ (Spoilers)

Now that Avengers: Endgame has arrived, a new era of Marvel films has begun, and the MCU as
we know it is forever changed. For the first time in 20 years, the X-Men,
Fantastic Four, and Deadpool are theoretically available to meet the rest of
the on-screen Marvel characters thanks to the Disney-Fox merger. And of course,
things are different, and always will be, now that Stan the Man is no longer
here to cameo in Marvel movies.

Spoilers ahead forEndgame. If you haven’t seen it yet, STOP READING.

Those who saw Endgame know that Stan’s cameo featured him sporting a mean set of sideburns and driving a muscle car back in the 1970s. This appearance, which was digitally altered, was especially meaningful because it showed Stan as the carefree and life-loving guy we all knew him to be. The Russo brothers treated this role with great care; they knew how much it would mean to fans since it turned out to be the last Stan cameo filmed for a Marvel movie.

Joe Russo commented on the scene, saying:

“It’s sort of the hippie era, and Stan’s cameoing as a hippie and it’s the free-love era. He’s saying, ‘Make love, not war!’”

The sequence was also worked out well before Stan’s passing; it turns out that making him into a hippy was always the plan. Russo continued:

“It seemed like fun when we originally had the idea, before Stan passed. Oh, what did Stan look like in the ’70s?”

For reference, this is really what Stan looked like in the early 1970s.

We all know the world of Marvel movies is far from over. So, how do filmmakers plan to go on without the King of Cameos himself? Well, Stan’s presence will certainly be felt, at least in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the next Marvel film to hit screens next month.

Given the fact that this movie’s release date was delayed, Stan was still with us when the film was produced. There had been speculation regarding a possible Stan cameo in Dark Phoenix for some time, but director and executive producer Simon Kinberg set the record straight:

“We don’t have a cameo. I’d rather say that than then keep it mysterious, out of respect for Stan. We do have some tribute to him, and it’s something that obviously we weren’t thinking about when we were making the movie because he was still very much alive. And he’s been such a huge part of making these films over the years. He’s had cameos; he’s had input into the process of making them.”

It’s true, as Marvel fans know, that Stan had plenty of cameos in the X-Men series since it first hit theaters 19 years ago, from the hot dog vendor in the first X-Men to Jean Grey’s confused neighbor in The Last Stand all the way to his final X-Men cameo in 2016’s Apocalypse, which also featured his wife Joan.

Kinberg also spoke about the Apocalypse cameo, since it was Stan’s last one in an X-Men film (not counting Deadpool):

“We went to his house for his cameo in Apocalypse, with him and his wife – which was a really special one because it was with his wife. They were so close, and they were together for, I mean, I think most of their adult lives.”

A tribute isn’t the same as a cameo, but as the many Marvel on-screen adaptations move forward, honoring the man who started it all is a great way to celebrate his memory and to continue his legacy. We’re all looking forward to seeing Fox’s homage to Stan in Dark Phoenix next month.

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Looking Back at Those Who Influenced Young Stan Lee

In honor of National Teachers Day, we highlight a very influential educator in Stan Lee’s life, as well as others who had an impact on young Stan.

How many readers remember the name of their favorite elementary school teacher? Probably most of you, right? Do you think you’d still recall his/her name seven decades later? I guess we’d have to wait and see!

Many different people and things impacted young Stan Lee’s life during his childhood in the 1920s and 1930s, one of them being his grade school teacher Leon B. Ginsberg, Jr., who was only about a decade or so older than Stan. In 2002’s Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee, Stan recounted memories of his favorite educator (which were in turn shared in 2018’s The Stan Lee Story), saying that Mr. Ginsberg “first made me realize that learning could be fun, that it was easier to reach people, to hold their attention, to get points across, with humor than any other way.” Stan greatly admired how his teacher utilized humor and story to demonstrate the lessons he was imparting on the class, and this method of instruction made an indelible impression on Stan—so much so that he made it a point to embrace such a technique in his own work years later.

Young Stan

There were others who served as ‘teachers’ to Stan in a variety of ways who weren’t necessarily identified as such, including war correspondent Floyd Gibbons and classmate John J. McKenna Jr.  Though Gibbons, who sported an eye patch as a result of his work reporting in France during WWI, conveyed thrilling details from his exciting exploits, Stan may have been more taken with the fact that as a 10-year-old he sent Gibbons a fan letter—and he received a reply. Stan took this kind gesture to heart, saving Gibbons’ letter and making a point to answer mail when he started receiving notes from fans in the 1960s.

Floyd Gibbons

As for McKenna, Stan learned the “gift of gab” from him—McKenna addressed fellow students in class, trying to sign them up for subscriptions to The New York Times. As Stan recalled, McKenna “spoke for about ten full minutes, looking his audience straight in the eye, never once fumbling or losing the attention of the class.”  His smooth, persuasive recitals encouraged Stan to want to learn how to address a crowd just like that—which, of course, Stan ended up doing on a much larger scale from the 1960s onward, as he toured university campuses, delivered rousing speeches, and spoke to convention audiences for 50+ years.

Another large influence in young Stan’s life wasn’t a person at all, but rather an item: his bicycle. Not only was Stan given the freedom to explore New York City on his two wheels, but the bike also served as a vehicle to expand his creative mind. As he wrote in Excelsior!: “When I rode it, in my imagination I was a mighty knight atop a noble steed.”

Young Stan on his bike

Years later, Stan would pour all that imaginative vigor into building epic universes, characters and stories known and beloved the world over—and he didn’t have to ride a bike to do it!

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