Every generation has a handful of people who seem larger-than-life, almost like something from well…a comic book. People who in a strange sort of way, seem almost immortal, in that they bleed into the very fabric of the current culture in a mythic way.
As far back as I can remember, Stan Lee was always one of those folks. Those living, immortal icons who was just always there. Even if you weren’t a big comic book guy, he was a recognizable name and personality, someone who not only created Spider-Man, but was in many ways, a character as well. I’ve always kind of had this suspicion that to Stan, these comic book stories he wrote were almost real to him. Not in the “factually in front of me” sense, but in the “I put a piece of myself in this art” sense. Again, any interview with the man is a sure-fire giveaway. Stan had this wholly unique cadence to him, where the way he talks almost feels like the way he wrote his characters. Very upbeat, with sharp-as-a-tack dialogue and almost super-heroic certainty in what he was doing.
While I’ve always been more of a book reader than a “comic book guy,” I got my start as a writer doing comics. And back when I started doing that, I watched hours and hours of different creators. Jim Lee, Dave Sim, Todd McFarlane…and of course, Stan Lee. And I think the biggest takeaway I got from watching Stan was just how sincere he seemed. He was a person who loved his fans and loved people in general, regardless of their color or creed. He wanted to tell positive stories, to make the world a little brighter…but never to talk down to or pontificate. If there’s two things Stan mans to me personally, it’s love and respect. Love of what you do and who you do it for, and respect for your consumers as thinking, meaningful people.
So rest in peace, Stan. You were always a hero to me.