- On 13th November 2018
- In Otaku
A Tribute to Stan Lee, from Tokyo
Mac, Founder and Lead Guide of Maction Planet, pays a personal tribute to Stan ‘The Man’ Lee, the godfather of Marvel Comics, who passed away today at the age of 95.
There is surely no doubt about the importance of Stan Lee’s legacy and its impact on global culture. With his collaborators he created characters that are known the world over that have spawned merchandising and movies grossing billions of dollars at a time. The only person I can think of who has shaped the planet’s zeitgeist in such a fashion is Walt Disney. I have travelled to over 100 countries and I can think of only one, North Korea, where I did not see an example of Stan’s work (not strictly true – I was wearing a Spiderman T-shirt on one day).
“Stan elevated comic books, a struggling storytelling medium in 1950s America, by making his characters relatable.” That statement has become something of a cliche when describing his work, and at first glance it also appears like a bit of mansplaining. Aren’t all writers meant to create engaging characters? For me, his real achievement was doing this over and over again, not in separate stories but in an interconnected shared universe that has been growing for over 50 years. In my mind, analysing the impact and influence of his work, he is the single greatest storyteller in human history.
Where now I am leading Tokyo Otaku Tours with pride, I was bullied for reading and loving comics when I was younger. I never could understand it: the pages I held in my hands contained in my opinion the best stories ever created, and now the world knows it. The tales of wonder minted by Lee and colleagues have become IP – intellectual property – mined by Hollywood which has turned them from a niche into the global pop culture of the day.
I am sure I speak on behalf of a lot of people when I say we would not be in the positions we are, living our best lives and fulfilling our dreams, if not for the formative development of personality and goals that can be shaped by reading… and we were reading Stan’s words and characters.
I first met Stan at 2012’s New York Comic-Con. It was my first major comic convention, and I was just learning the ropes. I had just made friends with Kevin, now a good mate of mine, in the line for a Geoff Johns signing at the DC Booth. When that was over I asked him what he was doing next and he said he was going to get a photo with Stan Lee. I didn’t even know that such a thing were possible. Off we went together, and $50 and two hours later we had our snaps. Friends have commented that they had never seen a smile that big on my face before. They were probably right – to have my hand on the shoulder of a legend and be able to thank him for, well, everything… despite the imagineering that Stan’s tales had introduced me too I never dared to dream I would meet their author.
I was able to meet Stan Lee again during signings at NYCC in 2013 and 2016 and at San Diego Comic-Con in 2015. All these meetings have great stories behind them, and involved great planning, the generosity of others and working with fellow fans to make them happen. Tales worthy of Stan himself and the heroes he created!
In 2016 he signed a copy of Amazing Spiderman #39 for me. Originally published on 10 August 1966, this was the first book that saw John Romita Sr. take on art chores and is a milestone of Marvel history.
As well as the impact his characters have made in Japan, Stan has some interesting links with the land of the rising sun. He co-created Ultimo, star of Karakuri Doji Ultimo (Mechanical Boy: Ultimo0) with Hiroyuki Takei, the creator of Shaman King. Along with Bones Inc. anime studios he co-created Heroman, who starred in 5 volumes of manga and 26 episodes of anime. Perhaps most astounding of all, he turned Yoshiki from X-Japan into a superhero in the short-lived title ‘Blood Red Dragon’ published by Image Comics.
It was great to see Stan Lee in Tokyo when he visited in 2016 and 2017 for the first and second editions of Tokyo ComicCon. Our paths crossed a couple of times during the inaugural event. It was incredible to see him working the crowds at 93 years old, having journeyed to the other side of the world for new adventures and to make his fans happy.
I have been humbled that many of the reviews people have written about their Tokyo tours with me have mentioned my “enthusiasm & sheer love of Tokyo“. I have to credit Stan for some inspiration here, having witnessed his tireless energy on numerous occasions. Taking pride in what you do, doing it to the absolute best of your ability and never stopping creating and improving – definitely all part of my and the Maction Planet philosophy thanks to Stan.
Stan Lee will always live on though the characters he created and the impact they have made on the world. ‘Nuff said.
FACE FRONT, TRUE BELIEVERS!
Mac, 13 November 2018