By Mason Masotta
A shaper of universes has passed. On Monday, November 12th, Stan Lee passed away. The beloved and globally known writer and figurehead of Marvel Comics was 95 years old and spent his life creating some of the most well-known icons in pop culture. From “The Amazing Spider-Man” to “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Uncanny X-Men” to Marvel’s first family, “The Fantastic Four,” his work has created a legacy that has yet to be matched.
Lee is perhaps most well-known for his creations and friendly personality, but he was also a trailblazer of the era. Having the courage to run a Spider-Man storyline dealing with drug addiction, Stan Lee was instrumental with ending the oppressive and restrictive Comics Code Authority back in the 1970s.
The way in which he approached all sorts of characters showed his deep care for other people. Peter Parker/Spider-Man was created in order to give young people and teens a protagonist to resonate with and see themselves in. The struggles with civil rights depicted in X-Men comics brought new and progressive perspectives to mainstream society.
I personally always had a strong appreciation for the iconic writer’s work and bright smile. Growing up as an enormous fan of superheroes in general and having a singular figure like Stan Lee showing the results of hard work and creativity always inspired me to pursue and improve my own writing abilities.
One of the most important lessons that I learned from the prolific icon is finding enjoyment in what you do. I’d like to share this inspirational quote about that very idea from him: “I used to be embarrassed because I was a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”
It had always felt like comic books were seen as an underground obsession up until the success of superhero films with early works like X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002) leading the way. Now, it is obvious with the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that the legacy of Stan Lee’s marvelous characters can be appreciated by everyone everywhere. It will be difficult in the future to go into upcoming Marvel movies and see the quick cameos that he was always legendary for. Having him be there without really being here will be somber for sure, but I feel that continuing to honor his significance to the medium and the genre’s success is important.
I was fortunate enough to meet Stan Lee at a Comic Con in Boston a few years ago. It was the only time that I have ever been truly star struck. Getting the chance to meet and talk briefly with a living legend brought my years of hero worship to their peak. I’ll always go back to interviews featuring the great man and the joy that he took in providing entertainment to the legions of fans from all walks of life. We should all aspire to be as heroic and kind as the heroes he created as we reflect on his iconic legacy moving forward. In the words of Stan: Excelsior, true believers!