Posted by: Doc Comics | November 21, 2018

R.I.P. Stan Lee


The passing of Stan Lee, legendary creative face of Marvel Comics and co-creator of iconic superheroes known world-wide, marks the end of an era. Few names are as synonymous with comic book superheroes, and “Stan the Man” enthusiastically embraced his role as the defacto voice for comic books with unmatched zeal and EXCELSIOR as the Godfather of what became the Marvel Comics media empire. As fans and the industry mourn his passing, Lee’s legacy is being rightly memorialized with tributes, heart-felt eulogies, and also some necessary criticism of his penchant for self-aggrandizing myth-making.

As noted in an article by Esquire: “Stanley Lieber’s own origin story begins when he joined Timely Publications—now Marvel Entertainment—as an assistant the year it was founded in 1939. He was made interim editor at the age of 19, essentially growing up in the Marvel Bullpen. During his time as an active part of the publishing company, Lee had a hand in creating some of the most famous superheroes of all-time… Lee’s ambition and propensity for self-promotion while spinning his personal legend, however, often saw the efforts of his creative collaborators diminished or erased.”  Indeed, the 1960s “Marvel Age” of comics is a period filled with Shakespearean betrayal, intrigue, and a history of creator exploitation (which seemingly continues).


Yet Stan Lee has nonetheless earned a beloved place in the popular imaginary because of his generous relationship with fans, but also his willingness to engage with larger social issues both within the comics panels and out in the world. Almost right out of the gate, Captain America was punching Nazis in 1941 even before America was at war. In 1968, Stan Lee used his comics column to explicitly call-out racism during a year that had witnessed the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, then continued to champion Civil Rights. Marvel characters like the X-Men are often celebrated for drawing inspiration from Civil Rights struggles, offering positive metaphors for Queerness and difference, a troubled history with Feminism and female superheroes, as well as featuring everyman working class heroes. The implicit otherness of Marvel heroes has also inspired Hip-Hop love for comics. In 2007, Lee offered a powerful definition of the American idea for the 150th anniversary issue of The Atlantic that still forcefully resonates today. Even in death, when Bill Maher took a swipe at Stan Lee and opined “I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important,” the internet (and Neil Gaiman) struck back.


Stan’s Soapbox was a familiar feature of Marvel Comics, and Lee used the platform to great effect. This 1968 column denounces bigotry.

Indeed, we may need the utopian fiction of superheroes now more than ever in our post-9/11 Age of Terrorism, and Stan Lee played no small roll in the blueprint for hope. For that, we can all be eternally grateful.


Excelsior, true believers. The mission forward now lies with us.


  1. The Kirby Museum weighs in…

  2. Birth.Movies.Death tribute to Jack Kirby.

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