Happy Birthday to Stan Lee, Nichelle Nichols, and Maggie Smith!

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Three GeekDad icons share a birthday today!

Stan Lee is 88 today. Image: WikipediaStan Lee is 88 today. Image: Wikipedia

Stan Lee is 89 today. Image: Wikipedia

Stan Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28, 1922, is the creator of Spider-Man and former head of Marvel Comics. Lee is almost as well-known as his famous comic book heroes, making cameo appearances in movies of The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four and Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. GeekDad has written often about the man, including a one-on-one interview. We can’t wait to see Joss Whedon’s film of The Avengers and the reboot of Spider-Man, both because we want to see Lee’s cameos and because of our hopes that they become more feathers in his well-worn cap.

Nichelle NicholsNichelle Nichols

Nichelle Nichols, 79 today, also helped recruit new astronauts for NASA. Image: NASA

Nichelle Nichols was born Grace Nichols on December 28, 1932. As the Enterprise’s communications officer Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek series, Nichols became a hero to girls and African Americans looking for role models to emulate in their quest for geekdom. And as I realized watching the DVD set of ST:TOS which my kids got my husband and me for Christmas, as corny as the sets and the special effects on may appear today, Uhura still looks stunning.

Maggie Smith as Prof McGonagallMaggie Smith as Prof McGonagall

Maggie Smith, 77 today, as Prof McGonagall. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Dame Margaret Natalie Smith Cross, DBE, otherwise known as Maggie Smith, was born December 28, 1934. If the character of Minerva McGonagall, professor of transfiguration and Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was not written with Smith in mind, it would be impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. As McGonagall, Smith brought authority to the character simply because of the many roles we have seen her play over the years (most notably in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, in which she was a young boarding-school teacher known for her strictness). Her talent for nuance was never more evident than in last summer’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, when in preparations for defending Hogwarts McGonagall invokes the words that call the castle’s statues to come alive — the situation is dire, but McGonagall chuckles a little and says “I’ve always wanted to use that spell!” Smith delivers the line so perfectly it seems entirely unlike acting, which of course is the mark of every good performance.

[A version of this article was originally published on this date in 2010.]

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