It is hard to believe it has already been two years since the world lost one of its greatest and most beloved comic book creators, the late Supanova alumnus and Marvel Supa-Star, Stan “The Man” Lee.
The mind behind some of the biggest and most memorable superheroes of all time, from The Fantastic Four to Daredevil, The Incredible Hulk to Spider-Man – far too many more to count in a single article, Stan was not only an extraordinarily talented storyteller, but also a truly inspiring, and kindhearted figure whose warmth and infectious energy touched millions of fans world-wide.
From his early days writing obituaries for newspapers and delivering sandwiches for a local New York deli, through to his job refilling the ink wells and erasing the pencil marks for the artists at Timely Comics, Stan was always, at heart, a dreamer. Pursuing his passion for becoming a writer, Stan got his first chance to see his fondest wish come true when he was given the opportunity to write the primarily text-based story Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge in the 1941 Captain America Comics #3, and shortly thereafter was installed as an interim editor at just 19 years of age.
Even following in the footsteps of Cap himself, enlisting in the US Army during WWII, would not deter him from his dedication to his craft, simultaneously toiling away for Timely Comics via weekly mail deadlines he would continue to meet without fail. It was this dedication that had him remain as the comic-book division’s Editor-in-Chief for Timely Comics (which later evolved into Marvel Comics in the 1960s) until 1972, when he was promoted to the role of Publisher and became the public face of a pop-culture giant.
Then, on November 12, 2018, six-weeks before what would have been his 96th birthday, Stan Lee sadly passed from this life and left behind a world in mourning. A giant in his field, and a man blessed with a heart of gold, Stan was more than just a guy who wrote comics, he was a mentor for us all, a legend whose legacy will continue to touch generations to come and whose valuable lessons still have much to teach the world.
In loving memory of the undisputed King of the Cameo and a true hero beyond measure, we would like to remind you all of three of Stan’s biggest life lessons.
Lesson 1 – It is no small thing to bring joy to others
When Stan published his first Captain America story in 1941, he still held ambitions of one day writing “the great American novel”. Afraid that his foray into the pulp world of comic books might hamper those plans, he decided to forgo using his real name Stanley Lieber and adopted the pen name Stan Lee to disguise his identity. What Stan would eventually come to realise, however, was that the growing passion he felt for the comics medium was nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.
In his own words, “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realise: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing. When you’re seeing how happy the fans are — as they [see up-close] the people who tell the stories, who illustrated them, the TV personalities — I realise: It’s a great thing to entertain people.”
Lesson 2 – Speak up on things that matter
″Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today.” Those wise words from Stan hold just as true today as when he first published them in his Stan’s Soapbox column in 1968 response to the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
Always well ahead of his time, Lee did more than just tell stories about people with amazing powers, he told stories about people with real problems. One of his most memorable creations, The X-Men, was devised as means for Stan to talk about and explore the issues surrounding the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “I wanted them to be diverse. The whole underlying principle of the X-Men was to try to be an anti-bigotry story to show there’s good in every person,” he later explained.
A lifelong champion for tolerance and inclusivity, he always fearlessly spoke out on issues that matter, whether in his amazing stories or via his regular soapbox column. As always, Stan said it best when he said that “another definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s wellbeing and will go out of his or her way to help them — even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”
Lesson 3 – Keep moving forward
Stan was always appreciative of his fans and the love they showed for his life’s work, and despite his enormous success, he was always humble and kept his life in firm perspective. In the year 2000, just a few short weeks before the release of the first X-Men film, when asked what he thought his future had in store for him, his response was characteristically well humoured: “I don’t know where the hell I’ll be in five years. Maybe I’ll be producing movies maybe I’ll be on a corner selling apples. I don’t know, but I’m having a hell of a lot of fun.”
Whatever life threw his way, however, he always seemed to meet the challenges with grace, humour and pure determination. It was probably his key life’s motto which best exemplified his life’s core philosophy, “You know, my motto is ‘Excelsior.’ That’s an old word that means ‘upward and onward to greater glory.’ It’s on the seal of the state of New York. Keep moving forward, and if it’s time to go, it’s time. Nothing lasts forever.”
Excelsior, Stan. We miss you.