[Editorial] Upward and Onward

written by the Made Of Fail staff and friends

My dad tells me that I taught myself how to read when I was two and a half years old. Since I never did anything like a normal kid, a majority of that reading material was my dad’s giant collection of early Marvel comics. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of sitting in my grandma’s attic, going through my dad’s comics and devouring every issue of Amazing Spider-Man he had.

Peter Parker was my first superhero. He was a kid who got picked on in school for being weird, and he still carried the burden of having to be responsible with his powers, choosing to protect those same classmates from harm rather than getting revenge. Peter tried so hard to do everything right and still messed up and worried about everything all the time.

I might’ve related just a wee bit.

Stan Lee has rightfully been criticized for taking the lion’s share of credit when it comes to his Marvel creations, and it’s true that much of Marveldom would not exist without the efforts of giants such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others.

But what Stan excelled at was passion. There has never been a bigger fan of Marvel Comics than Stan himself. I’ve likened him in the past to a car salesman, and I still believe that Stan is one of the greatest pitchmen who ever lived. Yet there was honest enthusiasm behind his salesmanship. His imagination was boundless and his excitement contagious. He was the public face of Marvel, everyone’s awesome grandfather who let them stay up all night eating candy bars and reading comic books. Stan made Marvel readers feel like part of one big family, and he never shamed adults for reading what many still believe is children’s entertainment.

What was impressive about Stan’s dialogue was that, while it may have been bombastic and even corny, it was never dumbed down. Stan believed in his readers, and once said “If a kid has to go to a dictionary, that’s not the worst thing that could happen!” Stan may have unwittingly promoted the joy of literacy decades before LeVar Burton told us to take a look in a book.

I had the honor of meeting Stan at Wizard World New Orleans in 2014, and I very nearly didn’t make it. I suffer from acute, diagnosed agoraphobia, and I was a frightened, crying wreck the entire time. But the image that kept flashing in my brain was this one, from Amazing Spider-Man #33:

Peter Parker wouldn’t give up, I kept telling myself. Somehow, I managed to make it to the line just in time, and I was able to tell Stan what his stories meant to me, how they brought me and my dad together, and how Spider-Man was helping me at that very moment because of my agoraphobia. Stan held my hand (something attendees weren’t encouraged to do, as he had arthritis, but he reached out to me anyway) as I cried and thanked him for sharing his imagination with the world. He said that was very touching and he was very proud of me, and he thanked me, and then he gave me a great big hug.

I will never ever forget that as long as I live.

Thank you, Stan. Your memory will live on through the lives you touched with the power of your stories. You certainly made mine that much richer.

-Dayna Abel

When Stan died on November 12th, I reached out to the Failcrew and some of my friends and family and asked them to share a few words about what Stan meant to them. We would obviously never be able to attend or speak at his funeral, but most everyone I knew felt his loss keenly. I suppose this is our way of coming together in our small little community to remember him and share what he meant to us. Here, then, is the Made Of Fail memorial for Stan Lee.

In August of 1962, I opened a comic book that I’d never seen before. Browsing through the comic, I read this line: “With great power there must also come–great responsibility!” My life changed forever. I had become addicted to the world of comics. Thank you Stan Lee, and R.I.P.

-John Abel

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Whenever I think of Stan Lee, I think of Spider-Man and his many battles, both external and internal. I think of the Silver Surfer, soaring through the cosmos, yet still worrying about all of us and our struggles here on earth. Underneath the jokes and the fights is a deep humanity and love for the world outside your window. That world can be as small as your friendly neighborhood or as vast as eternity, and is a much much better place for having had Stan in it. Rest well and Excelsior.

-Alexander Adrock

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Stan Lee was the beating heart of Marvel, an elder statesmen and a living legend. While debates will continue about how much credit he should be given for creation of characters and writing of stories, no one can deny his enthusiasm in marketing them. His journey from someone who refused to use his real name on comics because he was saving it for “real books” to a household name and a familiar face in blockbuster movies is a reminder to follow your passion and take pride in your work. Rest in peace. My thoughts are with his family and his fans.

-Devin Baker

* * *

Stan Lee probably had more of an effect on my life than just about any other celebrity I can think of. In terms of influence, he is essentially peerless. Even if you were to ignore the hugely successful comics he helped create, he served as an ambassador of sorts for comics. His cheerful carnival barker act warmed the hearts of those who never held a comic in their life, and he will be remembered long after I’m gone. R.I.P., Stan. Excelsior.

-JD DeMotte

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Stan Lee was more than just a comic creator. He was the face of an industry – a man who helped bring our love of superheroes to the mainstream. His constant delight at what his work had become, long after he stopped contributing, was amazing to see. His small cameo roles in films are the perfect reminder that he may not have been directly involved, but his influence will never be denied.

-Matt Finneman

* * *

I don’t know what my life would look like without Stan Lee’s influence or impact. The universes he and his co-creators generated fueled my imagination as a child and helped my career as an adult. Thanks, Stan. For everything.


-Sterling Gates

* * *

I’m not a big comic book person; never have been. I enjoy them when I read them, but I don’t often go out of my way. And yet, still, Stan Lee has influenced me. Thoughts, ideas, characters he put into the world have impacted me, have made me a better person. More compassionate, with an expanded worldview. Things he created have brought me bright joy on dark days. I’m grateful he was in the world long enough to see some part of his impact upon it, and hope we’re strong enough to make that impact grow.

-Bethany H.

* * *

I’ve only really known Stan Lee from the who-really-did-what controversies and the off-page stories rather than his printed words, but mostly from those cameos in the Marvel movies. Think about those movies. Think about what it must have been like for him, watching characters he’d written for and championed become the biggest crowd-pleasing names in popular entertainment. I can only imagine that it was one of the main delights of his later years. I hope it brought him as much joy as the results of his lifelong efforts have brought to so very many readers and moviegoers.

-Karel Kerezman

* * *

Stan Lee was the co-creator of some of the first characters I ever read and fell in love with. More than being sad about his departure, I’m thankful that we who love stories had such a giant in our midst. He’s not gone; we will all carry a part of him with us. Thank you, Stan.

-Tori Johanne Lau

* * *

The characters that Stan Lee helped create became a shield for me. They allowed me to cling to my intelligence and weather a storm of bullies and hate. Through this lens of printed pages I learned to read, I learned heroism and I learned that in a sea of feeling like I didn’t belong, that maybe I did after all. It deepened my bond with my grandfather and helped me cope with family loss. Without the characters Stan created, I wouldn’t be here today.

Peter Parker stood out to me because I identified the most with him. I was always the smart, nerdy kid who got picked on and beat up. But, as my grandfather pointed out many times, Peter never became the bad guy in return. His kindness, his intelligence, his enthusiasm were as much part of being a superhero as his spider powers. My heart aches at the loss, but the characters Stan helped create will live on and bring comfort to so many generations. They will be a shield, a teacher, a lens through which to view ourselves and encourage us to be our best. I can only hope we honor the legacy he leaves behind.

-Joe Perez

* * *

I have my problems with Stan Lee – I feel like he overshadowed Kirby and Ditko to the detriment of the art form, for example. But he fought the Nazis, loved his wife for decades and created art and characters that are beloved all over the world by people of every age. Comics as they exist today are indelibly shaped by him and his influence. If you love modern comics, even comics he never so much as touched, you love what Stan Lee brought into existence. Without him, they likely would not exist today, or would be almost unrecognizable.

Stan lived as good a life as we had any right to expect of him. A perfect man, no. He had his faults and made mistakes and hurt people. But he genuinely loved the art form and telling stories, and that’s a great gift. Now he gets to rest with his wife of seventy years, and his legacy belongs to the future. His sins don’t matter anymore. His accomplishments and those he made possible will have to speak for him. They do so eloquently enough, I believe.

-Matthew Rossi

* * *

Like Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Jack Kirby, William Marston, Steve Ditko, Bob Kane and many others, Stan Lee brought to life characters that had a massive impact on my childhood. He helped create characters that I’ve continued to love for decades. Nothing gets my butt in a movie theater seat like a Marvel movie, and seeing his cameos always makes me smile; now it will be a bittersweet smile. As sad as his passing is, I’m more in awe at his life. At ninety-five years old, he got to see his creations become a massive empire that has spawned a multi-billion-dollar film franchise. He lived to see the impact his work had on the world, and I hope that brought him as much joy as his characters brought us.

-Kate Spencer

* * *

Wherever you stand on Stan Lee’s legacy (I’ve certainly expressed my own issues), there’s no denying the energy, excitement, and humanity he brought to the table which completely redefined a medium in ways which still resonate to this day. As a writer, his focus on complex emotions and everyday struggles cast against the fantastical changed the way we relate to heroes and villains. As a frontman, he reached new audiences with his zeal, inclusivity, and the community he built by making the readers a part of each book.

On a personal note, after my sister’s accident, we held a fundraiser to make the house wheelchair accessible. Among the donations was a four-figure check from Stan. I’ve never forgotten that kindness.

-Noel Thingvall

* * *

I’ve always appreciated how human Marvel superheroes can be. They are always striving for peace and saving the world, but they are also real people with flaws facing normal everyday problems. Stan Lee was instrumental in making them that way. I will always be especially grateful that he and Jack Kirby came up with the idea of the X-Men, a group of young kids who were feared just for being different. I found the X-Men at a time in my life when I felt like no one would ever accept me or understand me. They were my friends when no one else was. I find myself struggling to find the right words to express my gratitude, so I guess I’ll just keep it simple: Thanks, Stan.

-Angie Tusa

* * *

Stan Lee was a hero in his own right. He used his talents to spread hope and joy, both through his creations and in the way he moved about the world, encouraging a sense of wonder everywhere he went.

-Kiara Williams

* * *

Stan Lee: hyperbolic, bombastic, imaginative, prolific. But I think the adjective I’d ascribe to him over all others is “gregarious.” His legacy will always live on in his larger-than-life creations, but what always impressed me was the way he spoke to us like family. He was “Uncle Stan,” whether in the letters pages, narrating a Saturday morning cartoon, or his constant warmth and smile at comic-cons.

The world he created was not only between the pages of a book, but also in a brotherhood of fans that, for me, started with him and an enthusiastic six-year-old who grew up to draw comic books.

-J.K. Woodward

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