Last year, Marvel fans mourned the loss of their founding father, Stanley Lieber. Better known as Stan Lee, the prolific writer and comic-book-culture pitchman became the voice of fandom for generations of comics enthusiasts. On Friday night, ABC remembered the legendary co-creator of Marvel’s best characters with Celebrating Stan Lee. The hour-long program featured edited comments from colleagues and Marvel live-action stars along with video packages telling the story of Stan Lee. While Celebrating Stan Lee was a beautiful sentiment, it really deserved more time and better respect from local ABC affiliates. All across the country, including in Pittsburgh, the home of your humble correspondent, the program ended up pre-empted for local or holiday fare. In a way, it’s the kind of thing Stan Lee dealt with all of his life.
Stan Lee, with the help of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and the rest of the early Marvel bullpen saved the comic book industry with their revolutionary take on funny books. The heroes of the Fantastic Four or the X-Men wore the tights and fought the bad guys. However, they also fought with each other, struggled to pay the rent, and wished at times they could live “normal” lives. By simply adding pathos to the colorful, costumed characters in their comics, Lee and company changed what comic book stories could be. It wouldn’t be for 20 more years, when the first issue of Watchmen debuted, that the comic book medium would make such a leap forward. Thanks to Stan Lee’s many cameos in Marvel films, a whole new generation of fans learned to love Stan “The Man” Lee
Celebrating Stan Lee Was More than We Saw On TV
Image via ABC
Whether your local station preempted the show or if you just missed it because of the holidays, fear not. You can catch the full special on ABC’s streaming site or Hulu. Yet, what fans saw of the event was only part of what the people who attended in person saw. Writer Margaret Stohl said that there wasn’t “a dry eye in the house,” as people shed tears over the lost icon. Artist and writer Chris Eliopoulos also tweeted that Todd McFarlane gave “the most emotional and heartfelt tribute,” calling it “something beautiful.” His remarks never even aired.
Of course, the fans who watched Celebrating Stan Lee definitely felt the emotion of the evening. Some people took to social media saying that they couldn’t even make it through the special because of the profound sense of loss they felt. It says something about Stan Lee that even though he passed at the age of 95, some felt that it was still too soon.
Watch the Special, But If You Want More Check Out The Documentary
In 2010, director Will Hess partnered with Stan Lee to tell his story. It featured interviews with folks like Kevin Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Stewart, Nicolas Cage, Frank Miller, and others. The two-hour documentary is also celebrating Stan Lee, but it does so with the man himself. With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story takes viewers through his life. From World War II to the dawn of the Marvel Age to the very beginning of Marvel Studios’ pop culture dominance. Throughout the film, the delightful Stan Lee tells the story of his life in his inimitable style. He also makes sure to pay tribute to his collaborators. Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko held some resentment for all the credit he got. He calls them the best partner anyone could have. Well, except maybe for Joanie.
Joan Lee was Stan Lee’s wife, who unfortunately passed away a few years before he did. However, she is fully present in this film. The scenes with both of them are truly electric. You can tell that they absolutely adore each other. Joan reads a note Stan sent her for one of their anniversaries and breaks down in tears. Stan tells a story about a fight they had once, where Joan smashed a typewriter his mother gave him. This portable Remington was the machine that he used to write his most famous scripts. Yet, he tells the story laughing the entire time. That typewriter was just a thing. Joanie was the most important person in the world to him, and you can just see how they adored each other.
Tell us your favorite Stan Lee memory or story in the comments below!
Featured image by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.