Last week brought the tragic news that Stan “The Man” Lee had passed away. While this news was not largely unexpected, as reports of ill health have been frequent over the last few months and Stan was in his mid-90’s, the news did sadden fans the world over.
Stan’s commitment to and impact on the world of pop culture are impossible to ignore. He created some of the most prominent superheroes in the world, ones still known and loved to this day, but moreover, he made these heroes both relatable and human. From the Fantastic Four, to Spider-Man, to Thor, he found a way to take fantastical concepts and still find a way to make them all relatable and believable. Whether it was the bullies that Peter dealt with, Banner’s issues with anger or almost all of his heroes strain to keep their twin lives on track simultaneously, Stan showed us that being flawed did not mean we could not help each other, or make a difference in this world. While his work was often completed paired with artists such as Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, who helped bring his visions of heroes to life, it should always be considered that without Stan’s ideas for these characters, such works would have never come to be.
Further to this, Stan strived to make sure his work always carried a message regarding events in the real world. Whether this was a social commentary on civil rights, as was his aim with the creation of the X-Men, or to comment on smaller issues such as the power of unity, as shown in the early Avengers stories, these ideas always formed the backbone of his stories. One of his soapbox columns details how he believed that this was a central concept in creating powerful and lasting stories, that “just because something’s for fun, doesn’t mean we have to blanket our brains while we read it!”. He wanted to make us all look at the world differently, and videos on his social media feed show his strong condemnation of issues like racism and bigotry continued throughout his life.
Stan’s belief in this also allowed him to connect strongly to his fans. A video recently published on his social media accounts shows that he always had a strong appreciation of his fans, and his fans’ support often helped him when he felt low. Stan’s humour and light-hearted nature always shone through his cameos in all their forms. From film to TV to video games, Stan’s signature style always showed up somewhere to put a smile on fans’ faces. Even now hearing his voice always fills us with happiness, because it is clear through these that Stan genuinely had love and passion for what he was doing.
His mark on popular culture is enormous, and it is unlikely that anyone will rise to have an impact on defining a genre as strongly as he did. His talent and work have reached all forms of entertainment, as listed above. Personally, I doubt that anyone will forget the influence that he has had on the world, and I hope that all of the fans continue to show everyone the same respect and kindness that Stan always wanted us to treat each other with.
RIP Stan Lee, and for one final time, Excelsior!