The forefather of an entire universe has left this world in the mortal form of Marvel Comics “grand poobah”, Stan Lee.
The ninety-five year old passed Monday night after an incredibly rich and influential life. Responsible for the creation over most of popular culture’s current icons through his time writing for Marvel Comics, Lee co-created legends of modern fiction like Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Iron-Man, the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Ant-Man, Black Panther, etc, alongside legendary artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.
Stan Lee revolutionized comic books and more than responsible for their lasting power. Until the Fantastic Four’s atomic-age exploits were anchored in the heart of Manhattan comics held no connection to the reader’s world. Lee planted his titles in the modern New York and allowed it to reflect the times. This often led to much more mature reading material, like the issue of Spider-Man that dealt with drug use. Despite its positive message, the content would not pass the “comics code authority” parental code. Trusting in his comic’s merit, Lee ran the issue without the code. Once more, Lee had sidestepped an outdated system and paved the way for his contemporaries to follow.
Stan Lee was always portrayed somewhere between Austin Powers and Hugh Hefner. He was everybody’s favorite grandpa but also loved to have fun. The mustache and tinted shades are as emblematic of the creator as torn trousers are to the Hulk. Not only did he make comics related as well as readable, he made the creation of them equally as hip. It was the Marvel Bullpen that young readers aspired to reach. The glib, candid peeks Lee and the creative team often let fans in on, either through Stan’s Soapbox, letters columns, Stan’s cool-o-meter, or random cameos in the pages of any number of his creations made Marvel a much more tangible offering to readers looking not only to escape, but to connect as well.
Having lately served as Easter Egg Prime in nearly all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s films, Lee is rightfully portrayed as the casual lynchpin that stands in the center of a hurricane, the cavalier constant who has created the world he finds himself portrayed within. His staying power rests in his clear and present love for the craft. The exuberance found in Lee up until the day of his death seemed inexhaustible to many.
Perhaps Samuel L. Jackson, who portrays Nick Fury in many of Marvel’s films, best encapsulated the man’s weight, “You made so many believe in the good, the heroic, the villainous, the exciting, most of all, you were giving and gracious to us all.”
Rest in Peace, and Excelsior!