"An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." - Arthur Miller

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Legend Passes - R.I.P. Stan Lee 1922-2018

Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Panther, Inhumans, Daredevil, Thor, Sandman, Sinister Six, She-Hulk, Wasp, Ant-Man, the list just goes on and on. All co-created by on man - Stan Lee. In effect, Marvel Comics existed because of the prolific imagination of this amazing person. Today, we lost a true legend. Stan Lee passed away today at the age of 95 leaving behind a legacy unlike any other. A legacy of great imagination married with conveying great responsibility while reflecting the imperfect world we lived in so can marvel at it all. His creativity, his approach to story telling has inspired and will continue to inspire generations.

Stanley Lieber was born on December 8, 1922 in New York City. As a teenager growing up during the depression he worked various jobs to help his family until eventually working for his cousin-in-law at Timely Comics. There he met his fellow legends Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (creators of Captain America). A sign of his creativity was his very first work called "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge", two pages of text story that existed due to postal regulatations. In the story Captain America threw his mighty shield for the first time, a now iconic signature move of the character. It was in this story that his nom de plume "Stan Lee" first appeared before it eventually became his legal name.

Amazingly Timely Comics let go Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Their replacement editing the books at the ripe old age of 18 was Stan Lee. The attack on Pearl Harbor led to Lee enlisting to fight World War II as a member of the signal corps and then joining the Training Films Division as "playwright". Once he returned he married his wife of 70 years, Joan Clayton Boocock and returned to Timely Comics now called Atlas Comics. They had two children, Joan Celia born in 1950, and Jan who died after only three days. Throughout the 1950s Stan Lee worked on whatever needed to be done to get comics to shelves be it stories for then popular genres of westerns, horror and crime stories.

By the end of the 1950s Stan Lee was simply tired of writing these kinds of stories. However an opportunity arose as DC Comics successfully spurred a new age, the Silver Age of comics with an updated version of the Flash and the creation of the Justice League of America. In 1961, Lee was assigned to task of coming up with a superhero team for Atlas to ride the Justice League wave of popularity. An assignment he didn't really want to do. By now the barely surviving Atlas Comics had changed names once again, to Marvel Comics. However, his wife told him to go for broke, tell the story his way with his characters because what did he have to lose? Late that year debuted The Fantastic Four. This was shortly followed by the debut of Spider-Man. The popularity of the titles led to the immediate production of new superhero titles. Just between 1961 to 1963 he co-created Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, X-Men, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, formed The Avengers, revived the Sub-Mariner, Captain America, a slew of villains and supporting characters and so much more rising to Editor-in-Chief. In short Marvel Comics and the entire cinematic universe exists because a wife pushed her husband to his imagination free leading to an explosion of creative output.

Another "creation" of Stan Lee is the engagement with comic fans that he strongly encouraged. He built a sense of community with fans and creators by introducing the credit panel naming the writer, penciller, inker and letterer of each story. Before then it was rare and almost unheard of. He created the Bullpen Bulletins page to keep fans up to date on new hires and upcoming story-lines and "Stan's Soapbox" to reach his readers directly. He actively and regularly participated in the letter columns, providing responses to fan letters often ending his letters and opinion pieces with "Excelsior!". Lee would give out the "No-Prize" to fans for finding continuity errors in the comics, called that Lee put it "there will be no prizes, and therefore, no losers" and the only real prize was having their letter published and an acknowledgment from Stan Lee. For most fans, that was the prize.

In 1972 Stan Lee was promoted to Publisher at Marvel shifting from writing stories to becoming the public face of Marvel at comic book conventions and on college campuses. The 1980 and on was Lee in Los Angeles pushing for the TV and movie version of Marvel properties, continuing to be the public face of Marvel, while also creating various companies, none of which were particularly successful. Regardless of where he was in his life, he never strayed far from Marvel constantly showing up at conventions and of course doing cameos in Marvel movies (see below). In short he loved what he did, he loved Marvel, and more than that he loved sharing his love of superheroes with the fans.

A legend died today. The world is a little less. What he left behind is simply marvelous. Thank you Stan "The Man" Lee for your creative genius, generosity of spirit, and being the best ambassador for comics it could ever have. Be at peace with your wife. You will be missed.

Comics and Hollywood Reactions: Bleeding Cool I | Deadline | io9 | Feige | Bleeding Cool II

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