Saturday, December 3, 2011

Almost a Hoosier

Stan Lee

Half the world was at war in 1941 when nineteen-year-old Stan Lee assumed the position of editor at Timely Comics. Within a few months, the United States was involved as well, and Stan had enlisted in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. His basic training came at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. In short order he was transferred to the Signal Corps' Training Film Division in Astoria, Queens, and found out that he had been classified as a playwright. "I also learned that there were only eight other men in the U.S. Army with that particular military occupational specialty (MOS) classification besides me," Stan writes in his autobiography. They included moviemaker Frank Capra, author William Saroyan, and cartoonist Charles Addams. During his tour of duty, Stan wrote scripts for army training films. He also continued penning stories for Timely Comics.

After being transferred to Duke University, Stan Lee was transferred once again to Fort Benjamin Harrison, located northeast of Indianapolis. He would serve out the rest of his tour in the Hoosier State, advancing to the rank of sergeant, writing training materials, and even authoring the lyrics to a marching song for the Army Finance Department, sung to the music of "The Air Force Song." Fiscal Freddy, a cartoon character used to train fiscal officers, was one of Lee's creations. So was the poster design and slogan for a prophylaxis campaign, "VD? Not Me!"

"I was mustered out of the army in Indianapolis," Stan remembers. "Five minutes after receiving my discharge papers, I was in my convertible heading for New York." Thus ended his career as an army sergeant and a Hoosier. He married in 1947, wrote romance, western, horror, and other stories during the 1950s, and finally--with comic book artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others--revolutionized comics during the 1960s. Stan Lee is still going strong today.

Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee by Stan Lee and George Mair (2002), in which Stan remembers his time served in Indiana with the U.S. Army. The cover art is by John Romita, the mainstay on The Amazing Spider-Man after the departure of Steve Ditko.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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