Tuesday, November 13, 2018


This is the shirt...

...I happened to be wearing today, when I learned that the great Stan Lee had passed on, at 95. It demonstrates, if any demonstration is needed, the impact that Stanley Leiber has had on our culture; it links an unrelated entity, a baseball team, to some of his iconic creations and co-creations, for no other real reason than that people like them.

I was a devoted reader of Marvel Comics as a kid, especially Spider-Man, The Hulk,  Iron Man and Dr. Strange, but from around my junior high years on I was simply a fan of Lee. His 1974 Origins of Marvel Comics was an endlessly reread tome for me in those days (I still have it on my shelf), and I loved it at least as much for Lee's autobiographical passages, written in his self-consciously jaunty and persistently alliterative style, as for the comic reproductions.

Like Alfred Hitchcock, Stan Lee was a canny pioneer of personal branding, of turning himself into the ringmaster, the impresario at the center of his world. Like Balzac, he created a Comedie humaine, though maybe in Lee's case it should be called a Comedie superhumaine, full of indelible, mythic figures at least a little bit familiar to almost everybody, even people who've never picked up a comic book in their lives. And he made his heroes, and his villains, subject to human foibles and vulnerabilities; for Stan Lee, no matter what your superpower, being human was your Kryptonite.

Even though he did it in print, there can be no question that Stan Lee was one of 20th-Century America's great showmen, and he invariably gave good value. His brash, brightly-colored, wise-assed but good-natured sensibility chased away a lot of the tedious and dreary side of youth and adolescence. And having claimed the pages of his comics as a soapbox, he used it to rail against racism and preach other good values. He had great power, and he used it with great responsibility.

RIP sir, and, of course: Excelsior.

No comments:

Post a Comment