Joan Lee, Wife of Stan Lee, Has Passed Away

Stan Lee’s wife, Joan Boocock Lee passed away at the age of 95 on July 6th, 2017. She died of complications from a stroke suffered on July 3rd, 2017.

Joan and Stan Lee’s Legendary Romance

Comic books tell larger than life tales of extraordinary humans (and superhumans). But the secret origin of Marvel comics reads like the most compelling comic book stories. It all starts during WWII. Joan Clayton was unhappy about the dissolution of her relationship with her childhood sweetheart. She impulsively married an American soldier and moved to New York. Her marriage was unhappy and she worked as a hat model at Laden Hats.

During this time, a newly discharged Army man named Stan Lee was trying to make it as a comic book writer. His cousin wanted to set him up with a woman named Betty, who was also a model at Laden Hats. So, Stan chose to shoot his shot. He went down to Laden hats and was greeted by Joan. I’ll let Stan tell the rest:

“When I was young, there was one girl I drew; one body and face and hair. . . . 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.”

And thus began a relationship for the ages. The two married in Nevada immediately after Joan finalized her divorce. They had two children, J.C. in 1950, and Jan, in 1953. Unfortunately, Jan passed away three days after her birth. Through all the ups and downs of their marriage, they remained relentlessly in love until Joan’s passing.

The Woman Who Saved Marvel

Of course, outside of her husband, Joan was her own person. In 1987 she published a novel titled The Pleasure Palace the story revolves around “a man trying to build the most luxurious ocean liner ever while romancing three women at once.” According to her daughter, she passed away with three unpublished works as well. But her biggest contribution to American culture certainly stems from encouraging her husband to pursue his dream.

Comic books were not a popular industry in the 1950s. As a matter of fact, they were looked down upon as a last resort career for failed writers and burnouts. Stan Lee was toiling away at the Timely/Atlas Comics company because his cousin owned the company. However, he suffered depression about his comics industry work. He had aspirations of being a serious novelist. On the verge of giving up on comics altogether, Joan encouraged her partner to “write a comic you are proud of.” Lee listened to his wife’s words and co-created the Fantastic Four with Jack Kirby. The rest, as they say, is history. 

After the couple moved to California in 1981 to pursue Marvel television and film deals, Joan provided voice work for a handful of series. Most notably, she voiced Miss Forbes on the Fantastic Four animated series. And, in 2016, she made her Marvel movie debut in X-Men Apocalypse.

Stan and Joan Lee cameo in X-Men Apocalypse
Stan and Joan Lee cameo in X-Men Apocalypse

Joan Lee’s Death

On July 3rd, 2017, Joan Lee suffered a stroke and rushed to the hospital. On July 6th, 2017 she passed away due to complications from the stroke. Representatives for the Lee family confirmed her death in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. Fans and colleagues the world over poured out their hearts in support of the family. Stan Lee’s official Twitter tweeted the following image showing the couple happily swinging on a web with heart behind them.


Joan Lee led an incredible life. She was a novelist, actress, model, mother, and wife. Also, she significantly altered the course of American pop culture by encouraging her husband to give comics one last try. Joan Lee is as responsible for our current pop culture climate as Stan Lee, and she will be missed.

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About the author

MJ Smith

MJ Smith makes his home in California, and when not listening to Hamilton, podcasts and writes about pop culture on the internet. He loves board games, Swamp Thing, and The Wachowski's SPEED RACER.