Comic book visionary Stan Lee died Monday morning at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 95, according to CNN. Lee, who was responsible for the revolution of Marvel Comics into the well-known franchise it is today, was a comic book writer, illustrator, editor and publisher who eventually branched into the film industry as his superheroes gained traction. Lee’s artistry spanned far beyond the pages, however. What made his career so stellar was his ability to reach his audience in a unique way.
“Stan Lee made superheroes human. He gave them histories and flaws, yearnings and brokenness, and in the process, he made them truly interesting,” said Dr. Greg Garrett, a professor in the Baylor English department and resident creative writing expert.
Lee began his work at Timely comics in 1939, but eventually branched out and created his own entertainment companies. He was best known for his role in creating characters such as the X-Men, Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man, although he and his co-creators made many more heroes. While his heroes and their storylines were internationally beloved, and a million-dollar franchise was created from them, Lee struggled to see the purpose of his creations for a long time. One of his famous quotes, according to IMDb, explained this.
“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers,” Lee said. “And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”
Lee may not have felt that his career was life-altering, but many who followed his work — and who love his superheroes — beg to differ.
“He moved comics from single-issue stories to ongoing serials, that, again, looked like life,” Garrett said. “In doing so, he made it possible to tell stories about people with larger-than-life powers that everyone could identify with and made it possible for supermen — and women — to be fully grounded in reality.”
Garrett also explained that Lee’s impact on the film world will last far beyond his time.
“Since Stan Lee has been largely a symbolic figurehead in recent decades, I don’t think anything will change in the comics, gaming or movie stories where Marvel characters appear,” Garrett said. “Other storytellers have taken up his mantle, and he hasn’t been an important writer for many years. But he will be missed as a reminder of where Marvel came from, and his cameos in the films were always welcomed by True Believers, as Marvel fans used to be known. Few storytellers change the course of their industry. Stan Lee did that, and anyone who loves Spider-Man, Captain America, the X-Men, Black Widow or the Hulk should mourn his passing.”
Fans are sure to feel the loss of Lee’s creativity in the Marvel universe, as well as his presence in Marvel films through his cameos. However, Lee’s legacy is much more than just his name on a credit screen or a title page — for many, he proved how creativity can inspire millions. Austin senior Brittany Wetmore considers herself a huge Marvel fan, and has dived into Lee’s universe since she was little.
“Stan Lee was influential not only in the film and comic industry, but he radically affected our culture,” Wetmore said. “He provided a different kind of universe that people could learn from. We grew from his stories and created our own. He was a legend who challenged us to think bigger than we thought we could. There will never be another Stan Lee.”