When you think about your childhood, what do you remember? Going to school? Doing your homework? Doing your chores? Or, instead, do you remember having fun? Fun that seemed like it would never end; fun that was part of who you were and who you are now. That fun, that fundamental part of your being, was due partly to Mr Stan Lee.
A legend in his own right, Marvel comics creator, Stan Lee was born in 1922 in Manhattan, New York. In 1939, he started a pencil pusher job at Timely Comics – two years later, his name was penned under a Captain America comic entitled “The Traitor’s Revenge!”.
From small beginnings to being kind of a big deal, Stan Lee always stuck by his morals and funnelled his desire for equality for all into his comics. From blind vigilante Daredevil to African King, Black Panther, Lee always wanted his entire readership to have someone to admire; to look up to.
And that’s exactly what he did. Unlike his competitors, Stan wanted to include real-life problems in his stories, ones that kids could relate to. As much as he wanted his heroes to be special, he always wanted to ground them in some way. Spider-man would worry about his dandruff, at the same time as beating up the bad guys. He crafted multidimensional and flawed heroes, but this is what makes them click with so many people.
I know that, to me, Stan Lee and Marvel Comics will always be a big part of my life. Not only did I appreciate growing up with such strong, female characters, but it also helped me to form bonds with people. My dad and I have bonded for years over our love of Marvel, and without Stan Lee’s brilliant mind, I might not have had as much of an opportunity.
This is why Stan Lee, to me, is seen as the People’s Hero. He is a perfect example of how love, acceptance and understanding are the best ways to outshine bigotry and hatred. He has inspired countless people to be themselves: women now have the courage to be loud, unapologetic and sexy. People of colour have the courage to love their heritage and know that they are equal in the eyes of Marvel Comics.
Stan gave us all courage to be what we wanted to be. From lawyers to doctors, to teachers and scientists, he always put value in dreaming. Without his care, without his tales there to nurture our aspirations, we might never have got to where we are today. He is a quiet force behind all of our decisions: decisions we might think are subconscious but are actually spurred on by the bravery he gifted to us all.
He was a pioneer for social change, for political change, and for pure, unadulterated happiness. Lee knew that entertainment was one of the most important things to provide in a world so full of hatred. Instead of lingering in the dark, Lee’s heroes always leap into the light, ridding the world of all of the injustice Stan so wanted it to be free from.
With this in mind, it is impossible not to see the vast contribution that Stan made; not only to pop culture, but also to our lives. He and his team of writers, artists, editors and suchlike, were a pioneering force in having fun. They wanted people to love life, not just tolerate it. If superheroes were the way to do that, then so be it.
It’s not often that a man has so much impact, not just in real life, but also in the fictional worlds he created. Stan Lee was a force of nature and a true gentleman, as well as being a supremely talented Marvel comics author. His legacy is something that will live on for centuries – his stories will live on even longer.
So, to Stan Lee, we say thank you. Thank you for making our childhoods so much more magical than they could have been. Thank you for giving us stories that have followed us throughout our lives. Thank you for giving us characters that we can class as our friends, heroes and mentors. Thank you, Stan, for being the people’s hero.