#MeToo allegations against 95-year-old Marvel comics legend Stan Lee backfire


Stan Lee PHOTO/Gage Skidmore

Last week, comic book writer and publisher Stan Lee became the latest target of the #MeToo witch-hunt sweeping Hollywood after allegations that he “repeatedly groped” and “harassed” nurses caring for him at his Los Angeles home. Lee is 95 years old.

He is the former head of Marvel comics, where he currently serves as chairman emeritus. He is the co-creator of superheroes the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995, Lee received a National Medal of Arts in 2008.

Born in New York City in 1922, Lee was deeply influenced by his family’s experience during the Great Depression. Parents Celia and Jack Lieber, newly arrived Romanian Jewish immigrants, worked in the garment industry but were thrown out of work when the Depression hit, and life was a constant struggle. These difficulties, and his early voracious reading—Twain, Dickens, Verne, H.G. Wells, Poe and Shakespeare—informed the infectious warmth, inventiveness and sense of community that attracted generations of readers.

Marvel’s comics dealt with bigotry and drug use, the civil rights movement, prisoners’ rights, student protests and the Vietnam War, themes previously regarded as off-limits. Lee believed superheroes should be human, with the same foibles, flaws and problems as regular people. During the early 1970s, he challenged censorship by the United States Comics Code Authority, which was later forced to relax its heavy-handed control.

The accusations against Lee, based on a single anonymous source, were published by Britain’s Daily Mail on January 9. “He is said to have asked for oral sex in the shower, walked around naked and wanted to be ‘pleasured’ in the bedroom,” the Mail reported.

It is not clear that any of these alleged activities are legally actionable. No police complaint has been made and no lawsuit filed, but last year the female owner of the nursing company, who had cared for Lee on occasion, threatened to go public with allegations against the Marvel creator, who is worth an estimated $50 million. Lee’s lawyer Tom Lallas issued a cease-and-desist letter against the woman on December 20, in which he described claims that his client had sexually harassed nurses as “defamatory.”

In a subsequent statement sent to the Daily Mail, Lallas said the woman’s accusations against his client amounted to a crude shakedown operation: “Mr. Lee categorically denies these false and despicable allegations and he fully intends to fight to protect his stellar good name and impeccable character.

“We are not aware of anyone filing a civil action, or reporting these issues to the police, which for any genuine claim would be the more appropriate way for it to be handled. Instead, Mr. Lee has received demands to pay money and threats that if he does not do so, the accuser will go to the media. Mr Lee will not be extorted or blackmailed, and will pay no money to anyone because he has done absolutely nothing wrong.”

On January 11, the Daily Mail followed up with further allegations, this time from a Chicago masseuse who attended his hotel suite last April. She alleges that Lee “groped” her, demanding sex and then masturbating in her presence. Lee’s lawyers hit back, saying their client “categorically denies” the allegations, and pointing to further opportunistic efforts to extort cash.

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