28.12.1922 – 12.11.2018
This week we lost another hero, the one and only Stan Lee. Writer, editor and publisher at Marvel comics – not to mention creative genius behind some of the 20th century’s most memorable characters.
I use the words “hero” and “creative genius” in relation to Stan for completely legitimate reasons. The work of this man was ground breaking and had a massive impact on culture; he was also a genuinely decent human being.
Together with a creative team including legends such as Kirby, Ditko, Romita and Buscema, Lee was responsible for creating some of the most imaginative and ground breaking characters in comics. Fantastic Four. The Incredible Hulk. The Amazing Spider-Man. The Uncanny X-Men. Thor, Iron Man, The Avengers and on and on.
Marvel characters may have been heroes, but they were not perfect. For the first time, comics characters had real world problems. They wrestled with the same everyday issues that their readers faced. These superheroes leapt from the page with a load of personal baggage – and this new approach was revolutionary. And very successful.
My favourite example is Spider-Man. Spidey was a cool wise cracking hero, but Peter Parker was a nerdy kid; an outcast. The guys didn’t want to hang around with him and the girls didn’t want to be with him. As time went on, he struggled balancing classwork, relationships, a part time job and superhero-ing. At any point in Spidey’s adventures, any or all of those issues could tumble out of control.
You can read numerable tributes to Stan Lee online, by all manner of people from all walks of life. One positive from his passing is seeing how universally admired he was.
Reflecting on my own experience, I can remember seeing the Spiderman cartoon and the Hulk TV show as a tiny kid in the seventies. By the age of seven, I’d graduated to my first Marvel comic (I vividly remember buying it and still have it to this day). I was hooked. I devoured comic books; all I wanted to be as a kid was a comic book artist. To this day I attribute any grasp of the English language that I possess to these publications. Including English exam results.
Stan Lee’s creations fired my imagination and inspired my creative aspirations, and those of millions all over the world. They still do to this day, both in comic book form and the hugely successful movies.
This Marvel Universe – Stan’s Marvel Universe – was one where the outsider was welcome. Bigotry and intolerance were not his way, nor that of his creations. In making the underdog the centre of the story, Lee emancipated millions of us.
I’m proud to proclaim Stan Lee not only an innovator, but a true legend and one of the greatest creative individuals of the 20th century.