Pillbox

Remembering Stan Lee

Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor Credit: Anna Boyle/Art Editor

I’m pretty sure I knew who Stan Lee was before I knew about Marvel. Maybe that’s why the death of the founder of Marvel Comics still doesn’t feel real to me.

Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95 on Nov. 12. Lee always seemed like someone who would outlive even me. He always seemed so energetic, full of life, and eager to create. Amidst the scandals and tragedies of his life, Stan Lee seemed like a man who would always pull through, never give up, and remain standing.

If his body can’t, his spirit will certainly outlive us all. Throughout Marvel, Lee was everywhere, all-encompassing. He laid the foundations for all the heroes you see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all of Fox’s X-Men movies, and Sony’s Spider-Man movies. It’s even hard to pin down what he truly is responsible for, because the answer is simply everything. Marvel Entertainment has a few constants, and he was undoubtedly one of them.

I’m still trying to remember what exactly led me to the entertainment giant in the first place, but I think it was Wolverine & The X-Men, an old and forgotten cartoon series on Nickelodeon about, well, Wolverine and the X-Men. It wasn’t as popular and iconic as the older 90s animated series (heck even I almost forgot about this series when I was writing this article), but I loved the different kinds of mutants, the moral compass of Charles Xavier, Logan’s aloofness. Even years later, at one mention of the TV series, I can remember Kitty Pryde’s youthful energy, Iceman’s humor and sass, and the awe-inspiring power of Jean Grey – the most powerful mutant of her time. The world of the X-Men seemed so expansive with endless possibilities, and I just wanted to learn more about it.

That eagerness to learn more about the X-Men led me to X-Men: First Class, a movie about a younger Charles Xavier and Magneto that ultimately led me to a deeper plunge into Marvel and the entertainment industry. I was blown away by the acting talent, and I was excited by this deep world I had seen on TV being explored (and done justice) right before me.

While I was seeking to learn more about the X-Men, I was drawn to how the story of the X-Men served as such a huge mirror on the social issues of its creation: racism and civil rights, anti-Semitism, diversity, LGBTQ+ themes, genocide, and many more. It’s amazing how one superhero team was so diverse at the time of its creation, and how not just the X-Men comics, but the entirety of Marvel, still tries to explore these themes today.

I’m incredibly thankful that throughout Marvel’s history, Stan Lee has inspired others to thread this diversity and rich storytelling throughout the company. Whenever I stand back to look at Marvel’s legacy, I’m in awe of how inclusive and revolutionary it has become, as well as Stan Lee’s commitment to pushing new ground, something he’s set a precedent for. And whenever I get into a heated debate with my friends about Marvel, I know where that shared passion we have stems from.

Stan Lee once said that as a child, he always wanted to write the “Great American Novel,” and I think through Marvel he’s achieved something greater than that. Marvel has become a company that doesn’t just represent the United States at one point in time. It’s become a company that we’ve grown up with and that we’ve seen rise to astounding heights. It reaches out and carries an understanding of all types of U.S. citizens, and has taught us to educate, accept, fight, and never give up. Throughout Marvel’s countless movies, video games, TV series, and comic book series, Stan Lee truly taught us what true heroes are and what they represent.

I never expected that Marvel would be such a huge part of my life now. It’s helped me to find my closest friends, and has helped me fuel my passions and find the career path I want to pursue in the future. But behind the franchise, seeing Stan Lee never falter and be such a strong, representative force for his creations is even more inspiring. I only hope that wherever I go in life and wherever I work, that I can display half of the passion, love, and care that Stan Lee showed for Marvel – the company and life force that’s changed the lives of so many people.

Excelsior Stan Lee, and thank you for everything.