“Our stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion or colour of their skin.”
Last week the news broke that legend, Stan Lee passed away at age 95. Millions of heartbroken fans took to Twitter to pay their respects to the comic book creator. Among those posting, heartfelt messages were famous faces such as Seth Rogan, Ryan Reynolds and Elon Musk, who tweeted
“Rest in peace, Stan Lee. The many worlds of imagination & delight you created for humanity will last forever.”
Stan Lee, born Stanley Lieber in New York 1922, started from humble beginnings. The son of Romanian-Jewish immigrants, Lee’s father struggled to find work during the Great Depression. The family lived in a cramped apartment in the Bronx, with Lee sharing a room with his brother, and his parents sleeping on a pull-out bed in the living room. Later, as you know, Lee would shoot to the status of legend, by co-creating some of the world’s best-loved superheroes, proving that with hard work and innovation success is possible for us all.
What you might not know about Stan Lee, is that he served in the USA Military between 1942 and 1946. Initially, he worked in the Signal Corps repairing communications equipment, however his talent for writing was discovered and he was quickly transferred to the film division. Here, Lee wrote training manuals, created slogans and occasionally drew cartoons for the military.
Following his stint in the military, Lee continued to work in the comic book business. Fed up with his lack of success, he considered giving it all up. It was at this pivotal moment a publisher-assigned Lee with the task of coming up with a new superhero team.
Figuring he was going to quit the business and with nothing else to lose, Lee decided to take a risk. He wanted to create 3-dimensional heroes, with character flaws as well as strengths. Until this point, most superheroes fit into the box of being white, male and flawless. Stan wanted to create heroes that the average person could relate too.
From this experiment, the Fantastic Four were created. Stan then went on to co-create some of the world’s best-loved heroes such as Spiderman, Iron Man and Thor.
Stan Lee has always championed diversity at Marvel Comics. Recently, a massive d******* (Marvel vice president of sales) said marvel cinematic universe sales were plummeting due to too much diversity. He claimed nobody wanted female superheroes.
In a video titled ‘A Message from Stan Lee’, Lee hit back at these comments, in a powerful statement. He said,
“Our stories have room for everyone regardless of their race, gender, religion, or colour of their skin. The only things we don’t have room for is hatred intolerance and bigotry. We are all part of one big family, the human family. And we all come together in the body of marvel.”
Stan Lee used his platform to bring attention to a wide range of social issues for decades. From 1965 -2001, Lee published a column called ‘Stans Soapbox, which featured in the back of his comics.
In one issue he boldly addressed racism, saying
“Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. “But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are.”
When Marvel Comics came under fire for too much morality in the stories, with critics saying comics should be escapism and only that, Stan used the soapbox to fire back. His words below speak volumes regarding his feelings towards this matter.
“But somehow, I can’t see it that way. It seems to me that a story without a message, however subliminal, is like a man without a soul. In fact, even the most escapist literature of all—old-time fairy tales and heroic legends—contained moral and philosophical points of view.
At every college campus where I may speak, there’s as much discussion of war and peace, civil rights, and the so-called youth rebellion as there is of our Marvel mags per se.
None of us lives in a vacuum—none of us is untouched by the everyday events about us—events which shape our stories just as they shape our lives.
Sure our tales can be called escapist—but just because something’s for fun, doesn’t mean we have to blanket our brains while we read it.”
As well as championing diversity, Lee founded the charity ‘The Stan Lee Foundation’. The foundation aims to provide disadvantaged children with access to literacy education. Stan felt the need to start this due to the failings of public-school systems. He believed all people had the right to equal education, regardless of their social standing.
Although Lee is gone, we can expect to see him make an appearance in upcoming Marvel movies. Stan, infamous for making cameos in the Marvel universe, pre-recorded some cameos before his death.
No doubt Lee’s creations will live on, but more importantly, Lee’s message will live on. The message that regardless of your colour, gender, religion or sexuality you can be a hero. In fact, by championing this message, we will all be heroes.