Born Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922 in Manhattan, he was the son of a Romanian Jewish immigrant father. He was raised in Washington Heights and was an early graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx.
At 19 he launched his career, and today is remembered as the creative force behind Marvel Comics’ Silver Age as the co-creator of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, X-Men, Thor, and Daredevil, which continue to influence generations of new fans.
The humble photojournalist Peter Parker is the alter ego of Spider-Man, who was raised at 20 Ingram Street in Forest Hills Gardens and attended Forest Hills High School from 1962 to 1965.
Coincidentally, the home’s real-life residents were named Andrew and Suzanne Parker and their two daughters. In 1989, the family started receiving fan mail addressed to “Peter Parker.”
“Spider-Man is the most human superhero ever created,” said Kew Gardens Hills resident Phil Landsberg. “He was just a kid with kid problems, and as an adult they're just adult-sized. Even his relationships don't go perfect.”
The motion pictures “Spider-Man” (2002) and “Spider-Man 2” (2004) starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were filmed at Camille Iorio Finamore’s childhood home on 69th Road between Metropolitan Avenue and Sybilla Street.
“It was filmed outside of the house and in the yard,” she said. “It was very exciting and is still a great conversation starter.”
Locally, much dialogue is underway by residents who are deciding on how to commemorate Stan Lee and particularly Spider-Man which has led to discussions locally about how best to commemorate Stan Lee and, particularly, Spider-Man. Forest Hills resident Jonathan Vick has already reached out to Marvel’s public relations agency about a possible mural or even a street renaming.
“I poked them to show some interest in honoring Stan Lee in Forest Hills,” he said. “He was a great storyteller, and I worry about how many are left in a world of soundbites and tweets. He clearly had fun at what he did.”
Coming from Queens, Vick identified with Peter Parker.
“It may have influenced my studying journalism, and to this day I can't help but think I am walking among superheroes somehow,” he said. “Their superpower is putting up with the subway every day and not snapping.
“Because of Stan Lee, Spider-Man and Forest Hills will always be connected, and that is gift beyond measure,” Vick added. “Maybe Forest Hills will have a ‘Spider-Man Day,’ which would be a hoot.”
Rego Park Kevin Manheim said he likes the ring of “Peter Parker Place.”
“Stan Lee showed the world that comics could make a difference, and he created a universe filled with superheroes, super villains and countless wonders,” he said. “Our heroes had the same problems as us regular people, such as falling in love, illness, and homework. Our heroes were vulnerable yet they saved the universe time and again.”
Jackeline Canedo of Kew Gardens would like to see a statue of Stan Lee somewhere in the neighborhood, noting that he was as influential as Dr. Seuss or Charles Schulz.
“When I came to the U.S. in 1971 at age six, I knew very little English and learned by watching not only Sesame Street, but the Spider-Man cartoons,” she said. “I loved Spider-Man and imagined being in the adventures with him.”
In fact, Forest Hills resident and founder of The Compost Collective, Carlos Pesantes, is already working on a Spider-Man mural he hopes will be a presence in the neighborhood soon.
“His messages were that even if you were considered funny, odd, or a nerd, you too mattered, and maybe even more so than the rest because there is beauty and strength in that difference,” Pesantes said. “That belief that we all contribute is the glue that binds us together, even through dark times of anti-Semitic and xenophobic sentiment. Good ol’ Stan was all for punching Nazis.”
Pesantes often reflects upon the classic Spider-Man phrase “with great power comes great responsibility.”
“It has always reminded me to stay humble and serve others,” he said. “Spider-Man is a Queens kid who is far from perfect, but who loves his family, his neighborhood, his country and is all about inclusiveness.”