The sad day has come.
The father of Marvel Comics, the great Stan Lee has left our world and in on his way to a better one.
Thank you for all you’ve done for millions of fans. You inspired a lot of young people to do their best to become who they are now.
Goodbye legend. Hope, you are in the better place.
We wanted to drop a message in here in the hopes of steering whatever conversation this news may bring in a constructive direction. With Lee’s passing there’s obviously a lot of raw feelings being brought into focus, and there’s a lot of different ways one could feel about the man. He touched many lives in positive ways over the course of his career and his position as a Jewish creator helping grow the comics space in a time of great struggle shouldn’t be forgotten. Likewise, it would be wrong to discount the ways Lee leaned into his perception as an auteur when taking credit for work that wasn’t entirely his own, or the allegations of sexual harassment/abuse levelled against him. That’s to say nothing of the abuse he faced himself at the end of his life.
We mention this only to make clear that it’s easy to have complicated feelings about Stan Lee, especially with the recent news of his death. In this moment of remembrance it’s important to recognise how our societies treat the dead and their legacies, how often that this time of passing is used to exalt them of their wrongdoing and to erase the pain they inflicted onto others. It’s possible to have a multitude of perspectives on something like this, and as always we’d like for everyone to try their best to be considerate of each other when sharing your thoughts, and to work to de-escalate whenever those feelings become particularly tense or heated.
I think part of why it’s not brought up in Lee’s case is because unlike Louis C.K. et. al situation where the person admitted to it or an Asia Argento situation where pictures surfaced and Anthony Bourdain committed suicied, Lee not only denied it but said straight up that it was a shakedown. I think that’s relevant because after his wife died last year an elder abuse situation happened where he was conned out of a ton of money by basically everyone around him literally in the months around where the accusation in the form of a demand for $20 million, but before he seemed free of those folks. So it’s easy to see why in a lot of people’s eyes it’s not cut and dry due to those circumstances.
I’m not dismissing the allegations as I’ve not researched them, but please don’t use the Daily Mail as a source, its a sensationalist rag with a blackshirt history that continues to bring down the UK as the paper of the chattering classes. It is very much not reputable, you may as well quote a Fox News clip.
Unfortunately it looks like no one reputable actually followed up on the story at all so we’re not going to verify this as true or false here. It seems like he had switched nursing companies and everyone at personnel at the new one said he was polite and great in general but again that doesn’t say much one way or the other. I was mainly skeptical myself just because of the timing with when a lot of folks around him really were screwing him over for money and that he just flat out denied it without any of the typical pathetic excuses dudes give about how he was just joking around or an innocent misunderstanding or whatever.
Stan Lee broke a lot of ground along with the various people around him that he co-created so much of how comic books look and work today. Lee and Kirby and Ditko and so on are rightfully lionized for their creative contributions to society, and even that is often UNDERestimated. I mean they did stuff that gave us things like Star Wars even, which takes its visuals from French comics and has editing inspired by Kurosawa and its world-building from Dune, but the case has been made that much of it also comes from Kirby’s Fourth World, and Dr. Doom → Darth Vader is pretty obvious.
So I understand the urge to put all of that on one person like Lee, I mean this was a small group of people that in the 60s and early 70s basically created entire new areas of pop culture that are still around today that goes way beyond just superhero comics. That’s crazy.
But Lee himself was human, people have gone on the record saying he’s been a asshole to them for years, and obviously he did a very effective job of positioning himself as the kindly enthusiastic face of Marvel to the detriment of other creators’ legacies. And if information came up that verified those assault allegations he’d be dead to me beyond the literal. There’s no need to sugarcoat that even in a thread about someone’s death.
But for now I just want to say that I always respected and appreciated him for writing stuff like this from the early 60s and on:
Not to speculate too much about this, but if the allegations were true, a mitigating circumstance could be that this is a man in his 90s, and there is a possibility that dementia contributed to the alleged behavior. I’m definitely not saying we shouldn’t be sympathetic to the nurses who were victimized by this, but I’ve seen enough erratic behavior from elderly folks with diminishing mental states that I’m not willing to condemn his entire life based on this.
Just this year I witnessed my grandfather, who was the kindest, gentlest man be absolutely mean and awful to the medical staff who tended to his last days. He was in fear and in pain, and in his confusion he viewed the people that were trying to help as his enemy. I can’t condemn him for that as he wasn’t all there on his deathbed, and similarly I’m willing to give Lee the benefit of the doubt here.
This is something else too, I lost my dad this March and while he went through the opposite trajectory and mellowed out a lot as a human as the years went on, being in a home or being constantly hooked up to stuff for a while, or even just being stuck in the same room for a while, it’s easy to see why someone would take that out on those around them in not very nice ways.
It is also definitely something that would make me give an older person the benefit of the doubt, you can be really sharp right up until you die but that’s the exception for most people rather than the rule as you get older.
Regarding creative credit and Stan Lee’s experience at Marvel compared to the generation of freelancers that have died in poverty while their creations made the company millions, Sean Howe’s book Marvel Comics: The Untold Story seems to give a fairly even-handed account, and is a great read besides.
With my usual wariness of the Halo Effect and celebrity (loving what a creator makes is no predictor of whether the creator is someone worth lauding), I will say that Stan Lee’s creations (and co-creations) had a positive effect on my life. He was part of a movement in entertainment and the modern mythology of superheroes, and a conscious promoter of the use of these myths in the often progressive discussion of political movements, large and small. For me, both the myths proposed by X-Men and Spiderman provided a path to oppose anti-intellectual bullying, and the small town mentality that succeeding because of my own abilities was a sort of betrayal of the mediocrity of the town I was supposed to be proud of.
I mark his passing with a little sadness that the flawed human being who, unknowingly, helped me in these small ways is gone I am confident that these ideas, and motivations are far from dead and have been picked up by new, and possibly less flawed creators, and that’s a good thing too.