Behind almost all of your favorite comics, superheroes and supervillains is one name — Stan Lee. Lee passed away Nov. 12 at the age of 95. He — along with other notable creators — generated a comic book universe by writing his own storylines and creating beloved characters, which were later adapted as action-packed movies and TV shows. Because of Lee’s work, fan-favorite characters such as Spider-Man and Captain America exist.
Disney — the current parent company of Marvel — continues to spend millions of dollars to release new content inspired by Lee’s original characters. Marvel has six Netflix original series, each with at least two seasons, as well as three series on ABC, one series on Freeform, one Hulu original and more in the works. In addition to the TV series, Marvel has produced 20 movies since the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with “Iron Man” in 2008. Lee personally created roughly half of the characters in the MCU, and was a co-creator for “X-Men.”
Lee also paved the way for diversity and inclusiveness within the superhero universe with the creation of the comic series “Black Panther” in 1966. After the 2018 film adaptation of the series was released, Lee wrote about the success of the film and the origins of the character.
“Black Panther broke box office records this year, but did you know the character also made history 52 years ago?” Lee wrote on Twitter. “In July ’66, the Wakandan King became the first black superhero to appear in mainstream U.S. comics when he leapt onto the pages of ‘Fantastic Four #52.’”
Fans of Lee’s “Black Panther” comic and the 2018 film appreciate the African superhero’s impact on diversity in the media.
“Black Panther’ really should have been made a long time ago,” UW Tacoma sophomore Zoe Manuel said. “I’m just happy now that we have something to show little kids that anyone and everyone can be a hero, doesn’t matter the race or gender — or anything for that matter.”
Another groundbreaking comic series co-created by Lee in 1963 was “X-Men” — which focuses on a group of minorities that have sub-human qualities and come from diverse backgrounds and locations. During the time Lee began writing, diversity such as this was uncommon in comic books. As a result of his innovation, other comic writers began to create new, more diverse characters as well to reach a broader audience.
Lee was known to make cameo appearances in films based off of his comics, which often left viewers wondering when and how he would show up next on the silver screen. Prior to Lee’s death, Marvel pre-filmed cameos for movies that have yet to be released such as “Spider-Man: Far from Home” and “Avengers 4.”
“It was almost like a game for me,” UWT junior Hannah Eklund said. “Wondering where Stan Lee would show up and what humor he would add to that certain scene. He was always able to add a certain pizazz to each movie.”
Beyond his beloved cameos, Lee bridged the gap between creators and fans. He created panels and a “Dear Editor” column on the Bullpen Bulletin in his comics which allowed a direct line from fans to him. After Lee’s passing, a video was posted on his personal Twitter account that showed his devout love for his fans all over the world.
“Sometimes, at night, when I’m sitting here, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, what’s it all about?,’” Lee said in the video. “And then I get a letter from a fan, or I read something, or I see something, or I remember something, and I realize, it’s so lucky to have fans … fans who really care about you.”
It is clear that Lee’s love for his fans is reciprocated, with millions of people mourning the loss of the comic book writer.
“Stan Lee passing away felt so sudden,” UWT sophomore Shelton Wright said. “When you saw him in those cameos, it seemed like he would just always be there. Like you would always expect to see him at some point in the Marvel films, and now that’s over. Respect to his legacy.”
Lee will be missed by his fans, and his hard work with Marvel will not be forgotten. May the legend live on through his wonderfully crafted comics, his cameos and his loyal fandom. And, as Lee put it, the best kind of superhero is not the one with the best powers or the most ability, but the one who cares.
“A hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being, and will go out of his or her way to help them — even if there is no chance of a reward,” Lee responded when asked what a hero means to him. “That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”