We at Total Geek Live are mourning the passing of Stan “The Man” Lee, but his spirit will forever live on in the creations he’s given us.
Spider-Man. The Avengers. Hulk. Iron Man. Fantastic Four. X-Men. Black Panther.
These are all testaments to his creativity and collaboration with the greats of the early ‘60's Marvel. The comics he created gave us the world outside our window. He used settings that were places you knew or could visit. The characters he created were complex and flawed. They were real. They faced realistic challenges that the audience could relate to. That allowed us to connect to the characters in a way that we had never had before.
Stan Lee changed the way we looked at heroes, and modern comics will always owe him a great debt. I grew up on comics. They sent my imagination racing. It spoke to me in ways that I could understand – whether it was a secret group of heroes saving the day or doing the right thing even if, especially if, it hurts. When the Fantastic Four exploring outrageous otherworldly realms, or The Avengers fighting against the Masters of Evil, Stan Lee always instilled a sense of wonder and humanity in his characters.
Comics were always there for me, taking me on countless adventures when real life became tough. I couldn’t wait to see how Spider-Man was going to get out of his latest predicament. Reading comics gave me heroes I could look up to. It spoke to my creativity and sparked my own imagination, so much so that I wrote and illustrated my own comics. Stan Lee’s heroic and complex characters awakened a desire in me to create and fueled my imagination.
Comics were some of my greatest teachers, instructing me on right and wrong, on truth and justice. The values system in comics were there with Stan Lee’s first creations and continue to this day. For example, the X-Men were created as an allegory about bigotry against those who are born different. Stan often talked about how people are too quick to judge others because of perceived differences and through comics he allowed this idea to fully take root albeit with super powers and teenage angst.
Stan Lee became the face of Marvel and used his personality to brand the comics and lift the industry higher. Without his unending passion, we would never have the classic tales that we have that have been adapted for stage and screen. In fact, he narrated quite a few cartoon intros, like my favorite Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends and welcomed us to a world of wonder. While we all watch each Marvel movie waiting for his cameo, we should take a moment to appreciate how he became “The Man.”
He was born in New York City in 1922 and started working at Timely Comics, which would in 1939 become Marvel Comics. At 19 years old, he became editor in chief for what was now called Atlas Comics. He served in WWII before returning to the comics industry. In 1961 the publisher gave him full reins to create superheroes. The rest, we can say, is legend. Creative genius aside, he revolutionized the comics industry by creating the Marvel Method, whereby the writer plotted the story, then the artist drew it all before giving it back to add dialogue based on the images. This method made him one of the architects of contemporary pop culture.
He gave us “with great power comes great responsibility,” a creed that Peter Parker lives by. If you have the ability to do something, or say something, then you must. This code not only fills comics pages, but was something Stan Lee felt very passionate about. During the civil rights movement, he wrote in his monthly Stan’s Soapbox column that racism and bigotry are never to be tolerated. Heroes stand up for what’s right and don’t put up with bullies. These letters filled a page in the comics month after month and gave us further insight into Stan Lee, the public face of Marvel.
Stan Lee showed us through his letters that each of us can be a real hero.
When we stand up for what’s right.
When we help our fellow man.
When we see ourselves being the heroes from the very comics he created
We become the hero we always imagined being.
What I really enjoyed about reading comics from the ‘60s and ‘70s was that you felt a connection not only to the characters, but to the creators themselves. Stan Lee went out of his way to give little monikers to the artists, colorists, editors like Jack “King” Kirby. His passing is a monumental loss to his True Believers, but I cherish the amazing, uncanny and fantastic stories Stan Lee has given us.
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