As the tributes flood in for the departed Stan Lee, it’s important to remember that while the great man left us a magnificent and inspiring legacy of superheroism, the last year of his life was pockmarked by unnecessary drama and sinister figures. I’ve been writing about Lee’s problems for a while now, and together, they make for a series of increasingly strange and worrying stories that had many concerned for the wellbeing of the comic book legend.
They began last summer when Joan, his wife of seven decades died. Sensing vulnerability, the vultures swooped in and began picking at his fortune and exploiting his fame. There’d been repeated reports of power struggles over who will care for Lee, with those responsible ending up controlling his financial affairs. Into this came florist turned publicist Jerry Olivarez, Lee’s longtime road manager Max Anderson and memorabilia dealer Keya Morgan (many of these people have now been charged with crimes or given restraining orders).
As the trio bickered amongst themselves, disturbing stories began to emerge in the press. The LAPD visited the Lee household amid reports of elder abuse, there was news of him being defrauded of millions of dollars, a bizarre $1 billion lawsuit against a Chinese holding company surfaced, we saw a clearly very tired Stan Lee being press-ganged through convention appearances, accusations of sexual assault by nurses and masseuses came to light and – craziest of all – we heard that someone had been stealing Stan Lee’s blood to sign limited edition comic books with.
Then there was the surreal moment where Lee claimed that people were impersonating him, taking to Twitter to say: “Help! Someone has hijacked my Facebook and Instagram. I want everyone to know whoever is writing them is a fraud and is impersonating me. How do I get them back? Can you guys help?”
Further drama came via Lee’s daughter J.C., with whom he apparently had a fractious relationship. She was described by Lee in a legal declaration (since withdrawn) last February as someone who “typically yells and screams at me and cries hysterically if I do not capitulate,” with suspicion falling on her that she was being manipulated to get at the substantial Lee family fortune. The pair apparently made up before his death, though, with Stan saying: “As far as I’m concerned, we have a wonderful life. I’m pretty damn lucky. I love my daughter, I’m hoping that she loves me.” So, at least theoretically, he died in good spirits.
Sadly, I doubt this drama will subside with the icon’s death. I can guarantee that we’re about to see a lot of people circling the Lee fortune, eager to tear off a chunk for themselves. It’s not going to be pretty, and I’m just glad Stan Lee won’t be around to see it.