How can you say good bye to someone you never really met, but have known your whole life? When the news hit that comic book legend and pioneer Stan Lee had passed away, that was the question of millions of minds.
Stan was a well loved and respected figure head of pop culture as we know it today. Challenging the social norms through out the decades since he started his career in comics back in 1939, he helped pave the way for young writers and fans to truly express themselves through the art they so adored. He taught us to never back down, and that failure is all a part of progress. Most of all, he taught us that even our heroes are human, and that no matter how perfect things may seem on the surface, everyone has their faults and inner demons.
Stan was born December 28th, 1922 to Celia and Jack Lieber in Manhattan, NYC and from a young age expressed a love of comics. By the late 30’s, Stan had landed a job as an assistant at Timely Comics, which by the 1960’s would turn into the media giant we know today as Marvel Comics. However, by 1942, the call of duty rang and Stan joined the U.S. Army helping with war efforts until the war ended in 1945. While in the military, he was able to put his writing chops to good use helping to write manuals, scripts for training films, and even the occasional cartoon or two. After the war, he returned to Timely which at the time was known more commonly as Atlas Comics to continue pursuing his passion for writing.
However not everything is always sunshine and rainbows, and by the end of the 1950’s, Stan was disillusioned to the life of comics and nearly quit the industry all together. With nothing really left to lose after being tasked with coming up with a superhero team to combat the explosive success of the new Justice League of America series, Stan decided to spin the world of comics on its head. Traditionally, superheroes were sentinels for stoicism, living perfect lives and always beating the bad guys without a sweat. Not once had a superhero, let alone a team, had any real, honest normal problems until Stan introduced the notion that heroes were just people too. People with super powers, sure, but they still had problems just like everyone else.
It was after the creation of the Fantastic Four that Stan found his love of creating new characters again. He flipped the creative world into a storm of new ideas, concepts, and brought some of our favorite characters to life in the years to follow. Stan’s writing matched with his art team and other writers propelled the comic industry into a new age of nuclear story telling, creating a massive shift in the world as we know it today.
Stan always strived to do what was right, and never faltered from a cause he believed in. “Stan’s Soapbox” was a popular add on to many of his comics, little blurbs he would write challenging the issues present at the time and making sure his voice in the matter was heard. He was an influencer, and helped to spearhead a new generation into having open minds and questioning everything.
In his later years, he made multiple cameos through out the Marvel Cinematic Universe that year after year we always looked forward to seeing. Almost as much as seeing the movie itself. He let us know it was okay to be different, and to always look out for one another. Hell, he probably taught us more life lessons than anyone we actually know.
So how do you say goodbye to a legend? Someone who created something so special to you, it’s like a family member has gone? Well, for me, it’s with a loud ‘Excelsior!’, and the hope that he met with Kirby again somewhere on the other side.
Rest easy, Stan Lee. Until we meet again.