It was inevitable that Stan Lee would pass on and the third of the original 1960s Marvel bullpen this year, the others being Steve Ditko and Marie Severin. Even so, there are some people whom you believe will go on forever and Stan Lee would certainly be seen as that, more so as he made cameos in all the Marvel character-based films in the past couple decades.
For the generations who were brought up on Marvel Comics, he was the voice of the publications. Hardly surprising, considering he brought normal problems into a super-hero world that was only one step away from our own but it gave something a lot of readers could relate to.
When you consider how much Timely Comics invariably copied the trends of other comic-book companies, there has to be some irony that as Marvel Comics, it led the way to change, mostly because Stan was planning to get out of the industry so decided he would write his way and not just follow what was being done elsewhere. If he was fired, then it wouldn’t matter, he was quitting anyway.
It helped immensely that he had the artistic talents of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Wallace Wood, Gene Colan, John Romita and Don Heck to call on that brought the ideas to life with the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Avengers X-Men and Daredevil. It also allowed the resurrection of 1940s characters Captain America and Namor, the Sub-Mariner.
Granted there has been a lot of debate about distribution of credit and payment for all of them but I tend to think that what Stan really gave was artistic freedom and credits on the splash page which made a big jump when you compare to what was coming out of DC Comics at the time. It’s rather ironic today that the ‘Marvel method’ isn’t actually applied by Marvel Comics today. Artistic freedom for writers and artists seems to be in a downswing, the reverse of what Stan let happen.
Media attention and Stan Lee’s philosophising in his monthly soapbox made him popular with American students and ensured a fanbase that extended beyond the original junior readers. The fact that this worked across the world, making him a household name is inevitable. Even people who don’t read comic-books knew who he was. This kind of transcendence from the source doesn’t help with many people, let alone from the comic-books where it’s usually the characters not the creators that are remembered.
Stan Lee changed the comic-book world. We certainly wouldn’t have the super-hero films we have today if it wasn’t for the fact that he had decided to go in his own direction in the early 1960s. Indeed, it was seen at one stage American comic-books would just fade away in the early 1970s until the resurgence. Stan Lee’s passing might seem like an end to a significant era but I doubt if it’s likely to end any time soon.
How many people can have a legacy like that?
13 November 2018.