Hollywood Legends: Stan Lee

58 FEA Michael Chiklis, Stan Lee, Chris Hemsworth
Dan Monick

Michael Chiklis, Stan Lee and Chris Hemsworth | Photographed by Dan Monick on Dec. 10 at the Viceroy in Santa Monica

Like most superheroes, Stan Lee comes from humble beginnings. Growing up in the Bronx, he began creating characters that would help define comic books and later redefine the Hollywood blockbuster. Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk — Lee’s creations have generated more than $6.1 billion at the box office since 1999. “He’s the reason why a lot of us are here,” says Chris Hemsworth, 27, who plays Thor in Marvel Studios’ upcoming Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012). With the mainstream evolution of geek culture and visual effects, Hollywood has spent billions giving screen life to Lee’s characters. “That they would one day be the subject of big-budget movies never occurred to me,” he says. “We just hoped that the books would sell and we’d be able to pay the rent.” Michael Chiklis, 47, who tackled Lee’s co-creation the Thing in Fox’s Fantastic Four movies, was inspired enough by the 87-year-old to dream up his own comic, which he gave to Lee with the inscription, “To the one who started it all.”