Remembering Stan Lee

By Nguyen Khanh Ha Doan

“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.” – Stan Lee  

I believe everyone must’ve heard the news about the passing of such a legend to us comic lovers. It took me a while to let the information sink in and bring myself to write this tribute to the guy who made so much impact on my youth. From every corner of the Marvel Universe -- the hype, the love, the support -- all would not be possible without the big mind behind it -- the father of Marvel: Stan Lee.

His greatest contribution was is influence on our youth. I talked to my friends, asking them to give their thoughts, and one of them said he was such a legend that there’s nothing that could describe anyone’s thoughts about him. I agree, and as I write this tribute, I sit and think that no tribute could really be worthy of Stan Lee. I could do an entire article on his career, but he was bigger than just his career. I could do an article on how amazing and humble and down-to-Earth he was, but I could let a video do that for me. In the last days of his life, when he was at the most respectable position in his fans’ hearts, he used his time to talk about how grateful he was for his life, co-workers and fans. The video was published by Marvel a day after his death, and trust me, it’s a tear jerker.

Despite being created in the time of DC Comics’ dominance of the genre, Stan Lee’s comics were very welcomed by the public. One of the reasons was because, in complete contrast of the mainstream image of “perfect”, “beautiful” and “divine” superheroes, his heroes were a part of the “misfits” and the “freaks.” His heroes faced the same problems any human being could encounter in their lives. Spiderman was raised in a lower-middle-class family consisting of his aunt and uncle, and he was just a clumsy, simple high-school student before being blessed with superpowers.

When DC Comics was busy creating more modern, contemporary versions of their characters in the 1960s, Stan Lee took a different turn. He brought the stories of “villains” to light, and he proved that there is no one who is born purely evil. They are, instead, heroes of their own stories; some are misguided while others just have a different view on the world. His characters represent the misunderstood, the young people who were unable to find their place in society.

Fame didn’t come to him quickly. He struggled along his way, faced with questions of loyalty and criticism of trying to claim credits, and that he was trying too hard to dub himself as a superhero ambassador. He wasn’t perfect, either.

In early 2018, multiple nurses who cared for him at his Los Angeles home accused him of sexual assault and harassment. In April, a massage therapist sued Lee for sexually assaulting her in 2017. Lee’s representatives denied the allegations.

Lee also faced controversy regarding his stance on diversifying iconic characters. Following leaked emails from Sony specifying that Peter Parker only be cast as white, Lee told Newsarama that while he’s happy to create more diverse Marvel characters, he doesn’t see why the original identities of the characters should be changed. While some fans were disappointed in his answer, others noted that he openly condemned racism and bigotry in the columns appended to the end of his comics from 1967 to 1980.

Throughout his life, Lee worked to expand Marvel Comics and the characters he’d created, making Marvel one of the most diverse superhero lines. He never stopped creating, even in his last moments. Days before his death, he was still working on a new superhero, Dirt-Man, his daughter told BBC.

Two days after he passed, the team of A-list actors known as the original Avengers came together and put up a tribute for him on the Hollywood Reporter, and social media was filled with grieving words and appreciation posts from everyone who’d met and worked with him.

He spent his youth trying to create and sustain our youth, and none of our childhoods would be complete without him. Superheroes are not just there to fight fictional villains, but they are there as motivation for us, as entertainment and as moral lessons. He may not have found fans in every one, but if you didn’t agree with the man himself, then at least respect his work and his characters that have entertained and inspired generations, and many more generations to come.

Let’s all take a moment and revisit his iconic cameos over the years.