Thanks Stan Lee: My First Comic Book/Comics Changed my Life
I saw on my IG timeline that the legendary comic book great, Stan Lee just passed. Today, the day observed for Veterans Day; November 12, 2018, will be marked as the day that the legendary ‘Art God’ has transcended from this Earth and moved to the realms of the Marvel Universe in the form of Valhalla, the Deep Cosmos or any other Cosmic Universe under the guise of the Marvel Franchise.
I really don’t know how to feel at this moment so I think the best way for me to cope is by writing about how comic books introduced me to Geekdom, all thanks to Stan Lee.
My Origin Story
There I was, living in East Orange, NJ a black kid growing up in the 80’s who didn’t have many friends because of my size (I was ‘Husky’ as they would say) and what I was into, math, science and food. Around that time, the mid 80’s and the whole 90’s were filled with drugs. Coke and Crack was the scene and the epidemic swept like crazy. The people who lived around me at the time were either dealers, related to dealers or/and ‘on the come up’ so to speak in the drug game. I’ll put it to you this way, in the early 80’s they had the Scarface movie in theaters and for me, around the 90’s, my Scarface movie was New Jack City. And while a great many people loved that movie (I did too), I knew I couldn’t be a dealer or anything like that. So I started studying more in science and math. Little did I know, the ‘nerd lifestyle’ wasn’t really accepted by my peers.
In school, while others were hanging out and talking to girls, I was really into video games, reading Nintendo Power (Nintendo’s official magazine at the time) and doing homework. I had few neighbors who were into video games, but what they liked differed from what I liked at the time. I gravitated toward sci-fi games like Bionic Commando, Metroid and Mega-Man, and mystical hits like Castlevania and Zelda. For them, they were into fighting games like Ninja Gaiden, girls and ‘other’ things. Our differences changed when I went to one of my neighbors’ house and when they opened up their drawer, a huge stack of comics was revealed. I was in awe. I didn’t know who some of the characters were at the time and as he showed me one of them (I didn’t know it at the time but it was the Spiderman: Torment series), I was so interested in it I asked if I could keep one because he had so many. He said ‘Hell no’. Little did I know there was a reason for this (they were collectors’ items).
My First Comic
Well, one day, as I walked into a breakfast diner to grab a bagel with cream cheese and jelly (it was the thing to do at the time) before I went to school, I decided to pick up a comic book, and I saw this dude again in red and blue spandex and covered in spider webs (I know, its crazy, but I was a little naive back then, not knowing anything), his name was Spider-Man. What made it crazy was that my first comic book was a historical analysis of Spider-Man in a 4-part saga series. As I’m reading this character’s origin, What really got me was how he didn’t have any parents because they were missing and that he was raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. In that moment, I completely resonated with him. Even though I knew my mother, my Aunt raised me and as for my Uncles, some were cool, some were responsible, and others, irresponsible. At first I was going to dismiss this comic, but then I said, why not, so I bought the comic and then the next month the second issue of his origin saga came out, followed by his third and fourth the months thereafter. As I saw and read about his past adventures, I started to imagine myself in those comics and that was when I started to really like and read them. I didn’t know it at the time, but the front-inside cover of the Saga Series had Stan Lee’s name present at the top. At that time I had no idea who that was!!!
Later on, I started to see the Spider-Man cartoon series, which started to come out on Fox (remember saturday cartoons) and that sealed the deal for me for comics. I was hooked. I started to now only wake up on Saturdays to watch the show (followed by X-Men) I also did my chores early just so I wouldn’t be interrupted as I watched Peter Parker take on fellow villains: Venom, Doc Ock, Green Goblin and many others all, while incorporating the motto, ‘With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility’. Not only was I so hooked on comics, I also started to buy the Marvel action figures (which at the time was $10, remember that?), and play some of the video games (Super Nintendo-Maximum Carnage, PS1- Marvel vs. Capcom, Dreamcast – Marvel vs. Capcom 2, PS2 - Ultimate Spider-Man, PS3 – Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and PS4 – Spider-Man). I was so hooked on Spider-Man, I started buying other comic books after him: Web of Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, and Spider-Man. After that, I decided branching off into other comic book series by Marvel such as the X-Men, X-Force, Punisher, and many others. Excited as I was, it was hard to keep up the habit, because of the cost, so my supply was very limited. It didn’t stop me though as I started reading graphic novels in bookstores and piecing together any dollars I could to buy more and more comics.
Fast forward to grown man status (or at least after college) and I’m still reading comics (and playing video games because I’m making dollars now). With the passage of time, technology improved and both the Spider-Man series on television and in the movies becomes the highlighted films of the year. It also starts the rebirth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the release of the movie Iron Man becoming their first offspring. With this entire situation happening, I’m a grown ass man, and I immediately become a little kid all over again. With the advancement of more technology in the movies and a great move into diversity for comics, Marvel releases a new Spider-Man in the form of Miles Morales…a Black Spider-Man.
For me, a Black Spiderman was a dream come true. I couldn’t believe it. Miles Morales, a Black Spider-Man. All those Spider-Man comics I’ve read. All those imaginative moments of me swinging and jumping from the bed, those moments of me playing Maximum Carnage, watching Spider-Man in both the movies and on Fox, Disney XD and every other cartoon-like channel came to this. As I opened up the first few pages, I looked at the bottom of the page and I saw his name again: Stan Lee. Before, when I opened a Spider-Man comic or some other Marvel Comic, I would see ‘Stan Lee Presents…’at the top or ‘Stan Lee, Publisher’ at the bottom of the inside cover. Now with his legendary status as #ArtGod and #MarvelLegend, when I bought and opened the Miles Morales, Issue #1 comic, it stated on the bottom, ‘Stan Lee, Chairman Emeritus’.
Stan Lee - Marvel Legend
Chairman Emeritus – Retired from Marvel, but forever a chairman in the eyes of the Marvel Universe. Within my 30 plus years of collecting comics and playing Marvel based video games, I discovered who he was. He was legendary as a fighter for injustice through comics. He bought back the superhero with the human flaw. And while I won’t get into the specifics of his life and his achievements (there’s a link for that here), I appreciated him and looked to him as an ‘Uncle’ who influenced my upbringing through his art, responsibility, and excellent storytelling.
On this day of his passing, I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to him for assisting me in some of my decision making in life and for always making me realize that with ‘Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility’. Thank You.