Marvel fans the world over are mourning the loss of Joan Lee. She passed away this week at the age of 93, peacefully and surrounded by family.
Joan was Stan Lee’s wife, and that’s how the news coverage frames it. However, reading some of the in-depth obituaries makes it clear that she made her own impact on our geeky pursuits.
Stan and Joan’s story couldn’t be more of a meet-cute. Stan was headed for a blind date at a hat modeling agency (yes, Joan modeled hats). His date didn’t show, but Joan did.
She was literally his dream girl, as he tells it. Stan had been drawing pictures of his “ideal woman” for years. He would doodle a woman’s face on scratch paper, the sort of thing that artists do to pass the time.
And when he saw Joan, it was her. The girl from his drawings. She was his muse.
She really was his muse, it seems. When Stan was ready to give up comics in the 50s, she pushed him to just draw one more comic to see if it took off.
That comic was Fantastic Four, and the rest was history.
Joan made her own direct mark on the Marvel universe over the years. She dipped her toe in voice acting in the 90s, and brought an obscure but important character to life.
It started in 1994 when she had a bit part as the computer in an Iron Man cartoon.
From there, she appeared in several episodes of Fantastic Four as Miss Forbes.
A couple of years later, she finally decided to take a major role in an animated series when she voiced Madame Web in the Spider-Man cartoon.
Madame Web is likely unknown to people who haven’t read many Spider-Man comics. She’s a mutant with her own set of spider-powers, and she acts as an advisor and information broker to Peter. Sort of the Oracle to Peter Parker’s Batman.
So, without Joan Lee, we likely wouldn’t have had the Marvel universe as we know it. And we wouldn’t have had a particularly interesting Spider-Man character on screen.
I didn’t know Joan Lee. I certainly wouldn’t be able to write any kind of real testament to her. But I’m grateful that she led the life she did, and I hope that she’s remembered for herself, and not just as “that famous guy’s wife”.