Joan Lee, former model and wife of Marvel’s Stan Lee, died on Thursday in Los Angeles surrounded by family. Joan had reportedly been hospitalized after suffering a stroke earlier in the week. She was 93, according to the Associated Press.
The news was confirmed by representatives for Stan Lee and his family.
Marvel mourned the loss in a statement: “We are so saddened to hear about the loss of Joan Lee. We lost a member of the Marvel family today and our thoughts and prayers go out to Stan and his daughter Joan in this difficult time.”
Of all the stories Stan Lee created for the comics company, it’s hard to top the real-life one of how he and Joan met.
In a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lee recalled that, as a young man, he used to draw one particular woman character ― his dream girl:
There was one girl I drew: one body and face and hair. It was my idea of what a girl should be. The perfect woman.
Lee said he would later meet this dream girl for real, and it happened when his cousin told him to go to a place called Laden Hats to ask out a model named Betty.
As Lee explained to THR:
So I went up to this place. Betty didn’t answer the door. But Joan answered, and she was the head model. I took one look at her — and she was the girl I had been drawing all my life. And then I heard the English accent. And I’m a nut for English accents! She said, “May I help you?” And I took a look at her, and I think I said something crazy like, “I love you.” I don’t remember exactly. But anyway, I took her to lunch. I never met Betty, the other girl. I think I proposed to [Joan] at lunch.
Joan was actually married to another man at the time but, according to Stan Lee, she didn’t really love him and soon got a divorce. The pair married on Dec. 5, 1947. The Lees have one surviving daughter, J.C. (Joan Celia), while another, Jan, died shortly after birth.
Among Joan’s various accomplishments is a page in comic book history: Stan Lee previously explained how his wife helped inspire the creation of one of the most famous groups of comic book characters. At a time when Lee was thinking about stepping away from comics, she told him to first write one that made him proud. From that advice came “The Fantastic Four.”
Joan also wrote a novel, The Pleasure Palace, and had other unpublished books, according to the couple’s daughter J.C.
“Three unpublished books, finished. My mother is so out-of-the-box and talented ― I know she doesn’t like when I continue about her, but I have two incredibly talented parents,” J.C. said.
Joan and Stan Lee were married for 69 years. Their 70th wedding anniversary would have been in December.