Legends Never Die: A 5280 Geek Send-Off to Stan Lee
by John Andreula
edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
I’m the resident 5280 Geek video game nerd, but on behalf of the entire team here we wanted to do a proper send-off to a legendary geek who touched and influenced all of our lives in very big ways.
On Monday afternoon I was writing at my mobile workstation and I received a text from my wife. It said three words: “Stan Lee died!!!!” She followed it with three emoticons: 😭😭😭
I was in complete shock. It was not possible.
I just saw Stan Lee a few days earlier in the movie Venom. My wife and I saw the movie last Tuesday for date night. He was 93 at the time the filming of the movie began. Nowhere in my reality did I think it was possible that he would die so soon. Like his comic book creations I just assumed he would be with us forever.
I know in some ways I am right in that thinking. Stan Lee will in fact live forever through the legacy he left us.
First and always Stan was a comic book man.
He got his first job in the comic book industry in 1939 at Timely Comics, which later in the 1960’s would become MARVEL. His first job actually working on a comic book was as a text filler on a Captain America comic in 1941. Lee created his first comic superhero, The Destroyer, later that year. That was seventy-six years ago.
The list of franchises and characters that Stan Lee created since then is a who’s-who of the comic book world.
He created X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Inhumans, S.H.I.E.L.D., and Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos. Additionally his mind gave birth to The Incredible Hulk, Thor, The Invincible Iron Man, Punisher, Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, She Hulk Daredevil, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, Black Panther, and Groot, as well as so many others.¹
Lee is credited with being the first to give superheroes flawed humanity. Before him heroes were perfect people with no lasting problems. He saw the comic heroes of the time as cardboard. Today we are all familiar with the character flaws of all our favorites. It is arguably why we love them so much and keep coming back to their stories we know so well.
He also created so many of the villains to battle these superheroes and teams. Juggernaut, Magneto, Galactus, & Kingpin come to mind as some of my personal favorites.
He created the unique settings like the Danger Room. He envisioned all the planets, universes, and timelines for the stories to take place.
He even created rich and compelling side characters for his heroes and villains like Gwen Stacy, Aunt May, Foggy Nelson, and J. Jonah Jameson. His August 1967 creation of Robbie Robertson in The Amazing Spider-man #51 was credited as one of the first African American characters in comics to have a significant role.
He would continue to make waves for the remainder of his life.
He created the first African American superhero in 1969 when he introduced the world to the Falcon in Captain America #117.
Additionally, Stan Lee is credited as the first to build a sense of community between comic creators and their readers. Some of us old school comic nerds remember his Bullpen Bulletins. Those were the news and information page at the back of the comics where Stan talked to all of us “True Believers.”
He was also the first to give credit to the inker and letterer of the comic book, in addition to the writer and artist. This was a practice that was unheard before his time.
Stan Lee’s countless creations not only reached nerdy comic book readers like myself and the team at 5280 Geek, but his work transcended genre and niche.
He even reached people who would never consider themselves comic book enthusiasts. Some, who may never have picked up a comic book, are familiar with Stan Lee. My wife has not been exposed to nearly the amount of MARVEL comics that I have, but the moment Stan Lee appears for a cameo in one of the Marvel movies or cartoons, she immediately recognizes him and his cool & snarky New Yorker wit.
Lee was one of the fathers of modern popular culture. He transcended his status of mere comic book writer and publisher to become a preeminent popular culture icon. He became a near deity in the vein of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, and Muhammad Ali. Despite their contributions to modern society and culture, George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and Michael Jordan are not even in Stan Lee’s stratosphere, as far as reach and cultural impact are concerned.
Before I even discovered comic books on the racks of the pharmacy up the street from my town house in North Brunswick, New Jersey, I’d already had significant exposure to Stan Lee’s work through video games and cartoons. I remember playing Captain America and the Avengers on Super Nintendo and X-men in the arcades very distinctly. Vision, Colossus, Cyclops, and Wolverine were so cool before I even knew how rich, inspired, and dense their actual stories were.
Stan Lee was the first, and only, personality in comic books I recognize by voice and face even outside of his written work. As a boy, I truly felt he was talking to me at the end of the MARVEL cartoons of the 1980s.
I know people will cry over the loss of Stan “The Man” Lee. I won’t because I will choose to celebrate his life and legacy. I have so much gratitude over the sunlight he has shined over our society. You can see it clearly in his face in his many cameo appearances in films and television over the years.
Lee appeared in cameos on The Simpsons, MADtv, Entourage, The Big Bang Theory, Mallrats, Heroes, The Princess Diaries 2, and the original Muppet Babies. He was Fred’s dad in Big Hero 6. He even read video clues on an episode of Jeopardy. He has 711 writer, producer, actor, and self credits on IMDB.
As far as his impact, ask Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., or Hugh Jackman how much Stan Lee has meant to their careers.
Stan Lee changed the world. We have all been influenced by his creativity and personality. Stan Lee is an immortal god amongst men. He will be missed, but never forgotten.
Rest In Peace
December 28, 1922 – November 12, 2018
¹Extensive list of Stan Lee created characters on https://comicvine.gamespot.com/stan-lee/4040-40467/
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