It is with great sadness that we have to mark the passing of one of the giants of the comic book industry. Stan Lee may not have invented the idea of the comic book, started the first comic book publisher or even invented the genre of superheroes, but it is safe to say that the medium we all know and love today would not be the same without him. Born in 1922 (making him age 95 at his passing), Lee started out at Marvel back when it was still known under its first official name, Timely Comics, back in 1939 (the year the company started publishing). He was only an assistant who, in his own words, kept the artists inkwells filled, and got the job because his cousin was the wife of the publisher, Martin Goodman. He didn't even get to write his own stories for the company until 1941 (Captain America Comics #3 "Captain America Foils The Traitors Revenge, a short text filler between main strip stories), but with many of the staff enlisting to fight in the war and Timely's main writing duo (Joe Simon and Jack Kirby) leaving over creative differences with Goodman, Lee was given a shot to show what he had as interim editor at age 18. He stayed as editor until 1972, when he replaced Goodman as publisher.
To summarise Stan Lee's legacy in so few words would be to do him a great injustice. When I say that comics books would not be what they are today without him, it is not an exaggeration. Lee gave the world the Fantastic Four, the Increadible Hulk, Daredevil, the X-Men, Ant-Man (and Wasp), the Mighty Thor, the Invinsible Iron Man, Black Panther and, most famously of all, the Amazing Spider-Man. Unlike the heroes over at Marvel's main rivals DC, Lee made his heroes much more relatable. His teenage superhero wasn't a sidekick who looked up to an older hero and fought bad guys alongside them, he was the main hero and had all the problems that any normal person would have. His superhero teams were a family, who bickered and had problems like any family would have, or were reviled by the world they protected just because of who they were. These heroes weren't perfect, they were human and that's what made them so perfect to the readers. And he gave us legendary villains to battle these heroes, Doctor Doom, Magneto, Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Loki, Galactus, the Sentinals and many more. His work with other comic book greats, such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita and Don Heck dragged Marvel from near bankruptcy in the 1950's to being equals, if not a bigger name than their rivals DC within a decade, and of course, without the characters Lee created, Marvel wouldn't be in the position it is in today, a multi-media juggernaught with the most successful movie franchise of all time (which of course, Lee would use to indulge in his love of the not so subtle cameo, making him somewhat of a Marvel Movie Where's Waldo/ Wally).
Even well into his elder years, Lee was still a public figure, despite having well earned some peace and quiet. He still attended conventions, cameoed in movies (as previously mentioned) and put his name to tv shows and comic book projects, well into his 90's. Though his last years have been tinged with sadness and controversy (losing his wife in 2017, through allegations of elder abuse and a restraining order filled by Lee against his former business manager which involved the sale of his blood to fans), Lee never looked like slowing down or losing that trademark exuberance.
Rest well Mr Lee, you've earned it.
And one final time I think it's appropriate to say...
The greatest of men say what they mean. The best write it down.
An incredible legacy, and by all accounts, a lovely man.
R.I.P and Excelsior!
Stan Lee was approachable and open to his fans. I enjoyed reading the letters to the editor as much as the comics. There is something satisfying about a mail bin overflowing with envelopes and postcards. Especially compared to a virtual inbox choked with spam. ‘Nuff said.
Stan Lee took the time to address critics, correct inconsistencies, and address concerns. He was not selfish with his creations. I am sure that input and suggestions from fans made it into many story lines.
In what grew to a multimedia empire, Stan Lee was a titan. I am glad that he lived long enough to see the advancements that took his stories from four-color print to the silver screen then back to the tips of our fingers. He filmed several cameos for upcoming MCU projects. I believe nine. So we have not seen the last of Stan the Man.
I was never a big Marvel comic fan, although when I did pick up one to read it was always Spider-man. My first experience with Stan Lee’s characters came from the small screen, Spiderman and His Amazing Friends, I think it was called, and The Incredible Hulk with Bill Bixby. After Spiderman came the X-men cartoon which is certainly one of the best produced cartoons of all time.
Normally, I’m not too sad when a celebrity dies because I don’t know them personally. But this one is different. The characters he helped create whether on the page, TV, or film are a part of him, and I think we all got to know Stan a little through those characters. It feels like a friend passed away today and the world seems grayer.
I’ll miss you Stan “The Man”! Maybe one day we’ll meet on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.