Like many of you out there, and all of us here at LRM, I am saddened at the passing of Stan Lee. I cannot remember a time that I did not enjoy Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Captain America, The X-Men, or The Hulk. I watched all of the animated shows throughout the 90s, played the video games, and of course, read the comics. Because of Stan, I could escape into the pages if I had a bad day or create my own adventures on the playground with other kids. Stan’s work gave me and the world so much.
Those of you my age and older can remember a time when liking comic books was a bad thing. The ridicule, bullying, and alienation many of us experienced left us with few options for friends. My upbringing as an Army Brat insulated me some, but it all depended on if I went to school on a military base or how many other military kids were at my off-base school. I had my fair share of harsh treatment for being a “nerd,” but I also found plenty of friends who were just like me, and one of the number one things we had in common was a love of Marvel superheroes. I can remember playing with action figures, trading cards and comics, borrowing VHS tapes of episodes from shows I hadn’t seen yet, and the always fun trips to the Arcade. The ability for four to six of us to play games like The Avengers or X-Men meant we could always do things as a group and strengthen our bonds in person. We sat at the same lunch tables and were always excited to see who had what on their lunch boxes for a new school year.
As I got older lunch boxes mattered less and the ridiculous arguments of whether or not I got to use the Spider-Man action figure gave way to ridiculous arguments over who could win in a fight between Spider-Man and Superman. It was, as it is for many, in high school that I made my lifelong friends. A small group of relative outsiders that welcomed the new kid because he liked Spider-Man and Venom. Fort Campbell, KY had one of two remaining Department of Defense High Schools in the country and the population was small. My graduating class had 90-some-odd kids in it. That meant all of the cliques had crossover populations but myself, Brian, Matt, and Larry made up the core of our group. We had all of the discussions of the early 2000s like whether or not X-Men was comic accurate enough, how Spider-Man was so much better than X-Men, and how awesome Avengers Disassembled and Civil War were.
As we transitioned into adulthood our love of Stan Lee’s world kept us connected despite my moving to another state. When Iron Man came out I was on three and four-way calls for hours discussing that famous post-credits scene. What followed would be years of scheduling time to talk about each and every trailer, movie, and future movie announcements. This still happens today in our early and mid-30s. I had a nearly two-hour conversation with Brian on the Avengers: Infinity War trailer alone! We also love discussing Stan’s cameos and each one is a treat, and knowing they’re going to end relatively soon is heartbreaking.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my wife, who may not have been a huge fan before me, but has been with me for SDCC, NYCC, almost every MCU and Star Wars preview night, and has her own long boxes filled with comics. We may not have met because of Stan Lee, but he sure has been a part of our nearly 13-year relationship. She was every bit as upset when I told her the news as I was.
I know I am not the only one to have made lifelong relationships because of Stan Lee’s creations. I know that he has inspired countless writers, artists, and entertainers to take their chance on following a dream. I know his characters have given millions, if not billions, of people someone to relate too. I know that many of you reading this are torn apart inside and are looking for a way to pay honor to Stan Lee. My suggestion is to share a comic book with someone who has never read one. To show your kid that VHS of the X-Men cartoon you got from Pizza Hutt. To share your memories with others.
Stan Lee gave us all an amazing world to visit, let’s keep his memory strong by sharing it. Excelsior…