This is perhaps one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write, and I think deep down we’ve all been preparing for it, but today it happened. Today, November 12th, 2018, we lost Stan Lee. I saw the news as I was at work, and I honestly was considering asking my employer if I could take the rest of the day off. I never had the chance to meet Stan Lee, never even came remotely close, but the fact that his death had this much effect on me personally just goes to show how much he meant to so many.
People will tell you that we live in a terrible time, but I beg to differ. I think we live in a great time, because the characters I loved when I was growing up like Spider-Man, the X-Men and too many others that, at times made it difficult to grow up, are everywhere and deep down, I always knew that Stan Lee knew that day would come. Every time someone was picked on because they got excited talking about any of Stan’s creations, he was there to tell you that it’s okay. These characters, these stories, they matter, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. Comics are not just something for kids, they’re for everybody, and they teach us important lessons like how to be a good human being in the face of overwhelming adversity. I’d like to think that I’m the man I am today because I wanted, and am still trying, to live up to the example set by Peter Parker. Me, some guy, living on an island in Canada who wouldn’t go to school in fifth grade without his Spider-Man figures in his fanny pack.
Stan Lee got to see the characters he helped breathe life into become household names and star in blockbuster films that were not just seen by people who grew up reading comics, but by everyone. People who never read a Spider-Man comic in their life lined up to buy tickets to see the story of a down on his luck kid from Queens learn the ultimate lesson in power and responsibility after gaining extraordinary powers. A story that he helped bring to life in the 60’s resonated just as powerfully then as it did forty years later. That was the power of the words of Stan Lee.
Not only would Stan get to see his creations live on in films and television, but in a bold new medium called “video games”. Up until his final hours, I would wager that Stan Lee barely played the titles that starred his creations – even the ones he appeared in – but unlike those who looked down on video games, Stan just saw a new version of comics that he fought for legitimacy when he started his long and storied career. Video games were just another medium to introduce someone to the characters he helped create, just like films and television shows eventually would. Stan would start out making cameo appearances in games like Neversoft’s Spider-Man, introducing you to this new take on the character like only he could. Eventually players would even get to play as Stan himself, swinging around like Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and hulking out as Stan Hulk in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes.
“At what point do I stop being the cameo and start becoming the star?” is a line you heard a lot if you played LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, and to that I say:
You were always the star, Stan.
Today’s a day for everyone who loves the work of Stan Lee to be sad. It’s a day when many will go back and read some of their favorite comics written by Lee, relive some of his memorable cameos in films or even play as him in a video game. What everyone needs to do to make Stan Lee immortal is live as he lived. Celebrate differences, embrace change, and love everyone, regardless of what they choose to love. We’re all special, we all matter, and that’s what Stan Lee would want us all to remember.
Thank you, Stan, where ever you are. Though we’ll never meet, know that you’ve made a huge difference in my life.
Creator of Comics Gamers Assemble