Stan Lee, 1922 – 2018

Stan Lee was the first comic-book creator whose name I knew. I was about six and a half years old when I was given my very first superhero comic… this one:

mwom#005

That’s The Mighty World of Marvel issue #5, dated November 4, 1972. So a little over forty-six years ago. By some miracle, my copy is still intact, which can’t be said for most of the comics I owned at that age.

I think I was vaguely aware of both Batman and Superman at the time, but that was about it for my knowledge of superheroes (unless we count Tarzan, Zorro and the Lone Ranger as superheroes, but that’s a whole different argument), so this comic really made an impact on me.

Inside, there are three stories, all reprinted from earlier US Marvel comics…

The Hulk: “Banished to Outer Space” — 10 pages
Originally printed in The Incredible Hulk #3, September 1962
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inker: Dick Ayers
Letterer: Artie Simek

Spider-Man: “Duel to the Death with The Vulture!” — 15 pages
Originally printed in Amazing Spider-Man #2, May 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Art: Steve Ditko
Letterer: John Duffy

The Fantastic Four: “The Menace of the Miracle Man” — 9 pages
Originally printed in Fantastic Four #3, March 1962
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inker: Sol Brodsky
Letterer: Artie Simek

Some liberties have been taken: the Fantastic Four story, for example, is only the first half of the original tale, the third page was completely omitted, and some of the dialogue has been tweaked. And of course on most pages the original colours are gone, too, replaced sometimes by green spot-colouring.

At six and a half years old, I didn’t know or care about the changes. I was absolutely blown away by the characters and stories. The Hulk? Terrifying… but also touchingly human. Spider-Man? Instant hero-worship. Fantastic Four? There’s a guy on fire, a rock-monster and a woman who can turn invisible — what’s not to love? A whole new universe was opening up in front of me, and I loved every iota of it!

mwom 005 stan That issue of MWOM featured a special message from Stan Lee: I remember devouring that as much as I did the comic-strips. I didn’t know who he was — other than that his name was on all the stories — but I felt that he was talking to me personally, cluing me in on what had been going on.

The Mighty World of Marvel became my first regular comic, though it was only a few months before Spider-Man — my favourite — branched off into his own comic, Spider-Man Comics Weekly, so I followed him there (my pocket-money didn’t usually stretch to more than one comic per week).

When The Avengers was launched in September of 1973 I ignored it at first because Spider-Man wasn’t in it, but then I happened to get a copy of issue The Avengers #13, and, well, sorry, Spidey, it was awesome, but the Avengers have Quicksilver, Giant-Man and Hawkeye. There ain’t no beatin’ that!

My love for Marvel comics knew no bounds for the next few years, and I was always particularly excited when I chanced upon an actual US Marvel import — longer stories and in full colour! Wonderful stuff!

And Stan Lee was there at the heart of it all, introducing new issues, filling us in on what’s happening elsewhere in the Marvel universe, sometimes going off on an entertaining but informative tangent in his regular Stan’s Soapbox column.

So long, Stan. You always came across as a friend, as someone I could trust to entertain me without talking down to me. You made me feel as though I was part of the Marvel family, and to a lonely kid who was small and weak for his age and otherwise felt like an outsider, that meant a lot.

 

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