Stan Lee: The Superhero of Superheroes!
Stan Lee: The Superhero of Superheroes!
By Ashley Schultz
If any of you have been following my column the past two years, you would know that I am a pop culture junkie. Every year I write about going to AwesomeCon, a convention of comic books, movies, and all things pop culture. Well this past November we lost an iconic writer, editor, and publisher – Stan Lee. Stan Lee was responsible for such characters as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther and the Fantastic Four.
Even though this strays from my usual banter on social media trends and events, I feel like we should talk about how this man’s creations made him a real life superhero to comic book lovers everywhere.
Stan Lee was born December, 28th 1922 in Manhattan to Romanian born Jewish immigrant parents. Stan began his writing career by writing obituaries for a news service and press releases for the National Tuberculosis Center. Yet, with the help of his Uncle he was able to become an assistant in 1939 at Timely Comics. By the 1960’s Timely Comics would evolve into what we now know as Marvel Comics. Stan Lee described his duties as prosaic. “In those days the artists dipped the pen in ink, I had to make sure the inkwells were filled. I went down and got them their lunch, I did proofreading, I erased the pencils from the finished pages for them.” Eventually he made his comic book debut with the text filler “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge” in Captain America Comics #3. Later he moved on from just writing filler to developing his first superheroes, Destroyer, Jack Frost, and Father Time.
In 1942, Lee entered the United States Army and served as a member of the Signal Corps, repairing telegraph poles and other communications equipment. He was later transferred to the Training Film Division, where he worked writing manuals, training films, slogans, and occasionally cartooning. His military classification, he says, was “playwright;” he added that only nine men in the U.S. Army were given that title.
In the 1960’s Lee was assigned by Marvel Publisher, Martin Goodman to come up with a new superhero team in response to DC Comics, Justice League of America. At this time Lee was not happy with his job and was thinking of changing careers, so Lee’s wife suggested that he experiment with his stories and take risks since he was planning on changing careers and had nothing to lose. Lee acted on that advice and gave his superheroes a flawed humanity, a change from the usual superheroes that were typically written for preteens. Lee introduced characters that could have bad tempers, fits of melancholy, and vanity; bickered amongst themselves, worried about paying bills and impressing girlfriends, got bored or were even sometimes physically ill. This led to the creation of the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, X-Men, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and eventually the team known as The Avengers.
With the success of these stories, Lee became a figurehead and public face for Marvel Comics. He made appearances at comic book conventions, lecturing at colleges and participating in panel discussions. He moved to California in 1981 to develop Marvel’s TV and movie properties, where he was executive producer and often made cameo appearances. In 2008, Lee received the National Medal of the Arts from President George W. Bush. The award was created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. After Stan Lee’s death, many people paid tribute to him. Disney chairman and 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.” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige also paid tribute, “No one had more of an impact on my career and everything we do at Marvel Studios than Stan Lee, Stan leaves an extraordinary legacy that will outlive us all.” Gene Simmons of Kiss said, “His stories taught me that even superheroes like Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk have ego deficiencies and girl problems and do not live in their macho fantasies 24 hours a day. Through the honesty of guys like Spider-Man, I learned about the shades of gray in human nature.”
In one of Stan Lee’s messages to fans, he truly shows his character; he left us with words that America truly needs.
“Hi, heroes. This is Stanley coming at you, want you to know Marvel has always been and always will be a reflection of the world right outside our window. That the world may change and evolve but the one thing that will never change is the way we tell our stories of heroism, those stories have room for everyone regardless of their race, gender, religion or color of their skin. The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance, and bigotry. That man next to you, he’s your brother, that woman over there, she’s your sister and that kid walking by, hey, who knows he may have the proportionate strength of a spider. We’re all part of one big family together in the body of Marvel and you, you’re part of that family; you’re part of the Marvel Universe that moves ever upward and onward to greater glory. In, other words, Excelsior.”
Stan Lee created a Universe that allowed us to escape, yet be where we can relate, cry, fist pump, and laugh at. His legacy will live on, and as he would say, EXCELSIOR! EVER UPWARD!