Cult Movie: Comics and the films they spawned owe a huge debt to Stan Lee

Comic creator and publisher Stan Lee died this week at age 95
Ralph McLean

STAN Lee, who passed away this week at the age of 95, played a massive part in my childhood. Well, I say Stan Lee but what I really mean is the comic book creations of Stan Lee.

I never met the man, I do know some people who did and their stories suggest that maybe that's for the best, but his Marvel universe was a place I knew intimately as a pre-teen.

I lived and breathed those vibrant adventures of Spider-Man, the Hulk and The Fantastic Four through a weekly stream of comics left aside for me in our corner shop and I devoured every fantasy frame of those pages, digging every New York nuance and revelling in each wise guy one liner and streetwise put down.

I can remember the tingle of excitement as I dragged my mother along to pick up the latest issues of The Amazing Spider-Man or Daredevil on a Friday afternoon. Those thin little slivers of pop art perfection were like a portal into a world of cool and a world away from the drab realities of school and everyday life in 70s Lisburn. Like all good art, they offered an alternative and an escape from the mundane.

I have no doubt that millions of other comic book fanatics of a certain age felt exactly the same. It was Lee's vision for the format that changed superhero lore forever. It was Stan, artist Jack Kirby and the endless range of supremely talented collaborators he worked with, who made that world cool. It was his vision that took the ordinary – lead characters don't get much more ordinary than a pimply youth like Peter Parker, after all – and made them extraordinary.

With Steve Ditko he crafted that coolest of crime-busting crusaders, Spider-Man, and gave us the grooviest villains, like the Green Goblin. He created a proper universe filled with memorable characters that no amount of dodgy and increasingly drab big screen adaptations can taint.

He was also an innovator for the comic book format. Before Stan there was little or no credit on the page for those who had made it. As a writer, editor and publisher Stan credited artist, writer and even inkers and the letterer. He spoke to the fans through his pages and wasn't afraid of making some social points along the way, with his work often tackling issues like racism and discrimination. In short, he helped to create the global culture for comic book lovers that continues to thrive today.

He may not have been the easiest man to work with, as his treatment of some of those collaborators down the decades suggests, but he was a proper marketing mastermind who positioned himself right at the heart of the Marvel Empire making endless cameos in just about every film and TV production. Hell, he even made it onto The Simpsons playing himself. Now that's fame.

He sparked my imagination with his vision and enriched the early lives of me and millions like me. For that Stan, we thank you.

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