Stan Lee, the co-creator of powerhouse Marvel Comics, died in Los Angeles Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was 95. Lee is survived by his daughter, J.C. His wife of 69 years, Joan Lee passed away in 2017.
Lee, a perennial LGBT fan favorite, often made cameo appearances in films based on his work and creations. During an interview in 2015 with the BBC’s Sarah Montague, Lee—who co-created Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men—was asked what he thought about the decision of the current Marvel writers to make the X-Men character Iceman gay.
“Wow, I never knew that,” he said. “I don’t care what happens as long as they tell good stories, and they do.”
There seemingly was a major exception to that sentiment—Lee’s arguably most famous creation, Spiderman. As addressed in a 2016 Salon piece, Marvel, which had been criticized for its lack of LGBT protagonists, was under pressure to finally allow one of its onscreen heroes to be queer.
In 2013, actor Andrew Garfield first sparked the pansexual superhero talk when he asked why Spider-Man’s love interest, MJ, couldn’t be male. “Why can’t we discover that Peter is exploring his sexuality? It’s hardly even groundbreaking!” he said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2013.
“Why can’t he be gay? Why can’t he be into boys?”
“The beauty about Spider-Man, for me, is that he’s covered head to toe,” Garfield told Mic. “That’s why everyone thinks it could be them in that suit. You don’t see skin color. You don’t see sexual orientation.”
Lee, however, didn’t share Garfield’s sentiment. In the 2015’s leak of Sony e-mails, and it was revealed that there is a contractual obligation that Spider-Man be white and heterosexual.
In that private mandate directly from Lee himself, he dictated that Peter Parker must always be straight and white.
However, in more recent years, Lee seemed to be flexible about his other creations and the direction those characters were taking in terms of sexual orientation at the hands of the film division of Marvel. Most notably with the character of Deadpool, as portrayed on the big screen by Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds.
During a panel discussion at San Diego Comic-Con this past summer, Ryan said he hopes to explore Deadpool‘s sexuality further, adding that he wants to see more ‘gay’ Deadpool in future sequels starring the gun-toting anti-hero.
Reporting by The BBC, Salon Magazine, USA Today, Variety, The Washington Post, Hornet News, and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade.