Stan Lee leaves behind a legacy of legendary Marvel superheroes in the wake of his death at 95. What he isn’t leaving behind? A Marvel-sized fortune.
Before his passing was announced on Monday, the comic book creator was estimated to be worth between $50 million and $70 million, according to a feature by The Hollywood Reporter published in April. In contrast, Star Wars creator George Lucas is valued at over $5 billion.
In 2005, Lee received a one-time payment of $10 million from Marvel as a settlement to a provision in his contract that stated he was entitled to 10 percent of profits from TV and film adaptations of his comic book superheroes, according to The New York Times.
Just four years later, Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion, the newspaper reported. As a chairman emeritus of Marvel, Lee was allegedly receiving a salary of $1 million a year.
In May 2012, Lee spoke to CNN about his wealth after the release of The Avengers. Lee said people shouldn’t assume he was a billionaire since he didn’t share in any of the profits from the Marvel films that have generated over $12 billion as of 2017, according to Forbes.
“I hate to admit this, but I do not share in the movie’s profits,” Lee said at the time. “I just share in the interviews, in the glamour, in the people saying, ‘Wow, I love that movie, Stan’ — but I’m not a participant in the profits.”
Lee said his title of executive producer was just “an honorary title” and that it “would be nice” if he could have shared in the movie franchise’s earnings.
“But I’m used to the way the situation is,” he explained. “I don’t go around thinking about it. I am really very pleased that people enjoy the movie, that it’s doing well, and even though I didn’t film the movie myself, I seem to be getting a lot of credit for it!”
In March 2014, Lee told Playboy he thought claims of his wealth were “ridiculous.”
“My daughter was looking at the internet the other day and read that Stan Lee has an estimated $250 million,” he said. “I mean, that’s ridiculous! I don’t have 200 million. I don’t have $150 million. I don’t have $100 million or anywhere near that.”
When compared to George Lucas and the Star Wars‘ creator’s wealth after selling LucasFilm to Disney, Lee said, “Yeah, but George Lucas did it all by himself.”
“He came up with the ideas. He produced the movies. He wrote and directed them and held the rights to the merchandising,” Lee explained. “It was all his. In my case, I worked for a publisher.”
He continued, “If the books didn’t sell, the publisher went broke — and a lot of publishers did go broke. Marvel took a gamble doing what it did. The artist and writer took a gamble hitching up with the publisher by hoping the books would sell.”
Lee added he never cared much for money, sharing tidbits of his childhood.
“You have to understand that growing up during the Depression, I saw my parents struggling to pay rent,” he said. “My father was always unemployed, and when he did have a joy, he was a dress cutter. Not very much money there. I was happy enough to get a nice paycheck and be treated well.”
“I always got the highest rate, whatever Martin paid another writer, I got at least that much,” he added. “It was a very good job. I was able to buy a house on Long Island. I never dreamed I should have $100 million or $250 million or whatever that crazy number is.”
“All I know is that I created a lot of characters and enjoyed the work I did.”