We’re all True Believers: Stan Lee’s Ever Present Appeal
No other figure in comic book history right now embodies the term “living legend” better than Stanley Lieber. Oh, you don’t know the name? Well, you might recognize him from his professional name: Stan Lee. Ah, Stan the Man, you’re always a character, and we all love you for it. I just wish that you’d have a movie of your own, and I’m not talking about some heartfelt biopic; I’m talking about a whole feature-length presentation explaining the origin of his ability to cameo at all times at any given place! That would be the dream.
The thing is, there’s just something about Stan Lee’s whole appeal that makes him different from all the other comic book icons. Think of it this way: When we think of the likes of Kirby, Romita Sr., or Moore (the wizard), we immediately associate them with this intimidating kind of greatness, which to be fair is more than deserved by these legends. With Stan, though, there’s this mix between what we can clearly see as cultural icon/comic book deity and a charming son of a gun you can go out and have some beers with. And this is mainly due to the whole image he’s built around the media. His interviews are always jovial even in spite of more serious topics, and although he might not always be agreeable (you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen this one documentary about another legend I won’t name here), he sure as hell is one of the most charming media personalities out there.
So, aside from his admittedly awesome onscreen personality, what makes Stan Lee such an important figure not just within the superhero genre but throughout the comic book world as a whole? Yeah, yeah, he co-created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and a host of other characters, but that’s a dead giveaway that even perhaps the most unfamiliar of fans are aware of.
Here’s something a bit more specific: Stan Lee was one of the first editors to popularize the whole trend of crediting the creative team behind each and every issue they put out starting in the 60s, give or take a few years. Now, this might not seem like a big deal these days – you might even say it’s a rather inconsequential point to make –, but you’d be dead wrong. Yes, it is only morally right and tasteful to credit the team behind our stories these days, but that wasn’t always the case in the comic book industry. As we may all well know, comics is one of the most brutal, unfair, and depressing industries in recent history, which pretty much mistreated creators across the board up until the late 80s. So, with that single, seemingly ineffectual gesture of having their names on the page, Stan Lee was able to uphold creator’s rights.
I will not say he’s a crusader for it, though (again, that documentary I mentioned earlier). But I will admit he’s done his part. So, Excelsior, Mr. Lieber! And may you have more years ahead of you!