When I think of Stan Lee it was always with this sense of immortality. Stan “The Man” Lee had kind of transcended the title of being a comicbook writer and was just as much a superhero as Spider-Man or the Hulk. He came across larger than life. A figure who would always be here. Seriously, what would a world without Stan Lee even look like?!
Sadly, we now live in that world. Stan Lee passed away at the age of ninety-five today, and since I learned of the news I’ve been trying to come up with the words I would use to celebrate him. In my mind, I wanted to create this opus to not only celebrate Stan Lee but also encapsulate how important he has been to shaping not only my imagination but who I am as a person. The truth is that column is so massive in scale I’m not even sure how to write it. I’ve sat in front of my laptop for the last twenty minutes writing one opening and then deleting it. Writing another, copying it in the hopes of using it later in the piece, but finding the words were just coming up short. The scope is too large. The feelings run too deep. Maybe with some time, I can write that column but I think today needs to be from the heart.
I’ve been to a number of different Comic Cons and there were some where I had the chance to wait in line and meet Stan Lee. Get a book signed, thank him for my childhood, maybe take a picture and share an “Excelsior” and brag about it for the rest of my life. The thing is, I never did that. I never took the opportunity to meet Stan Lee because I was spoiled with the belief that he would be here forever. The Immortal Stan Lee seemed like such a real thing. Within that reality, I would have an endless amount of opportunities to meet him. And even though I wish I had taken the time to wait in line with others who have had their lives shaped by his stories, I’m not sad about it. No quick autograph or handshake would be nearly enough time to convey the importance of Stan Lee on my life.
My parents are the ones who are directly responsible for encouraging my imagination, but in a lot of ways, Stan Lee provided the building blocks. Spider-Man especially. Through action figures, comicbooks, movies, and video games, Stan Lee was directly responsible for shaping what a story could be, how superheroes could be people too, and how with great power comes great responsibility. Lessons and values that I still carry with me at age thirty-seven. I’ll always be that kid in my parents living room pretending to shoot webs out of my hands because it was cool, but now I can be the adult who understands the importance of those selfless actions.
The thing is, it’s beyond difficult to capture into words the importance of Stan Lee. When push comes to shove I am beyond grateful to him. Through Stan Lee I fell in love with stories, I expanded my imagination, I met characters who have stuck with through my adult years, shared in their joys and heartbreak, allowed them to shape me, found inspiration, and found a place where I belonged. Maybe that’s the true beauty of the genius of Stan Lee, he gave outsiders a place where they felt at home. Myself included.
We lost Stan Lee today, and I wish I had better words to describe what his stories and characters have meant to me. How they’ve shaped me and how they continue to inspire me. I’ve tried. I’ve been writing this column for longer than I’d like to admit, but it’s hard to put these type of things into words. Stan Lee has been and will continue to be a huge inspiration on my life and hopefully, I can share his impact when I have children, and if that isn’t the definition of immortality I don’t know what is.
Thank you just isn’t enough but it’s all I got. Thank you Stan Lee, Excelsior!