Excelsior! Remembering Stan Lee

If you’ve ever seen any Marvel movie, you might notice a mustachioed old man appear throughout the movies. You might’ve seen him as a school bus driver for Peter Parker, a FedEx delivery man for “Tony Stank”, or a Xandarian barber cutting off Thor’s precious hair. Well, if you didn’t already know, that guy wasn’t just any regular movie extra. His name was Stan Lee. Stan Lee was a writer, publisher and editor at Marvel Comics where he would later serve as vice president. He is most known for co-creating several of Marvel’s most famous characters, such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Black Panther, the Hulk and many more.

 

Photo by Vince Bucci

 

Growing up, I wasn’t a huge comic book fan, and it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started to appreciate comic books. I loved reading books with great storylines and character development. At the time, I would often get bored of reading the first few pages of a comic book, knowing that the perfect superhero would save the day every time. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the comic book industry was declining both financially and creatively. The market was saturated with the same superheroes: flawless, unbeatable superhumans targeted to preteens paired with predictable villains. Stan Lee is often credited for revolutionizing comic books by introducing flawed, imperfect characters who struggled with human problems. He created complex storylines and fleshed out the characters over comic book issues, writing them in a way that hadn’t been done before. This change created comic book lovers of all ages, adults and children alike.  

 

As Stan Lee was contemplating a change of careers, he was tasked to create a team of superheroes to mimic the success of DC’s Justice League of America. In response, he created a shared universe for the characters to exist in. He made characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four live in the same city so that they could all exist within each other’s stories. This made it easier for superhero team-ups (like the Avengers). The concept of the shared universe is the basis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we all enjoy today.

 

Photo by Santi Visalli

 

Aside from creating lovable comic book characters, Stan Lee also changed the way readers thought about comic book creators. At a time when comic book creators seemed serious and distant from the readers, Stan Lee built a fan-creator relationship through the Marvel Bullpen Bulletin. This bulletin was a news and information page that was included in every Marvel comic book up until 2001. Stan Lee used the bulletin as a way to connect to comic book fans by writing to them in a conversational tone. In addition to previews on upcoming comics, Lee would write letters in his editorial spot “Stan’s Soapbox”, answer questions from fan letters, and put out news and profiles about other staff members. According to him, he wanted readers to know the people behind each comic book, be on a first name basis with them, and to think of them as friends.

 

Stan Lee also used his platform to spread awareness about various issues. At the time of the civil rights movement, he regularly used “Stan’s Soapbox” to speak out against bigotry and racism. Lee also co-created characters such as the Falcon, Black Panther and Luke Cage who are among the first black mainstream superheroes to appear in comic books.  The X-Men, a diverse group of mutants that are considered to be outcasts from society, often reflect real world issues and situations regularly experienced by minorities.

 

 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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People all around the world mourn Stan Lee’s death, but many more celebrate his life and legacy. He has created entertainment for generations and revolutionized an industry through his work. He made characters that people could not only look up to but also relate to, showing people that superheroes are also human. Through his characters, he taught children important values of perseverance, responsibility and acceptance towards all. While he may be physically gone, he is immortalized through the characters he created and shared with us all.

 

Onwards and upwards. Excelsior!