Stan Lee was my hero…

Begin Transmission..

When someone says the term Marvel Comics, my mind instantly goes to one name. Stan Lee. He was the ultimate pitchman. He made you believe that anyone could be a hero. When he spoke, people paid attention. His bombastic verbiage and his ability to speak were unmatched. His delivery was as masterful as any salesman, television.evangelist, or carnival barker. Anyone can sell a car, but when Stan Lee sold you something, you walked away believing that you had the best, most exciting car you ever drove. There is a section of comics culture that tries to dimisnish Stan’s contributions. Who created what? Was it all Jack Kirby? Was it Ditko? Fact is, no matter what the reality is, the single figure you associated with Marvel and their hero’s was Stan. He was the Walt Disney to the Disney company! The Steve Jobs to Apple. Stan made his characters much more than comic book fare.. he made them feel real.. he made them OUR heroes. Marvel with Stan at the helm was the peoples comics company, and our minds went to worlds we could not even imagine. This was the wonder of Stan Lee. His impact is as much alive today as ever before. His life’s work is on every TV, movies screen, toy shelf , video game, and merchandise stand you can see. Stan Lee created a cultural phenomenon, and his legacy is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Stan sowed the seeds of the biggest cinematic film series ever created, and it started as a result of Stan Lees’ masterful salesmanship. If you ever wondered how it began, pull up a seat as I tell you a tale of the beginnings of how we got here. 

Stan Lee was an aspiring writer who ended up working in the comics industry. Lee made his way from office flunky to editor in short order as his predasessors were either fired or quit leaving Stan the last man standing in the office, and he took his new position of authority dead serious. Stan found himself in a position where he was now dictating many creators who were many years his senior. The content produced was not creatively satisfying for Stan. As a writer himself, he knew the quality of output he was making was schlock, and his work doing romance or funny animal stories was leaving him creatively bankrupt. Stan was tired of working for Martin Goodmans comic book company and was planning his exit. As fate would have it Stan discussed his dismay with his wife Joan. She urged him to write one more story the way HE would have wanted to write it! 

Lee was open his entire career about wanting to be considered a serious author one who would write the next big American novel and comics were considered disposable entertainment, “kids stuff” that wasn’t considered high calibre professional works. When Joan suggested that he write a book “his” way …and…he did. 

Stan’s way…would become the Marvel Way, but no one knew it at the time. What even was the Marvel Way?  It didn’t exist, but Stan was about to make it up. Stan did something other companies at the time didn’t do. He grounded his heroes and stories with a sense of everyman reality. He just didn’t write a story of a man from another planet with unlimited powers and an indestructible perfect human. Stan saw fault in this. Superman, for example, was perfect. Many kids could never be Superman. Of course, with perfection comes story limitation. If you are writing about an invincible hero who is the strongest, fastest, and most good-looking guy out there, the story gets cold quickly. Where were the interesting flaws? Where were the real storytelling aspects real people could relate to?

Stan took the concept of the Everyman hero with real issues and problems and thrust them on paper as a dysfunctional four member super team where  nothing was perfect, but the stories were boundless. The team had relationship drama and infighting, and some characters battled with the idea of even being a hero in the first place. That creation was The Fantasic Four, and it was considered the day one creation point for modern Marvel writing and the launch pad for the Marvel Universe. His “last” comic book, written in collaboration with the brilliant co-creator Jack Kirby, was The Fantastic Four, which launched the Marvel Age of comics and sparked a steady stream of new concepts and characters, Thor, Black Panther, and The X-Men. Stan had a keen eye for the culture at the time and realized early on that they might translate easily to other media. Boy, would he be right! Stans vision for his heroes would be the starting point for how comic books’ transitioned from print to film and television, merchandise and beyond the scope of his wildest dreams but for our purposes we will focus on the very beginning of the tradition from the comics page to the small screen.

In 66, Lee contributed to Grantray-Lawrences The Marvel Super Heroes animated series while still working at Marvel in a multitude of roles such as editor, art director, and writer! Lees work on the shows was invaluable as he helped shape stories written ironically by him and authors and co creators  like Jack Kirby, Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, and more. even though Goodman negotiated the deal with Grantray-Lawrence Lee would be the one moving the various parts to get the projects green lighted and Marvels Superhero’s would no longer be relegated to the comic book page but now for the first time would be seen in living color and action on our TV screens! The seeds of the MCU were planted here..

Heroes included Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, and Namor as the main characters of the series. Each character had their own miniseries or show that repurposed stories from recent Marvel comics.Some would say the “animation” was crude.I always loved the show. The fact that the cartoon looked just like a comic book gave it the charm that I loved! The producers literally took comics panel directly from the comics and literally particularly animated portions of the picture to show motion or action. The closest thing I can compare it to would be a modern motion comic.In order to give the impression of animation and some lip-syncing, the animation typically consisted of photocopied images taken directly from recent issues of the comics featuring the different characters, or even from early issues of The Avengers. While not technically groundbreaking from an animation standpoint, the fact remained that Marvel now became part of homes all across the nation. The competition was paying attention and producing cartoon fare of their own, but something was different. The mood was changing. Marvel not surprisingly won over devoted followers with the television series and  its iconic catchy theme songs for Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man had all of us singing along. 

1967 gave us the FANTASTIC FOUR animated series from Hanna Barbera Which heavily adapted Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four work. 

Characters like The Mole Man and Galactus debuted!  If you haven’t seen the show It featured an amazing episode detailing Dr. Doom’s origin story. Hanna Barbera with master artist Alex Toth reimagined concepts like the Skrulls and the Silver Surfer but the fact remained despite Lee not being directly involved many of the stories were based on the early Lee and Kirby Fantastic Four issues. 

Stan knew he had something here. This is when Marvels ultimate pitch man went to work and chased further applications for his characters and pushed forward for more..

Although not directly involved, Lee’s influence on the 1967 Hanna-Barbera Fantastic Four animated series could still be felt because of the material the creators adapted. Key antagonists from the episodes included The Mole Man and Galactus and Dr. Doom’s origin story received an entire episode. While they were reimagined by Hanna-Barbera and comics legend Alex Toth, the Skrulls and the Silver Surfer also made appearances. Many of the stories were based on the early Lee and Kirby Fantastic Four issues. 

Of course, then there was the grand daddy of them all the legendary Spider-Man series from 1967. Produced by Gantray Lawrence and later Kratnz films Spider-Man is considered Marvels most iconic early animation achievement. This show was in constant rotation at my house. It aired practically every day. It was a fixture on Saturday mornings in key time slots on Canadian television. It was a staple of Canadian early weekday mornings before school!

Spider-Man’s adventures were comfort food for me, and any episodes featuring members of the Sinister Six were always my favorites. From the simply irresistible theme song of the series to the outlandish tone and scope of the 6 showed fans what made Marvel different from its distinguished competition. Peter Parker Spider-Man real life identity battled taking care of his aging Aunt May while trying to hold down a job as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, the pressures of school, women and everything a real life teen of the era would go through. It lasted three very distinct seasons, each one particularly the third season wildly different in tone and budget. Spider-Man became the beloved signature hero of Marvel comics at that point and forever linked to Stan Lees’ career from that moment forward. With minor success in the animation department, Lee had visions that Hollywood would be their next stop. 

THE INCREDIBLE HULK, SPIDER-MAN, AND DR. STRANGE APPEAR ON TV IN THE 1970S. 

Stan’s ambitions took him outside of the office on a tour circuit. Whether it was speaking engagements at university’s, publicity events Stan was in full steam pitchman mode. Lee’s personality was the reason why Marvel landed in areas where you would never see comic book related fare. Stan was THE living and breathing symbol of Marvel comics, and he loved and soaked up that attention in pursuit of making this company more than a magazine with cool colors and pictures. Marvel invaded toy shelves. Marvel Blacklight posters adorned many kids’ walls, and the Mighty Marvel Marching Society was even spinning on vinyl on record players of the time. 

When Lee took over as publisher of Marvel Comics in 1972, he largely delegated writing and creative work to a new group of authors, illustrators, and editors. Lee found himself guiding the Marvel heroes through Hollywood as the characters started to emerge in the uncharted territory of live action, even though he continued to be involved in some creative aspects of the business, such as the daily Spider-Man comic strip.

All roads led to the first live action show for Marvel comics. The genesis for the MCU was here. The beginning of a multi-billion dollar media franchise began unsuspecting one winter evening, and the world was ready.  The Incredible Hulk made its television debut in November of 1977 with a two hour pilot airing on CBS. The show featured Lou Ferigno as Hulk and the incredible Bill Bixby as his alter ego Bruce Banner. The show was a ratings success and aired from November 4, 1977 –May 12, 1982.

“In the TV series, Dr. David Banner, a widowed physician and scientist who is presumed dead, travels across America under assumed names and finds himself in positions where he helps others in need despite his terrible secret: Following an accident that altered his cells, in times of extreme anger or stress, he transforms into a huge, savage, incredibly strong green-skinned humanoid, who has been named “the Hulk”. In his travels, Banner earns money by working temporary jobs while searching for a way to either control or cure his condition. All the while, he is obsessively pursued by a tabloid newspaper reporter, Jack McGee, who is convinced that the Hulk is a deadly menace whose exposure would enhance his career.”

Stan Lee was elated about the Hulks’ success! Lee himself had become larger than life. He was now being recognized in places outside of the comics bubble and was comics’ first version of a rock star and became a traveling media liason! Lee was great at one thing, selling an audience on whatever he was selling. Bombastic, sweet, energetic. He always presented a fun, uplifting persona and was a person you wanted to be around.

 He also stood for something. He believed in inclusion and peoples rights. He championed the voices of the common man, and that appeal made him larger than life.

His voice for me is what always sets the tone. The cadence, the inflection, and the delivery. Hearing Stan’s voice open, many of my childhood cartoon shows or VHS tapes were always like comfort food. He treated his Mighty Marvel Marching Society like a club you HAD to be in with him. It was the cool place to be! Marvel was cool because of Stan. He spoke literally to kids and teens of all ages and put their stories on the page.

You related to Stan and his characters because they were based in reality. Peter Parker had girlfriend issues…didn’t we all at one point! The Hulks Bruce Banner had an inner monster he had to control….like many of us. The Fantastic Four were a family that fought, broke up, lived lost, and loved together. Stan made us believe, and for those few minutes reading those comic pages, we were along for the ride and part of something special. 

Does it matter who created what? Who’s name is ahead of another for creating part of a character? Sure it does for some reasons but no one can contest that the reason that Marvels characters live forever on screens, phones, merchandise and in the modern lexicon is because Stan Lee invited us into that house and we grew up there and never wanted to move out!

Thank you Stan Lee, for allowing me to be a kid no matter what my age. Thank you Stan Lee, for giving me a playbook on how to deliver motivating and powerful speeches. Funny enough, when I tell stories to my kids, there is a part of me that steals Stan’s delivery everytime!!

Thank You Stan for creating a world where my family and I can spend together and create memories because that’s what it’s all about. 

Raise a glass to Stan Lee on his birthday. You will always be “The Man”..

Here’s to Stan..

Excelsior!!

Hey… I usually wrap up a “Till next time Satellite Subscriber’s”… which, of course, is ripped off of Stan’s method of assigning his readership a tagline, but I had to share some personal Stan related fare!!

My wife took this picture for me on the Hollywood Walk of Fame during a recent trip. Stan was one of one of the very short lists that I requested a picture of his star!!

During that very same trip, my wife also snapped this wonderful plaque from Disney Land California, and the words say it all.

For Christmas, I also got a few Stan Lee related items!! I finally got a fresh copy of How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way!!

Okay… now you can go!! Till next time, True Believers!!

For more Stan Lee related content, check out a few pieces written and created by a few friends of mine!

Between The Pages Blog: https://www.betweenthepagesblog.com/2022/12/face-it-tiger-you-just-hit-the-jackpot.html

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: http://davescomicheroes.blogspot.com/2022/12/stan-lee-100.html?m=1

W2M Network Podcasts: https://w2mnet.com/remembering-stan-lee-1922-2018/

https://w2mnet.com/trio-of-stan-lee-tales/

End Transmission…

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Comments
  1. Nancy says:

    What a great tribute to Lee! He certainly was one of a kind!

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