Stan Lee, an appreciation

The Spy Commander’s one Stan Lee autographed comic book (left edge)

How much did people like Stan Lee? More than enough to stand in line for a few hours and pay handsomely for an autograph. I saw (and did it) for myself.

Eight years ago, I attended an event where Stan Lee appeared. If you paid $120, you could attend a talk by the former Marvel Comics editor and get a ticket for a personalized autograph. If you paid $40, you go a simple “Stan Lee” autograph. Those who paid $120 got in front of the line for autographs.

Stan, accompanied by an entourage, strode to the desk where he’d sign. “We love you Stan!” someone in line yelled.

Stan, without missing a beat replied. “I love to be loved!” He got a big laugh. He was in his late 80s but his voice sounded strong.

When he died this week at age 95, there was an outpouring of emotion. Some were famous. “I owe it all to you,” Robert Downey Jr., whose career was revived playing Iron man, wrote on Instagram. along with a picture of himself with Lee. Numerous comic book professionals also took to social media to bid farewell to the showman of Marvel.

Stan Lee and friend

Lee had his detractors, particularly on the issue whether he gave his collaborator enough credit. Artists such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Don Heck (and later John Romita Sr., John Buscema and Gene Colan among otheers) did much of the plotting of stories.

However, Lee (who also wore the hat of chief writer for Marvel) provided a common voice. Humor was a big part of it, such as little asides to his readers.

Lee’s dialogue certainly was less formal than at larger rival DC Comics. “That’s the trouble with you commies!” Iron Man said in an early adventure after saving some surprised Soviet spies who were about to be crushed. “You just don’t dig us!”

Stan, however, could be serious, even preachy on occasion. The Silver Surfer was created by Jack Kirby in the middle of a Fantastic Four story. But Lee took a liking to the character. He launched a solo Silver Surfer title in the late 1960s (with Buscema on the art instead of Kirby) and it took a very serious tone.

Looking back at the 1960s comics as an adult, you could see Lee shift his writing with changing audience tastes. In the mid-1960s, some stories still had a very strong Cold War tone.

“Well, you picked the wrong enemy this time, mister!” Tony Stark/Iron Man says while beating up the Titanium Man, one in a series of attempts by the Soviets to come up with their own version of Iron Man. “You made the worst mistake any red can make — you challenged a foe who isn’t afraid of you!”

In 1968, life got more complicated with protests about the Vietnam War and other issues. “If Washington were alive today, we’d call him a protester!” Matt Murdock, the alter ego of Daredevil tells his law partner, Foggy Nelson.

Marvel under Lee did begin credits. The first issue of Fantastic Four had “Stan Lee and Jack Kirby” in script as if the two men had signed it. Before long, inkers (artists who went over penciled art in ink so it’d reproduce more clearly) and letterers got credit. Eventually (after Lee became publisher and gave up his editing job), colorists and others got credits.

However, that’s not the reason all those people stood in line eight years ago.

Lee created a personal connection with the readers of Marvel. That strengthened when Marvel became a force in the movies, with Lee making cameos. In the 21st century, special effects could emulate what Kirby and other other artists put to paper decades earlier.

As a result, when Lee died this week, the loss seemed personal and extended among generations.

Here’s a tribute from artist Bill Sienkiewicz.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Happy 95th birthday, Stan Lee

Stan Lee on a 1971 episode of To Tell The Truth

Dec. 28 is the 95th birthday for Stan Lee, the long-time editor and writer at Marvel Comics. More recently, he has been part of the marketing of Marvel Studios movies.

Stan (born Stanley Martin Lieber) has outlived many of his collaborators, including Jack Kirby, Wally Wood, Gene Colan, Don Heck and John Buscema. Others, including Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. are hanging in there. Also, Stan’s wife Joan passed away earlier this year.

As the blog has remarked before, Stan’s legacy is a complicated one. He has been depicted as the creator of the Marvel Universe while Kirby, Ditko, et al. did considerable work in devising those stories.

That legacy remains complicated today. There’s plenty of time to analyze that again later. Today? The blog wishes Stan a happy birthday.

With that in mind, here’s one of Stan’s many comic book cameos (along with Joan) in an issue of Daredevil from 1971:

Stan Lee (and his wife Joan) make a cameo in Daredevil No. 79, written by Gerry Conway, drawn by Gene Colan and inked by Tom Palmer

1976: Daredevil provides a lesson in media literacy

Cover to Daredevil No. 137

Cover to Daredevil No. 137

It’s no secret there’s a lot of emotion concerning this year’s U.S. presidential election. The contest has spurred commentary about the need for media consumers to be on the watch for fake news websites and to be careful before what they share on social media

The thing is this concern isn’t new. Forty years ago, the Daredevil comic book waded into this territory during a run of stories scripted by Marv Wolfman, who  was also the editor in chief of Marvel Comics at the time.

The story line first surfaced as a sub plot in Daredevil No. 129, published in the fall of 1975 and penciled by Bob Brown. Matt Murdock and his then-girlfriend Heather Glenn are watching TV news. A newscaster resembling Walter Cronkite comes on with a story about a photo showing John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy apparently alive.

Two issues later, No. 131,  we see a man chained to a console being forced to prepare “another broadcast.” At the start of issue 133, the man (clearly a scientist) is killed by an old DD foe, the Jester. Over the next few issues, the device involved is revealed to be capable of editing real videos into convincing fakes.

All of this reaches a conclusion in issue No. 137, published in 1976 and drawn by John Buscema, subbing for Brown. Toward the end, Our Hero is interviewed by a television newscaster. The device is now in the hands of the authorities. But DD has a word of advice for viewers.

“I can’t voucher for the accuracy of TV news reporting, Wally, but at least the news won’t be altered by criminals,” Daredevil says. “Though, I think all people should learn to get their news from many sources — TV, radio, newspapers, magazines — to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. A well-informed public is the best weapon against blatant lies — from wherever they originate.”

Of course, in the 21st century, there are many additional digital media. Also, traditional media outlets are questioned about their ethics, accuracy, etc. Still, the notion that people need to be well read is perhaps more important now than when this comic book story line was first published.