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What the legendary Stan Lee taught me

R.I.P: Stan Lee

MY INITIATION into the Marvel Universe came in the early 1980’s, when I stumbled upon my cousin’s vast comic collection and immediately gravitated towards a Stan Lee creation.

The Amazing Spiderman comics was (and probably still are to a niche few) a form of escapism that led me into other worlds and universes with complicated characters, alter egos, super villains and of course superheroes.

The idea that a regular kid from New York labelled as a science nerd could encounter a freak accident with a radioactive spider and become one of the greatest superheroes gave me hope.

I quickly went through each edition wanting to find out what happened next and there my love of Marvel began. After Spider-Man came Fantastic 4, X-Men, Avengers and ultimately Black Panther. Through these stories, Stan Lee was able to pour out his hopes and dreams into these characters; himself being a second generation Romanian-born Jewish immigrant.

Decades later and the Marvel Universe couldn’t be in a healthier position – after all, it has amassed a credible revenue of over $17.5 billion in the last 11 years in movies alone. Yet, the popularity and huge figures from the movie franchise wouldn’t have existed if not for the original creation and storytelling from the beloved comic books.

Even with Lee’s unfortunate passing, he leaves behind a huge archive of superheroes to be developed, adapted and even evolved for the big screen.

DIVERSE

Lee’s creations have had a huge impact on BAME communities, even if you didn’t grow up on the comics or (surprisingly) never watched a Marvel film. Chances are you saw Black Panther, an African superhero created by Stan and Jack Kirby as the first black superhero in mainstream American comics.

This movie alone grossed a total of $1.347 billion worldwide, the highest grossing film by a black director and predominantly all-black cast. It wouldn’t be a gamble for Marvel to follow up on the success of Black Panther and bring one of Lee’s many other BAME superheroes to the cinema.

Sure we’ve seen small cameos and supporting roles from the likes of Falcon played by Anthony Mackie and Nick Fury played brilliantly by Samuel L Jackson, however the huge success of Black Panther and its celebration of African culture is an indication that BAME audiences (fans of comics or not) WILL support leading black movie characters not following the stereotypical mould seen in most films.

Stan Lee is definitely a legend and his input in popular culture will never be forgotten - although we will miss his classic cameos in every Marvel Universe film.

Through his legacy, I am optimistic that BAME superheroes will continue to thrive in the comic world. In the last seven years, Marvel has developed two of Stan Lee’s famous superheroes who know have BAME alter egos. We have a young Afro-Latino teenager, Miles Morales, playing Spider-Man (with a feature animation film released in December) and a similarly young teenage African American engineer student as Ironheart (taking over Tony Stark’s Iron Man).

From his own vast imagination to our movie screens – thank you Stan Lee for bringing your Marvel Universe into ours.

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