Stan Lee’s Legacy as a Storyteller
You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who didn’t know who Spiderman was. Or, for that matter, the X-men, Fantastic Four and Iron Man. Stan Lee’s legacy to the world makes up so much of contemporary mythology that his creations will be remembered for far longer than his name.
When I was a kid, I was raised on reruns of the 1967 Spiderman cartoon. I went out dressed as Spiderman on two different halloweens. As a teen, Marvel shows were among my main media interests. When I first heard about the X-Men live action film, I was the first in line on opening night. Even as an adult, I have seen every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. More importantly than his influence on my life, however, is just how commonplace this influence was. I’m sure the vast majority of people reading this article can relate.
Now Stan didn’t create Superheroes, nor did he popularize them. That credit probably goes to Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, creators of Superman. What Stan did is to perfect the conceptual superhero in such a manner that it helped to intimately connect them to people. The Incredible Hulk spoke to kids with anger issues. Spiderman spoke to kids who were bullied. X-men helped society to understand racism. It helped people going through similar situations to cope, and shared a little bit more wisdom in every issue, and every story arc. He did what all storytellers should do– not appeal to the masses, but touch the individual.
For his contributions, Stan Lee will always be honored as one of the greatest storytellers to have lived. The mark he’s left on us will billow out for generations to comes (especially considering his creations are still a big deal in entertainment.) In my opinion, his work stands high next to the works of the great storytellers of the past, Homer, Odysseus, Shakespeare as much as he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with contemporary greats like Jerry Siegel and Jack Kirby.
And this isn’t because of the genius of his characters per se, but rather the man’s spirit. He treated his own stories with love and reverence, and he kept sharing them with the world. Stan Lee touched upon a talent within himself that is a rarity in the world. He was a paternal storyteller, an encouraging, positive and forward-minded teacher of morals and values contained within the underlying messages of his stories. His work will far outlive us all, and it deserves to.
Stan is the sort of storyteller we should all aspire to be like. One that can accidentally, just through the process of doing what he loves, create a lasting mythology that takes the world by storm. One that cements its place in the annals of human history.
And he did it all enthusiastically for the love of it. That was his real legacy. The one we can all benefit from. He told stories because he loved to, and so should we all.