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There was never going to be a time where saying goodbye to the legendary comic book creator Stan Lee was going to be easy. It was a day that many fans, myself included, didn’t want to believe would come. The day that the man of unbridled passion and energy for comics, entertainment, and honestly, the betterment of humanity that we’d come to love over our lives was lost to the great beyond. Within life, sadly, comes the inevitably of death, and today we say our goodbyes to Stan Lee, who passed away at the age of 95.
Few people can span generations as a powerhouse in entertainment, but Stan Lee managed to be do just that. As a pioneer of the comic book industry, Lee created Marvel Comics, and with it, many of the most famous comic book characters of all time. But more importantly than creating characters like Spider-Man and Captain America, he used his characters to be a mirror of our world, and to use them to reflect on ourselves. Much like Rod Serling with The Twilight Zone, Lee used his power in comics to reflect on the important issues at play in an ever changing world. From Spider-Man and DareDevil, to the X-Men and Fantastic Four, Lee’s characters were often damaged individuals who were looking for acceptance in a world that wasn’t ready for them. The X-Men in particular became a catalyst to explore racism and prejudice in the height of the Civil Rights movement.
As a kid, Stan Lee’s writing had a profound impact on me at an early age. Growing up in the 1990s, the comic industry was in a state of flux, so I found myself unsure of how to jump on. While my gateway comic was Star Wars: Han Solo at Stars End, it would be earliest issues of DareDevil that would push me fully into the world of comics, creating my obsession and passion for the medium. The story of Matt Murdock, a kid who is blinded by radioactive substance, but learns to overcome his disability to become a hero bent on justice, I was enthralled with the story. He was a tragic hero, and the more I read those stories, the deeper I fell into Lee’s world. DareDevil would wind up pushing me to read Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men, and Fantastic Four, as I devoured whatever I could by Stan Lee and the Marvel brand. His words, and many times the art of Jack Kirby, would spark my imagination to great heights, and they’d take me on incredible journeys to far off lands, with characters I could relate to as I grew older.
For many, myself included, Stan Lee was the modern day Joseph Campbell, and his mythology and world building played a huge part in what we learned we wanted in entertainment. The Marvel Universe became an expansive and ever growing, but always interconnected world that all our heroes resided in. This ended up being the launching pad of the current day Marvel Cinematic Universe, a world of interconnected adventures that could see heroes teaming with other heroes, but still having the more personal stories that a single issue could take you on. Kevin Feige was clearly a student of Lee’s storytelling and world building in the same way, but decided to tackle it in the scope of a film series. Every Marvel film feels like a new issue of an ongoing series, taking me back to my earliest days of reading comics, and feels like it’s fulfilling the promise of what Stan Lee’s creations could be not just on the comic book page, but the silver screen as well.
While Lee’s final years were plagued with many tabloid rumors and drama, that could never change how important Lee’s impact was on me from an early age. While his life was truly complicated, he still had an impact on me that completely changed me to my core. He wasn’t just a Stan Lee, the creator of many of my favorite Marvel characters. To me, he was Stan Lee, a man who unlocked the potential of the universe with wonder that you was unrivaled by anyone else. With the help of guys like Jack Kirby, Stan Lee absolutely shaped my life in ways I could never understand until I got older. Without Stan, comics and entertainment would be a much sadder place. But more importantly, the world would be as well. Stan Lee used comics to shape the world, trying hard to make it a better place as best he could.
Stan, you were a king among geeks, a true visionary. But more than that, you were a trailblazer, and you used your power for good to try and shape the world. As was written in Amazing Fantasy #15, “…with great power there must also come — great responsibility!” You lived by those words, and changed many generations with your incredible work. This legacy will live on for many more generations to come as your characters continue to traverse many different mediums of entertainment, inspiring kids at every turn. Thank you, Stan Lee, for everything you’ve done for us. You were one of a kind. Excelsior!