It is a somber day for comic book lovers the world over. The profoundly influential and revered Stan Lee has passed away at the age of 95, leaving behind an entire universe of his creation to we, the grateful heirs of his wonder and imagination.
To be quite honest, there is nothing I can attempt to say here that would hold a candle to doing the man justice. So this isn’t going to be a detailed biography or complete list of accomplishments. Stan Lee’s work speaks for itself. So much so that people who have never heard the name “Stan Lee” are still well aware of and have been affected by his work. Of course, for most of his loyal fans, he was less than a god, but absolutely more than a man. To be completely honest, it would be no surprise if some of his most devout treated his work as gospel. Especially the early canon. You know I pride myself on trying to keep Geek Therapy Radio has far removed from politics as possible. Our personal politics is just 1% of who we are. My show celebrates the other 99% that makes us “us” and all the overlap there-in that we have in common. But outside of politics, at least among the diehard, it is no surprise that heated arguments have and continue to arise when discussing something as sacred, for instance, as the original gospel of Spiderman. Even slight alteration and modernization to the original story can be met with sharp criticism and debate and despite where you land personally in those debates, we can all agree on one beautiful thing: Stan Lee created a universe worthy of such passion and devotion.
Often in our most difficult times, it’s an understatement to say droves of us turn to the universe Lee created for respite, and as passionate as we can get arguing the details of this or that, who can and can’t use Thor’s hammer and under what special circumstances, who would win in a fight between so and so, the meaning and nuance behind a character’s origin and history, at the end of the day we bond over a shared love over the legacy Lee leaves behind. That without Stan Lee, lots of us would be lost, or worse, have lost hope.
It is no argument that Lee gave us heroes to look up to, but profoundly, not because of their superhuman powers, but because of their very human struggles. Spiderman’s grief of losing a loved one could not be soothed by superhuman abilities, but only by addressing a broken heart. By being broken. By being human. And it is THAT way, and THAT way only that Stan Lee gave millions of readers hope in their OWN lives. Our heroes hurt the same as we do. So for the reader who sat alone on the bus, with a flashlight under the safety of bed sheets in a broken home, or shaking dust from the pages after being pushed in the dirt…they could enter a universe where they weren’t alone. And in an even more beautiful way, began to share the love of these characters over a common bond with another human being in the real world.
For those who found peace in those stories, none of it would have happened if not for Stan Lee sharing his gifts.
And going even further, Lee created characters that specifically gave voices to those on the fringe of society during an era when such a thing wasn’t expected, and damn sure wasn’t always accepted. Black Panther gave minorities a voice when they felt they couldn’t speak, and among others, Captain Marvel gave little girls hope that they could accomplish anything. And again, not because of these characters’ super powers, but because of their acute, often poignant humanity and realistic professional accomplishments.
I would be lying if I said I’m not trying to take a page out of Lee’s book when I approach my own show in my current corner of the radio dial and nook of the internet through podcast, YouTube, and other media. Not at all that I expect to become even a pimple on face of the empire Stan Lee built, but that no matter the size of my reach, that I offer something more real each week than just about an hour total of something to listen to, watch, or read. That people come to geek out, learn, and have some fun, but stay for the hope and humanity I try to offer. That’s way my show’s motto is “We’re all geeks about something” because we are! Every single one of us, despite your politics, race, religion, gender, orientation, creed, etc shares the common bond of an outside passion, hobby, or interest. That is something we share with each other and something I encourage my listeners to seek out in others, especially people they’ve judged without even meeting them. It’s pretty hard to hate someone when you’re baking a cake together, talking about art, or bonding over comic books. All of the sudden that political issue you disagree over is just one thing against the myriad of things both of you love.
You know, I had Wikipedia open along with a bunch of other articles about Stan Lee, but in the end I don’t think that would have been the best way to honor the man. A bunch of facts and figures is readily available, but you’d never hear his sales figures, movie deals, or exhaustive list of accomplishments at his eulogy. Instead you’d celebrate the man and his meaningful mark on the world. A man like Stan Lee doesn’t go through life planning to buried with treasure, but leave treasured. And he did just that.
The world is forever and irreversibly altered for the better for having 95 years with Stan Lee. It is impossible to imagine a world without what Stan Lee created. It impossible to measure the positive impact he left on the hearts of millions, if not billions. It impossible to calculate the hope he has given to countless of the hopeless.
So it is in that way that I honor Stan Lee, for those immeasurables that will forever reverberate across our creation as he enters the next.In that way, he is a superhero.
Rest in peace, Stan Lee.