I thought I’d sit down and pour out the words about Stan Lee passing. I thought that it’d be easy to put into words what his creations have meant to me for pretty much my whole life. But it turns out that it isn’t an easy task to figure out what someone you’ve never met dying actually means to you.
There was a point in my life that I didn’t read anything other than comic books. If you’d asked I would have told you that books were boring. Not comics though and specifically the Marvel superheroes. They kept me comfort on rainy days with their adventures. They inspired me to fill a tattered blue notebook with my very first (terrible) stories about a super team called the Threats.
Back when I started collecting comics, Stan Lee wasn’t writing them anymore (aside from the Spider-Man comic strip, I believe). But there was a comic series called Marvel Saga coming out at that time. It was effectively a “history” of the early (1960s) comic stories. And I might not have known it, but Stan Lee had a hand in many of those stories during the founding of the Marvel Universe. For a ten-year-old, it was like having a crash course in comic books. Characters I was slowly becoming familiar with… now I got to read their origins. At the time, I don’t think I would have understood that they had a nearly 25-year lifespan already.
The fun was built in. Lots of articles will talk about how he made characters who had problems just like the readers had. Or that he gave them flaws. Made them more human. And he did do that. But for me, he’d created fun characters I enjoyed reading.
This hobby has gone from niche to people buying 10 copies of an issue #1 in hopes of funding their retirement to bankruptcy and now movies. What’s even more amazing is that I’ve been collecting long enough where the rest of the world has only now caught up to what us funny-book readers always knew: this stuff was never just for kids. It was always for everyone.
It is possible I could have discovered comic books without Stan Lee’s creations. I wonder if my love for the format would have been possible without his influence. Would the medium be something that I have not only dedicated 30 plus years to supporting, but also in creating my own comic books… my own characters.
I’m glad I don’t have to figure that out.
Throughout our lives, there are people who have influence over us that we will never meet in real life. Those people can create things which leave the world in a far better place than it was prior to their existence. Those items floating out there waiting for you to stumble upon them somehow. And others are touched by these things leading them to create and those things only add to a person’s legacy. Like a family tree which grows stronger and stronger with each passing year. It stretches out and up to inspire others.
Stan Lee was one of those people for me. And now he’s gone. But I can’t feel empty because he’s filled my mind and heart with so many stories and ideas.
Thank you, Stan… for everything.
John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!
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