Stan Lee will never know how important he was to me. I never had the opportunity to meet him. Part of me wishes I had so I could tell him what he, Jack, Steve, and all those original creators in the Marvel Bullpen meant to me. The universe they spawned has no doubt grown beyond what they ever imagined it would be but it has touched millions of people and personally impacted me more than they will ever know. Stan would no doubt tell you he knew the Marvel Universe would become what it is today and would impact the world in the same way it impacted me, but that was the gift of Stan, his imagination and confidence were endless.
Comics are my constant. I learned to read on comic books. I lost myself for hours on end in comic books. They pushed me to learn. They pushed me to think. They gave me dreams and helped forge my imagination. Comics sent me to the dictionary time and time again to learn new words. Comics added to my knowledge and broadened my understanding. Comics helped me define my place in the world and helped to show me the world can be cruel, unfair, and sadly unjust. Comics also showed me the greatness of humanity, the wonders we can create, the horrors we can overcome, and the amazing good we can do when we all come together to create a finer world. Stan Lee taught me to be an optimist, he showed me the good in man, and he showed me how wonderful the world could be. Stan taught me about openness, to embrace those different than myself, and to not judge a person before you know who that person is on the inside. Stan Lee was Marvel, yes he was not alone, but Stan’s limitless imagination helped to spawn a universe where anything was possible. A universe where true evil lurked in the shadow yet a world where knights in bright colors stood to face that evil, even when the odds were against them they refused to surrender, they refused to quit, the refused to waver even when it was the easy thing to do. In a nut shell Stan taught me to be a better person.
At one point in my life I was a chubby pre-teen. I was awkward and shy. My family moved every few years and I was a lonely pre-pubescent often finding my way in a new town and school. Yet no matter where I found myself I had my Marvel. I would loose myself in the pages of those books as I spent hours reading comics. I had piles of Spider-Man, Avengers, X-Men, and Captain America to name but a few. I was never delusional and thought that the heroes were real, but nonetheless they mattered to me. I was emotionally invested with them for 20+ pages at a time. I read what Stan Lee gifted the world and it changed me for the better. I was never happier then I was sitting on a couch with my comics perfectly piled around me, working my way through each issue, spending hours with Peter Parker, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Scott Summers, and to many other characters to name here. From back issue bins I found old Marvel while spinner racks and comic shops gave me new Marvel, and together it encompassed a grand plan, a fluid plan, an infinite plan that inspired me to be myself, to be better, to care, and most importantly to dream.
I love the fact that today comics are cool, at least comic movies are cool. But when I talk with my students today they don’t understand that comics were for many a hidden passion, a hidden passion that would could get you labeled and mocked that teens and adults loved to read stories of superheroes draped in spandex. I never hid my love of comics, I may not have shared it with everyone, but if you stepped into my bedroom at any point in time from adolescences to college it was crystal clear I was a comic book fan and my basement today is a shrine to the medium. Stan made me comfortable with my passion. Stan wasn’t writing as many books when I first got into comics but his presence was constant as his column, Stan’s Soapbox, appeared in every issue and his love and enthusiasm for the medium made me feel at home, comforted that it was fine that I loved comic books. Today I just feel ahead of the game as the rest of the world has finally embraced the world created by Stan, Jack, Steve, and all those early Bullpen Creators.
My heroes are dying. It’s a terrible fact of life that the ones who mean the most to us will eventually leave us. It’s also a sad fact that there are people who leave us that will never know the importance they played in our lives. Stan Lee has passed. The fountain of creativity that spawned the Marvel Universe has told his last story and the heartache I feel is will resonate with me for some time. We’re a better world for Stan having been with us for 95 years, and the happiness he’s given me will never be forgotten.