“The real heroes in the world are the men in service and they don’t get enough recognition,” says Stan Lee, the brilliant creative force behind the great Marvel Comics superheroes who have made their way from the printed page to the silver screen and into the collective consciousness of countless millions forever. These characters go by the names of Spider-Man and Iron Man, the Avengers and the X-Men, Captain America and the Fantastic Four.

Lee, known for his large tinted glasses, thin mustache and shit-eating grin, still has his sense of humor and his sense of proportion, even at 90. He recently made an appearance in June at the Vandenberg Air Force base in California, where he was on hand for a Daughtry concert in Santa Maria. It’s all part of his new undertaking, dubbed Stan Lee’s POW!er concerts for men and women in uniform. And he recently helped crank out a new superhero, The Annihilator, for a Chinese audience.

Born Stanley Martin Lieber in Manhattan, he signed his comic book work “Stan Lee” because he wanted to save his real name for the great novel he hoped to write but never did. Like so many kids from the five boroughs, when he was grown up and had made some money, he moved out to Long Island with his wife Joan after the war and bought a two-story home in Woodmere. Then in 1952 they moved to Hewlett Harbor, where he and his family lived until 1980. Lee’s Long Island years were very prolific, and dare we say it, his quirky characters, given their bickering, their insecurities and their bravado, sound an awful lot like Long Islanders we know and love.

So what’s next for a man who’s made a name for himself as a comic book creator, master storyteller, larger than life showman, chutzpah promoter and even celebrated cameo actor? How about “Stan Lee’s Signature Cologne,” which he says lets its users smell like superheroes with a dash of villainy?

As Lee explained, “I felt a touch of villainy added to the scent would make it more interesting and be of greater appeal to females who always find a villain interesting if he’s rich and handsome—and smells good.” Perhaps the scent of Doctor Doom will get the hearts of geeky guys’ girlfriends racing everywhere.

Whatever Lee himself smells like in his Beverly Hills’ office of POW! Entertainment, his legions of fans can’t get enough of him, still lining up by the hundreds to get his autograph whenever he shows up at those comic-cons. “In a perfect world,” Lee added, with a touch of nostalgia, “I’d also want to add a whiff of comic book store aroma—the smell of newsprint and colored ink, the rush of enthusiasm and the thrill of discovery.”

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That’s how the Baby Boom generation will remember him best.


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Spencer Rumsey, the Long Island Press’ senior editor, has worked on dailies, weeklies and monthlies, including New York Newsday and the New York Post, the East Village Eye and the supermarket tabloid Star Magazine. Starting at the Press in 2010, he’s written award-winning stories on planning, politics and policy, to name a few topics, and he’s taken on a wide range of targets in his Press blog, Rumsey Punch.