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American films

Marvel creator Stan Lee’s five most iconic superheroes – from Spider-Man to Iron Man

  • Lee is almost as famous as the Marvel superheroes he brought to life
  • The X-Men and Avengers co-creator has died aged 95
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2018, 1:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2018, 3:48pm

Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee, who has died at the age of 95, has left behind a universe of superheroes so vast that there is an encyclopaedia of all the characters he created or co-created. Here are some that are not only fan favourites, but are also known to the wider public, thanks to the recent screen adaptations of his comic books.

1. Black Panther

Those who thought this character was created to reflect the rise of the Black Panthers, the revolutionary party founded in 1966, in California, with an aim to protect the African American community from police brutality, are wrong.

This Black Panther was actually “born” a few months earlier – first appearing in the Fantastic Four comic in July 1966 –  and is an example of how in touch Lee was with the social justice mood of the moment.

Black Panther – real name T’Challa – was the protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda and was the first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics.

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The film premiered in January this year and grossed more than US$1.3 billion worldwide, smashing box-office records in its path, including the highest-grossing film by an African American director (Ryan Coogler). No surprises that a sequel is on the cards.

2. The Hulk

This green and bulky humanoid first appeared in the debut issue of The Incredible Hulk (1962). His alter ego is Dr Robert Bruce Banner, a physically weak, socially withdrawn, physicist. Banner and the Hulk were given the full animation and video-game treatment, but the most popular incarnation was the 1970s The Incredible Hulk television series.

In film, the Hulk was first played by Eric Bana, with Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo portraying the character in the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

3. Spider-Man

One of Lee’s most popular superheroes, Spider-Man played a crucial role in Marvel’s explosive growth. He first appeared in comic form in 1962 and has become Marvel’s flagship character and company mascot.

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In film, Spider-Man has been portrayed by actors Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland.

4. Iron Man

Another popular Marvel superhero, the witty Iron Man, made his debut appearance in 1963 as a vehicle to explore Cold War themes including the role of US technology in the fight against communism. In recent times, more modern themes have been explored, such as terrorism.

The 2008 film, starring Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man, was praised for its special effects – rubber and metal versions of Iron Man’s armour were mixed with computer-generated imagery to create the title character. Two sequels have been released.

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5. Wolverine

This mutant who possesses animal-keen senses – and best known for his adamantium claws – first appeared in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, mostly in association with The X-Men.

In 2009, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film based on the Marvel Comics fictional character Wolverine and starring Hugh Jackman was released, while Logan, released in 2017, has been reported to be the last Wolverine film to star the Australian actor.