We live in a world of heroes. With cinematic universes producing multiple movies a year, television shows, comics, and novels, so many more children today grow in a world where loving superheroes are the norm. At the center of this push to expanding these beyond the page was Stan Lee.
When the news broke about Lee’s death, our writer’s group message was hurting and we all realized that like most fans of popular culture, our identities in geek culture, and for some of us our lives, have been impacted and defined by the characters that The Man created. In his 95 years of life, Lee not only created some of the most iconic characters in all of comics but fought for the inclusion of all voices creating a space where all were welcome within the body of “Marvel.” There will never be enough words to encapsulate the worlds that he created and the good that he did. And as many have said, he has become as heroic as those he created.
The X-Men, Spider-Man, Black Panther, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and so many more heroes and villains have defined what it means to be heroic for generations since Lee began creating. With the loss of Steve Ditko earlier this year, Lee’s passing marks the official end to Marvel’s Golden Age, with the father’s of Marvel all passing, first historic Jack Kirby, Ditko, and now Lee.
As fans of heroes, as fans of comics, as fans of geekdom, in general, we, here at But Why Tho?, feel the impact of this loss. So we want to celebrate The Man and call out the impact he’s had on us as well as the importance he had and will continue to have in our lives. What follows are words from some of our contributors on what Stan Lee meant to them:
“There are not enough words to express the impact Stan Lee has had on my life, but I’m going to try. He helped create one of the greatest modern mythologies in the Marvel Universe. His heroes have served as role models to me and countless others. And his seemingly limitless reserves of enthusiasm reminded me to never be ashamed of what I loved. Thank you, Stan, for everything. Excelsior!”
“My life wouldn’t be the same without Peter Parker. Stan Lee promoted diversity, strength and created a safe haven for millions of children around the world even when Society shunned them…Stan Lee taught me that no matter what life throws at you, you can get through it. That it was okay to be different and more importantly that “with great power, comes great responsibility”. We joke about hearing that phrase in the films all the time, but it’s so important. I think it’s a testament to Stan’s work that so many people are grieving right now regardless of their age, religion, nationality or sex. He spoke for all of us. Although I may be sad right now, I’m heartened by the fact he is once again with his beloved Joan. Nuff Said.”
“I have mentioned in the past about how Steve Ditko’s work on Spider-Man and Doctor Strange helped me so much through my health journey. Similarly, Stan Lee’s Spider-Man, or more importantly Peter Parker, helped shape my childhood and what it meant to make a difference. Interestingly enough, I initially fell in love with Spider-Man when I was bitten by a brown recluse. I thought we shared a bond. However, learning about Peter’s love and how he propelled himself to become something bigger despite his seemingly insurmountable grief is inspiring to anyone struggling in their lives. Peter is relatable. Stan made Peter to be a hero we can see ourselves in and for that my cat Spider-Man and myself are forever grateful.”
“This man created an entire world of heroes that was a huge inspiration for me becoming an English major. Spider-Man has always had a special place in my heart. The character has always resonated with me. Especially when my grandfather passed away. Ben Parker’s death was my first real introduction to the concept of death. And when my abuelo died, I immediately thought about Peter and Ben. It was a dark time for me, but seeing that Peter went through something similar and was able to keep moving forward helped me through it. I wish I could have personally thanked him for creating a hero that played such a monumental role in my life.”
“Stan Lee had an enormous impact on my life. Reading X-Men comics was the first time I really understood what prejudice was and how I needed to respond to it. His stories taught me perseverance through The Wasp, Doctor Strange and Iron Man. They helped me cope with my mother’s death and gave me female role-models like Sue Storm, at a time when I desperately needed them. They made me happier than just about anything and helped me make lifelong friendships. He completely changed my life and I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him.”
“My heart hurts. Stan Lee has been crucial to mine and countless others’ lives. His creations and co-creations have inspired and continue to inspire millions worldwide to persevere in the face of adversity. Perhaps his most iconic character personifies this the most. Spider-Man has been part of my life since I was 5 and I saw him swinging through New York on the Fox animated series. Watching and reading Peter go through various forms of emotional and physical hell and challenges, but somehow always find a way to survive and overcome the odds has always served as a guiding light for me. Spider-Man from the beginning has had a balance of superpower and human ingenuity. Peter could soar the skies like a god but the most fundamental human struggles would always attempt to drag him down. Nonetheless, and more due to his personal will than any physical power, Peter would almost always preserve and thrive, with the weight of his experiences still on him. Stan Lee created and ensured that these would be core parts of Peter, such as from the character’s tragedy with Uncle Ben. In doing so, he created the most human superhero. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving us Peter and too many other heroes to count Stan. Thank you, and Excelsior.”
“I can’t even begin to put into words what Stan Lee has done for my life. Had he never sat down and created so many of the iconic characters we’ve all grown to love over the many years, I’d be very a different person today. Today has been a very rough one for me and I can’t believe he’s gone. Stan will always and forever be my hero. He’s taught me so much throughout my life and I’ll never forget all the valuable lessons he’s taught me. I will continue to heed to them and share the knowledge he bestowed upon millions. Stan always fought for social justice and gave voice to those who couldn’t at the time through his characters. Those who have faced everyday bigotry such as racism, sexism, homophobia, public judgment, etc, he gave them all a voice. Stan has helped millions across the world through his characters, including myself. We didn’t just lose a legend today, we’ve lost a great and valuable friend. RIP Stan Lee. I can’t imagine a world without you in it and I’ll miss you, my friend. Nerd and geek culture would be nothing without your contributions and your impact will forever be felt. Thank you for everything Stan, a true legend and a true believer. Excelsior!”
The X-Men saved my life and in 2013 I got the chance to tell Stan Lee that. I was the only Mexican kid in an all-white Catholic school and I was a girl who didn’t like girly things. I felt alone and hated and I was in elementary school. Then, my only friend shared with me an issue of The X-Men. And I was hooked. I saw a team that was hated for who they were but where not less because of it. They were heroes and they taught me how to persevere. But not only did they lift me up in my childhood but also in my teenage years when things were at there lowest I looked to the X-Men to escape but also to see stories of strength and tenacity. But the X-Men were also my entrance into the wonderful world of comics, they led me to read everything and find a fandom I love. Thank you, Stan. Excelsior.
The world is a little darker now that Stan Lee has passed, but we have his legacy, his heroes to remember and to share with the generations after us. If ever there was a man who will live far beyond his life it is Stan Lee. We have movies, cameos, comics, conventions, we have an entire world build on his shoulders. As a geek culture community, we a lot of our passion and love for pop culture to Stan Lee. We will remember him. We will honor him. We will be heroic and make sure our space is a space for all. And, as almost everyone has said, EXCELSIOR!
Did Stan Lee leave an impact on you? Let us know in the comments.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.