Everyone needs a hero. For many, Stan Lee, who died this week at age 95, wasn’t just a maker of heroes. He was, in his own way, one of them. When Lee joined Marvel Comics, the company was fighting a losing battle against the giant firm that brought the world Batman, Superman and other heroes that were seemingly chiseled out of stone – larger than life figures without flaws.
But as Marvel Comics was on the brink of going under, Lee took over and made a new universe of heroes. They had super powers, but they were also vulnerable, flawed, and all too human.
“All of his characters have this really compelling sense of humanity at their core,” says Evan Narcisse, the Austin-based journalist and writer of “The Rise of the Black Panther.”
Readers could at last see heroic versions of themselves in the comics. And that was a revolution, not just in comics, but in the way many of us grew up seeing ourselves – human, but heroic too.
Comic book fans are grieving all over the world, and that hits home for Narcisse. He wrote about Lee’s death for io9 and has been sharing his personal thoughts on Twitter.
“In the 80s we watched Spiderman and the Amazing Friends, an animated series where Stan Lee would narrate every episode and you got used to hearing his voice… He’d show up everywhere. He’s been in video games, in the movies, on TV,” Narcisse says.
Lee created characters like Iron Man, The Hulk, Fantastic 4, Black Panther, and “most of the major Marvel character that are on screen nowadays” Narcisse says.
And in a way, Lee was a character himself.
“Stanley Lieber, his birth name, he created Stan Lee, he invented himself as a character. The creator as something larger than life, and that’s why his passing has been so impactful for people,” Narcisse says.
Lee’s passing even had an affect on Narcisse’ daughter, who knew him from playing a video game.
“She’s only seven years old but she understood [Lee] had a full life. She said ‘he did a lot of stuff!’ and Stan Lee did a lot of stuff. He kept on doing stuff way past the time than most people would have had a happy, peaceful retirement,” Narcisse says.
But just like his characters, the larger-than-life character he created for himself had issues.
“As Marvel [Comics] became this huge cash-making phenomenon, he didn’t participate in a lot of those profits,” Narcisse says. “And I think that probably always haunted him, and fueled his desire to be constantly be in front of the camera, constantly making deals.”