I was about 3 or 4 years old when my father bought me a VCD (packaged in that classic plastic, square-shaped case) that contained two episodes of the Spider-Man TV show which ran from 1994 to 1998. I don’t remember which episodes they were, but that was how my foray into the macrocosm that was the Marvel Comics Enterprise had begun. I liked other superheroes fine, but it was Spider-Man whom I considered a true inspiration. I used to dress up and run about the house as the web-slinger, and I’d attempt to watch any and all forms of visual representations of the character, from the infamous ’60s cartoon all the way to the Sam Raimi-directed feature films.
I was introduced to comic books a little later, when I was around 10 years old. In the gulf countries where I’d been residing at the time, comics were not an easy grab. I happened to chance upon a Spider-Man annual comic collection somewhere, and being the fan that I was, pestered by parents to get it for me. The language of the a comic, I soon found out, was a lot easier to understand than every other literal embodiment I had read of the wall-crawler, and I could feel the excitement of the action and the intensity of the situation with the expressions the artists had drawn in. It was an experience unlike anything else.
There used to be this special feature included in the DVDs of the Spider-Man TV show from the ’90s that was titled ‘Stan’s Soapbox’. It was basically a series of live interviews that Stan Lee, the co-creator of several superheroes like Spider-Man, Iron Man, etc., had done exclusively for the TV show. As far back as my admittedly not-so-great memory can take me, I was first introduced to the man this way. There he’d sit, in his trademark get-up that included a dark pair of eyeglasses and a thin woolen sweater. I remember there was one soapbox where he detailed how he created Spider-Man, retelling the famous story of seeing a spider on the wall and being inspired to draw its unique capabilities out to human proportions.
Stan Lee is best remembered today for his minute-long cameos in the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That was a genius decision on his part, as these special appearances helped him to stay relevant all the way up to his death on the 12th of November, aged 95. He was the writer, art director, and editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics from the ’60s to the ’70s, and according to numerous reports, had perhaps the most important role to play in making comic books as well as his publishing company what they are today. During the final years of his life, I was obsessed with the man, as I couldn’t really ground the energy he’d carried with him well into his early 90s, and there was something special in the way he talked that I found charming. Though it did cross my mind several times that he would one day have to pass, I was not under the impression that it would happen any time soon.
I figured I’d write this article up as an attempt to conduct a little investigation on why the entire world mourned the death of the legendary writer, because his time at the comic book business is undeniably shrouded in mystery. Perhaps, this could be the best tribute I could do in his name as an artist. Though people have crowned him the sole genius behind the creation of some of Marvel’s greatest superheroes and most captivating storylines, there are supposed historical evidences that prove Stan Lee was either only a co-creator, or never even had a hand in any of the hard work at all. How did he become what he is today, if this was the case? How did he end up becoming the face of the enterprise?