#TheUnknownHustle: Stan Lee

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Stan Lee in his New York office, 1975 / Michael Tighe/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

Stan Lee. You know his characters: Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Black Panther and countless others. Before Lee got into the business of creating superheroes and universes for you to lose yourself in, he was getting coffee as an assistant and serving his country in World War II.

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Lee in Army uniform, 1943 / Stan Lee Papers/American Heritage Center/University of Wyoming

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times in 2009, Lee explained how he first broke into the comics and publishing industry. "In those days [the artists] dipped the pen in ink, [so] I had to make sure the inkwells were filled … I went down and got them their lunch, I did proofreading, I erased the pencils from the finished pages for them." 

By 1942, the United States had entered World War II and Lee, like so many others, enlisted in the Army to serve his country, but not in the way you might expect. Instead of grabbing a rifle to shoot, Lee picked up the pen to write and draw. As one of only nine Army "playwrights," Lee wrote manuals and slogans, produced training films and even drew cartoons. He might not have been Captain America punching Nazis but Lee certainly played a part in helping win the war.

So the next time you think that you rushing around getting someone's lunch is pointless, just remember that legends like Stan the Man were in your shoes once. We'll miss you Stan, Excelsior!

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