Remembering Stan Lee
The nerd community has suffered one of its most tragic losses today. Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95. He was taken to Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering some kind of medical emergency. He was declared dead soon after. It is with an extremely heavy heart that we say goodbye to a legend. Lee is survived by his daughter, who made this statement following her father’s passing: “My father loved all of his fans. He was the greatest, most decent man.”
His Early Rise
Stan Lee, born in New York City in 1922 to Romanian immigrants, was known by many as the father of Marvel. He created most of his well-known comics with Jack Kirby, who died in 1994. Unknown to some, Stan Lee didn’t actually create Marvel. His cousin Martin Goodman owned it, but Lee was firmly behind its hit success. Marvel Comics started out as Timely Comics and Stan Lee began his career working as its office assistant. He later moved up to the interim editor in just a few years with the company. His boss asked him to create his own comic to rival DC’s successful Justice League a good twenty years later.
Lee’s Legend Begins
Thus, The Fantastic Four was born in 1961 to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, weighing less than a pound and priced at one dime. (The first edition is now priced at around $16,000 so it might be worth checking your childhood boxes in the basement in case you have one.) Fantastic Four took a lot of risks and shied away from the usual superhero tropes of the time. This is undoubtedly what made it so successful.
That’s not to say that Lee wasn’t without his roadblocks. Stan Lee was bitter and depressed at the time as his true ambitions lined with becoming a novelist and he wasn’t too keen on the focus of war, romance, and sci-fi that dominated the industry at the time. Joan Lee, who passed in 2017, is responsible for his Stan Lee’s success. He was ready to quit the industry but she convinced him to create one comic that he was proud of. That comic was The Fantastic Four.
Creating Heroes That Make a Difference
Especially in the 60s, a time of immense change in our country, people were looking for something different. This time period desperately needed the characters that Stan Lee brought to life as they took risks that were relatively rare at the time. Stan Lee didn’t want to just create characters; he wanted them to mean something. Lee prided himself on using his comic characters to tackle social issues, problems in society, bigotry, and made his characters immensely human.
Characters like the X-Men paved the way for comic book characters to be metaphors for social justice issues. Whether someone felt isolated and judged for their religion, race, or sexual orientation, people could look to characters like Storm and Wolverine, who were persecuted for being different, and be inspired to accept themselves and help make a difference in the world. Representation matters and people in a wheelchair could see themselves through Professor X.
Lee’s Cinematic Influence
Following the success of his comics, in 1972, Stan Lee became the editorial director and publisher of the company. Due to characters like Spider-man, the Hulk, Daredevil, and the X-Men, Marvel Comics, as it was renamed, became steadfastly popular. The Lees moved to California to allow Lee to take part in Marvel’s cinematic endeavors, of which he eventually became chairman emeritus.
Marvel has since dominated the box office. 2018’s Black Panther, when adjusted for inflation, became the 34th biggest grosser in cinematic history. Considering how many movies are released annually, that’s a huge accomplishment for Marvel. Its latest film, Avengers: Infinity War made over 2 billion dollars worldwide.
Stan Lee himself is no stranger to the spotlight. The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, in 1989, was his first on-screen cameo. Lee now makes a cameo in every Marvel movie, much to the delight of fans. He preemptively filmed five of upcoming cameos in 2017 which was a sobering reminder to fans that their real-life hero, Stan Lee, isn’t as invincible as his comic creations. Today, we’re all forced to remember that fact.
Forever for the Fans
Stan Lee loved his fans and everything he did was for them. Few other ninety-year-olds could be seen meeting fans for hours on end at multiple conventions a year. He hated disappointing fans to the point that even when he was sick, as long as he could semi-function, he would be there for them.
Lee might have dozed off in some of his photo ops, and he didn’t have the energy to talk to many people, but he was always there for them and at his age, that in and of itself was a beautiful thing. Stan Lee didn’t need to talk to every fan to make them feel special.
Stan Lee liked to use one of his many famous comic catchphrases, “Excelsior!” when he signed autographs or at the end of videos. Lee defined it as, “onward and upward to greater glory.” So to you, Mr. Lee, I say, Excelsior!
To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook
Check out other comic book news, previews and reviews here!