Marvel comic powerhouse, Stan Lee’s wife, Joan Lee, of 69 years, passed away on Thursday, July 6. Joan was 93. A spokesperson for the family said, “I can confirm the sad news that Joan Lee passed away this morning quietly and surrounded by family. The family ask that you please give them time to grieve and respect their privacy during this difficult time”. Sadly, Joan suffered a stroke earlier this week and had been hospitalized.
Joan Lee was a former British hat model. Joan and Lee married on December 5, 1947, after dating for 6 weeks. The couple had 2 children—Joan Celia (J.C.) born in 1950 and Jan, who passed away 3 days after her birth in 1953. When the couple met, Stan was a struggling writer and Joan had impulsively married an American soldier during WWII and moved to New York where she was incredibly unhappy. Stan shared how he met his wife after his cousin wanted to set him up with a hat model, “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 was still married to her American soldier. During this time, the easiest and fastest way to get a divorce was by moving to Nevada and stay for 6 weeks. By doing so, a person would establish residency. While Joan was in Reno, a letter addressed to “Jack” came to Stan in the mail. When talking about the letter, Stan said, “Now I’m not the smartest guy in the world, I know my name isn’t ‘Jack’. And so why did she write ‘Dear Jack?’ Maybe I better go to Reno and see what’s going on. I got there and she was waiting for me. And there’s three guys with her. They all look like John Wayne. Big Western guys! Rugged! And I get off the phone fresh from New York with my little pork pie hat and a little scarf and my gloves. And she’s with me. I thought, ‘I don’t have a chance.’ Luckily, I had a chance”. Joan and Stan married an hour later the judge granted Joan her divorce. Stan and Joan lived in New York where Stan worked for Timely/Atlas comics.
Stan recalled this story when he celebrated his 75th anniversary with Marvel comics. You see—Joan encouraged him to stick with comics when he thought of leaving the comic industry because he truly wanted to be a novelist. Joan pushed Stan by saying, “Before you quit why don’t you write one comic you are proud of?” The outcome of this nudge leads Stan and co-creator, Jack Kirby, to create the “Fantastic Four” in 1961.
The couple moved from New York to California in 1981. Stan wanted to develop Marvel TV and films. Stan felt the move would help catapult his new venture. Meanwhile, Joan did voice work on 2 animated Marvel shows in the 1990’s. Joan was the voice of Miss Forbes in “Fantastic Four” and Madame Webb in “Spider-Man”. Joan also had a cameo in “X-Men: Apocalypse” in 2016. Upon hearing of Joan’s passing, Marvel extended their condolences, “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”.
Stan was not the only writer in the family, as Joan penned her own romance novel, “The Pleasure Palace”, in 1987. Joan’s daughter, J.C., said her mother had 3 other novels at home that were finished but never published.
Joan is survived by her husband, Stan, and daughter, J.C. Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time.
Written by Tilly Tinson
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