Remembering Stan Lee

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Stan Lee talked about creating Spider-Man — and why the superhero almost never came to be

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Before the millions brought in from movie ticket sales, before the expensive Broadway show, the video games, the television series, there was a simple pencil drawing, a cartoon figure that changed comic books forever. 

Spider-Man was not a hero from another planet. Instead, he was an earthly human being with both super powers and flaws — just the way his creator, Stan Lee, wanted it.

In a 2002 interview with 60 Minutes, Lee spoke with correspondent Bob Simon about creating Spider-Man.

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"I was just trying to make up some new characters so that I would keep my job, keep eating and paying the rent," Lee said. "And I hoped the books would sell. We didn't think we were doing anything revolutionary."

But it was revolutionary. Here was Spider-Man, an action hero with psychological problems. He was stronger than the average person, but also deeply anxious. He was also a teenager, an age group usually relegated to playing a sidekick.

At first, Lee's publisher wanted to pass on the neurotic arachnoid.

"As a matter of fact, my publisher hated it and didn't want me to publish it when I told him about it," Lee told Simon. "He didn't like the idea of it being called Spider-Man. He said, 'Stan, people hate spiders. You can't give a book that name.'"

But Lee persisted, becoming something of a superhero himself in the comic book industry. During his time at Marvel, Lee created or co-created Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, X-Men, the Hulk and other comic book heroes that have had enduring commercial success.

Lee died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 95.