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OPINION: Stan Lee, An Embodiment of Excelsior

How the creator of a man-spider gave us the green light to live our best lives

Stan Lee, the noble leader of comic publisher turned multi-media entertainment empire Marvel, has passed away at the valiant age of 95.

Whether you like comics or not, it would be hard to disagree with the suggestion that the co-creator of Spiderman, Captain America and the legendary X-Men was up there with some of the greatest creators in history.

Founded in 1939 by Martin Goodman under the name of Timely Comics, the publisher’s journey to being the huge #Disney-owned corporation we know and love today wasn’t without its ups and downs.

From the loss of love of superheroes in post-war 1940s, to the subsequent change in direction and name to Atlas Magazines in 1951. Following the successful re-introduction of the superhero in the late 50s by arch-rival, #DC Comics, Atlas became #MarvelComics and the comic world as we know it today was born.

After being tossed around by business folk like a hot potato and experiencing a significant drop in sales, Marvel declared bankruptcy in 1996, only to once again re-emerge in 1998 with a more diverse catalogue and ambition to appeal to a wider audience.

However, throughout this apparent hardship there was a consistent character present, a certain Stanley Martin Lieber… Or #StanLee as he is now best known.

Along with illustrator Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and brother Larry Lieber completing somewhat of a dream team, the comic-crew concocted the likes of Spiderman, Hulk, Thor, Captain American, Black Panther, #Deadpool, Iron Man… to name but a few.

Some could argue that Lee (and his team) is up there with the likes of Tolkien, Dickens or Dahl with their abilities to create such detailed and wonderful worlds that merge seamlessly into our own.

Some would also argue the contrary. They may also say that comics are faux-books, simple stories and little cartoons just for children.

In my opinion, they would be wrong!

Image by Anthony Sampaio

What Stan Lee did as a public figure, with the help of his caped crusader creations of course, was show me personally that the sky is not limit when it comes to imagination and ambition. In fact neither is the galaxy, or beyond.

Similar to how Radiohead’s #ThomYorke showed me that the borders of the music industry were there to be surpassed and challenged. Or How the #Beatles stood up against everything that society stood for with an ambition to help it grow and evolve.

The biggest difference here being that music was already an accepted form of rebellion. Rock stars were an established community of vigilantes that took on the evil powers that be with chugging guitars and provoking lyrics.

As were many movie makers, controversial artists, composers of the past and the literary moguls that have all shaped how society today perceives artistic talent.

The ‘geek culture’ that previously drove the success of comics was once a quiet grumbling of individuals who silently lost themselves swinging through the high rises of New York or soaring through the cosmos alongside the now beloved Rocket Racoon and Groot. A far cry from the hordes of screaming Lennon and McCartney fans, or the outspoken politically driven followers of such artists as Banksy.

But just like those previously more mainstream social circles the so-called geeks were looking for their place. Their voice to tackle and/or deal with what is admittedly a very dark and scary world. And how better to do that than in the companionship of super-humans.

In today’s society this culture is very much a mainstream world beloved by many. Lee said: “Being a geek has become a badge of honour. It’s geeks who make or break a TV show, movies or video games… A geek is really somebody interested in communication and entertainment and finding the best way to avail himself or herself to it.”

Whether you are thrilled or incensed by this fact, that the ‘comicbook geek’ is no longer a subculture, but now the embodiment of mainstream, you have to agree that it is a prime example of how human culture changes and evolves with time… and maybe with a need.

With the world as it is maybe we are in need of a superhero. A being of pure good that can stand up to anything and everything with only good intentions and positive outcomes. The opposite of which currently exists, something that could balance out the moral-scales a tad - it wouldn’t go amiss.

With Lee at the helm of one of the leaders in this now trend defining industry, sticking to his goals, doing all he could to use his platform to spread positive entertainment and introduce fictional yet respectable idols, we were shown that what was once a mere child’s story, could be something much, much more.

He told the Washington Post: “Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”

This embodies a personal ambition of mine with the work we’ve done on Book of Beasties in particular. It is something more than just a source of entertainment and a game, something that has the aspiration to help. There have been many driving forces behind the creation of our Mental Wellness Card Game, and what Stan Lee stood for was certainly in there.

Not only was he (along with many other creators) proof that hard work, determination and passion for even the craziest of ideas, could pay off… but also an example of how even from the bare remains of a dream, you can still achieve it. It can end, only to once again live twice as strong.

The only direction we should walk (or fly) is forward, onward and upward to greater glory. In other words, Excelsior.


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