A little over a week since I had the chance to ask Stan Lee a question and wouldn’t you know it, I’m still jacked that I had a chance to speak with him. The man is a legend. One of the first cartoons I watched growing up was SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS which Stan narrated for season 2. From there, it was THE INCREDIBLE HULK with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, arguably the greatest superhero show in television history. Stan’s creations have been a constant in my life since my earliest memories. The chance to speak with him is a memory I’ll never forget.
With that, I wanted to spend this week reading some of my favorite Stan Lee stories. What made his work stand out where others from his era aren’t as well known? For one, I’d say his instincts on what make characters tick was dead on. When he helped create the Marvel Universe, superheroes, and comics in general, had characters that didn’t deal with too many consequences. Superman would routinely rout the villains he faced each issue with no real repercussions. Batman would easily handle the bad guy of the week that was sent his way. Yet with Marvel, you had characters like Stan’s greatest creation Spider-Man that would get the job done but would be reviled by the public.
Stan Lee was not the sole idea man at Marvel. Comics are a collaborative medium. With the way Stan wrote his scripts with the Marvel Method, the artists had tons more input in terms of the creation of the characters than he did. (The Marvel Method, for folks that don’t know, was Stan’s way of creating the volume of stories he created during that era. He would write a brief three page or so synapsis of the story, including the characters involved, and hand that synapsis to the artists. The artists would draw everything out to fit the twenty or so pages the issue demanded. Once the art was done, Stan would fill in the dialogue for the story.) Names like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Joe Romita, and others are names the average person may not know yet are just as important, if not more so, than Stan in the creation of some of these characters.
What sets Stan out is the fact that he’s a showman. He became the face of Marvel because he put himself out there. For his faults, the comic book industry needed someone like Stan Lee, especially during the Silver Age of Comics. Stan has said in numerous interviews that early in his career, he would shy away from telling people he wrote for comic books. It didn’t help that when he was just reaching his prime, the comic book industry was still reeling from the effects of Dr. Fredric Wortham’s crusade against comics. Every generation seems to have it’s own moral crusader and during the 50’s, Wortham was their guy. In an era where you couldn’t really accomplish much in a comic book, in an era where the artists and writers weren’t exactly proud of telling people what they did for a living, they needed someone to step in and rally people to like comics again. Stan was the man for the job.
Whether it was the Merry Marvel Marching Society, Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins with Stan's Soapbox, narrating a Saturday Morning Cartoon, or making appearances in movies based on his creations, Stan has found many ways through the years to get people excited about the Marvel brand and what they had to offer. For my money, he made it all right for people to like comics again in an era where the quality was pretty iffy. (If you disagree, please find ANY comic from the 50’s and try reading it. Doesn’t matter if it’s a title that’s still around today or not. I’ll wait...See?) By getting young people excited in the 60’s, it brought them into the industry themselves in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and beyond, where they challenged the norms of what comics can do, opening the doors for new characters and new topics you could use in stories.
Stan Lee is a legend. While his legacy is complicated like anyone’s can be, the fact that he had a hand in creating some of the greatest characters of the late 20th Century is an amazing feat. His biggest legacy to me comes with getting people excited about reading comic books. His way of making you feel a part of the Marvel family with how he interacts with his fans is a lesson for anyone in the spotlight today. The world is a better place thanks to Stan Lee. Excelsior!
You can find his work along with 17,000+ stories on Marvel Unlimited. For $9.99 a month or $69 a year, you have access to one of the greatest comic libraries in the world. Why DC Comics doesn’t do this is beyond me because I would easily drop similar money for a similar service from them.
Stan Lee Hidden Gems:
1.Captain America (1968) #100
2.Tales of Suspense (1968) #98
3.Thor (1967) #142
4.The Amazing Spider-Man Annual (1966)
New This Week in Marvel Unlimited:
1.All New Hawkeye (2015) #5
2.All New, All Different Avengers (2016) #7
3.Angela: Queen of Hel (2015) #6
4.Carnage (2015) #6
5.Contest of Champions (2015) #6
6.Howling Commandos of SHIELD (2015) #6
7.Hyperion (2016) #1
8.Illuminati (2015) #5
9.Marvel Universe Guardians of the Galaxy (2016) #6
10.International Iron Man (2016) #1
11.Star Wars: Kanan (2015) #12
12.Scarlet Witch (2015) #4
13.Silk (2015) #6
14.Spider-Woman (2015) #5
15.Squadron Supreme (2015) #5
16.Star Lord (2015) #5
17.Starbrand & Nightmask (2015) #4
18.The Astonishing Ant-Man (2015) #6
19.The Infinity Entity (2016) #2
20.Uncanny Inhumans (2015) #6
21.Web Warriors (2015) #5
22.Power Man and Iron Fist (1978) #71-89