A bonus blog entry this week to pay tribute to Stanley Lieber AKA Stan Lee, who died at 95 today. For many of us, we grew up with Marvel Comics. The man most associated with them was Stan “The Man” Lee. While he didn’t originate comics, he did play a major hand in the explosion of popularity they have enjoyed. Not only that, he invented many of the characters we hold dearest. He made it possible to dream and think beyond our abilities. He also made it OK to be a nerd.
One of the things we most associate with him is the string of cameos he’s had in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This marks a decade of him doing things like saying “Tony Stank” or cutting Thor’s hair. They’re marvels (sorry/not) because he started at the age of 85 and because so many are self-effacing and just plain fun. He was known for the fun he put into his work. He also had a serious side as well. The X-Men were persecuted because they are mutants and thus embody the struggles of minorities from everywhere. One of their most powerful enemies was villain Magneto who was a Holocaust survivor. Lee’s characters are men, women, the rich, the poor, the diverse, all of us. Even Magneto had a heart and a story.
In the end, that’s what Stan Lee was good at. Not merely inventing superpowers and costumes. Giving life to characters with heart and making them come alive via great stories. It’s also why he’s most associated with Spider-Man. Spidey isn’t the strongest or smartest. He struggles to make ends meet and his gear falls far short of Iron Man’s. He can’t touch Wolverine on coolness, because he’s kind of a nerd. What he’s untouchable on are wit, guts, and heart. Sound familiar? Spider-Man is the guy we’d most relate to, a guy who’s an underdog and never stops trying. And that was the magic of Stan Lee.