We stopped doing these memorials a couple of years ago. It’s hard to take the time away from our lives and other work here at Upcomingdiscs. But sometimes we’ll lose one of the great ones. This isn’t a tribute to Stan Lee. He’ll get plenty of those. These are just my own private thoughts. I want to say things many of you would like to say. I have a forum, so I’m going to use it. If immortality can be measured by the impact you leave behind or how many people continue to remember you and for how long after your gone. Then there’s only one thing we can say about Stan Lee: “Face it, Tiger. You just hit the jackpot.”
It’s safe to say that if it hadn’t been for Stan Lee, you would not be reading Upcomingdiscs today. There would be no review. No contests. That’s because I would be a very different person, who likely would not have this deep passion for the fantastic miracles once projected on silver screens from dancing/flickering light. There are three men that I credit with my first exploration and appreciation for such nonsense. The first was my father who allowed me to stay up late with him to watch the Universal Monster films on late-night shows and Friday Night Shock Theatres.
Then came along Forry Ackerman and his Famous Monsters Of Filmland that allowed me to meet, even if just in black & white photographs, the actors and artists who created these wonders of horror. Of course, I spent time with my father. In his last few years I got to know and befriend “Uncle Forry“. I got to write a song and present it to him for a surprise birthday celebration. When he died, I took it pretty hard.
I regret that I have never met the third man who led me so far astray since the moment I could read and likely years before that. In the comic books I took this new skill of reading during that carefree youth. He gave me an entire universe to explore, and explore I did. Comic books. In those days they really were written for little kids. Yeah, I read Superman and Batman. Who didn’t. But the only DC character who ever really caught my attention was The Flash. But over at Marvel, a new way of doing things came to life at almost the exact time that I did in 1961. Marvel gave me first Spider-Man. I donned a leotard set of PJ’s and I was “swinging around my house”. That is literally my first vivid memory from childhood. The tights were green, the wrong color, but I loved green, and with a little imagination and a few sound effects like “Swoosh” or “Thept”, I was winging on imaginary webs of my own design. It’s a miracle I never hurt myself swinging down the staircase or jumping off the banister onto a padded couch (when I didn’t miss, that is). I scared the crap out of our dog and cats who took on the mantle of Doc Ock or often The Scorpion. I got into particular trouble once when I could swear I had Sandman trapped right where I wanted him in Charlie Brown’s (our cat) litter box. The villains never defeated me, but my parents took the PJ’s for a while and likely thought about taking my stash of comics. My mom tells everyone that she taught me to read. She didn’t. It wasn’t my pop who did share his Famous Monsters when he was finished with them. It wasn’t even any of the nuns at Catholic School who got the ball rolling. It was Stan Lee. When I discovered Stan, nothing was ever the same again.
My undergrad education came from Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I did most of my graduate studies with The Fantastic Four and a minor in Iron Man. For my post-graduate research I excelled with The Avengers. There was always time for a few electives from time to time. I certainly understood the importance of a rounded education. I flirted with The X-Men and got a little carried away with Wolverine. Of course, I had my first schoolboy crushes on Gwen Stacy and Jean Grey. My official studies ended in the 1980s with The Incredible Hulk & Carol Danvers’ version of Captain Marvel. Of course, we read these things in clubhouses and under air tents we made out of fans and large sheets in the summer. But I never felt like a geek. Stan Lee was giving talks at colleges, and he understood us. And those sneaky little comic book people started introducing me to guys like Bill Shakespeare, astronomy, world and then American history, and now I trade off reading old 1960’/70’s and 80’s comic books on my tablet when I’m not reading thick tomes of presidential biographies. I still watch people scratch their head when they see Spider-Man on a shelf with the Writings Of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Abe Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. Yeah, Mom checked on my reading from time to time, but Stan Lee made me want to read. He made me want to explore, and he gave me the tools to do just that.
Stan was a teen when he went to work for Marvel, which wasn’t called that at the time. He did off jobs. He filled pen inkwells and ran errands. Then he was given a chance to work on just the third Captain America title. Before long he was co-creating his own titles. He created the modern Marvel and took on the biggest kids on the block. He may not have knocked them down, but he made them take notice. He made comic book mainstream, and he traveled tirelessly to promote the value that could be found in the right comics. He didn’t work for Marvel. He became Marvel. And he will be missed by an entire planet. But I don’t really care about any of that. He will be missed by me. I’m pissed that he’s gone, but I’ll get over that. He didn’t know me, but somehow I believe he knew I could be so much better, someone better. He told me. In thousands of pages of comics he told me over and over again until I believed I could. He was the best friend I never met.
Yes, Stan Lee leaves behind an enviable legacy. Our language, our science, our entertainment will always bear a little of his mark for as long as the old planet still works. And when we one day find it necessary to take our show on the road to uncharted space, the guys and gals who lead us there will have been touched and inspired by Stan Lee. He’s mortal. He wasn’t going to live forever. But he’ll still be teaching us for as long as a single man or woman can still think. There are literally only a handful of people in our entire human race who has touched us more. Because of Stan Lee, I love to read, and not just comic books. Because of Stan Lee, I still dream. Because of Stan Lee, I watch a lot of movies and have somehow carved out my own corner of the universe where I get to pass along my meager thoughts. If not for Stan “The Man”, you wouldn’t ever have known who I am. I never met him, but he left something in a box that said: “From Stan To Gino”. Now that he’s gone, I can swear I hear that goofy voice in my head pleading with me. It says, “Gino don’t you dare let me down. I’m counting on you, you know.” I won’t let you down, Stan. “Nuff said.”