When I was about 8-years-old, I wrote a letter to Stan Lee and his company. I honestly can’t remember what I wrote exactly – although I’m pretty sure it had some nerdy question. But what I do remember is the excitement I felt writing to him about how much his work meant to me and how it had played a major part in my life.
10 years later, since his passing on Nov. 12, 2018, looking back, I can say that feeling hasn’t changed a bit.
Whether you remember him as the king of Marvel cameos (if you’re more into the movies) or the creator of all of your favorite superheroes if you grew up with the comics, there’s no denying the impact Lee had on generations of comic book lovers and true believers everywhere, young and old.
Born Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922, Lee published his first comic in 1941, contributing to Jack Kirby’s “Captain America Comics,” issue #3. It wasn’t until about 20 years later that Lee and Kirby would create their first superhero team together, The Fantastic Four.
Within the same decade, the two men would go on to create many other superheroes we know and love together, including the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, Doctor Strange (with Steve Ditko), the Hulk, Black Panther (the first black superhero), and Spider-Man.
As I’m sure a lot of people can relate, these characters ended up defining my childhood. Having been born a couple years before the first “Spider-Man” movie with Tobey Maguire came out and collecting his comics since I was six,
Stan Lee’s webslinger ended up becoming my favorite superhero, not just because of the powerful life lesson that has followed fans for years: “With great power comes great responsibility,” but believe it or not, Peter Parker was someone I could relate to. I was a total bookworm and have since graduated to a much higher level of geeky nerd, and admittedly, I was also picked on a lot as a kid (but really, who wasn’t at some point in their life?).
It was through Lee’s work that I not only regained my self-esteem but also created my own safe little world of entertaining heroes and villains, where the good guys almost always won and you, the reader, learn something along the way.
In a lot of ways, Stan Lee was a real-life superhero, not just to a little kid like me, but also to the outside world. Like the characters he created, he used his powers for good, writing about many important events that were occurring at the time.
When “The Amazing Spider-Man” rose to prominence and became Lee’s most popular character, he tackled subjects such as the Vietnam War and activism. In 1968, the year that the Civil Rights Amendment was passed, one of his most popular “Soapbox” columns was published, discussing one of the real supervillains of the world, beginning with the line that still remains prevalent today: “Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today.”
In 2017, Lee shared his column again on Twitter shortly after the protest organized by white supremacists in Virginia that ended in tragedy.
There is so much more I’d love to say about Lee; I could write pages and pages about him, his characters, and my comic-filled childhood. I can honestly say without a doubt that he actually was more of a hero to me than the heroes he made.
While I may never have gotten a response to my letter, I’ve continued reading Marvel comic books well into my teens and adult years. And of course, I always find the time to watch every movie, whether it’s the very first “X-Men,” “The Avengers,” or even the lesser known “Daredevil.”
The inner child in me never got sick of finding classic back issues that were way before my time, and really, I’ve always believed it’s a form of art that anyone and everyone can enjoy.
It was certainly a sad day for us Marvel fans when Lee left us, but fear not, True Believers. He may be gone, but his legacy will surely live forever.
As the man himself once said, “You know, I guess one person can make a difference. ‘Nuff said!”