The wife of Stan Lee, Joan Lee, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 93 years old.
“I can confirm the sad news that Joan Lee passed away this morning quietly and surrounded by her family,” a spokesperson for Lee’s family said in a statement. “The family ask that you please give them time to grieve and respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
“We are so saddened to hear about the loss of Joan Lee. We lost a member of the Marvel family today and our thoughts and prayers go out to Stan and his daughter Joan in this difficult time,” Marvel said in a statement released on Thursday.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Joan suffered a stroke earlier in the week and was hospitalized.
The couple tied the knot on December 5, 1947. They had two children, Joan Celia, who was born in 1950, and Jan, who died three days after her birth in 1953.
The Marvel legend recalled last year how he met his wife in a story for THR to commemorate his 75th anniversary in comics.
“When I was young, there was one girl I drew; one body and face and hair. It was my idea of what a girl should be. The perfect woman. And when I got out of the Army, somebody, a cousin of mine, knew a model, a hat model at a place called Laden Hats. He said, ‘Stan, there’s this really pretty girl named Betty. I think you’d like her. She might like you. Why don’t you go over and ask her to lunch.’ Blah, blah, blah.
“So I went up to this place. Betty didn’t answer the door. But Joan answered, and she was the head model. I took one look at her — and she was the girl I had been drawing all my life. And then I heard the English accent. And I’m a nut for English accents! She said, ‘May I help you?’ And I took a look at her, and I think I said something crazy like, ‘I love you.’ I don’t remember exactly. But anyway, I took her to lunch. I never met Betty, the other girl. I think I proposed to [Joan] at lunch.”
Joan Clayton was previously married to an American soldier during World War II but she was unhappy. At the time, the easiest way to get divorced was to move to Nevada and stay there for six weeks to establish residency. A judge granted Joan her divorce and about an hour later, he married her and Lee in a room next door.
The couple returned to New York, where Lee worked at Timely/Atlas Comics, a job he initially got because his cousin Martin Goodman owned the company. When Lee and Jack Kirby co-created The Fantastic Four in 1961, followed by other characters such as the Hulk, Avengers, Iron Man, X-Men, and many more, they turned the company, renamed Marvel Comics, into a pop culture powerhouse.
Lee credits Joan for inspiring much of his success. She was with her husband throughout every era of Marvel Comics.
“Before you quit, why don’t you write one comic you are proud of?” Stan remembered his wife’s words, recalling a time when he thought about leaving the business. After that motivation, he said, Fantastic Four was created.
Marvel expanded into film and television. Joan did voiced several characters in ’90s animated Marvel shows Fantastic Four, as Miss Forbes, and Madame Web in Spider-Man. She also made a cameo appearance in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
Joan was also an author, she wrote a 1987 novel, The Pleasure Palace. Her daughter said that she had three more finished novels at home but were unpublished.