For Lee, he always had the support of his wife alongside him throughout all the ups and downs of the life they shared together including losing a child. Lee and his wife, Joan, married on December 15, 1947 after having lived in Manhattan’s East 90s from 1945 to 1947. On July 6, their partnership on this earth came to an end in this reality.
“I can confirm the sad news that Joan Lee passed away this morning quietly and surrounded by her family,” a spokesman for Lee and his family told The Hollywood Reporter. “The family ask that you please give them time to grieve and respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
Earlier during the week, Joan Lee had a stroke and was hospitalized shortly thereafter. Joan Lee was British and a former hat model in New York City. During World War II, she married an American serviceman, moving to New York only to realize how unhappy she was there. Lee’s cousin wanted to set him up with a hat model. So, Lee recalled how it began with a simple drawing.
“When I was young, there was one girl I drew; one body and face and hair,” Lee said. “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, then Stan said he made his way over there. “Betty didn’t answer the door,” Lee said. “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.”
Knowing Stan Lee, this story is probably true. And he continued on about their trip to Nevada. It began with receiving a letter for him addressed to “Jack” once Joan moved to Reno, where it took only six weeks to establish your residence there and quickly get divorced.
“Now I’m not the smartest guy in the world,” Lee stated. “I know my name isn’t ‘Jack.’ And so why did she write ‘Dear Jack?’ Maybe I better get 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 plane fresh from New York with my little pork pie 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.”
An hour later, Joan Lee was divorced from the American soldier, and she and Stan married in the room nearby. They eventually moved to New York and Lee began the work at Marvel, previously Timely/Atlas Comics, that would redefine the comics industry for years to come. At one point, the comics titan thought of quitting the industry because he wanted to become a novelist. It was his wife that kept him going despite his depression.
“Before you quit,” she said to him, “why don’t you write one comic you are proud of?” What came from that was the birth of The Fantastic Four. Joan eventually wrote her own novel, The Pleasure Palace, focused on a man seeking to create the best luxurious ocean liner as he courted multiple women at the same time. Her daughter said she had three finished but published novels at her home.
While her death has left an impact on the world, it has impacted the very comics company her husband was heavily involved with: Marvel. They stated their grief over her death in a statement.
“We are so saddened to hear about the loss of Joan Lee,” Marvel stated. “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.”
Joan Lee is survived by her husband, Stan, who continues to live in California, and their daughter, Joan Celia “J.C.” The Lees lost their other daughter, Jan Lee, three days after she was delivered in 1953.