Earlier in April, Joe Quesada, Marvel’s chief creative officer, sat down with Stan “The Man” Lee for a conversation at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, California. The footage of the moment, featuring the comic book legend gushing over his wife, Joan Lee, was meant to be released later this year as part of a planned series for the event. Sadly, Joan died at the age of 93 earlier this week, so Marvel “felt it appropriate” to release the four-minute clip now as a tribute to her impact on the comic book world.
“We decided to stick with it until we get it right. We’re still working on it,” Stan said at the time of their 70-year-old marriage. As he recalled, Stan first met Joan when he got out of the army and was in search of someone with whom to settle down. The audience chuckled as he said, “I was tired of living with sergeants and corporals and privates. I wanted to live with a girl.”
A friend tipped him off to a woman working at a modeling agency, but he never got to meet her because he was so taken by Joan, who was manning the reception desk. “There was this vision standing at the desk who said, ‘May I help you?,’ with a voice that was music and a figure that was indescribable and a face that you couldn’t believe. And I said, ‘I love you,’” he said.
Stan then asked Joan to lunch and later got married. “It was a good lunch,” he joked.
“It’s been a heartbreaking couple of days here at Marvel,” Quesada tweeted after news broke of Joan’s death on Thursday. He unloaded further in a letter to Marvel fans posted to the company’s website.
“Like all of you, I’m so incredibly saddened by news of Joan Lee’s passing,” he wrote. “While I never had the opportunity to personally meet Joan, I did speak to Stan on several occasions about her, most recently this past April when I interviewed him at the Paley Center and we discussed not just her obvious importance in his life, but how important she was to all of us here at Marvel.”
The letter chronicles how Joan insisted that her husband, despite his frustrations, stick with the comic book line that would later evolve into Marvel. He followed her advice and planned to “go out with a big bang.” But that big bang turned into The Fantastic Four, and the rest is history.
“Today that Universe has grown a bit dimmer and I hope you will all join me in sending our love, condolences and eternal gratitude to Stan and his daughter, Joan,” Quesada continued. “While most of the world may simply remember Joan as Stan’s beloved wife, for all of us here at Marvel, for every kid who has opened one of our comics, watched our cartoons, TV shows and movies, for those who have fantasized about swinging on a web between the skyscrapers of New York City, or has had their imagination sparked and dreamt of one day writing and drawing stories about the greatest heroes ever created—the truth is that there would be no Marvel Universe without Joan Lee. She was its big bang.”
Watch Marvel’s video salute to Joan Lee above.