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A great man once said, "I guess one person could make a difference." That man was Stan Lee, who would not only rise to become the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, but a father to several superheroes that we've come to know and love.
Lee was born on a cold December in 1922, just another boy out of thousands that belonged to the small corner of the world known as Manhattan. His work would inspire millions—not only in New York City, but across the globe.
Lee’s humble beginnings as a comic book artist began before he started drawing. When he was seventeen, Lee’s uncle got him a job at a small group of corporations known as Timely Comics, which at the time was run by Martin Goodman.
What Lee was unaware of was that Timely Comics would grow with him, eventually turning into what we know today as Marvel Comics.
Who could ever have guessed that some kid from Manhattan would be responsible for turning Marvel Comics into a multimedia superpower?
However, the beginning of Marvel growing into the company we know and love today didn’t really kick start until the 1950s, when Marvel’s competitor, DC Comics, revitalized the superhero industry. Lee—along with another well-known artist Jack Kirby—was put in charge of creating a superhero team in response to DC Comic’s creation.
That’s when some of the world's most beloved superheroes, such as most of the foundational Avengers and our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, came to life.
What made Lee and Kirby’s characters popular, however, wasn’t their romantic attributes but their humanity. Lee was the first to approach comic book characters from a humanistic, naturalistic standpoint. He didn’t want his heroes to be perfect, or godlike. Lee strived for his characters to be relatable, to battle the challenges that don’t only manifest in monsters, but in day-to-day life. His knack of inventing unique, well-rounded heroes set him apart as both an artist and a storyteller. Lee created imperfect characters as a reflection of the people around us, and perhaps as a symbol of hope, too.
If an everyday man can be a hero, why can't I?
However, how does all that tie into the legacy he left today?
Most of the awards he won were later in his career: His first being the Inkpot Award of 1974, and his most recent being the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers in 2017. Alongside this, he is survived by his daughter, Joan Celia Lee.
But Lee’s works will not only just be remembered through the various awards he won. Stan Lee's characters have become a staple in Westernized culture, and have transformed the world's definition of "hero." He is immortalized through the characters—or people—he created, in the stories he wrote that have and will be told and retold for generations, and in the lives of the billions of people he continues to impact without ever shaking their hand.
Stan Lee once said, “We all wish we had superpowers. We all wish we could do more than we can do.” Unbeknownst to the world of 1922, Stan Lee had a superpower: Connecting people together. He made us laugh and cry, enraptured the entire world with his thousands of stories, and intertwined the gaps between generations with a language to communicate with. And when the laughter eventually died down, and the tears eventually dried, we found ourselves among fellow movie watchers in the movie theatre, or smiling at a comic book after a long day of work, or basking in the chaos of a Comic-Con. At the end of the day, Stan Lee helped us feel a lot less alone.
So, thank you, Stan Lee, for everything you’ve done. Superheroes may not exist, but you’re a hero to me. Rest in peace.