REACTION: Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee dead at 95

Former Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics looked to bring a lasting impact to society through comic books


Gage Skidmore - CC by 2.0

Stan Lee at the 2011 Phoenix Comic-Con. Lee died at the age of 95 on Monday Nov. 12, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to CNN

Will Coburn

Marvel Editor-in-Chief and comics author Stan Lee died at age 95 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles according to CNN.

This is my favorite Stan Lee story. . . at least without The Thing in it.

It comes from a VHS of “The Comic Book Greats.” I probably watched it so much as a child that it melted, but it is thankfully preserved on YouTube. He is working with Marvel’s then-rockstar artist Rob Liefeld. They are taking a time to reflect back on how the industry has changed since Lee started writing for the new line of Marvel Comics in 1961 to how things were in 1991.

Stan Lee teasing marvel artist Rob Liefeld during “The Comic Book Greats”:

Liefeld jokes that being in comics is like being a rockstar you know, at least at a comics convention while Lee retells going to parties with his wife’s coworkers.

“You know, as a writer, you gotta read a lot,” Lee said. “So I could hold my own with these professors, really smart people. Well, at least at a cocktail party.”

Stan described the other party guests asking who this weird guy with a ponytail who’s able to talk equally vague about social justice and mythology.

“Oh, I’m just a writer,” Lee said dismissively.

He just says they needled him more, but I can just imagine a bunch of excited drunks wondering if he’s there from The New Yorker or Dissent.

“Oh, no, I write kids stuff,” Lee said, hoping that will shake them. But I imagine in the late ‘60s, before social media, no one knows what Maurice Sendak looks like. So I can clearly picture the party leaning in to ask, “So, what stories? Anything I know?”

And Lee, I can see him leaning in too with that big Stan Lee grin, “So, have you ever heard of ‘The Amazing Spider-Man?’”

“Oh,” the cocktail party says, defeated. “Isn’t that a comic book?”

A far cry from the reaction to his passing on social media today:

But in that moment at the cocktail party, it’s not Lee’s stories that are inspiring to me, but Lee himself.

An awkward young writer, unsure of his merit amongst “serious people.” I relate to that moment, just as much as I’ve ever related to every time Peter Parker, who was too nervous to talk to Mary Jane, or when Professor X watched his brother sell his soul to the extra dimensional chaos being Cyttorak to become The Unstoppable Juggernaut.

My own story with Lee starts like most, as a child. My mom would buy me the Marvel Essentials huge collections of classic Marvel stories in black and white on newspaper stock.

Some of those stories were a little rough, with a skeleton crew at ’60s Marvel, the reused plots become apparent at times, and how often Lee would fill in excess white space with his famously unnecessary text boxes.

More important than the stories themselves are the characters like Spider-Man, Black Panther, and the X-Men, which quickly developed massive amounts of cultural traction.

Lee was acutely aware of how much a mark these characters had being an early advocate for social justice working though media. He felt that morals and message were the “soul” of the story, and without that, stories didn’t have the energy to last.

Oh, and my favorite story by Stan Lee is Fantastic 4 #5, when The Thing becomes Blackbeard the pirate. It is great.