(I originally posted this on Facebook on November 12, 2018)
I don’t have it in me today to write an essay on Stan Lee and what he means to me, but I am compelled to put something together for a human that had a giant-sized (X-Men reference too) role in my life.
I started reading comics when I was seven or eight, and I read more Marvel books on a monthly basis than almost any of you could possibly imagine (not Power Pack though). While I was thrilled by the battles and space odysseys that were oh-so-far-away from my safe home town in Western NJ, I was exposed to a constant barrage of social issues and values that helped shape my worldview all these years later.
It’s funny, because comics in the 1950s were under attack by the government and censorious busy-bodies (often hypocrites to boot) for causing juvenile delinquency. Thus the comics code was born.
The superhero comics that were produced by DC starting in 1938 and Marvel in 1962 were largely written by Jews and immigrants. Faced with bigotry and both in-your-face and hidden oppression, they created heroes that looked upon everyone equally, fought for the little guy, and braved the big battle (alliteration is for you, Stan), despite the serious consequences it may have caused in their professional or personal lives.
Marvel heroes worried about their older family members (Aunt May), had typical romantic relationship problems, and never forgot those that died (Jack Murdock, Uncle Ben, Bucky Barnes).
In the late 1980s, Captain America turned in his shield. He refused to follow the orders of an unjust government. This blew my mind. Those in power aren’t always right; sometimes they are selfish, corrupt or just plain incompetent (this was the theme of the second Captain America movie). Stan Lee didn’t write the “Captain America No More” story, but he approved it. He allowed his creative teams to take risks.
Just this past weekend, the question of values came up when I was with my mother, father and uncle in Washington, DC. My battles with big corporations and institutions were discussed and I was asked some form of the question, “Why do you want to take all of this on?” and I quickly answered, “I grew up reading comic books. I want to fight injustice at every turn.” That shit happened.
Stan Lee had a great life. He was married for almost 70 years, entertained millions (billions?), eventually made a lot of money, influenced 20th and 21st century culture and lived to the ripe old age of 95. I am sad he died, but I’m not deeply mournful. I am forever appreciative and grateful. Thanks Stan.