How the great Stan Lee showed the world the value in following your imagination.
Last week the world lost an incredibly gifted and beloved creative mind in Stan Lee who passed away at the age of 95. As one of the founders of Marvel Comics, Lee helped introduce the world to such amazing characters as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four and countless others.
In recent years, he was best known for his funny and self-referential cameos in the wildly popular Marvel movies. However, it’s easy to forget how important Stan Lee was as a creator to generations and generations of people. Though his main goal was always to entertain, throughout the run of Marvel Comics, Lee continuously used the platform to represent heroes we don’t always get to see – heroes from different countries, of different nationalities, heroes with disabilities and those unaccepted by society.
Perhaps most important to his legacy, Stan Lee showed the world the importance of imagination. It is not just that kids read his comics and had fun exploring the worlds he created. Those kids grew up knowing that someone who embraced their imagination and their creative side was able to share that with the world.
That’s not to say the man himself was always a confident comic book writer. He was born Stanley Martin Lieber and had dreams of becoming a novelist. He adopted the pen name of Stan Lee when he started working on comic books to avoid embarrassment. At dinner parties and in social groups, he tried to avoid telling anyone what he did so as not to be dismissed as a mere children’s writer.
Even aware and conscious of the stigma of his professional position, Lee nonetheless continued to build a whole universe filled with things many people could not even fathom coming up with. A young boy bitten by a radioactive spider who is then given the powers of a spider. A team of mutants all with unique abilities who protects a world filled with people who fear them. A king and protector of a secret and technologically-advanced African nation. All these things became possible because Stan Lee was brave enough to believe in his imagination.
We all know, as unique an individual as Stan Lee is, there are others out there with their own imaginations. But how many are brave enough to share them with the world? How many other universes could be imagined if people were able to follow Stan’s lead. Of course, there are countless artists, writers, professionals and everyday people who took Stan’s inspiration to heart. He taught so many of us to embrace those wild ideas and, thanks to his life’s work, he’ll continue to teach that lesson for years and years to come.