On November 12, the world lost perhaps the only person on the planet who might have been a real superhero. Stan Lee, one of the original masterminds of Marvel Comics, passed away at the age of 95. In his wake, hundreds of thousands of tributes have poured in from every corner of the globe, honouring the man who practically wrote the childhoods of decades’ worth of dreamers. Almost everyone has an issue of Spider-Man or X-Men that’s dear to their hearts and it has been incredible to watch that love be shared over the past few days.
These tributes serve as proof that Lee’s legacy casts a gigantic shadow. There is very little he didn’t accomplish in his time with us and we might take comfort from that. Lee started writing comic books at a time when comics weren’t normally much more than a doodle and funny caption in the corner of a newspaper. Over his lifetime, which was almost entirely dedicated to the comics he helped create, he would watch comic books become a global phenomenon, a childhood fantasy, something for the ‘cool’ kid to scoff at and, eventually, the pop culture powerhouse that they are today.
Indeed, for around a decade now, Marvel Comics (and superheroes in general) have been in vogue. Most of the people reading this could name the majority of The Avengers, or at least pick them out in a lineup. That’s because, in the mid 2000s, Marvel established its own film company and began making its own superhero movies instead of loaning out the rights to third parties. Instead of one-off films about one particular superhero, Marvel Studios brought the complexities of the comic book universe to the big screen: all your favourite heroes, all in the same world, meeting and interacting. Stan Lee was there when it all began, having created some of the most iconic characters ever to be put to paper (or screen). He saw those characters through the golden age of comic books as well as through plenty of rough patches. He guided the film versions of these characters right up until the end, always having a hand in the direction the studio took with his material but still allowing it to become something new. In fact, Lee has moved with the times in a way that many of his generation failed to do. Even outside of transitioning his characters to film, he has always been very vocal in his support for his characters being rewritten as people of colour or LGBT backgrounds.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the sort of thing kids growing up in the 80s could only ever dream of. Millions of fans and billions of dollars, all across the globe and all for a love of comic books. But it wasn’t always like this. For a long time, comic books came with a certain stigma; if they weren’t for children, they were for nerds and outcasts. But no matter how cruel others could be, people clung to these heroes for dear life. They’re much more than just guys in capes who can fly: from the very start, Lee’s heroes felt incredibly human. Sure, Spider-Man could save an entire city from the Green Goblin, but he’d still have to come home and be Peter Parker, getting decent grades in high school and taking care of his aunt. Steve Rogers might be super-soldier Captain America, but he has to learn for himself that doing the right thing and following orders aren’t always the same. Lee emphasized the human in ‘superhuman’ and grounded his characters in something universally relatable: flaws.
But more than flaws, it was the goodness at the heart of Lee’s characters that has made his work so remarkable. His writing spoke to an innocence and purity of the human spirit, a willingness to find the good in people. No matter how much suffering we might wreak upon each other, there will always be those who lend a helping hand, fight the good fight and stop all hope from being lost. Stan Lee wrote stories that championed those people and he spent most of his life asking us to always choose to be that person. Losing him is a profoundly sad occasion, but the goodness and happiness that his work brought us won’t ever disappear.
In the wake of Stan Lee’s passing, we asked some of our staff at The Brock Press to share their
favourite Marvel movies and comics in tribute to the man that made it all happen.
Cameron – Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017). One of the most sincere and heartfelt films I have ever seen – the fact that it’s about superheroes is almost secondary. This film really captures Stan Lee’s original vision, that beneath all the crazy alien planets and superpowers, there’s just people trying their best to be good people.
Jonah – Spiderman (2002). Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman will always be one of my favourite superheroes. The original Spiderman was by far the best of the three, pairing a great origin story with a strong cast.
Holly- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). This is the movie that got me into comic books for the first time. I remember watching it when I was 11 and loving every single aspect of the story, from the strong female characters to the amazing underdog story, all of which Stan Lee was a pioneer of.
Chad- Logan (2017), For me, Logan felt like one of the most real movies based off a comic-book character. The movie dealt with themes of hopelessness, loss and dread, and really pushed the edge of what is expected from a Marvel movie.
Jake – Doctor Strange (2016), A hero that get their powers from intense studying and training was always a refreshing idea to me. I don’t expect that hard work and dedication will give me the ability to navigate the astral plane (although that would be really cool), I find the themes of determination and higher calling explored in the movie to be very inspiring.
Allison – Jessica Jones (2015 onwards). It was so inspiring to see a strong, powerful hero who’s also a survivor of abuse. It means a lot to me that it shows her struggle with trauma, using both healthy and unhealthy coping strategies, in a non-linear way that’s significant to the story without overshadowing her character.