With great power comes great responsibility.
With the unexpected passing of Marvel’s titan Stan Lee, we lost a true legend today. Just a quick reminder that it’s OK to not feel OK over this. We’re all crying right now. Lee was 95 years old.
Scrolling through my socials, I noticed instantly that many fans, industry people, and celebrities are shedding tears for Stan, not only because of his caliber, but because most of us wouldn’t be where we are today without the empire he created. In the teary midst of mourning his death, let’s also remember to celebrate the amazing life and contributions of Stan Lee.
Stan Lee created a world of superheroes that touched each of our hearts. He showed us the true meaning of courage, strength, and honor during the times we needed it the most. His empire will continue to live on, in the hands of many talented creatives, through the beloved characters he created and their heroic stories.
Before Marvel became what it is today, the publishing company had some trouble taking off in Stan Lee, Jack KIrby, and Steve Ditko created what was known as “The Marvel Method" and collectively made Marvel a household name, saving the company with complex characters like The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and a reboot of Captain America in The SIlver Age. Stan Lee was just a teenager when he started in the industry and went on to spend 70 years building the legendary Marvel Comics empire that we all know and love today.
Lee gave his characters human emotions and faults (which was unheard of at the time in comics). This made it easy for fans to relate to their favorite superheroes and their stories by seeing parts of themselves in the panels. Hulk had a problem dealing with anger. Iron Man struggled with substance abuse and alcoholism.
You know, I’m sitting here crying as I write this. I might not have read every Spider-Man comic, but I truly believe in every little thing Stan Lee stood for. For example, Captain America was created in The Golden Age to give the troops hope during wartime. In fact, copies of Captain America comics were sent overseas for soldiers to read. Captain America not only gave soldiers the strength they needed, but also united our great nation as we fought against the pure hatred Hitler was spreading like wildfire through Europe. Captain America’s reason for existing was to stand up against bullies, and of course punching Nazi’s in the face. but After the war was over, Captain America took the biggest hit, but was relaunched under Marvel in the 1960’s allowing the legacy of Steve Rogers to live on through the perfect storytelling of Stan Lee (hence the whole iceburg/man out of time storyline). But not a damn thing changed about him, he was the same old Cap – fighting the bullies, standing up for the underdogs.
Take the X-Men for example. This supergroup of “mutants” was so vastly different than any other heroes we’ve met before. The X-Men were misunderstood, cast aside, and even experimented on simply because they looked different. In the comics, humans were afraid of mutants. In most cases, (especially Trump’s America) fear mongering and lack of understanding is the main reason behind racism and bigotry.
Characters like Jean Gray and Wolverine didn’t have it all together and struggled immensely with their given mutations, powers, and mental health. Stan Lee created this group of flawed outcasts who dreamed of being accepted by humanity as an allegory for the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. This is just one of the many examples of Stan Lee’s inherent brilliance. In December of 1968 he wrote very moving words in his column “Stan’s Soapbox” on the Bullpen Bulletins page in Marvel Comics. Stan Lee’s way of thinking and connecting with readers led to more progressive narratives in the early years.
He wanted to create a conversation with the fans he cared so much about and succeeded in being a strong voice during trying times.
If you know anything at all about Stan Lee, you know about the multiple cameos he’s made in every single Marvel film. Seeing him pop up onscreen, even for just a few seconds with a one-liner always brought joy to audiences. His very first film cameo wasn’t actually in a Marvel movie. WHAT? Anyone remember the gem of a movie Mallrats from 1995? It was Kevin Smith’s first independent film; a sort of stoner comedy about a misfit group of friends who hung out at the mall and local comic book shop. Check out Stan Lee’s film debut below when he meets Brodie… and Brodie has lots of questions about Mister Fantastic.
If you haven’t seen Mallrats, I highly recommend it. It’s a film for comic book fans; made by comic book fans! Like I mentioned before, so many people are sharing special photos and stories of the late great Stan Lee. Here are a few Marvel memories:
From Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson:
From Mark Ruffalo aka Hulk:
From Sebastian Stan AKA The Winter Soldier:
From The Russo Brothers:
And finally from Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld with a heartwarming story:
If you haven’t had the experience of reading a Stan Lee comic, I suggest starting with the original Fantastic Four series. We already miss you dearly, Stan Lee. We’ll miss you gracing the stage at nearly every comic convention and calling us “True Believers.”
Rest in Peace, Stan Lee. May your legacy live on in our hearts, on the page, and on the small and big screen. EXCELSIOR!