This is the man who shaped much of my youth.
Courtesy of NYT:
If Stan Lee revolutionized the comic book world in the 1960s, which he did, he left as big a stamp — maybe bigger — on the even wider pop culture landscape of today.
Think of “Spider-Man,” the blockbuster movie franchise and Broadway spectacle. Think of “Iron Man,” another Hollywood gold-mine series personified by its star, Robert Downey Jr. Think of “Black Panther,” the box-office superhero smash that shattered big screen racial barriers in the process.
And that is to say nothing of the Hulk, the X-Men, Thor and other film and television juggernauts that have stirred the popular imagination and made many people very rich.
If all that entertainment product can be traced to one person, it would be Stan Lee, who died in Los Angeles on Monday at 95. From a cluttered office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan in the 1960s, he helped conjure a lineup of pulp-fiction heroes that has come to define much of popular culture in the early 21st century.
I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds here because I will lose most of you, but just know that I could write the entire history of Stan Lee and Marvel comics from memory, including why he changed his name from Stanley Lieber, without having to stop and Google a single fact.
The reason that I am so well informed is that I was a comic book geek before comic book geeks were cool.
I was anything but cool as a pimply 14-year-old with a vivid imagination, devouring new editions of The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, and the X-Men on a daily basis.
Comic books offered the kind of escapism from the sometimes harsh reality of my home life that I desperately needed at that time while also teaching me about sacrifice and heroism in a way that perhaps no other genre ever could.
The heroes in a Stan Lee comic book were not perfect specimens of humanity, they were often deeply flawed, constantly insecure, and sometimes barely capable of surviving the battles they felt duty-bound to take on.
If you have seen even one of the recent Marvel movies and walked out of the theater shaking your head at how imaginative they were, and how complex the characters seemed, well you have Stan Lee to thank for that.
He helped to create that world just for you, first on the pages of a simple ten-cent comic book, and then later across movie screens all over the world.
Stan Lee was a guy who wanted to be so much more than a mere creator of comic book heroes but instead made being a creator of comic book heroes one of the most prestigious jobs imaginable.