There’s no doubt Stan Lee, often together with frequent co-inventor/artist Jack Kirby, created some of the most beloved, enduring, and influential superhero characters. Without Lee, there would be no Marvel Universe, at least not with the faces by which we know it. Lee was a man with a mission of hope for millions of kids, giving a heroic voice to the underdogs, the alienated, and the disenfranchised.
Here are a few of Lee’s apparent favorite superhero creations:
- Lee seemed to identify most with Spider-Man, an emotional, talkative, and sometimes naive teen. According to Quora: “Spider Man symbolizes the little guy and that appeals a great deal to Stan. I’m not saying that Stan doesn’t love any other creation because that isn’t true. He has love for all of his characters that he brought to life. I just think that Spider Man has a special place in his heart. If you look at some of the publications and advertisements you will see Stan with Spider Man quite often.”
It doesn’t hurt that this character became the face of Marvel for many years.
- Dr. Banner/The Hulk – Banner was a man tormented by an often violent inner volatility. His human form contained a man a science, characterized by rational intellect — never knowing when he would lose his cool to become an overpowered child-like rage monster. He’s the personification of the ultimate battle between the Id and the Ego. AV Club reports: “There’s definitely an element of wish fulfillment in the Hulk for readers that wish they could let themselves fully give in to their anger—my appreciation for the character developed during my closeted teenage years—but Lee and Kirby were clear early on that this was a curse for Banner rather than a gift.”
- Black Panther – At the height of the Civil Rights movement, Lee created the first eponymous African superhero, starting with King T’Chaka, eventually passing the role to his son King T’Challa. A previously under-served, large section of the world’s population could finally find superheroes who looked like them — an entire paradisaical high-tech country of them, in fact — in the secret cities and unspoiled countryside of Wakanda. The Rolling Stone reports: “An entire generation of children will now know that a black superhero, society, imagination and power can exist right alongside Peter Parker, Steve Rogers, and Bruce Wayne. An entire generation of children will not know what it feels like to not see themselves reflected back on costume racks, coloring books or movie screens. We’re at a pivotal time where these characters and stories are coming not out of permission or obligation, but necessity.”
- For The X-Men, as an ensemble, this might be cheating, but he loved these fleshed out characters, who tried to do the right thing in a world that didn’t want them. They were flawed but regular people at heart, caught up in circumstances where they were forced to make a choice: to look out for regular humans, or to look out for fellow Mutants. In theory, the choice should be easy (both sides could reap the rewards of working together), but in reality it was like forcing opposite poles of magnets to align. You can’t help but feel a sense of tragedy for both sides. As a child, I self-identified as a mutant, or perhaps as someone from another world, impersonating as a human. According to the AV Club the young mutants were “a bunch of awkward, uncertain outcasts, drawing strength from each other in order to get through life in a world that didn’t especially like them, who just happened to have superpowers to boot. For a pre-teen who often felt like the odd one out in school, it was a lightning bolt, a volcanic eruption that ripped open the pop culture I had been consuming and showed me the way to a different one, one that existed inside the pages of comics. The heroes were fascinatingly flawed, all of them given to social isolation in one form or another, and it spoke to me in a way few things have. The symbolism of the mutant heroes is powerful, which is why they’ve been used as an allegory for just about every marginalized group at this point (and were created by Lee with the express intent of functioning as such).”
This week, the galaxy lost a voice of vast imagination and fun, who held deeply felt humanitarian roots, shaping millions of young lives through the colorful comicbook medium. He also influenced modern adults, bringing all-too-human characters to the big screen, reshaping the superhero landscape indelibly from anything we’d seen before. If you’ve enjoyed the 20+ film saga of the MCU, or the X-Men movies, you can’t help but be touched by Stan Lee’s contribution to entertainment, and feel a deeper understanding of ourselves.
We at RunPee love superheroes, clearly identifying with the underdogs who decided to do something for the world, even if it’s as simple as helping everyday people in small ways, one bladder at a time.
Here’s a couple of our recent Stan Lee articles, and one cool quiz:
Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)