Contributing writer Luke Worle remembers the co-creator of Marvel Comics.
Today is a sad day. It may seem trite or sound like faint hyperbole to say we lost a great one, but... we lost a great one. Stan Lee was the foundation for the upper echelon in quality for comic books and subsequent comic book lore. He turned the crude medium of ink blots and paper into mythologizing content that is now firmly cemented as nothing short of legendary. My personal feelings are difficult today. I am sad. Stan Lee fed me a steady diet of Spider-Man, by proxy, when I grew up as a kid in the late '80s. He may not have been inking the pages, but he was in charge of all those deliciously wonderful Spider-Man comic books that I cut my teeth on and still adore. They are the stuff that dreams are made of and have purposed themselves as a fabric of nostalgic lore.
I remember asking my mother to take us to a now-shuttered second-hand shop called Granny's Attic in my hometown of Elmira, New York. We perused the aisles, grabbing a few paperback Hardy Boys Casefiles, which was another '80s staple for me. Then, I came upon the used and new comic lot. It was more "used and abused" than new. Purchasers had, to my joint horror and delight, abandoned even semi-recent editions of the latest Spectacular Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man. Into Granny's lonely aisles of discarded toys and goods they went. It was there that I got my seven-year old hands on my first Spider-Man comic book proper... and I was hooked! I was then engaged in not only asking mom to buy out the rack, but to also get me the new editions fresh on the street! Like all good yet discerning moms, she let me have only half of my way. I could get a few of them for starters, but elbow grease, finishing fractions homework and being nice to the cat and my brother would assure me of future issues. Needless to say, I became a choir-boy in the quest for staying up to date with Spidey's adventures in the Big Apple.
I fell in love with each issue's splashy colors and adventures. Though the pinpoint dotting style of the mid '80s is crude by today's standards, you were still presented with expertly-handled drawings, and decidedly human imprints and tenderness on each razor-thin page. You could see the cartoon balloons for dialogue and how neatly they were inked in. I was in awe that drawings could be so engaging and tell a story like a film.
I went Spidey crazy and was soon wearing Spider-Man pajamas under my street clothes, just like Peter Parker did. I climbed up, around and between the walls, much to the chagrin of my mother, who bought gallons in stock of wall cleaner. When my dad asked me what flavor of ice cream I wanted at the Big 9, I said "The Parkerhouse," because after all, Peter Parker must have surely loved something bearing his name. I was naive for sure, but obsessed with the glorious stories, witty dialogue and Spidey's no- nonsense approach to great villains and relationships. I also adored the end pages which revealed that you could buy x-ray glasses, Pet Rocks, Sea Monkeys and a 100% money-back guarantee of increased muscle girth akin to Thor, all for a paltry sum. I always loved how Stan would give his editorial input on the pages and of course the promising glimpse at issues to come. He kept us teetering on the proverbial edge, much like the film serials of the early 20th century.
Stan Lee was the principle cornerstone of my fantastic childhood. His co-creation of Marvel and the glories of his characters, particularly Spider-Man, will always bear its inky thumbprint on my heart. Stan was a pioneer, but also part of creating a wonderful alternate reality for kids everywhere. Even adults take comic books seriously and we have Stan to thank for that. The Spider-Man films, TV show, cartoon... all of it was a beautiful empire of boundless creative energy with a great moral epicenter: With great power, comes great responsibility. A simple maxim that empowered leagues of kids to emulate the thoughtful, compassionate and responsible nature of one Peter Parker. Just because you got bitten by a radioactive spider and had superhuman powers didn't mean that you could throw homework out the door or forget to be mindful of Aunt May's curfew. I also loved seeing Stan make cameos in the Spidey films and beyond. He was a humble and approachable guy who sincerely loved his work and relished his fans, whom he endeared with great gratitude.
You will be missed, Stan. Your legacy powers forward and in your wake, nothing will ever replace what you pioneered. No amount of slick computer-generated, hyper-glossy modernized comic book will ever replace the organic sensibility of what you started with Marvel and of course Spider-Man. Thanks for the great characters and the commitment to top-tier quality. Most of all, thank you Stan for letting me be Spider-Man in the imagination of my mind. This web's for you.
You can learn about Blip, Marvel's seven-issue video gaming magazine, here.