The highlighted link from the New York Times does a nice job of summing up Stan Lee’s life: Stan Lee, dead at 95. Superhero of Marvel Comics/New York Times. I never really knew Stan Lee, since I only met him once very briefly. I can offer the following…
My own two cents.
I used to read Marvel comics as a kid. I loved Spiderman, the Hulk (the books and the TV series; two very different animals), and the Fantastic Four. During my ‘wonder years’ (late 1970s to mid-1980s) comic book-inspired entertainment wasn’t exactly the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. For Marvel, we had “The Incredible Hulk” TV series (with Bill Bixby), and a not-very-good Spiderman series (starring Nicholas Hammond). DC and CBS gave us WonderWoman (starring one of my old TV crushes, Lynda Carter). DC also had TV reruns of 1960s “Batman” and (eventually) and “Superman The Movie” (1978) which was, at that time, the single greatest superhero movie ever made.
In those days, Marvel was primarily about the comic books; TV and movie offerings in those days were minimal to nonexistent. But the books were great stuff. I used to get the large soft covers ever now and then, too. Spiderman, Hulk, and Fantastic Four were my jam. Unfortunately, I got into them just a few years after the ‘Silver Age’ of the late Jack Kirby (1917-1994), but I’ve been lucky to have seen a few of those issues in reprints or collections. Marvel characters were quite different from the more stalwart DC cadre, because the characters were dysfunctional; most of them, like Spiderman or the Hulk, were accidentally mutated into their current states (much like kids feeling the first pangs of adolescence). As an 8-12 year old boy, I related. I never really ‘got’ Superman (I was not exactly a jock), but I totally understood the hideously mutated Ben Grimm.
I was already when in my early 40s when the new integrated Marvel universe of movies exploded on the screen in 2008 (there were many Marvel movies before then, but 2008 was the year Marvel began their current integrated cinematic universe). Even as a forty-something, I enjoyed these new Marvel movies with much of the same fervor that my preadolescent self used to enjoy the comic books.
2004 is the year I attended my first San Diego Comic Con and my wife and I have been attending ever since. I remember hearing Stan Lee’s large posse of security guards shouting “MAKE WAY FOR STAN LEE” whenever he’d have to wind his way through the hallways of Comic Con. Everyone in those halls immediately stopped and parted like cars reacting to an ambulance siren, because that elderly mustachioed gentleman at the center of the walking human wall was a huge reason most of us were there.
I finally got a Stan Lee autograph at WonderCon (in Anaheim) for a friend’s birthday a few years ago. However, I didn’t get an autograph for myself; sadly, I kind of assumed he’d be around forever. Even though my encounter with Stan Lee was only a very quick meet-and-greet (the line was enormous), I still felt a geeky buzz afterward… I’d just met a man who was one of the main reasons WonderCon and ComicCon even existed.
Meeting Stan Lee at a comics convention, however briefly, was a bit like meeting Walt Disney on the grounds of Disneyland. Stan truly was the man. His was an ‘excelsior’ life.
Stan Lee, 1922-2018.