Comic nerds from every fandom and demographic will forever remember November 12, 2018, as the day the comic world and American pop culture lost its most important luminary. Stan Lee died after being rushed to the hospital for a “medical emergency,” according to Variety. Lee was 95.
Millennial comic fans like me have never lived in a time when Stan Lee was not the master of the modern comic. He and Jack Kirby were responsible for creating so many iconic heroes, and not just those target that the white boys of the fandom. Lee and Kirby led the way in creating Black, women, characters of color that resonated with so many kids around the world and will continue to do so for many generations. Black Panther, X-Men, Luke Cage, The Avengers, and so many more stories owe their starts to the genius of Stan Lee. Lee’s first comic credit was for a Captain America comic in 1941, so he’s been influencing the comics world for more nearly 80 years.
Stan Lee’s not only a great creator and writer of comics, but he is also the greatest salesman for Marvel. In fact, that was one of his early jobs and one that he held onto throughout his tenure with Marvel. Lee was also a cultivator of social trends, using those to create the books that people wanted to buy.
In fact, that’s how he and Kirby got Black Panther into the comics in the early 60s, a time when America was fighting Martin Luther King Jr, Fannie Lou Hamer, and other Civil Rights icons to keep basic rights away from Black Americans. The story goes that Lee was taking a tour of colleges across America and witnessed the turmoil at its heart. Although many people say he never met Stokely Carmichael, the leader who’s inspiring speeches became the base for the Black Panther Party, he saw the pain of the Black community. Lee must have observed how Black and white students were reacting to the ideas of equal rights and the plight of the Black community.
The next thing we know, Kirby was mocking up pics of a Black superhero who was from a rich Afrofuturistic African nation and above the white nonsense taking place in America in the 1960s. The character debuted in Fantastic Four volume 52 in July 1966. He got his own comic in the early 70s, along with a bulletproof Black superhero named Luke Cage. These are only a few instances of Stan Lee’s sales prowess and creative genius that ultimately ended up affecting generations of fans.
I personally find it fitting that he passed in the year his first Black superhero grossed over a billion dollars worldwide and is expected to take the awards season by storm. In a time when no one else cared, Lee cared for comic nerd and saw to our longing by creating characters that answered our collective needs at the time. We owe a great homage to Stan Lee in the days to come, the man who seemed to speak to generations of blerds like us.