Stan Lee passed away recently. Anyone who knows who Stan Lee is and read his work is coping with a couple of things. We’re telling ourselves his health wasn’t doing great, that he was 95, that his wife passed away… we’re all trying to look for a reason to be OK with his passing… and we’ll all continue to fail.
95 and gone too soon. That sums up part of my feeling about Stan Lee. He hadn’t written in a long time; some people might say… but how did you feel every time you saw him in a cameo in a Marvel movie? What do his characters mean to you?
For me, it’s no accident I sometimes refer to myself as your friendly neighborhood JD Estrada. That’s just one of the quirky things I do that are influenced by Stan. The thing is that anyone who has ever been proud to call themselves a geek is hurting. Some people might call us ridiculous, because comics are “silly”. There’s been quite a lot of that going around and although part of me wants to retaliate, Stan would frown upon that. Instead, he’d laugh it off. Hell, he never took himself that seriously and just eventually realized that he’d done something rather amazing.
As a kid, I had a couple of years of incessant comic book reading, though my gateway drug wasn’t a Marvel comic. Funnily enough, my entry comics were wushia kung-fu comics of Jademan Comics, lore. But through them I picked up Marvel… and DC… and Dark Horse… and Valiant… and Image… and any comic book that caught my attention.
As a 38 year old, I still recognize the power and value of the stories I read in comics. Some people might label them childish because they have pictures… but we have to remember, we’re geeks. Some people aren’t meant to get it, and with Stan, it wasn’t just OK to not let that affect us… it was cool. He was cool. He was beyond cool. He was the man.
Seeing so many of his creations come to life, every single time I saw him in a cameo made me giggle. Here was a guy who other people didn’t take seriously and along with Jack Kirby and some other all-time greats, they made the world better through story telling. They taught us values, respect, manners, strength, compassion, equality, tolerance, and so many other lessons. Lessons that have been ignored by many entrepreneurs and politicians and intellectual snobs that look down on comics, rather than embrace them for what they are… another medium to tell a story. And a beautiful one at that. Read Swamp Thing, read the Sandman, read V For Vendetta, Read Watchmen, read X-Men, read Super Man, Read Spider-Man and Dare Devil, and tell me there isn’t something special there and I’ll disagree every single time.
These characters matter. These stories matter. This man matters. And you read right, matters. Not mattered. Not in the past. Because stories penned by the guy will outlive all of us. Because with great power, we know comes great responsibility even if many who are in power have forgotten this.
Above all else, Stan Lee was a kind guy. A sweetheart. Some people insist that nice guys never win… and then I see Stan and know how wrong they are. As a creator, I look up to the guy and some people might say that he was like a grandfather to them and some people might think that we lost a grandfather or grand uncle… but that’s not it… it’s worse than that. We lost a friend. A 95-year-old friend who died too soon… but man did he make our lives better. By being more Marvel than man perhaps… or by being a good example of what a good human can be.
Damn are we going to miss you.
Peace, love, and Excelsior, my friend.