Joan Lee, the wife of comics icon Stan Lee and said to be the person who inspired him to create the Fantastic Four, died Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 93.
A spokesman for Stan Lee said she died surrounded by her family; she reportedly suffered a stroke earlier this week and had been hospitalized. The Lees were married on Dec. 5, 1947, and had two children, Joan Celia (J.C.) and Jan, who died in 1953, three days after she was born. Joan Lee was a hat model, and she met Stan Lee when he was looking for a different model that his cousin had told him to go on a date with. Stan Lee told The Hollywood Reporter last year that when he first saw Joan, "she was the girl I had been drawing all my life," and he was so smitten "I think I proposed at lunch."
Stan Lee got his big break in comics in 1961, when he co-created The Fantastic Four with Jack Kirby. He has said that he was depressed over the state of the industry, but before quitting, his wife told him, "Why don't you write one comic you are proud of?" That's what launched the Fantastic Four, and from there the Hulk, Avengers, Iron Man, and other members of the Marvel universe. In 1987, Joan Lee wrote a book, The Pleasure Palace, and her daughter said she had three additional completed but unpublished novels at home.