“The world has always been like a comic book to me!”
- Stan Lee (1922-2018)
In the early 1940s, Timely Comics, the earliest comic book arm of publisher Martin Goodman, had encountered an individual that would change the way the world looked at fictional characters and comic books. Initially, this particular individual was hired as an office assistant, but within a year's time, became the interim editor to the company. In the early 1960s, he had the opportunity to create a series that could compete toe to toe with DC Comic's Justice League of America series and in a year's time, the Fantastic Four was introduced to the world. But the journey didn't stop there. Soon enough came a series of characters that took readers by storm; Doctor Strange, Daredevil, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor – the list goes on. All the superheroes that get our blood pumping came from one creator, Stanley Martin Lieber, more famously known as Stan Lee.
It might seem as though Lee had only paved the way for Timely Comics (now known as Marvel Comics), but that isn't entirely accurate. In many instances, Lee would recall his experience with the Comic Code's inflexibility, and how it stood in the way of using comic books to attack contemporary issues of that time. For one example, an issue of Spider-Man (which has to be one of Lee's most adored characters of all time) in the 1970s portrayed the then current drug abuse situation. Despite the portrayal of drug abuse being negative and sending a substantial message, it was not approved by the authorities. Since then, Lee realised that this authority had to be opposed in order to loosen their codes, if these strict codes were still in play to this day, we would never have seen iconic characters such as the Joker and Harley. Moreover, we would not have comics reflecting the present day status quos. Safe to say, his stances were an impactful success.
I've never really been a fan of the Marvel comics or movies. Nor have I really indulged in the stories as much as I did when it came to DC characters. But I was always aware of Stan Lee's contribution. Speaking for myself, I love the X-men. The animated series and comics reminded me of one thing constantly, that there is a place for everyone, even if you are weird, small, huge or strong; there will be people to accept and help you. As an added bonus, when things do go south, there will always be a way to combat the situation, and if you allow it, you do not have to face it alone. I owe it to him for shaping such a wonderful fictional world in which, many, just like me, found not only their own voice, but also something to look forward to and believe in. That is why Stan Lee will always be legendary, not only in the comic realm, but in the real world too, immortally etched into many of our hearts. I wholeheartedly must apologise for not appreciating him more when he was still amongst us.
As Lee had once said, Spider-Man is “a state of mind. He symbolises the secret dreams, fears, and frustrations that haunt us all.” This single quote tells you that superheroes aren't just about fighting bad guys in capes and masks, but also about us. Our hopes and dreams and nightmares. If we look closely, we find our journeys amongst these heroes, among the creations of Stan Lee. These contributions he made to us, to the world of comics, is something we can never pay back for. All we wish now is that his superpower were immortality, or that Thanos could use the Time Stone to take us all back in the presence of his creator. Moving forward, catching a cameo of Stan Lee himself in Marvel movies will be a reminder of not just the legacy he left behind, but a bittersweet feeling of knowing that he no longer is among us.
Excelsior, Stan Lee.
You finally made it to Heaven.