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Honoring Stan Lee

I’ve always wanted to be an artist. When I realized I could draw Snoopy, it was a real eye opener. It wasn’t long before I was drawing superheroes too. I would draw them as I made up my own adventures for them.

I honestly don’t remember a time in my life without comic books. When I was little, they didn’t cost much, and my parents kept me in good supply. When I got older, I bought my own and amassed quite a collection. It was never worth anything because they were all read cover to to cover. Repeatedly. I’ve always loved DC as well as Marvel, to some extent: Batman and Superman and a few others, but by far my favorite were all Marvel brand comics. They were less goody goody, and if they got beat up or found out, that situation didn’t disappear in the next issue. If you liked Marvel comics, then Stan Lee was responsible for that. He co-created the vast pantheon of Marvel heros with the talented bullpen of artists they had.

It was his idea that the Fantastic Four not hide their identities. Why should they? (Then people didn’t always trust people with super powers, including the police, another “realistic  departure from conventional comics wisdom.

Spiderman decided to hide his identity and it was a good thing, because a graying, sarcastic publisher of newsprint periodicals hated him immediately!

This isn’t the place for a blow by blow origin synopsis of all the Marvel heroes, I got my education here. But the style of making the heroes have ongoing lives that were in conflict with each other and the world around them was truly groundbreaking and that was 100% Stan Lee’s doing.

Stan Lee also tried to make the origins of the heroes make sense; at least relative to comic books. The Fantastic Four were subjected to stellar radiation, the hulk the result of a nuclear accident, Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider… There was a lot of fear and unknown dangers of radiation in early nuclear age.

The X-men were a special group because they were all mutants. This meant they were born the way they were and society’s fear of them was a great metaphor for prejudice of all kinds. This was a special topic for Stan Lee (I can’t seem to call him Stan, or Mr. Lee…) he worked to show prejudice was wrong on many different levels. There’s legitimate criticism to be made that comics have been slow to champion women, and LGBT people, and even people of color. I believe Marvel comics in general and Stan Lee in particular, have worked hard to combat prejudice, but we are all blind to our own shortcomings. Just as America has always been a place where equality is an ideal, but a work in progress in reality, comics have work to do. But that work was begun by Stan Lee and comics owe him an undying gratitude. 

Stan Lee took a medium that was largely without elements of real life and injected those into comic books and changed the way the world sees itself. Thank you Stan Lee  Excelsior!

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