I’m not big on cliches like, “this was a tough week” or “this is terrible”, as the giant who’s shoulders we’ve all stood on for decades succumbed to father time this week, as Stan was not my father, my grandfather, personal friend, etc. But he was everything to not only this business, but it’s fans, and without him, who knows if comics as we know them would even exist today.
I’ll level with you, I know that if you’re reading this, you know enough about “Stan the Man” that I don’t need to recite his “stats”, I don’t need to compare Stan to Cal Ripken, Kobe Bryant, or Tom Brady for his dedication to Marvel, as they don’t compare. A sports career lasts what, 20 years? Stan was associated with Marvel since World War 2… let that sink in for a minute.
I don’t need to rehash how he “saved” Marvel along with Jack Kirby by creating the FF & ushering in the “Marvel” age of comics, nor do I need to tell you that he made comics “cool”. You know all these things and countless others about this larger than life figure.
So instead I’ll sum it up by saying that the vision & imagination Stan had, coupled with the talent & hard work of hundreds of people that worked alongside him, created this great American mythology that we now know as Marvel.
His vision & imagination now permeate everything. Marvel IS pop-culture. Whether it’s the Captain Marvel funko on your desk, the Hulk coffee mug you’re drinking from while reading this, or your Black Panther t-shirt you’re wearing, Stan’s “kids” are everywhere.
There are 2 things above all else that I admire, or am in awe of about Stan & his life. First, his marriage to his beloved wife Joan of more than 65 years. That’s just amazing. No need to add anything else, just wow.
Secondly, Stan’s vision for the films we see Marvel Studios turning out like clockwork was clairvoyant. Stan moved to LA in 1981 to pursue a future for his characters in entertainment, film, tv, etc. Sure they got off to a somewhat rocky start aside from a few early fan favorites. But the groundwork that Stan laid has given birth to what we see on the bigscreen 2-5 times a year.
He KNEW that it would work, science & technology just had to catch up. This year alone the 2 big Marvel movies “Black Panther” & “Infinity War” combined to do just short of $1.4 BILLION dollars. Add in “Ant-Man” & “Venom”, & “Marvel Comics” related movies did over $2 BILLION in 2018 alone. He saw that coming in the early 80’s… almost 40 years ago. And friends, it’s only getting better from here!
I did have an opportunity to meet the legend a little over 4 years ago. My wife was 9 months pregnant at the time, when Wizard World Atlanta called the shop & offered us passes to the show. Stan was slated to sign, do a photo op, and do a panel. I did everything possible to make sure my now daughter cooked a few days longer so I wouldn’t miss my chance to thank & meet Stan. I was tangibly anxious about it for like 2 weeks. Especially the last couple of days leading up to the show. I’m sure that sounds selfish, and yeah, it probably was, but again, if you’re reading this far, and your’re reading a comic book stores website, you get it.
When the day finally came, and I was able to ask him a question at his panel, get him to sign my Avengers # 4, and take a picture with him, my wife, & her giant pregnant belly. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, like I hadn’t missed the train, like I was able to say goodbye. I almost felt like a fraud before that, owning a comic book store yet never having met the man, finally my comic credentials had some substance so to speak.
Anyone who was around him then, 4 long years ago, knew the end was drawing near. Stan was already having trouble hearing, then Joan passed last year, then reports surfaced that his vision was failing, etc. We all knew God was getting ready to call one of his best storytellers back home.
Yes this was a sad week, but the man gave us everything. He was a living sacrifice to the comics industry as a whole, he was all that was right with what we do, and he will forever be adored, loved, and sorely missed. This week was sad, but it was also so special to see Stan’s face everywhere, to see him trend on twitter for several days, and to read all of the wonderful heartfelt stories & memories that were shared by those that knew him. As the great Kevin Smith says, 95 years, “big bucket of win”.
I imagine Stan getting to heaven, hugging his wife, and sitting down for coffee with Jack Kirby, his friend who passes long before he was able to receive the appreciation & notoriety he deserved. I imagine them catching up, both in awe of what they created, what it became, and how so many of us could care so much about these silly little funny books.
Stan may not have written the “great American novel” as was his dream. Instead he became the father of the great American mythology, and we loved him for it.
Face Front M.M.M.S.!