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I remember when I was in elementary school, I received a gift that would have a profound influence on me. It was 1990 and I was 7 years old and in second grade. I don’t remember why, but, one of my friends handed me a gift that I wouldn’t expect. No one had ever given me a book before, so, needless to say, I was intrigued. It was a tattered book with only a few pages and was puny in comparison to the other books I had. It didn’t seem like much, but, there was something incredible about it. Sure it may have been pretty beat up, but, the artwork on the cover screamed at me, and I couldn’t help but look at it over and over again. I remember running home right after school excited to dig into this small magazine. The artwork on the cover of the magazine was of a guy in a costume jumping up in the air fighting off some crazy half-man, half-robot with tentacles. The guy had a crazy look and he was yelling and swinging his arms with claws coming out of his hands. I didn’t know what I was looking at, but, after years of starting at my cousin’s heavy metal album collection, I came to respect the artistic license that these creators would take. There was something else that caught my eye. Not only was the image something that I could never forget, but, it was what it was titled that has stuck with me. X-Men. That name just sounded friggin’ awesome, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. The fact that these two characters were fighting so intensely that they were knocking the (title) words off of the page was something that I had never seen before. Everything in this comic book (as I would later find out these books were called) was an introduction to a world that I knew nothing about. Being the curious kid that I was, I wanted to know more about everything in these comic books and everyone who was involved in making them. Names such as Jim Lee (the penciler for this issue) and writer Chris Claremont would be highlighted here. But, there was one name that I would see for the very first time, and would never forget. I read this person’s name on page 3 of that comic book (Uncanny X-Men #271), and it was written in small letters. It read ‘Stan Lee Presents: Flashpoint!” It was the first time that I had been introduced to the man whose name isn’t just a name, it is the very definition of comic books.
I didn’t know who this Stan Lee guy was at the time, but, I noticed that the more and more I would buy comic books his name would keep appearing. It was almost as he was the man pulling all of the strings of this crazy world of comic books. His name appeared inside of the comic and sometimes in the letters section. Hell, it was all over the place, and in ever comic book. The older I got though, and the more comic books that I read, the more I would learn about the creators of these comic books and their place in the world. We tend to thing nowadays that this trend of comic books is new, and that people didn’t really like these characters as much as they do now. Sure, we didn’t have the massively successful Marvel movies that exist now, but, growing up as a kid in the 90’s, comic books were everywhere. And I do stress, everywhere. In fact, it’s hard to imagine now just how big and famous a lot of these creators would become. But, as famous as all of them were (and many still are), one name rose above the rest. He was the man who was the living embodiment of comic books and of the industry. Stan “The Man” Lee was the man who had been involved in comic books since its earliest days (here in America), and has had more than a hand in creating some of the most iconic characters of all time.
Here is but a small list of comic book characters that Stan has had a hand in creating. While he wasn’t the man who created their image, it was he who wrote their stories. There is almost certainly going to be a few names that you’ll recognize:
If you know Marvel comics, then you’ve not only heard of these characters (and I’m sure you have), but, you’ve seen the movies, comics, television shows and everything else that their faces has graced. Stan wasn’t alone in their creation, but, it was he who wrote their stories and introduced us to them. Stan was special in not only the characters he wrote about, but in being able to see things from another perspective. He gave a voice to those that didn’t have a voice before. It was his words and ideas that lent a credibility that wasn’t really done until that point. We are still feeling the effects of his story telling today. Sure, the stories may be fictional, but the themes that run through them are very real. It didn’t matter if it was a story about an akward teenager trying to fit in (Spider-Man), or a band of misfits that were ostracized for their abilities (the X-Men), Stan always knew that the best way to tell a story was to let his audience identify with them on a personal level.
In Stan’s world, superheroes weren’t the better of us, they WERE us. They were the everyday person that just happened to be blessed (or cursed, depending on how you looked at it) with super powers. These superheroes had problems just like you and I, and had to live with the decisions they would make day in and out. It was Stan’s approach to treating these characters with a level of reality that would resonate so many years later. Hell, it’s no wonder the story of a quirky teenager (with spider powers) is still as relevant today as it was over 50 years ago.
In recent times, Stan has been thrust into the limelight more and more. A lot of his characters have hit the silver screen in a big way, and even he himself has appeared in all of the recent Marvel films. In fact, it always manages to stir a level of excitement when Stan makes one of his expected cameos in a Marvel movie. I am sure that we will get to see him make a few more appearances in movies and comics in the coming films. While it won’t be the same (knowing that he isn’t with us anymore), it will be a welcome sight to see him. If you’ve ever seen his appearance in Avengers (Age of Ultron), then you’ve seen one of his best cameos. I’m sure everyone has their favorite one too.
Stan Lee has always happy to tell stories and make people laugh. He was a titan of the industry that he loved, and we can only hope to be as passionate about the things we love as much as he was with his. He was humble and served as an inspiration to kids young and old. So, take a moment with us to remember the man who not only left a legacy in comics, but the words he spoke and lives who he has influenced. I know I can’t imagine a world where Spider-Man has lost his voice. Stan, you will be missed. Not only by all of your fans, but by the little kid who found love in reading because of your very comics. Even though the world of entertainment is a lot less entertaining and pop culture has lost one of its most enthusiastic characters you managed to make us happy for an incredible 95 years. Thank you Stan for Presenting that first story to me when I was a little kid and to the thousands of other stories you’ve gifted us during your time here on earth. The world is going to miss you, but, you will no doubt ever be forgotten. Godspeed and take care on your next journey. You are The One Above All.
Words By Daniel Navarrete
Artwork by their respective artists
For more information on the Stan Lee and some of the stories he wrote and contributed on, check out Marvel Comics’ Home Page
This article was prepared or accomplished by Daniel Navarrete in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spektrum Magazine, or its affiliates.