What Stan Lee Loved About 'Star Trek' and Gene Roddenberry

Today, the world lost Stan Lee, the legendary co-creator of the Marvel Universe and many of its most famous characters. Though he never worked on Star Trek directly, Lee was a great admirer of what Gene Roddenberry created.

By the time Star Trek debuted in 1966, the great experiment that was the Marvel Universe was already five-years-old, but Lee saw the sci-fi series and was quite impressed by it. In the 2013 documentary Trek Nation, Lee shared his thoughts with Gene Roddenberry’s son, Rod Roddenberry.

“Every time I saw one, I thought to myself ‘Damn, this is good!’” Lee said. “Countless people have written about spaceships and other planets and battles in the cosmos, but your father did it from the point of view of the characters’ perspective. First, you had to know the characters. You had to care about the characters. You had to be involved in the characters and understand the characters and worry about the characters. Then, you came up with a story for them and I would say your father was a master at that.”

What Lee saw in Roddenberry is also what many fans and readers saw in Lee’s own work. Rather than focus on the plot or weird science at hand, Roddenberry and Lee both put the characters first and foremost in their stories, whether it was Kirk, Spock, and Bones for Roddenberry or Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, and Tony Stark for Lee. Through their separate works, both of the late creators helped shape an entire generation of fans.

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Back when Marvel Comics had the rights to publish Star Trek comic books, they often opened with the words “Stan Lee Presents,” which is about as close as Lee ever came to writing one of the stories. Lee was famous for his cameos though, and he did have one of a sort in the expanded Star Trek universe. Back during that era when Marvel held the Star Trek license, Pocket Books published a Star Trek: The Next Generation and X-Men crossover prose novel titled Planet X, written by Michael Jan Friedman. The novel included a security officer named Lee, named after Stan Lee, as well as two others named Kirby and Ditko, named after Lee’s early Marvel collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, respectively.

Lee was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from his home in Hollywood Hills early Monday morning. He died at the hospital later the same day. No cause of death has been named as of yet, but Lee has recently been stricken with a number of illnesses, including a bout of pneumonia. He was 95 years old and is survived by his daughter, JC Lee.