Goodbye, Stan Lee
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On Monday, pop culture icon Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95. Lee created or co-created countless iconic Marvel comics characters, including: Spider-Man, Black Panther, The Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Daredevil, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Ant-Man. He has especially risen to prominence with the popularity of Disney’s Marvel movies, where Lee regularly made brief cameos.
Lee’s legacy is complicated, as there is still a lot of debate over how much of the credit he deserves for creating many classic comic book characters, and how much credit should go to his frequent collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. He has also been involved in several lawsuits regarding royalties with Marvel and other entertainment companies, and was recently accused of sexual harassment during an appearance in Chicago.
While I don’t think that Lee’s more problematic actions should be ignored (especially the sexual harassment accusation, which I think should be taken very seriously), I still respect his contributions as a creator, and I am saddened by his passing.
Not only did Lee create some of the most iconic pop culture figures of the 21st century, he also helped to redefine what superheroes and comic books could be. Before the creation of grounded, fallible characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, superheroes were flat characters who lacked definition outside of their masked alter egos.
Lee and co-creators such as Kirby and Ditko broadened the scope of comics to include more than just action; giving their characters personal lives and relationships that were often just as, if not more, engrossing than their super heroic exploits. They pioneered the juicy character interactions and relatable angst that remain to this day the reason why so many fans, myself included, gravitate towards superhero comics and their movie adaptations.
When I opened up my social media feeds on Monday, they were full of people expressing sadness over Lee’s passing, many of them actors or employees of Marvel who had worked with him at some point.
What I found most moving, though, were posts by fans talking about how the characters that Lee helped to create have changed their lives. It is truly incredible that one person is responsible, albeit indirectly, for positively impacting so many different people across time and space.
I myself even owe a debt to Lee, who co-created Peggy Carter, a Marvel character who, in her on-screen portrayal by Hayley Atwell, has changed my life.
Every creator hopes that their work will outlive them, and Lee’s certainly will. His legacy may be flawed, but it still worth remembering. And if the rich history of superhero comics thus far is any indication, then his characters will continue to stay relevant and important for generations to come.
Alanna Felton is a senior and the Editor-in-Chief of the journalism staff. She is also president and founder of the RHS Young Writers’ Club and an officer...