Stanley Martin Lieber was born on December 28, 1922 in Washington Heights, New York City, and he died at the age of 95 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, on November 12, 2018.
By now you’ve been inundated by tweets, Facebook posts, news stories and countless testimonials from celebrities to the guy at your local coffee shop, all of them dedicated to Lee’s brilliance and impact on pop culture. Even my wife, the world’s biggest non-nerd (who greeted me as I walked in the door that night with, “Hey, did you hear Stanley Tucci died?”) couldn’t help but pay homage to Stan the Man’s enduring contributions to human imagination and Marvel Comics/Disney’s coffers.
It’s safe to say that there are very few corners of this mudball that aren’t mourning the loss of Stan Lee, a poor little Jewish boy from NYC whose creations are still helping to bring a divided world together. Somewhere, in Kazakhstan, perhaps, there’s a goat herder who pretends to be Spider-Man, leaping from goat to goat (at least I hope that’s what he’s doing with those goats) and in Russia there’s a hacker pausing from messing with the American electoral process to illegally download a copy of the first-cut of Avengers 4. And it’s all thanks in part to Stan Lee.
But in spite of all this, you won’t find me among the mourners. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, these people are missing the point of Smilin’ Stan’s existence and now, his legacy. You’re wasting your tears, people. What do you think, those things grow on trees?
Of course, there are those who may not be mourning Lee as much as others. He had a few disputes with Jack “The King” Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others who always maintained that Stan didn’t like to share credit for creating Spidey, the Fantastic Four and countless other heroes. Ask any of these late creators’ relatives how they felt about Lee while he was alive and they’ll shock you with tales of an ego as bold as its owner’s imagination. Look below the surface and you’ll see that Stan Lee had a past as checkered with controversy and scandal as accomplishments.
But while I feel such issues bear mentioning, they shouldn’t diminish Stan’s legacy as a man who inspired millions of souls both young and old to finally acknowledge that imagination is a super power.
When the news of Stan the Man’s passing started to appear on screens everywhere so too did the stories. Filmmakers like Kevin Smith and the Russo Brothers cited Lee as their inspiration. Actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, who are living a cinematic dream Stan never dreamed he’d see come to onscreen life, praised him for touching human beings everywhere in a non-Catholic priest way (while making them richer than their agents ever imagined) and of course, comic book stores all over the world began to fill up with fanboys and girls who did everything from sob uncontrollably to digging deep in their bank accounts and credit limits in the hope of scoring a Stan the Man masterpiece before the price skyrocketed. Yes, everyone has a Stan Lee story.
Mine was a childhood dominated by contrasts: I was white but not privileged, tall but not muscular, not dumb but not quite a brainer. My family seemed typically normal but was actually anything but. And then there was the Incident. As an adult I rarely talk about the Incident, it doesn’t control or direct my life nor has it set me on a path of self-loathing or self-abuse. I have a perfectly normal-but-nutty marriage and we have an extraordinary daughter who is young, scrappy and hungry.
But none of that means the Incident didn’t happen. None of that means that a young, weak boy didn’t find himself in a position where he could’ve used a Captain America or a Ben Grimm to save him. There was no one to save me but I survived nevertheless.
I remember retreating into myself in the days after the Incident; I hid it’s existence from my parents and every other adult I came in contact with, but when I was alone in my room (where I spent a great deal of my time) I’d drop to the floor and break down. As I grew up one thing kept me from becoming a drunk, an addict or worse, a statistic: comic books and the heroism contained within their pages.
And one man became the symbol of that heroism. Stan Lee, for all his possible faults, had become the public face of the comic industry decades earlier. here was something buried deep in Stan’s consciousness that allowed him to be a ham with a purpose. Stan helped people realize that although they were “funny books” on the surface, comics could help people escape their troubles and visit a world that resembled their own but with one major difference: Heroes that were blessed with amazing abilities but were inherently human.
Stan’s comics allowed readers to soar to the heavens with Thor.
They could travel to far-off realms with Dr. Strange.
And they could inspire a boy to push past the memory of a brutal assault and carry on with his life.
Stan Lee’s comic book heroes were larger than life and have endured for decades and so will everything the man himself stood for.
And so I won’t mourn Stan Lee because Stan Lee didn’t die; Stanley Martin Lieber did. Stan Lee is a symbol of what we all can be if we dig deep enough and symbols never die, True Believers.
Editor’s Note: Pulp Nation wishes to thank The Hook for this heartfelt tribute to Stan Lee.
We’ve had the honour of The Hook writing for us before. Please have a look at his open letter to Scott Wilson of Walking Dead fame a few years back.
If you haven’t already you need to visit The Hook’s Blog. It’s probably one of the few honest blogs out there.