Monday, November 12, 2018

I wrote the following five years ago, on the occasion of Stan Lee's 90th birthday. Stan died today at the age of 95.  What I wrote then, holds true today.


It’s my contention you can tell a lot about people by the choices they make.

Paper or plastic. Crunchy or smooth. Marvel or DC.

As for that last choice, for me, it’s always been Marvel. For years, I possessed a large red button that proclaimed “Make Mine Marvel.”

When I ordered that button, I also sent away for an 8 x 10, black and white autographed photo of Stan Lee. Smilin’ Stan Lee, Marvel’s former writer, editor and publisher, who celebrated his 90th birthday December 28.

Happy Birthday, Stan, and thanks for populating my childhood with an awesome array of heroes and villains.

In a two- to three-year period in the early ‘60s, Lee, teamed with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and other artists, to create many of our most enduring comic book characters: the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Sgt. Fury and – my personal favorite – Daredevil, the Man Without Fear.

(Not too mention the super villains -- Doom and the Goblin and Doc Ock – or secondary characters like J. Jonah Jameson, Gwen Stacey and Rick Jones.)

A guy could earn his seat in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame simply for creating Spider-Man. But Lee’s fertile imagination led to the creation of not one character, but a universe – the Marvel Universe, which caught the imagination of thousands of teens and pre-teens in the sixties and which is still going strong today.

What separated Marvel superheroes from DC was that -- despite the cape and cowl, despite the ability to fly or smash or turn invisible – the Marvel heroes seemed a lot like us.

Marvel was as much about the men and women behind the masks as their costume-clad alter egos. And those men and women had real lives. Hopes. Fears. Dreams. They were vulnerable, physically and emotionally, in a way we’d never witnessed before in a comic character. 

The Fantastic Four had superhero identities, yet they remained Reed, Ben, Johnny and Sue. And they never – not once – wore masks. Tony Stark, the Iron Man, had a bad ticker. Daredevil was blind. Dr. Strange was an arrogant, alcoholic surgeon. Peter Parker had trouble with girls and was absolutely basting in teen-age angst. 

As a writer, editor and publisher, Lee piloted Marvel from a minor publishing house into an empire, while creating some of our most enduring, and inspirational, fictional characters.

Issue #600 of The Fantastic Four rolled off the presses earlier this year. The publication of issue #700 of The Amazing Spider-Man was sandwiched between Christmas and Lee’s birthday. How’s that for cosmic timing?

Fifty years after I first plucked a Marvel comic off the rack at the local grocery, Lee’s creations continue to capture my imagination. 

So thanks, Stan, and, once again, happy 90th.

You’ll be pleased to know that yesterday and today, I still Make Mine Marvel.

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