Stan Lee had an imagination unlike any other; containing galaxies worth of superheroes behind that warm and charismatic smile.
Crafting superhuman characters with extraordinary strength and abilities might have gotten a little samey in lesser hands, but Stan’s creative characterisation knew no limits.
With Spider-Man/Peter Parker, co-created alongside writer-artist Steve Ditko, Stan brought us a relatably awkward teenage misfit who could breeze between skyscrapers with elegant ease.
With Black Panther/T’Challa, a co-creation with writer-artist Jack Kirby, Stan brought us a hero who also bore the responsibility of kingship. From Nick Fury to Ant-Man, The Hulk to Captain Marvel; each character was given their own distinct story, vulnerabilities and – of course – powers.
And it appears age was no barrier to Stan’s abilities to dream up out-of-this-world, yet often so very human, characters.
Speaking with Variety back in 2017, Stan revealed he still had plenty of superheroes up his sleeve, waiting to be revealed:
I have about 50 [characters] that I’ve already developed that I haven’t shown to anybody, and someday I will. But, there’s no need for me, really, to do anymore now.
One of them [the characters] has a superpower that you’ve never seen before. They all have new superpowers, but I can’t tell you. I’m sorry!
Stan made the teasing comments during a handprint ceremony at TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, entertainment industry professionals gathered to honour the legendary comic-book writer.
The master of ceremonies was filmmaker Kevin Smith (Clerks), who spoke with great admiration about Stan’s determined attitude towards life and work:
I knew him from a young age. He didn’t teach me to read, but he taught me to enjoy reading. He did not teach me to dream, but he gave me so many things to dream about.
He taught me to be proud of what you make and stand up for it as well. It’s not enough to just be the artist that makes it — go out and champion it as well. ‘Who will love it if not you first?’
Today we lost one of the greats. @TheRealStanLee, you were a inspiration and superhero to us all. Thank you for contributing so much- and giving us all something to aspire to! 💚
— Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) November 12, 2018
Right up until the grand age of 95, Stan was still keeping busy as an active and outspoken member of the Marvel family; still known affectionately as the King of Cameos.
Back in 2016, Stan spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about why he had not been tempted by retirement:
When you retire, you have a chance to do all the things you’ve always wanted to do.
I’ve been doing all the things I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to be involved in entertaining people.
— Srijan : Kalam way (@srijanpalsingh) November 13, 2018
April 2008. Backstage at New York Comic Con. The day I met my wife for the first time. The only photos I can think of of me and Stan Lee (photo by Steve Prue). He was a powerhouse of… https://t.co/F1tNPm4nU3
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) November 13, 2018
— Aditi. (@InkedPapers_) November 13, 2018
— Justin (@Jus2Xtreme) November 13, 2018
Even after so many decades of work, we may never see the full expanse of Stan’s ambitious vision. Perhaps if he had lived for thousands of years there would still be countless stories left to explore and adventures to take.
However, his legacy lives on in the younger generations whose imaginations he ignited. This will certainly not be the end of innovative approaches to comicbook creation, and Stan Lee has made an indelible mark.
Our thoughts are with the family of Stan Lee at this difficult time.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.