Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information about the people that signed the petition.
(KTXL) — Some of the most famous cities in comic books are fictional, particularly the homes for DC characters Batman and Superman.
In the Marvel Universe, most of its characters, including Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man, reside in cities that actually exist.
But the Fantastic Four – the quartet of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Human Torch and The Thing – originally resided in a fictional city named Central City, California.
The birthplace of the Fantastic Four changed after a campaign brought legendary comic book writer Stan Lee to Stockton in 1986.
Stockton’s entry to the Marvel Universe
In a special ceremony on Feb. 26, 1986, Lee, the creator of Fantastic Four, stood on the steps of Stockton City Hall and officially proclaimed the city as “the birthplace of the Fantastic Four.”
According to Visit Stockton, Lee signed autographs and posed for pictures at Al’s Comics after the ceremony at city hall. Later that year, Volume 1 Issue 296 of The Fantastic Four featured Stockton as the quartet’s hometown.
Stockton would go on to be featured in future Fantastic Four issues, such as “Marvels: Eye of the Camera Vol. 11,” released in December 2008, and “The Fantastic Four Season 1 Vol. 11, released in October 2011.
Being the “birthplace of The Fantastic Four” has also been a marketing opportunity for the city’s tourism bureau. Visit Stockton sells a Fantastic Four-themed shirt online featuring The Thing and the Human Torch.
How Stockton brought Stan Lee to its city
According to Visit Stockton, Lee’s visit came after a campaign that included a petition and a resolution from the Stockton City Council.
The petition was led by Al Greco, owner of Al’s Comics in Stockton, to get Lee to come to Stockton for a meet and greet at his comic book shop.
The 25th anniversary of Marvel Comics was coming up around the time, and Lee would visit comic book shops in small towns and cities. Greco was convinced to get Lee to come to Stockton.
Greco’s petition garnered over 300 signatures from fans of Marvel, according to Visit Stockton.
Joe Field, an ad salesman for Stockton radio station KJOY-AM, pushed the idea of making the city the Fantastic Four’s home as a way to provide a more positive image for Stockton.
Field started a campaign of his own, which received local and national attention and led to a proposal from the Stockton City Council to name the city the home of the superhero quartet.
The Los Angeles Times reported the resolution was signed by then-Mayor Barbara Fass and then-city manager Ed Griffith and was sent off to Marvel Comic’s headquarters in New York City.
News of the campaign made it to Stan Lee, the creator of the Fantastic Four.
Lee eventually came to Stockton after the petition and city resolution made their way to him.
“Maybe Fantastic Four readers will want to see Stockton after reading about it in the magazine,” Fass told the Los Angeles Times at the time. “Maybe we will get a comic book convention here.”
Following Lee’s visit, Al’s Comics became a staple in the community and is still in business.
Field ended up creating WonderCon, an annual comic book, science fiction and film convention that used to took place in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1987 to 2011. WonderCon took place the Oakland Convention Center and Moscone Center in San Francisco before making Anaheim its home in 2012.
According Visit Stockton, Field also created National Free Comic Book Day, which takes place the first Saturday in May. He also has own shop in Concord, Flying Colors Comics, which has been open for over 30 years.