If comics were a life-form, I think it would be safe to say that Marvel Comics has become the dominant species on the planet. In 1961 the company once known as Timely Publications became the Marvel comics we know today, and within two to three years a shocking number of the best known superheroes in the world were brought to life. All of these characters had one man in common as half of their creative teams, Stan Lee.
Lee, a New York City native, passed away today at 95, leaving a universe of characters that have never loomed larger in our lives culturally.
More than 50 years since they first “marveled” readers, these characters still bring adventure and excitement to innumerable comic book titles adorning comic shop walls across the country. Their cinematic counterparts break box office records and thrill audiences the world over. Characters like Spider-Man, Daredevil, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk inspire readers all over the world. These readers find themselves connecting with these characters that possess otherworldly abilities and powers, yet are still flawed human beings with relatable lives. Superheroes beyond the Marvel mold inspire fans, but there is no doubt that the revolutionary characters created by Lee changed the world of comic books and superhero stories.
Without Lee’s insight into human nature and the marriage of titanic power with mortal flaws, it’s hard to believe we would be living in the word of comic book pop culture dominance we do today.
Lee spent almost his entire life working for one major comics publisher, but in truth he spent his entire life working for the medium as a whole. He may have written and edited for Marvel Comics before becoming the public face of the company, but to anyone who wasn’t a comic reader world he was the face of not just Marvel Comics … He was the face of comic books as a whole.
As fans of comic books or superheroes, we should always be grateful to Lee for the integral role he played in creating the comics we know and love today — even those that have nothing to do with Marvel Comics — and making it possible for those stories to be shared and accepted by so many.
WILLIAM KULESA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.