The world of comics lost a legend today. Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95, and the world of comics is recognizing the ending of an era. To call Lee a pioneer in the world of comics would be an understatement: he's a crucial part of the reason that you, me, or anyone else knows what Marvel Comics is, having created staple characters such as Spider-Man, Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Black Panther, Iron Man, and even Guardians of the Galaxy's Groot. His pen was as sensational as his vocabulary, bringing the air of whimsy and bombast that character as huge as superheroes deserved. He's the reason why people still use the word "Excelsior!"
On top of these achievements, he was also a charismatic and shameless self-promotor whose drive helped push Marvel into the forefront of the comics industry during its most profitable time until the speculator bubble burst in the 1990s and beyond. His tendency to hog the spotlight and both, directly and indirectly, deny creators like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others their proper credit casts his legacy in a greyer light than most would like to admit. He wasn't perfect by any stretch, but his legacy is the cornerstone of an industry that has taken the world by storm over the course of the last half-century. We owe him more than I could ever hope to put into words. Here are some interesting facts and uplifting stories that involve Stan in some way, shape, or form. Rest in power, Mr. Lee. Excelsior!
Stan Lee didn't take ignorance lightly at any point in his career. What more would you expect from the man who, along with Jack Kirby, dedicated a comic to a superhero punching Nazis in the face? He took that creed to another level in a December 1968 issue where he laid out his mission statement clearly. Especially for the 1960s, this was a hell of a gauntlet to toss down.
A blind superhero was certainly unique at the time of his creation, but Stan Lee was afraid that Daredevil would cause some backlash at first. Lee was worried that his blind fans would be offended at the notion of the hero's blindness pushing his other sense to superhuman levels, a fear that he was able to put to rest when the character became a hit. Not only were the fans not offended, but Lee even received calls from charities dedicated to the blind saying how much the blind loved having Daredevil stories read to them.
On paper, Iron Man aka Tony Stark isn't exactly the most likable guy. He's a snobby millionaire who made his money manufacturing weapons with a wonderful suit of armor that keeps him alive. Stan Lee took it upon himself to write Tony Stark in the most unlikable way possible and to make people like him anyway. Lee went out of his way to create this Cold War-era industrialist that readers were expected not to like and "shove him down their throats and make them like him." Iron Man is the movie that kickstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe and revitalized Robert Downey Jr.'s career, so I'd say that's a win.
One of the most harrowing stories in Spider-Man's history is the death of former girlfriend Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man issues 121-122. But as important a story as it turned out to be, Stan Lee approved it entirely by accident. Writer Gerry Conway, editor Roy Thomas, and illustrator John Romita Sr. approached him with the idea to kill Gwen Stacy right before he was leaving for a business trip to Europe and, in a rush to get them out of his office, he allegedly told them "Well, if that's what you want to do, then okay." He returned from his trip to find that Gwen Stacy was dead.
Stan Lee's movie cameos are just as infamous as the countless movies in which they appeared, but these appearances stretch back as far as some of Marvel's earliest comics. Artists would draw him into pages of books like Fantastic Four on a whim and Lee would add dialogue to make it seem intentional. Eventually, someone at the movie studio level thought it would be a great idea to have Lee cameo in the movies, and the rest is history.