I waited awhile to write this blog. Some of the reason for the wait was out of necessity—I simply had no time. But more importantly, if I had released this blog right after Stan Lee passed away, my voice being one of many voices vying for attention, many of who did a better job eulogizing a man who had a profound effect on pop culture. I’m not sure if my voice adds anything profound to the discussions about Stan Lee’s passing, but it seems appropriate for this site to mention this man and his accomplishments.
Stan Lee, born Stanley Martin Lieber on December 28, 1922 died a few weeks ago on November 12, 2018.
Many know him as affable front man for Marvel Comics, or if you just watch the movies, he’s that one guy who keeps cameoing and making zingers in each movie.
My first exposure to Stan Lee was during 1994’s Marvel Action Hour, an hour of programming on Saturday mornings featuring Fantastic Four and Iron Man cartoons running back to back starting at 7am before the official slate of Saturday morning cartoons began at 8am.
I would get up on Saturday mornings at 6:30am to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The worlds of the Fantastic Four and Iron Man were new to me, but I found them both compelling (even in the far inferior first seasons of each show, compared to the much-improved second seasons). Through these cartoons, I came to know both Marvel’s First Family and a character who would later go on to be figurehead for a then-unimagined cinematic universe.
Introducing these shows in their first seasons was the man himself—Stan Lee!
Each Saturday morning he would greet the viewers with his famous catchphrase: “Hello True Believers!”
The phrase itself denotes a sense of wonder. A sense of commitment. Of devotion.
And any Marvel fanboy or fangirl will tell you that we were committed to these characters growing up. Even if we were most fond of the X-Men and Spider-man at that time (and most of us were), a cameo from Captain America or an obscure character like Giant Man was still cause for excitement.
These stories were formative for me growing up. They’re a part of mental and emotional make-up. They’re a part of my moral development and mental inspiration.
They inspired me to hang on and do the right thing even when the world seems stacked against me—like Spider-man.
They taught me the kind of moral fiber it takes to inspire greatness in others—like Captain America.
They taught me about how to be a hero in spite of my wounds and flaws—like the Hulk.
They taught me about the evils of bigotry and how silly it is that we persecute and violate others because of their differences—like the X-Men.
They continue to teach me to imagine that the world is more fantastic than I can imagine or think (hence my whole “Theology and Pop Culture” spiel).
And Stan Lee has a lot to do with that.
Stan Lee was not a perfect man. Those familiar with the insider politics of the industry will tell you that Lee didn’t do right by his former partner and co-creator, Jack Kirby, who has just as much, if not more to do with Marvel’s success than Lee himself.
Nevertheless, thanks to Stan, we can imagine new worlds. Better worlds. Fantastic worlds.
Excelsior, true believers!