Stan Lee: The Life of a Titan


Photo credit to the U.S. Army

Stan Lee

Nicholas Silva, Layout Editor

On November 12, 2018, comic book legend, and ‘father of pop culture’ Stan Lee passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. At 95, Lee had lived a full life, serving many roles, and contributing not only to his life but more than that, he inspired millions and helped millions more feel comfortable the way they were.

Stan Lee was born as Stanley Martin Leiber in 1922 and grew up in the Bronx. He went on to serve in the military, where he illustrated many inspirational posters for soldiers during WWII. His official title during his service was playwright.

He later went on to work in Timely Comics. In an interview with “Sunday Morning”, he reported, “I’d fill the inkwells — in those days they used ink!” While working, he would come across the rough drafts, and offer advice. He would say, You know, this sentence doesn’t sound right. It ought to be written like this,” and they would make the change, getting his foot in the door.

When Timely Comics turned to Marvel Comics, Lee finally was behind the pen, creating some of the most memorable, lovable, and identifiable superheroes and villains to ever grace the page, screen, or imagination. He never feared running out of brilliant ideas, because for him, he was having too much fun creating. He found inspiration in the mundane and made it most extraordinary. The creation of Spider-Man is a prime example. “I saw a fly crawling on a wall, and I thought, ‘Gee, what if a guy could stick to walls like an insect?” Lee recalled in an interview. “That sounds good. So I started trying to think of some names. Insect-Man? Nah. Mosquito-Man? Nah. And then I got to Spider-Man. Spider-Man, ooh, that sounds dramatic! And if he has spider-power, he can shoot a web also. And he could swing … oh man!”

However, the character, the idea, was only half of the picture for Lee. What truly set him and his creations apart from any other in the industry was the fact that his superheroes had flaws. Most superheroes up to that time, and frankly many today are so super that people cannot imagine it. They don’t believe it, they don’t relate, and any amazing ordeals that the character may endure are meaningless to the reader because they know that they will have no difficulty. Spider-Man was a teenager, he had romances that failed, and he got hurt. He was looking out for the little guy, the everyday passerby, and people felt that they too could do that.

Stan Lee inspired a world of good through his worlds of fantastic events set right down the street from where the reader might be living. It was not some fanciful fantasy, it was people in New York or London, or anywhere, that simply happened to get caught up in fantastic events.

Lee loved his job and was even willing to carry on for years while Marvel deprived him of mountains of royalties that he could have been amassing if not for contractual loopholes. For Lee, his work was not about the money: it was fun and had the ability to touch so many lives, and that was good enough.

“I used to think what I did was not very important,” he told the Chicago Tribune in April 2014. “People are building bridges and engaging in medical research, and here I was doing stories about fictional people who do extraordinary, crazy things and wear costumes. But I suppose I have come to realize that entertainment is not easily dismissed.” He later said, “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, you’re doing a good thing.” In a statement, Disney CEO Bob Iger said, “Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created. A superhero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”

Fans, friends, and the members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been flooding social media with torrents of praise, love, and memories. In a post on Monday, Chris Evans put, “For decades he provided both young and old with adventure, escape, comfort, confidence, inspiration, strength, friendship, and joy. He exuded love and kindness and will leave an indelible mark on so, so, so many lives.” This is very true. Stan Lee was a legend and a person who graced everyone he touched -both in person and on the page and screen. He shined in his comedic cameos in the MCU and was a joyful presence at every Comic-Con that he attended. The world is dimmer without his light, but his legacy of creativity and good will shine forever. To Stan Lee and his memory: Excelsior!