Last week saw the passing of a legend and a founder. We lost Stan Lee. His passing was marked by an outpouring of grief the world over. For the mind that gave us Spider-Man, Iron-Man, Hulk, and the X-Men was no more. My social media feed was immediately flooded with tributes and collective mourning.
To be honest, Stan’s passing was something I mentally prepared for years ago. Like my great-grandmother, he reach his nineties. Any time someone makes it that high in years, grief over their passing feels inappropriate, though I’m in no way judging others for their reaction. Now that we are able to see the complete arc of his life and career, it’s really beautiful. To go from spitting out serialized heroes in an burgeoning industry for peanuts to seeing his characters take flight as a multi-billion dollar industry ranging from countless movies, to television shoes, to toys, costumes, and board games… I can’t even imagine.
My first memories of Stan were in the 1994 animated Spider-Man series. His distinctive voice, frames and mustache would become as recognizable as the blue and red Spider suit we’ve all come love over the years. I’ll always remember putting in the Spider-Man game for the Nintendo 64 and hearing Stan announce,
“Welcome, True Believers and newcomers alike! Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee here. Once again we find our hero Peter Parker, better known around the world as the amazing Spider-Man, in a heap of trouble. But this is just the beginning, Spidey fans. So get ready for a true superhero action thriller, packed to the brim with thrills and chills, twists and turns, more super-villains than you can shake a web at, and of course, non-stop web-slinging, wall-crawling action.”
In the years after, myself and millions of others would come to lovingly anticipate his cameo in every big screen adaption of Marvel heroes.
Here’s my Top 5:
5.) Spider-Man 3 (2007)
“You know, I guess one person really can make a difference…
[pats Peter Parker on shoulder]
4.) Thor (2011)
This is the one where Stan tries unsuccessfully to pull Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer) in his pick-up. The tug ends up ripping the back end of his truck off, but Stan don’t care.
3.) Captain-America: Civil War (2016)
The gif says it all. I will never get tried of Tony Stark burns. I literally burst out laughing the first time I saw this.
2.) The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
No words, just sweet ignorant bliss. I love the perspective in this scene. We get the classic wall-crawler moves, as Peter, quick and nimble is able to flip and maneuver around the room with one eye on the villain and the other on the innocent bystander. Ol’ Stan exits without the faintest clue.
1.) Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
After Janet van Dyne (Wasp) shrinks his car, Stan dryly laments, “Well, the 60s were fun, but now I’m paying for it.” This has me crankin’ up whenever I think of it. I don’t know if it’s the absurdity of the 60s only catching up with him in 2018, or the implication that Stan Lee was tripped out on LSD and cannabis in the 60s, or simply that Stan resigns himself calmly to mishap. This one really got me.
I don’t want to get into the battle for Stan Lee’s estate or his ancient feud with Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, but I’d encourage you go down those rabbit holes. Nor do I want to delve into his disappointing take (in 2015) on re-imagining Spider-Man as someone other than white and heterosexual. The man had his flaws that I’m sure some talented director will dive into in a future biopic. Today, I’d like to honor him.
It’s not often someone dies and leaves an entire multiverse behind. I am so infinitely indebted to the work you’ve done, Mr. Lee. Since I was a little boy your heroes have provided me with adventure, thrills, values, and inspiration. your distinct vocal tinge and iconic aviators will be missed, but you’re on another plane now.