I put a couple short posts to my other social media platforms about the passing of Stan Lee, comic book and pop culture (comic book movies are not just for geeks anymore) legend.
I’m gonna throw a lil’ bit of a pity party here but I’m gonna let myself finish.
I was bullied from 1st grade until the end of senior year in high school. Every single day. It sucked. I survived. Shit happens in everybody’s life. In high school, I started reading comic books. I was always a big reader; I used to hide in the school library instead of going out to recess. It wasn’t a hard choice. Get lost in a great story or get my ass kicked. But while novels did and still do fill me with happiness, comics hit my visual and mental pleasure centers. And eventually, embarrassingly enough, my puberty centers.
When I was a high school student, I would go by my local comic book store, Hole In The Wall Books in Falls Church, Virginia.
On Friday, back then, the new comics came out. After a shitty high school week (and they were all shitty; just in differing degrees), I would step into the cramped, creaky confines of my comic book shop and warmly greet the staff and the other geeks I knew. We would chat about geeky things and laugh at geeky jokes. We were safe from the horribleness of the regular world. It was a true egalitarian refuge. There was no hierarchy or assholes here.
I would pay for my comics and I would drive (or be driven in the first two years) straight home. I would run up to my room and lock my door. I’d plop onto my bed and start reading my comic books. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my entire life than I was when I was reading my comics on Friday afternoons. It was pure joy. All my troubles and bruises, physical and mental, melted away. I jumped into the suspension of disbelief and swam wholly and completely in the wide range of comic book stories; from indie darlings like Sandman to mainstream fare like Todd McFarlane’s seminal run on Amazing Spider-Man.
I’ll always be grateful to Stan Lee and all the other great artists and writers and inkers who created those comic books for me to enjoy. I’m a nobody so they will never know how much their work meant to me. Shit. I’m actually fighting back tears in a fucking Starbucks right now thinking back on those happy Friday afternoons. Maybe others have sublime moments of joy in adulthood. But my happiest moments took place when I was high school age, on those magical Friday nights. I will never be able to thank those creative masters for giving me so much joy. Thank you all so much. Thank you from the bottom of my three sizes too small heart.
And thank you Stan Lee, for providing me with more joy than any other person ever has. I love you, man.
I wish I could say I’m not crying right now. But I am. When you get older, you get nostalgic. And I’m also a sentimental baby. But I’m not ashamed. I spent most of my life repressing and hiding how I felt. I’m not afraid anymore.
I wish I could say I met Stan Lee. I never did. I got to see him in a live Q&A in Hollywood after a showing of 2002’s Spider-man, the movie that launched the comic book movie revolution. All I remember is one fan asked Stan Lee: “Who would win a fight between the Thing and the Hulk?”
Stan didn’t hesitate for s second. “The Hulk would win because there is no cap on his strength. The madder he gets the stronger he gets.” The assembled audience quietly nodded and there were no objections. Nor should there have been.
I do have an objection.
I object to death and its greed. Why does it have to take all of us? Can’t it leave some of the great ones?
I’ll finish with some of Stan’s own words. As always, he said it better than most. And certainly better than I could.
“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”
Excelsior, true believers!