This week, the mighty All-Father of Marvel, the incredible Stan Lee passed away. A stranger to me, yet his ideas helped shape the man I am today. I know that’s an odd thing to say, but I know that many fans will echo the sentiment. He created worlds we became lost in, characters we were in total awe of, and stories that connected billions of us. Who hasn’t heard of The X-men, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four or Spider-Man?
As some of you may have realised, I am a Marvel Boy. I mean, see below for the proof you don’t really need. Ahem..
But, dial back the clock 20 years… I used to feel so embarrassed buying comic books! I felt that being a geek just wasn’t cool. To the extent that, while I was at school, I begged my Dad to use my pocket money to get my copies of X-Men and Spider-Man delivered with his newspaper. Fortunately, he agreed. Clever, eh?
But to my horror I found out that the paperboy was someone in my class! He knew I was a comic book fan! A geek! And one day, the inevitable happened: he outed me in front of my whole class!
“Hey Chris! Those warrior cartoon books you get?” he shouted out as I winced, wanting Thor to smash through the window to destroy him. “They’re pretty cool!”
I sighed out of relief, before correcting him that they actually weren’t ‘warrior cartoon books’ but an ‘epic crossover event featuring the X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, called Onslaught, thank you very much’. Jeez.
Stan’s original books, ideas and characters made me feel a part of something. I was included in a world and a movement that could accept me.
Discovering comic books – especially The X-Men – as a young gay kid, I was overwhelmed. Here were heroes with my story. Born different, but what were they doing? They were kicking ass and saving people. They were showing a world that they weren’t ashamed of who or what they were. They are simply a part of society.
Because of Stan’s creative genius, and his compassion for humanity, I didn’t feel alone. I was a part of a team. I am a part of a team. He was telling my story.
I met Stan briefly London’s MCM Comic Con back in 2013, and I asked him to sign my copy of House Of M issue 1. He did so, graciously, though sadly (due to the enormous queue behind me), there was no time to gabble at my hero and say thank you.
House Of M means a lot to me. It’s a story where the Scarlet Witch (from the Avengers!) loses control of her reality altering powers, and ends up uttering three little words that change the Marvel world forever. I found this unbelievably profound, at a time when I was was plucking up the courage to change my own world with three little words: I am gay.
Ok, so Stan didn’t write House Of M, but he created the world and the characters. He built a universe founded on tolerance and respect. In his own words:
“We’re all co-travelers on the spaceship Earth and must respect and help each other along the way.”
Artists, writers, directors, producers, actors and fans will keep Stan’s world alive for years to come. I never knew you, Stan Lee, but thank you so much. Thank you for making me feel included.