Kelly Gallagher ‘22
On Monday, November 12, comic book legend Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95. Lee is celebrated as one of the most influential people within the comic book world. Through his long-time involvement with Marvel Comics, as well as the multimedia cooperation it has become today, he has given the world unforgettable characters and stories. Mourners emphasize the rich life Lee led, as well as the powerful effect he had on individuals.
Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28, 1922, in New York City. According to Marvel Comics’ eulogy, he grew up an avid reader and writer. As a teenager, he became an assistant at Timely Comics. Over the years, he became a writer and eventually the company’s Editor-in-Chief as it evolved into Marvel Comics.
At Marvel Comics, Lee worked alongside writers Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to create superheroes such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Black Panther, and the X-Men. While it has been debated which men contributed the most during the creative process, it’s undeniable that Lee worked hard to flesh out characters who walk the line between being complex, relatable humans and being utterly fantastic.
Lee was also a sharp-witted marketer who ensured that these creations received the attention he believed they deserved. Though plenty of his endeavors failed, he persevered, and his efforts paid off as Marvel grew into a cultural phenomenon. For decades he remained a face of the company, as reflected by his beloved cameos in Marvel movies. His achievements were recognized when Lee was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2008.
Lee’s work touched millions of lives, as demonstrated by the wealth of heartfelt commemorations that flooded the internet in the hours following his death. Marvel Comics payed him tribute, as did Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige, Disney CEO Bob Iger, and most of the movie stars from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Droves of fans from around the globe expressed their sorrow. Tributes continued to pour in from well beyond the comic book sphere as Lee was honored by Lin Manuel Miranda, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk, and even the U.S. Army and NASA.
As admirers remember Stan Lee, many have reflected on the importance of his work. Lee once said, “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives.” Entertainment comforts, informs, and ultimately connects us. Indeed, Marvel’s ubiquity today is proof of entertainment’s power to unite people. Ever since Stan Lee created The Fantastic Four in 1961, the Marvel comics, television programs, and movies have provided a truly unique type of entertainment. Fans come from all walks of life, and whether they needed to be assured that it was okay to be different, or sought a more exciting world than their own, or became enamored with the vibrant characters who were more like friends than fabrications, they have found a home within the Marvel Universe.
Stan Lee’s life and legacy remind us of the powerful impact of entertainment, imagination, and grit. Lee was a kind, passionate, and visionary man who created something far bigger than himself. The man will be greatly missed, but his legacy will thrive for years to come.
Photo Courtesy of AV News