No one can deny that being a “comic book geek” has never been more mainstream than in the past decade or so. It seems as though every other month, a new comic book movie is hitting the screen with packed cinemas full of dedicated fans. This recent boom in the comic industry can arguably be attributed to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the MCU, which has produced some of the highest grossing and most well-liked movies of the past decade.
Everyone knows that no MCU movie is complete without a cameo from Marvel’s former Editor in Chief, Stan Lee. He brought to life many of the characters that now fuel the MCU’s roster of well-developed and relatable superheroes, such as Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four.
With his passing last November, the world lost one of the superhero genre’s founding fathers. While future generations will never get to experience the excitement of picking up a new Stan Lee comic book from the local comic book store, his legacy lives on in the hearts of the artists, writers, and fans his stories have managed to inspire.
Molding the future of comics
Miko Fernando, a local comic book artist, says his love for Marvel Comics began with a near addiction to what was probably Stan Lee’s most famous character: Spider-Man. “When I was a kid, I would always watch Spider-Man movies or read Spider-Man comics. I also had Spider-Man games, Spider-Man web shooter toys, even Spider-Man pillows and blankets,” he recalls fondly.
Miko attributes his interest in Spider-Man, as well as the other characters Stan Lee created, to how inherently human they are. The humanity in their flawed nature made them relatable to readers. “Sure, they had superpowers, but they also all had flaws, drawbacks, inconsistencies, etc. That’s why people still found them believable,” Miko reasons.
Stan Lee created stories that built up a whole universe full of layered characters for people to empathize with. These stories ignited sparks in the hearts and minds of generations of comic enthusiasts. Miko notes that, because of this, Stan Lee’s legacy “will always live on with us comic book writers and artists.”
Through the eyes of the fan
Toshi Alibudbud, who works as a Human Resources Practitioner and a teacher, has been reading comics his whole life. “When I was a kid, my dad used to read comics to me instead of bedtime stories. He would buy me old Fantastic Four comic books. And at that time, they were off gallivanting in space on adventures in different planets across an alternate solar system called the Negative Zone,” he reminisces. His curiosity kept him reading, and he brought it into his daily life, using newly acquired vocabulary he learned from comic books in essays.
Maturing with age, his view on what makes Stan Lee’s characters so likeable is, once again, how human superhumans could be. “The Human Torch and the Invisible Woman argue as siblings do. The marriage of Crystal and Quicksilver fell apart despite both of them being heroes. The Avengers, while able to work with each other, aren’t all friends,” Toshi points out. “These heroes can be annoying, [they] don’t always do the right thing, and [they] make bad decisions—similar to how we, mere mortals, act.”
The humanity in the characters is not the only thing that makes these heroes relatable. They live in a world that might be more similar to our reality than it might originally seem. “Thanks to his X-Men, which took a stand against all forms of discrimination, I feel like I’m a more tolerant, loving, and accepting human being,” Toshi mentions, reminding us of the struggles of the X-Men for being “different”.
Stan Lee, the true hero
Stan Lee introduced us to heroes that can be more human than we are these days, but the true hero is the creator. His idea on what a superhero should be continues to inspire children and adults alike.
Although a staple name in the world of comic books, the MCU opened up the genre to the general public, showing that you don’t need to be deep into comics to enjoy what Stan Lee wished to bring to the masses. We were exposed to stories of marvel and excitement, with heroes to cheer for, and issues to relate with.
His passing shook the world of comics and entertainment alike; it was greatly felt by his fans. Toshi says, “I wish he knew how much he and his universe meant to so many of us. I wish I could tell him that.” When asked what he wishes he could have told the late comic book legend, Miko says he would have liked to thank him. “[He] inspired me from childhood, and until now, [he] continues to be one of the people who encourage me to move and push forward. To excelsior!”
A hero may have fallen, but his legacy lives on.