Stan Lee helped erect one of the pillars of modern pop culture as the co-creator of the Marvel Universe. Alongside artists including Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Lee helped bring iconic characters such as Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers to life. But over the course of eight decades, he had a hand in other projects from anime to other comic book universes. Here’s a collection of the projects that Lee helped co-create following his tenure at Marvel.
Just Imagine (DC Comics)
For years, fans wondered what would have happened if Lee applied his talents toward creating the iconic characters of DC. They got their wish when Lee was approached by the “Distinguished Competition” for the Just Imagine… series. Just Imagine… was a series of one-shots featuring Lee teaming up with artists including Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons and future DC publisher/chief creative officer Jim Lee to reinterpret DC’s icons for a new universe. And the results were radically different: Batman is African American and wears a more demonic costume, Superman is a member of the Kryptonian police, and Wonder Woman is an activist empowered by an Incan sun god. It’s one of the more interesting Elseworlds in DC’s history, and the characters are set to reappear in a new anthology this December.
Lee would eventually start creating his own heroes. Among them were the Mighty 7, a group of aliens who crash-landed on Earth. In a meta plot twist, Lee himself would encounter the aliens and offer them sanctuary while drawing inspiration for a new comic series. There were plans to turn Mighty 7 into a major multimedia franchise, including an animated series and an ongoing comic. However, it ran into multiple roadblocks, including a lawsuit when Lee launched the original pitch as the “Super 7.” Eventually, three issues of a comic and an animated movie starring Christian Slater and Sean Astin were released.
The Traveler/Soldier Zero/Starborn (BOOM! Studios)
Perhaps Lee’s most successful post-Marvel comics came from the partnership between BOOM! Studios and his POW! Entertainment brand. The partnership yielded three titles: The Traveler, Soldier Zero, and Starborn. Soldier Zero, written by Paul Cornell and illustrated by Javier Pina, finds a paraplegic war veteran bonding with an alien soldier. The Traveler, written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Chad Hardin, has its hero traveling through time and battling a group of villains known as the Split-Second Men. Unlike other time travelers, he isn’t above messing with the space-time continuum to achieve victory. And finally, Starborn from writer Chris Roberson and artist Khary Randolph inverts the space saga formula as a struggling writer finds out that his father is well-renowned in the galaxy – but as a tyrant, not a hero. All three of these comics feature the same high concepts and flawed characters that Lee helped to pioneer over at Marvel.
Lee didn’t just stop at Western comics. He teamed up with Shaman King creator Hiroyuki Takei to create Ultimo. The manga features twin mechanical boys, Ultimo and Vice, who were intended to be the ultimate representations of good and evil respectively. Ultimo ends up meeting a teenager named Yamato Agari, and together the two battle other mechanical beings. The series, while featuring a plot that wouldn’t be out of place in a typical shonen story, chose to explore the nature of good and evil which makes it a compelling read. And once again, Lee cameos in the manga as Dr. Dunstan bears a striking resemblance to him.
Lee’s other major anime/manga series is Heroman, which he co-created with anime studio Bones. Teenager Joey seeks to buy his own personal robot known as the Heybo, but is short on cash. He eventually discovers a broken down Heybo, and is surprised when a bolt of lightning makes it grow to skyscraper size. Joey and the Heybo – which he names “Heroman” – battle the invading alien force known as the Skrugg. Bones’ work on the anime series served as a precursor to the action sequences that came to define My Hero Academia and Super Crooks, and Lee proved to be extremely adept at coming up with a premise that’s perfect for an anime series.
Though Lee is well known for his successes, he’s also been involved in more than a few projects that didn’t click with fans. One of those projects was the short-lived animated series Stripperella, starring Pamela Anderson as the titular heroine. The entire concept feels like the bottom of the barrel for Lee’s creative endeavors: Strpperella’s alter ego is named Erotica Jones (yes, really), she has a number of outlandish powers including “breast enhancements” (yes really) and she is apparently attractive enough that men literally catch on fire while staring at her (yes really). Eventually, Striperella was cut short due to Lee and a former stripper who actually went by Stripperella filing lawsuits against Spike TV.
The Condor and Mosaic
A better example of Lee dipping his toe into animation came in the form of two direct-to-DVD animated movies in 2007, titled The Condor and Mosaic respectively. Mosaic centers on college student Maggie Nelson (Anna Paquin) who gains shape-shifting powers after a freak storm. The Condor has skateboarder Tony Valdez (Wilmer Valderrama) suffering an accident that leaves him paralyzed, until his friends create an armored suit for him. Once again, a pair of comic creators helped bring Lee’s vision to life as Scott Lobdell and Marv Wolfman scripted Mosaic and The Condor respectively. And both films have ties to his Marvel legacy as Steven E. Gordon – the character designer behind X-Men: Evolution – directed The Condor. Not to mention Paquin’s role as Rogue in the X-Men series.
Lee had one more anime series up his sleeve: the limited series The Reflection. It takes place in a world where a mysterious event has granted superhuman abilities to a select few, named the “Reflected”. Studio Deen, the animators behind anime classics including Ramna 1/2 and Fruits Basket, deliver a stylized style that looks like it was literally ripped from the pages of a comic book. And director Hiroshi Nagahama plays with colors to create a rich and vibrant world. Lee once again makes an appearance in the series – though this time, he’s playing the main villain of the series!