In the comic world, Stan Lee is a legend. He is the former President and Chairman of Marvel, and was the co-creator of superhero’s Spider-Man, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, and X-Men. Stan Lee has been on the forefront of changing how comics are received by the general public and helped pave the way for this amazing Renaissance of Superhero films. Stan Lee is always seen in public promoting the Marvel films, and even has a quirky, unique cameo in all of the different superhero properties. In fact, his cameos have been a fun add-on for all of the fans. Every time I watch a Marvel film, I am always on the look out for Stan Lee’s small cameo, and all of them have been great. Stan Lee is 92 years old, but he has the heart of a child. He lights up for interviews and is just riding this superhero high as much as he can. But it wasn’t all fun and games for Lee, especially when he first started writing comics in 1939.
I was fortunate enough to take a comics class in which Stan Lee was one of the major instructors and he talked in great detail about the history of comics while telling his story on how he got started in the comics industry and how it was perceived by the world. When Stan Lee started writing comics, he created these hero’s that we know today, but comics were really geared towards children. Lee tried pushing the barriers with comic hero’s making them darker and more violent, but the only audience that read comics in the early days were kids. Comics were like a strange taboo that most people shunned or looked down upon. Adults thought that comic writing was a joke unless they were funnies in the back section of the newspaper, or some sort of political cartoon for a Men’s Magazine. Other than those two things, people just did not accept the world of comics and heroes. For many years in his life, Stan Lee and his profession was looked down upon. Just like film, it took a lot of time for people to accept that it is a business of entertainment.
Even though Stan Lee had a lot of success in his lifetime, it wasn’t until the 1980’s when comics really started to pick up and they started becoming ingrained in our culture. I think Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” helped give comics the big push that they needed. We did get the “Superman” films in the seventies and the 80’s but they were silly, kind of throwaway films that people forgot over time. Once Tim Burton directed “Batman,” it changed the game for putting superheroes on the screen. And even though his “Batman” films were a success, they still weren’t at the level that they are now. There were a lot of stinkers in between and then a director named Bryan Singer came along and made “X-Men.” “X-Men” was the first superhero film that adults, and children took very seriously. The “X-Men” films were a huge success and it led Marvel to create a shared universe between its characters, heroes and villains. Now we have a Marvel Universe and coming up, a DC Comics Universe. We are getting some of the best films with these superhero movies. Who would have thought in a million years we would have an “Ant-Man” movie? I don’t even think Stan Lee thought it would happen. It’s interesting when you look at the history of comics. How they were shunned and looked down upon and now we live and breathe superhero films and they aren’t showing any signs of going anywhere anytime soon.
Stan Lee has created some of the greats. And because of his magic and his talent as a comic book writer we have these great, fun, summer popcorn flicks. Even A-list actors want to be in a Marvel or DC film. We just had acting legend Robert Redford in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and Michael Douglas in “Ant-Man.” Superhero films today are better than they ever have been and the comics have never been more popular than right now. Society has come to accept the superhero genre and has widely embraced it. And where is Stan Lee in all of this? He is kicking back, smiling and just enjoying every moment of his success. And he is having fun with it. His kind heart, that heart of a child shines in every interview and every cameo. The man behind the iron red curtain, is not Tony Stark, but the man himself who crafted the success of what we enjoy at the movies today. Stan Lee has the charisma, the charm and the magic. (Insert Stan Lee Cameo Here)