December 28 marks the birth of one of the most incredible minds to ever enter the world of comicbooks (that’s right, one word, just for you Mr. Lee). Stan Lee probably means more to the modern world of comicbooks and superheroes than any other individual. Period. It would be hard, I think to argue otherwise. Yes, there are plenty of other legendary creators out there, and I wouldn’t want to take away from any of them. And you could argue that Stan Lee would have gotten nowhere without Jack Kirby and his ability to put Stan’s vision on the paper, but the reality is that Marvel would not be Marvel without Stan Lee. Today, Stan the Man turns 92 years old, and he’s still kicking’. I wanted to share 3 thoughts about Stan Lee that make him still relevant today.
1. He is the Father of the Modern Comicbook Story.
Comics existed before Stan Lee, and they have carried on since he left the day-to-day grind. Superheroes existed before Stan Lee hit his stride, but Stan Lee did something different. He made them more human. He made it possible for us to see ourselves in the heroes we were reading about. He made it all more real, allowing comics to be a place where tough issues could be handled, like Racism or prejudice in general.
Before Stan Lee came along, we had heroes like the Batman (multi-millionaire playboy orphan with mad detective skills and a strange affinity for bats), Superman (alien orphan sent to Earth as the last of his kind, as a result he had amazing abilities allowing him to save the world and balance his day job as a reporter), or Wonder Woman (from a mythical tribe of Amazon women with amazing abilities). All of these were amazing stories, but the common kid picking up a comicbook could really identify with them. They weren’t aliens or orphans or whatever. Stan Lee really changed that. Spider-Man was Peter Parker, the dorky kid in class that nobody really liked, get bitten by a radioactive spider and gets these amazing powers and spends the next 50 years trying to figure our how to manage that with having a regular life, trying to screw it all up. Who can’t identify with that? The X-Men- a group of teenagers who were outcasts and not accepted by the rest of society. What teenager never felt that way? Lee’s characters were just like us, underneath the masks and the superpowers, and it became easy to root for them.
2. Stan Lee Contributed to Comics Becoming an American Art Form
Some might argue that this could have happened with or without Stan Lee, but I would argue that they’re wrong. When Stan Lee was entering the world of comics, no one was taking the medium seriously. Stan was part of a group of creators at the time that were taking the medium seriously. Because of them, we got great art, great stories, and comicbooks began evolving into the great American art form. Stan Lee and his generation inspired the creators of the 80’s and 90’s and today. Without Stan Lee and the other creators of his time, we wouldn’t have what we have today.
3. Stan Lee Loves the Fans
Let’s face it, Stan Lee is a god among creators and fans alike. Most folks in his position could just go quietly into the night and enjoy the fame and all that comes with it from a distance. Not Stan Lee. The guy travels the country each year to hundreds of different Comic Cons throughout the country (He’s been to the last two comic cons in Salt Lake, care to make it three in a row, Mr. Lee? Or maybe visit our FanX at the end of January?), meeting with fans and speaking with fans and doing photos with fans. It is all pretty amazing. I have volunteered at one of these events and I have attended others, and it is grueling for the celebrities that come. Meeting fan after fan, photo after photo, speaking in front of a packed panel room, none of it is easy. At 92, Stan Lee still does it all the time, I think because he loves the fans. That is awesome.
So, today, pick up an issue of Spider-Man, or X-Men, or the Avengers, or turn on your favorite Marvel film and try to spot the Stan Lee cameo, and raise a glass to Stan the Man today. Happy Birthday, Stan Lee! Here’s to many more!