It’s been a few days since Stan Lee passed away. The Internet is full of tributes to the man but I really needed some time to process it and to reflect on his life before writing about what Stan meant to me.
Stan Lee had an immense impact on me and to be honest, that’s an understatement. Alongside George Lucas, Lee was responsible for creating a vast mythos that was instrumental in shaping my life. I would say that Lee had an even larger impact than Lucas’ Star Wars, which was the biggest thing in the world to a kid of the ’80s.
Lee eclipsed Lucas because by the time I discovered his creations, Marvel had already expanded into a universe much larger than what Star Wars was or would ever be.
Stan the Man created more characters and things that I grew to care about than any other great creator throughout the history of time. Maybe that’s because of the time I grew up in or because I was just drawn to comics, being that I’ve been an artist and a writer since I could hold a pencil.
My very first Marvel experience came in the form of television, as I became a huge fan of the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon, which ran from 1981 to 1983. I was four years-old in ’83 and I probably discovered the show right at it’s end but it would go on to be replayed beyond its cancellation.
I remember vividly, the day that I saw the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode that featured the X-Men. I immediately fell in love with those characters and it wasn’t long before I had issues of The Uncanny X-Men in my hands. Then there was The Amazing Spider-Man and my first mega event, Secret Wars. Everything branched out from that but it was the foundation of Stan’s creations that brought me to a fantasy world where I could escape and spend my time.
Marvel was the first comic book company I discovered and even though I loved DC Comics’ Batman more than any other comic book character, I spent 90 percent of my time reading Marvel over DC. I was fascinated by the X-Men, I loved Spider-Man and his large rogues gallery. I really got into Captain America, dug the hell out of Iron Man and followed all versions of the Avengers teams from the mid-’80s and onward.
I was very aware of who Stan Lee was, as he was always a prominent figure in comics and his name was in the credits of nearly every Marvel book, if not all of them back then. When I would see Stan do interviews or pop up in other places, it was always a treat. He had charisma and an infectious personality. He was wise, creative and fatherly but in a way that was way cooler than any dad on Planet Earth.
When the Marvel Comics trading cards came out my first year of middle school, all the boys I knew were trying their damnedest to collect the full set. This was my first experience in trading cards with friends and a lot of the sixth grade boys at my school started becoming a bit of a club or community. Collecting these cards educated us on Marvel history and led us down new avenues with new characters and major stories to check out. We started trading and lending out comics. It was a really cool time to be a kid, especially for one that loved superhero comics.
By the way, my favorite Marvel trading card was always the Stan Lee one from the first series.
When you think about all the things that Stan Lee created and then take into account the scale of what those creations have become in pop culture, he may be the most prolific, successful and inspiring writer of his generation. Most of his creations are beloved and many of them have become big business in film, television and video games. Not to mention toys, trinkets and just about anything you can throw the Hulk or Thor’s mug on.
Stan Lee’s work has generated billions of dollars in revenue. It’s damn near impossible to find anyone who doesn’t know at least one of Lee’s creations.
I’ve seen Stan Lee in person but I never got to speak with him. But regardless of that, I always felt close to the man, as did many fans. He seemed accessible and he always seemed to love the people as much as they loved him. He always had his best face on, publicly, and I’ve never met a fan that had a bad experience in meeting him.
Stan Lee’s passing wasn’t unexpected. I think that everyone knew it was coming in the near future based off of the loss of his wife and the terrible things he went through since then but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hit me like a dagger to the gut.
I don’t usually get down or upset about celebrity deaths. Sure, there are people that I know I’ll miss and dwelling on their deaths is a downer but Stan’s death was different. Stan was a major part of my life.
Without Stan, I might not have discovered comics in quite the same way and I probably wouldn’t have such a passionate love for them that didn’t just end in childhood but has carried over into adulthood.
Without Stan, I probably wouldn’t have ever drawn my own comics as a kid. By the time I was in 7th and 8th grade, I had formed my own company with some friends and we were putting out comics regularly, first selling them to other school kids and then kids from other schools we didn’t even know. I loved that time in my life and it was Stan that guided me to that great place. Plus, his book, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way was my bible during this period of creative exploration.
Without Stan, I may have walked away from comics. However, he was always a presence in the industry and every time I saw him trucking along, putting out new projects and popping up in movies, it always brought me back to that place where I always felt most comfortable. Stan Lee was like a piece of home for me, a dear relative that lives far away but pops back up into my life every so often.
A world without Stan Lee just doesn’t seem like a world I want to live in. I don’t mean that to sound depressing but he was always a beacon of light and enthusiasm, exuding positivity and imagination. The world is truly missing something great without Stan Lee in it.
But we all have to do what Stan Lee would want us to do. Move forward, live life and try to be the best version of ourself, everyday.