Stan Lee – America’s Greatest Novelist Ever, Tapestry of Villainy and Heroics…
An end of an era happened earlier this month, have not had the heart nor energy to tackle it until now… Nevertheless, I am sure by now everyone is aware that Stan Lee, who started as the coffee boy of Timely Comics and became the giant of Marvel is now gone at the age of 95.
I find it interesting his passing was almost like a trilogy? His wife Joan of 69 years died last year (she even appeared with him in one of his many legendary movie cameos), then Steve Ditko who is said to have improved on Jack Kirby‘s costume idea for Spider-Man left us earlier this year… I am not ruling it out as some form of cosmic synchronicity, since Stan lee himself created many worlds.
I was amazed to learn he never used Stanley Lieber (his real name) as he was saving it for when he wrote the Great American Novel. In fact, at first, he was somewhat embarrassed to be making comic books?
This is where I now drop in… If it was not for Stan Lee I would be an illiterate bum, well, between him and my father anyway… Comics for me started at 25 cents in the USA, when I came to Barbados in the early 70s they were 75 cents each and so between my father and I we’d buy a pile of them – but he’d always be astounded at what seemed my phenomenal speed reading. When I said Foggy Nelson was the Beetle, he finally suspected I was not really absorbing all of the words imparted?
He asked me questions and realised I was skimming the words and looking at the illustrations, my favorite was John Romita since I found Steve Ditko‘s style as weird even at that age. So he insisted if I am to get another comic book then I have to read every page.
Every. Page. Including. The. Ads.
Remember when Comics said “CONTINUED ON 2ND PAGE FOLLOWING” in a small thin, pink box usually at a vital moment? By myself, I skipped it, but Poppa made me read “Why Is This Man Smiling?” from The International School of Correspondence or how Charles Atlas was a skinny guy who pulled metal springs to become a bigger bully to kick sand on the guy who unfaired him.
I even got to understand and appreciate the job of the colorist and letterers, why there is a difference between pencilling and inking. Gil Kane inked by Ross Andru was stark and close to original sketches while Dave Cockrum in Marvel’s attempt at John Carter of Mars was more embellished and closer to his own illustrations,,,
My vocabulary at eight picked up drastically, I saw ads for X-Ray glasses and learned not all ads in the comic books were honest, I ordered a lock-pick set from a DC comic and never got a reply even! That helped to solidify my loyalty to Marvel. Plus when I was 9 going on 10 my father arranged for Stan Lee to personally autograph to me his sequel about Marvel’s early days, “Son Of Origins,” which oddly enough had most of the characters which spiked the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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My own personal memory of @therealstanlee was at the age of ten here in #Barbados when my father got The Man to personally autograph my sequel to how Marvel started! #Excelsior #makeminemarvel A giant was in our lives and he told the tale of one of the The Great American novels through 100s of heroes and characters in a way that won’t be seen again soon, saying he’ll be missed is far too mild – thanks for making me learn to read! (Wipes eyes)
I went to the Globe Cinema in 1982 for Nicholas Hammond as “Spider Man,” when we were driving home, my Poppa showed his driving skills as his Vauxhall Station-wagon had a blowout near the traffic lights by Bay Street Headquarters. I remembered Stan Lee as a juror for the Trial of the Incredible Hulk which had a very Viking styled Thor and Rex Smith as Daredevil.
People forget Lou Ferrigno who was the TV Hulk also did a cameo with Stan as security in the 2003 version of the Hulk which was directed by Ang Lee and very experimental. Back to my progression of reading thanks to Stan Lee…
When I became a teenager, Marvel’s attention was being fought over by France’s sexy Heavy Metal or Metal Hurlant. I was going from first to second form at Harrison College and my father said for the summer I’d get a pile of comics only if I did well and not just passed to go a level up. I was 4th and was heading for 2.3 so I got 23 comics, I read them fast, but not because I was skimming, now I was devouring 200 page books like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan series every 3 or 4 days.
Among the 23 issues included the 2nd Annual for Marvel’s version of Tarzan as drawn by John Buscema and written by Roy Thomas. Where Lord Greystoke fought Abdul Alhazred, author of the Necromicon at the Earth’s Core.
But hormones started interfering and the boobs and gratuitous sex of the French glossy paper graphic novels started to seem more intriguing – so Marvel competed by producing Epic which had the adventures of Vance Dreadstar from Jim Starlin who was the creator of Thanos the mad Titan and Gamora, his beloved step-daughter.
If my father and Stan Lee had not created the urge to read I would not be here recalling these adventures. I think Stanley Lieber was wrong, he did write the Great American Novel as a vast cosmic tapestry where heroes, colorists, villains, letterers, civilians and sidekicks all collided in a wonderful smorgasbord which expanded my mind in a way no one piece of literature could hope to do… Excelsior, my man, Excelsior!