On November 12th, 2018, we lost a creative genius. Stanley Martin Leiber, better known by his pen name, Stan Lee, passed away in Los Angeles. He was 95, and in that time he gave us what some might consider American Mythology.
Stan Lee created some of the most iconic characters we see in movies, television, and comic books today. He created jobs and dreams for many people including myself. We owe a lot to the man who coined the phrase, “Excelsior!”
“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people's lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you're able to entertain, you're doing a good thing.” - Stan Lee
Creator of more than a hundred characters, Stan had a hand in crafting the heroes and villains we know today. Starting as an assistant at Timely Comics in 1939, he worked his way up, serving coffee and writing stories, to become Editor-in-Chief of the newly named Marvel Comics in 1972. Stan wrote stories in almost every comic Marvel published at the time.
Stan’s creations were grounded in reality. He had a way of making a man or woman with superpowers feel like he or she could be your neighbor. Spider-Man’s issues with money, and the Fantastic Four’s family dynamic all stem from the ideas of Stan Lee. Living in New York City as a writer meant having to worry about having money for rent, and Stan's wife, Joan, reminded him that the Fantastic Four was not only a superhero team but a real family.
Storytelling was a passion of Stan, but he also wanted to teach his young readers essential lessons. Writing stories about doing the right thing were consistent plot points for his comic books. During the 1970s, Stan decided to write a story about the dangers of drugs and their addictive behavior. The Amazing Spider-Man 96-98 became a story arc about Spider-Man’s friend, Harry, and his addiction to prescription drugs.
During this time, the Comics Code Authority had strict policies about selling stories to children about drugs. Despite the story being against drugs, they did not allow the story to go to print. Stan felt that kids needed to learn this information and printed the comic book without the Comics Code Authority logo on the cover. Since this bold action, the Comics Code Authority has gone back and altered their policy to allow more informative content in comic books. Stan told this story in Spider-Man The Icon: The Life and Times of a Pop Culture Phenomenon.
Stan excelled in bringing smiles to everyone in both his writing and his in-person appearances. We can see those smiles in every photo posted by anyone who has interacted with him. Stan’s movie and video game cameos will forever be remembered as uplifting and darn right funny! Let’s look at some of the best.
Rest in Peace Stan. You will live on in every comic book page and every story lovers heart.