As many of you know, Stan Lee passed away a week ago today.
Now, I’m not usually one to spend a long time ruminating on the deaths of celebrities I’ve never met, but this circumstance feels different. I know this applies to many other people as well, but to me, Stan wasn’t just some celebrity; He truly was a hero.
Marvel Comics were a major part of my childhood, and are still a prominent hobby in my life today. Stan Lee may not be the founder of the brand, but his influence in its success is beyond doubt. He created stories that touched people. He created worlds people could escape to.
Mr. Lee was constantly sharing wholesome, progressive and poignant messages with audiences of all ages in a non-“teach-y” way due to his entertaining storytelling abilities, collaboration with amazing artists and creation of fascinating characters.
I personally have many fond memories of seeing the Spider-Man movies when I was about 6/7 years old, laughing at “that funny old man” who would make little cameo appearances in random scenes. My brother, who is an aspiring comic artist (linked his webpage- check it out!), had to explain to me who this iconic “old man” was, and I have been a fan ever since! (A mutual love for the Marvel Comics brand is probably the biggest thing my brother and I bond over, if I’m being real)
As a child and through my teens, I often felt I didn’t “fit in” with any particular crowds and, like most people, often found myself bullied for being “odd,” “too geeky,” not looking the way people wanted me to, etc. Reading comics and watching movies like X-Men helped me escape my reality and jump into a world where people who were different, though they were persecuted, found ways to embrace their uniqueness and their power. These characters (Mutants) were ostracized time and time again for their genetic differences- yet these differences allowed them to save the very people who ostracized them. They taught me that the gifts and qualities God gave me can serve a greater purpose and the petty words of small minded people do not have power over me.
These comics also taught me how to better accept those who are different than me in a world that has constantly been fueled by division. Stan Lee was a huge advocate for diversity and shutting down hatred and bigotry, and I think the X-Men series does a stellar job of getting that point across as well.
Stan Lee set a great example for the youth with Spider-Man, by giving us an inexperienced, friendly hero who wanted to prove that young people can save the world too. And who could forget that “with great power comes great responsibility?” This series of comics is packed full of many important lessons that young people need to learn, and they’re much more likely to actually absorb these lessons from their lovable, daring, funny superhero and his shy, smart, equally lovable alter-ego than from being lectured at by adults they don’t feel they can relate with as well.
Beyond the reach of his stories, we can take inspiration from Mr. Lee’s own life. He came from humble beginnings, growing up during the Great Depression and later serving in World War 2 while starting his career in the comic industry as an office assistant, according to Biography.com. Throughout the years, he worked his way up the ladder to interim editor, writer and illustrator, and eventually became the editorial director and publisher of Marvel Comics. Beyond this, Stan became involved in the film industry to work on the Marvel film projects. He made such an impact in the comic and arts industry that he even received a presidential Medal of Arts! (Biography.com)
I share the above biographical paragraph because I’ve seen many interviews where Stan spoke on people being scared of pursuing this industry, or his embarrassment of being “just a comic book artist” in the past, but realizing, just like the X-Men, that everyone’s talents and abilities can be used for important things, and he encouraged people like me to follow my dreams and I know many out there reading this can relate to that sentiment.
“As far as I’m concerned, a really great comic-book story is every bit as creative and important as a great story done in any other form of the media.” – Stan Lee
This post was written in memorial of the late and great Stan Lee. I hope y’all will share this in his honor if you were also a fan. We miss you, Stan the Man. I’m forever grateful for the stories you told and the art you created.