I had planned to do this some time ago, but I could never find the right words to use. I wanted this to come from the heart.
When I was in school, I didn’t really interact with people as much as I should have. Every moment I wasn’t working on some assignment or listening to some lecture, I had my face buried in a book. With no video games or TV, they were the only entertainment I had. I would spend my lunch-time in the library reading books. I would read any book that looked interesting, but what I really loved were comic books and superheroes
The 2002 film Spider-Man gave me a proper introduction to superheroes, but this was my crash-course. I dove into every comic book, encyclopedia or paperback collection I could get my hands on. I loved superheroes, and I loved Stan Lee.
I don’t remember when I first learned about Stan Lee. It was probably from watching the DVD’s for Spider-Man The Animated Series. But I grew to learn how important he was. I came close to meeting him twice, actually.
How I (Almost) Met Stan Lee
The first time I came close to meeting him was when I saw a commercial for a local comic book convention. It said that Stan Lee was going to be at the convention signing autographs. I begged my Dad to take me down there. We were able to get in, but then I realized how much money it would cost to meet him. I’d never considered that, and since I didn’t have the money, I chose not to meet him. I caught a quick glimpse of him walking by his booth, through the curtains.
The second time was because of forces outside my control. I had bought a ticket ahead of time and had made sure to pick it up. I didn’t have anything for him to sign, but I bought a comic book with him on the cover. But when the time came to get in line, my ticket was gone. To this day, I don’t know if I dropped it or if someone had stolen it. It didn’t matter: the people operating the booth refused to let me in otherwise. They got my comic book autographed, but that was of little consolation. I knew Stan was getting old, and that this was probably the last chance I had to meet him.
I cursed my misfortune, and in hindsight, I don’t think I should have taken that lying down. I want to go back to myself that first time, I want to tell myself that it’s worth the money. I want to go back the second time and tell myself to forget what the booth guys said: to find a way to get in, even if you had to sneak in. Now, I’ll never get that chance.
Reacting to His Death
I still remember what I was doing. Looking back, it feels fitting that I was playing Marvel’s Spider-Man; a video game based on one of the characters he created. Then I saw the headline flash on my laptop. I just put the controller down on the table in front of me, and just sat there for a minute or two, my jaw hanging open in disbelief. Then I started looking it up.
I knew that Stan wasn’t going to be around forever, that he was already very old, and that he had had a lot of issues in the last year. His wife, who convinced him to stick to comics when he wanted to quit, had died the year before. That would devastate anyone. But then for all the reports about people taking advantage of him, and the allegations of sexually harassing his nurses. I couldn’t take it. I had kept hoping that he would live at least long enough to see Infinity War. I got my wish, but now he won’t be around for the culmination in Avengers 4.
I wanted to cry. I honestly felt like I was going to cry. Pop Culture wouldn’t be the same as it is now without his work. Not just Stan Lee, though; he wasn’t the sole creator of Marvel. Marvel had been around since the 1940s, and despite what some headlines may say, he was not the sole creator of characters like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men or Avengers. He created them alongside other men, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby. There are probably countless others that deserve part of the credit, but never will.
So, yeah, Stan Lee wasn’t the end all, be all when it came to Marvel Comics. He did play a big role creating them, and he certainly deserves the recognition that comes with it. But I can’t help but wonder if we liked Stan as we did because he was one of the last survivors of the great people who gave us comic books. Everyone else of note had already passed away; he was the only one left. If that were true, though, then people would have reacted the same way to Steve Ditko’s passing. Plenty did, but not as many as Stan Lee.
I Wish I Could Have Met Him
I am going to miss Stan Lee. I’m going to miss his cameos. But most of all, I regret not being able to meet him just once. I want to walk up to him and say hello. I want to shake his hand. I just wanted to be able to tell him “Thank you for everything that you and your friends did.” But now I’ll never get that chance. But I know that he helped to leave the world a far better place.