Stan Lee: a long-lasting legacy

Published 2:04 pm Monday, November 19, 2018

You can’t talk about Marvel without Stan Lee, and you can’t talk about Stan Lee without Marvel. The comic book company and its iconic writer/editor/publisher/etc are forever connected. On Monday, Nov. 12, Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95, leaving behind a legacy that will live on much longer.

In the past week, many people have written about his life and career. Several have reminisced about picking up his comics to read as a child or sharing anecdotes about meeting him at conventions or movie sets.

I don’t have any stories like that to share. Truthfully, I only knew of Stan Lee from his cameos in all the Marvel films. To me, he was like the wacky grandpa who showed up for special events to make you laugh for a few minutes before he disappeared again.

Stan Lee, whose real name was Stanley Lieber, helped create a ton of popular characters including The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, the X-men, and one of my personal favorites: Spiderman. I may not own the comic book pages these heroes sprang to life from, but they’ve become so deeply ingrained in pop culture through television and movies that I’m familiar with the characters’ stories. It’s impressive to me how Stan Lee took the time to help develop interesting characters that inspire others despite their own flaws. Stan Lee didn’t do it all alone, but he still did a lot to ensure Marvel would last.

I had heard Stan Lee also included his own sort of editorial columns frequently in comics, but until his passing, I had never actually read one of them. The feature was called “Stan’s Soapbox” and he always ended each one with fun catchphrases like “Excelsior!” (The word, optimistically, means “ever upwards.”)

There are two Soapboxes in particular I’d like to share here because they still seem just as relevant today than when he first penned them. The first one is about the “deadliest social ills” and the second is on why there is “so much moralizing” in Marvel comics. Here they are in full:

“Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed supervillains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them – to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater – one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen – people he’s never known – with equal intensity – with equal venom. Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race – to despise an entire nation – to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God – a God who calls us ALL – His children. Pax et Justitia, Stan.”

“From time to time we receive letters from readers who wonder why there’s so much moralizing in our mags. They take great pains to point out that comics are supposed to be escapist reading, and nothing more. But somehow, I can’t see it that way. It seems to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul. In fact, even the most escapist literature of all – old-time fairy tales and heroic legends – contained moral and philosophical points of view. At every college campus where I may speak, there’s as much discussion of war and peace, civil rights, and the so-called youth rebellion as there is of our Marvel mags per se. None of us lives in a vacuum – none of us is untouched by the everyday events about us – events which shape our stories just as they shape our lives. Sure our tales can be called escapist – but just because something’s for fun, doesn’t mean we have to blanket our brains while we read it! Excelsior! Stan Lee.”

Thank you, Stan Lee. The superheroes will live on, but I hope your words do as well.


Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.