Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Eulogy for a Legend

Stan Lee started in comics when he was a pup, but he and the artists he worked with did not reinvent what we know of today as superhero comics until he was about 40. And he kept working, in one way or another, to the end.

So there is life both within and after the day job, and you don't need to be 25 to find it.

The world of comics is not so different from that of other creative jobs. There's a pyramid, and people get involuntarily or voluntarily weeded out, sometimes slowly, other times in big rushes, every few decades. Some people try to leave and get dragged back. Some people make it to the end--we've heard their names a lot over the last few years. Flo. Len. Mirthful Marie. Now the guy at the very tip of that pyramid, Stan "the Man" Lee. The figurehead of an entire industry, one which went from being nearly extinct (more than once) to roaring back, dominating pop culture with modern mythology. With responsibility. With power. Even with self-esteem issues. Comics are the perennial blooming teen, the permanent start-up. Their periodical nature creates innovation you'd never get with a small booklist, forces every publishing arm to reinvent itself on a regular basis. My job is herding feral cats, and I'm barely housebroken.

I don't have single-incident Stan stories the way many of you do. As a kid, I didn't meet Stan and get inspired to join comics. I only met Stan as part of my job. These meetings are a blur of ongoing, non-specific, minor interactions. Actually, that's probably the same as most of my early nineties Marvel peers. We had these Marvel conventions for a while, and I was really into getting frequent flyer miles, so I'd go to any of them I was invited to. Stan was frequently there--he was the embodiment of Marvel after all, even though he'd headed West decades ahead of the rest of us.

Stan met hundreds of people in the Marvel Mega-Tour weekends. He probably met dozens of people in the office every time he visited. For a while, every time I met him, he re-introduced himself. This isn't unique to me--it's what he did, introduced himself to everyone.

But eventually, he just started greeting me warmly. Not by name, no, I can't pretend I was an institution. But he knew my face and knew I was a colleague he'd see over and over. That's the best Stan story I have, and I'm happy with it.

I don't know that I'll make it to 95. But here's the good news, the inspirational part besides all the other parts of the Stan Lee legacy.

That's an entire lifetime away. Even more years than Stan was when he developed Spider-Man.

1 comment:

William Kendall said...

He was one of a kind. There's never going to be another like Stan.