Writer-editor Stan Lee (1922– 2018) and artist Jack Kirby made comic book history in 1961 with The Fantastic Four #1. The success of its new style inspired Lee and his many collaborators to develop a number of super heroes, including, with Jack Kirby, the Incredible Hulk and the X‑Men; with Steve Ditko, the Amazing Spider- Man and Doctor Strange; and with Bill Everett, Daredevil. Lee oversaw the adventures of these creations for more than a decade before handing over the editorial reins at Marvel to others and focusing on developing Marvel’s properties in other media. For the remainder of his long life, he continued to serve as a creative figurehead at Marvel and as an ambassador for the comics medium as a whole. In his final years, Lee’s signature cameo appearances in Marvel’s films established him as one of the world’s most famous faces.
Steve Ditko (1927– 2018) began his comics career in the anthologies of the 1950s, where his unique style quickly earned him recognition and respect. He was recruited in 1958 to join Stan Lee’s Atlas Comics, which was later transformed into Marvel, where his talent for expressionistic caricature contrasted well with Jack Kirby’s gift for widescreen- style spectacle. In 1962, in the pages of Amazing Fantasy, Ditko and Lee brought to life Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider- Man, changing the industry forever. During the same period, he also co‑created (with Lee) and plotted the first adventures of Doctor Strange. After leaving Marvel in 1966, Ditko drew the Blue Beetle and Captain Atom for Charlton Comics; the Creeper and Shade the Changing Man for DC Comics; and Mr. A., an independent creation whose black-and-white vision of morality reflected Ditko’s own political philosophy. Ditko returned to Marvel during the late 1970s and remained there for much of the 1980s, co‑creating Speedball, the Masked Marvel, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and other prominent characters.
Jason Reynolds is an award- winning and number one New York Times bestselling author. Reynolds’ many books include Miles Morales: Spider- Man; the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu); Long Way Down, which received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, and a Coretta Scott King Honor; and Look Both Ways, which was a National Book Award Finalist. His latest book, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, is a collaboration with Ibram X. Kendi. Reynolds is the 2020– 2021 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and has appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and CBS This Morning. He is on the faculty of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Lesley University and lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at jasonwritesbooks.com.
Ben Saunders is a professor of English at the University of Oregon. He is the author of Desiring Donne: Poetry, Sexuality, Interpretation and Do the Gods Wear Capes?: Spirituality, Fantasy, and Superheroes, as well as numerous critical essays on subjects ranging from the writings of Shakespeare to the recordings of Little Richard. He has also curated several museum exhibitions of comics art, including the record- breaking, multimedia touring show Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes— a retrospective exploring the artistic and cultural impact of Marvel Comics from 1939 to the present.