A brief history of Stan Lee on TV | Virgin Media
A brief history of Stan Lee on TV

A brief history of Stan Lee on TV

29/01/2016TV

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He may have entered the comic book industry way back in the 1930s, but Stan Lee’s influence on popular culture is as keenly felt today as it has ever been. As the creator of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, the Avengers, the X-Men and many more, his characters are rarely off our cinema screens. 

But with Lucky Man (airing on Fridays at 9pm on Sky 1 and available now on Catch Up), Stan Lee’s bringing a different kind of superhero to television, so it seems like the perfect time to take a look at Stan Lee’s history on the small screen.

Spider-Man Cartoons

Does whatever a spider can and more.

Does whatever a spider can and more.

There are countless animated shows based on Lee’s creations, but Spider-Man has been undeniably the most popular character for kids since the first cartoon aired in 1967 (you might remember the theme tune, to the present day and Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man.

The Marvel Super Heroes

Avengers – and others – assemble.

Avengers – and others – assemble.

Despite the enduring popularity of Spidey, honours were in fact shared between Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Namor The Sub-Mariner as the first of Lee’s characters to receive the animation treatment as part of 1966’s The Marvel Super Heroes.

The Narrator

‘Nuff said.

‘Nuff said.

It was in 1982 that “The Man” himself, and not just his characters, made it onto television. Lee narrated the animated The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, famously always signing on and off with, “This is Stan Lee saying, Excelsior!”

Live-action TV

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Lee’s first character to get a live-action TV show was Spider-Man, with American and Japanese series airing in the late 1970s. But it was The Incredible Hulk that launched soon after and proved the most popular, with arguably nothing matching it since. (*cue Sad Hulk Walking Away music*)

The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk

The first cameo from the marvelous man himself

The first cameo from the marvelous man himself

Nowadays we’re used to seeing a Stan Lee cameo in almost every Marvel movie that makes it into cinemas, but that wasn’t always the case. His first cameo came uncredited in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk TV movie as the Jury Foreman.

Non-Marvel cameos

The restraining order says “no-no”, but his eyes say “yes-yes”.

The restraining order says “no-no”, but his eyes say “yes-yes”.

Arguably, Stan Lee’s as well known on television for his appearances in non-Marvel properties as anything else. He’s popped up playing himself on everything from Entourage and The Big Bang Theory, to the likes of Muppet Babies and two episodes of The Simpsons.

Stripperella

Soon to be recruited by Nick Fury.

Soon to be recruited by Nick Fury.

Lucky Man isn’t Stan Lee’s first original TV creation away from Marvel. Back in 2003 he created the adult animated series Stripperella. Voiced by Pamela Anderson, Erotica Jones was, “a stripper by night and a superhero by late night.” Unbelievably, the show was cancelled after its 13th episode, The Curse Of The Werebeaver. 

Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

There is a winner here. Somewhere.

There is a winner here. Somewhere.

Reality television reached its zenith in 2006 with Who Wants To Be A Superhero? Yes, there really was a show in which contestants created superheroes to be judged by Stan Lee. The first two seasons were won by Feedback and The Defuser, before kids were invited to take part in a spinoff for CBBC.

Stan Lee’s Superhumans

Stan Lee meets Contortio-Man!

Stan Lee meets Contortio-Man!

As if he was actively searching for a part of the market he hadn’t cornered, Stan Lee turned to the documentary format in 2010 with Stan Lee’s Superhumans. Lee hosts the show in which a contortionist travels the world to meet real people with extraordinary abilities.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

That tie must have special powers. Look at it.

That tie must have special powers. Look at it.

Stan Lee isn’t responsible for all of the characters who populate the Marvel Cinematic Universe - he can’t take credit for Jessica Jones or Agent Coulson, for instance - but he did create Daredevil and Agent Carter. He’s cameoed on those shows as a cop and “Man On Bench”, while he appeared in Agents of SHIELD as, rather appropriately, “Debonair Gentleman”.

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man airs every Friday at 9pm on Sky 1. 

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