As the youngest in a family of four, my family did not have a lot of money growing up in Knoxville, TN, back in the 1970s. When my parents would go to the one mall in our town, they would leave me at the B. Dalton’s where I would sit in a corner and read comic books for hours, absorbed in the latest adventures of Spider-Man, the Avengers or the Fantastic Four - all of whom were creations of Stan Lee, who left us today to join the Valhalla reserved for other legendary comic book creators like him (also see Jack Kirby).
Something that instantly jumps into my head when thinking about his comics was the immediate relatability of his characters: A family that could bicker, but in the end come together to save the day. A young man grappling with the weight of too much responsibility. A team of people coming together for the greater good.
All of his heroes were flawed, but rose to save the day in spite of their respective limitations.
Another important take-away, in reminiscing about my consumption of his comics as a kid, is that he started my reading journey - which (of course) has not stopped in that time since. Also, in thinking about Mr. Lee's passing today, it allows me to treasure the three times - in the last decade (i.e. at Baltimore Comic Con, Wizard Con Philadelphia, and finally two years ago at AwesomeCon) - that I had to meet the man that I had admired from a far and who inspired my passion for superheroes.
Though it initially seemed - upon meeting Mr. Lee that last time mentioned above - that he was slowing down due to age, nothing was further from the truth when I attended his panel and witnessed his response to all the people - like me - gathered there to cheer him on! It was like the energy from the audience had invigorated him with this intense energy that I had never seen before. Like so many of the heroes he had created, he rose to the occasion in that moment despite everything (personally) weighing down on him - regalling (for the next hour) of those in attendance about how his editor at Timely Comics thought that Spider-Man was the worst idea ever (that is, of course, until sales numbers came back a month later and he walked into Stan’s office and asked him: “Stan when are we going to write more about that great character you created?”) or how he created characters whose first and last names either started with the same letter (Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Doctor Doom) or were letters that were next to each other (Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Clint Barton)in the alphabet because he was terrible at remembering names and needed a way of remembering them.
This is the Stan I remember. A man full of energy who felt the love from his fans and loved us right back. The man whose characters inspired a young child to start reading and never stop. His stories and creations will stand the test of time. Sadly, the man himself was not immortal but the stories and lessons he left us with are!