Vinny takes a look at the late creator, and the legacy that he has left behind.
For a long time, I’ve had mixed feelings about Stan Lee.
I’ve dreaded his passing as I knew it would be impossible to avoid writing about it. That’s not to be cold, but I only met the man ever so briefly and, though attached to his work, I never quite felt attached to him. From a critical perspective, he’s just a tough one to crack.
It’s hard to write about Stan Lee, because there are really two men to write about.
Writer. Editor. Publisher.
This is the man would dominate Marvel Comics for decades. Within this time, Lee would be credited with the creation of numerous characters, some of whom would become icons of pop culture. Because of his trademark “Marvel Method“, some have questioned just how much of this classic material can be attributed to him. I sure know I have.
Fantastic Four seems to bleed Kirby and The X-Men don’t quite truly form until after Lee is off the book. A lot of what we love of Marvel seems to be rather distanced from Lee.
Or is it?
Lee never took credit for books he wasn’t directly involved with anyway, so even if The X-Men aren’t quite the characters he created, that’s sort of a null point. In the case of “Marvel Method” books, and the varied levels in which Lee may have contributed, I think one thing is important to remember. Stan Lee was in a position of editorial power, and whether he was the one innovating or allowing innovation, this is admirable in an industry still mired in perceived rules. Lee was a driving force in breaking the mold of what a superhero could be and the industry would not be the same without him. In recent days, there has been a lot written about Lee’s progressive social views – a fact that is undeniable. Sixites and Seventies Marvel is almost always about acceptance and justice. Lee certainly had a hand in this. Also, and this is just an educated opinion, in the same way early Fantastic Four feels more Kirby, early issues of The Amazing Spider-Man feel like Lee is speaking directly to you. If nothing else, I think that book was the purest Stan we ever got.
By the sixties, Stan was in his forties. But you’d never know that. Stan became not only the mascot, but the embodiment of the True Believers. A hip, personable spokesperson for the House of Ideas, and something DC just didn’t have. Stanley Lieber truly transformed into “The Man”. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Lee reveled in the popularity of his creations and was quite willing to accept the attention given to him. While this type of behavior ruffled some feathers *Cough* Atlas/Seaboard *Cough*, it turned Lee into an icon beyond the comic pages, and one that predicted and began to build the powerhouse known as Marvel Studios. Lee saw all of this potential ahead and knew that he had to be an entertainer as well as a creator to thrive. He was always looking into other mediums and, because of his constant involvement, became a familiar voice whenever Marvel was given some audio to play with. I know what Stan Lee looked like, but what’s been driven into my head more was what he sounded like. A light, excited voice introducing some of the most exciting characters you’ve ever seen.
Stan Lee holds the distinction of finding the height of his popularity well into his eighties and nineties. A true icon of pop-culture who came to embody the spirit of a massive collection of legends. Lee was so tied to the characters he created and promoted that as they grew in popularity and influence, he did as well. Stan Lee’s cameos became an expectation of Marvel Films, and something directors sought to highlight. Stan Lee became an idea beyond any medium. That’s not something that happens every day.