Dear Stan Lee,
It was 1978. I was five years-old. Remember it was during the summer, because I was hot and bored. I mean, swimming in the pool could take up a good chunk of your day, but what were you supposed to do in the morning and night? My parents kept wanting me to read more. Unfortunately, I was more drawn to television than I was to books.
One day, my dad came home from the store and handed me something. He wanted me to read more but saw this and thought this might be a good idea. It was a comic book. A Spider-Man comic. It was my first real exposure to a comic book character. Here was a kid that was picked on. Bullied. Couldn’t get the girl. Yet, he was stopping super villains like The Rhino, The Vulture, The Hobgoblin, and of course, The Green Goblin.
Keep in mind, this was, also, my first foray into the Marvel Universe. Shortly after, they had a Spider-Man television show. Then there was an Incredible Hulk series. I remember watching the show and digging how this guy would turn into a giant green rage monster when he got angry. But, at the end of every episode, it was sad.
A deep sadness
When I went to the market with my parents, I saw an Incredible Hulk comic. I wanted to see why he was so sad. There was something inherently beautiful about this character. The bombastic candor of the Hulk, but a deep sadness in Bruce Banner.
Once I understood that Marvel Comics had these characters, I began absorbing so much of them. Eventually, I learned that many of these characters were created by Stan Lee. Lee passed away on November 12, 2018 at the age of 95. I was heartbroken. Like the loss of Leonard Nimoy and Carrie Fisher, Stan Lee was a huge part of my childhood.
One of the things that people fail to realize is that it wasn’t about these heroes. I mean, the hero aspect was awesome and great for kids, but it was about the person. Many of the stories focused on the hero being human and having human problems, but they just happened to be a super hero. Once a comic book store opened in my neighborhood, I had unbridled access to their entire universe, including back issues.
Why he was so important
I won’t say that much of my life view is based on comic characters. What I will say is that as a kid, it gave me peace to know that these characters (particularly Spider-Man) had the same issues I had. The only other issue was that he was super hero too. These characters went through many of the things we went through in our lives. That is why Stan Lee was so important.
He created a universe that featured super heroes that had the same problems its readers had. Sibling rivalry. Lost loves. Isolation. Loss of a loved one. They had a profound impact on a little kid that hadn’t experienced anything yet. But gave great solace when you were faced with them.
Stan Lee wasn’t simply a man that created a fantastic comic book universe. He created a format that his young readers would be more equipped to handle the real problems of life. To the man that opened up my eyes in my youth, thank you for my childhood. Excelsior, my friend. ‘Nuff said.