The very first comicbook I ever remember purchasing was the seminal DC vs Marvel. It was a fantastic ride that really opened my mind, in a playful way, to all the different and wonderful things the imagination could do. It could install rules that weren’t there prior, and then break them a moment later in a glowing display of boom pow action. I love that book. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
The first comicbook (trade actually) that I remember owning (can’t for the life of me think of who gave it to me) was The Amazing Spiderman.
Collected issues 1 to about 10 or something like that.
I read that thing until the pages threatened to fall out. Peter, Flash Thompson, the Vulture, Aunt May, Crusher… all of it. I was in. I was hooked. To this day, Spiderman is my favorite Marvel character. I understood Spiderman. I got what it meant to be highly gifted, yet unbelievably inconvenienced by life. To be severely dope, yet severely broke at the same time. Spiderman was the hard lesson that being amazing doesn’t come with perks and accolades.
Sometimes you just have to be amazing in your tiny, not very impressive looking, humble little space.
That’s what Stan meant to me.
And actually, my favorite thing
was not his comic writing/editing,
but his nature.
Stan Lee was a visionary.
Without the relentlessly optimistic, incessantly buoyant, unabashedly creative engine of Stan’s persona, the Marvel as we know it would have never happened. The impact of Marvel’s iconic superheroes wasn’t solely due to the fact the heroes existed anymore than a bunch of black and white pictures is automatically a coloring book! It took way more than that.
Stan brought the first superhero family to life.
Stan appended his soapbox to the comics he wrote.
Stan spawned an entire way of doing comics.
Stan traveled to colleges and spoke to youth about real life issues from the lens of comic book stories.
Stan relocated he and his wife to Los Angeles to carry the torch and spread the flame of their mythic stories when no one else really was willing to.
When no one else could see what they had.
But Stan could.
Regardless of the endless battles surrounding him, of who made what, and who gave credit to whom, and who shoulda coulda woulda done the thing…
Vision was Stan’s undeniable gift.
He could see things no one else could,
yet still work from an organic place of joy,
which lifted him up during the many crash and burns,
in the early days of his storytelling knighthood.
Many people fancy themselves legends, because they liken it to perfection, trusting that when the compromising and complicated situations arise, they will make the correct choices and so avoid the pitfalls born of public scrutiny.
This is why many will not become legends.
Legend is not about perfection.
There is a reason it comes last.
Stan Lee was a Man.
He was faithful to his wife, he fought for what was right, he treated everyone with love, he was genuine with his enthusiasm, he worked as hard as was required, he pushed the boundaries on genre, he was not boxed in by the establishment, he sought to comfort the outcast and discarded.
Stan Lee was a Myth.
He made himself the face of Marvel Comics, he acted upon his ideas as if they were forgone conclusions, he created almost as often as he breathed, there was no risk he would not take, he was not afraid of change or transition or evolution, he became the heart of the story and a man of the people.
Stan Lee was a Legend.
Because he was Man and Myth until his dying breath.
He was flawed, as we all are, but he was certainly no villain.
Malice did not guide him.
His efforts were always that of one professing to be a true believer.
The thing about Stan Lee that steadily rocks me to my core is that he embodied the one line we all know, fans and non-fans alike.
With great power comes great responsibility.
The responsibility with power,
before you receive any recognition for being powerful.
Don’t you see?
Stan Lee had to be willing to be Stan Lee well BEFORE he was Stan Lee.
In every way possible.
That’s the only way it would have worked.
That’s the only way HE would have worked.
Would have been who he was.
He accepted he was powerful, before getting recognized for it.
He made decisions based on the responsibility of having that power to whatever extent he could, in whatever space he was in, at whatever level he was on.
These will not be the last words I write about this great man. There is a pent up well of untapped emotion threatening to overtake me with every passing second. And I know that, at some point, I will write from that place. I must write from that place.
But I could not give into the tears and emotional dissertation without first paying proper homage.
Stan Lee changed my life forever.
He showed me what was possible,
beyond the bounds,
of what is possible.
And that is a debt that can never be repaid.
I’ll see you in Valhalla dear friend.
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