When I was a kid, my parents let me get some Spider-Man comics. One of the first ones was an issue where a fat, nerdy kid with glasses re-fashions his Doc Ock mechanical arms so he can be Spider-Kid. Talk about seeing yourself on the page! And it wasn’t just the amazing characters and fantastic stories of heroes and villains that appealed to me; I often read issues cover to cover including the editor’s notes and letters in the back where Stan Lee’s words and signature could be found.
It’s hard to put into perspective the influence one person has had on pop culture. Especially one responsible, either in whole or part, for so many memorable characters from the Marvel Universe. If you ever read a section of “Stan’s Soapbox,” or heard him talk in public, he would almost always sign off with, “Excelsior!” meaning “higher,” and “ever upward.” I can think of no better way to remember Stan Lee. Always looking forward to the next big superhero story, or MCU cameo, never without his trademark mustache and grin.
Excelsior, true believers.
I must have been eight or nine years old at the time and I stayed at my grandparent’s house. I remember my uncles (Big Art and David) introducing me to something very special: the 90’s Spider-Man animated series. At first, I thought superheroes like that were for babies, even though I was practically a baby myself.
But, the cartoon hooked me. I watched every episode on Saturday morning as a kid. This started my love for speculative fiction and geek culture. Both of my uncles have already passed away themselves. However, I credit them to introducing me to the creations of Stan Lee.
It’s interesting how Stan Lee created characters and stories years ago that have been such a major influence on my writing style, whether it be fictional or non-fictional. I’m sure many others feel the same way. So, farewell Stan Lee; I will remember your words: “Face front, true believer.”
How does one write about a legend such as Stan Lee? His first story in a comic book established Captain America’s signature ricocheting shield throw, and from there he seems to have revolutionized comics more or less single-handedly. He gave us heroes with problems. Indeed, he gave us the first disabled heroes. He gave us Thor, whose human alter-ego was as a disabled doctor. He also gave us the blind Daredevil, and Doctor Strange with his hands that couldn’t perform surgery anymore. And of course, he gave us the X-Men whose blessings could also be curses, such as Cyclops’ difficult-to-control eye blasts and Rogue’s inability to touch anyone because of her power. As a person with a hidden disability, these characters really spoke to me in a profound way.
In short, Stan gave us human heroes, heroes that had to worry about paying the bills and keeping their boss happy, heroes with faults and failures, heroes that went into battle with colds and with lots of what is now called “baggage.” It was this humanness that drew me to my first comic book, which featured a teenaged hero swinging through New York and climbing up walls, all while trying to decide whether to ask Mary Jane or Gwen out on a date and worrying if Flash Thompson would ask them first. As a young teenager, I discovered the early Spider-Man comics in reprints and immediately found a hero that’s among my favorites to this day.
He may be gone, but his legacy lives on in the Stan Lee Foundation, which exists to spread literacy and the arts, as one would expect from the godfather of modern comics.
I became a fan of superheroes at a very young age. My first exposure to Marvel was the animated adaptations of Spider-Man and X-Men that were on Fox Kids way back in the day. I don’t keep up with comics much these days, as there are way too many timelines and universes to for me to try and keep up with. Still, the shows I watched made heroes, villains, and their comics a pillar of my geekdom along with my love for video games and movies.
Stan Lee is responsible for creating those characters I fell in love with, who were unique misfits in a way I can relate to. These characters and the worlds they inhabit always told me that I could be greater than my setbacks and the evils that I would one day come face to face with. It’s because of Stan Lee and his creations that I like to think of my faith like a superpower that I didn’t know how to tap into until about seven years ago.
He left a legacy. Thanks to the MCU, plenty of kids are getting to experience Marvel for the very first time just like I did at their age. I have a four-year-old cousin who already loves Captain America and Spider-Man thanks to those movies showing up on Netflix. I also can’t wait to show my nephew the magic of the Marvel universe through various media when he gets older. I’ll make sure his work lives on through them, and hope these characters and worlds live on forever.
It was sad to hear that Stan Lee had passed away. His work and characters are fantastic and I wouldn’t be the geek that I am today without these creations. For me, the most important character that he created was Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man. Peter Parker is someone I have always felt I could identify with and understand. Peter is normal; he is a kid that has a great weight put upon him, but he still feels like any person you might meet day-to-day. I really appreciate Peter as someone so many of us can identify with.
I also see Peter Parker as someone who has to grow and learn what kind of Spider-Man he wants to be. When we give our lives to Christ, we have a great responsibility to carry out the Great Commission, and the Holy Spirit has to work in our lives for us to grow into the role that God has for us as his ambassadors on earth. Just as Spider-Man has to learn “With great power, comes great responsibility,” so do we as believers also have a great power of hope that comes with Christ that likewise comes with a great responsibility to show his love to others.
Thank you, Stan Lee, for creating such a memorable character and so many more, who have reminded so many that they don’t have to be born great to do great things.
Like the rest of the GUG staff, my love for characters based upon comic books stems from Saturday morning cartoons. Marvel Action Hour (Marvel Action Universe) was my first introduction to Stan Lee. His exuberance agitated me; I used to think that all of that energy was just for show or that something was wrong with the man for being that excited about some TV shows. I would learn much later in life that that is precisely that kind of man he is, all the time.
Though I have Chris Claremont, Jim Lee, and Len Wein to thank for some of my favorite stories and characters in the Marvel Universe, Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby) are responsible for the original concept of the X-Men, a comic series focused on characters and their differences across regional, cultural, racial, ethnic, national, religious, physiological, and genetic lines, and the conflicts that would arise through this overlap. The extended metaphor that is the X-Men has made a profound impact on my life and how I understand diversity.
From all that I know about him, Stan Lee loved the universe that he played a pivotal role in creating. I believe that his passion for the Marvel Universe is representative of his love for people—escapism for “true believers.” The pushing further into the language Lee often used, one can find throughout the Marvel Universe terms such as “spectacular,” “amazing,” or “wonderful,” language that is readily found in the Bible. This is no accident, as Lee has stated in his interviews that the terminology he deployed in Thor was inspired by KJV language. Yet as demonstrated in the selected terms above, I believe that God inspired Lee’s work beyond his own admission; we know for example that Daredevil and Nightcrawler’s explicit Catholicism are central to their characterizations. Despite these influences, Lee was ethnically Jewish, but decidedly agnostic. For a man who, through words and works, loved people precisely as Jesus instructs us to, I am at peace with Lee’s passing, for judgement lies in Christ’s hands alone.