When it came to Judaism, Stan Lee used super-heroes as torch-bearers

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When it came to Judaism, Stan Lee used super-heroes as torch-bearers

Following the legendary writer's passing last month, we look at the subtle ways in which he brought his faith into his work

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Stan Lee
Stan Lee

Captain America Foils The Traitor’s Revenge’ was Stanley Leiber’s comic book debut in 1941.

He was 18 at the time and chose the pseudonym Stan Lee because comics had a low cultural status and he wanted to keep his own name for the great American novel he planned to write one day. 

It was as “Stan Lee”, however, that the creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk and other Marvel heroes acquired superhero status himself, as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

When he died on November 12, aged 95, fans surrounded that star with flowers, candles and speech bubble tributes, while younger comic book artists drew their own fond farewells.

Stan Lee would have appreciated this as he loved the attention, particularly from his many cameos in the Marvel movies, the last of which is in the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War, due to be  released next spring.

The son of Romanian-born Jewish parents, Stan also liked having his say through his soap boxes at the back of Marvel comics and frequently decried racism and intolerance of any kind.

When it came to his Judaism, Stan used his super-heroes as torch- bearers, the most celebrated being Benjamin Jacob “Ben” Grimm, otherwise known as The Thing.

The tributes on Hollywood’s walk of fame

It took 40 years for The Thing to come out as Jewish in the Fantastic Four’s Remembrance of Things Past, but then Stan decided The Thing should teach the The Fantastic Four and all the readers about Chanukah in the story Rock of Ages.

The story appeared in the digital Marvel Holiday Special #1,  with The Thing being escorted to his synagogue by his mates Mister Fantastic, Invisible Girl and Human Torch.

After dropping him there, the remaining three spot some kids spraying the shul with graffiti and decide to sort them out.

Of course, they all wind up celebrating Chanukah together because Stan liked a happy ending, but he shed a little miracle light on the unacceptable. Not a bad way to be remembered.


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