Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday Stan Lee!

December 28th was the birthday of one Mr. Stanley Lieber, better known to the world as Stan Lee.

Stan Lee is probably the only comic book creator in existence who's recognized by the general public as well as the world of fandom. Lee, along with artist Jack Kirby, created most of what we know as the Marvel Universe back in the early 1960s.

For the first time in comics, Marvel's superheroes actually seemed like real people, rather than stiff mannequins (I'm lookin' at you, Superman). Stan Lee's heroes had relatable flaws and even (gasp) bickered with one another from time to time.

Stan Lee never talked down to his audience either, which may be one factor that explains his enduring popularity. He regularly used words that sailed well above the heads of his grammar school readers (like me), prompting them to crack open a dictionary to learn what words like "annihilate" meant.

Back in the day I naturally assumed that Stan Lee wrote every monthly comic that Marvel published. Of course the fact that every book was emblazoned with a line proclaiming "Stan Lee Presents" probably helped reinforce that notion. In a similar vein I also used to think that Hanna-Barbera was a woman who wrote and drew all the Flintstones and Jetsons cartoons.

I almost met Stan Lee ten years or so ago. I was at Wizard World in Chicago and saw him sitting at a table. I was walking over to him to tell him how much I enjoyed his work when suddenly an ill-mannered, foul-smelling stereotypical fanboy cut in front of me and plopped a stack of at least a hundred comic books on the table in front of Stan, demanding that he sign each and every one. Not wanting to wait in line for an hour behind such a basement dweller, I walked off. So close!

I hope Stan Lee has even a small inkling of what his work has meant to me over the course of my life. Because of him (and Jack Kirby) I tried my hand at making my own comics as a kid. I probably wouldn't be an artist (and fledgling writer) today if not for him.

So Happy Belated 89th Birthday, Stan Lee! Here's to another 80 or 90 years!

Just for fun, here's a shot of Stan from the 1970s, when apparently everyone looked like a porn star.

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