Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Does Whatever a Stanley Can

Stan Lee. Part of my infinite series, The Gods of Geek Mythology.

I found myself saddened by the death of Stan Lee, but not for the usual reasons. It's sad that we've lost yet another connection to the golden and silver age of comics, an era now so ancient as to be completely foreign to modern sensibilities. But what saddens me most is that Lee lived too long and burned too many bridges for his legacy as comicdom's wacky uncle to remain intact. His longevity left a huge gap between the last creation he might take some credit for and today, with many decades in-between of empty self-promotion and lackluster attempts to attach his name brand to a few media projects.

Worst of all, when given the opportunity to right wrongs in favor of his fellow creators, in the press or, especially, in court, Stan remained the company boy he had always been. Had Lee died 20 years earlier, comics fans would have celebrated him as the controversial, yet lovable goofball he wanted to be. We would have fondly recalled the cringe-worthy cover blurbs and hep-cat patter of Stan's Soapbox and all the fun being in the Marvel clubhouse was when reading comics still got you beat up on the school bus.

But the Marvel movies came, the huge money, the Disney buyout, and all the retrospective squabbling over who was owed what for having thought up the idea of web shooters. Stan was no longer a whimsical comic book editor but the guy in the film cameos - the symbol of huge corporate profits that trickled into his own pockets but not those of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and the rest of the real idea men. Stan outlived his well-honed image, and by the time he died, too many knew there wasn't much behind the big grin or the tinted glasses.

And that's why his death didn't feel like the loss it might have. Because for nearly 50 years the man didn't do very much save continue to claim credit for a creatively-fertile period, now long gone, to which he actually contributed very little.

In spite of all that, I still have a soft spot for the guy. Goes to show you how effective a well-polished media persona can be.